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06-21-2022, 02:25 PM   #1
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Your Thoughts on Pentax DA 55-300 f4.5-6.3 ED PLM WR RE with 1.4 TC for safari trips

Once every couple of years I have been blessed to be able to take an African photo safari. My kit includes two K3 bodies with the following lenses: Sigma 18-250 f3.5-6.3 DC Macro HSM, Sigma 70-200 F2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM (which I absolutely LOVE), and a Sigma 18-50 F2.8 DC EX Macro (which I hardly ever use, but continue to carry just in case because of the wide angle + f2.8 combo). I also had and used a Sigma 50-500 big ma, but it became too heavy for me to handle and I sold it. The K3 has taken lovely large and frameable photos, so I am not looking to upgrade my camera bodies at this point. I miss the reach of the 50-500, but only on safari trips. That was the only time I used it. I COULD perhaps rent a 150-600 just for those trips, but if I was going to do that and carry that much weight, then why did I not just keep my 50-500? So, no - too heavy and big. (We are also limited in weight when we fly on small planes from camp to camp within Botswana. So sometimes it's a balancing act between camera weight and clothes). I cannot just get a teleconverter to boost my 70-200 or 18-250, because there are no TCs that will work with my HSM lenses. I have tried. None. And using a TC with the 18-50 is a waste of time for what I photograph.

So...I am musing (once again) about how to get a longer reach while not having a lot bigger lens or much more weight to carry around, and such a lens needs to NOT be an HSM lens if I want to add a TC.

Here's what I am presently looking at as of today: the Pentax DA 55-300 f4.5-6.3 ED PLM WR RE lens, which is retractable (a plus for the smaller packing area required) with a size of only 3.5 inches long when retracted, and weighing only about 1 pound. That really beats the so much larger and heavier 50-500 big ma I was carrying around on earlier trips. I also confirmed with the B&H online chat person that the Pentax 1.4 teleconverter WILL work with this lens on my K3 camera. I know I will lose one stop by adding the TC, but if used in full sunlight in Africa, I don't see that as a deal breaker. I must admit that I am getting to that age where the size and weight of my camera equipment has become an important qualification, and carrying two camera bodies and probably three different lenses gets a bit heavy overall.

So, once again, I am considering purchasing new equipment - the 55-300 lens and the 1.4x teleconverter. I would also take both the 70-200 f2.8 and the 18-250 lenses with me. But having the longer reach is something I have missed on two previous trips. I have not considered buying a fixed length prime lens, partly due to cost and partly because I like being able to zoom when composing my pix.

I always appreciate the opinions I get from this forum. What do you think about my newest approach of maybe buying the 55-300 + 1.4 TC? Would you recommend the lens? Why or why not?

Thanks for your input, as always,
Mary in Los Angeles

06-21-2022, 03:07 PM   #2
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Hi Mary. A solid recommendation from me - compact for travelling, very good performance, lightning-fast AF. Mine is coming away with us this coming week to the UK Lake District. I donít have the TC but folks here really rate it.
06-21-2022, 04:03 PM   #3
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I have the DA 1.4 TC and the 55-300PLM, and I would highly recommend the combination. Below are photos of the combo on my KP, which happened to be sitting on the desk when I read your post. In full sunlight you will have no problems with this combo. I use it quite a bit when going to the beach and kayaking. Some days I may opt to use the DA*300 instead of the 55-300, but that of course is not with a space consideration like you have. Sometimes I will take it over the 300 because of the zoom capability, as you have mentioned being helpful, and that can mean less lens changes (which I do not change in the kayak or generally at the beach.).

The perspective is kind of bad here being directly over the camera with a cell phone, it's almost exactly 7 inches from back of the camera to the end of the front lens cap with the hood reversed. The camera is a KP, so add 1.5mm for a K-3.

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06-21-2022, 05:38 PM   #4
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The 55-300 PLM is a great lens. Combine it with something for the short range and I reckon it's almost the perfect holiday lens combination.

06-21-2022, 06:01 PM   #5
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I've been to Tanzania twice

each time, my 150-450mm was one of the lenses I took

the last time I also had a 55 -300 PLM

the PLM came into play when the 150-450 separated in the Serengeti

in my limited experience, since the largest part of my time was photographing from the vehicle, the weight of the 150-450 was not a problem

not sure of the time table but there was time and if the $ was right, perhaps the PLM and 1.4 and the 150-450 could be rented for a short period of time so the OP could do a " test " before deciding

QuoteQuote:
Information on Businesses that offer cameras and lenses for rent
Information on Businesses that offer cameras and lenses for rent - Page 3 - PentaxForums.com

Last edited by aslyfox; 06-22-2022 at 05:22 AM.
06-21-2022, 07:13 PM   #6
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The 55-300 plm is a great lens. Itís light and fast focusing. If you need more reach and you canít deal with the bill and weight of the 50-500, the goto recommendation (150-450) is going to be rolled out as it weighs more than the 50-500.

