Bigger lenses


Link Posted 23/06/2021 - 10:49
OK. Been using my Tamron 18-250 general lens with a higher ISO rating, shutter speed and cropping as necessary.
It, obviously, comes up a bit short when trying to do bird photography.
Would a lens like a Tamron 70-300mm F/4-5.6 be of any benefit or am I better off going for something else longer and more expensive?
Doesn't have to be a zoom.
Some of the bird photographers had lenses that seemed to look like rocket launchers - don't think that I can afford one of them yet!

It seems that lenses to fit Pentax cameras are not being made as they used to be by the independent makers and so 2nd hand is where I will probably look next.

Thanks for your thoughts folks.

Last Edited by GrumpyGrandPa on 23/06/2021 - 10:50


Link Posted 23/06/2021 - 11:31
The best solution if you want to do serious birding is to go for a more modern camera paired with a faster focussing DFA lens like the 150-450. The combination will give you more keepers than simply upgrading to a more expensive lens.

Unfortunately, this is an expensive option.

My Flickr page



Link Posted 23/06/2021 - 11:36
I'm not sure that you'd really notice much difference between 250mm and 300mm when it comes to bird photography.

I bought a DA* 300mm and immediately bought a 1.4x converter to go with it - as 300mm was no where near enough reach (in reality even 420mm is still too short......)

In an ideal world, I think 600mm-800mm is more the range that serious bird photographers use - but as you say, for Pentax we have to go the second hand route - and even those options come with a very hefty price tag to get decent quality.



Link Posted 23/06/2021 - 11:38
I have faced the same dilemma and, for what it is worth, my experience has been that a 300mm represents the absolute minimum under normal circumstances. Even then, and using the APS-C format, this focal length can prove limiting, especially with the smaller species, unless one adds a decent TC (1.4x or 1.7x) into the equation. If you can find, and afford, one of suitable quality, a 400mm is a better bet and failing that, there is always the Tamron 500mm 55B Adaptall II Mirror lens. The latter is compact, but has a fixed aperture of f/8 and wafer thin DOF. It also produces so called 'doughnut-ring' OOF highlights, which many find distracting.
Whilst AF is a distinct advantage to have, it is often necessary to resort to MF, particularly when photographing birds in trees or hedgerows.

In addition to a long telephoto lens, you will find that a solid tripod and gimbal head significantly increases your success rate. Even then, you will need to maintain a high shutter speed, which in the UK generally requires the use of a high ISO setting (800 or greater). Because of this I tend to shoot RAW and frequently resort to the use of dedicated NR software (DxO Prime, in my case).

If one shoots from a hide, or has almost limitless patience and is prepared to stalk the subject, bird photography with lenses shorter than 300mm is perfectly possible. The importance of good field-craft (a knowledge of the chosen species, its behaviour, diet and usual habitat) and forward planning should not be underestimated.

FYI, my own 'birding kit', which has been acquired over a number of years, includes a Sigma 100-300 f/4 APO EX DG with matched 1.4x TC, SMC-Pentax A 400mm f/5.6 and the aforementioned Tamron SP Adaptall II 500mm f/8. My current gimbal head is the Sirui PH-20, a relatively inexpensive, carbon-fibre model that combines lightness with great stiffness and strength and which articulates with silky-smoothness.

I hope the above is of some use and has done nothing to deter you from pursuing your interest in bird photography



Link Posted 23/06/2021 - 11:43
I do think that using a telephoto zoom, as opposed to an "all-rounder" will give you an uplift in quality at the long end (and a bit more reach) - I would look at the Pentax 55-300 options as a good option for price/quality balance, or possibly a DA*60-250 if you want an uplift in quality and a faster maximum aperture.

Have a look at the reviews over on PF to see users comments...

I've not had recent experience with the Tamron (or Sigmas) in this range, but I'm sure someone here will be able to offer their insight.

To get what you probably want (less need for cropping plus better quality?) the ideal lens would probably be the Pentax-D FA 150-450mm F4.5-5.6 ED DC AW - but it is a significantly bigger/heavier lens and a lot dearer

Or there are some fairly good value Sigma lenses in the 50-500, 135-500 and 150-500 ranges

Hope that gives some food for thought




Link Posted 23/06/2021 - 14:49

Thanks, I've found a SIGMA 170-500 mm f/5-6.3 APO Lens + CAPS + HOOD 170 - 500MM for 479. This is a LOT cheaper and, maybe, better in terms of value until I get more experienced . . . . .


Link Posted 23/06/2021 - 14:50
I have some big lenses, so hopefully can offer an additional viewpoint and a few things to consider.

Photographing birds in flight, and with a messy background is not easy. with your tamron and much of the recommendations offered the fastest aperture is f5.6, which affects shutter speed and ISO used. The other bugbear at f5.6 is that background definition is such that it becomes very distracting.

Perfect solution would be a 300/2.8 or 400/2.8. In PK-fit rare as rocking horse poo. Fast primes work well with good tcs. But obviously out of your budget too. Background gets soft, but you have to be spot on with focus.

Next best bet is the DA*300/4. Goes with DA-converter. On a non K-1 body you have 630mm effective at your disposal.

I was using a Nikkor 400/2,8 at the weekend (rental) as well as my own Nikkor 200-500f5.6. Both in a hide. 200-500 more usable as you could actually find your subject and zoom in. 400 obviously sharper but trying to catch a kite in the viewfinder in a hide was nigh-on impossible (I blame the person who built the hide).

So there is a compromise to be had. Quality go for DA*300/4 and you can then crop; easier than a much longer lens to acquire subject in frame. Or as others have said, current 55-300 PLM or DA*60-250. The DA* is f4 so you can add the TC to that and still get effectively 350mm f5.6 (effectively 525mm/f.

