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02-24-2015, 04:45 PM - 1 Like   #1
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Adopting the Pentax system for wildlife and other?

I'm starting this thread to get feedback on what might be the positives and negatives of adopting Pentax as a system, especially if there are some hidden drawbacks that might not be obvious at first look.

Background:
Here's my situation. I'm 95% a wildlife shooter wanting to shoot mainly in the tropics where light levels are low. I have a trip to Costa Rica coming up on March 18th.

I have experience with a number of lenses for Nikon using a D7000 (70-300 VR, 300 f4 AF (old version), 80-400 AF-S VR, Sigma 150-500, Tamron 70-200 VC, Tamron 150-600). Out of those, I only liked the Tamron 70-200 and Nikon 300 f4 for optical quality. I didn't like the MFD of the 300 f4 and the Tamron was just a little short for regular use. I tried Canon, using the 400 5.6 and a number of bodies (T1i, 1D ii, 7D, 7D ii, 20D) and encountered various problems with all of them. Also I found the 400 to often be a bit too long and not close-focusing enough.

Looking towards Pentax:
I've pretty much come to the conclusion that the lens that will suit me best is a 300 f4. Since I like to do a lot of hiking and backpacking on my trips, using a lighter set up and especially having VR/ IS etc. for handheld work is extremely helpful. I was excited by the news of the new 300 f4 for Nikon, but when I was doing my research, I came across some beautiful photos taken with the Pentax DA * 300 f/4. Turns out this lens is not much heavier than the new Nikon 300 f/4 VR when you consider the tripod collar. However, it doesn't suffer from the same flare issues, perhaps has better IQ than any other 300 f4 on the market, and I can get it used plus a K-3 for around $300 less than the price of the Nikon lens. The Pentax system emphasizes weather sealing, which is a major plus for me in rainforest and cloud forest. Last year in Panama I tried to use a rain cover for my D7000 but it just got in the way and I ended up not using it anyway. The K-3 has -3 ev focusing sensitivity which I really like, and in-body stabilization which seems extremely useful for using legacy glass.

Some day I want to go up to full-frame, however I absolutely don't have the money to do so right now. Pentax does seem to be cooking up a full-frame camera so I have hope that this could be a viable system for me, worth investing in. I'm not terribly invested in any system right now. In fact, I just sold my Tamron 70-200 vc to help pay for the Nikon 300 f4 vr, but like I said, I'm not so sure that's my best option. I have a Nikon 28mm f2 Ai-S that I like, but I really feel I'd like it more on a full frame camera, so I'm not too attached to it.

How is the Pentax selection of full-frame lenses? AF is necessary to me for most things, but I don't really care when it comes to wide angles. I'd rather avoid APS-C only lenses, but it seems many DA lenses have a full-frame image circle anyway. Here are the focal lengths I like:

On APS-C:
20mm
24mm
35mm
135mm (for macro/ close-up)
300mm

On Full-frame (what I think I'll like):
15mm fisheye and rectilinear
20mm
28mm
35mm
55mm
85mm
200mm (for macro/ close-up)
300mm
500mm (not happening any time soon)

Strobist:
Right now I have only manual flashes (YN 560 iiis), wireless ttl is not something I desire, however I wonder if the Yongnuo 560 EX will do ttl on camera and with a ttl cord? This wasn't really clear to me from looking at the flash on Amazon.

So, to sum up:
Pentax is lightweight, affordable, rugged with weather sealing, has great IQ, and is soon to enter full-frame territory. I am interested in using legacy glass and have absolutely no problem with using third party lenses.

Any caveats I should be aware of besides the weak flash system? I prefer to buy used when I can. I'm going to B&H tomorrow to see what the K-3 feels like in the hand, but from looking, the ergonomics seem pretty similar to the D7000 with the dials in front and back. Also, I'm not even sure I can get my hands on the Nikon 300 f/4 VR before March 18th, so I have to find a solution before then.

