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07-18-2017, 06:55 PM   #1
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Help me trouble shoot my -DA 55-300mm F4-5.8 ED WR at 300mm

It seems more often than not when I carry my 55-300 it only gets used at 300mm. Then more often than not I am disappointed with the image quality to a point I am debating spending more than on any other lens to upgrade to a f2.8 lens because I dont want to work those images.
Ive tried to do some trouble shooting, ie IS on, tripod, manual focus with live view, stopping down. Stopping down seems to f8 or so seems to remove my biggest complaint but I'm not 100% what the issue is or the best way to fix it wether it be upgrading my gear, technique or camera settings.
The problem? Normally what I describe as soft edges of my subject with a low clarity bright glow. Maybe back focusing? Other times nothing seems sharp in the image when cropped or just zoomed into 1:1. Here is a folder with 4 examples I would really appreciate anyone willing to work with me on correcting these complaints as well as properly naming what is wrong. Ive tried reading other forum posts on this lens but I keep ending up confused.
300 test | Flickr

Use this lens for portraits (street mostly), city scape, architecture, and learning wildlife
K3ii

07-18-2017, 07:48 PM   #2
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Subscribing to follow as this mirrors my experience with this lens. I have not checked mine for autofocus adjustment yet either. In my experience, this lens needs a lot of light for best performance. That I mainly use it handheld and at overly long distances only exacerbates the issues. Sometimes I can make great improvements during processing, sometimes not. In the end though, this is a consumer grade lens that costs a few hundred dollars.
07-18-2017, 08:13 PM   #3
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Zooms like the 55-300 used at maximum focal length tengs to reveal their weak link in their armour. The very long end generally is their poorest performance.


When I had my 55-300 working (a small drop of my camera bag seems to have disturbed the alignment of the internal elements), I spent considerable time getting the AF calibration right at the long end. It certainly helps as being slightly out of focus at 300mm noticably impacts performance. Also consider whether staying at 250mm or less is workable. The 55-300 holds performance reasonably well out to 250mm and then falls off after that. It is still pretty good overall for a consumer zoom at its price point.


You won't find a current model F2.8 lens at 300mm in Pentax mount and it will be damn big and heavy. The DA*300 is F4 but all users of this lens seem very happy from the comments I've read online on this forum.
07-18-2017, 08:19 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Quartermaster James Quote
In my experience, this lens needs a lot of light for best performance.
From what I see in my shots lighting actually hurts this lens and helps add to that soft glowing edge on my subjects.

QuoteOriginally posted by southlander Quote
Zooms like the 55-300 used at maximum focal length tengs to reveal their weak link in their armour. The very long end generally is their poorest performance.

You won't find a current model F2.8 lens at 300mm in Pentax mount and it will be damn big and heavy. The DA*300 is F4 but all users of this lens seem very happy from the comments I've read online on this forum.
I was thinking with a 2.8 lens such as the 50-130 or x-200 I could throw on a 1.4 tele and still end up with nicer faster images

07-18-2017, 09:03 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Greenneck Quote
I was thinking with a 2.8 lens such as the 50-130 or x-200 I could throw on a 1.4 tele and still end up with nicer faster images
Wouldn't it be cheaper to just buy a DA*300?
07-18-2017, 10:22 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by DougieD Quote
Wouldn't it be cheaper to just buy a DA*300?
I dont think I would want to invest that much money in such a long focal length, I would be using it for portraits this weekend if it didnt have such a lousy focus. Id like the flexibility the other way around.
07-18-2017, 10:42 PM - 2 Likes   #7
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Tell us more about your process. Shooting RAW? Processing workflow? Are you using the lens hood? Do you use any front filters? You turned IS off when using the tripod, right?
It is common for lenses to perform best stopped down a couple of stops. At least perform better than wide open.
While I have experienced low clarity/sharpness, I've not seen the glow you describe.
I shoot RAW+JPEG, and mainly use the JPEGs to decide which photos to process.
I've reduced the image size for posting here, but here's an example of a JPEG and the finished picture from the RAW file. Grey, cloudy day. Spent a lot of it shooting in light rain.
Finally, you might want to rent a higher quality long lens to see if that improves your results. Just my off-the-cuff thoughts.
Attached Images
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PENTAX K-3 II  Photo 
View Picture EXIF
PENTAX K-3 II  Photo 
07-19-2017, 01:23 AM - 2 Likes   #8
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Have fairly extensive shooting experience on K-7 and K-3 with the same-optics predecessor, the smc Pentax-DA 55-300mm F4-5.8 ED. Nothing will change that it is a consumer-grade zoom lens, but if you know what you're doing, it is capable of producing quite decent results, even at the long end, where I tend to use it the most.

