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05-10-2009, 11:14 PM   #1
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Econ 200mm lens comparison

I just completed an informal comparison of everything I have around here at the moment that would cover 200mm without a TC. This is far from a test, but I thought it might be of interest here. These are ALL economy 200ís.

All comparisons were at F 8, ISO 200, in a K200D on tripod using Best JPG mode with +1 contrast and +1 sharpening as the only corrections. There were eight lenses. Images were made at 8, 36 and 110 feet and all shots were duplicated to ensure there was no abnormal results.

Lenses are listed in order of personal preference and graded A or B.

- A = best of the group and such that side-by-side comparison is needed to rank within that grade.
- B = very acceptable performance but noticeably not an A lens. May perform better than B-grade at some particular task or at other than F 8 or these distances as noted through prior experience.

Tamron 75-300 LD @200mm [A+] This lens continues to surprise me, but perhaps it shouldnít. I havenít tried the 70-300 LD Di version, but this is the best of the econ 300ís Iíve used. It was as sharp as the better of the two DA 50-200ís and seems to me to have more pleasing contrast, color and bokeh. Experience confirms that this is generally true at other apertures and distances, it plays well with modern TCís, and CA/PF is noticeably less than the 70-300 LD. It is worth noting that this full-frame, non-Di lens is still in production while the 70-300 LD was upgraded for the digital market. Iíd speculate that it was already good enough that Tamron didnít want it to compete with the Di lens marketing.

Two Pentax DA 50-200s @200mm [A, A-] Thereís not much that can be added to whatís already available on this kit lens and it lives up to its reputation. It ran second to the 75-300 based on personal preference in rendering. There was just enough difference in sharpness between the two DAs that I split the ranking.

Tamron 70-300 LD (not Di) @200mm [B+] The known CA/PF characteristics of this lens are likely what would rank it less than the DA 50-200 in normal use. Experience tells me Iíd prefer the 75-300 over this lens although CA/PF was not noticeably present under the lighting conditions present in this situation.

SMC Pentax-M 80-200 / f 4.5 [B+] Another surprise. As good as the three primes at all three distances and almost an A- grade in sharpness and contrast. I havenít used this lens much except at 200mm on digital bodies but aside from the convenience of AE/AF Iíd rank it along side the 70-300 LD. For a lens that often trades for less than $35 this is in a class with the Tamrons for those that donít mind using the green-button.

All three of these primes are excellent at their best but give up a little something at their worst. Iíve given a 1,2,3 grade for near, middle and long distance for each lens in a relative ranking keeping in mind that these notes are for F 8 only:

Pentax Super Takumar 200 / f 4.0 [B ] grade 3,2,1. This lens seems optimized for the longer distances. Worst sharpness of any lens tested at 8 feet. BUT Ė you just canít help but smile when you pick up one of these older Takumar lenses. Always a pleasure to use. This lens didnít seem as compatible with the in-focus indications as the others at close range for some reason.

Vivitar 200 / f 3.5 [B] grade 1,2,3. Generally lives up to its good reputation. Seems optimized for closer ranges. Worked best with the in-focus indications

Vivitar 200 / f 4.0 [B] grade 2,2,2. Under each condition it almost makes the A-ranking. If I had to pick just one of the three primes it would be this one because itís very consistent and the most compact.

This exercise eventually involved over 60 images so I wonít attempt to show everything, but here are the three close, medium and long range images for the zoom and close and medium for the prime groups as being representative of the capabilities of this class of lenses. Note the variation in shutter speed at F 8 for each lens.


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05-10-2009, 11:24 PM   #2
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Econ 200mm lens - last pic

The primes at longer range.

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05-11-2009, 12:45 AM   #3
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Merged your two threads.

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