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12-01-2013, 06:43 PM   #1
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Decent wildlife (fast moving) photography lenses

Hello!

So this is my first post on this forum. I fully understand that I've seen this topic talked about several times, however, I never see a clear answer (or at least not an answer that would solve my problem ... or that I understand ... haha).


I am currently using the Pentax K-r. I am looking for a lens for taking pictures of wolves. Right now, I am only taking photos of those in captivity, however they are all exceptionally afraid of people (a good thing) so I need something that can help me take clear, crisp shots from a decent distance. Plus something that auto focuses alright ... this lens I'm using now seems to be really loud and auto focuses so oddly. The wolves are not good models and do not sit still ... so being able to focus quickly is a must.

Plus, in about a year I am heading down to Zimbabwe to intern on the African Painted Dog conservation. Obviously I won't be that close to those guys.

I've been using this lens [smc PENTAX-DA55-300mmF4-5.8ED] for a while now, but it is actually my mother's. I've been borrowing it for a bit, but when I move here in a month to a different state she is going to want it back. (Bummer for me). So I guess I should invest in my own lens and I'm looking to upgrade.

I am a college student, I am a little broke, but open to any suggestions.

Thanks!
Ashley

12-01-2013, 06:59 PM   #2
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You may end up going second hand and manual focus. Maybe an M series or A-series. GO with the 55-300, you could do worse.
12-01-2013, 07:03 PM   #3
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I have several answers for you, unfortunately they don't all point to the same solution, plus they are probably budget busters.
  • Sigma 150-500 HSM - This lens will give you the reach and it runs about $900. It also has a in lens focus motor providing near silent operation. It should be able to be hand held by you also.
  • DA 60-250 - This lens doesn't have the reach of the Sigma, however it is weather resistant against moisture and water. The lens runs about $1200+. I am going to think that perhaps something sealed in Africa will do well. You probably should consider a sealed body too, like a K30/50/5/5II/5IIs/3.
What you really want is a sealed version of the Sigma, and they don't make it.

Hope that helps,

12-01-2013, 07:16 PM   #4
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I'm not sure if this would be an option for you, either now or for your internship, but what about renting a high quality lens (or two)? Rent some to try them out - see what works. If your internship is short, a rental might work (although you also might be exposing it to some rough conditions, and that could create problems). Buying second-hand might be the best option.

12-01-2013, 07:25 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Smashley Quote
Hello!

So this is my first post on this forum. I fully understand that I've seen this topic talked about several times, however, I never see a clear answer (or at least not an answer that would solve my problem ... or that I understand ... haha).


I am currently using the Pentax K-r. I am looking for a lens for taking pictures of wolves. Right now, I am only taking photos of those in captivity, however they are all exceptionally afraid of people (a good thing) so I need something that can help me take clear, crisp shots from a decent distance. Plus something that auto focuses alright ... this lens I'm using now seems to be really loud and auto focuses so oddly. The wolves are not good models and do not sit still ... so being able to focus quickly is a must.

Plus, in about a year I am heading down to Zimbabwe to intern on the African Painted Dog conservation. Obviously I won't be that close to those guys.

I've been using this lens [smc PENTAX-DA55-300mmF4-5.8ED] for a while now, but it is actually my mother's. I've been borrowing it for a bit, but when I move here in a month to a different state she is going to want it back. (Bummer for me). So I guess I should invest in my own lens and I'm looking to upgrade.

I am a college student, I am a little broke, but open to any suggestions.

Thanks!
Ashley
Welcome Ashley.
What's your budget, really? As you may have gathered from your research, lenses that excel in capturing wildlife cost more than the typical telephoto--the good ones with longer reach (>300mm) cost a lot more.

M
12-01-2013, 08:35 PM   #6
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Here is a coyote at 400mm uncropped, at something like 130 feet. I used f9.5, 1/500, ISO 400 in pretty good light.



Wolves are bigger so you could be farther away. So 400mm is probably OK, 500mm would be better. This was a manual focus lens and represents just about the minimum quality, focal length and price that would be an improvement over the DA 55-300, probably $300 or so. An older autofocus Tokina or Sigma are probably better, and maybe $600. Prices are just a guess, and since these lenses are all used and old, condition and availability can change that a lot.

Try cropping your best 300mm shot by 50%. When you're taking the shot, plan ahead to crop by keeping the exposure correct for the part of the image you'll keep. The camera will set exposure based on the whole frame, which may throw off the exposure for the wolf.
12-01-2013, 11:02 PM   #7
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I'd definitely recommend the DA*300. (Ok, it is a little over your budget estimate)

Almost as sharp wide open f4 as it is at 5.6 or f8.
It's light and easy enough for hand holding all day long and you can keep mobile of you have to.
Weather sealed too. Well it's certainly more weather sealed than I am.

If you need extra FL It responds well to cropping on a especially on a k-5 (and I assume on a K-3.) and it will play reasonably well with a 1.4X TC if it ever comes out next year.
It works quite well with the old AFA 1.7x just as any manual lens like an A*300/4 would. (BTW the A*300/4 is the high quality telephoto performance bargain lens to go for if you didn't mind manual focus)

I'd say the AFA1.7x works great for static subjects or animals you can follow easily but for BIF it's difficult to keep the bird nailed right in the centre of the VF and the AFA1.7x just "zips" in and out if it's off. It'd be fine with perfect technique though.

