Mirrorless 70-200mm conundrum: Old friend Pentax came to the rescue.

At times our goals contradict each other and this happened with me recently.

  1. Value means a lot to me. May seem odd when discussing photography where many would argue that a mobile phone will do. But even in this realm, I always seek the most frugal option available to meet an end.
  2. Had recently moved to full frame mirrorless, A7III specifically.
  3. Had been a while, but I wanted to get a hold of a 70-200mm f/2.8 or equivalent again.

So why not go with a 70-200mm f/2.8 or equivalent for mirrorless?

There is real value to be had with some lenses for Sony, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, and wide to tele zoom for instance. But that is not the case with fast tele zooms for mirrorless in my experience.

  • When I had Samsung (before they abandoned me) they had an equivalent (50-150mm f/2.8) lens I really liked. But then they ditched the camera business before I ever got around to writing a blog post about it.
  • Had Fuji for a while and really enjoyed the mount. But decided against paying the outlay for the one available option before I went another way.
  • Sony offers options at this focal length, but I have issues with them.

Since Sony was so easy to adapt I did consider an AF adapter solution. But here is the thing:

  • Generally speaking I had read that AF adapters were better suited to wide to short tele lenses.
  • Had read that modern A mount lenses using the LA-EA3 adapter did not respond swiftly adapted to E mount. Also not helping is the fact that these lenses are not exactly cheap costing more than the native E mount lens of the same spec.
  • Older screw drive focus A mount lenses using the LA-EA4 adapter lose a stop of light due to the translucent mirror configuration.
  • A Sigma MC-11 adapter lens would cost at a minimum near $800 even if the lens was purchased used.

Then I realized that I could purchase a used K mount Tamron lens and a whole actual Pentax K-3 camera for a little more.

My all time favorite 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is the Tamron DSLR mount 70-200mm f/2.8. Two things stick out about this lens.

  1. Used this lens is available for little more than $400.
  2. I have always been extremely happy with the results I would get with this lens.

To say again a whole camera and lens, that I already knew would meet my needs, for a fraction of the native f/2.8 E mount Sony options alone. A full frame K-1 used or new and this lens would be considerably less expensive than the Sony lens alone. And either way you also now have two cameras.

So that is what I did.

Pentax K-3ii and Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di

Result? Every bit as good as I remembered.

Pentax K-70

A fitting solution. As much as I respect mirrorless cameras I do prefer DSLRs for longer lenses. As mentioned previously I am not firmly tied to any brand. Here I will cheat and use my previous pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Excellent optics like the Tamron 28-75mm I had for Nikon some time ago.
  • Not a true macro as marked, but with a close focus distance of 51.2″(1.30m) at 200mm it does a great quasi-macro impression. Check out water drops on leaf shot in gallery.
  • One would expect great low light performance given the specs and it does not disappoint. Band shots in gallery were taken in a dimly lit gymnasium on a rainy day with the windows blocked and I had no issue getting bright, clear shots across the gym.
  • Also as one would expect with these specs it is a great portrait lens.
  • Focuses very quickly with little to no hunting on the K-3ii.
  • f/2.8, in body stabilization, teamed with the 3 center vertical -3EV focus points means low light is of little challenge.
  • It is light compared to other like spec’d lenses.
  • I really like the quality of the bokeh this lens creates.
  • Acceptably sharp at f/2.8 and tack sharp starting at f/3.8 – f/4 and up.
  • Comes with a nice lens bag, hood, and a sturdy tripod collar.
  • Great value.

Cons:

  • Pull focus ring manual focus switch falls victim to 3rd party one design for many mounts issue since Pentax has an on body switch that must also be switched. As a result switching to manual focus and back is a 2 step, albeit quick, process. It is of no consequence personally since I have yet to miss focus using AF.
  • AF by body screw drive is noisy compared to newer in body focus drive systems, but it has not been an issue for me. I imagine it would be an issue if there was a lot of hunting, but that has not been the case here.
  • That is about it.

Here is a link to all Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 images across Nikon and Pentax.

Conclusion:

Parade

While this works for me this may not be the solution for you. But before spending a large amount of money on a modern mirrorless system solution you may be pleasantly surprised what you may find if you first see what traditional solutions are available. DSLRs are not the hot topic of the moment, but some are still terrific performers and offer terrific value.

-ELW