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12-26-2012, 07:34 PM   #1
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Zoom Lens / Telephoto differences

Hello Friends,

I've read a few threads here regarding the DA 55-300 Pentax Zoom, Sigma 70-300mm DG Telephoto, Sigma 70-300 DG, and the Tamron AF 70-300 Di LD Macro Zoom.

I am really leaning towards the Sigma 70-300 DG due to price and the relatively positive reviews on Amazon. Price point at 144 new which I feel comfortable to pay. Using this with my recently obtained K-5. Upgraded finally from a K10d.

Could someome please explain what makes the Pentax DA 55-300 better than the others listed? Are we talking about lens coatings or faster automatic focus / zoom? What will I lose out on if I chose the Either of the two Sigma's. I really do not want to pay anything above 175.00 but I want the flexability to do Macro as well as zoom.

Thanks Much.

David
Philadelphia.

12-26-2012, 07:59 PM   #2
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No macro on the da 55-300 so I guess that leaves the Sigmas. But you do get what you pay for. Have you checked the lens reviews on this site? Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 DG Macro Lens Reviews - Sigma Lenses - Pentax Lens Review Database
SMC Pentax-DA 55-300mm F4-5.8 ED Reviews - DA Zoom Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

The only down check I've seen on the Pentax is that it can sometimes take awhile to focus especially in low light. But that might be true of the Sigmas as well, I don't know. But other than that it is usually rated very highly especially for IQ. For the price it is an excellent value. And note you can get the DA L version within your price range used.

The Sigmas will both get you macro, but image quality is not likely to be as good as the Pentax. And I'm not sure how useful the macro mode is as the minimum focusing distance is over three feet.

Edit: You also give up a bit on the wide end. And the Sigmas are a good bit heavier. One of the things I love about the da 55-300 is you carry it around without feeling like you are a pack mule.

Last edited by jatrax; 12-26-2012 at 08:09 PM.
12-26-2012, 08:26 PM   #3
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Thanks For the info Jatrax. Now Not sure what to do. The reviews are just average or below here so appreciate the more detailed analysis
12-26-2012, 08:37 PM   #4
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You are welcome. I do think you will get better IQ from the Pentax but Sigma makes good stuff as well. I have a Sigma 50-500 that I like a lot but it only goes with me when I know I will need it. I always have the DA 55-300 in my bag.

12-26-2012, 09:14 PM   #5
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I have an old copy of the sigma 70-300. It's useful for target practice. My copy at 300mm is not much chop. The macro is useless as far as a quality image goes. Up to 250mm I think its a good lens. If you want to manually focus fast moving birds the lens is well balanced in the hand.
12-26-2012, 09:27 PM   #6
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There is a Sigma DG APO version which is a tad more expensive than the non-APO version. I had the APO, the Pentax 50-200, and the 55-300. The 55-300 is noticeably better IQ.

The "macro" of the Sigma/Tamron zooms is good for flowers, but not much closer. The 55-300 does not have that ability and in fact has a somewhat long minimum focus distance.

My Sigma 70-300 suffered an aperture-blade death, the 50-200 was so-so IQ and went toward another lens, and the 55-300 sort of became redundant when I got the 70-200 and 150-500.
12-26-2012, 09:40 PM   #7
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As far as true macro is concerned, the 55-300 plays well with the Raynox DCR-150.
12-26-2012, 11:52 PM   #8
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I have the DL macro version and its a nice lens if you remember that its basically a big budget zoom. In the proper conditions it can produce some nice results, but the key is 'proper conditions'. As soon as the light gets bad you may as well forget about it as far as usefulness goes.

The newer versions of the lens should certainly perform at least marginally better than what mine does.

