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04-10-2017, 01:41 AM   #1
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A cheap long telephoto setup with good autofocus, options.

Hi all,

I am thinking of what are the options for getting a camera with good tracking AF. I typically shoot pictures of static subjects, but I am running into trouble with using k-3. Every review on the internet says that canon and nikon are ahead in AF tech. I am looking for a 300mm F4 options, but given pentax pricing, it's actually cheaper to buy an old canon/nikon body and a comparable lens.

Here are some things I am considering, all around $750, or a price of a used DA* 300mm F4:
- E-M1 + 50-200 f2.8-3.5 (already have the adapter), apparently very solid with new firmware
- 1d mk ii + 300mm f4 L non is
- D7000 + sigma 100-300 f4
- D300s + sigma 100-300
- 7D + 55-250 STM

Any thoughts? Am I missing some better options for the price?
8mpix and 1.3x crop won't be a problem, since I will keep k-3 for everything else.

04-10-2017, 02:52 AM   #2
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How about updating the K-3 firmware and using the new DA 55-300 PLM? The AF with that WR lens is blazing fast! It's not f/4 but the ISO capabilities on the K-3 are excellent if you boost the ISO a little.
04-10-2017, 03:54 AM   #3
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a) Cheap b) Long c) Good - Choose any two.
You can go super cheap and buy a mirror lens, but those have many weaknesses and no AF.
You can go the "optimal, affordable" route and get a DA 55-300mm. They have good optics for that price point. The new PLM one might be even better, check reviews. DA L is the cheapest version, the HD WR one is the most expensive. Same optics, but different coatings and features. Probably the cheapest way to get to a decent IQ at 300mm.
DA 60-250mm. Popular lens, but not exactly super affordable. SMC Pentax-DA* 60-250mm F4 ED [IF] SDM Reviews - DA Zoom Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database
A lot of people like the Tamon 70-200mm, but I am not sure how it pairs with a TC.
If you want cheap, you have to look into third party and legacy lenses. F, and FA series had a couple AF telephotos.
>= 49mm Zoom Lenses |
04-10-2017, 04:34 AM   #4
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Or you can buy a used Sigma 100-300/4 for Pentax and use it on your K-3. This is even cheaper (quite a lot are offered in the PF from time to time) and the AF performance is on par with the top combos you mention and quite better than the rest of them. OTOH the IQ that you will get from your K-3 will be the best among the options you're considering. I wonder why people tend to forget this...

Right now there are 2 Sigma 100-300/4 and 2 DA 60-250/4 (superb lens) offered for sale at $800 to 900 (900 for the Sigma + 1.4TC).

Last edited by redpit; 04-10-2017 at 04:41 AM.
04-10-2017, 05:17 AM - 1 Like   #5
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IMHO Pentax AF is not as poor as it's being claimed by a few here recently. That Pentax 55-300PLM might well be your solution.

Spent a few hours yesterday nestled in with a group of Canikoners at an airshow. My go-to was a *200 2.8 on a KS2. Lens of choice by the actual pros surrounding me there? Also either a 200 prime 2.8 or 70-200 2.8 which is supposedly way fast. Every single guy in the small group of maybe 5-6 near me used those lenses throughout the afternnon. The Nikon press guy who was carrying 4 bodies with assorted lenses told me his workhorse is still his 200 2.8. And of course there was the expected plethora of photogs below us with camo-wrapped bazookas who I guarantee missed out on a lot of shots with lenses that were just too long.

Had assorted aircraft (mostly jets today) in front of us flying lateral left to right, sometimes approaching from a 30-45 degree angle nearly straight at us, and a few coming from behind or directly at us/ overhead. Obviously many moving fast, Mach 1 and more. Other than those times where there was just a tad too much smoke in the air and had to goit manual I used AF.S or AF.C, and sometimes auto settings and sometimes program. Burst mode with most of the jet shots, single with the others.

For the most part I nailed focus AND my shot just as often as the Nikon press guy and one of the Canon pros I compared pics with (really nice guys too, dang helpful with advice and tips). At the end of the day I'd guess less than 10% of my shots were throwaways due to poor focus, maybe another 20% from just simply missing the shot. I'd call at least two dozen absolute keepers out of my approx. 700 shots which by my standards is a pretty good day. I even caught two wonderful images (IMHO ) they themselves attempted but missed twice, so things around Pentax AF land aren't really as dire as some would like to convince you they are.

Just my .02

FWIW I asked the Nikon guy what he's recommend if I wanted a separate body just for sports and such. He told me D5200 or D300 which he said he buys used on eBay occasionally for $200-300 and watch for a used Nikkor 70-200 VR1 which he bought for under $700 a couple months ago. Or go even less with a 80-200 non VR. But still that's a grand or so and adds another body and OS to the mix that you'll need to learn.

BUT... Here's the big issue. Yes Canon and Nikon might have more advanced autofocus, but those comparisons are using recent (or relatively recent) models of those two compared to newer models of Pentax cameras. If you decide to buy a few years old model of anyone else's camera I doubt you're going to find much if any difference in AF performance between your current K3 and for instance an old D300. If Pentax AF is factually at the level of two year old Nikon's (not agreeing it is) then wouldn't buying a 2014 or older model negate any advantages?

Personally I'd think putting a faster lens on the camera you already have and know is the wiser move.

Last edited by gatorguy; 04-10-2017 at 05:56 AM.
05-01-2017, 12:33 AM - 2 Likes   #6
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Guys, thanks for all the suggestions and sorry about the delay. I had to catch up on some work and didn't login here for 3 weeks.

I decided to struggle a bit with da-l 55-300 and see what are the limitations. My conclusion is that it can work, although I would like something ~2x longer, and something sharp wide open. But 55-300 will do for now.

Once I figure out what are the most important factors in birding I will jump for a super telephoto lens and maybe a body to match. What I learned that K-3+55-300 can work, although there will be some missed shots. I might get better with time. As of now it seems important factors in, rough order, seem to be: lighting, focal length, steady hands, AF depth-tracking, buffer size, FPS, lens sharpness, high ISO noise, AF tracking, sensor resolution. I will spend a few more sessions and see if the list will get reshuffled.

Here are some shots from my first-day birding, K-3 + 55-300 DA-L, mostly 300mm F8, iso 400-1600, shutter 1/2000-4000, hand holding, but in low position.
Attached Images
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Last edited by rrstuff; 05-01-2017 at 02:37 AM.

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