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02-28-2012, 10:36 AM   #1
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Pentax Q as a birding tool?

I've been seeing the great shots taken with relatively long lenses on the Q and would like to get an opinion about the applicability of the Q as a birding tool.

I have been considering adding a Bigma to my kit after selling the 170-500 a while back, but the size advantages of a Q and associated lens are very appealing.

I have a DA*300 and DFA100WR.

In the opinion of those that have used the Q with these or similar lenses, would these in combo with the Q serve as decent birding tools?

What are the pros and cons?

02-28-2012, 11:39 AM - 1 Like   #2
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Disclaimer: I don't have the DA* 300 or another APO lens in that length (please disregard my sig in that respect; I have sold lots of lenses in the last year).

My opinion: the Q *can* be used for birding, but forget about BIF's. It just cannot be done. And because of the diffraction limit you're limited to use the lenses wide open (you can stop them down of course, but the sharpness wil be compromised). It does not help that the Q does not have proper focusing aids such as focus peaking. Yes, you can enlarge a portion of the picture, but this takes a lot of time. All in all this means that it will be a very difficult exercise. But the results can be rewarding if you're willing to live with the drawbacks and difficulties.
02-28-2012, 02:34 PM - 1 Like   #3
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Not an easy question indeed...
This is the only example have kept from a one-time use of the q with my FA*300/2.8 @ f/4
It was on a windy day, so i guess i can achieve better results, and a strong tripod is necessary...


Last edited by Zygonyx; 02-29-2012 at 11:56 PM.
02-29-2012, 07:56 AM   #4
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Thanks for the input folks.
From the qualified responses and lack of enthusiastic endorsement this tells me to stick to a more traditional approach

02-29-2012, 04:00 PM   #5
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QuoteQuote:
Originally posted by crewl1
Thanks for the input folks.
From the qualified responses and lack of enthusiastic endorsement this tells me to stick to a more traditional approach
Hi crew1,

I had started a response a something of a birding specialist, but it got very long and very wonky, so I put it on the side to edit.

The problem is, too much of my opinion on the subject is based on too little field experience because by the time I got a working K to Q adapter, it was pretty much winter here, and my hands stop working after a few minutes in the cold. I'll try to summarize briefly, but it's likely to still be a pretty long post, and will still be wonky (can't help myself).

Pros: FL EQ/working distance, working lens speed (and deeper DOF at wide apertures because of the greater working distances), relative price of glass considering all of these, system carrying size and weight.

The FL EQ is self evident. This allows considerably greater working distance, which will make birds more secure and easier to shoot. I don't use hides and camo in my birding. In some ways, this should mitigate against the desirability of AF in a DSLR, but that really remains to be seen. Deeper DOF means that I can pretty easily get the whole bird in focus in contrast to the thousands of shots I have at long FLs at close to MFD where at least half of the bird is OOF.

The fact that FOV narrows with the extreme 5.5x crop factor while working aperture remains the same should be a major advantage for shooting in the usual low light conditions presented in a forest, but there are trade offs that need to be considered -- lack of AF and OVF, and I just can't speak to which way this would work out without comparing the Q against my K-5 in the field in this respect. Intuition tells me that the Q will be useful in this respect, but I really can't say at this time. My belief that this is going to work has justified purchasing a very lightweight CF tripod for just this purpose (I otherwise really don't have much need for one). I don't even know how my 300/2.8s will perform on the Q because I can't shoot outside when it's cold.

The cost (and size and availability) advantages of really long fast glass is pretty self evident. A Sigma 200-500/2.8 will give 750 EQ FOV on an APS-C DSLR. A 300/2.8 will give the Q a 1080mm EQ (to APS-C) f2.8 that costs @ $3000 and focuses to 6 ft (and has a DOF EQ of @ f10 to APS-C). The Sigma weighs 35 lbs, costs $26,000, and has an MFD of 5m.

