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11-26-2012, 02:55 PM   #1
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What's better than my DA L 55-300mm?

First of all, I can't afford and don't need a constant aperture lens so the DA60-250 is out of the question and it gives less range than my DA L 55-300 anyway. In the lower range department, I find that my DA17-70 is about the best I can have so that range is well taken care of and it's supposedly better that the 16-50 lenses anyway.

Now, as to the higher range, my DA L 55-300 is a good lens for medium distances but lacks in sharpness when the subject is farther away. I am not married to Pentax and am willing to consider other manufacturers. I know that I can read the reviews and do it regularly but nothing is better than personal experience. I am looking for more sharpness at the 300mm end so I can crop more. An upper range of 400mm would also be interesting but it would have to be as sharp as 300mm if possible. I know that primes would be better but I don't want to lug a ton of stuff around and the price is too stiff anyway.

I like to travel with two zooms and my old Panagor 90mm f2.8 manual focus macro which gives excellent results. With a few filters and spare batteries plus a couple of remote controls, that's all I have in my bag and it's heavy enough for an old retiree. I tend to use a 300mm lens with a tripod or monopod so that's another thing to carry around. Your opinions are welcomed Take care.
Mike.

11-26-2012, 03:22 PM   #2
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Have you looked at the Tamron 70-200mm? You're not going to get anything in the same FL ballpark with better IQ without either getting a shorter lens or paying more

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11-26-2012, 03:27 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
Have you looked at the Tamron 70-200mm? You're not going to get anything in the same FL ballpark with better IQ without either getting a shorter lens or paying more
I don't mind paying more and need more range than 200mm. Anyway, I don't have to buy a brand new lens even if I did get my 55-300 new. I was lucky because I got it for $199. Somebody is offering me a Sigma 120-400mm for $595. It could be a good idea, what do you think?
11-26-2012, 03:34 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by VE2CJW Quote
I don't mind paying more and need more range than 200mm. Anyway, I don't have to buy a brand new lens even if I did get my 55-300 new. I was lucky because I got it for $199. Somebody is offering me a Sigma 120-400mm for $595. It could be a good idea, what do you think?
That's a $1000 lens, so it sounds like a good deal. Here are some user reviews:
Sigma 120-400mm F4.5-5.6 DG APO OS HSM Lens Reviews - Sigma Lenses - Pentax Lens Review Database


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11-26-2012, 03:37 PM   #5
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I'd say most 200mm shots cropped to the same frame at the subject distance will struggle to match the 55-300 at 300mm in sharpness. Perhaps I'm less picky, but my 55-300 usually ends up being used at the extreme long end, and it has been plenty sharp for me. That said, I'm not claiming all my 300mm shots are sharp. The challenge is that at this focal length, one needs a tripod, a very steady hand or shutter speeds well north of 1/500s to be on the safe side. These two were hand-held at 300mm, f/8 with some cropping:





Last edited by Ikarus; 11-26-2012 at 03:59 PM.
11-26-2012, 05:44 PM   #6
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A 300mm sample cropped 4X.

Sometimes I wonder if the Sigma 120-400mm is really much better than my DA L 55-300mm. Has anyone here ever really compared the two lenses? Is there enough difference in image quality to justify the price difference? I enclose a picture taken with my 55-300 that has been cropped to simulate a 1200mm lens. It looks fine because the subject was not too far and I used a tripod.

Last edited by VE2CJW; 12-10-2012 at 01:07 PM.
11-26-2012, 06:05 PM - 1 Like   #7
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Nice images Ludger and these do the 55-300 justice.
It is indeed a fine lens. But the DoF control a Tamron 70-200 has does have its utility for capturing subjects relatively close to the camera (rather than these more distant subjects). There won't be much between the results of the DA 55-300 at 300mm of a distant subject compared with the same subject captured by a faster 200mm lens and cropped to give the same FoV.
11-26-2012, 06:38 PM   #8
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You might consider testing your 55-300mm against other copies. I hope to test another copy of the 55-300 this week, but my previous copy (which I returned) clearly had poor left-side resolution at at least medium focal lengths. At least one test I read, maybe at dpreview, also identified the tested copy as suffering from decentering at lower focal lengths. I've also had two other lenses, one Pentax and one other brand, that have suffered decentering-type symptoms. So basically 50% of the digital-era lenses I've acquired new have been obviously defective. It's likely that there are many other lenses that, while they might not be obviously defective, are possibly in the poorer-performing range of "normal."

You have to consider that most other lens models in this focal length range that may test out better are in a completely different world when it comes to both price and convenient portability, so you have to think about whether you'll be willing to take a bigger, heavier lens with you often enough to balance any potentially better performance. If you don't have the lens with you, it won't help you take better pictures. I'm finding this myself with having both the 50-200mm DA and the 100-300F. The F - while not exactly a huge lens - doesn't always come along with me due to size/weight I(in addition to the 50-200mm), but the 55-300 is (barely) small enough that I'd probably not hesitate to take it vs. the 50-200mm.

