Best Pentax DSLR / lens combo for Wildlife photography


Link Posted 26/10/2016 - 13:52

I currently have a Pentax K5 & K7 and am into Wildlife and Nature Photography. I have tried to capture images of moving subjects and have trouble focusing quickly whilst tracking wildlife (mainly birds) using AF mode. I am thinking of possibly upgrading my DSLR body and/or Lenses and need advice from others with a better knowledge on this subject.

Can you advise on best practice regards focusing or what Camera/Lenses to look at?

I am using the Pentax 55-300 ED lens and Sigma 170-500mm DG lens.

Best Regards,

Pentax K5D, Pentax 16-45mm f4 DA ED AL, Pentax 55-300mm ED, Pentax 100mm Macro f2.8 D-FA, Tamron 28-200mm, Sigma 170-500mm.


Link Posted 26/10/2016 - 14:21
I'm afraid Pentax bodies just aren't up to the job when it comes to focus tracking
My new website:link


Link Posted 26/10/2016 - 14:40
Hi Paul

I am currently restarting wildlife's such as I just have not been making the effort to use my long glass but intend to.

I apologise if any of the below seems condescending, it is not meant to.

Birds in flight are a bit odd as even with the fastest af systems a lot of shots are awful as the old machine gun approach is literally hit and miss. Birds in flight can produce great and awful results in varying proportions regardless if kit used.

I use the centre 5 af points or single point if using af.

The best current Pentax body may well be the k3/k3ii as a cropped sensor is often used for this purpose and has improved af over older bodies.

I often use mf lenses 200/300/400 and attempt to predict where the best shot will be and prefocus the rig as such as I learned this having read a number of articles by Steve Bloom who advised that he does this even with his Cannon af kit or at least he did at the time the articles which are a few years old.

I use a monopod with my 400mm but a tripod and gimbal head would probably be better.

I don't have experience of the lenses you have so cannot comment on them, however, I have used other systems occasionally and whilst the af is faster if only by tiny amounts the pre empt and pre focus techniques seem to assist greatly.

I believe that the newer Pentax dfa lenses show af motor improvements in terms of speed but cannot speak from experience of this.

I have an inner ear infection at present so I am limited to say the least, however I have recently bought a Tamron 70-200 f2.8 from srs and intend to use it once my propensity to wobble and fall over has gone😁 I bought this as it costs a fraction of the dfa Pentax one - I am tight with cash 😀

I have not taken many bird in flight shots but have managed this with my k10 /sigma 70-300 and mf lenses, granted not with a huge success rate but still I have success and if you check my flick page/ wildlife set the should be there. - edit I just checked this and it is a bit hit and miss as some are just in the photo stream not sets, there are however, shots of airshows and Motorsport with the K10/k5 with the mf tokina 300mm, sigma 70-300 af and mf nps 400mm

I hope this helps😀


K10D, K5 plus plenty of clueless enthusiasm.

My Flickr site link
Last Edited by Stuey on 26/10/2016 - 15:52


Link Posted 26/10/2016 - 14:45
I am thinking of selling my SIGMA 150 500 - although probably mad because its a great lens!

If you have the talent and skill you can get around the "slow autofocus" of the pentax systems. I have been standing taking photos of flying birds that Canon 7D shooters with 400mm F5.6 (THE holy grail of birding lenses I might add) MISS shots.

I have photographed many lively animals and the K-5 and siggy have always done the job for me just fine

Learn how to live and you'll know how to die; learn how to die, and you'll know how to live.

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Link Posted 26/10/2016 - 17:09
michaelblue wrote:
I'm afraid Pentax bodies just aren't up to the job when it comes to focus tracking

Not True. K3 or K3II and 150-450 or Sigma 150-500, plus some other earlier bodies as well. It just takes a bit of practise and getting used to using, that's all. Perhaps not as quick as Canikon`s but still up to the task.


Link Posted 26/10/2016 - 20:06
its all to do with the camera you get and the person behind the camera
i have had a k10 and had some briliant action and wild life shots
i got a k5 and it was the biggist heap of crap i had ever come across
( but then a gain its the same with any product you can get a good one and a bad one think i got the one that was made at 4 oclock on a friday afternoon if you know what i meen )
and i now have a k3ii and that is a superb piece of kit it seems to deliver what i want
( apart from when the operater screws up which he dose )

i would be tempted if i was you to go for a k3 or k3ii


Link Posted 26/10/2016 - 21:50
A FWIW comment.

This year at airshows I "found out" the following which was enlightening:

- the K-3 + 100-300 F4 Sigma (second version) is quick to focus if you get it right, except when it then "overshoots" to become widely out-of-focus;

- the K-5 + 150-500 HSM OS Sigma is noticeably slower to focus, but if you nail the focus first then it does not then go too far off correct focus and so it will, slowly (!), get its correct focus point back.

Nett result: the first combo is better for the nearer-distance shots where things happen more quickly, whereas the second combo is better for the longer distance shots where things happen a bit more slowly.

Image-wise, I don't think there is a lot of difference.

