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09-13-2009, 10:56 AM   #1
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When will we get a REAL Pentax wildlife lens?

The one category where Pentax seriously handicaps its users is in the case of the Pentaxian wildlife photographer (and I happen to be one). The bodies are perfectly suited for wildlife photographers in every way except that they can manage very limited frames per second rates. But that's something one can manage with experience. What one simply cannot live with is the severe limitation in long telephotos and tele-zooms. The longest available Pentax tele at present is the DA* 300/4- a gem of a lens, but simply not long enough, especially for birds. Sigma's 500/4.5 is the only 'real' big lens option currently in production, but again, typical of such brands' step motherly attitude towards the K-mount it comes without an HSM motor. Also, it isn't weather sealed and is half a stop too slow- something that really limits TC use. And of course, the glass can never match DA* quality.

My question is, can we expect something like a DA* 500mmF4 SDM and the rumored WR SDM 1.4X TC anytime soon? There's a rumor going around about a 400mmF4- I just hope that stays a rumor! Such a lens is neither long enough to meet the requirement of most Pentax bird photographers, nor is the extra 100mm justification enough for a DA* 300 user to upgrade. They say this lens is meant to produce the FA* 600mmF4's field of view on the APS-C DSLRs, but that's a weird reason. The tele-user isn't worried about an identical field of view. A major reason why wildlife photographers choose APS-C is the cropping factor, which is a boon.

Cheers,
Aditya

09-13-2009, 11:58 AM   #2
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Well said Aditya

I like wildlife and aircraft photography and I think it is a real shame that pentax lenses stop at 300mm. If I had been more aware that this was the case I may well have bought another brand.

I bought a Sigma 150-500 and I have to say that for the price it produces quite good images now I know it's limitations, but it cannot match the remarkable IQ of the DA*300.

I do have a Tanron 1.4 TC, but I find a crop from the 300 is usually better than a full frame with it on the TC.

Even a DA* 100-400 would be some progress - most other manufacturers seem to have one.

Pentax seem to have the wide end well covered - lets have some long lenses please Pentax.
09-13-2009, 12:27 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Oggy Quote
Well said Aditya

I like wildlife and aircraft photography and I think it is a real shame that pentax lenses stop at 300mm. If I had been more aware that this was the case I may well have bought another brand.

I bought a Sigma 150-500 and I have to say that for the price it produces quite good images now I know it's limitations, but it cannot match the remarkable IQ of the DA*300.

I do have a Tanron 1.4 TC, but I find a crop from the 300 is usually better than a full frame with it on the TC.

Even a DA* 100-400 would be some progress - most other manufacturers seem to have one.

Pentax seem to have the wide end well covered - lets have some long lenses please Pentax.
You're right. Even I prefer cropping to using my Promaster 1.7X TC. Or rather, I hate cropping less than I hate using the TC with the DA* 300. I really pray Pentax gets us out of this double dilemma soon!

Again, I think I'd still prefer cropping from my DA* 300 over full frames with a 100-400ish zoom. Plus, and extra 100mm really isn't worth the effort/cost for someone with a 300mm to upgrade to. I guess it wouldn't be worth the effort for Pentax's R&D either to work on a new tele that would only be another 100mm longer. We need a BIG, fast and real supertele. We have a great line up of wide angles, macros and portrait lenses. High time Pentax's long lens arsenal caught up.

Cheers,
Aditya
09-13-2009, 01:14 PM   #4
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There is the FA 600mm f4

09-13-2009, 02:57 PM   #5
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QuoteQuote:
There is the FA 600mm f4
Sure, it's even more expensive than the Canon/Nikon glass at that length and it's only on special order.

I think the reason why is pretty obvious. How many Pentax shooters do you think there are who want and can afford a 600/4? Even at the price of the EOS version.

Really, who could really afford a Pentax 400/2.8, 500/4, 600/4, 800/5.6?

And if you could, priced higher than the Canon versions (and certainly the Nikon) because of the insanely low volumes, you'd soon realise that you could get a Canon body and long tele lens kit for less than you could just to get the Pentax lens...and not a mug's body either, a nice 7D or even 5D body...

...I would be amazed to ever see a long fast tele prime from Pentax (but maybe there is a small chance of a 400/4, like it or loathe it) ever again. Maybe if market share got up into decent double figures again...maybe...