When you say distant subjects, are you sure you're accounting for environmental factors?

Paul

11-26-2012, 07:13 PM   #9
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Paul. The tests I have been doing lately have been of shooting geese in the water at about 300 feet with not perfect lighting. I tried auto and manual focusing and used a tripod. The problem in focusing is that the geese are quite far so they don't fill the screen. It really isn't a perfect scenario. I have done some testing of my DA L 55-300 with resolution charts and the results are perfect. I have also tested the lens for front and back focus problems with excellent results. I always carry the 55-300 in my bag because I often need the range it gives me. I was wondering is a Sigma 120-400mm would be very much better to justigy the price difference. The pictures I have looked at in the reviews are not very impressive sometimes.
11-26-2012, 07:38 PM   #10
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The best way I know of to improve IQ with that lens is to buy a hood. You can buy the genuine Pentax one or a cheapo one, but a hood will help. The other solutions I know of are considerably more expensive (like the DA* 60-250, or the Tamron or Sigma 70-200 f/2.8).
11-26-2012, 08:14 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by VE2CJW Quote
Paul. The tests I have been doing lately have been of shooting geese in the water at about 300 feet with not perfect lighting. I tried auto and manual focusing and used a tripod. The problem in focusing is that the geese are quite far so they don't fill the screen. It really isn't a perfect scenario. I have done some testing of my DA L 55-300 with resolution charts and the results are perfect. I have also tested the lens for front and back focus problems with excellent results. I always carry the 55-300 in my bag because I often need the range it gives me. I was wondering is a Sigma 120-400mm would be very much better to justigy the price difference. The pictures I have looked at in the reviews are not very impressive sometimes.
Probably the best idea would be to just try a 120-400mm and see if it meets your requirement. Since you've tested carefully with your 55-300, you'll have a good basis for comparison. It won't take you very long to determine if the 120-400mm will meet your expectations. I think you're at a point of very small performance differences where you can't rely on others' experiences with different copies of lenses than you have.

My point about the 120-400 is that you might indeed not carry it in your bag all the time as you do with the 55-300, but there again it can be hard to judge without having the lens in hand, and you can't rely on whether other people report they carry theirs or not. There are probably people who drag a 400 2.8L around all day, but that doesn't mean that most of us would, even if we could afford one. And keep in mind that you'll need to make up that 70-120mm range with some other lens, unless that Panagor entirely meets your needs in that range.

Paul
11-26-2012, 08:20 PM   #12
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That price on the Sigma 120-400 is a steal as long as it's in good condition. This might help in your decision - Flickriver: Most interesting photos tagged with Sigma 120-400
11-26-2012, 08:55 PM   #13
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Thanks for your ideas, very interesting. I think that the better choice would be to keep what I normally carry since it's not too heavy for my old age and get a prime lens for those situations when I really need it. Most of the time, I don't need anything more than what I carry right now. A better lens would be for special occasions only like the one I was mentioning which is rather special. Now, if i can get a good prime without risking a divorce...
11-27-2012, 04:37 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by VE2CJW Quote
Thanks for your ideas, very interesting. I think that the better choice would be to keep what I normally carry since it's not too heavy for my old age and get a prime lens for those situations when I really need it. Most of the time, I don't need anything more than what I carry right now. A better lens would be for special occasions only like the one I was mentioning which is rather special. Now, if i can get a good prime without risking a divorce...
Honestly, the hood idea is about the best one that I can see. The 55-300 really needs to be shot at f8 on a tripod to see its best sharpness, at least at 300mm. The lenses that will really give you a bump in image quality over it will be ones like the FA 300 f4.5 and DA *300, or even the Sigma 50-500 or 150-500, but all of those are quite expensive, even used.

I guess to me the biggest thing that helps is getting close to what you are shooting. If you can do so, it will help out immensely.


11-27-2012, 07:53 AM   #15
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When you're talking about medium vs. long distances, do you mean focus distance (meaning focus at infinity vs. focus at middle distance) or do you mean focal length (full 300mm vs. moderate FL like 135mm)?

If you're wanting longer focal length, there aren't a lot of great choices on a budget. And while Nikon and Canon both offer great zooms that reach 400/5.6, these lenses (Nikkor 80-400, Canon 100-400L) are priced much like the Pentax 60-250/4. The only more reasonably-priced options are third-party, such as the relatively low-priced Tokina 80-400, very rare for Pentax but more common on other mounts) and Sigma has made zooms (multiple versions) going to 400 and 500mm. I don't think these have been particularly popular in the Pentax community but they remain pretty much the only choices -- a lot of Pentaxians talk about wanting longer lenses but when it comes to voting with their wallet and willingness to carry them the numbers dwindle. That, or the ones that voted with their wallet chose other systems.

Anyway that Sigma sounds like a very good price so you shouldn't lose much money if you try it and end up selling it. The lens has enough size & bulk (and longer short end) vs. the DA 55-300 that I can easily imagine keeping both.
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