Remember that the screw-drive 170-500 is roughly speaking, generation-wise, somewhere between the quite old 100-300 F4 and the relatively new 150-500 HSM, and so I would expect that its AF performance to be somewhere "in the middle" but more like the 150-500 because (Probably, never had one) it has a very long body-focusing rotation movement whereas the 100-300 has a very short one.
K-3 II, K-3 and a K-70 from SRS (having now relegated the K-30 /"K-50" to a backup body), & some Sigma and Pentax lenses (and a lot of old 35mm gear!)
Last Edited by jeallen01 on 26/10/2016 - 22:00


Link Posted 26/10/2016 - 21:57
michaelblue wrote:
I'm afraid Pentax bodies just aren't up to the job when it comes to focus tracking

Your gallery photos suggest otherwise!
John K


Link Posted 26/10/2016 - 22:08
I'm not really into tracking moving subjects, but I do like a bit of nature photography. For me it's more about reliable and accurate AF, image quality and consistency. The best combination I have used is K-3 with DA*300, or DA*300 plus a 1.4 Pentax Teleconverter. This is my 'go to' combination for any wildlife photography and has worked very well for me.

I steer well clear of the 55-300, great lens thought it is, it is not suitable for nature photography. Also, the K-3 (and I presume K-3ii, but I don't have one) is a more reliable focuser than my K-5iis and locks onto small subjects better.

I know the DA*300 doesn't give the flexibility of a zoom, but that doesn't matter to me. I sold the Sigma 150-500 after getting the DA* because the Pentax lens was so much better.


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Some cameras, some lenses, some bits 'n' bobs


Link Posted 26/10/2016 - 22:20
I also would not use the 55-300 for the OP's projected use (unless you have the very latest "collapsible" version where the AF is supposed to be "better", ?) because my experience of my copy supports what davidstorm said above - very sharp though it is for static subjects.
K-3 II, K-3 and a K-70 from SRS (having now relegated the K-30 /"K-50" to a backup body), & some Sigma and Pentax lenses (and a lot of old 35mm gear!)
Last Edited by jeallen01 on 26/10/2016 - 22:22


Link Posted 26/10/2016 - 23:16
Having been through every major Pentax body and many lenses such as a DA* 300mm, DA* 60-250mm, DA 150-450mm and an F* 250-600mm, the best answer I found to this question is, buy a D500.

Whilst almost everyone on this forum including myself can show you action shots, well focussed shots etc. the main issue for me is the tracking / predictive autofocus and the consistency of it. It's just not reliable.

It depends how serious you want to get as to what to recommend. For me, the straw that broke the camels back was buying a 150-450mm to go with my K-1. For stationary subjects, the image quality is awesome. For moving targets, I took the lens back for a refund. Why? I spent nearly an hour deliberately only using the various continuous autofocus options and could not get a sharp shot of just a swans head swimming towards me. Useless and frustrating.

My style when shooting wildlife is very reactive, I want to be able to be see something happen out of the corner of my eye, turn, point and shoot to get action that might be over in a second or two. My Pentax cameras just cannot do that in the field, many years of trial and error and missed shots have proven that. Within hours of first using my D500, I was getting shots of birds in flight coming towards me that I just couldn't get with kit I knew very well.

Another big reason for me to buy other brand kit is lens availability. For best autofocus performance you need fast glass and there are more choices and they are more readily available elsewhere. Currently I'm now using a 600mm F4 and when the right 400mm f2.8 comes up at the right price, I'll be upgrading.

For me it has simply boiled down to the right tool for the job and the big Pentax Achilles heel is the autofocus system it has. My K-1, 24-70, 70-200, 50 & 100 macros are my go to kit for just about everything, for wildlife it's the D500. You can move house with a Smart car, but it's easier with a lorry!



Link Posted 27/10/2016 - 00:11
You're sounding like Jules tonight, following his footsteps!
I suppose a D500 is a bit of a lorry by comparison to a smart K-1 (larger camera with a smaller sensor.) According to a certain camera comparison site that is regarded as a downgrade.
So I read it that you're not deserting completely?
John K
Last Edited by JAK on 27/10/2016 - 00:19


Link Posted 27/10/2016 - 00:38
JAK wrote:

So I read it that you're not deserting completely?

God no! I'm fully invested in my K-1 and the D500 frustrates me like hell! Trouble is, it gets results.

If I could get a D500 with a K-mount I'd take it in a heartbeat and if a K-3 Mk3 came out with genuine D500 performance, the Nikon kit would be gone just as quickly.



Link Posted 27/10/2016 - 00:55
I'm still puzzled about this because folk used to get good results before autofocus was even dreamed about! Do you see it as a problem with the AF system hardware or the software which drives it?
I still do my focussing in much the same way I used the old ME, only pressing a button to get the centred subject in focus rather than lining up the split prism image. Sometimes the focus button doesn't work - when I'm using my old ME lenses!
John K
Last Edited by JAK on 27/10/2016 - 01:00


Link Posted 27/10/2016 - 02:31
JAK wrote:
I'm still puzzled about this because folk used to get good results before autofocus was even dreamed about!

Times change, styles change.

Yes, I can use my K-1 and 250-600, sit in a hide, manually focus on a stick and wait with remote control in hand for 4 hours for a kingfisher to land on a stick but if 2 geese start a fight right in front of me I want to shoot that too. Speed is of the essence. Too many times I've missed shots like these because the camera won't focus as fast as I can react.

As mentioned before elsewhere, I don't want to manually focus things like these because we're not still stuck in 1976, we're in 2016. The technology to do this has been available for years, it just doesn't come in a Pentax body.

As for hardware or software, it's both. Lenses have longer travel and slower physical speed, the software doesn't react fast enough. Also faster glass plays a part, my 600 f4 lets in twice as much light as my 600mm f5.6.

When using the K-1 and 150-450 we saw a crow dive bombing a red kite quite close, camera was on continuous focus, all points, just didn't get a shot in focus at all, the D500, similar thing, almost instant. The difference is night and day.

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