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09-14-2012, 12:58 AM   #1
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Please help a newbie make sense of superzoom lenses

Hi all

Seems like a great forum with some true experts but I'm hoping someone can give some help for a complete non-expert. First off, I am just a regular user that bought a DSLR for better photos of the kids, holidays etc. I have a K-r with standard kit 18-55 at the moment and I love the pictures it produces but when out often find I want more zoom. I have done a lot of reading into the pros and cons of superzooms but feel that I am happy with the cons for the sake of just having a single lens. I have no intention of carrying lots of lenses around and it's going to be a lot better than the iPhone camera..! I just want convenience and something that will take decent holiday snaps or days out then a picture of the odd bird or beetle that I spot. I also want to do a bit more wildlife stuff as I live next to a forest, hence thinking the extra zoom will be good

I have also done lots of research into superzoom and narrowed it down to one of the Sigma 18-250s (new macro or older non-macro) or the upcoming Pentax 18-270. I believe Tamron don't do one to fit the camera and can't really find the old Pentax 18-200 around.

Have done lots of research individually but I just don't know enough about the terms, acronyms etc to come up with a conclusion as to which to buy. I have found:

Pentax 18-270mm F3.5-6.3 ED SDM and HD 560mm F5.6 ED AW = probably around 700
Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM = probably around 500
Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM = deals at the moment for around 350

I'm happy to spend a bit of money if justified but I can't understand what the key big differences are for a regular user like myself. I don't really understand the acronyms so no idea if any of them are really important.

DM/HSM seem to be related to the motor? Any major differences?
Pentax lists ED, HD, ED again and AW. I've no idea what these acronyms are except HD which is a coating they use.
Sigma lists DC, OS and Macro. I get the macro part but no idea what DC and OS are.

I'm leaning towards one of the Sigmas (probably the macro as I like the idea of some close up wildlife shots, beetles, flowers etc), but is there something I'm missing that makes the Pentax worth that extra money? If it's only finer points that only a pro would need then I don't mind but I don't want to miss some obvious killer difference that is going to be relevant even for me. 500 is a lot of money so I don't want to spend that and then find that for just a couple of hundred quid more I'd have got some really important capability. I'd rather wait a bit and spend 700 if that is the case.

Apologies for the newbie question but I have done so much research and now just hit a brick wall of confusion.

09-14-2012, 02:35 AM   #2
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DC means its for crop sensor like how most pentaxes are
Macro doesn't mean actual macro, only close focus, they just use it as a marketing term to sway newbies such as yourself
Os means it has in-lens stabilization, which is redundant since you've already got SR
Hsm and SDM mean they use silent focusing motors
Ed is a kind of glass element, don't worry about it
Aw is all-weather, so its weather sealed
09-14-2012, 02:39 AM   #3
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All good lenes from F8 through to F11, Your issues will come in on wider apertures, they tend to be very soft, The smaller apertures F8-11, excellent depending on the lens. If you are going to do low light work hand held you may run into trouble, shutter speed is 2 times the focal length of lens, me thinks The macro question, keep in mind the lenses you have chosen are not true macro, a macro lens has a magnifacation of 1:1 or better, the lenses that say marco are not full macro lenses there magnifacation might be here is a link;
Macro photography - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
There are many learned people on this site that have far greater knowledge then me, take their advice.
Hope I have been helpful

Cheers
Shane
09-14-2012, 02:40 AM   #4
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Agree with post above

09-14-2012, 02:46 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by thechumpen Quote
Pentax 18-270mm F3.5-6.3 ED SDM and HD 560mm F5.6 ED AW = probably around 700
Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM = probably around 500
Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM = deals at the moment for around 350
Actually #1 is just "Pentax 18-270mm F3.5-6.3 ED SDM", the rest is another lens. The Pentax 18-270 is NOT weather-sealed!
#2 seems to be the same as #3 but I don't know this particular lens, maybe someone can confirm?
There's a simple page about Pentax terminology here: Pentax Lens Terminology
I will add that basically Sigma's HSM = Pentax's SDM, it's a silent AF motor built into the lens. HSM has a better reputation though. ED and DC don't matter to you, they relate to the construction and series of the lens. OS is optical stabilisation but it's redundant with the Shake Reduction already built in your K-r.
So far nobody tested the Pentax lens (that I know of) so there is no basis for comparison. However the Pentax is based on the Tamron 18-270, so you might want to compare Sigma and Tamron on another DLSR brand, like Nikon or Canon.
If I were you honestly I think I'd go with a Sigma for availabity (now) and price (in the future). It seems to me there will be virtually no difference in reach (250 is very close to 270). The Macro thing seems to be just marketing talk as well.
Have fun anyway!
09-14-2012, 03:02 AM   #6
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Original Poster
Thanks guys. I am leaning towards the cheaper Sigma one but will do a bit more research into whether there are any other changes apart from "Macro" capability in the newer Sigma. Maybe it has some other improvements that justify an extra 150.

