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12-19-2011, 05:13 PM   #1
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help with tele zoom short list for birds/nature

I am a new user and spend a large amount of time researching my k-5 and 40mm 2.8 purchase. I am very happy with them! However, I live in a very beautiful place with alot of birds, wildlife, and nature around me everyday and it drives me crazy missing opportunities almost daily. I waited to get a zoom because I just wasn't sure which one to get.

So here i am looking for advice. I would like the best possible zoom I could purchase up to about 1500 dollars (macro ability would be nice). Looking for the best image quality. How much does the 2.8 help vs 4.0? zoom vs fixed, how easy is it to crop? Seems like the zoom ability would be nice compared to the fixed focal length. However, the reviews on the fixed are exceptional.

pentax 60-250 4.0
tamron 70-200 2.8
sigma 70-200 II 2.8
pentax 55-300 ed (nice low cost option, how good is it)
pentax 200 2.8
pentax 300 4.0

Just some of the lenses i've been reading about. Please list any others you feel strongly about.


Thank You!!

12-19-2011, 05:29 PM   #2
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which lens is best depends on your priorities.

if you're going around shooting wildlife during the day, i say just go with the 55-300mm to get the maximum amount of reach. It also cheap, so you can experiment to see if you can live with either reduced reach or a prime.

the difference between 2.8 and 4 during the daytime is primarily the depth of field control you get. If super shallow depth of field is what you want, go for the 2.8. When the sun starts going down, the 2.8 also has the extra advantage of being a stop faster, letting you get away with lower iso/faster shutter. This is pretty much a non-issue with the k-5 imo since the thing has such amazing high-iso capabilities.

of all the lenses, only the 55-300 and tamron are screw drive af. If you want to get physically close to your subjects, you might want one of the other lenses since they benefit from silent autofocus.

also, don't forget weight. Big fast zooms are heavy beasts, if you want to walk around a lot, be sure to take this into account.

if i was in your position, i'd go for the 55-300 to test the waters of telephoto out. It lets you try out the telephoto range to help you see which focal lengths and features would benefit your shooting the most while not costing all that much.
12-19-2011, 06:07 PM   #3
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I personally think if you have the k-5 and it's outdoors, the 60-250 just is unmatched. It's as sharp or sharper than the 70-200s of both Sigma and Tamron, has SDM for quiet focus, weighs about the same as the Tamron (which is about half a kg less than the Sigma), and is trumped only by the 300mm, but sometimes you can really go up closer to a bird and so the prime may not be as perfect.

Second to the 60-250 would be the 300 F4, third would be the Tamron 70-200, then after that I wouldn't know.
12-19-2011, 06:45 PM   #4
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I wouldn't limit yourself to just the lenses listed in your post. If you broaden your horizons and look in the manual focus / uses lenses there are a lot more possibilities. Check the lens review section, it may be tedious, but looking through each manufacturers pages may give you a lot more to think about. Go to ebay and type in "pentax _00mm" (whatever focal length you are considering) and see what pops up.
Currently there is a 400mm f5.6 manual focus lens from tokina I believe for $150.00 seems pretty reasonable to me and it would be a good place for you to start finding out what you like without coming close to $1000.00 like some of the other options you list.
What are you waiting for, just hit the BUY IT NOW button!!!

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Pentax-K-Manual-Focus-400mm-5-6-Tokina-lens-and-Doub...item2317bac03b

The teleconverter is probably more effective as a paper weight but I don't really know that, just a guess.

Its not my lens so I am not getting anything out of this, in case anyone is wondering.

12-19-2011, 07:19 PM   #5
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Thank You everyone for your replies. I'm really enjoying everyones insite and view points. I have really gone back and forth between the 55-300 and the 60-250. The tokina 400 is new to me. Didn't really think about older manual focus models, good idea. Will research these further. Thanks again, looking forward to more.
12-19-2011, 07:58 PM   #6
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I have the 55-300 and it is a good lens, a little on the slow side though. For birds I seldom shoot below 300. I would be wary of shorter lengths, but I've never tried a 60-250 either.

