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12-11-2009, 08:34 PM   #1
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New guy - help me spend budget wisely

First, I hope you will forgive my ignorance. I am new to the world or "real" photography having always carried around a pocket-sized point and shoot.

Here's my situation -- I have been a deer hunter all my life and with every year that goes by I find myself less consumed with shooting something and more fascinated with the scenes around me as I sit in a blind - sunrises and sunsets, birds of every description, foxes and bobcats and turkeys and owls and quail and ...

Long story short I am trying to sell one of my guns so I can buy a "starter" DSLR body and lens. I have a line on an almost-mint K10 body for $425. Feel kinda OK about that. Where I get totally lost is on the lens. The one I have my eye on is the SMC DA 55-300mm f/4-5.8 ED - "demo" for $260. Would that be sufficient to capture deer, varmints, etc at a range of 25-75 yards given sufficient light and a tripod?

Geez, just trying to phrase the question I realize how much I don't know.

Let me ask it this way: if you had a max total budget of $750 and were willing to shop hard and buy used, what body and lens would you buy for the above-described situation?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

12-12-2009, 12:35 AM   #2
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Hello Steve (twice?)
I too am a converted hunter, well, actually still hunt just with camera instead of the shotguns and rifles. I picked up a K20D and the DA 55-300mm for all my wildlife activities so I can definitely recommend that zoom as a top consumer level lens to go with especially at the price you mention. If you mean its a "demo" model from a dealer than you should have full warranty and time to verify its a good copy. As far as the camera I know little about the K10 other than its a couple generations back BUT if the budget is maxed, my opionion (we all have one) is that you will get better outdoor pics with the K10 and DA 55-300 than with a K20D/KX + a $100 cheaper 300mm lens.

Let us know how you do.
12-12-2009, 07:40 AM   #3
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Awesome. Thanks for the input. After a little more research I think I really want Live View so I am going to save up a bit more money and get either a K20d or K-x.
12-12-2009, 07:55 AM   #4
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If Live View is important to you, I suggest you get a K-X. Live View on K20D is not all that good.

12-12-2009, 08:10 AM   #5
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The K-X with the 18-55mm and the 50-300mm DAL lens kit can be found for $750. A lot of places are sold out right now, but probably after Christmas stock will improve.

The only one I could find that still had the K-X kit was TriState Camera

Thank you
12-12-2009, 08:11 AM   #6
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Is shutter noise a problem? Im not a hunter so I wouldn't know..

Some would say the pentax shutter sounds are a bit louder than the competition. Not to dissuade you from pentax though!
12-12-2009, 08:19 AM   #7
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For wildlife shots from a blind, especially during hunting season, check the shutter/mirror noise very carefully before you buy. The Kx with 55-300 would be a great starter kit for you, but the Kx shutter is quite loud with a distinct clack. I don't know about the k20 shutter noise, but the k7 has a very soft shutter.

This is one area where a live view mode "might" be much quieter. No guarantees though, Unfortunately, the kx has the same shutter noise and mirror slap in live view.

One advantage of compact cameras, non-slr, is no mirror noise and many have no shutter noise. Some have a shutter sound that can be turned off.
12-12-2009, 08:40 AM   #8
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Panasonic G1 + 45-200mm lens? Very quiet shutter, 400mm equivalent reach.

That would be over budget at around $1k though.

12-12-2009, 11:11 AM   #9
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A K10D with a Tamron 70-300 will provide you with some very acceptable images for a very reasonable price. I don't find shutter noise to be a problem and can actually help as when the animal will freeze or look up to allow another shot.
12-12-2009, 01:32 PM   #10
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My impression is that for shooting (photographically) wildlife you'll need a faster telephoto (long focal length) lens. The K-x + 18-55 + 55-300 kit is a real winner for most consumers, and the 55-300 will produce some amazing results, but it is rather slow at the 300mm end (f/5.8) and this may prove difficult trying to capture fast-moving wildlife from a distance.

There is no cheap alternative to this kit, particularly if you want a fast auto-focus 300mm lens. But as your budget permits, I'd say the K-x twin lens kit is the way to go (for a dSLR - I'm not all that keen on hybrid/bridge cameras).
12-12-2009, 01:53 PM   #11

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I have a K10D and a KM (K2000) body. I also have a 55-300 zoom I use for wildlife photography.

In the last year I have got generally very good to great pictures of:
  • Great Horned Owl(s)
  • Barred Owl
  • Northern Hawk Owl
  • White Tail Deer (lots)
  • River otter
  • Fisher (1..a blur of speed)
  • Wood Chucks
  • Pileated Woodpeckers
  • Ducks and Geese- all sorts of wild ones
  • Bald Eagles
  • Others to numerous to name

I go for walks in Boreal Forest , Canadian Shield, Prairie areas...mostly fall, winter and spring.

A lot of the areas I walk through are fairly bushy...lot's of branches which sometimes will defeat the automatic focus as the branches get in the way of me and subject.

No problem though, when going through the bush I set my K10D to manual focus. I also set the K10D to shutter preference and try to set the shutter speed to around 1/500th of a second or higher, which sometimes means I need to jack up the ISO to 400 - 800.

Other wildlife I've got are Buffalo, American White Pelican.

I find the K10D, KM combined with the 55-300 a great wildlife combo. Now I've found that fast moving birds in flight are sometimes difficult to capture....I need more shutter speed. I wonder about the new KX...has ISO that goes quite a bit past my K10D, which could give me faster usable shutter speed and I think, don't know the AF might be faster then my K10D.

On the Pentax digital SLR the 300 mm is the equivalent to about a 462 mm on a 35 mm SLR I believe.

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