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01-05-2013, 11:09 PM   #1
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Best combo for squirrel photography

Hello all. I've been using a K-R for the past years until it got stolen from my house. I still got the kit 18-55mm lens, tripod, batteries, etc.

Now I'm in the market for a replacement. I didn't think I'd stick with pentax since I always had some envy with canikon's lens selections.

However, after thinking about d5100, I started then looking at D7000 which invariably led me to the K-30/K-5. The K-30 (white body) is only $600 which seems pretty nice to me while old K-5 is what, $750? Anyways, I'm asking if I am doing myself any favors by going for the K-30 to save cost. I know there is focus peaking.

As for lens, I'm thinking about the DA* 300mm. I noticed when I took pictures of animals in my backyard that 90% of the time I was shooting at 200+mm range and usually at 300mm. Pictures turned out okay, but nothing drool worthy came out of the 55-300mm either.

Some examples with my old k-r:

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-YlonrBpRSGI/TrICjQRnD0I/AAAAAAAADa0/59PcF...4/IMGP0571.jpg
https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-5CkDHuHBtlY/TrIC7CjWhiI/AAAAAAAADdo/mxtJe...4/IMGP0696.jpg
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-GFmqNAp5qjg/TrID1Yp7nUI/AAAAAAAADj4/Jxuaq...4/IMGP0986.jpg

Please note that these pictures are hand held and some of them are through a dual pane window. But you can see that my last photo is pretty rough. I tend to like hand holding as setting up a tripod is not always ideal in my situation.

Am I best served with bang for buck by going with k-30 and DA* 300mm f4... or should I be getting a bigma? i'm not really all too familiar with canon and nikon's offerings. nikon d7000 + nikkor 300mm f4 is a bit pricier. T3i and its 300mm lens is around same price point.

My other passion is food photography but it's usually in the kitchen with bad lighting.

Just trying to figure out how to get the best photos I can but for less than $2k =P I'd appreciate some feedback

01-06-2013, 02:15 AM   #2
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The K5 only body or including lens? Without lens, I paid more for the the K5(paid 785 dollars with current price you'd pay for dollars, 600 euros) then you would now! So if it is with lens, I should choose for the K5. They both have some good points. Both 16MP (16.1 for the K30 and 16.3 for the K5). Less point for on the K30 was&is no possibilities for a battery grip, no small screen on top to see how empty my batteries are and how many photo's I can still take.

Only have experience with the K5, not with the K30. For the differences, well, there aren't many between those. And with the view around, it only depends on what you want, are those view extras worth for you buying the K5.
01-06-2013, 02:43 AM   #3
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I think that 55-300 is capable of excellent squirrel work.
For this purpose I would not spend more, as long as you do static squirrel job...
Please see below.

The Mighty Gray Squiral, the King of Parks - Bild & Foto von F.F. Heinz aus Nagetiere & Hasenartige - Fotografie (27798008) | fotocommunity
01-06-2013, 02:54 AM   #4
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K-5 is great, and I have seen many great photos with the combo K-5 + Da* 300. That last lens is on my wish list, especially because I like how it delivers a smooth background. So, that would be MY choice......

01-06-2013, 05:10 AM   #5
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I would spend more time improving technique with the 55-300 before splashing out the big bucks for a DA300. The 55-300 can produce good photos. The DA300 will not miraculously make up for a lack of technique. I found using the 300mm end of my 55-300 required me to make a serious upgrade of my technique. If a tripod is inconvenient, try a monopod to improve stability. I now use one regularly when telephoto shooting. Note also that double glazing can also make a material negative impact on picture quality as I have found filming from within airport terminals.

As for camera, either should be capable of good results.
01-06-2013, 05:27 AM   #6
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There are a couple of things to consider he. The K5/K30 will be much better at high ISO. Therefore your 55-300 lens may be OK for a while. You might wish to consider flashit helps a lot when working in the shadows
01-06-2013, 06:00 AM - 1 Like   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by teylix Quote
Hello all. I've been using a K-R for the past years until it got stolen from my house. I still got the kit 18-55mm lens, tripod, batteries, etc.

Now I'm in the market for a replacement. I didn't think I'd stick with pentax since I always had some envy with canikon's lens selections.

However, after thinking about d5100, I started then looking at D7000 which invariably led me to the K-30/K-5. The K-30 (white body) is only $600 which seems pretty nice to me while old K-5 is what, $750? Anyways, I'm asking if I am doing myself any favors by going for the K-30 to save cost. I know there is focus peaking.

As for lens, I'm thinking about the DA* 300mm. I noticed when I took pictures of animals in my backyard that 90% of the time I was shooting at 200+mm range and usually at 300mm. Pictures turned out okay, but nothing drool worthy came out of the 55-300mm either.

Some examples with my old k-r:

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-YlonrBpRSGI/TrICjQRnD0I/AAAAAAAADa0/59PcF...4/IMGP0571.jpg
https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-5CkDHuHBtlY/TrIC7CjWhiI/AAAAAAAADdo/mxtJe...4/IMGP0696.jpg
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-GFmqNAp5qjg/TrID1Yp7nUI/AAAAAAAADj4/Jxuaq...4/IMGP0986.jpg

Please note that these pictures are hand held and some of them are through a dual pane window. But you can see that my last photo is pretty rough. I tend to like hand holding as setting up a tripod is not always ideal in my situation.

Am I best served with bang for buck by going with k-30 and DA* 300mm f4... or should I be getting a bigma? i'm not really all too familiar with canon and nikon's offerings. nikon d7000 + nikkor 300mm f4 is a bit pricier. T3i and its 300mm lens is around same price point.