PS - I'm not counting MF lenses, you might see 600m MF lenses again...
09-13-2009, 03:00 PM   #6
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Today I went to watch birds migrating along the shores of Lake Erie. I shot with my K20 and the Bigma. I will readily admit I'm no birder or wildlife shooter, and when I do shoot birds I prefer them to be perched somewhere, not in flight. The Bigma was a handful, I know I need more practice, but here's one of the very few that were okay.

Full frame, resized:



and 100% crop



Two of the more serious fellows shooting today can be seen here.



I believe the white lens is a Canon 600mm f/4, which retails for somewhere near $10,000. I didn't ask to see any of his shots, and I'm not even sure what camera he was shooting with. The 600mm on a full frame would be a wider fov than the Bigma on a crop sensor and $10,000 is a substantial amount of money. Is the market there for long, expensive Pentax glass? I know very little about Canon stuff, and I was quite surprised when I found out the price of that lens. I don't think a super-expensive chunk of glass like that going to make a hack like me shoot any better, but I suppose there are those who could make use of one.

But $10,000. Geez.
09-13-2009, 03:21 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by jptreen Quote
Sure, it's even more expensive than the Canon/Nikon glass at that length and it's only on special order.

.
You think the Canon 600mm F4 and Nikon 600mm f4 are cheaper? They are a little lighter by 4 pounds ( I know) but not cheaper. Big fast lenses aren't cheap which is why the FA 600mm is special order. Sigma has some fast long glass for Pentax but they don't give it away. When cost is reduced, it it usually speed that is sacrificed. Since the best birding time is just after dawn, slow lenses suck.

The 600mm f4 Comparison Page for Pentax AF

Sigma's fast glass for Pentax:

Sigma 300mm F2.8 EX DG AF: $3299
Sigma 500mm f4.5 EX DG APO AF: $4999
Sigma 800mm F5.6 EX DG AF: ? maybe discontinued
Sigma 100-300mm f4 EX DG IF AF: $1379

these prices are competitive USD and include shipping.

Last edited by Blue; 09-13-2009 at 03:37 PM.
09-13-2009, 03:40 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by jptreen Quote
I think the reason why is pretty obvious. How many Pentax shooters do you think there are who want and can afford a 600/4?

You just had to throw in the "and can afford" part, didn't you, jptreen?

09-13-2009, 04:22 PM   #9
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The FA*600/4 in my kit was several thousand less than the competitor's 600's when I bought it new back in about '95.

If you actually think you want to have a birding lens, then either special order one or find one on the used market. The DA* arguement doesn't hold water as there is still an FA* available to those who actually want one--kind of like the 3 Amigo Limiteds. It wasn't exactly a stocking item at dealers at any time and a new DA* 600 wouldn't likely be available to "fondle" at your local photo store either. So a new offering would be by special order too, just like the CURRENT FA*600.

Before I got the FA*, I had an F*600/4 that I found used at KEH for a reasonable price--about 2/3 of the new price for an FA*. Same optics, cream color. They pop up on the used market from time to time as well.

The finest telephoto zoom produced by a name brand camera company was for many years the Pentax F* and then FA* 250-600/5.6. Sadly no longer available because though it's easy for people to say they want one, it's difficult for most to commit the dollars to owning it (I like mine and feel that the borrowed money to buy it in about '98 was money well spent). It has the closest minimum focus that I've ever found for a 600mm lens--about 11 feet. I call that lens the ultimate backyard birding lens for working multiple bird feeders/watering stations with zoom to accomodate. This lens hits the market from time to time and has been listed in the marketplace of this very forum where it languished unsold for several weeks and through several price reductions. So though many jump to complain about no humongous tele zoom, not many actually want to buy one!

So would a DA* "big gun" be nice? Sure, but how many will actually pony up the money to own one? I know I won't/can't as I've already committed significant expense to my current big guns.

Note that it took about two or three posts for this thread to degenerate into talk about 100-400 zooms and Bigma's--not exactly pro style birding lenses by any stretch of the imagination.

Pentax doesn't sell very many big birding lenses because very few want to buy one--not just wish to have one, but willing to whip out the VISA card, borrow from the retirement account, sell the "extra" automobile, take out a second mortgage or whatever other extreme measures many of us go through to fund $10,000 recreational purchases (your neighbors didn't buy their boats, motorhomes or whatever with cash, why must you use cash for a birding lens? Recreational toys are recreational toys right?)

