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02-14-2012, 08:38 AM   #1
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Advice on zoom lens purchase

I use a Pentax Kx together with a Pentax 12-24mm and a Tamron 28-300mm (no VC) lens. These lenses cover the focal lengths that I am interested in. I am very happy with the Pentax lens since it is very sharp and the colors are vibrant. However, the Tamron is, for some settings, a little soft. My wife's Canon point-and-shoot can match the sharpness of the Tamron in most cases. I want to replace the Tamron with a lens of similar focal length range that is pin sharp to the extent possible. I can live with some abberations, but the lens must be SHARP. Any suggestions?

02-14-2012, 09:54 AM   #2
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Get a 55-300mm and combine it with a Tamron 17-50mm. Then you'll still be able to use your 12-24 for even wider shots!

Btw, wrong section. Please have this moved.
02-14-2012, 11:07 AM   #3
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Hi. I'm an amateur too. I've been mucking about with lenses for five years now. I don't own your lens, but maybe these tips I've picked up along the way in my own search for lenses will help you on your journey. I am assuming you are new to dSLR photography?

It would be helpful if you gave the exact model numbers of equipment you mention. For example there are at least two version of the Tamron 28-300 extant, one rated fairly high and one in the dog house, so an owner of your exact lens might be able to give you better pointers. Nothing will replace you shooting with an actual lens however. Everyone's eye and subject matter is if different, and I believe that has a great impact on perceptions of how a lens performs. Not to mention the variations among copies of the same model lens. Your own copy of your lens could be better or worse than the copies reviewed here.

Check the lens forum here, you can get some good info from people who use these lenses.

There are only a few choices in the 28-300. On the pro review sites none of them get very good marks in the technical testing they do. That said, many users find them good to very good.

Tamron makes at least two 28-300s that are reviewed here, user ratings of 7.5 and 5.5, sharpness 7.7 and the other not rated
Sigma also made several versions of the 28-300, the one reviewed here was rated 7.67, sharpness rated 6
The Pentax DA 55-300 gets an overall user rating of 8.83, sharpness rated 8.6. Doesn't quite cover your range though.

You should read all the reviews and comments on these lenses. Hopefully you will stumble across someone who photographs in a similar style and their impressions might be quite valuable.

One other thought, just in case you don't already know this. My K10d and my K-5 have a menu setting called 'Program Line'. If your Kx has that and you set it to 'MTF' and the mode dial to 'P' it will read info from the lens that automatically puts it at the best aperture for image quality. Sadly it is said it only works with Pentax lenses. You might want to trial the DA 55-300 with that set-up.

Happy hunting.
02-14-2012, 11:25 AM   #4
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Or you could also look into the Tamron 70-200, and crop to the 300mm end

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7164/6778582743_6286d90d6a_o.jpg

Click to see full 12mp picture from my k-x, shot at 90mm F2.8 (wide open).

02-14-2012, 11:54 AM   #5
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Coverage is important but it isn't sufficient. My Tamron 10-24, DA18-250, and Lil'Bigma 170-500 do cover a vast range, but they aren't enough. (BTW the DA18-250 and its Tamron twin are better than your Tamron 28-300. They're no longer in production but are widely available used.) A superzoom can be very handy in dynamic situations where we don't know what to expect, and the DA18-250 is my basic lens on my K20D, but faster sharper prime lenses at critical focal lengths will provide better-quality images, and will also force us to see differently.

For faster AF primes, the classic FA50/1.4 or the new budget DA50/1.8 will let you work in lower light and/or faster action. If you can transition to manual-focus primes, a world of good cheap glass awaits you. A-type lenses like the A50/1.7 are easy to use; K- and M-type lenses like the M35/2 or SMC (K) 55/1.8 require slightly more work but are better-built and generally cost less than A-type or AF counterparts. Besides my zooms, I find it very handy to have fast f/2 MF primes at 24-26-35-58-85mm, and 50mm's at f/1.2-1.4.

If you insist on zooms, some good supplements to your DA12-24 would be the Tamron 28-75/2.8 SP and 70-200/2.8 SP, both with 'macro' (close-focus) capability, both quite fast and sharp. A budget alternative to the Tamron 28-75 would be an old F35-70/2.5-4.5 'macro', sharp and agile (fast-focusing) and cheap at about US$50. A slower (but optically great) budget alternative to the Tamron 70-200 would be an old FA100-300 (silver) for about US$100. I sometimes carry just a kit of the Tamron 10-24, F35-70, and FA100-300. Yes, they cover quite a range.

