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07-14-2011, 03:19 PM   #1
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Lens suggestions for wildlife, etc.

I just purchased a K-5 and a Pentax 18-135mm lens and love the set up. I'm looking to add a 200mm, 300mm, or zoom lens (considering the DA* 60-250mm), mostly to capture wildlife up here in Alaska. I'm looking for suggestions on what to get. I'm primarily interested in Pentax lenses but would consider a Sigma or Tamron if the quality was there. For added context, I would consider myself an advanced beginner who wants to capture grizzlies and caribou sharply from the bus in Denali National Park. I am also considering weight as I would like to carry my setup while backpacking (which is why I only want to add one lens). Finally, it seems like getting the 60-250mm would give me a lot of redundancy on the wider end, but perhaps I shouldn't worry about that? Thoughts?

07-14-2011, 03:35 PM   #2
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Well I have the 60-250mm and it is a wonderfull lens. It is shorter then the 300mm and wide open a fraction less sharp then the 300mm but very nice images are coming out.

Made a thread about it: https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/143968-da%2A60-250mm-f4-test.html

I don't have the 300mm since I found this lens more versatile.
07-14-2011, 04:04 PM   #3
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How far will you be from the critters? I'd image if you are staying on a bus, you'd need 400mm+ lens. Unless the animals are accustomed to the buses and come close?

200mm isn't really all that much of an upgrade over 135mm in terms of coverage. However, a really sharp 200/2.8 or the 60-250 Ron mentions would also be a boost in IQ over the 18-135mm, which means you would be able to crop more while maintaining good IQ.

I wouldn't worry about redundancy with the 60-250. Having a that 60mm end means fewer lens changes in the field.

Here's an example of 450mm about 150 ft away, no crop:


Last edited by luftfluss; 07-14-2011 at 04:26 PM.
07-14-2011, 04:34 PM   #4
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The critters are accustomed to the buses and do get pretty close. We had a wolf about 20 yards from us while cooking breakfast out in the backcountry last weekend in Denali. We later had some caribou walk right by us on a ridge as close as 7-10 yards away, hence preferring a zoom lens.

If I went with the 60-250mm, would you recommend a teleconverter to get closer? It would be nice to capture those a little further away from the bus as well.

And while I've got your attention. How do you figure shutter speed when you are shooting moving animals. I've read to use 1/500 for fast moving animals and even 1/2000 for extremely fast animals. So, if minimum handhold is 1/focal length, do you divide that by 2, 3, or 4 again?

07-14-2011, 04:55 PM   #5
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Hi Traci,

I'd seriously consider the DA 55-300. This lens would be less than 1/2 the weight of the DA 60-250 (470g >1130g), and about 2/3 the length (11.2 cm > 16.8 cm) for backpacking -- and about 1/3 the $$$. With the K-5's high ISO performance, I've found that lens speed is a whole lot less of a consideration in my shooting, though premium fast lenses are almost universally optically superior. Stop down the DA 55-300 (and absorb the difference with ISO), and it's pretty sharp -- not as sharp as my FA* 300/4.5, but if I'm going to carry the camera all day, it's a sacrifice that I'm willing to make in many instances. It will also not overlap your 18-135 as drastically, but as you suggested, this really isn't that much of a consideration, since I usually can guess pretty well which range I'd be most likely to be shooting given a particular situation.

A few recent examples with the DA 55-300 at 300mm (admittedly at close range). Both were shot with the K-5, DA 55-300, f8, 1/800, ISO 5000. Both were shot in jpg ***, light NR in PP with Topaz Denoise 5, light deconvolution sharpening only with Topaz InFocus, and resized for the web.







Another advantage is that the screw drive DA 55-300 can be stretched with a 1.4x AF TC in just about any decent light outdoors (note that the Sigma EX 1.4x APO or APO DG TCs will not mount on the DA 55-300 because of the protruding front element on the TC). With SDM default, the DA* 60-250's AF might be touchy with PZ compatible TCs (there are no TCs that can claim true SDM compatibility).

