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09-03-2021, 03:35 PM   #1
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SMC Pentax-A* 300mm F4 vs DA* 300mm f4?

Hello,

I have been birding with my very compact and quite old A* 300 manual lenses (Manufactured in the 80s) for a couple of year and I am wondering if I would improve my hit rate going to the more modern DA* 300 instead.

I am asking because I recently went to a photo store and the clerk commented that lens designed in the film era would never be as sharp as a digital lenses. I suppose technology has improved by leaps and bounds since the early 80s. My overall goal is to have more keeper and overall sharper pictures. That said, I love the form factor and weight of the A*. Would I be better off upgrading my body from K3 to a K3 iii or get a more recent lenses? (Or perhaps both.)

Obviously, I realize that the manual focus on the old A* is less than ideal for BIF. But even for standing birds, and being used to using a manual lenses, It's sometime tricky to have eyes in focus. So what do you think, would I get more bang for the $ to get a newer lenses (DA* 300) or a newer body, specifically K3 iii?

Thanks!!

09-03-2021, 04:40 PM - 1 Like   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by Pentagel Quote
Hello,

I have been birding with my very compact and quite old A* 300 manual lenses (Manufactured in the 80s) for a couple of year and I am wondering if I would improve my hit rate going to the more modern DA* 300 instead.

I am asking because I recently went to a photo store and the clerk commented that lens designed in the film era would never be as sharp as a digital lenses. I suppose technology has improved by leaps and bounds since the early 80s. My overall goal is to have more keeper and overall sharper pictures. That said, I love the form factor and weight of the A*. Would I be better off upgrading my body from K3 to a K3 iii or get a more recent lenses? (Or perhaps both.)

Obviously, I realize that the manual focus on the old A* is less than ideal for BIF. But even for standing birds, and being used to using a manual lenses, It's sometime tricky to have eyes in focus. So what do you think, would I get more bang for the $ to get a newer lenses (DA* 300) or a newer body, specifically K3 iii?

Thanks!!
If you are indeed happy with Manual focus then to the question K3iii or DA 300 I would say neither.
There is a lot of people in this forum (myself included) who collect and use older lenses and a large part of our motive is celebrating the fact they are so good even when stacked against modern "digital" glass. I really don't feel handicapped by the fact that the newest of my working lenses is over 20 years old.
And if you are happy with manual focus what advantage can the K3iii give you over the K3? A bit of iso performance?.
09-03-2021, 05:04 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Pentagel Quote

I am asking because I recently went to a photo store and the clerk commented that lens designed in the film era would never be as sharp as a digital lenses. I suppose technology has improved by leaps and bounds since the early 80s.
That's probably true for most lenses, but not all. I am very happy with my DA*, but have never used an A*. Hopefully some users that have owned both can chime in.
09-03-2021, 05:07 PM   #4
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Until they decide to improve the SDM AF speed on the DA*300, then it’s questionable whether you’ll get any better keeper rate with it than with your present A*300, but that depends on whether your keeper rate concern lies with static or in-flight subjects. If you feel you need AF anyway, my thought is that the older F*300/4.5 would possibly serve you better, particularly as it’s more compact than the DA*300, whose AF is quiet, but not all that quick for moving subjects.

Although birds are not a big part of my repertoire, I was quite happy with the performance of the F*300 on my K-3, but I’m even happier with it on the K-3iii, because the larger viewfinder image makes framing (and manual focus) easier, and because of the improved AF subject recognition and AF speed (I think the in-body drive is also a bit quieter, but that’s just an impression). So, if you do decide to change lens and body, the saving on the F*300 over the DA*300 could go toward changing to the K-3iii.


