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11-15-2016, 03:08 PM   #1
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PLM or not on a 55-300

I am about to embark on a 11 day trip to Costa Rica which will included significant time at both a seaside/beach location and up in the forest. I want to travel light with two lenses, so I'm planning on just bringing my K-3II body, a DA* 16-50 and a 55-300. I am staying in "off the beaten path" locations that are not large resorts, so I am anticipating lots of great wildlife and nature photography opportunities.

I would like to replace my current DA 55-300 for a weather resistant version of this lens because of the humidity and the varied environments I will be in. I am torn between getting the PLM version which seems more compact, has better close focus and is quieter, and the non-PLM screw drive which is faster. I'm not sure if that half stop will be worth it or not.

Anybody with any experience on the pros or the cons of these two lenses in direct comparison to each other would be greatly appreciated. BTW, I suppose I should mention the $50 price difference is irrelevant to me.

11-15-2016, 04:08 PM - 1 Like   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by GregK8 Quote
I would like to replace my current DA 55-300 for a weather resistant version of this lens because of the humidity and the varied environments I will be in. I am torn between getting the PLM version which seems more compact, has better close focus and is quieter, and the non-PLM screw drive which is faster. I'm not sure if that half stop will be worth it or not.
The PLM lens focuses way faster. Considering all its merits, there's no reason not to get it unless you plan to shoot with an unsupported camera (any DSLR launched in 2013 or earlier), IMO.

Here's our review of it if you want more samples:
Hands-On with the Pentax DA 55-300mm PLM WR RE - Hands-On Tests | PentaxForums.com

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11-15-2016, 05:01 PM - 2 Likes   #3
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The screw-drive version could well be nicknamed "Orion - The Hunter." It hunts and hunts. I have been frustrated by its AF so often it drives me crazy. I have no experience with the new one.
11-15-2016, 05:12 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by AggieDad Quote
The screw-drive version could well be nicknamed "Orion - The Hunter." It hunts and hunts. I have been frustrated by its AF so often it drives me crazy. I have no experience with the new one.

Perhaps yours is decentred, Don?


I have no problems with mine, on still or moving objects.

11-15-2016, 06:08 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
The PLM lens focuses way faster. Considering all its merits, there's no reason not to get it unless you plan to shoot with an unsupported camera (any DSLR launched in 2013 or earlier), IMO.
The only thing really holding me back is I find myself shooting in low light situations a lot so I'm a little worried that 1/2 stop loss will be significant, although with the low light capabilities of the K-3II being what they are maybe I'm over analyzing.
11-15-2016, 06:14 PM - 1 Like   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by AggieDad Quote
The screw-drive version could well be nicknamed "Orion - The Hunter." It hunts and hunts. I have been frustrated by its AF so often it drives me crazy. I have no experience with the new one.
I have plain DA version of this lens now and I would agree with this to a certain extent. It happens less in good light, but I often find myself waiting for the lens to hunt through the entire range to return almost to where it started, although wouldn't that be more a function of the logic in the body than the lens?
11-15-2016, 06:57 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by clackers Quote
Perhaps yours is decentred, Don?


I have no problems with mine, on still or moving objects.
Likewise. I recently acquired a used DA*60-250, and while I love the IQ, my previous 55-300s (SMC, then HD) just seemed quicker and more confident. I'm willing to blame the operator and unfamiliarity, but sometimes I think the complaints about Pentax' AF are really about SDM.
11-15-2016, 07:18 PM   #8
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I've not had much problem with AF using either the SMC or HD versions of the 55-300. I would certainly not consider the PLM at this stage personally (I have the K3, so it's not an option anyway).

11-15-2016, 07:50 PM   #9
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That 55-300 autofocus is slow, use quick shift to help get it close and then hit the AF to nail it, it's a technique that can speed you up quite a bit.
11-15-2016, 08:54 PM   #10
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The quiet of the AF on the PLM could make a difference for birding. The coffee grinder noise of the old version can scare them away.

Half a stop aperture difference? Maybe less significant in practice than on paper. I always try to stop down the 55-300 anyway.

I'd go the PLM, particularly for travel. The images I've seen look good and user reports seem favourable: https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/10-pentax-slr-lens-discussion/328778-opinions-55-300-re.html
11-15-2016, 09:25 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by ramseybuckeye Quote
That 55-300 autofocus is slow, use quick shift to help get it close and then hit the AF to nail it, it's a technique that can speed you up quite a bit.
Yes, this is really the only way it can work if there anything other than a clear object for focus. When in focus, the lens is really quite lovely. I guess that is why I put up with it.

Some folks say it behaves much better in the K-3II.
11-15-2016, 09:28 PM   #12
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I tried out the new PLM in the camera shop. I wasn't really interested in getting one but nearly changed my mind once I tried it in the store. It focused quickly and silently. No hunting. I wasn't impressed with the feel of the zoom but it may have been just that particular lens. It zoomed with a jerking motion. I may get one if the next time I try it I find a smooth copy.
11-17-2016, 08:44 PM   #13
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Thanks everybody for the response. I decided to go with the PLM version of the lens and I'm looking forward to putting it though it's paces.
11-18-2016, 02:14 AM - 1 Like   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by GregK8 Quote
Thanks everybody for the response. I decided to go with the PLM version of the lens and I'm looking forward to putting it though it's paces.
Have a great trip and be sure to post some of your pictures!
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