All that being said, I can't fault any Pentax * tele lens or zoom, and own a few. They certainly get the call if I'm going out specifically to shoot birds with the CF tripod and Wimberley gimbal.

If you're anticipating shooting very long a lot, the DA* 300/4 or the F*/FA* 300/4.5 with the Pentax F 1.7x Auto Focusing adapter is a formidable handholdable 510mm combination, and the extra speed of the lens itself allows the extra magnification. I've seen examples from the DA* 60-250 with the 1.7x AFA, and I would definitely consider this combo if the FL range (102-425mm at f6.3) was more useful to me -- I'm generally pretty much a "longer is better" kind of shooter.

Here's an old one shot with the K100D, FA* 300/4.5 +1/7x AFA, f8 (wide open at the lens), 1/400, ISO 200. Shot in jpeg highest quality, lightly sharpened with Focus Magic, and resized for the web.



Scott
07-14-2011, 05:00 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Traci Quote
The critters are accustomed to the buses and do get pretty close. We had a wolf about 20 yards from us while cooking breakfast out in the backcountry last weekend in Denali. We later had some caribou walk right by us on a ridge as close as 7-10 yards away, hence preferring a zoom lens.

If I went with the 60-250mm, would you recommend a teleconverter to get closer? It would be nice to capture those a little further away from the bus as well.

And while I've got your attention. How do you figure shutter speed when you are shooting moving animals. I've read to use 1/500 for fast moving animals and even 1/2000 for extremely fast animals. So, if minimum handhold is 1/focal length, do you divide that by 2, 3, or 4 again?
Damn, I wish I could get so close to wolves and caribou!!! Here in NJ we've got deer & squirrels.

I've read good things about the Pentax 1.7x teleconverter, but unfortunately they are no longer in production and you would have to find one used, and they are pretty dear - last time I saw one sold it went for around $400. Also, even a good TC degrades image quality a little bit, and also allows less light in, so a Pentax 60-250 f/4 becomes 425mm f/6.7 (or something like that).

I don't know how well the highly-regarded Sigma TC's would work - hopefully someone more knowledgeable than I chimes in.

As far as shutter speeds go... yeah, the general rule of thumb is 1/focal length for "OK sharpness", 1/(focal length x 1.5) for good sharpness. For terrestrial animals 1/500s is usually OK, faster is even better. A bird in flight flapping it's wings could require 1/2000. I'm sure you've noticed some animals are prone to standing perfectly still, in which case you can use a much lower shutter speed, depending on Pentax's SR and your own technique. Somewhere in my archives I have a good, sharp shot of a squirrel in a tree, taken at 1/25 s.

The more you shoot, the more you will become more instinctive about camera settings. You'll also learn begin to attune yourself to your animals' various behavior patterns and learn to anticipate their actions.

Last edited by luftfluss; 07-14-2011 at 05:11 PM.
07-14-2011, 05:57 PM   #7
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Your top choices right now for reasonable money are the DA* 60-250/4, the DA* 300/4, and the Sigma 50-500mm 4.5-6.3.

They are all fairly well regarded. The Sigma got pretty high marks on the official forum review recently.

From there, you can begin the hunt for epic glass. The Sigma 500/4.5 is still in production. Official Pentax glass such as the A* 400/2.8 FA* 400/5.6 and F/FA* 250-600/5.6 & 600/4 are not in production and not so easy to come by.
07-14-2011, 06:09 PM   #8
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You already received some good advice. To complement your 18-135mm, I would agree with Clinton that the DA*300mm or FA*300mm would be a good choice.

I have the FA*300mm to complement my DA18-250mm and I love the combo. I used it last week for whale watching and dolphin shots. The FA*300mm gave me great shots.

In my case, I bought the FA*30mm second hand over the newer DA*300mm because the FA*300mm is lighter, smaller and does not have HSM. All these are key advantages when you are bushwalking and carrying your gears, and working in foul weather.

Hope that the comments will help.