Is the DA*300 that much better than the 55-300 @300mm? Oh yeah.

The BigmOS (150-500mm) can come in under $1k but it's a heavy beast, a stop slower than the DA*300 and apparently not it's best around 400-500mm
By many accounts the latest Bigma (50-500mm) is better but again it is heavy and slow (f 6.3 from mid range onward).
I tried one out handheld for 5minutes and then immediately decided to go for the DA*300 instead. That said, plenty of people get fantastic results out of it with good handheld technique but I'd think it's better on a tiripod/gimbal mount. and they're not cheap either.

The next step up with long AF glass is a big one. Sigma 500/4.5, FA*600 FA*250-600
12-02-2013, 08:30 AM   #8
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Here is an image of a Jackal in Zimbawe taken with the DA*200. I also had the 55-300 along but most of your best shooting is early morning or late afternoon. You don't need a "Bigma". A good guide will get you better shots than a long lens.

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12-02-2013, 08:37 AM   #9
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For the African Wild Dog (painted) you won't need a long lens... You can get very close to them...

Take a long lens for other stuff though!!
12-02-2013, 09:00 AM   #10
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For $250 or less, a Sigma 70-300 is probably the goto lens. New they are around $190, second hand they can be found for as little as $80. And brand a new Pentax 50-200 can be had for less than $100 but it doesn't have nearly the reach.. People are missing the part about the "broke student". There are cheaper options.

People, including me are going to tell you,this is not a great lens. Don't listen, for less than$200, this might be the only lens. And for that price it's not half bad.

I've put together a bit of an album for a few shots taken with it…








Apparently there also a Tamron 70-300 but I don't know anything about it.) This may be a "use what you have until you get what you want" type of lens, but if you can't afford any lens, maybe you can scrape up $80 to get this one.

The rest of the album… (8 images in total).
Sigma-70-300 Photos by Norm_Head | Photobucket

Last edited by normhead; 12-02-2013 at 09:05 AM.
12-02-2013, 09:43 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by normhead Quote
For $250 or less, a Sigma 70-300 is probably the goto lens. New they are around $190, second hand they can be found for as little as $80. And brand a new Pentax 50-200 can be had for less than $100 but it doesn't have nearly the reach.. People are missing the part about the "broke student". There are cheaper options.

People, including me are going to tell you,this is not a great lens. Don't listen, for less than$200, this might be the only lens. And for that price it's not half bad.

I've put together a bit of an album for a few shots taken with it…

Apparently there also a Tamron 70-300 but I don't know anything about it.) This may be a "use what you have until you get what you want" type of lens, but if you can't afford any lens, maybe you can scrape up $80 to get this one.

The rest of the album… (8 images in total).
Sigma-70-300 Photos by Norm_Head | Photobucket
If you are talking about the "Sigma 70-300 APO DG"... then that is a very decent lens that I was just about to recommend .
Very good value for the money - I know because I used one a lot before upgrading to a more expensive version... and shorter!

I think it use to be sold as a kit of 2 lenses... this and the 28-80mm... APO as well.
12-02-2013, 09:43 AM   #12
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As Ahab and GordonZA say, you shouldn't worry too much about the painted dogs. 300mm will be plenty long - unless you'll be tracking them on foot, of course. But on foot you wouldn't want one of the really heavy lenses anyway...

But quality long lenses don't go well with (any) budget, I'm afraid. Your best bet is the 55-300, which, as you say, is rather slow at focusing, or one of the Sigmas with a focus motor if you can find one at an acceptable price.

I've learnt to live with the 55-300 even for walking safaris. The size/weight is just perfect, and I use the quick shift focusing quite a lot in wooded terrain, when the auto focus is mostly useless.

Actually, a cheaper option might be one of those bridge cameras for extreme zoom ranges. Or a Pentax Q with a 300!
12-02-2013, 10:01 AM   #13
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The Tamron 70-300 worked well enough on my K-10D, but on the K-5 it had too much purple fringing. it's inexpensive and focuses really well, though. Maybe on the Kr it will be OK. The 55-300 is all-around better, though.
12-02-2013, 10:55 AM   #14
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I have a couple of long lens options you might be able to get used.

My first is a K300/4 plus the F1.7x AF converter. You can put any 300/4 lens on this and get 510mmf6.9

The second is one you need to search for. A Sigma APO 70-200/2.8 EX (non DG non macro). This lens is about 10-11 years old now, but is very sharp at max aperture and focal length. Pair it with a sigma 2x and you have really sharp 400/5.6

These are used lenses but can be found with some looking.
12-02-2013, 10:59 AM   #15
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Might sound crazy... but for cheap long lenses you might even want to experiment with mirror lenses. They are usually around 500mm and IQ can be quite good as well (must have a lens hood on)... bulkier but much lighter than regular zoom lenses.
Great prices for long reach... not very fast though... I think the fastest mirror lens i have seen was 5.6 or so!? Could be wrong...
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