My other passion is food photography but it's usually in the kitchen with bad lighting.

Just trying to figure out how to get the best photos I can but for less than $2k =P I'd appreciate some feedback
K5 and pellet rifle.
01-06-2013, 07:11 AM   #8
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The quest for more reach (longer focal lengths) is a rabbit hole; you never have enough. And getting more becomes exponentially more expensive once you get beyond (in either length or speed) a specification like 300/4. And in comes the need for an extra-stable tripod and a suitable head for the big lens, preferably a gimbal. The usual answer is, "get closer".

As southlander suggests, consider at least a monopod, or resting the camera on something stable. Or consider getting a gimbal head on a tripod -- you might find you like it better than handholding. If you go for the Bigma (certainly a good value way to get beyond 300mm), you'll find handholding not so nice anymore.

You also mention your passion for food photography, and the bad light in your kitchen. There's an obvious suggestion here, and it also applies (to a degree) to your wildlife shooting: flash. Your best bang for the buck is to invest a modest amount of money and a fair amount of time and effort in acquiring a simple off-camera flash setup and learning how to use it to good effect. Flash can also be helpful for long-distance work, generally limited to fill flash to supplement natural light, but even this expands the range of possible shooting conditions.

Of the photos you've linked to, #1 and #2 are very good. The only thing lacking in #2 is some direct side- or back-light on the squirrel, to give it contours and texture and help it stand out from the bright background of leaves. #1 has some of that nice separation lighting, on the tail -- just want some on the head as well. So another point to think about is arranging yourself to take advantage of sunlight.

01-06-2013, 07:29 AM   #9
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You need to speak Otis, he's around in here somewhere.
01-06-2013, 07:46 AM   #10
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You want to shoot 300mm hand held? You might get lucky every now and then, but probably a waste of time. Use a tripod.





01-06-2013, 10:11 AM   #11
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Wow thanks for the tips. I'm still a beginner (hence posting here) so when it comes to lighting, I try for the best but don't know much about it =P

To be honest, if I got the DA* 300mm f4, then I would be using tripod I'm sure. I seemed to have done alright handholding the 55-300mm lens. The 55-300mm lens got stolen though so I'd have to purchase it again.

Here's an example of a sunny, fall day walking through a nature trail where I actually used a tripod:
https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-EMzquD3f2F8/TrIKd_f4vbI/AAAAAAAAD4M/iV7hz...2/IMGP0323.jpg

It seems alright but I don't seem to get that extra clarity I'm seeing in the Da* 300mm photos.

Yeah I know the glazing of the window is detrimental to my photos. Sometimes I try to sneak outside but then they run especially the groundhogs.

A groundhog pic eating a weed:
https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-XaBCLADkJdk/T5wbpBiBp7I/AAAAAAAAFuQ/dYKb2...2/IMGP2297.jpg

I guess it's better to master technique before going for the equipment... but isn't there something to growing with the equipment and not being limited?

Very nice pics normhead
01-06-2013, 10:52 AM   #12
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I find my K-r to be quite sufficient with the DA-L 55-300mm being handheld. The trick is bright light and maintaining high shutter speed. When the sun is not so bright, I bring out the monopod for sure.

However, when I get the DA*300, the extra weight would require some sort of support.... like a monopod

For the pricing of a K5 and DA*300, I think it offers better value than the D7000 + Nikkor 300f4..... but they are quite close in price/quality. If I was you, I would probably make a list of the finer details you like about each system. Pentax - Size, image stabilization, rugged..... Nikon - lens diversity.... people don't judge you?...
01-06-2013, 11:12 AM - 1 Like   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by teylix Quote
I guess it's better to master technique before going for the equipment... but isn't there something to growing with the equipment and not being limited?
Wildlife photography is a combination of patience, technique, knowledge of your subject, equipment, and luck (the first four often make the 5th happen). Don't neglect any of them.

This is not by any means the first groundhog I've gotten this close to, nor will it be the last, taken with a 100mm macro:



For most backyard animals that you have easy access to and can control by leaving out food or easily studying their patterns, getting close is very possible and cheaper than a honking big telephoto (example: know a groundhogs boltholes and make flight less preferable to freezing by getting between them and their refuge). Your sample pics would be much clearer if you even managed to halve the distance.

That said, since your 55-300mm was stolen and if you can afford the DA*300mm....
01-06-2013, 11:32 AM   #14
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+1 to the above.
With the addition of "if you don't like your photos, get closer."
And with the suggestion you might want to look at the Tamron 70-200 2.8. It's just much more versatile, and gives you 2.8 for narrowing your depth of field. It's not a lens i own, but it's one I often wonder if I should have bought instead of the DA*60-250 f4. On APS-c, 200 ain't so bad, and the DoF at 2.8 might make a difference.

I can't believe Rupert hasn't jumped in here. Otis is sure to have an opinion.
01-06-2013, 11:37 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by teylix Quote
It seems alright but I don't seem to get that extra clarity I'm seeing in the Da* 300mm photos.
It appears to me that your images are front focused. You can calibrate the camera with the 55-300 lens to nail focus and then the images will be much sharper.

Also the 55-300 at the 300mm end benefits significantly if you stop it down a bit. Even at F6.3 or F7.1 you can see a difference. If conditions allows try F8.

From my experience, if you do not go all the way to 300 and stay around 270mm (where the max F stop goes from 5.6 to 5.8) you get sharper images.

A tripod (or monopod) of course will provide the most benefit along with a strong flash.
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