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06-11-2012, 02:20 PM   #1
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Pentax DA 55-300mm for travel? Any alternatives to consider?

Howdy all,

I'm going to be travelling in Italy for a few weeks, and I'm starting to think I might want a bit more reach than my current lenses allow for. I was considering picking up the Pentax 55-300, which I think would fit in nicely along with my Sigma 17-70.

Whatever I get needs to play nicely with my camera bag too: A Crumpler 3 million dollar home. I can generally fit the camera (k20d) with lens attached, and a spare lens; anything more and it starts to get a little tight, so lens size would be an issue too.

06-11-2012, 02:33 PM - 1 Like   #2
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The DA 55-300 generally gets good marks. It is slow but a faster lens would be bigger and weigh more. I am not sure there is anything else out there in that focal range and size/weight that can compete, especially at the price. There are FA lenses (100-300) that have the range and can sometimes be gotten cheaper.

The DA 55-300 comes in two flavors, the DA L and the DA. The DA version has quick shift and comes with a lens hood, optically they are identical. The DA L version shows up used regularly on auction sites. The DA version less so. I have the DA L version but I think the quick shift is worth the price difference and would get it if I had it to do over.

Another thought would be the DA 18-250 which is an excellent travel lens though not quite the reach of the 55-300.
06-11-2012, 02:38 PM   #3
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Thanks, I just saw that they have a cheaper version (which also seems to have a plastic mount), but you're right; the quick shift is nice, and I'm sure the hood will be important since I'm bound to be taking lots of shots with the sun overhead.
06-11-2012, 02:39 PM   #4
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I love my DA 55-300, real sharp pictures. I will try to answer your second question. I have a Crumpler 3 million dollar home bag and my K-X with the DA 55-300 does fit in there, although it's a little tight because I also have the bulky crumpler "industry disgrace" neck strap attached to it. Your k20D is obviously bigger than my little K-X so I'm not sure if that means you'll have trouble fitting it in there, but if you can currently put a Sigma 17-70 in there attached to your camera body, then I think the 55-300 might work as well-- the lens is a smaller filter size, but a little longer in length.

06-11-2012, 02:42 PM   #5
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although it's not as praised as the DA 55-300, the older DA 50-200 is a fine travel lens, and very compact too! cheaper and the weather-resistant version of the DA 50-200 will match nicely with your k20D body.
06-11-2012, 02:47 PM   #6
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I'm sure RioRico will be along to suggest the DA 18-250
06-11-2012, 02:55 PM - 1 Like   #7
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Yep, Rio Rico will be singing the DA 18-250's praises soon enough. Excellent travel zoom, and maybe you would just use that and leave your Sigma 17-70 at home entirely. The other possibility is the newer DA 18-135 WR, which is a good WR match for your WR camera.

But if you want a dedicated telephoto zoom instead of an "all-in-one," then I'm going to repeat the earlier advice about the DA 50-200, by quoting from particularly smart Pentaxians who have talked about the lens in past threads:

GeneV from: https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/74656-da-50-20...-55-300mm.html

QuoteQuote:
Which kit works for you depends upon what you will do with it. The DA55-300 is about twice the weight of the 50-200 and significantly larger. Its advantage are more reach (300) and better performance at wider apertures, especially at longer focal lengths. Its only disadvantage is that its size greatly detracts from the compact K-x package.

When I traveled with the K-x last month, I took the DA50-200 and left its larger sibling at home. The size just did not fit in with my compact travel gear (or fit in my compact bag). I had little need for the longer length, and found my DA70 long enough for indoor tele work. Outdoors in bright light, where your aperture is F8 or smaller, you will be hard pressed to see the difference in quality between the two zooms.

So, if you are looking for a compact travel rig, the 18-55/50-200 is hard to beat for size and weight. If this is your complete lens collection, and you are not pressed for space, go for the 55-300. It is the better all around lens.
Marc Sabatella's comments from: https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/176075-advice-...sistant-3.html

QuoteQuote:
I have no doubt that if one pixel peeps hard enough, a non-defective copy of the 55-300 will slightly outperform a non-defective copy of the 50-200. But whether the *amount* by which the 55-300 outperforms the 50-200 trumps the difference in size & weight, or price, or the potential advantage of WR if that happens to be relevant, is another matter.

I suspect it might be true for people who are *primarily* using the lens at its longest end, as in wildlife photography. But for more general use, I am not so sure at all. When I check my own use of my telephoto zooms, sure, I see myself pegging the long end at times, but mostly I am using somewhere closer the short end. With the 50-200 in particular, my usage between 50-135 completely dwarfs my usage from 135-200. With my 70-300, the same was true of usage from 70-135 versus 135-300. And given that I am seldom printing larger than 8x10 (and not frequently printing even that large), cropping a 200mm image is "practically" as good as shooting at 300mm for me most of the time. Enough so that if I ever spend money on another telephoto zoom, it is much more likeley to be the 50-200 WR, or perhaps the 18-135 WR, than the 55-300. Not that the 55-300 isn't a stellar lens, and a great choice for those shooting long more often, or who are less sensitive to size & weight or don't care about WR. But there is no shame in preferring the 50-200.