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12-19-2011, 08:23 PM   #7
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I would suggest that anything smaller than a 400mm would be a wasted purchase if you were serious about bird photography.
12-19-2011, 09:33 PM   #8
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Sigma 100-300 f4 would be my choice, far faster AF than the 60-250 and i like the bokeh also more.
The sigma also works well with the 1.4x converter giving you the extra reach you might need.
If you go past 300mm hardly any zoom is really good unless you buy a very good and expensive one, better to stick with primes then.

pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/162849-what-teleconverter-sigma-100-300-f4-2.html#post1687569


Last edited by Anvh; 12-19-2011 at 09:40 PM.
12-20-2011, 05:20 AM   #9
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Just a simple observation here, but I think you will find 300 mm a little short for birding.

Do the math

Image size = subject size x focal length / distance

You need to be awfully close to fit a small bird into the frame with 300 mm

Look foe something you can add a good teleconverter to to get you to at least 400mm.
12-20-2011, 05:38 AM   #10
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For birds and wildlife it would be an unusual situation where you found 300mm too long. 300mm is also around the limit of practical hand-held shooting. f/4 with a long lens is already a pretty shallow DOF, so to me the main benefits of a faster lens are brighter viewfinder image, more likely to produce good results with a teleconverter (TC), and of course those low-light situations where you want all the light you can get. However, to get faster than f/4 with a 300mm lens means going big, heavy, expensive, and (in the case of Pentax) rare and used, because Pentax doesn't currently make any such lens. Sigma does currently make a 300 f/2.8. Big, heavy, expensive, but apparently an excellent lens. They also make a 500 f/4.5 ... yikes!

By all accounts the 55-300 is a good intersection of value and performance for getting to 300mm. Also by all accounts the image quality (IQ) isn't as good above 250, no surprise. If what you are most interested in is the 300mm end, and when you say birds and wildlife I think you will find that you are, then I think you'll be better served by either a longer zoom (such as the Sigma 50-500 "Bigma") or a fixed 300. The DA* 300 you might find reasonable (just) for hand-held shooting. The Bigma, no. (I haven't used either lens; I have the DA*'s little brother, the DA* 200. Love it.) With the DA* you will have limited options for adding a TC. The Bigma is probably too slow to work well with a TC.

Adorama currently has a used DA* 300 (grade D, as in demo, should be close to new condition) for $999.
12-20-2011, 06:32 AM   #11
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Thank You !! everyone. This is really great. I'm leaning toward the 55-300 right now, just to get my feet wet and experiment with the differant focal lengths and not be out alot of money. Then in the future possibly upgrade when I realize what I really need for what I like to shoot. Great picture Tom!
12-20-2011, 04:53 PM   #12
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dont listen to me but for those who know. How about the 55-300 with a good teleconverter. Would that make a 110-600 just a little slow. Im curious myself. Theres a family of bald eagles at my cottage I tried catching last year with a p&s, lets just say thats why I got a dslr
12-20-2011, 05:37 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by TLS Quote
Thank You !! everyone. This is really great. I'm leaning toward the 55-300 right now, just to get my feet wet and experiment with the differant focal lengths and not be out alot of money. Then in the future possibly upgrade when I realize what I really need for what I like to shoot. Great picture Tom!
This will be a good decision. Even if you realize that you need something better in the future, the 55-300 makes an excellent choice when you want to keep the weight down, shoot handheld and when the light is fairly good. Autofocus is noisy and a bit slow at times but it is a lot faster than manually focusing my M 400 F5.6. IQ is very usable at 5.8 but once you stop down 1/3 or 2/3 of a stop it is excellent.

Make sure you test the lens for back/front focusing. Mine was back focusing but once I calibrated it, it is spot on. You'll need to always focus as well as it gets, especially with smaller birds since the DOF will be very shallow. If you use a manual lens and do not have a split prism focusing screen, you'll find it rather frustrating and you'll miss a lot of little birds that like to jump around.

Happy shooting.
12-20-2011, 09:41 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by no694terry Quote
dont listen to me but for those who know. How about the 55-300 with a good teleconverter. Would that make a 110-600 just a little slow. Im curious myself. Theres a family of bald eagles at my cottage I tried catching last year with a p&s, lets just say thats why I got a dslr
The 110-600 will be F8 to F11.6 (or thereabouts) if you stick a 2 x teleconverter on it. Much to slow to autofocus and pretty dim for manual focusing.
12-20-2011, 09:46 PM   #15
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I think a 300mm zoom will quickly become too short for birding. The IQ of the DA*300 is good enough to be able to crop the shots but you won't get that IQ from the DA55-300.

My vote for a value for money birding/wildlife zoom is the little Bigma (Sigma 150-500mm). It's a bit slow but with the K5 you should be able to up the ISO enough to stop it down to F8
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