Some things you could do to get the most out of this lens:
  • Take some meaningful test shots to establish whether there is a front- or back-focus issue (if that should be the case, calibrate, obviously).
  • Shoot in RAW, for more post processing options.
  • Rather than shooting wide open at F5.8, stop down to F6.3 or, if the light allows for it, to F7.1, for even sharper results.
  • Configure your camera for back-button AF-C, use a single AF point, and move it to nail the focus (with living things usually on the closest eye).
  • Work on your hand-held shooting technique (there is excellent material on this website to help you with that).
  • For shutter speeds shorter than, say, 1/800 sec, disable the Shake Reduction, as it may actually introduce unwanted ever-so-slight sensor movement.
  • Be sure to use the dedicated lens hood.
  • Shoot the lens a lot, under various conditions, and with different settings, to explore its strengths and weaknesses.
  • Enjoy the lens for what it is and delivers at this price point, which is actually remarkable bang for the buck (cf. attached images, all done with that lens, on a single shoot at Burgers' Zoo, Arnhem, The Netherlands).


Attached Images
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PENTAX K-3  Photo 
View Picture EXIF
PENTAX K-3  Photo 
View Picture EXIF
PENTAX K-3  Photo 
View Picture EXIF
PENTAX K-3  Photo 
View Picture EXIF
PENTAX K-3  Photo 

Last edited by Madaboutpix; 07-19-2017 at 01:37 AM.
07-19-2017, 02:39 AM - 1 Like   #9
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Do make sure you have stabilization turned off when on a tripod. You may also need to use faster shutter speeds than you're used to when shooting hand-held. The test pics look OK to me, and as you pointed out, stop down to at least F8 at the long end for best results.

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07-19-2017, 06:19 AM - 3 Likes   #10
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Adjust fine AF setting at infinity, shoot at a higher shutter speed and higher ISO, wait for SR to actually lock in, don't use filters, use hood if needed, watch out for light direction and avoid harsh light etc. etc.

My old SMC version is fine at 300mm on a K-5ii, handheld. Even wide open :











07-19-2017, 06:45 AM - 2 Likes   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by kh1234567890 Quote
Adjust fine AF setting at infinity, shoot at a higher shutter speed and higher ISO, wait for SR to actually lock in, don't use filters, use hood if needed, watch out for light direction and avoid harsh light etc. etc.

My old SMC version is fine at 300mm on a K-5ii, handheld. Even wide open :
This is my experience as well. I have an FA*300 that I struggle to get better results with, FWIW.

I have a number of (mainly) wildlife shots taken with the SMC 55-300 on Flickr, but due to the slow mobile "broadband" I'm at at the moment I'll post a link to a "DA 55-300" album where I have collected most of them.

Pentax DA 55-300mm | Flickr

Just adding one example from a low light situation in Kgalagadi, South Africa.

SMC DA 55-300 at 300mm, f/5.8, 1/180, ISO 3200
07-19-2017, 06:55 AM - 2 Likes   #12
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I've found the DA 55-300 to be OK, but not great. It really does need f8 at 300mm to be decently sharp and when you are shooting at f8, you need a lot of light in order to have a decent shutter speed. Good technique helps some too. I mainly use it for zoo photos -- well, and the occasional times I've dabbled in birding.

I would say that it wouldn't be my choice of lenses to use for portrait photography. It feels pretty long for that, particularly on APS-C.



07-19-2017, 11:41 AM   #13
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Great shots folks! I love seeing what this lens can do. Very inspiring. Inspiring also to finally get around to checking/adjusting AF setting at infinity. I hope the OP is also benefiting from these responses.
07-19-2017, 01:31 PM   #14
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I'd add a focus shift check...
Use magnified live-view on a tripod, select f/8 or so and use a button you mapped to digital preview in order to stop down the lens.
Mine has a slight shift so that what's in focus w/o isn't when stopped down.
Tell-tale signs are slight magenta/green borders on slightly OoF high-contrast borders (e.g. a test chart).
07-19-2017, 06:09 PM   #15
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working on a test chart to see about the focus of my lens. Im surprised to hear that its better to run it with out any filters. I had been thinking a cp or a haze filter might help some of the issues but it doesn't seem like anyone else is getting that glowing edge I keep seeing. Looks like my best best after the focus is to try shooting at f8 all the time and see if I can accept my results.
If my shots came out as sharp and weird edge free as that parrot I would be happy I think, thanks everyone.

Here is a cropped view of that edge just in case no one else is seeing what I see. Im not sure if this is soft focus/missed focus/ or if its how the light hits the subject causing the issue. If it is that last bit I dont exactly understand why it happens so I can avoid it...
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