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03-29-2014, 02:17 PM   #1
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Need longer lens for birding - K5 body

I have a K5 and typically use a DA 55-300mm lens for my wildlife photography hobby. I'm particularly interested in photographing birds.

I rented a Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 AF APO DG OS HSM this weekend and am giving it a test drive.

What is the best technically competent yet economically feasible lens for the K5 for birding to get me beyond the limitations of my DA 55-300. I'm just too far away from the birds too many times for me to be truly happy.

By the way, I do find this lens that I'm testing out to be heavy, but I believe it's usable with a good monopod. So I'm ok with this lens' weight.

And I would be willing to pay the $899 for this Sigma if it gives me good results this weekend.

Update: My budget would allow me to buy the DA * 300mm and might also stretch to the new Pentax HD teleconverter.

Thanks in advance for any advice on this or other alternatives.

Regards,
Andrea


Last edited by lowcountrybird; 03-30-2014 at 01:23 PM.
03-29-2014, 02:34 PM - 1 Like   #2
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For best results with the Sigma use an aperture in the f8-f11 range.
Faster shutter speeds in the 1/750 or higher are a good idea.
Use a monopod or tripod unless your handheld skills are really good, I think it takes a while to get good results when you go from using smaller lenses to these big zooms.
Don't give up if the pics are not as expected right off the bat.

EDIT: check this thread to see the long lenses used on Pentax gear https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/122-lens-clubs/55946-300mm-plus-lens-club...enses-781.html

Last edited by crewl1; 03-29-2014 at 03:20 PM.
03-29-2014, 02:42 PM - 1 Like   #3
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Hard to recommend without knowing your budget. The DA`300/4 is first class glass at around $1300. Add the new HD 1.4 teleconverter and you have a great combo for about $1900.00 total.
03-29-2014, 03:08 PM   #4
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If you have good light, the 150-500 is pretty good. As mentioned, f8-11. TAV mode works well here, and you adjust the shutter speed to suit. It's pretty hard to beat for the money. The DA*300 is very nice but more expensive.

03-29-2014, 03:35 PM   #5
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I use the 55-300 which is fine for the back yard, but I'm assuming your birds are much further away. Use a monopod if you are hiking, or a tripod. I agree that F8-F-11 is what you'll need to shoot at, especially at a distance, so I use AV. as long as the shutter speed stays between 300-500. THe key, IMO, is to keep the ISO low, because you'll probably be cropping and don't want to pixellate.

I'll have to see about renting a lens in the 500mm range, I also shoot sports on occasion, and the team would appreciate some closeups.
03-29-2014, 03:43 PM - 1 Like   #6
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An 'out of the box' possibility - but given the budget, just maybe worth a look. Larry (crewl1) has fantastic shots of birds posted over in the Q forum. Check out https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/136-pentax-q/173602-reach-q-images.html

For your budget, you can easily get a brand-new Q or Q10 ($200 with 02 lens) , even the Q7 - and the ability to turn a 100mm into 560mm, or a 200mm into 1120mm.

Take a look...
03-29-2014, 04:39 PM - 1 Like   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by jbinpg Quote
Hard to recommend without knowing your budget. The DA`300/4 is first class glass at around $1300. Add the new HD 1.4 teleconverter and you have a great combo for about $1900.00 total.
One advantage of this setup is you get high quality and reasonable weight. Perhaps this is one of the reasons Larry has this lens and not the Sigma (at least not that he's told me). I used his DA*300 last week, but it wasn't for birding. Also, if you really need to stop the Sigma down to f8-f11, it's at least a stop slower, because the DA*300+TC should perform well at 420mm, f/6.3.


For birding I'd just take my F*300 plus F 1.7x AFA (TC). But I'm not much of a birder - yet.
03-29-2014, 05:51 PM - 1 Like   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by DSims Quote
Perhaps this is one of the reasons Larry has this lens and not the Sigma (at least not that he's told me).
The Sigma 500 4.5 is on my dream list, but I figure the amount of use it would get with my time constraints just don't make me want to spend the $5000 for it.

Fortunately for my wallet I have yet to play with one.

I do hope to get a Pentax 1.4 TC in the near future to do what @jbinpg suggested.

My super long tele itch gets addressed with the Q7 and DA*300 pretty well, though.

I do use a Sigma 50-500 when I want to shoot auto focus longer than the DA*300.

03-29-2014, 07:30 PM - 1 Like   #9
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I used a 55-300 for a few years with some good results, but good light was needed. For the past three years I've went to Magee Marsh for the warbler migration, last year I rented a Sigma 50-500 and found it pretty easy to use handheld, with good results. However when I was finally able to buy a long lens I went with the DA*300 because there is not a lot of light in the woods and I like the ability to actually shoot wide open at f4. I also knew the teleconverter would eventually get here. On most occasions the DA*300 will pick up more detail and allow better crops.