Last edited by RobA_Oz; 09-06-2021 at 02:31 AM.
09-03-2021, 07:48 PM   #5
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The fa* 300 is also smaller and lighter than the da* but both the F and FA* are f4.5 which gives up a small amount of aperture.
09-03-2021, 08:56 PM - 1 Like   #6
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I don't know, I bought a DA*300 this year and I don't have any other 300mm lenses to compare to but I can say with 100% certainty that the so called slow SDM AF on that lens is faster and more accurate than my manual focusing attempts with the same lens. From my own comparisons before buying my DA*300 it looks to me like the F* FA* and DA* all have very similar and excellent image quality and all work well on the HDDA 1.4TC. So you have to decide if warranty, weather sealing, and the latest coatings are worth it. In my opinion the SDM is not a problem amd the size and weight of the lens is easy to carry for hours on a K3 or a K1 and balances nicely for handheld shooting with or without the 1.4TC.

In regard to the DA*300 vs K3III I feel like the new AF system is lost on your A*300 and as you mentioned birds in flight are not really an option or at least not easy. Personally I would opt for the DA*300 first. At up to ISO800 the images are still really clean and nice on a K3 and for static shots the AF combined with the SDM drive on a K3 is still very good. I have read reports that the tracking performance of the DA*300+1.4TC is much improved on a K3III but since you don't do a lot of BIF shots now maybe that can wait until you get a K3III some time down the road. Really only you can decide though, what is most important.

Last edited by vector; 09-03-2021 at 09:32 PM.
09-04-2021, 12:37 AM   #7
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Try it out, rent a kit.
You are making the MF to AF step, K3 to K3iii, A* to DA*Ö
I hope to see an updated 300 soon, a new TC for FF. Best option is the 150-450 these days which is everything but compact. Donít buy into other older glass with electronics inside like FA*.

09-04-2021, 01:41 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Pentagel Quote
I recently went to a photo store and the clerk commented that lens designed in the film era would never be as sharp as a digital lensesÖ.
Itís reassuring to hear shop staff can still be as dependable as a nine dollar note! That A* 300 was, and is, an excellent lens.
09-04-2021, 03:23 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by StiffLegged Quote
It’s reassuring to hear shop staff can still be as dependable as a nine dollar note! That A* 300 was, and is, an excellent lens.
As a owner of both, the A*300/4 and the DA*300/4, I can say the DA* has little but important opportunity over the really very good A*300/4 and thats its better minimal focus distance of 140 cm. The A*300/4 has a min focus of 400cm! From f5.6 it is very sharp and has a nice bokeh.
I bought the DA*300/4 exactly because of its better min focus distance and AF. But if you can life with manual focus and maybe have a extension tube you got a very good light and small package. Yes the A*300/4 is an excellent lens! ... and by the way it is the smallest 300 f4 lens ever was built!
09-04-2021, 03:39 AM   #10
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The one thing I can comment on when shooting wildlife with older lenses , can’t speak about the A300/4 specifically as I have the K300/4, is that while you may have equal sharpness, you give up not just on focus speed, but also some times with lateral CA, and purple fringing.

Fringing especially can be an issue with older glass, but even my old K300/4 is lighter than the DA300/4.
09-05-2021, 03:19 AM   #11
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I think I may be out of step with experiences of some other members as I found the A*300 to be a very good lens (an improvement on the K300) but the notable step up in optical performance came when the F* & FA* were introduced. The DA*300 managed to improve on the maximum aperture (of its 2 AF predecessors) and all 3 AF versions are capable of producing top results at their maximum aperture, whereas I found that the A* needed to be stopped down a little to get really good performance most of the time.

Don't get me wrong - the A* is a super little lens with many benefits, but AF is a big plus for many subjects and I think your keeper rate would improve with a DA*. I've owned all 5 versions and I'm happiest with my F*300/4.5, not because it is better than the DA* (I don't believe it is) but because it is the right size, weight and IQ for my needs. If I was buying again today I would choose the DA* simply because the F and FA stock are ageing so will become more difficult to get repaired, and excellent condition copies are very pricey.

Hope that helps a little
09-05-2021, 05:47 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Pentagel Quote
I love the form factor and weight of the A*. Would I be better off upgrading my body from K3 to a K3 iii or get a more recent lenses? (Or perhaps both.)