With the Q, I can have an Ultra or Super tele alternative with me at all times. This is just not practical for me with a DSLR. It would mean constantly having over $5K worth and about 20 lbs of gear with me, and that's just uncomfortable, both mentally and physically. I can't tell you how many unique photo ops I've missed in the past 6 years because I didn't have enough reach.

Cons: No OVF and AF, lower IQ potential.

No OVF is a major downside for me. EVF lag, especially compounded by my constantly deteriorating reaction time (I'm 62 YO) makes it a problem getting the poses that I'd like. I can work around this with a spray and pray approach, but this is much less satisfying. Adding to the camera's size is not a concern when shooting extremely long, so using an LCD loupe is not an issue which negates the washed out LCD problem in sunlight.

I've had some experience shooting BIF with an EVF only Superzoom, the Panny FZ 30. It can be done using a Red Dot sight, but that camera had AF. I think that some BIF can be done with an RDS and zone focusing with the Q -- soaring raptors at relatively high altitudes could be a possibility that I've never had enough reach with my DSLRs, for example.

No AF seems to be less of a problem than I had anticipated. I can spot distant subjects quickly with a Red Dot sight, and am getting faster at MF with only the LCD to work with. I can get spot on focusing, and that's important to the shots that I like to get. Fast spotting and focusing is important to birding, but I'm not seeing this as that much of a detraction since the birds seem to feel more comfortable, and less likely to spook with the longer shooting distances. There's something of a trade off here. More experience will tell which way the balance will tip.

Ultimate IQ potential is also a trade off situation. The ability to get full frame resolution to get image sizes that previously needed significant cropping with shorter FL EQs closes the gap a bit. Diffraction comes into play with slower lenses. Exactly how diffraction balances off against higher MTF at the sweet spot for a lens is a question that I've not answered yet for my purposes (for example, if my 300/4.5 has higher resolution at f6, is the larger diffraction effect of the smaller aperture enough to wipe out the gains in MTF from stopping down?). I'm an amateur, and don't have to satisfy photo editors -- just myself and other birders I come in contact with. My main output media at this time are the web, my Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0+, and up to 8x10 prints. The IQ I'm getting with the Q is easily good enough for any of these. Getting enough DOF seems not to be much of a concern, even at wide apertures. Detail is less, but I think I'll get at least acceptable shots of species that I've spotted, but have not been able to shoot effectively before, and that's a potential major plus for the Q. Again, these are things that only extensive field experience will prove

The bottom line -- so far, and IMO, the Q is a promising accessory for a birder who already owns a DSLR with lenses at least somewhat appropriate for birding, and it can expand the capabilities of a bird photographer by allowing photos to be captured that are essentially impossible with larger formats because of lens unavailability either because they aren't made, are not affordable, or are not physically practical (or any combination of these). Will it become my full time birding camera? -- unlikely, but it's a no-brainer addition to my birding kit. My everyday carry around kit had previously been my K-5, DA 10-17, Sigma 17-70 f2.8-4.5 DC, and DA 55-300. Now it's a smaller bag with the Q, 01 prime, 02 zoom, 03 FE, K to Q adapter, A 50 f2.8 Macro, and DA 55-300, I lose 18-28 EQ, 83-275 EQ (FLs that I hardly use anyway), but gain 303-1650 EQ and a pretty sweet CF travel tripod at less weight and a bit more bulk. For my birding kit, K-5, FA* 300 f2.8, FA* 300 f4.5, P F 1.7x AFAs for each, a couple of 1.4x TCs, a heavy CF tripod, ball head, and Wimberley Sidekick, I can add essentially a 3.6x digital TC that loses no light by adding virtually no weight and only the minor bulk of the Q and a K-Q adapter.

Sorry again for the long post (this is shorter than the original though).

Scott
02-29-2012, 06:38 PM   #6
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Scott, thanks very much for taking the time to post your thoughts.
This is definitely useful information that I can use in weighing my options.

I think the two things that concern me most are *ability to achieve fast enough manual focus using the LCD and *image quality of the output.

