Need some input on choosing a birding camera and lens

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Sythas Junior Member • Posts: 25
Need some input on choosing a birding camera and lens

First a bit of back story, for over a 10 years I've been shooting with Pentax. Mostly with positive experiences. I've thought about switching to Nikon before but decided to stick with Pentax. The reason then was to go full-frame which Pentax didn't had back then. In that time my focus was mostly on fashion/portrait photography.

Nowadays I hardly do any fashion/portrait but am shooting a lot of birds. For this I'm still using my Pentax gear and that's working fine(ish).

So why a change? First of all I've had a lot of SDM failures on the 50-135 and 60-250 (multiple times on both lenses). So i sold the 50-135 and now have a crippled 60-250. For birding I now have an old Sigma 50-500, screwdrive lens which is also starting to fail. The lensmount is becoming wobbly and loses connection with camera from time to time. So a new lens is needed and Pentax offers a 150-450 and the 560. Those are quite expensive and to be honest I have my doubts about the reliability. Another issue is autofocus, I miss a lot of (bird) shots due to the slow Pentax autofocus.

So a (partial) switch to Nikon is now something i want. My first idea was to go for the D500+grip with the 200-500 5.6. But the quality control issues are bugging me. That is exactly the reason why I'm not choosing for Pentax. So I'm considering other lenses like:

  • The 500 5.6 PF, but this exceeds my budget (Same goes for a used 500 4.0)
  • An used 200-400 4.0, is roughly within budget but less reach and much bigger
  • Other brands Tamron/Sigma 600mm zooms; quality control issues and focus issues. Again the same reason why I'm not choosing for Pentax.
  • The 80-400, less reach. As expensive as an used 200-400.
  • 300pf + 1.4 tc, I don't want to rely on a teleconverter as primary use because of autofocus and image quality degradation

Other option I've considered are: Micro four thirds with a 100-400 lens. But I really want an optical view finder. And Sony/Canon, both of them don't have crop camera's available that suit my needs.

For now my Pentax + Sigma 50-500 combo is still working so I'm not in a hurry on making a choice but I'm curious: Am I missing some options, am I to cautious when it comes to quality control? Maybe you guys can think along with me and give some tips or settle my mind

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