I do hanker after the 150-450 but suffering from too many lenses (DA*300, Nikkor 300/4, Nikkor 80-400 and 200-500), some things have to go before then...

Hope this helps.
Z-1p, K-1, P50
F50 1.7. FAs 24, 35, 50 1.4, 85, 135. DFA15-30, DFA24-70, D-FA*70-200. D-FA 100. DA*300. TC 1.4. The SMC-FA Limited Trinity.
Metz 45 CL-4, AF500FTZ. AF540FGZ.
Some Mamiya and some Nikon



Link Posted 23/06/2021 - 17:29
As I suggested in your '250mm limit' thread, one of the Pentax 55-300mm lenses is a good starting point. Apart from anything else, get one with quick-shift (not sure whether they all have it) and you can manually tweak focus if auto-focus is having trouble (as it very often will if the background is messy). That's how I started and only went down the much more expensive DA*300mm f4 + 1.4 teleconverter route when I was sure that at least some of the limitations I was hitting really were due to the equipment and not my technique. Here are a few of my early bird-in-flight shots taken 10 years ago with a 55-300mm (original version) on a K20D (which is a much less advanced camera than your K-S2). The first one was from the deck of a moving boat.

1. Cormorant taking off

2. Turnstone

3. Wisp of snipe

None of them are the 'fill the frame with the bird' type of shot, but many people (me included) like 'bird in it's environment' pictures.

Why then go down the 300mm + TC route, rather than big telezoom? Because I went to a presentation by a very good bird photographer who was about my age but unlike me had been doing birds since the days of film. In his film days, he thought nothing of lugging a huge and heavy lens around to get vast reach and maximum light through the lens. Having got rather older, he now valued lighter weight kit. The optimum for him was a 300mm f4 prime plus teleconverter. With a high quality lens and sensor, he would crop to get a larger image of the bird and increase ISO (rather than carry an f2.8 lens) to get fast shutter speed. And it wouldn't break his ageing back. So I reckoned that if it was good enough for him, it would surely be good enough for me and my dodgy back. OK, there are times when I've missed a shot or two because it wasn't a zoom on the camera. But there are also times when I've put the DA*300 in the bag when I wouldn't have bothered with a heavier lens.

Incidentally, it's worth noting that even a 600mm lens (if you can get one) would only double the size of the image of the bird compared with a 300mm lens. You'd probably still end up cropping (and wanting an even longer lens...). And as I said in your other thread, there is no substitute for practice, practice and practice!




Link Posted 23/06/2021 - 22:46
Some good points made above...from my and my son's limited experience of this type of shot...minimum of a 300mm needed on APS-C. Even with the Pentax 300 f/4 +1.4TC still not an ideal solution although good for larger birds. My son has ended up with Olympus a 40-150 f2.8 + 2x convertor on 4/3rds giving the equivalent
(35mm) of 160-600 with a really good AF body that reliably tracks birds.

Pentax really need to bring out either a) a 1.7x or 2x convertor to give just that bit extra reach or
b) a 400mm prime (f/4, f4.5 or f/5.6)...a real omission in their lineup

Even better if they did both things. Combined with the new K-3III there would be no reason for people to
look elsewhere.



Link Posted 24/06/2021 - 09:26
No-one has mentioned the DA 560 f5.6...not cheap and I don't know how often they become available. As far as I am aware it is a discontinued lens as well.

1st ever Pentax - you said something that resonated with me....400 f4 - now that would be a good compromise between cost and quality without needing a trailer or a cumbersome tripod to carry it around and you can still put a converter on to get 560/5.6. But apart from the Nikkor 200-400/4 I don't know who makes one.
Z-1p, K-1, P50
F50 1.7. FAs 24, 35, 50 1.4, 85, 135. DFA15-30, DFA24-70, D-FA*70-200. D-FA 100. DA*300. TC 1.4. The SMC-FA Limited Trinity.
Metz 45 CL-4, AF500FTZ. AF540FGZ.
Some Mamiya and some Nikon



Link Posted 10/07/2021 - 21:37

Thanks for your input folks. This was taken at RSPB Bempton on the Yorkshire coastline. The Ganets come in very close - so a long lens isnt vital!

LennyBloke - you were spot on with the lens at Camarthan Cameras. I dithered until my finances were better. Then it went on ebay and was gone in a flash. A similar one is on there now for 400, rather than the 300 for the one you spotted.

I am stil thinking and looking and going out with my current kit to evaluate more of what I have and need.

Trouble is that there are always lens that bit better (be it newer or better range) for more money . . .


Link Posted 11/07/2021 - 09:44
That is a super shot - and proves one thing....

...the best lens is the one you have on your camera

There is always a better lens out there, and once you've been bitten by the LBA bug you'll find you try to convince yourself you 'need' it. One of the saving graces of this addiction is that if you can buy at sensible prices you can usually sell for similar so overall you shouldn't be too much out of pocket

Keep producing shots this good and I'm sure you'll be a very happy man



Link Posted 11/07/2021 - 10:05
Good shot! It shows that whatever the lens, there's no substitute for being close to the birds. And whether you realise it or not, you're probably getting better at subconsciously predicting what the bird will do and when it will do it - even a millisecond can matter.

LennyBloke wrote:
There is always a better lens out there, and once you've been bitten by the LBA bug you'll find you try to convince yourself you 'need' it.

Too true. And there's always someone like LennyBloke selling off desirable lenses at attractive prices to tempt the unwary...




Link Posted 11/07/2021 - 11:40
On the 14th of May I managed to get in close to this fella, knowing where the birds hang out and Herons do stay still, posing almost, f8, 500th sec, ISO 200, on the DA* 300. Cropped but a shame about the leaves. Another recommendation for this lens IMHO biased of course.

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