02-24-2015, 04:56 PM   #2
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The K-3 will definitely serve for such photos. And if you get a nice WR lens, you can camp in poor weather and get photos that some other brand-enthusiasts wouldn't (without protective equipment, at least). Take a look at the DA 560mm and Sigma 500mm and then settle for a WR HD DA 55-300.. but if you have the budget.. the 300mm is a really great lens.
Oh, and for macro.. Pentax has a couple really nice macro lenses in its lineup right now. The DA 35mm f2.8 limited, DFA 50mm f2.8, DFA 100mm f2.8 WR.. really great IQ on these lenses and for a good price! But AF is slightly slower, since they are macro and have a much longer focus throw. These go to true 1:1 macro magnification, so they are much better than so-called "macro" zoom lenses

QuoteOriginally posted by Thomas Cantwell Quote
Pentax is lightweight, affordable, rugged with weather sealing, has great IQ, and is soon to enter full-frame territory. I am interested in using legacy glass and have absolutely no problem with using third party lenses.
This is a good summary. Other good things are that the cameras are solid, have the famous green button, TAv mode, Hyper Program, great Menu and general interface, ergonomics. Pentax offers a lot, but be prepared for complainers, who always find something to complain about
And going to a store to handle the cameras is a good idea! This is what brought me to Pentax, Canikon models of similar cost simply felt.. not as nice.
02-24-2015, 05:03 PM   #3
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Hi Thomas and welcome,

At the moment, because the full frame hasn't yet been released, the best full frame lenses are the legacy F and FA series.
However, these only have screw drive AF which you may find quite noisy.
Also look to the Sigma and Tamron K-mount lenses, many of which are very good (and the new Bigma now has silent focussing).

If you haven't already, check out the lens reviews here in the forum which will give you some indications of each available lens from actual users.

For flash, the Yonguno flashes are only available with Canon or Nikon TTL.
I think you will find most Pentax strobists shoot in full manual mode.
I have a Metz 52AF-1 for when I want TTL and Yonguno for my off-camera work.

I'm sure others will have more suggestions for you.
Cheers
02-24-2015, 05:11 PM   #4
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For wildlife shooting, the outstanding IQ from K3 and many lenses you list, the relative small and lightweight and WR are all great.

Only once thing: speed of AF. For example, DA300 is not slow, it is actually faster than 50-135 and 55/1.4 ,but I am afraid the speed is still not as fast as similar lenses from other systems, particularly tracking continuous focusing on fast moving animal or birds.

Do you use flash? Something to think about also.

try it if possible, to see if focusing is sufficient for you. As said, IQ form pentax system is great, nothing to worry.

02-24-2015, 05:12 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Thomas Cantwell Quote
Any caveats I should be aware of besides the weak flash system? I prefer to buy used when I can. I'm going to B&H tomorrow to see what the K-3 feels like in the hand, but from looking, the ergonomics seem pretty similar to the D7000 with the dials in front and back. Also, I'm not even sure I can get my hands on the Nikon 300 f/4 VR before March 18th, so I have to find a solution before then.
It is a good system and I think you have a handle on the negatives. Flash is maybe weaker than some other systems but it does not sound like your needs are all that complex so the Pentax system should be fine. I don't think the Yongnuo system does ttl, either on or off the camera, it is all manual.

There is a good selection of legacy (read: full frame) glass out there and as you note some of the DA glass will work as well. If there is a negative in the current Pentax system it is a lack of new long glass, like 400mm or 600mm primes. But you don't seem to need those anyway, and the Canon / Nikon ones are going to be in the $5,000 to $15,000 range. Pentax does have the DA 560mm if you need that. And the DA 300mm f/4 is very nice. You can add the HD 1.4x RC and get a fully weather resistant, auto focus 420mm f/5.6 if you want.
02-24-2015, 05:19 PM - 1 Like   #6
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https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/122-lens-clubs/55946-300mm-plus-lens-club...ng-lenses.html


This should help on the long lens front.
02-24-2015, 05:25 PM - 1 Like   #7
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I am outdoors alot and I am using the K-3 with the DA*300 all the time, sometimes with the 1.4x converter. Bad weather is no problem with this setup and the IQ is, IMHO, superb. With the lenshood on the front element stays dry.