I strongly recommend that you read the reviews here of all lenses in the focal lengths that interest you. The rating numbers may be a bit loose, but the descriptions should be informative. Good luck!
02-14-2012, 02:07 PM   #6
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I use zooms Pentax DA: 12-24/4 + 17-70/4 + 55-300/4-5, 8, and I am very pleased, with the bad light when I need to isolate the object use the Pentax F 50/1, 7 ----- set in combination with AF360FGZ meets all my needs and the professional and amateur,my recommendation
02-14-2012, 03:55 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by P. Soo Quote
I want to replace the Tamron with a lens of similar focal length range that is pin sharp to the extent possible.
There's normally going to be a tradeoff between focal range and quality. A zoom lens with a long focal range is not going to be pin sharp all the way through it's range. If you want resolution throughout the lens, you're going to have settle for a lens with a narrower focal range.

When I owned the DA 12-24, my companion zoom was the A 35-105, an old manual focus lens with decent sharpness edge to edge and across its focal range (at f8). I've since tried the F 35-70 and the FA 28-105 f3.2-4.5. The 35-70 is similar to the A 35-105 except it features AF and is a lot smaller and lighter. Like the A 35-105, it features good resolution across it's range and is reasonably sharp edge to edge at f8. The FA 28-105 is an inconsistent performer, with serious border to border resolution problems at the wide end, but a really good performer in the 45 to 90 range (though not quite as good as the 12-24). The best Pentax companion zoom to the DA 12-24, however, may be the FA 24-90. I have no first-hand experience with that lens and can't say exactly what it's foibles and weaknesses might be, but images I've seen from it at the Pentax online gallery are stunning, the best I've seen from any non-star FA zoom.

If you need range beyond ~100mm the best of the non-star Pentax telephoto AF zooms would appear to be the DA 55-300 and the F 70-210.
02-14-2012, 04:39 PM   #8
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I have that same Tamron & depending on settings & focal length, it is somewhat soft. But any hyperzoom is going to be. It's amazing that the super-wide range hyperzooms like the 28-300 do as well as they do. It's almost impossible to make a lens that goes from wide to medium-long tele that does well at all settings.

For sharpness, I'd go with a few primes of shorter range zooms and keep the Tamron around for a walkaround lens.

02-15-2012, 12:44 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by firefly46110 Quote
Hi. I'm an amateur too. I've been mucking about with lenses for five years now. I don't own your lens, but maybe these tips I've picked up along the way in my own search for lenses will help you on your journey. I am assuming you are new to dSLR photography?

It would be helpful if you gave the exact model numbers of equipment you mention. For example there are at least two version of the Tamron 28-300 extant, one rated fairly high and one in the dog house, so an owner of your exact lens might be able to give you better pointers. Nothing will replace you shooting with an actual lens however. Everyone's eye and subject matter is if different, and I believe that has a great impact on perceptions of how a lens performs. Not to mention the variations among copies of the same model lens. Your own copy of your lens could be better or worse than the copies reviewed here.

Check the lens forum here, you can get some good info from people who use these lenses.

There are only a few choices in the 28-300. On the pro review sites none of them get very good marks in the technical testing they do. That said, many users find them good to very good.

Tamron makes at least two 28-300s that are reviewed here, user ratings of 7.5 and 5.5, sharpness 7.7 and the other not rated
Sigma also made several versions of the 28-300, the one reviewed here was rated 7.67, sharpness rated 6
The Pentax DA 55-300 gets an overall user rating of 8.83, sharpness rated 8.6. Doesn't quite cover your range though.

You should read all the reviews and comments on these lenses. Hopefully you will stumble across someone who photographs in a similar style and their impressions might be quite valuable.

One other thought, just in case you don't already know this. My K10d and my K-5 have a menu setting called 'Program Line'. If your Kx has that and you set it to 'MTF' and the mode dial to 'P' it will read info from the lens that automatically puts it at the best aperture for image quality. Sadly it is said it only works with Pentax lenses. You might want to trial the DA 55-300 with that set-up.

Happy hunting.
Firefly, my Tamron is the 28-300 mm F/3.5-6.3XR Di LD Asperical (IF) Macro (Model A061P). I hope it's the Tamron version that's in the doghouse, as you put it. Then I have hope for something better.
02-15-2012, 05:16 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
Coverage is important but it isn't sufficient. My Tamron 10-24, DA18-250, and Lil'Bigma 170-500 do cover a vast range, but they aren't enough. (BTW the DA18-250 and its Tamron twin are better than your Tamron 28-300. They're no longer in production but are widely available used.) A superzoom can be very handy in dynamic situations where we don't know what to expect, and the DA18-250 is my basic lens on my K20D, but faster sharper prime lenses at critical focal lengths will provide better-quality images, and will also force us to see differently.

