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12-20-2006, 04:46 PM   #1
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Pentax FA J 75-300 4.5/5.8 AL zoom

Been having trouble laying my hands on what I thought I wanted - the Tamron 70-300 Di lens - so I purchased the Pentax FA J 75-300 4.5/5.8 AL zoom lens. I can't tell if I've made a mistake or not. Anybody have any experience with this lens? I took a couple quick shots without a tripod and I was underwhelmed. I found only a handful of brief reviews on the web, and from customers only - no careful pro reviews. One customer was quite pleased although even he said something like "great lens if you use it carefully," which sounds a bit tentative. The other two reviewers said they returned theirs because of CA or softness. It wasn't expensive - $199 - but that's not cheap either if I'm not going to use it.

I bought it, by the way, because I also have the 50-200 from Pentax and it seems a decent lens.

Unlike the Sigma and Tamron offerings in the under $250 70-300 class, this Pentax 75-300 has no macro or pseudo-macro feature. I don't think I care about that, though. I mainly want the zoom....

Anybody have any thoughts or suggestions?

Thanks,

Will Porter
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12-20-2006, 05:00 PM   #2
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I'd say try it at the limits it will go, and see if it gives you enough of what you need. The image quality is not as good as the DA 50-200, but it's not bad actually. I just have to say that I have one that just sits in my drawer until the occasion to use it arises which is very rare. The 50-200 is so compact and fun to use that I don't feel that I need the FA-J 75-300 anymore. For me 200mm. is long enough. Still, I think I'll keep the 75-300 just for fun. If you more seriously need a lens like that, I would suggest returning it for something faster than F/4.5, at the cost of getting a bigger and heavier lens.
12-20-2006, 06:00 PM   #3
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Had one

I had one for a few days, but sent it back as I was not happy with the photos it produced.

The 50-200 blew it out of the water IQ-wise.
12-20-2006, 06:36 PM   #4
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Its not a bad lens. It won't match the 50-200 for sharpness or contrast. Many friends have bought the 50-200 and used the Kenko 1.5 (or Tamron 1.4) teleconverter to get the same range. You give up some lens speed but still get a little better quality and a smaller lens. The 75-300 can be improved with a deep lens shade (similar to the one that comes with the 50-200). Really increases contrast. Lens is still a little soft at 300mm (most consumer zooms are). Need that ED glass to overcome that.
thanks
barondla

12-20-2006, 07:02 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by barondla Quote
Its not a bad lens. It won't match the 50-200 for sharpness or contrast. Many friends have bought the 50-200 and used the Kenko 1.5 (or Tamron 1.4) teleconverter to get the same range. You give up some lens speed but still get a little better quality and a smaller lens. The 75-300 can be improved with a deep lens shade (similar to the one that comes with the 50-200). Really increases contrast. Lens is still a little soft at 300mm (most consumer zooms are). Need that ED glass to overcome that.
Thanks for the various responses.

Is there any way to know if the Tamron or Sigma 70-300 lenses will be better than the Pentax 75-300? Or do you simply buy them one after another and keep sending them back until you find one that suits? Both the Tamron and the Sigma have letters in their product names ("Di" or "APO") that, I believe, mean that they are optimized for digital SLRs. The Pentax has no such codes, as far as I can tell, but the sales person at the store told me that all Pentax lenses are optimized for digital use now.

As I said, I'm underwhelmed by my test shots so far. Should I expect to HAVE to use a tripod with a 300mm lens for a digital SLR? I didn't have to use a tripod with my Canon S3 IS, even when shooting at the full 12x, which was a more powerful magnification than I get from the 300mm lens. But I think I understand now why that is: the compact camera's focal length was much shorter, so it was affected less by camera shake.

I think I may just take the Pentax lens back tomorrow. I do have both the Pentax 50-200 and the Tamron 1.4x and they work okay together. That gives me effectively 280mm. What I was hoping was that I could use the 70-300 with the 1.4x converter and end up with something like an effective 420mm zoom, which is a lot better than 280 - unless the shots are simply unacceptable.

