Alrighty, I was provided with a gift from a kindly benefactor, the Pentax DFA 150mm-450mm f4.5-5.6 ED DC AW Telephoto Lens. And WHAT a gift it is! Truly an amazing lens!!
That said, I wanted to take my time getting to know it and use it a bit before rushing out and putting images out there for my readers and definitively stating that it is quality glass. Well, based on my testing and use it is FREAKING AMAZING! Now there are a few caveats for you to keep in mind if you are wanting to get this lens and expect to just take it out of the box and become a wildlife photographer extraordinaire because you bought it.
1) Long telephoto work takes time to learn and LOTS of time to get good at. I am certainly not there, you will have lots of misses and "I could not hold it steady enough" moments.
2) If you do not have a gimbal head, or a ball head that can function as a gimbal in a pinch you are eventually get pretty frustrated trying to get sharp shots unless the light is really good and you are willing to tolerate a lot of noise from pushing your ISO. On APS-C (crop frame) sensors the effective focal length is 600mm at the long end. That is very hard to hand hold.
3) The apertures are relatively modest, yet still produce a very slim Depth of Field due to the focal length, you will need to adjust for back or front focus based on what your camera body does. I am not fully dialed in on my calibration yet, but I am getting closer. If you put the focus point on the body and the body is in focus and the head of the bird isn't in focus, it is not the lenses fault, you the photographer need to stop the aperture down or focus on just the head.
Now on to the goodies, what I wanted to do with this lens is multifold, first I want to be able to get closer to wildlife without spooking them, second I want to be able to compress subjects closer together to create images that make people look more closely because they put things together that normally are not photographed together. I'm just starting to scout locations for this type of stuff as you really have to plan ahead to be in the right spot. This shot below compresses several MILES together from up at the U of U campus.
This is another shot I have wanted to get for YEARS!!!! I ended up chasing the moon across the valley from west to east to get ahead of it and find a spot where it was just coming up as the sun was going down. Due to poor planning I had no tripod with me and I had to brace the lens against a fence post and push the ISO to 200 and shoot wide open at f5.6 at 450mm. If I had had a tripod I could have gotten a little bit sharper of an image with better depth of field. That part of the perfectionist me pushed aside... I FREAKING LOVE this shot, and am currently debating papers and print sizes.
This was taken on the way to get the shot above (For some reason all these are in reverse date order... sigh.) from about 6 miles west, and this was two photos at 150mm stitched together for a mini panorama. Changes the perspective a little doesn't it?
A Macro lens this is not. Closest focus is about 6 feet and even at 450mm magnification isn't amazing, that is what we have true macro lenses for. That said the ability to isolate subjects is a plus for this lens. This is not what the naked eye sees, blurring that busy background really popped these frozen blooms out.
Now wildlife, this lens does very well with reaching out to get the shot. It is VERY sharp and gives you plenty of detail. The only real knock against the lens is that it tops out at 450mm, I'm OK with that for what I do I seems plenty long enough and longer focal length gives you bigger lenses and this is a nice compromise for me.
I need to get more comfortable with higher ISO's I think, there is a little too much wing movement here but I still LOVE this shot of this cormorant landing. The autofocus speed is limited by my camera more than the lens too. It is nearly silent and quick.
Something else I do a lot is Temple Photography, Mormon Temples are usually placed in somewhat dramatic spots, that can be made more dramatic with careful framing and use of compression. There are 4-5 miles between this temple and this mountain, but it looks closer...
My first real outing with this lens came in California on a trip. It seemed to handle the action well, but it took some getting used to in the handling department. It is large and a little hard to carry around. Still looking for a carry system that works for me.
In conclusion I can find no reason to not buy this lens, and many that set it apart from the Sigma Offerings, specifically the 150-500 or 50-500. The most important to me is the Weather Resistance. I love not having to worry about rain when I am out with this lens.
Thanks for reading!