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08-03-2009, 11:06 PM   #1
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DA 50-200 vs DA 55-300 vs Vivitar S1 70-210 vs Pentax-A 70-210; Tele-Zoom Comparo

I was looking for a good value 200mm+ lens https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/65237-need-rec...00mm-lens.html
I ended up purchasing a DA 50-200mm lens for a good price here on the marketplace. Not long after, a slew of DA 55-300mm lenses came up here and I decided to pull the trigger on one. I decided to sell the DA 50-200 here to help fund the purchase. But before I sent it off I decided to compare it to the other mid-priced tele-zooms I have on hand:
1. Vivitar S1 70-210 f3.5 (version 1 of this classic lens)
2. Pentax-A 70-210 f4.0
3. DA 50-200mm f4.0-f5.6
4. DA 55-300mm f4.0-f5.8
I had seen comparisons of the the 2 DA's but somehow hadn't seen any comparisons of the 2 MF lenses against each other or against the other 2 AF lenses.

I wanted to compare how they handle, size, weight, and most of all see what I get focal length wise for the DA 55-300 compare to the other 3 zooms I had.

Weight wise here’s how they stacked up, weights are with both caps and hood as applicable:
1. VivS1, v1 963g
2. Pentax-A 694g
3. DA 50-200 306g
4. DA 55-300 484g

You can see the size difference amongst the 4 here along with a Pentax-M 40mm and a Pentax FA 50 f1.4 for scale:
Front Row: Pentax-M 40mm f2.8, Pentax FA 50 f1.4
Back Row, L to R: 18-55 DA AL II kit lens, DA 50-200, DA 55-300, Pentax-A 70-210, Vivitar Series 1 70-210 f3.5 (Version 1)




Lens 1 & 2 obviously are MF with the Pentax-A being easier to use due to its K-A mount. Also, the Pentax-A is much easier to handle due to it’s smaller size and weight. Vivitar is 1/3 stop faster, however at a size/weight penalty. If I had to choose which of these 2 to keep, I would probably give up the 1/3 stop and choose the Pentax-A due to its handling ease. IQ wise, for my purposes I’d call it a wash since the largest I’d print would probably be 8x10 prints and more than likely I’d probably view these on a monitor rather than prints. However, maybe you folks here can tell me which one is better IQ wise based on the quick shots I took (which I’ll post later). In terms of price between the 2 MF I would probably price the Pentax-A higher since not only can I use all metering modes with it but I can also use my AF360 in P-TTL. Price for these 2 in the current market is probably all over the map. The VivS1 is one of those cult classics and its value is also up there due to its construction and reputation.

I'll continue later with my impressions of the 2 AF lenses, so to be continued.....


Last edited by PentHassyKon; 08-04-2009 at 09:50 AM.
08-04-2009, 09:44 AM   #2
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I KNOW how good the Vivitar S1 is on a Pentax DSLR...

Dear PentHassyKon:

The PIPE Here again...possibly dealing with a dead floppy drive socket (and associated circuitry?) this Tuesday morning on my recently upgraded motherboard in my home PC (perhaps it's time for an external USB 3.5" floppy instead?)...the 'mobo" SEEMS just fine when the possibly dead floppy drive hardware is left out of the picture...and now I'm going on ELEVEN months of unemployment...

...but I DO have one of the very SAME Vivitar Series 1 70-210 all manual f/3.5 zooms myself, and here at https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/post-your-photos/37893-1st-serious-trial-...0mm-k100d.html I've got the very first "serious" photos that I had ever tried out, with my K100D/Viv S1 lens combo, from an RC Scale model aircraft event I attended almost a year ago.

I HAD been thinking about getting one of the 135-400 Sigma DG zooms, as an article not too long ago in my monthly US national aeromodeling club magazine ( Model Aviation Online (August 2009) ) recommended that a 400mm lens focal length is as about as long as one would need for great aeromodeling "flight action" shots.

The 50% "enlargement" factor when using a 35mm film lens on an APS-C sensor-sized DSLR (as ALL the Pentax digitals have been equipped with so far) IS a niiice fact of life when using an older film zoom-tele like the Vivitar, as that lens gets out to something like a 105-to-310mm range when it's on my K100D.

I AM thinking of eventually getting one of the Sigma 70-300 DG series autofocus tele-zoom lenses, instead of the discontinued Sigma 135-400 DG zoom, when I can finally get back to work, as the DG WILL work with both my film Pentax (my 1980 vintage K1000SE) AND the K100D, and on the DSLR that 50% factor would result in a 105-to-450mm equivalent set of numbers...just perfect for my RC Scale model flight shots, according to that old magazine article.

Check those photos out in the linked thread...I just never thought my old S1, an original "Kiron"-made one just like yours is, would work SOOOO well in my K100D!

Yours Sincerely,

The PIPE!
08-04-2009, 12:35 PM   #3
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I wish I could send you my Tamron Adaptal 2 103A 80-210mm F4 to test along side those babies...

