What happened was, over at the cottage I recently failed to get decent pictures of both a hummingbird about 20 feet away and an interesting boat maybe 500m out. I concluded that I needed a bigger lens. I checked out the prices of modern really-big Pentax telephotos (zoom and prime) and they made me shudder, given the very-occasional-use context. So I went hunting on eBay, and this is what I came up with.

Here are a couple shots of the lens; the second with the slide-out hood fully slid.

Tokina SL-400 f5.6
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Tokina SL-400 f5.6

Sidebar: eBay Fun · So, I saw this puppy on eBay and researched the going price, and the bids were foolishly low. I put in a stopper somewhere around two-thirds of the current market price and ignored it. A half-hour before the auction ended, someone was just over me. Unfortunately, I’d promised to go play catch with the 9-year-old at the park, and that’s a promise you can’t break.

Fortunately, I had my Android G1, and sneakily got the boy interested in the auction. I made a couple more cheapo bids on the phone from the park but they were whacked instantly. So, ten minutes before the auction ended, I picked a figure right in the middle of the historical price range, added £1 to it, and went back to tossing the baseball. And my bid was high by exactly that £1.

What It Does · For context, here’s some background on Tokina. When I saw that they had (at least) co-designed the wonderful Pentax-branded 50-135, I was hooked.

It’s not as ridiculously huge as I’d worried. Its tripod-mount collar seems to be missing so I’m going to have to figure out a replacement. If there’s lots of light and you have something to prop it up on, you’re fine.

The trick is, you have to find the place in the camera menus where it says it’s OK to shoot even without aperture control. Then you put the camera in Manual mode, pick your f-stop (by twisting the barrel) and use the green button to pick the shutter speed.

Well, in theory. In practice, with this sort of vintage lens, the Pentax only seems to meter exposure at the exact dead center of the frame, and that shakily; dialing in the right shutter speed requires a certain amount of eyeballing and iteration.

So what I’ve been doing is sitting on the back porch drinking wine and seeing what I could catch with this huge swollen thing balanced on my knee.

Here are some of our “Royal Sunset” blossoms; it’s a climber trained up a fence that’s maybe 20m from the porch. They’ve often appeared in this space; the difference this time is that instead of actually having to stand up and stroll down there, I could sit near my wineglass. Telephoto lenses are clearly inimical to cardiovascular health.

Royal Sunset rose blossoms

Here are a couple of treatments of a telephone pole and crow, down the back alley a ways. Quite a ways, in fact.

Crow on a telephone pole
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Crow on a telephone pole

A fairly tough dark-against-light shot, and indeed I had to do some thinking and tweaking in Lightroom. Still, not terrible. Stand by to see what I can bring back from the cottage.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Derek K. Miller (Jun 21 2009, at 14:25)

This is certainly an advantage to having a Pentax or Nikon (or Leica, I suppose) camera -- you can grab one of those old manual focus lenses and it will still mount and work (at least to some degree, depending on which modern camera body you have).

Of course, that also means that older manual focus lenses cost more money than they would otherwise. Canon's or Olympus's or Minolta's best lenses of the manual focus era go for a song, but you'll need one of the companies' old film cameras (or some wacky adapters) to use them.

Nice find, by the way!


From: terry chay (Jun 21 2009, at 14:25)


Tokina and Pentax are now both owned by Hoya Corporation, who probably makes the glass in your eyeglasses (as well as much of the glass in almost any photography lens sold worldwide—yes, even Leica and Zeiss).

In lens design, Tokina and Pentax make the same lens but for different mounts (Pentax K mount, Tokina for the Nikon F and Canon EF mounts). Another difference at the time was that Pentax would put on their own proprietary multicoating. I don’t know if that’ll change, but I suspect much. Pentax, of course, has always had a reputation for quality at a great value and mount compatibility (the K mount is the longest lived unchanged mount).

I hope you find a way to mount it on your tripod + gimbal and enjoy the lens!


Shot at 400mm f/5.6 on APS-C (600mm equiv).

Take care,



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