Last edited by hcc; 07-14-2011 at 08:02 PM.
07-14-2011, 06:10 PM   #9
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Pentax DA*300mm SDM - a set on Flickr

I am 95% of the time going to say, Go Prime. The above are from my DA*300 f4.

For your K5 settings, I would go Tv, Auto ISO and set the top of the range to something like 12800 (yes, with light, the K5 can easily handle that), spot meter, center point AF and fire away. 1/500s isn't a bad place to start but I say to use Auto ISO so you can easily push that shutter speed.

07-14-2011, 07:37 PM   #10
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Hi Traci.
Sounds like you have a fun location for wildlife and wildlife photography. If you buy a cheap lens you will outgrow it very quickly. In my opinion Pentax already makes the lightest lens for quality and money. First choice foe me is the DA* 300 and you will keep it for ever unless you go for something really big. The DA 60-250 will be more flexible and give you great quality. If you want a heavy lens that goes to 500mm consider the sigma 50-500 but my copy is extremely soft at 500mm when I focus more than 20m away.

I think you have close if not the world's best digital camera so why not place a great lens on it.

Last edited by Bob from Aus; 07-14-2011 at 07:42 PM.
07-14-2011, 08:02 PM   #11
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I'm going to go with Jeff here, primes aare all I use. I started with a Sears 80-200 and a Lentar 90-230, which I didn't know was that close in focal length to the Sears, but both did a very nice job> Then I got a Vivitar 200mm M42 prime, and there's no comparison. It's at least 30 years old, if not 40, and heavy, but definitely worth carrying, to me at least. I want the best image quality I can get, and I always try to get as close as possible, and the Vivitar does a fabulous job. After a few days trying it out, I was convinced I would never buy another zoom. The Lentar 135 I got later only confirmed that.

Here's what the Vivitar can do on a K-x, and these are not he best shots I've gotten with it.

Young Tree Swallow at about 25 feet.



Click image to view larger size.

Cardinal at around 30-40 feet



Click image to view larger size.
07-14-2011, 08:24 PM   #12
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Paleo Pete, while I definitely agree that primes are often - though not always - better than zooms in terms of IQ, the 2 photos you've posted show what happens when the lens is simply not long enough. Both photos are nearly completely devoid of detail, and the cardinal at least looks like less than optimal focus was obtained.
07-14-2011, 08:33 PM   #13
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Snostorm, those are nice shots, and I agree that the DA 55-300 is a fine lens and light as a feather. It's really versatile and worth owning.
07-14-2011, 08:40 PM   #14
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Traci, I think a trap most of us fall into when asked about lenses is that we often tend to pick our favorite lenses. It's human nature, really, but sometimes the details of the original requirements get lost. It would be helpful to know some specifics, like what budget are looking at, how heavy and large of a lens are you willing to carry, do mind changing lenses in the field, that sort of thing.
07-14-2011, 09:05 PM   #15
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It's been mentioned before that it depends on how close you can get. Some animals are pretty used to humans (perhaps too much) so long focal lengths are not really required.

However, it also depends on the size of the animal. Small birds, like the Hawaiian Honeycreepers that I like to capture images of, are difficult subjects. Even the relatively bold or inquisitive ones are very fast and like to stay in the understory. One can wind up using long focal lengths and things like flash combined with a Better Beamer.

I would say that you'd have to take a long hard look at what your subjects will be and what your future needs might be. A 600 f4 might not be needed for caribou right outside of the bus at Denali, but it might be needed for much more skittish animals or smaller ones. Heck, I've gotten good images of White Rumped Shama with my Sigma 70-200mm.

Hawaiian Honeycreeper - Maui 'Amakihi


White Rumped Shama



Here's a link to my Birds & Wildlife Gallery. Feel free to look around. The images there were shot with a variety of lenses including the Sigma 50-500mm, 70-200mm, 300mm f2.8. I've even used the Pentax 77mm Limited for some birds.

Last edited by HawaiianOnline; 07-14-2011 at 09:09 PM. Reason: Added content
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