I sold my Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 today. I used to like the IQ but the DA*300 made it look not so good. I have tested the sigma 150-500 but re-sold it after a week. IQ was no good. For wildlife I will stay with APS-C so that I can benefit from the crop factor but I would like a full frame "just because".

What to think about? I really do not see anything that I have a problem with except that the P-TTL has a lag. It is the only thing left on my list that I made in the first 6 months. I only shoot RAW so if you are a JPG shooter there may be some issues that I am not aware of. Well, the lens collection is a bit small, not all new fancy lenses get a Pentax mount. Support for tethering by cable is a feature I miss.
02-24-2015, 05:35 PM   #8
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Welcome...

02-24-2015, 06:03 PM   #9
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It will be interesting to get your feedback from handling the K3. I have been a Pentax user since film and have progressed through the various dslr models over the years.
INMHO the K3 is the best to date, and so it should be, afterall it benefits from years of development.
I have the DA* 300 & 200. The 300 is good, but the 200 is superb and should not be overlooked. The Sigma 70-200 f2.8 I use for motor sport and sport in general.
My other kit is Nikon D800 with Tamron 24-70 & 70-200. I have found it hard to adapt to the Nikon, not finding it is as "intuitive" in its controls as the Pentax system....but that could also have a bit to do with old dogs learning new tricks.
Which system do I prefer? instictively I reach for the Pentax because I know it and am comfortable with it, but having said that Iam warming to the Nikon. Image quality is difficult to distinguish a clear winner.
02-24-2015, 07:49 PM   #10
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I have used the K-5 IIS and a Sigma 150-500 OS lens for Pentax mount with great success for birding and wildlife. The camera is an excellent performer in reference to IQ and capability in low light. The lens gives me reach and accurate focus for nice results. I usually use TAV mode. If you need the reach, and feel that you could keep it reasonably dry, it might be something you could consider. I think you would be wise to use Pentax and it's compatible equipment. If water resistant equipment as in lenses is what you need for conditions that are extremely moist, you may want to look at only lenses that have that qualifier, but if you want the zoom, I would recommend a 500mm reach. If you use a combination of WR lens and tele converter (both Pentax for complete compatibility) that might serve you well, but I have never used teleconverters, so I cannot tell you that as a hands on user. If you think a Sigma 50-500 (for Pentax K mount) would be appropriate with its range advantage, that might be an idea to consider, if you feel the environmental conditions would not be too extreme for it. Sigma lenses perform very well if you accommodate them with appropriate settings on your camera when you shoot. I have learned that first hand in all four seasons in NY of differing weather, taking thousands of shots. The 150-500 and 50-500 both have aps-c and full frame compatibility specs, plus near silent AF, in case you need that information. If you are planning on tele converter use, I would recommend you use Pentax lenses with the silent AF, and Pentax only teleconverters if you really need one. I use, as I mentioned, the TAV mode when I shoot, and I want to add that that the accessibility and ease of use of the control set on my K-5IIS is excellent, as is the K-3 control set. I doubt very much if you will have any regrets if you use Pentax equipment.

Last edited by C_Jones; 02-24-2015 at 08:21 PM.
02-24-2015, 08:11 PM   #11
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An F*300 makes for fantastic IQ in a smaller, lightweight package. Focusing speed is better than the DA*300 too. The F* is the one I have.

But if you need WR then the DA*300 on a K-3 is going to be hard to beat from any other system - even more so if you consider the price. The DA*300's AF speed is generally adequate, and it's quiet. The new WR flashes are worth looking at, as well as Metz.


At this point I think you need to just try it - take it on your trip in March. You don't seem to have any problem with the idea of trying new equipment - which is a good thing. Don't forget to buy a couple weeks ahead of time so you can test it, make any necessary returns, and learn to use it.


