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03-07-2009, 06:43 PM   #1
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yeedub's Avatar

Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Vancouver BC Canada
Posts: 78
DA* 300mm F4 versus predecessors

How does the new DA* compare to the older F* and FA* lenses?

I know the DA* is heavier and larger, but has the benefit of weather sealing, SDM, and quickshift focus.

1) Which one works better with TCs such as the Tamron 1.4x or Kenko 1.5x?
2) Wide open quality: DA* f4 versus f4.5 on the older 300's?
3) Overall use and satisfaction

Thanks!

03-08-2009, 12:16 PM   #2
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Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Posts: 264
Interesting thread, I am also wondering the same... I found that F* and FA* 300mm are the same lens, just external differences but how do they compare with newer DA* 300mm?

I will follow this...
03-08-2009, 02:21 PM   #3
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Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Chicago suburb, IL, USA
Posts: 1,535
Hi yeedub,

I can offer a little info. . .

I have been using an FA*300/4.5 for a couple of years, and recently got a chance to play with a DA* 300/4 for a brief time. I found the DA* to be a bit improved in IQ in that it seemed a touch sharper wide open, with possibly a bit better control of CA and PF, and the min focusing distance is quite a bit closer. Of course, the max aperture is 1/3 stop faster. I didn't find the handling to be that much different, tho I did like the ability to use Quick Shift focusing. Realize that I really can't make any definitive comparisons in IQ -- these are just quick impressions.

Though the F* and FA* 300/4.5s are the same optically, there are some significant differences in using the lens. The tripod mount is not that much of an advantage for the F* as there are aftermarket alternatives available, and I personally use the FA* 300/4.5 as a handheld lens, even with TCs. The F* has an integral hood, and the FA*s hood is a bit fiddly, but it has the best attachment system that I've seen for a bayonet style hood. With the F*, one needs to switch both the lens and the camera body to MF to disengage the motor's drive, while with the FA*, you only need to pull the focus ring back. I never owned an F*, but it's been said that the white paint is more durable than the silver of the FA*. I've banged my FA* about quite a bit, and haven't had any paint problems with it. My recently acquired FA* 300/2.8 does have a few significant scratches and some very small chips though, so I can understand the concern with paint durability though it remains a low priority feature for me.

I have no idea how the DA* works with TCs, but I don't think anyone would venture to guarantee how it would work (read AF, especially with SDM) with any given TC -- my experience is that SDM is pretty fussy (at least with the DA* 50-135). I do know that the FA* focuses well with a Tamron F 1.4x AF TC, Sigma EX 1.4x APO TC, and the Pentax F 1.7x AFA. Image degradation is not a major issue with any of these TCs with this lens, and I do not hesitate to mount any of them. . . when there's enough light, of course.

Currently, my setup is to use the FA*300/2.8 (with or w/o TCs) on the K20 with a Red Dot Sight as a spotter, mounted on a reasonably heavy Amvona CF tripod, Manfrotto 468MG, and Wimberley Sidekick, and have either my K10 or my DS on a neck strap with the FA*300/4.5 (with or w/o TCs) for those shots which always seem to present themselves that are outside the positional range of the tripod mounted gear.

Bottom line, IMO, there's little or no reason to not get the DA* over the F* or FA* as far as I'm concerned, but I chose to stick with my FA* for now. I could see buying a DA* sometime in the future, as the SDM, closer focusing, weather sealing, and QS focusing are significant features.

Scott
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