Looking at the whole kit are you good with the weight?
06-21-2022, 08:48 PM   #7
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I use the combo all the time. Anything from large bugs up close to small birds far away.

06-21-2022, 09:09 PM   #8
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Lens for your safari

According to the reviews found in the forum the 55-300mm is a very good lens bot not a ďgreatĒ one. For an African photo trip or safari I think I would want a better one. I donít have the 55-300 and have never used one, but I do have the new 60-250 which is heavy and expensive, but renders an excellent image from almost every perspective. How important that is vs the cost and weight issues is entirely up to you. Good luck!
06-21-2022, 09:29 PM   #9
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Typically, the 100mm - 400mm FF equivalent zoom lenses are for safari photography, and 600mm and beyond for birding or hide photography. That's because a zoom is the solution for varying shooting distance and subject sizes, and the 600 primes are best for when the subject is small and/or shy, requiring to crop, enhance ultimate sharpness. Those 150-600 lenses are more a recent marketing response to the desires of amateur photographers to cover all applications with a single lens, without quite knowing what they are doing or without the budget for long primes. You normally don't need the 400-600mm range for safari. Pentax 55-300 on a K-3 camera is just fine for safaris, not sure a TC is even needed.
06-22-2022, 01:42 AM   #10
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Until I bought the 150-450mm, my 55-300mm PLM was my main lens. I used it for close-ups of dragon-flies (it has a great minimum focus distance), to bird photography. Being so light, it was easy to carry around, easy to maintain focus on a subject hand-held without fighting gravity (as with the 150-450mm) and generally very sharp. And very fast autofocus. I did get the feeling once or twice that, beyond a certain distance, its resolving power lessened a little (the 150-450mm on the other hand is IQ personified) but that may not be true.
I recently bought the Pentax 1.4x, but have only mated it with the 150-450mm lens so far, not the 55-300mm PLM.
A link to "macro" type use of the 55-300 PLM for close-ups:
Yeh, I know - another red dragonfly! - PentaxForums.com
06-22-2022, 08:38 AM - 1 Like   #11
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You have to decide what compromises are best for you.
The ks-2, 55-300 plm and the 1.4x tc is best for me. I go on local park safaris every day. I ride my bike to the park with just that combo on my camera around my shoulder. I do some post to clean up. This is a typical shot. I had to use a 2000 shutter to stop motion and ISO 2200. I still cropped the height down to 57% original frame on my ks-2.

Here is another "safari" shot in winter light. at 364mm. (364mm gives f/8, any longer goes to f/9.5) at 1600 shutter and 400 ISO. The coyotes are about a football field away. This is not cropped.

granted that I don't print many and they are for documenting and remembering the moment mostly.

I did print this one to hang in the bathroom. It was shot at 266mm so I didn't need the tc.
06-22-2022, 09:46 AM   #12
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Good information from all of you, as usual. Yes, I'm good with carrying the overall weight of two K3 bodies, the 70-200 lens, the 18-250, then probably/possibly(?) now adding the 55-300 + 1.4TC. I have had the 50-500 along with those first two lenses in the past, which I will no longer have. It was doable, but big and heavy, and my arm was sore for about the first two days of safari from holding up that 50-500 all day. (I know - tripod or monopod - but I don't like using one. It just gets in my way.) So I will be cutting down the overall weight and the overall space needed as well. I've got good camera/lens wraps for all my stuff, and then we split it between our two backpack carry-ons, additionally padded with t-shirts. My husband sometimes jokingly calls himself my "camera bearer". His kit is only a good pair of binoculars.

I don't want to add another heavy lens, even though I have drooled over the 150-450 a few times. In that case, I would have kept my 50-500 if I wanted to go heavy and large.

ASLYFOX, the weight of the overall kit inside the vehicle isn't my problem. It's just that the extra weight while moving through airports and customs lines, etc. gets to be very wearing for me in recent years. So I've been looking for how to get a longer reach and reduce weight at the same time, and had hoped I could add a TC to my 70-200 f2.8. But no luck with that; thanks a lot, Sigma. I was pleased to see that there is that possibility with the 1.4TC and the Pentax 55-300 lens. I remember you saying during a previous post a few years back that you had that lens catastrophe in Tanzania. What an awful shock that must have been. So far, I only did that once in Montana. Dropped a zoom off the edge of a cliff while I was carefully changing lenses. We drove the next day to a camera store to get another lens! Not possible in Botswana.

