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03-01-2012, 07:21 AM   #1
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300mm manual focus?? DA 55-300mm or SMC Pentax 1:4 300mm type

I'm looking at getting / needing a 300mm lens for outdoor use at distance shots. Being an old school guy and only having and used manual focus lenses I'm just wondering how the DA 55-300mm responds to fully manual focus use, focus ring travel, the "feel" of the ring while turning spongy, tight ect. Since most of the use would be at the long end of the lens should I look at a fixed prime something like an "old school" SMC Pentax 1:4 300mm or variant there of.
The camera body would be a K20d.

Thanks
Mike C.

03-01-2012, 07:49 AM   #2
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Can't speak to the 55-300, but no AF lens is going to have the highly-damped action of an MF lens. If you're considering the K 300/4 you might want to compare with the M* and A* 300/4 versions.
03-01-2012, 08:06 AM   #3
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I can't address those specific lenses. I use four lenses at 300mm on my K20D:

* manual-focus PK-A Promaster-Tamron 60-300/4-5.6: not the best optics at 300mm
* autofocus FA 100-300/4.7-5.8 (silver): very decent optics at 300; but I don't use if MF
* autofocus Lil'Bigma APO DG 170-500/5-6.3: also good optics; MF is smooth but not silky
* manual-focus M42 Alpa-Chinon (Cosina?) 300/5.6: my favorite at 300; very silky

The affordable (~US$100) FA100-300 doesn't suffer optically at the long end. I'm no birder but its given me my best bird shots, with AF. The huge Lil'Bigma is acceptable MF or AF but it's unwieldy, especially in my old hands. That Tamron just isn't in their league.

If you want good tactile sensations and smooth+silky focusing and great optics, a 300mm prime is definitely best. I love that MF M42 300/5.6 and often use it as my Lens-Of-The-Day for just general shooting -- it forces me to see carefully. I'd kill for a SMC 300/4.
03-01-2012, 08:11 AM   #4
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Having recently acquired the M*300mm F4 from a member here, I can say it is a great lens! $400.00 and worth it!

03-02-2012, 06:04 PM   #5
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Don't forget the Takumars! The Tele Takumar 300mm F6.3 Preset is a VERY nice lens. Focus is extremely smooth and with the front mounted 12 blade aperture, it has great bokeh and an almost 3D rendering.

Here are a few examples, all shot wide open at F6.3










OR, if you don't mind a little heavier lens, I SERIOUSLY recommend the Tair 3 300mm F4.5 Preset lens. This lens also has a front mounted aperture, but it has 16 blades. It is the lens used in the photosniper setups, which has a rifle like stock and really works well to steady the image. The lens is plenty heafty at 3.5 lbs., but the images the lens captures are outstanding in sharpness, color and bokeh, a real 3D monster.

Here are some images, all shot at F5.6











03-02-2012, 07:45 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mike C Quote
Being an old school guy and only having and used manual focus lenses I'm just wondering how the DA 55-300mm responds to fully manual focus use, focus ring travel, the "feel" of the ring while turning spongy, tight ect.
In short, not that well. It can be used, but it's not designed for MF. Focus throw is too short. It's one of the reasons I preferred the older FA 100-300/4.7-5.8 instead - the focusing is not amazing either, but the focus throw is more manageable.

The thing to watch out with the older primes is the propensity for CA/PF. In that area, the DA does very well. The old FA is good too, though it has some obvious LoCA.

Some more bits from my experience:
Laur's photo blog: Comments on budget 300mm lenses for Pentax

If you can, get a good copy of the DA* 300/4. That should satisfy MF and IQ requirements.
03-03-2012, 03:20 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Laurentiu Cristofor Quote
In short, not that well. It can be used, but it's not designed for MF. Focus throw is too short. It's one of the reasons I preferred the older FA 100-300/4.7-5.8 instead - the focusing is not amazing either, but the focus throw is more manageable.

The thing to watch out with the older primes is the propensity for CA/PF. In that area, the DA does very well. The old FA is good too, though it has some obvious LoCA.

Some more bits from my experience:
Laur's photo blog: Comments on budget 300mm lenses for Pentax

If you can, get a good copy of the DA* 300/4. That should satisfy MF and IQ requirements.
Nice comparison. The problem with the DA*300 is its $1000+ and SDM.
03-03-2012, 06:30 PM   #8
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Thanks for all the great info!

I think maybe I have narrowed down my search to a M* or A* 300- 4....anyone know of one that's available?
The small size and quality look hard to beat!

03-03-2012, 06:35 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mike C Quote
Thanks for all the great info!

I think maybe I have narrowed down my search to a M* or A* 300- 4....anyone know of one that's available?
The small size and quality look hard to beat!
M*300 on Ebay at present for $600.
03-03-2012, 08:52 PM   #10
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The M*300 was moving up my desired list fast but I'm a bit put off by the 4m focus distance. I'll probably end up with the 55-300 since the DA* is beyond my means currently...
03-03-2012, 08:53 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Docrwm Quote
M*300 on Ebay at present for $600.

The only one I saw was $699 and located in Hong Kong.

I may have ot set my sights a little lower to a straight M or A 300 prime..
03-03-2012, 08:56 PM   #12
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Th M* 300/4 would certainly be better but the old K 300/4 is worth considering. Sure there are PF and CA

issues but with a little time and effort it can produce some excellent results.



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03-04-2012, 12:14 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Docrwm Quote
The problem with the DA*300 is its $1000+ and SDM.
It's the price you have to pay for optical quality, unfortunately. A less expensive DA 300/5.6 in $600-700 range would be a great option, if it would exist. But it's not even on the roadmap. There is a 100-300 on the rumored roadmap, but if it's going to be an f/4, it will cost as much as the DA*. With the M*/A* you're already paying half the price anyway. OTOH, I tried to buy the DA* three times and I gave up because the package kept being damaged in transit - I bet that a used M*/A* will be shipped much more carefully.

You might also want to look for mirror lenses. Either a 300 or a 500. If you are going to use a tripod anyway, you can get one of the heavier Russian mirrors that are supposed to have great IQ. They usually go for under $300. I almost got a 500/6.3 yesterday, but it was weighing 1.4kg and would have been a challenge to handhold.
03-04-2012, 01:24 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by abacus07 Quote
The M*300 was moving up my desired list fast but I'm a bit put off by the 4m focus distance. I'll probably end up with the 55-300 since the DA* is beyond my means currently...
I haven't tried any of the other lenses and while the DA* is on my maybe list sometime in the future (I was actually saving money for that one or the Bigma when the new roadmap showed up...), I think the DA 55-300 is a good lens for a reasonable price and I do not regret buying it a year ago when I could not afford something "better" and really wanted more reach.
03-04-2012, 05:39 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Laurentiu Cristofor Quote
It's the price you have to pay for optical quality, unfortunately. A less expensive DA 300/5.6 in $600-700 range would be a great option, if it would exist. But it's not even on the roadmap. There is a 100-300 on the rumored roadmap, but if it's going to be an f/4, it will cost as much as the DA*. With the M*/A* you're already paying half the price anyway. OTOH, I tried to buy the DA* three times and I gave up because the package kept being damaged in transit - I bet that a used M*/A* will be shipped much more carefully.

You might also want to look for mirror lenses. Either a 300 or a 500. If you are going to use a tripod anyway, you can get one of the heavier Russian mirrors that are supposed to have great IQ. They usually go for under $300. I almost got a 500/6.3 yesterday, but it was weighing 1.4kg and would have been a challenge to handhold.
Optical quality is the biggest selling point for primes, but SDM is a deal breaker.
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