I personally find it very difficult to shoot birds using a tripod, probably because of the types of birds I like to shoot, and I usually stalk instead of wait. Small birds like warblers are very unpredictable, especially during migration. I could use a tripod on a nest or maybe on waterfowl, otherwise just too restricting for me.
03-29-2014, 07:42 PM - 1 Like   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by ramseybuckeye Quote
I personally find it very difficult to shoot birds using a tripod, probably because of the types of birds I like to shoot, and I usually stalk instead of wait. Small birds like warblers are very unpredictable, especially during migration. I could use a tripod on a nest or maybe on waterfowl, otherwise just too restricting for me.
I would have a DA*300 if i could afford it. I use the 55-300 because I'm a guerrilla photographer. I basically just walk around and hope to see something. I find myself wishing for a longer lens when shooting the Montezuma NWR and other offshore birds, but for most birds I can get close enough that the 55-300 is plenty of lens.
03-29-2014, 09:58 PM - 3 Likes   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by lowcountrybird Quote
I have a K5 and typically use a DA 55-300mm lens for my wildlife photography hobby. I'm particularly interested in photographing birds.


Hi... I find refining technique and really knowing your gear more important than acquiring a new piece of kit. In other words, your K-5 paired to the DA 55-300 can produce excellent results, if you shoot to their strengths.


When I was pairing my K-5 to the DA 55-300 for wildlife subjects, my success rate improved significantly by doing the following:


1. On the K-5... ALWAYS shoot RAW (DNG). Next, turn off everything the camera wants to serve up that may slow down it down as it processes an image to save to your SD card (Yes, even turn off SR, lens correction, etc.) Your goal is make it easy for the K-5 to pump as many images to your SD card as possible, in as short a time as possible,
2. Set the K-5 to AF,C with focus priority, continuous shooting set to 'high,'
3. Set the Mode to TAv with a shutter speed not less than 800 and aperture adjusted to get the lowest possible ISO, use 'Natural' color profile with contrast +1 and Extra Fine Sharpen +2,
4. For shutter release, set it at half press of the shutter button,
5. When you ID a subject (even if your view is somewhat obstructed), fire off a string of shots (5-10 is OK), then select the best of the bunch to post-process, once you return home. Consider every shot a throw away and be pleasantly surprised if your keeper rate is better than (say) 20% (be aggressive when you cull... only work on the best images),
6. Become a wizard at post-processing... Get a copy of LR5.3 (if you do not have it already) and devote (say) six months to learning everything you can about noise reduction, dynamic range enhancement, fine sharpening, cropping for composition, etc... be quick. I use LR5.3, plus NIK add-ins and have a work-flow that usually takes 3, but not more than 5 minutes to complete.


Anyway, it worked for me... you might need to fine tune your gear a little, but these settings should get you started and provide a solid base that you can adapt to better fit your style.


Cheers... M
03-30-2014, 12:49 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Michaelina2 Quote
Hi... I find refining technique and really knowing your gear more important than acquiring a new piece of kit. In other words, your K-5 paired to the DA 55-300 can produce excellent results, if you shoot to their strengths.


When I was pairing my K-5 to the DA 55-300 for wildlife subjects, my success rate improved significantly by doing the following:


1. On the K-5... ALWAYS shoot RAW (DNG). Next, turn off everything the camera wants to serve up that may slow down it down as it processes an image to save to your SD card (Yes, even turn off SR, lens correction, etc.) Your goal is make it easy for the K-5 to pump as many images to your SD card as possible, in as short a time as possible,
2. Set the K-5 to AF,C with focus priority, continuous shooting set to 'high,'
3. Set the Mode to TAv with a shutter speed not less than 800 and aperture adjusted to get the lowest possible ISO, use 'Natural' color profile with contrast +1 and Extra Fine Sharpen +2,
4. For shutter release, set it at half press of the shutter button,
5. When you ID a subject (even if your view is somewhat obstructed), fire off a string of shots (5-10 is OK), then select the best of the bunch to post-process, once you return home. Consider every shot a throw away and be pleasantly surprised if your keeper rate is better than (say) 20% (be aggressive when you cull... only work on the best images),
6. Become a wizard at post-processing... Get a copy of LR5.3 (if you do not have it already) and devote (say) six months to learning everything you can about noise reduction, dynamic range enhancement, fine sharpening, cropping for composition, etc... be quick. I use LR5.3, plus NIK add-ins and have a work-flow that usually takes 3, but not more than 5 minutes to complete.


