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06-29-2013, 02:51 PM   #1
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SMC Pentax-DA 55-300mm F4-5.8 ED vs SMC Pentax-DA* 300mm F4 ED [IF] SDM

I am considering these two lenses (SMC Pentax-DA 55-300mm F4-5.8 ED & SMC Pentax-DA* 300mm F4 ED [IF] SDM) for a K-5 where I want to shoot nature shots at distances from 5M up to 100M. I have read the reviews on both and want to know why the SMC Pentax-DA* 300mm F4 ED [IF] SDM justifies a $900 premium over the SMC Pentax-DA 55-300mm F4-5.8 ED. What features and performance supports this premium. Basically I am a casual user and taking pictures for my own enjoyment.

06-29-2013, 03:09 PM   #2
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I love my 55-300, but if I could afford the 300/4 I would buy it in a split second.

That being said, pick up a DA L 55-300 and see if it meets your needs. If you feel you would be better served by the DA* you could sell it here for about what you paid for it.
06-29-2013, 03:12 PM   #3
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I also have a da 55-300....I am very impressed with it!
06-29-2013, 03:15 PM   #4
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Firstly it is much faster with F4 instead of F5.8 at 300mm.
Secondly it has silent focusing.
Third, the build quality is very solid and very metal compared to the 55-300mm.
Fourth, it's better optically but the 55-300 is very good for the money and not that far behind, though it's slower.
Fifth, the 300mm is well weather sealed.

Though the 300mm is heavier, bigger and as you said much more expensive so it's up to you when it comes to how much you want to pay for a lens. I'm a bit weird as I'm using my 300mm as a walk-around lens at times, but most people would probably rather have a zoom as the 55-300 for that.

06-29-2013, 03:20 PM   #5
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Here are some pics with the Da* 300/4. One thing I like with the lens is the lack of optical aberrations, it handles high contrast extremely well!

06-29-2013, 03:31 PM   #6
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I have had both lenses and still have the DA*300. The DA55-300 will suffice for most as its IQ is great for a consumer type zoom lens at a great price. With the DA*300 :
1.Weather sealing
2. F4 that will allow use with some teleconverters. I use the AFA 1.7x to reach to 510mm.
3. Quiet SDM
4. Great build quality
5. Better IQ

With the DA 55-300, you get:
1. Smaller and lighter. Easier to take on travel
2. Lower cost
3. Build quality that is not as good
4. Too slow to use with most teleconverters. F5.8 at 300mm
5. Noisy focusing and focus hunts like crazy sometimes.

Until you really get into premium glass, you can consider the DA55-300 a very decent bargain since most consumer grade zooms do not behave as well as that lens. They generally have some Achilles heel that has to be dealt with. The problems with the 55-300 are rather minimal compared to Sigma and Tamron 70-300mm zooms.
The DA*300 is a top shelf piece of glass and its sharpness IQ is important to those who seek the best they can get within the Pentax system. There is also the FA 300mm f4.5 that can sometimes be had for a little less with IQ just as good as the DA*300. but is without SDM focusing and weather sealing.
Also, I would offer that the longer lenses are not always about bringing farther subjects closer but also for taking close ups of closer subjects in order for fine detail to be enjoyed. When I lived in Louisiana, most of my bird and gator shots were done within 100 ft. Sometimes much closer. It is those pictures that I find most pleasing because of the detail in the feathers, skin or whatever that is picked up.
This was taken with the 55-300mm at 230mm at about 33ft

Great Egret Reflection - Pentax User Photo Gallery

and this one with the DA*300mm at about 6 ft
06-29-2013, 04:04 PM   #7
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I think everyone else covered the features. Different lenses for different purposes. Sort of like the difference between a good pickup truck and a Maserati. The truck will do lots of things the Maserati will not, but if you want flat out performance you have to pay the price.

The 55-300 is much more versatile and a solid value for the money, but the DA*300 is pro level glass and that's another ball game.

06-29-2013, 06:44 PM   #8
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The 55-300 is better than it has any right to be, but you'll get noticeably better photos with the DA*300. Just set the aperture to f/4.5 or f/5, focus, compose, and ... "wow, I didn't know I could take pictures that good!"