And before someone goes off on "old" FA* lenses, note that much of the FA*lineup was being produced up until 2005...so it isn't like some old time Galileo technology or something. And again, the 600/4 Pentax birding lens is a current product that is available NOW. All you have to do is decide that you truly want one and can find a way to pay for it!

See you at a refuge somewhere!

P.S. The big lens is a purchase you won't regret, but remember, you also need a massive tripod and (for most) a gimbal head--$1500 +, teleconverter or two--$500+ and other accessories: rotating drop-in polarizer--$400+; window pod--$200+; backpack/scopepack--$200+; quick release plates; filters; straps; long-lens support systems; waterproof hardcase for airlines or rugged excursions etc. So add about $3000 to the lens price to actually have a great birding kit!
09-13-2009, 04:36 PM   #10
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P.S. as to the weight issue: a few months ago I played the scale game. Other brands list their 600mm lens weights without some items that Pentax includes. I don't recall exactly (and am too lazy to look it up), but if you remove the tripod collar the FA* gets down in the 14 pound range. The other guys use removeable lens shades and don't count that weight, the Pentax shade isn't removeable so can't be deducted from the weight. And the Pentax 600/4 is well balanced at the tripod collar limiting the need for additional support. Many competing long lenses have the tripod collar mounted too far back near the body thus creating a need for products like the extra support found in a Really Right Stuff bracket that adds another pound or more...Once you get into the weight ranges of most 600's plus camera body it isn't a true hand holdable item anymore anyway. As I recall from my earlier "weigh in" post, the "stripped" Pentax is actually only about a pound and a half heavier than the "stripped" Canon. (Glass vs plastic elements? metal vs plastic barrel elements?)
09-13-2009, 06:11 PM   #11
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I think those guys have the canon 500mm f4 is usm, an excellent wildlife lens and can be had for a little over 6k after a recent price increase. I wouldn't buy a sigme when this could be had for a little more. Sigma really jacked up the prices too. I sure would be hesitant to order the pentax 600mm f4 (if you really could), if your copy was not good on your digital body pentax would tell you sorry it was designed for film and you should use da lenses on your digital body. That's what they told me re my fa* 300 f2.8. I'm not feeling real lucky right now.
09-13-2009, 06:32 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by borno Quote
I think those guys have the canon 500mm f4 is usm, an excellent wildlife lens and can be had for a little over 6k after a recent price increase. I wouldn't buy a sigme when this could be had for a little more. Sigma really jacked up the prices too. I sure would be hesitant to order the pentax 600mm f4 (if you really could), if your copy was not good on your digital body pentax would tell you sorry it was designed for film and you should use da lenses on your digital body. That's what they told me re my fa* 300 f2.8. I'm not feeling real lucky right now.
There are several guys at PF that use the big FA* lenses on dSLR including Ron. Marc also has a lineup of FA* lenses. As far as warranty goes, Pentax Imaging would be in a hurt if they ducked on a new purchase of that magnitude. The FA 43mm ltd, FA 31mm lted, FA 50mm f1.4, FA35mm f2 were initially sold for film bodies but have been sold extensively for use on digital.

Last edited by Blue; 09-13-2009 at 06:40 PM.
09-13-2009, 06:38 PM   #13
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I use a canon 400mmf/2.8 L IS - a heavy lens to be certain but if Pentax made a lens like this it would be more useful than you think. With a 2X teleconverter it becomes a 800mm f/5.6 that has absolutely superb image quality and IS. I have been using a FA*600mm f/4 ED borrowed from my uncle...I"ll post the results from my K-7 sometime.
09-13-2009, 06:40 PM   #14
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I think you're right, Borno, this is a 500mm. The tripod mount extends farther on the 600mm. And if I were a Canon shooter and this was only slightly more than a Sigma 500 then I'd spend the money. I do wish I'd asked to see some of his shots though. I still think my technique would negate any quality differences that a long Pentax lens might offer. But as someone said "It's only expensive if you can't afford it." For me, what I need to spend is more time learning how to shoot long lenses, not more money on better lenses.
09-13-2009, 06:46 PM   #15
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I have been making do with an A 400mm f5.6. I do have a 500mm f4.5 tak.

This is from the A 400mm but relatively close with good light.

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