Anyway, it worked for me... you might need to fine tune your gear a little, but these settings should get you started and provide a solid base that you can adapt to better fit your style.


Cheers... M
Thank you for these great suggestions for my current kit. I will definitely give them a try.

---------- Post added 03-30-2014 at 04:13 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Michaelina2 Quote
Hi... I find refining technique and really knowing your gear more important than acquiring a new piece of kit. In other words, your K-5 paired to the DA 55-300 can produce excellent results, if you shoot to their strengths.


When I was pairing my K-5 to the DA 55-300 for wildlife subjects, my success rate improved significantly by doing the following:


1. On the K-5... ALWAYS shoot RAW (DNG). Next, turn off everything the camera wants to serve up that may slow down it down as it processes an image to save to your SD card (Yes, even turn off SR, lens correction, etc.) Your goal is make it easy for the K-5 to pump as many images to your SD card as possible, in as short a time as possible,
2. Set the K-5 to AF,C with focus priority, continuous shooting set to 'high,'
3. Set the Mode to TAv with a shutter speed not less than 800 and aperture adjusted to get the lowest possible ISO, use 'Natural' color profile with contrast +1 and Extra Fine Sharpen +2,
4. For shutter release, set it at half press of the shutter button,
5. When you ID a subject (even if your view is somewhat obstructed), fire off a string of shots (5-10 is OK), then select the best of the bunch to post-process, once you return home. Consider every shot a throw away and be pleasantly surprised if your keeper rate is better than (say) 20% (be aggressive when you cull... only work on the best images),
6. Become a wizard at post-processing... Get a copy of LR5.3 (if you do not have it already) and devote (say) six months to learning everything you can about noise reduction, dynamic range enhancement, fine sharpening, cropping for composition, etc... be quick. I use LR5.3, plus NIK add-ins and have a work-flow that usually takes 3, but not more than 5 minutes to complete.


Anyway, it worked for me... you might need to fine tune your gear a little, but these settings should get you started and provide a solid base that you can adapt to better fit your style.


Cheers... M
Also, I have Aperture 3, and I know I have only scratched the surface of its capabilities. So I will start in earnest training myself to make the most of it. Just by chance I tried changing the tint of a photo of a pair of eagles. It made all the difference because it took the harshness out of the sky background.

---------- Post added 03-30-2014 at 04:21 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by crewl1 Quote
For best results with the Sigma use an aperture in the f8-f11 range.
Faster shutter speeds in the 1/750 or higher are a good idea.
Use a monopod or tripod unless your handheld skills are really good, I think it takes a while to get good results when you go from using smaller lenses to these big zooms.
Don't give up if the pics are not as expected right off the bat.

EDIT: check this thread to see the long lenses used on Pentax gear https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/122-lens-clubs/55946-300mm-plus-lens-club...enses-781.html
Thank you for the tip on the 300+ club. Nice thread for me to follow.
03-30-2014, 01:41 PM   #13
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I sure like the Bigma I bought used from a Pentax guy who just had to switch to Nikon when the D800E came out. Let's see, I got his DA 16-45mm AND his Sigma EX DG 50-500mm. Take advantage of the fact that your body has image stabilization and by one of the older non-OS Bigmas. That will get you to 500mm and I think you can get 1.4x converters that will cost you a stop of light but get you to 700mm. You can find 'em used for around $800.

If you don't mind donut bokeh, another good birding option is the Tamron SP 500mm (model 55B or 55BB). The 55B can be found in a kit that contains a tripod socket. There is no tripod socket on the 55BB. They are lightweight, but very shallow DOF, which is great if you can nail it. Manual focus, of course.
03-30-2014, 02:05 PM   #14
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After carrying the 150-500 around this weekend, I'm starting to think a DA *300 with a 1.4x teleconverter seems more palatable. I'm having trouble typing this update now due to tired forearms.

I am more like the boriscleto above - a guerrilla nature photographer crawling around and trying to sneak up on creatures. However, it is true that with the 500mm you don't have to crawl so close.
03-30-2014, 02:48 PM - 2 Likes   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by lowcountrybird Quote
After carrying the 150-500 around this weekend, I'm starting to think a DA *300 with a 1.4x teleconverter seems more palatable. I'm having trouble typing this update now due to tired forearms.

I am more like the boriscleto above - a guerrilla nature photographer crawling around and trying to sneak up on creatures. However, it is true that with the 500mm you don't have to crawl so close.
Yeah like I said I usually need a monopod or tripod for the big zoom.
(Some folks on the 300+ thread use the Sigma 500 f4.5 big lens hand held, not me )

The DA*300 I can carry around all day, no problem. The 1.4x adapter should not add much in terms of weight or bulk.
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