Will
12-20-2006, 11:20 PM   #6
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I played with the Tamron 1.4x TC on top of my Tamron 28-300 and got some decent football action shots last fall. I also used it for some moon shots.

The biggest problems I had were that the AF moved very slowly, and manual focus was also a little touchy. But the quality was average, I would say.

I'd be curious to try a 50-200 and see if that works better for me than the 28-300.

Jeff
12-21-2006, 07:09 AM   #7
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WMBP, I see a lot of large tele lenses that are sold because of image quality. Its not always the lens fault. To be fair to the lens you should test them on a sturdy tripod and shoot something not moving - like a brick wall. This will tell you if the lens is capable of good results or not. If it is, you will have to learn to obtain this quality in hand held situations. A 300mm lens will always be harder to shoot (handheld or tripod) than a 200mm. The higher the lens focal length the greater the magnification. This also means it will magnify problems like hand shake, wobbly tripod, etc. Your 50-200 is one of the best consumer zooms around. Very few are going to compare to it. It has nothing to do with being optimized for digital. Longer lenses focus different colors of light at different points. The longer the lens the greater the difference. This cuts contrast and sharpness. Low dispersion glass ( expensive) allows the colors to focus together. Companies have their pet names for this (ED,APO, etc).
What is it about the 75-300 you don't like? Have you tried increasing contrast or sharpness in post processing? I have one friend that has 50-200 and Kenko 1.5 extender he bought the 75-300 too ( I thought he would hate it). He is fine with it. Knows it isn't as good as the 200 combo. Uses it for extra reach.
thanks
barondla
12-21-2006, 10:10 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by barondla Quote
The 75-300 can be improved with a deep lens shade (similar to the one that comes with the 50-200). Really increases contrast. Lens is still a little soft at 300mm (most consumer zooms are).
Barondla,

I'm very grateful to you for your several posts. You sound like the voice of wisdom here and I'm listening. Couple questions, though.

1. What is a "deep lens shade"? Are you talking about what I call (perhaps incorrectly) the lens hood? Or something else?

2. I have repeatedly heard people say that such-and-such a lens is a little software when zoomed to the max. Are you supposed to be able to mitigate that problem by pulling back just a little, say, by shooting at 270 rather than 300? I tried some tests here last night under fairly carefully controlled conditions but the results were inconclusive.

Thanks,

WP

12-21-2006, 02:56 PM   #9
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I've decided to keep the Pentax 75-300 after all. I wish I'd been able to lay my hands on a Tamron 70-300 Di for comparison, but I have not been.

Took Barondla's advice and did some more testing. I think this Pentax lens CAN take decent photos. It can even take decent photos hand held, provided there's enough light for me to shoot with a fast shutter. Just spent some time in my backyard shooting at birds and squirrels in the trees; got the enclosed shot. It's not a prize winner, I know, but it's about as good as what I was getting before with my Canon S3 and the converter lenses I had, which is my first criterion for success.

While birding, I will have a tripod with me, but it won't always be convenient to use it, depending on how cooperative the birds are. Next week I'll be at a national wildlife refuge in Arkansas and I hope to see bald eagles as I have every year for the last many years that we've been going there. Sometimes the eagles sit up in trees by the river and pose - for half an hour one time. They are tall trees, so the eagle may be 50 ft up, but if the bird sits still I can set up the tripod. On the other hand, sometimes the eagles fly around. The first year we were there, we witnessed them fishing, which was a treat.

Anyway, my point is that I won't always want to use the tripod or be able to. Just now in my backyard, it's bright and sunny, so I could shoot hand held at 1/500s or even 1/1000s. With SR enabled, the shots were not blurry. But a tripod would have been out of the question. The birds kept flitting about from branch to branch.

Thanks for the responses in this thread. It's been very helpful.