I did a lot of research into Tamron versus Sigma and couldn't find much between then, but then found I couldn't get the Tamron anyway. Some said the Tamron is better and others the Sigma. Leads me to believe that the differences must be so fine that someone such as myself wouldn't really notice. Therefore if the new Pentax is just a re-badged Tamron I don't think I can justify the extra cash.

I'm kinda wishing I bought a Canon or Nikon now seeing as every lens out there fits these and support for Pentax seems rather limited.
09-14-2012, 03:10 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by thechumpen Quote

Pentax 18-270mm F3.5-6.3 ED SDM and HD 560mm F5.6 ED AW = probably around 700
Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM = probably around 500
Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM = deals at the moment for around 350
Morning,

A little bit of background here on superzooms. Most zoom designs have somewhat of a rule of thumb. Wide angle zooms usually have a zoom range of 2x (low end to high end), while normal zooms usually have a ratio of 4x. The reason for this is to bound the complexity of design in order to preserve the sharpness and image quality (IQ) of the resulting design. There are exceptions - Sigma's BigMa 50-500 is an excellent design that has yielded wonderful results and is a favorite. Superzoom designs usually have a zoom ration of 10x+. The 18-270 is a 15x lens (270/18=15). So in order to achieve this, the lens designer has had to make some compromises. Its not going to be a prime, however the users over all view have been very positive. You get a lot of range, they are very manageable, and the images have been very good, the need to change lenses a lot goes away, their size is very manageable, they are just really designed to be an all around good lens.

So the lenses that you have listed, are all comparable, with the exception of the 560mm which is the new telephoto Pentax is now offering, and carries a price of $7,000. I don't think that you really intended to include that, as its really a very specialized lens (also it is BIG as in long and you will need a tripod since it is really not able to be hand held).
  • Pentax 18-270mm F3.5-6.3 ED SDM and HD 560mm F5.6 ED AW = probably around 700 -
  • Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM = probably around 500
  • Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM = deals at the moment for around 350
The other thing is the OS designation, which as adpo pointed out refers to optical stabilization in the lens. You really can not have the OS in the lens active at the same time as SR is active in the body, as they counteract one another. With this lens, you can either have one or the other. The reason for this is that the OS detects over all movement and corrects the image for the movement. Then if the body SR is also active, it will detect the same movement, and apply correction also, however since the image has already been corrected for the movement by the lens, it essentially adds the movement back in, effective counteracting the lens. The in-body SR and lens based OS are each able to be disabled independently, so you are able to select which optical stabilization you want to apply.

Also as adpo posted HSM and SDM are lens motor based auto focus. while the one with out HSM and SDM uses the body screw drive motor to do auto focusing. Essentially the lens without the HSM and SDM capabilities has less to go wrong with it (personal opinion).

Other than that, it sounds like you are on the right track....


09-14-2012, 03:17 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by thechumpen Quote
Thanks guys. I am leaning towards the cheaper Sigma one but will do a bit more research into whether there are any other changes apart from "Macro" capability in the newer Sigma. Maybe it has some other improvements that justify an extra 150.

I did a lot of research into Tamron versus Sigma and couldn't find much between then, but then found I couldn't get the Tamron anyway. Some said the Tamron is better and others the Sigma. Leads me to believe that the differences must be so fine that someone such as myself wouldn't really notice. Therefore if the new Pentax is just a re-badged Tamron I don't think I can justify the extra cash.

I'm kinda wishing I bought a Canon or Nikon now seeing as every lens out there fits these and support for Pentax seems rather limited.
Go for what you think is best for you, regarding the macro thing I have the tamron 90 marcro and the sigma 70-200 2,8 macro, the 70-200 is not a true maco lens but does take some sweet shots, Canon, Sony, Nikon, all have quirks, one has to find thier away around them, so does Pentax.

Cheers
Shane

09-14-2012, 03:17 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by thechumpen Quote
I'm kinda wishing I bought a Canon or Nikon now seeing as every lens out there fits these and support for Pentax seems rather limited.
The lenses will operate the same on a Pentax body just as they would do on a Canon or Nikon. You really are not giving up anything against either Canon or Nikon with their comparable bodies to the Kr. It is a case of 6 of one or a half dozen. The features of the Kr exceed those of the comparable Canon or Nikon (other than video). In terms of finding out information on the lens, what you read about the lens being used on a Canon or Nikon applies to the Pentax body as well - although the Kr offers the in-body SR and the others don't. So, really no need to feel that you made the wrong selection.

