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02-08-2012, 07:51 AM - 1 Like   #1
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What's the best 300 to get?

Have a couple of 100mm-300mm cheapy Pentax zooms. They work OK. I use them at the beach. They are both $100 lenses so don't care that much if they get wrecked.

Was looking to upgrade the 300mm - 400mm lens area. Is the Pentax SMC DA* 300mm f/4 ED a good choice? Also thinking about the much cheaper 55mm-300mm Pentax zoom. As long as the 300mm prime would offer a much higher IQ than the zoom, could go for it. If the IQ is not that noticeable above the zoom...why pay the hefty premium?

What else is out there in the 300mm - 400mm range that is tops for IQ? Are the older film era Pentax primes a better option?

Thanks


Last edited by slackercruster; 02-08-2012 at 07:59 AM.
02-08-2012, 08:48 AM   #2
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Obviously only you can decide if the hefty premium of the DA* is worth it over the 55-300mm.

I have a Tamron 70-200mm F2.8 that I originally got as an "interim" solution rather than a DA* 60-250mm. Both pixel peeping and in real life shots I was very surprised to find how much better it was than the 55-300. Even compared to the 55-300mm stopped down I found the 70-200 much better, and I preferred the 200mm cropped compared to the 300mm. I therefore sold the 55-300mm.

I am now planning on buying the DA* 300mm to supplement the 70-200mm. May decide the 70-200mm + TC is good enough (but I doubt it).

Having said that I was happy with my 55-300mm until I got the 70-200mm (darn LBA)
02-08-2012, 08:50 AM   #3
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The DA*300 offers a much higher IQ than the zoom.
Resolution is very good and allows crops that keep a high degree of detail, so you can get the results of a longer lens.
Film era primes are very good although since they are not optimized for digital some suggest they display more CA in certain situations.
Suggest you view the 300mm and longer lens club for some examples to help you decide. https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/lens-clubs/55946-300mm-plus-lens-club-dis...ng-lenses.html
02-08-2012, 08:52 AM   #4
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I have both (the 55-300 and DA*300), and although the 55-300 is an excellent lens for the money, the IQ of the DA*300 is outstanding. I don't think I'd be exaggerating if I said the DA*300 is one of Pentax's best lenses in terms of IQ.

02-08-2012, 08:56 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by dgaies Quote
I don't think I'd be exaggerating if I said the DA*300 is one of Pentax's best lenses in terms of IQ.
I second that sentiment
02-08-2012, 08:58 AM   #6
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Have you browsed through the lens review database? This will help you narrow down the search. https://www.pentaxforums.com/lensreviews/

I have a DA 55-300mm and A*300mm f/4. The prime is a little sharper at f4 than the zoom at 300mm and f/5.8 and also has better CA performance. Assuming of course that I nail the focus on the MF lens. A lot of my shots are birds in trees, where AF doesn't help. I believe the DA*300mm f/4 will slightly outperform the older teles (A*, F*, FA*300mm).

From what I've seen, the non-star 400mm is not a very impressive performer.

Last edited by audiobomber; 02-08-2012 at 09:04 AM.
02-08-2012, 09:09 AM   #7
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Sigma 100-300/4 gives you prime quality with zoom. Can be hard to find though....
02-08-2012, 09:24 AM   #8
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Sigma 300mm f2.8, even harder to find! hehe

02-08-2012, 09:42 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by slackercruster Quote
As long as the 300mm prime would offer a much higher IQ than the zoom, could go for it. If the IQ is not that noticeable above the zoom...why pay the hefty premium?
The issue with lenses in these focal ranges is that resolution is at a premium.
You may not notice much difference between the DA 55-300 and the DA* 300 at web resolution (i.e., 600px), but make a 20 by 30 print and it will be blatantly obvious. Of course, you pay a lot more for that extra resolution, and if you're not making large prints or cropping, it may not be worth it.

Also keep something mind: the DA* 300 is a lot heavier than the DA 55-300. In fact, it's best used on a tripod. It's actually much easier to use on a tripod than the DA 55-300 because of the built-in tripod mount. Of course, the DA* 300 is not so heavy that it can't be hand held. And the stop+ advantage it has over the DA 55-300 can be quite significant for hand-held use (as well as IQ). But if you really want to squeeze every last drop of IQ out of the DA* 300 and get a full return on your investment, a tripod (and ballhead) is desirable.

Cropped hummingbird shot with DA* 300:

02-08-2012, 10:17 AM   #10
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F/4 verus f/5.8 is a big deal too, image quality aside.
02-08-2012, 10:20 AM   #11
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I'm very happy with my F*300/4.5.

Some quick samples here:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/post-your-photos/174033-nature-early-robi...-squirrel.html
02-08-2012, 10:31 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
A lot of my shots are birds in trees, where AF doesn't help.
Why wouldn't AF help? I've shot bird sin trees for years, with 300mm and longer lenses, and AF is very useful the vast majority of the time.

Last edited by luftfluss; 02-08-2012 at 10:38 AM.
02-08-2012, 10:33 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by northcoastgreg Quote
Of course, you pay a lot more for that extra resolution, and if you're not making large prints or cropping, it may not be worth it.
I often crop at 300mm and even at 450mm. Reach is always an issue with some subjects, especially small birds. The A*300mm stands up well to pixel level cropping on a 14.6mp K20D. Things get a little fuzzy with the 55-300mm at full crop.

This brings up another advantage of an f/4 prime. You can use it with a 1.4X or even 1.7X teleconverter. This is not worthwhile with a 55-300. From my own experiments, as well as samples I've seen from others, the 55-300mm does not have sufficient resolution and has too much PF to benefit from a teleconverter.

Last edited by audiobomber; 02-08-2012 at 10:39 AM.
02-08-2012, 10:35 AM   #14
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Thanks for all the feedback!
02-08-2012, 10:37 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by slackercruster Quote
Have a couple of 100mm-300mm cheapy Pentax zooms. They work OK. I use them at the beach. They are both $100 lenses so don't care that much if they get wrecked.

Was looking to upgrade the 300mm - 400mm lens area. Is the Pentax SMC DA* 300mm f/4 ED a good choice? Also thinking about the much cheaper 55mm-300mm Pentax zoom. As long as the 300mm prime would offer a much higher IQ than the zoom, could go for it. If the IQ is not that noticeable above the zoom...why pay the hefty premium?

What else is out there in the 300mm - 400mm range that is tops for IQ? Are the older film era Pentax primes a better option?

Thanks
The DA* 300 will focus more quickly than the 55-300, which is the slowest modern zoom I've encountered. The DA* 300 is also faster - F/4 vs F/5.8 - better built, produces nicer bokeh (IMO), quieter AF. However, you loose the convenience of the 55-300's zoom range.
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