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07-02-2009, 06:12 AM   #1
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Sell or keep Pentax 55-300?

As you can see I'm new to here at least as a member. But I've brought a question with me (yay!)

2 or 3 months ago I bought a Pentax 55-300 (I had a Lumix FZ-18 before and thought I'd need the reach).
But I've read nothing but praise for the legendary 2.5/135 so I got curious. After losing several auctions for it I had to buy something - so I got myself a Revue 2.8/135 RB (K-Mount) for 27€ (~$38).
"Unfortunately" even this lens outperforms the 55-300 on almost every level (except autofocus and FLs of 55-134 and 136-300). It isn't as contrasty and it renders cooler colours than Pentax (know issue). But is has better (edge to edge) sharpness/resolution and clearly less distortion - and it's f/2.8. Sure there is a lot of PF and it's soft at f/2.8 but it's useable. From f/5.6 upwards center sharpness is about equal but the 55-300 never gets this good at the edges - they always seem fuzzier.

The 55-300 cost me 200€ ($280) new (got 20% rebate), the Revue just 27€.
To make things worse for the 55-300 I finally won an auction for the 2.5/135 (~80€/$110 visible used condition). This old prime is another class above the
Revue and therefore out of reach for the 55-300. It's also cooler and less contrasty than the 55-300 but saturation and contrast is something you can change in post processing - resolution isn't. Both the Revue and the Pentax 135 have another thing for them which I really like: their build quality. Compared to them the 55-300 looks and feels cheap.

The question is now: should I sell or keep the 55-300 (the Revue is already sold in my head)? As you can see I've already made my decision (80%) but I want to read your thoughts.
Will I miss it when I've sold it - probably. The 135 is a prime - so I'd lose every FL except 135mm of course (and 270mm if I finally find a Vivitar 2X Macro Focusing Teleconverter).
The autofocus is nice but not absolutely necessary. I get along pretty good with my 3 prime set and a split prism focusing screen. Another important point to consider is that 55-300s now sells for 230-250€ on ebay - I paid 200€.

Thanks for reading.

Last edited by Egg Salad; 07-03-2009 at 08:17 AM.
07-02-2009, 10:55 AM   #2
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good primes will always be better than good zooms at its respective focal length, until the aperture is stopped down 2-3 stops.

i enjoy primes because they do not compromise image quality, and are usually faster than zooms. however, this means, i carry around a number of primes and it gets heavy, even though they are small.

zooms make compromises in IQ and speed for convenience.

your prime beats your zoom at every aperture probably until around f/8 where it will even out (but maybe not. but 55-300mm is a good lens). your zoom beats your prime at every focal length except 135mm.

get rid of either and you will miss one lens' strength sooner or later. you will wish you had a faster lens for cloudy days, or you will miss the 300mm length when you see a bird that is just far enough away.

keep them both
07-02-2009, 03:48 PM   #3
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The Vivitar macro focusing teleconverter will not focus to infinity. It is intended for macro use only.
07-02-2009, 04:57 PM   #4
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Another vote for keeping them both.
55-300 is just that much more versatile, and stopped down a little is sharp as a tack.

07-02-2009, 07:39 PM   #5
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Different lenses for different purposes. I wouldn't want to give up either lens, especially now that I have a good copy of the 55-300.

My first copy was sharp only in the center, - the edges were unacceptably blurry to me and I had planned on selling it or junking it because I was so dissatisfied. Based on some comparison shots posted here, I ended up returning mine for warranty repair and Pentax sent me a new lens. My first outing with the new one was to take some architectural pictures and all of them came out very nicely - I was amazed at the differences. Does its 300mm sharpness match the A*300? No, but then I wouldn't expect it to. Does it give me a useable picture at 300mm? Certainly. It means that I've given up the thought of replacing it with a faster lens.
07-02-2009, 10:48 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by pentaxman Quote
The Vivitar macro focusing teleconverter will not focus to infinity. It is intended for macro use only.
Mine does just fine at infinity - it even has an infinity mark on its focus ring.

But I'm not sure the OP's idea is practical. He's already spent 80 euros if he can sell the Revue lens for 27. A Vivitar MFTC might run another 40-50, less for the version with no A contacts, not sure of the going price today in euros. That gives him 2 possible focal lengths and maybe 80 euros to acquire more. A Pentax-M 50mm f1.7 would work great with the Vivitar because that's what it was designed for. He'd have 50/1.7, 100/3.5, 135/2.5 and 270/4.7, all manual focus, stop-down metering, M mode and full-power flash. And save something like 60 euros. I like manual lenses and primes and doing things the hard way to save money, but that's a lot of sacrifice for a very small gain.
07-03-2009, 03:14 AM   #7
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Perhaps I should have told that I also have the M 3.5/28 and the A 1.7/50.
And primarily I try to get that TC for the 50, not the 135 - that would be a bonus.
I know this TC is optimised for macro work and performance at inifinity (yes it does infinity) isn't this good but it's still giving me that longer reach and with the 2.5/135 that would give me acceptable 4.7/270 instead of 5.6/270. Sure IQ/resolution will suffer but with the superior performance without the TC it could be a ok performance with it.

Around 40€/$60 for the TC seems realistic - I've seen them selling for everything between 22€/$30 (M-version) and 76€/$104 (A-version, like new)
If you get lucky they can get rather cheap sometimes pretty expensive. That's the odds of ebay.

And you don't have to "worry" about M-Mode and stop-down metering only - I found a way to convert my lenses to work like A-ones. Main part is the aluminium foil trick and aperture lever modification. So I have multi-segment metering, P-TTL, all exposure modes, exif-data and automatic aperture (I will hopefully soon post a how-to).
So I don't need A-lenses.

And oh, I was wrong. I just looked at the bill and saw it's older than I thought. I have this lens since december 2008. Perhaps my copy is sub-par but even if it is now it's too late to return it.
This make things even more clear to me - I now own it half a year and haven't even really used it.

I think I'll defintely decide when I have this TC and can compare how they perform.

Pentax 55-300@135mm f/8 (focused on the edge of the roof)

Revue 135mm f/8

Pentax 55-300@135mm f/8 (focused on the text in the middle)

Revue 135mm f/8

Last edited by Egg Salad; 07-04-2009 at 10:38 AM.
07-22-2009, 12:03 PM   #8
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Ok, so I got this Vivitar 2X Macro focusing TC (non A-version) and I tested it a little bit. Conclusions so far: really good when used with the 1.7/50 very heavy when paired with the 2.5/135.
I made some comparisons between the 55-300, the 135 + TC and a 200% crop of the 135.
At f/5.6 the 55-300 and 135 + TC give about the same level of detail (resolution) but at f/8 the TC-combo can't keep up and stays soft. There's no big difference between 135 + TC and 200% crops of the 135 alone, except the jagged edges on the crop.
Interestingly even with the TC the 135 still shows no purple fringing or distortion - but a lot of (lateral?) chromatic abberations - the 55-300 has PF but no CA.

Here are the images:
135 + TC


135 + TC

135 200%


Last edited by Egg Salad; 07-22-2009 at 01:01 PM.
09-16-2009, 09:26 AM   #9
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Have to bump this thread to tell you I've made my decision.
Here it is: SMC Pentax-DA 1:4-5.8 55-300mm ED bei (endet 20.09.09 21:30:52 MESZ)

It's a nice lens but I don't really need it - the 2.5/135 may not be that versatile but I like it better.

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