In the past using the Sigma 170-500 with AF was easy but IQ really depended on the bird or critter being close enough to be large in the shot.
Crops were not the best IMO.
The fact that the Q crop factor facilitates filling the sensor with the critter seems that it would help IQ.

It would be great if I knew someone nearby with one who would allow me to try it out, but it is not the case and if I spend the money on the Q to test things out it depletes my stash that I have been saving for the BIgma or maybe eventually the 560.

This " I can add essentially a 3.6x digital TC that loses no light by adding virtually no weight and only the minor bulk of the Q and a K-Q adapter" is a big factor as well.
02-29-2012, 08:01 PM   #7
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I have had a liitle more time to use the Q for wildlife. Keep in mind wildlife is not my only type of photography. Nor is it a specialty for me.

I don't consider the Q and K slr comparable most of the time. They barely over lap with the lenses I use. My K-7 works well on the Pentax Da*300 f4. But it isn't long enough for my wildlife skills. The Q with Pentax 100 DA macro starts at eq. 500mm. With the DA*300 its 1650mm.

I have gotten shots that were never possible with the K7 and my lenses. The prints from itb were good enough that my printer ( Nikon FF shooter) bought a Q!
Another friend has the bigma on her K7. She rarely uses it now that she has the Q!

The Q should be sold with the DA*300 as a birding package. Will post some pics later.
thanks
barondla

Last edited by barondla; 02-29-2012 at 10:32 PM.
02-29-2012, 08:11 PM   #8
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Good input - thanks barondla.

02-29-2012, 10:00 PM   #9
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Pentax Q w/ Pentax DA*300 at f4 1/40 ISO 125. Owl was in captivity and kept moving around. Had to shoot fair number of shots to get one framed properly ( image not cropped) and sharp. The shiny silver mesh wire I was shooting thru didn't help any and really reduced contrast. The sharpness could have been better without the mesh too. Could not get close enough with K-7 and DA300 to get this image. The Q allows images that are almost impossible to get otherwise. This is why I don't put much weight into the "Q doesn't take as high of quality shots" argument. If you don't get the shot to start with there is no comparision of image quality. Can't imagine any nature photographer not having a Q along. It barely costs more than a great teleconverter.
thanks
barondla
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02-29-2012, 10:14 PM   #10
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Crewl1, you have 1 of my 2 favorite lenses for the Q. The only long lens I have used that gives my Pentax DA*300 a run for the money is the Olympus OM 180 f2. Both of these lenses perform super with the Q. Haven't used the Pentax DA100 macro as much yet. It is closer in range to the K-7 DA*300 with cropping. Weather is getting better so I will try that combo more.

Blue Heron, Pentax Q Pentax DA*300 at f4 1/60 ISO 125. The extra dof really helps with a shot like this. The extra reach of 1650mm gets decent image size. Tripod was at the very edge of lake and there wasn't any getting closer. To match this with K-7 would have to pull out the Celestron 1250 mirror. Image quality would be close but it takes a lot longer to set that rig up. Focusing is faster on the Q setup. Celestron is f10!

thanks
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Last edited by barondla; 03-01-2012 at 01:13 AM.
03-01-2012, 07:38 AM   #11
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Barondla thanks for the sample shots. The picture of the owl eye is impressive.
The center is very sharp but looks like the fence caused the loss of contrast and sharpness in the surrounding feathers?
The picture of the heron is a great shot as well, I expect the bird was so far away that it would have been impossible to attempt the shot without the Q.
If you were to compare the detail in the bird vs a K-7/5 shot with the DA*300 + TC at a distance where the bird would be of similar size would the latter be that much better?
Perhaps as you and snostorm say the advantage is in being able to get a shot that you would not even attempt with the K-7/5?
03-01-2012, 07:07 PM   #12
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The teleconverter I have for the DA* 300 is a Kenko 1.5X. Not real excited by the quality of that combo. Haven't shot it in a while so probably need to try it again. Fave converter of all time is my Olympus 1.4x that is matched to the OM350 2.8 and 180 f2 lenses. need to try the 350 more with the Q. Also need to try the converter with both lenses.

