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03-22-2014, 04:57 PM   #1
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Which 300 mm lens is better?

Right now, I have a Pentax 55-300mm DA lens and am not quite satisfied with sharpness at 300mm. I am looking in geting a SMC Pentax-A* 300mm F4 which is an older model. Is that really much better? I am also looking at a Sigma 120-400mm lens, would that be beer than my Pentax 55-300mm? Any suggestions appreciated. Thanks.

Mike.

03-22-2014, 05:06 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by VE2CJW Quote
Right now, I have a Pentax 55-300mm DA lens and am not quite satisfied with sharpness at 300mm. I am looking in geting a SMC Pentax-A* 300mm F4 which is an older model. Is that really much better? I am also looking at a Sigma 120-400mm lens, would that be beer than my Pentax 55-300mm? Any suggestions appreciated. Thanks.
Well, the old A*300/4 is manual focus of course, so that's a whole different animal.
03-22-2014, 05:08 PM   #3
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Better for what?
03-22-2014, 05:12 PM   #4
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As a rule of thumb, the longer the range of the zoom, the worse it will be at the ends. So yes, the A*300 would be much sharper--for one, it's a prime, and secondly, it's a * lens, which are Pentax's signature lenses. But it is manual focus, which means it will be hard to use for things like wildlife or sports. On the plus side, you can shoot it wide open at f/4 to gain some shutter speed over the 5.6 of the 55-300.

03-22-2014, 05:20 PM   #5
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The main problem with the older lenses, such as M42-K-M-A lenses is that the coatings are not as good as the newer lenses. My M 400/5.6, for example, must pretty well be used at f/11 or CA and PF cause an inordinate amount of post processing. That given, it is still a not too bad lens, but it is in no way competitive to the DA* 300/4.
03-22-2014, 05:53 PM   #6
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I have both the DA 55-300 and the A*300/f4. I have never really compared them together, head to head. They are different lenses for me. Note - I usually shoot wide angle.
  • 55-300 - is light in weight and very manageable. If I am going to shoot off a tripod, it is easy. I like to stay within the zoom range of 4 and this lens is 5+, but it has provided some really nice shots.
  • A*300 - is much heavier, much larger front element, I do like the built in hood. It does not have a tripod collar, and that is one thing that I have on my list (about a 8 to 10 inch bar with a Y front and a AS clamp on the back). Otherwise, the camera body is on the tripod and the lens is just cantilevered which is subject to a lot of motion. Shooting it by hand is ok, but heavy. About 300 is as long as I really want to go.
Note in the links below - I really have a A*300 rather than the M*300


Last edited by interested_observer; 03-22-2014 at 05:58 PM.
03-22-2014, 06:11 PM   #7
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On my copy, the 55-300 is sharp at 300, and less so below about 70mm. But maybe that's just my copy.
03-22-2014, 06:13 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by GibbyTheMole Quote
On my copy, the 55-300 is sharp at 300, and less so below about 70mm. But maybe that's just my copy.

Same here. My 55-300 is almost as sharp at 300mm as my FA 300mm prime, but not quite

03-22-2014, 06:37 PM   #9
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Still wondering.

Has anyone ever compared the Pentax 55-300 to a Sigma 120-400mm? Since the Sigma is a lot more expensive, is it much better than the Pentax as to sharpness? Sharpness is what I am looking for but I simply can't buy a Pentax DA* lens, too expensive for an old retired geek like myself. I could get a Sigma 120-400mm lens for around $800. used around here and also a Sigma 150-500 for the same price. Of course, I would prefer having a 150-500mm lens but it has to be shrarper than my Pentax 55 to 300mm lens.
03-22-2014, 06:37 PM   #10
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my 55-300 is sharp as a tack...here a couple wide open shots from this evening...click for details.
I alsolutely love this lens!



03-22-2014, 07:08 PM   #11
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Forum member Mike C has the A, he puts out some top flight photos with it.
03-22-2014, 07:09 PM   #12
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I have a very early production (June 2008) 55-300 and a Sigma 150-500 and I find that in order to get really good photos with these and many other telephotos , you need to be careful with using enough iso, shutter speed and the correct F stop.

I have found, they both can be excellent performers if used properly.

I'm not saying you are not using a telephoto correctly....I don't know....just suggesting what I have found to be successful in getting sharp photo with a telephoto lens.
03-22-2014, 07:51 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by VE2CJW Quote
Has anyone ever compared the Pentax 55-300 to a Sigma 120-400mm? Since the Sigma is a lot more expensive, is it much better than the Pentax as to sharpness? Sharpness is what I am looking for but I simply can't buy a Pentax DA* lens, too expensive for an old retired geek like myself. I could get a Sigma 120-400mm lens for around $800. used around here and also a Sigma 150-500 for the same price. Of course, I would prefer having a 150-500mm lens but it has to be shrarper than my Pentax 55 to 300mm lens.

Can't comment on the 120-400mm but did have a 150-500mm and was never real impressed. Up close and filling the frame usually was decent, but anything far away was a crap shoot. Honestly I would look for a FA or a F* 300mm lens for around the price of the 150-500 and crop.
03-22-2014, 09:23 PM   #14
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55-300 non wr is sharp at f8.
A*300 is manual focus, sharp and great colors, but only sometimes. This was a lens I really wanted to like, would get stunning shots with it from time to time tantalizingly. Aberrations are nasty wide open with bright out of focus areas.
DA*300 is very nice on the K-3, on the K-5 is frustrating for flakey focus. When in focus, very sharp wide open.

It depends on how much light you get where you shoot. I shoot my DA*300 wide open and can get reasonable shutter speeds and lowish iso in most conditions. The 55-300 is two stops slower for sharpness, and in low light the quality collapses. Same with the 150-500; at f8 it is pretty good, but that usually means I'm a stop higher on iso and a stop slower on shutter in any given situation, and I face low light most of the time.
03-22-2014, 09:36 PM   #15
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I didn't have luck with my A*. It wasn't the 300, but I wonder if the old glass just wasn't as well done as some of the newer designs. My lens was OK-ish for resolution but actually using it in the field was a major PITA - lighting had to be good, focus is not the easiest, etc. I'm glad it's gone.

If it were me I'd stay with the 55-300. If you want to upgrade get the DA*.
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