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View Poll Results: Which option do you think will best suit me?
HD Pentax-DA 55-300mm F4.5-6.3 ED PLM WR RE 1184.62%
SMC Pentax-M* 300mm 323.08%
TAIR-3S 300mm F4.5 - Fotosniper 17.69%
Takumar 200mm F3.5   00%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 13. You may not vote on this poll

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07-21-2017, 02:52 PM   #16
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QuoteOriginally posted by boriscleto Quote
Not for $450.
I agree. I snagged one for $500 and could not be happier. So yes not for $450. But you may find one in the same zip code.

07-21-2017, 03:40 PM - 1 Like   #17

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I have the DA HD 55-300mm f/5.8-5.6 WR and I am very happy with its performance. I also have the DA* 50-135mm f/2.8, the DA* 200mm f/2.8, and FA* 300mm f/4.5 for maximum quality when I need that. But I have no qualms about going for my DA 55-300mm when I need compactness along with an expanded zoom range. While my very expensive lenses provide excellent images, my little tele zoom does give me very good results! I too have a full-frame Sigma 70-300mm DG APO lens, but my Pentax DA 55-300mm is better and has more zoom range at the short end.

I did not go for the latest DA 55-300mm f/4.5-6.3 PLM lens for several reasons, not necessarily in this order- Its aperture is slower (disadvantage). The new lens's AF can be faster, especially if going from a close to a far distance mainly because of the long throw of the focus collar of the old lens. Not much difference if distance change is not much, but the new lens's AF is quieter (AF advantage). It will not AF at all on older camera bodies, like my K-5 IIs. I'd have to limit its use to my K-S2 or my new KP (disadvantage). The main reason for a telephoto zoom lens is magnification with zoom versatility. The new PLM lens is an internal-focus design and has been tested showing "focus breathing" or "focal-length breathing". This means at distances less than infinity-focus or close to it, there will be an effective shortening of the registered focal length. You will not have a 300mm lens most of the time, and if set at 200mm it really is less than 200mm (disadvantage). Like most people, most of my shots are at nearer than infinity distances. My previous model lens is not internal focussing and will give a fully magnified image at all focal lengths. If I am getting a shot of an animal at 30 or 40 feet, I will have a larger closeup with my older lens. The newer lens can focus closer, but what good is that if your image comes out smaller? Sharpness differences according to test reports between the two are negligible. So in practical terms for my use, the improvement in AF is not worth the disadvantages.

Last edited by mikesbike; 07-21-2017 at 03:47 PM.
07-21-2017, 04:07 PM   #18
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QuoteOriginally posted by fwcetus Quote
I agree with northcoastgreg 100%. I use a K-3, and an F*300/4.5, and now also a 55-300 PLM (while I used to use a 55-300 pre-PLM along with the F* 300/4.5). I use the F* when I can and the PLM when I can't (or when I need a compact walkabout tele), and I am (and have been) quite happy with my 300mm coverage (and would be nearly as happy with the DA* 300/4 or the FA* 300/4.5. along with the 55-300 PLM).
I also agree with Greg. My experience is similar to @fwcetus. I have an FA*300 f4.5 and it's a gem. But for everyday use, and walking around, the 55-300 is very useful, and its performance is more than adequate. In good light, and at f8, with a subject not too distant, the zoom can give very high quality images.

Where you really see the difference between a consumer lens and those a level or two up is in testing conditions - more distant subject, lower light, wider aperture, etc. But that extra performance comes at an often-hefty price (and usually a lot more weight and bulk too). For many users, a good consumer zoom is all they need. But, as Greg said, if you do end up getting a premium long lens (like the DA*300 or the DFA 150-450), the consumer zoom will still have a place in your bag.

I also agree with the earlier comments about MF. I used MF lenses on my film SLR for many years and got reasonably good at MF. But once I went to AF lenses - even a screw-drive superzoom on a K100D Super - I got far more keepers with non-static subjects. All power to those who master MF for wildlife, but AF makes things a lot easier.

And the MFD point mentioned above is another reason to prefer the more modern AF lenses over the M or A series tele primes, or lenses like the Tair. The newer lenses also tend to have better coatings and better correction for CA. And for nature photography, WR is also a significant advantage.

As between the DA 55-300 models, I have the DA-L and the PLM versions. There is not a lot of optical difference between the screw-driven versions (which are identical to one another, except for newer coatings on the WR version) and the PLM version. At f8 you could scarcely tell the difference. The screw-driven versions are not internal focus, and so don't suffer from focus-breathing, so you get (some) more magnification of subjects which are not too distant. Although the PLM is one-third of a stop slower at the long end, my subjective impression is that it is just a little better at f6.3 than the DA-L (at least the bokeh is better), and if you want f5.6 you can back off to about 280mm. The major advantages of the PLM are its quiet and fast AF (the noisy AF is the major drawback of the screw-drive versions), its shorter MFD, and its compact size when retracted.

Last edited by Des; 07-22-2017 at 12:28 AM.
07-21-2017, 06:16 PM - 1 Like   #19
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QuoteOriginally posted by mikesbike Quote
I did not go for the latest DA 55-300mm f/4.5-6.3 PLM lens for several reasons

That reminds me of an additional advantage for the non-PLM (or pre-PLM) 55-300 versions.- cost. The DA WR lens, as new, is about $100 cheaper than the PLM lens (as well as actually being able to fully function on more Pentax DSLR models). Furthermore, if one is in the market for a used 55-300 (and they're all pretty similar in IQ), the prices on the non-PLM lenses have been coming down, too (probably as some new PLM users sell off their non-PLM 55-300's, and as new (or new used) WR users sell of their pre-WR 55-300's). Basically, picking up one of the "older" (but still very useful) 55-300's is one of the better bargains in the world of Pentax tele zooms.

07-21-2017, 06:23 PM   #20
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QuoteOriginally posted by DeadJohn Quote
Here's an example of 55-300 sharpness on a K-5. It will be sharper on your K-3; you have more pixels and no AA blur filter in front of your sensor. I can read the small text in the full resolution version. The poor color is because of gray skies, not a lens issue.

Nice shot, DeadJohn -- that's a good example of just what any of the 55-300's can do, as long as one stays within their "consumer lens" limits.

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