Sigma 70-300 DL Macro Super - a set on Flickr

12-27-2012, 04:32 PM   #9
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I had the Sigma 70-300 APO on a Canon mount and just purchased, but have not used, the DA 55-300. Just from playing around with the 55-300 in the house, it seems to focus okay in low light. The Pentax is also tiny in comparison and is about the size of a Coke can. The biggest difference... the Pentax has internal focusing while the Sigma's front element moves.
12-28-2012, 08:58 AM   #10
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I have the Sigma 70-300 (non APO) and while I can point out some problems, I don't think there is a better deal for the dollar anywhere. The macro feature works very well and I use that quite a bit. It functions only between 200-300mm length and is perfect for close up shooting from a canoe or kayak. Outside in bright light and stopped down, it is very good. In low light and on cloudy days when the light is flat, not so good but with some extra PP, usable. I tend to use it primarily outside on sunny days and more often than not, around water. Mine is best at f/11 and I try to avoid apertures wider than f/8. IQ is very good from 70 to 220 mm and softens a little at 300 but is sharp in the center at 300 stopped down. If that fits your style, you can grab a great lens for $150. The APO is said to be better but I don't own one to truly say. It's fairly light to carry also. For indoor sports, low light shooting, you will be better off looking elsewhere.
12-28-2012, 09:34 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ikarus Quote
As far as true macro is concerned, the 55-300 plays well with the Raynox DCR-150.
Good suggestion... Honestly, I've found the word "macro" to be nothing more than a marketing gimmick on most zooms. The one exception I've run across (there are probably more) is the Tamron SP 23A 60-300. It actually has a very useful true macro mode with 1:1.55 magnification. Otherwise "macro" is just a word printed on the barrel when it comes to zooms.

I can't speak for the other lenses the original poster mentioned, but my copy of the DA-L 55-300 is a terrific performer. And it's sharp at 300mm. Most zooms soften up at the extreme long end, in my experience.
12-29-2012, 07:17 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by GibbyTheMole Quote
I can't speak for the other lenses the original poster mentioned, but my copy of the DA-L 55-300 is a terrific performer. And it's sharp at 300mm. Most zooms soften up at the extreme long end, in my experience.
I have a good copy from bhphoto. I have taken some shots in dim light at 250-300 end recently with fantastic result. It has the typical Pentax look and i am extremely happy with my purchase.
12-29-2012, 10:07 AM   #13
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So does the APO version of the Sigma imply that it is less heavy and shorter in length when fully extended? Just to verify
12-29-2012, 12:09 PM   #14
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Hi ruemiser,

I'm primarily a long tele shooter (birds), and still have a very old version of the Tamron. I have to admit to not shooting any of the more recent Sigmas, the last one I tried was probably 6-7 years ago. After shooting a premium 300 prime (A* 300 f4), I gave up on the xx-300 consumer grade zooms and now most often shoot FA* 300s, both the f4.5 and f2.8, with or without TCs, so I'm admittedly pretty much of a lens snob when it comes to lenses in this FL range.

About a year ago, I bought a used DA 55-300 for its light weight and convenience as a walk around lens, and feel it's pretty easily the best of the AF xx-300 consumer zooms for Pentax from a telephoto performance standpoint.
It can't compete with the FA* primes, but it's plenty sharp wide open, and stopped down to f8, I really have nothing to complain about.

Here's an example at f8, 300 mm



I also shoot a Q for super tele reach with adapted lenses -- the Q is a real test of optical quality, and the DA 55-300 is proving to be a surprisingly strong candidate for use with the Q handheld now that Pentax has added Focus Peaking to aid Manual Focus, and SR to make handholding at the extreme FL EQ (1674mm in 35mm terms). In a short test (the FW update came as winter was settling in where I live), I found that I could handhold this combination pretty reliably down to about 1/125, but at 1/400, it really started to show its potential. This is full frame from @ 15 feet, lens wide open at f5.8, 1/400, ISO 125, slightly sharpened and downsized for posting. This is not meant to be an endorsement of the Q as a long lens solution, (though I don't shy away from doing so ). I felt this is a good way to illustrate the optical quality potential of this lens.



The full post is here:

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-q/204091-q-fw-v1-1-da-55-300-handheld.html

The Pentax is pricier, but worth it (for my purposes).

As far as "macro" goes, it's good to get some perspective on how much magnification 1:2 gives you. The sensor in a Pentax DSLR is about 24mm wide, and a US Quarter is an easy reference to that length. With a 1:2 mag ratio, two quarters side-by-side will fill the frame of the shot horizontally. This is good for butterflies and mid small flowers, but will not give you those eye popping closeups of small insects. As has been mentioned, an achromatic closeup like the Raynox DCR 250 will give you some very high magnification with one of these tele zooms, and is a good, relatively inexpensive way to introduce yourself to the macro world.

Scott
12-29-2012, 01:24 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by ruemiser Quote
So does the APO version of the Sigma imply that it is less heavy and shorter in length when fully extended? Just to verify
No, it has a special element in it that is supposed to control abberations better.
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