I could maybe decide to rent both the 55-300 and the TC when we travel to Africa again - just for the trip. But the cost of buying both is not so astronomical that I can't handle it just now. I'll have to check on the rental situation and see what makes the most sense. I might want to just buy both and have them available all the time.

Very nice shots, SWANLEFITTE. Thanks for sharing them. I have so many of my wildlife photos framed around our house that the problem after each trip is to figure out which ones come down to make room for new ones. I have sold some, but it's not a big business for me, as I am not good at promotion. I have a "store" on the Zazzle platform (zazzle.com/lippoldsafariphotos) in which I sell a lot of my pix on their products, as well as on prints and canvas. But mostly, the photos are for memories and an enticement to looking forward to what the next trip could bring.

I will now keep pondering a new purchase for just a bit. I think the answer will very likely be yes. Thanks to all, once again, for your input. If there are any additional comments, I'll keep looking back here to see.
06-22-2022, 10:54 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mary Lippold Quote
. . . I'll have to check on the rental situation . . . .
check out LensRental.com and consider getting on their mailing list

they send out discount deals from time to time

and they had no problem with me taking one of their 20-40mm on a trip to Tanzania
06-22-2022, 12:58 PM - 1 Like   #14
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Yes, aslyfox, I've rented from LensRental before. I have twice rented a Sigma 18-35 f1.8 DC HSM Art lens from them - trying to get the best low light at night in Africa with just a spotlight from the vehicle. It is a great lens, but I don't think I'll go with it again. Even with that f1./8 it's just too darn dark at night on game drives to get really sharp pix. The pix were only so-so. So I will keep those particular images in my brain if my f2.8 isn't enough. I even thought of adding a night vision video camera at one point, but I decided that's just going way beyond what I need or want.

I actually got excited and just went ahead and bought the 55-300 lens and the 1.4 TC just a few minutes ago. Done deal. I found a used lens from B&H (whose quality I totally trust), and added a UV filter. Then I found a used 1.4 TC at KEH Camera. Free shipping from both. Saved myself about $145 before taxes. I have had good luck with used equipment as long as it has come from reputable dealers.

I'm a happy safari-er now. And I think I will like having the 55-300 lens to use all by itself in future as well. And now....I think I've pretty much got all bases covered.
06-22-2022, 01:06 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mary Lippold Quote
Yes, I'm good with carrying the overall weight of two K3 bodies, the 70-200 lens, the 18-250, then probably/possibly(?) now adding the 55-300 + 1.4TC.
Why take the 18-250 in that mix? It weighs roughly 450g. An HD RE 18-50 is 300g lighter. The 18-135 is 50g lighter. An HD 20-40 is roughly 170g lighter. All of these offer equal or better image quality, but lack the long end of that lens and wonít provide any backup to the PLM should it fail for any reason.

QuoteOriginally posted by Mary Lippold Quote
Ö how to get a longer reach and reduce weight at the same time, and had hoped I could add a TC to my 70-200 f2.8. But no luck with that; thanks a lot, Sigma. I was pleased to see that there is that possibility with the 1.4TC and the Pentax 55-300 lens.
Your Sigma 70-200 may not work with a tc but the new Pentax D FA does. The old FA* 80-200 also works with one as another option. The current 70-210/4 D FA also works with the tc.

If open to it the KP is lighter than the k-3 and adds significant low light improvements and better autofocus in challenging light. A k70 also is lighter and brings more low light capabilities. Than the k-3. But both require a smaller battery and adjustments to how they feel/work.

---------- Post added 06-22-22 at 04:09 PM ----------

Is this your Sigma? Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG APO Macro HSM II Lens Reviews - Sigma Lenses - Pentax Lens Review Database

If so renting (or buying) a 70-210/4 would give you fast focusing and still pair with the teleconverter as a backup to the 55-300. Itís also 500g lighter. The DA* 60-250 is another 200+g but gives a longer range than either lens and works with the tc. It is slower focusing however. The big D FA 70-200/2.8 is heavier than your Sigma but pairs nicely with the tc. It 280mm is sufficient you could leave the 55-300 off the list but then you have no backup if something dies.

Last edited by UncleVanya; 06-22-2022 at 01:14 PM.
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