For faster AF primes, the classic FA50/1.4 or the new budget DA50/1.8 will let you work in lower light and/or faster action. If you can transition to manual-focus primes, a world of good cheap glass awaits you. A-type lenses like the A50/1.7 are easy to use; K- and M-type lenses like the M35/2 or SMC (K) 55/1.8 require slightly more work but are better-built and generally cost less than A-type or AF counterparts. Besides my zooms, I find it very handy to have fast f/2 MF primes at 24-26-35-58-85mm, and 50mm's at f/1.2-1.4.

If you insist on zooms, some good supplements to your DA12-24 would be the Tamron 28-75/2.8 SP and 70-200/2.8 SP, both with 'macro' (close-focus) capability, both quite fast and sharp. A budget alternative to the Tamron 28-75 would be an old F35-70/2.5-4.5 'macro', sharp and agile (fast-focusing) and cheap at about US$50. A slower (but optically great) budget alternative to the Tamron 70-200 would be an old FA100-300 (silver) for about US$100. I sometimes carry just a kit of the Tamron 10-24, F35-70, and FA100-300. Yes, they cover quite a range.

I strongly recommend that you read the reviews here of all lenses in the focal lengths that interest you. The rating numbers may be a bit loose, but the descriptions should be informative. Good luck!
Hi RioRico. Thanks for your input. I recently became aware of another lens that may fit the bill for me. It is the Sigma 18-250 mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM lens that sells for $479 in the US. It is described in the February edition of the UK magazine "What Digital Camera". This issue gives a buyer's guide to a whole host of camera equipment, including lenses. They rate this lens at 91% and give it a Gold Seal approval. Other reviews found on the Internet usually give it 5/4 stars. Do you, or any others, have personal experience of this lens? If it is superior to my current Tamron 28-300 mm lens then I could buy it and use it in conjunction with my 12-24 mm Pentax lens. This would allow me to operate with just two lenses instead of three that other people have suggested in this Forum.
02-15-2012, 05:29 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by P. Soo Quote
I recently became aware of another lens that may fit the bill for me. It is the Sigma 18-250 mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM lens that sells for $479 in the US.
I have not used this lens. However, the DA18-250 or its Tamron twin get higher ratings than Sigma in all the reviews I've seen.
02-15-2012, 05:49 PM   #12
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My power trio (some day) may well be this: DA 12-24, DA 35 (choose one, I like the f/2.4 just fine) and DA 55-300. I can leave some space in that 24-55 gap with my shooting tendencies, and just stick a great prime in the middle - otherwise you may prefer a 17-70 or 24ish-70ish lens. I had Sigma's elder 17-70, it was very good
02-15-2012, 06:59 PM   #13
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It's possible that you just have an non-optimal copy of your model lens. Exactly how have you tested your lens such that you've concluded that it doesn't perform well, and what are the "some settings" at which it seems to be soft?

Paul
02-15-2012, 07:35 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by tibbitts Quote
It's possible that you just have an non-optimal copy of your model lens. Exactly how have you tested your lens such that you've concluded that it doesn't perform well, and what are the "some settings" at which it seems to be soft?

Paul
Hi Paul. I didn't say that the Tamron doesn't perform well. In fact it can take some very sharp photos and it's easy to use. I haven't carried out an exhaustive analysis of all my shots to determine what settings give me less-sharp images. However, on occasion, I've noticed softness in my images which I try to analyze. The apertures are stopped down, the speeds are fast, the focal lengths are not at the extremes, and yet the crispness is not quite there for some of my shots. I let the camera autofocus for me and, possibly, the focus is off a bit. My choice of focus mode on my Kx also may have have been less than optimum, but I generally feel that the 28-300 mm Tamron, while very good value for money, lacks the sharpness of my Pentax 12-24 mm zoom. Reading reviews from the Internet, a fair number of other people also seem to feel that the Tamron is not quite there in the sharpness category. However, others feel that it is extremely sharp. Clearly, evaluation of sharpness is very subjective. I recently tested the Pentax DA 55-300 mm lens and found it to be noticeably sharper than my Tamron. I liked it but I returned it to the dealer because it would leave a gap in focal length between it and my 12-24 mm lens. In short, I believe that there are better lenses around that I could invest in, even though they could cost a small fortune. I would like help to identify these so that I could try them out.

Last edited by psoo; 02-16-2012 at 07:02 AM.
02-17-2012, 01:11 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
I have not used this lens. However, the DA18-250 or its Tamron twin get higher ratings than Sigma in all the reviews I've seen.
Thanks for drawing my attention to the DA 18-250 mm lens. A review in this Forum rates its sharpness at 8.5 and most users speak glowingly of it. Based on my desire to replace my Tamron 28-300 mm, this Pentax lens would seem to be THE replacement. It is very sharp and easily covers the focal lengths that I want. It surprises me that nobody who replied to my original query recommended this lens. Is there something wrong with it, apart from the fact that it is no longer made? Will it be a good choice for me?
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