I found that I got no truly interesting photos over about 135mm with the DA55-300 (although I certainly tried). That was when I realized I'd be better off with a DA*50-135, a fast 200 (K200/2.5) and the F*300, all of which make compelling images. I have a slight preference for the F*300, but the DA*300 is very close and it takes excellent photos. It's also WR and 1/3 stop faster!

My advice (if you haven't already done so) is go to the PPG PENTAX : Select a PENTAX interchangeable lens camera or a lens model and study the images from only these lenses:

DA L 55-300
DA 55-300
F 70-210/4-5.6

See which images you like. Even amongst the best images taken with these lenses, I think you'll find that some of the lenses produce a few nice images, while others produce them frequently.

Last edited by DSims; 06-29-2013 at 07:07 PM.
06-29-2013, 07:38 PM   #9
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Starts with the DA 55-300mm, the old joke is that it's much better from 55 to 299mm than the DA* 300mm... It's not that slow, just one stop slower than the DA*, not too bad and still f/4.5 up to about 200mm.
06-29-2013, 09:06 PM   #10
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The DA*300 is sharper at f4 than the DA 55-300 at f8 (@ 300mm), and fringing on the pro lens is much lower. Mechanical quality is in a different universe.
06-29-2013, 09:20 PM   #11
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one is a 6x zoom lens, the other one is a prime lens!
Seriously, (pretty good advice has been given already) you canīt "replace" the DA300 if that is what you need. But it is a good idea to try the DA55-300 before and restrict yourself to use it at 300mm to see how it goes. There is a FA80-320 in the marketplace for arround U$D100 if you want to make a little investment. I have one and it is pretty good**.

In my opionion,
Quickshift and manual focus ring dump is much better on DA* lens
Weight is a good thing at longer focal lengths

**Most people say the FA80-320 is soft near 300mm but I found out you can adjust focus calibration on the camera to be spot on at 300mm OR at 80mm.. your choice
06-30-2013, 03:58 AM   #12

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I have both lenses and started with the 55-300, but to me it was dissappointing at 300. so much that that I did not use it at the 300, even stopped down. With he 300 F4, I am limited to the 300 and there it is really much better than the 55-300. If you need 300, go for the 300 F4, but for normal use the zoom is much smaller and more versatile, but these lenses cannot compete with each other. They are totally different and each is good on on its own terms, but since I got the 18 -125 WR, I find that I never take the 55-300 along anymore
06-30-2013, 11:00 AM   #13
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Hi budster,

Gary H pretty much summed up the benefits of a fast premium prime and an excellent utility long consumer class zoom the way I use them, but I have both an FA* 300 f4.5 and a DA 55-300 and use each significantly. I actually bought a used copy of the DA 55-300 relatively recently after having the FA*300.4.5 for over 7 years as I wanted the best compact and lightweight alternative at 300mm. I am primarily a birder, and most often use the FA* 300/4.5 with TCs (either 1.4x or 1.7x AFA) to get AF 420mm or AF 510mm, as the extra reach is usually more appropriate for what I shoot.

It should be mentioned that Pentax AF will work most reliably with a lens/TC combination that gives you an effective max aperture (multiply the max aperture of the lens by the magnification factor of the TC) of faster (lower f number value -- the lower, generally the better) than about f8, so that's why the DA 55-300 is not as effective a lens to use with TCs as a faster prime (or zoom for that matter).

I'm far from typical, since I shoot at 300mm or longer the great majority of the time, so having more than one 300mm is not redundant for me (I actually have 8 lenses that I can shoot natively at 300mm. and just about all of them see some use). Personally, I prefer the FA* 300 4/5 over the DA* 300/4 even though the newer lens has silent focus and is a tad better optically (IMO). The FA* is smaller and lighter, so is easier to handhold, and I prefer to handhold a 300mm f4 class lens. the FA* also has a better hood (though a bit fussy to mount) and the screw drive AF is compatible with a lot of available screw drive AF TCs as well as the 1.7x AFA, while there are no reliable 1.4x AF TCs for use with the SDM focusing of the DA* at this point.

If you plan to shoot long a lot, then the prime is definitely justified. If you'd just like the capability to shoot long when situations present themselves, I'd start with the DA 55-300 and see if this type of shooting suits you, then get a premium ultra tele prime if you can rationalize the extra cost, size and weight.


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