So what do you think, would I get more bang for the $ to get a newer lenses (DA* 300) or a newer body, specifically K3 iii?
The optical image quality of your lens is very good.
Pentax 300 lens choice - PentaxForums.com
300/ 4 A* vs. 300/ 4.5 F* - PentaxForums.com
FA* 300mm 4.5 VS A* 645 300mm f4 - PentaxForums.com
Pentax 300 vs 55-300 - PentaxForums.com
DA 55-300 vs sigma 170-500 vs 300 f/4 A* - PentaxForums.com
Which 300 mm lens is better? - PentaxForums.com
Smc 300/ 4 a* - PentaxForums.com

So the only difference would be the autofocus.
Prime Lenses between 280mm and 320mm, F4 and F5.6 | PentaxForums.com

An upgrade from K-3 to K-3 III would make the biggest change in image quality. And you can see if the AF focus confirm function is more precise than with your current K-3.
Focus confirmation in manual focus mode - PentaxForums.com
Focus confirmation with mf lens - PentaxForums.com
Trust focus confirm or my eyes? - PentaxForums.com
Focus confirm - PentaxForums.com
Focus confirmation with manual lenses - PentaxForums.com


QuoteOriginally posted by Pentagel Quote
I recently went to a photo store and the clerk commented that lens designed in the film era would never be as sharp as a digital lenses. I suppose technology has improved by leaps and bounds since the early 80s.

would I get more bang for the $ to get a newer lenses (DA* 300) or a newer body, specifically K3 iii?
The clerc was a motivated. He either is not qualified or did lie to you.

It doesn't matter if film era or later, only the optical quality counts. And this is independent from time, there are 40 year old lenses which outperform modern glass.
In this Thread i wrote all you need to know about legacy glass and film era lenses:
pentaxforums.com/forums/10-pentax-slr-lens-discussion/420463-who-needs-modern-lenses.html#post5211865
pentaxforums.com/forums/10-pentax-slr-lens-discussion/420463-who-needs-modern-lenses.html#post5211891
pentaxforums.com/forums/10-pentax-slr-lens-discussion/420463-who-needs-modern-lenses.html#post5212503
pentaxforums.com/forums/10-pentax-slr-lens-discussion/420463-who-needs-modern-lenses-2.html#post5231761
pentaxforums.com/forums/10-pentax-slr-lens-discussion/420463-who-needs-modern-lenses-2.html#post5358313


QuoteOriginally posted by zapp Quote
Best option is the 150-450 these days which is everything but compact.

Donít buy into other older glass with electronics inside like FA*.
First isn't correct.
DA* 300mm f4 is the faster aperture, higher resolution, lower price&weight solution besides the D FA 150-450mm. So everyone can choose corresponding to the own need.

Second is wrong and unfounded.
Older F* and FA* glass mostly offers same image quality with faster AF and have less electronics inside than current lenses.
Also electronics in FA* lenses is very reliable.

Last edited by angerdan; 09-05-2021 at 06:12 AM.
09-05-2021, 04:17 PM   #13
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Thank you for all the answers! I have lots to consider now. Still not sure which way I will go, but now I have a lot more information to make an educated decision. Thank you!
09-05-2021, 11:44 PM   #14
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What method are you using to manual focus? Through the viewfinder? Do you use the focus confirm and beep, or catch in focus, or neither? Have you got eyepiece O-ME53 or another magnifier? Have you installed an aftermarket or DIY split prism focusing screen?

It's possible you can improve your keeper rate by improving your manual focus skills, or with a cheaper accessory, rather than going for a big upgrade.
It doesn't really sound like the (slightly if any) sharper lens will improve your keeper rate, although I bet switching from manual to auto focus will make a huge difference. And the newer body with your same lens will still require you to manual focus correctly, since the lens is still manual. It may be better at confirm or catch in focus, since it has much improved focus detection, but that only helps if you use one of those methods.
09-07-2021, 05:56 PM   #15
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Try real hard to find Pentax 1.7AF converter. Letís manual focus behave kinda like an autofocus. So itíll be a 510mm
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