06-11-2012, 05:10 PM - 1 Like   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by boriscleto Quote
I'm sure RioRico will be along to suggest the DA 18-250
QuoteOriginally posted by seventysixersfan Quote
Yep, Rio Rico will be singing the DA 18-250's praises soon enough. Excellent travel zoom, and maybe you would just use that and leave your Sigma 17-70 at home entirely. The other possibility is the newer DA 18-135 WR, which is a good WR match for your WR camera.
La la la. [/me attempts singing -- mirrors crack -- dogs howl -- that was fun! where is /me zither?]

[rant] The DA18-250 is my basic lens. All others are specialty items. My most basic travel kit contains the DA10-17 FE (for scenes where noting else will do), the Tamron 10-24 UWA (for most tight spaces), the FA50/1.4 (my gotta-get-the-shot lens), and the DA18-250 (for almost everything else). Throw in a Raynox DCR-250 for shooting at 13cm and I've got a kit. And maybe the Vivitar-Komine 28/2 CFWA. And the Jupiter-9 85/2. And...

But really, when traveling|driving, the DA18-250 is most often on my K20D. It is just so useful. About all 3 of those zooms: they work in the widest range of situations, doing more than lesser lenses. No, they ain't perfect, but PP is just around the corner. And the IQ of a missed shot is zero. [/rant]

Other options certainly exist. I tend to avoid rain forests, slippery slimy swamps, torrential downpours. Were I mucking around, I'd likely want the DA18-135WR. Were I on expedition, I'd have to budget for a Bigma 50-500, with maybe a K-01 mounting a DA16-45 in a spare cargo pocket. Were I expecting trouble, I'd maybe get a superzoom P&S that I wouldn't mind seeing destroyed. It all depends on circumstances, eh?

But when I return to Italy, the AF kit I mentioned above will accompany me. My weeks on the Amalfi coast and Campagna (pre-dSLR) left a firm impression: those are the lenses I'd need. The FE for shooting in duomos (domes) and caverns; the UWA for shooting interiors and small villages; the Fast Fifty for night and action shots; and the DA18-250 for grabbing whatever images appear before me, near or far. Shoot a village street at 18mm; then pick out architectural details or window shots at 250mm; and everything in-between.


Last edited by RioRico; 06-11-2012 at 05:17 PM.
06-11-2012, 06:14 PM   #9
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Well shucks, after looking at reviews for that lens, it's quite a contender too. And the price often isn't that far off from the 55-300. I had overlooked it simply because I'm quite happy with the Sigma 17-70 (especially the macro capabilities), and didn't want to get another lens that might step on its proverbial toes, if that makes any sense.

The other thing I'm seeing is that on the far end, the difference between 250mm and 300mm is relatively minuscule, and certainly a fair trade for the ability to bring one less lens along. And when I think about the hassle of switching lenses to get a shot in a crowded, pickpocket-infested area, the 18-250 starts to sound like even more of a good idea.

Now my problem is that your post makes me want to get a wider lens for architecture. I suppose I can stitch multiple shots together, although I haven't played with stitch software in a few years. I'm hoping that it's at least as good as the auto-stitching capability of my Android phone.
06-11-2012, 09:17 PM   #10
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Italy? The wider the better.
06-11-2012, 09:52 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Giklab Quote
Italy? The wider the better.
Quite so. If you want some practice, visit Jerome or Old Bisbee Arizona, or Taxco Guerrero or Guanajuato or smaller vertical Mexican villages, or maybe some mall or disney with a village theme. See what works. Then pick a yet wider lens. Hay, a trip to the Venetian casino in Las Vegas will sell you on the need for the DA10-17 and Tamron 10-24 -- and the casino is a bit oversized.

But villages with narrow streets and overhanging buildings also warrant the DA18-250. Wide for context; long for detail; in-between for framing. Have fun!
06-13-2012, 02:21 AM - 1 Like   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by seventysixersfan Quote
But if you want a dedicated telephoto zoom instead of an "all-in-one," then I'm going to repeat the earlier advice about the DA 50-200, by quoting from particularly smart Pentaxians who have talked about the lens in past threads:
A somewhat biased 'me too'

It all depends how much cr*p do you like to lug about. There is not a great deal of difference in IQ between the 50-200 and 55-300 but there is certainly a difference in weight and size. I now have both and more often than not I find myself packing the 55-300 only to think 'is the extra reach really worth having to lug this thing about' and swapping it for the light and small 50-200 at the last minute.

SMC Pentax DA 50-200mm f4-5.6 ED WR

Last edited by kh1234567890; 09-11-2012 at 10:14 AM.
06-13-2012, 03:45 PM   #13
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I think I'm going to hunt down a 18-250 (It seems the Pentax and Tamron versions are basically identical); the prospect of not having to switch lenses is just too appealing. I could see myself skipping a lot of shots because it's not worth it to switch.

I also reserved a Sigma 8-16 rental from cameralensrentals.com; after looking into it, the perspective it offers on architecture and interiors is incredible. Just have to remember to keep my horizon line straight.

And thanks for the Dubrovnik pics. I'll be nearby in Losinj for a good while, and maybe Zadar as well.
06-13-2012, 04:17 PM   #14
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The 55-300 has good IQ and is relatively compact, due to the average speed. However, I would also go wider instead. The 12-24 is an excellent town/travel lens though not cheap, and I would not go on a vacation without the 10-17. In fact, on my last vacation I used only the 10-17, 12-24, and 17-70. I only wished for a bit longer on a few occasions.
06-13-2012, 04:19 PM   #15
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If you are in Dubrovnik before July 22nd, don't miss the Steve McCurry exhibition - room after room of hundreds of his exquisite prints ! Well worth it .
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