WP

P.S. Details for the attached shot: Pentax K100D using Pentax 75-300 lens @ 300 + Tamron 1.4x converter (effective FL = 420mm). Shutter 1/1000s, aperture f/5.8, ISO 400. Center weight metering.
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PENTAX K100D  Photo 

Last edited by WMBP; 12-21-2006 at 03:05 PM. Reason: Added photo details in P.S.
12-22-2006, 04:23 PM   #10
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I'll just mention in passing - I've used the 75-300 lens as a primary birding lens for about the past year. It is a bit soft off to the sides. It is also quite light in the hands and works quite well in bright light. Best results I've had are at F14 and smaller.

Attached image (assuming I did this correctly, this particular forum software is new to me) shot hand-held on a very windy November day. *istDS ISO 400 220mm F14 1/250th.
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12-22-2006, 04:48 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by wpw Quote
I'll just mention in passing - I've used the 75-300 lens as a primary birding lens for about the past year. It is a bit soft off to the sides. It is also quite light in the hands and works quite well in bright light. Best results I've had are at F14 and smaller.
Thanks, wpw. Good to get some input from someone who's been using the lens. I'm feeling reasonably confident in it now and am looking forward to next week. Of course, now I need (a) decent weather and (b) for the birds to show up.

Will
12-23-2006, 07:48 AM   #12
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WMBP, the deep hood means a lens shade that is as long as you can find. The common folding rubber ones that people use for a normal (50mm) lens will help some, but a longer hood gives much more protection. The lens at 300mm has a much narrower angle of view than a 50. Look at how long the hood is that came with the 50-200. Pentax knew what they were doing. A good hood can increase contrast around 20% or more.
Shooting the lens at 270mm could be sharper than at 300mm. The longer the focal length the worse the colors focus together at one point. Keep in mind you can always go into Photoshop and enhance edge sharpness and contrast. It also helps to have a sturdy tripod (not $19.95 wonder). A good tripod will run in the $100 up range and is one of the best investments in photography. Even with a good tripod vibration can be a problem (mirror slap). Many photographers will put a bean bag on the camera lens to deaden vibration and hang the camera bag from the tripod for extra stability. Mirror lockup is nice but hard to use with most birds. Also be careful of cheap, poor quality UV filters. I have seen some that won't allow a 300mm lens to focus to infinity! Practice, practice, practice. No Allen Iverson here.
thanks
barondla
12-23-2006, 09:35 AM   #13
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Long Shots Over Mobile Bay



I used my 75-300 to take some exposures out over Mobile Bay down here along the Eastern Shore of Alabama; the results were truly soft, but then I was shooting at 300mm, hand held with no lens hood. After reading what has been said about this lens, I will try again. I think that I will also try shooting in shadows with it, or shooting at dusk for sunsets. My plans are to get the 100mm macro and use it for short telephoto work as well. Has anyone tried using the non-zoom 500mm lens and/or the 500mm mirror lens with their cameras? I use a lot of my photos as the basis for watercolor prints so am not all to concerned about image sharpness except when I want to blow up to 16"X20" for a film/digital print. Even so, I continue to be intrigued by the telephoto lens and images made with them. Does anyone know of Pentax's plans for a new telephoto in '07?
12-23-2006, 09:39 AM   #14
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Great replies here - I'm learning a lot. Many, many thanks to everybody!
12-26-2006, 10:52 AM   #15
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I like the 50-200mm Pentax

While trying out my camera, I got a chance to try both of Pentax's 50-200mm and the 75-300 lenses at the store. I think your findings for the 75-300mm may have been the same as mine.

With the 50-200, I found the IQ to be more consistent throughout the zoom range. But I would stay out of 50-65mm unless I really needed it.

With the 75-300, I had problems focusing from 275mm onwards (wow it takes a while to go through the focus range!), but I think it was more due to poor lighting than anything else. A little vignetting at 75mm wide open - not noticeable to a consumer unless you really look for it, and the pictures overall didn't quite have that "pop!" that the 50-200mm had.

FWIW, I also had a chance to try a Nikon 75-300 on a D50 and to me both were about the same.

As a previous poster said, using a hood would improve the IQ of the 75-300mm lens.
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