The Q has advantages on a tripod that the DSLR can't match. There is no shutter vibration with the Q. Even if you can time mirror lockup to get an active animal shot there is still vibration from the moving shutter. None with the electronic Q shutter. Also the manual focus magnify is helpful. I rarely af even with K7 / 300 combo. Just don't care for af much on any camera. Live view is much clearer than on a DSLR.

I am curious,why did you get rid of the first Sigma 500 zoom? Do you feel the bigma would be better? With the Pentax 300 would either try to find a good converter, buy a Q, or save for the 560. The two bigmas I have shot are not as sharp as the Pentax DA*300. The Q looses a little shapness to an APS-c DSLR ( unless you are cropping to match reach of Q). Don't under estimate the Q. One of my Canon (60 D) friends just bought a Q today.
thanks
barondla

Getting more keeper wildlife images than ever before by using the Q.
03-01-2012, 08:25 PM   #13
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Exactly - I sold the 170-500 because I was under the impression that the 50-500 was a better lens overall and a good price compromise vs a 500mm prime.

I had also picked up the DA*300 and felt a crop from that lens was better than the 170-500's long range IQ so wasn't using it much.

Your comment about the Bigmas not being as sharp as the DA*300 means a lot. I can forget about that option now.

I had been hoping I could match the DA*300 IQ with a longer lens.

I can now decide between these options "With the Pentax 300 would either try to find a good converter, buy a Q, or save for the 560."
03-01-2012, 09:18 PM   #14
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The Q owner, with Pentax mount bigma, loaned me the lens to try out a few years ago. I compared it to my SMC A Pentax 400 5.6. Both tripod mounted and aimed at non moving flat target. Bigma was zoomed to match 400 focal length. Used LV to critically focus both lenses. The Bigma was never quite as sharp as the Pentax 400. Definetly not wide open nor stopped down. This was the bigma w/o optical image stabilization.

If I were doing the test over today I would try a shot into tree limbs against bright sky. The Pentax 400 has a lot of CA. The Sigma would probably win in this situation. Making it more of a draw.

The Pentax DA*300 f4 is a lot better than the Pentax 400. Sharper, much less CA ( if any). The Q pushes a lens to the max in this regard. The Pentax 400 didn't supply one useful shot the day I tried it. CA every where. Always felt the Olympus OM 350 2.8 was crisper than the Pentax DA*300 on larger DSLR's. Hard to beat approx 5" of front element glass for resolving power. Have only tried the 350 once on the Q ( and lens didn't have proper chance to settle down and adapt to temperture differences). At the moment think the DA*300 beats the OM350 on the Q. 350 has some CA. Not as bad as Pentax 400 though. So here the better lens flips - depending on the camera body.

I have no idea what type of wildlife you are planning to do. My experience with birds is they are small ( even eagles aren't very big) and wary. Hard to have too long a lens unless you are shooting at a feeder. Even 560mm isn't that much reach ( many pros use 600 f4).

Also big lens combos are slow to use. You don't just whip a 560 up and start shooting. For most it requires a big tripod, getting the lens attached etc. Every one I know with a super tele also carries "bigma' size or little smaller lens for more spur of the moment shooting. Friend has the Pentax 250-600. It must weigh in the 12lb range. Setup is methodical. My OM350 is 8.5lbs. A different kind of shooting than the Q.

Even the 560 is nowhere near the fov of the 300 on the Q. If you crop the K-5 to match 1650mm I don't think it can win - It might tie - at best. The Q is gonna run $650ish + $~60 for 3rd party Q>PK adapter. The 560 will be much more money than that. Now that Canon L 1200 5.6 I played with last year would beat the Q - for a paltry 12K + camera.

Bummer about teleconverter is none work correctly with Pentax IS. They will fix this with their new converter but who knows what that will cost, when it will be available, and how good the image quality will be?
thanks
barondla
03-01-2012, 10:03 PM   #15
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Pentax's Q>K converter should be available this month, if I remember correctly.
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