I can tell you the IQ with any of the *300 lenses (F, FA, or DA) is very good stopped down only 1/3 stop, or even wide open. These lenses have some of the best IQ to be found amongst Pentax glass, which is already very strong as a group. Take a look at the images here as well, if you haven't already:

DA*300: PENTAX : Select a PENTAX interchangeable lens camera or a lens model
FA*300: PENTAX : Select a PENTAX interchangeable lens camera or a lens model
F*300: PENTAX : Select a PENTAX interchangeable lens camera or a lens model

Then if you can, pair it with a lens giving similar IQ from among this group, according to your needs: D FA 100 WR macro, DA*50-135 (like all * lenses, includes weather sealing), FA77 Ltd, FA*85, F or FA135. Tamron 70-200/2.8 is also available for a very reasonable price (since it's the previous generation - no SR needed since Pentax includes it in-body), but the IQ won't quite match these other lenses IMO (but you seemed to like the Tamron).
02-24-2015, 08:16 PM   #12
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To clarify only DA* of the * series lenses is weather resistant, the FA* and A* are not.

Additionally, WR and AW lenses are weather resistant.
02-24-2015, 08:18 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by C_Jones Quote
I have used the K-5 IIS and a Sigma 150-500 OS lens for Pentax mount with great success for birding and wildlife. The camera is an excellent performer in reference to IQ and capability in low light. The lens gives me reach and accurate focus for nice results. I usually use TAV mode. If you need the reach and feel that you could keep it reasonably dry, it might be something you could consider. I think you would be wise to use Pentax and it's compatible equipment. If water resistant equipment as in lenses is what you need for conditions that are extremely moist, you may want to look at only lenses that have that qualifier, but if you want the zoom, I would recommend a 500mm reach. If you use a combination of WR lens and tele converter (both Pentax for complete compatibility) that might serve you well, but I have never used teleconverters, so I cannot tell you that as a hands on user. If you think a Sigma 50-500 (for Pentax K mount) would be appropriate with its range advantage, that might be an idea to consider if you feel the environmental conditions would not be too extreme for it. Sigma lenses perform very well if you accommodate them with appropriate settings on your camera when you shoot. I have learned that first hand in all four seasons in NY of differing weather taking thousands of shots. If you are planning on tele converter use, I would recommend you use Pentax lenses with the silent AF, and Pentax only teleconverters if you really need one. I use as I mentioned, the TAV mode when I shoot, and I want to add that that the accessibility and ease of use of the control set on my K-5IIS is excellent, as is the K-3 control set. I doubt very much if you will have any regrets if you use Pentax equipment.
I was going to say the F* on those samples looks even sharper than the Da* but I'm sure that's circumstantial. In my own experience the -F* 300mm on the K3 is phenomenal, so good in fact that you'll need to torture me ala James Bond-Casino Royale style before I'd part with it.
02-24-2015, 08:36 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Stavri Quote
I was going to say the F* on those samples looks even sharper than the Da* but I'm sure that's circumstantial. In my own experience the -F* 300mm on the K3 is phenomenal, so good in fact that you'll need to torture me ala James Bond-Casino Royale style before I'd part with it.
Not really circumstantial - the glass in each generation of this lens has slightly different character.

QuoteOriginally posted by Thomas Cantwell Quote
20mm
24mm
35mm
135mm (for macro/ close-up)
There are good choices in glass for all the focal lengths you mentioned - including the Full Frame ones. At ~135mm you'll have to choose between true macro at 100mm and close-up with the F or FA135 I mentioned (very small and unobtrusive too). The DA35/2.4 is very affordable, so you could try one right away. The FA20 is very good, the FA*24 is even better, the FA31 Ltd is a legendary lens you can try later, and the FA135 is one of my favorites. Yes, I speak from experience, having owned and used all these lenses (except the Tamron and FA*300, and I merely borrowed the DA*300 for a while).

---------- Post added 02-24-15 at 07:46 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by UncleVanya Quote
To clarify only DA* of the * series lenses is weather resistant, the FA* and A* are not.

Additionally, WR and AW lenses are weather resistant.
If this was clarifying my statement, thanks - I was thinking of the current generation and neglected to write DA*!
02-24-2015, 09:20 PM - 1 Like   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by DSims Quote
If this was clarifying my statement, thanks - I was thinking of the current generation and neglected to write DA*!
It was and I figured - I just wanted to be sure the OP didn't misinterpret things.
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