The limited support for Pentax, usually is felt in the available lens selection - specifically in the availability of specialty lenses. Since you are looking for a single lens selection, this should not affect you as much.

09-14-2012, 03:24 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by thechumpen Quote
Thanks guys. I am leaning towards the cheaper Sigma one but will do a bit more research into whether there are any other changes apart from "Macro" capability in the newer Sigma. Maybe it has some other improvements that justify an extra 150.

I did a lot of research into Tamron versus Sigma and couldn't find much between then, but then found I couldn't get the Tamron anyway. Some said the Tamron is better and others the Sigma. Leads me to believe that the differences must be so fine that someone such as myself wouldn't really notice. Therefore if the new Pentax is just a re-badged Tamron I don't think I can justify the extra cash.

I'm kinda wishing I bought a Canon or Nikon now seeing as every lens out there fits these and support for Pentax seems rather limited.
If you don't mind buying a used lens, you could look for a Tamron or Pentax DA 18-250 (they are basically the same lens). I see them on the marketplace periodically for around 300 dollars.

The biggest problems with super zooms are: (1) they can be pretty soft, usually at the extremes. Although this does get better when you stop down a little. (2) they tend to be slow, that is, they don't allow as much light in as most zooms with less range. (3) they can have pretty fierce-some distortion in places. This is usually correctable with software, but can make straight lines look pretty wavy at times.
09-14-2012, 07:23 AM   #11
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Instead of just getting a superzoom lens for the DSLR,
which won't do macro (beetles),
another option would be to take a bridge camera like the Pentax X5
for long reach and macro,
and keep a zoom with a more modest zoom range
for higher-quality shots on the K-r.

Last edited by lytrytyr; 10-11-2012 at 01:21 AM.
09-14-2012, 07:29 AM   #12
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or just buy da55-300 to complement your kit lens ....it will certainly produce technically better photos than any superzoom lens.

sorry I overlooked that you're interested in macro - anyway 'macro' in zooms really is only pseudomacro.....
09-14-2012, 07:36 AM   #13
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thechumpen, another option to consider, if you are not afraid of used lenses, is the excellent Pentax or Tamron 18-250 (same lens).

It is now discontinued but has a great reputation and can be purchased occasionally here from the reputable sellers in the marketplace.

The reviews are here.
SMC Pentax-DA 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 ED AL [IF] Reviews - DA Zoom Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database
Tamron AF 18-250mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II LD Lens Reviews - Tamron Lenses - Pentax Lens Review Database
09-14-2012, 08:27 AM   #14
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I don't think I personally would drop huge bucks into a superzoom.

I've had a few superzooms, and all of them were quite decent but not spectacular when stopped down a bit. Right now I have this discontinued Tamron 28-300, and this current Tamron 18-200

Both are capable of taking good photos, you just have to work around their weaknesses like with any superzoom.

By the way, the DA or DA-L 55-300 (which I also have) will positively murder any superzoom in that focal range that I'm aware of. What I personally would do if I were you is to pick up a used, cheap, decent superzoom like one of those I mentioned, AND a used DA-L 55-300. You could get both for around $350, so you'd be spending less, and you'd have the benefit of having a superzoom for walkaround & family shots as well as the much higher quality of the 55-300 for when you want to shoot something more seriously.

Also, there's the issue of internal focus (IF) lenses, which all superzooms are. IF lenses decrease the magnification exponentially, the closer you are to your subject. The 55-300 is not internal focus, so let's say you're shooting a bird at 20 feet... The 55-300 is going to give you a lot more telephoto reach at 270mm than the Tamron 18-270 will when maxed out to 270mm. I've tested IF lenses vs. their non-IF counterparts, and the difference can be huge. For instance, when shooting a subject at around 15 feet, an IF lens at 300mm gives about the same magnification as a non-IF lens at 190mm. That's a big difference.

Last edited by GibbyTheMole; 09-14-2012 at 08:47 AM.
09-14-2012, 08:35 AM   #15
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I would suggest a Tamron or Pentax 18-250mm. There is still a few about or via EBay. It is excellent quallity and very rugged with a few people users taking it into the dust/rain and snow although it isn't officially a WR lens. A classic combo if you don't want to much around too much with lenses is a 18-250 and a fast fifty for those indoor/low light portraits.
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