I am really lusting after the DA55-300 lately and think I will sell my tamron 70-300 to get a 100 bucks towards a used DA55-300.
08-04-2009, 01:01 PM   #4
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Original Poster
Gus-

There a few other lenses that I would have loved to have the opportunity to try out alongside these 4-
Primes:
Pentax-K 300mm f4
Pentax-A* or M* 300mm f4
Pentax-K 200 f2.5
Pentax-K, M 200 f4
Pentax Takumar 200 f4 and f3.5
Pentax-M or -A 400 f5.6

and of course other Tele-Zooms
Pentax-K 80-200 f3.5 (I saw one in the marketplace recently, apparently its quite rare)
The Tamron Adaptalls 70-210, 80-200 etc.... there some to be as many variants of these as the Vivitar Series 1 70-210's
Sigma, Tamron or Tokina 70-200 f2.8 either AF or MF variants

I was just limited by what I happened to have on hand and of course $$$. Of course, if anyone wants to donate a lens I'd be happy to oblige
Unfortunately though, I can't compare it to the DA 50-200 anymore as it is now on its way to its new owner.

08-09-2009, 08:58 AM   #5
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The 55-300 has one or two little quirks, but no one who has used this lens has found it wanting in the area of IQ - a true sleeper lens - period

I reckon its way better in IQ than the zoom lenses you are comparing it to.

All taken with the 55-300 - sharp from wide open to F10 - all handheld







Want to trade??;-)

Cheers

Dylan
04-19-2010, 04:45 AM   #6
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very disappointed for not seeing a follow-up on this post by PentHassyKon .
04-19-2010, 06:34 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by badbrother Quote
very disappointed for not seeing a follow-up on this post by PentHassyKon .
I agree. But I have become very sceptical about lens tests. I have two copies of the 55-300. The first is the original, the second is the cheapo with the plastic mount, and came with my K-x.

They could be utterly different lenses. The original went back to Pentax because I wasn't happy with it above about 150mm - centering problems towards the edges at certain focal lengths and even the centre wasn't really up to snuff. They said buzz off - it's within spec.

The second still has some centering problems, but on different sides and at different zoom positions; but at least the centre is sharp throughout and the lens is thoroughly useable, if not ideal at longer zoom lengths for architecture and landscapes where the edges matter. It's excellent at the shorter end.

So I've come to the conclusion that due to sample variation all comparisons of consumer-level zooms are basically meaningless.

(Incidentally the M200/4 performs much more reliably across the frame than my original 55-300. Haven't tried it against the newer one. My 50-200 becomes unacceptable on one side as you get to 200, but up to about 150mm it's pretty good.)
04-19-2010, 06:52 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by timo Quote
(Incidentally the M200/4 performs much more reliably across the frame than my original 55-300. Haven't tried it against the newer one. My 50-200 becomes unacceptable on one side as you get to 200, but up to about 150mm it's pretty good.)
The M200 is my favorite in this range. None of the consumer DA zooms can touch it, though I don't find the zooms unacceptable. I need to do some real tests, but my gut reaction is that the 55-300 is not head and shoulders above the 50-200. Perhaps that is because I do not use the 50-55mm FL much.

04-19-2010, 08:09 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by timo Quote
I agree. But I have become very sceptical about lens tests. I have two copies of the 55-300. The first is the original, the second is the cheapo with the plastic mount, and came with my K-x.

They could be utterly different lenses. The original went back to Pentax because I wasn't happy with it above about 150mm - centering problems towards the edges at certain focal lengths and even the centre wasn't really up to snuff. They said buzz off - it's within spec.

The second still has some centering problems, but on different sides and at different zoom positions; but at least the centre is sharp throughout and the lens is thoroughly useable, if not ideal at longer zoom lengths for architecture and landscapes where the edges matter. It's excellent at the shorter end.

So I've come to the conclusion that due to sample variation all comparisons of consumer-level zooms are basically meaningless.

(Incidentally the M200/4 performs much more reliably across the frame than my original 55-300. Haven't tried it against the newer one. My 50-200 becomes unacceptable on one side as you get to 200, but up to about 150mm it's pretty good.)
Dear Timo,

I couldn't agree with you more.

laymen lens comparison can be quite misleading if one is not meticulous in checking the parameters (ridding of front/back focusing possibility to begin with).

And I totally agree with you that sample variance can be more significant than the general consensus of the rating of a lens.

When you say centering problems, are you referring to a lens element not position exactly parallel to the focal plane, with the effect of one side softer than the other?

I have a similar problem with my da16-45 which is quite wobbly when extended, resulting in images not always sharp edge-to-edge as many has marveled. I have tested the issue extensively and find that when tipping the extended lens barrel a bit , sharpness at the edges improve markedly.

Sent the lens to the Pentax dealer hoping they would "tighten things up for more sharpness consistency" only to be greeted with a "within spec" no.

I find it a blatant disregard of quality standards and unfair to the consumer when Pentax never publish their spec standards.

Anyone has any experience in fighting the "within spec" excuse?

Last edited by badbrother; 04-19-2010 at 09:00 AM.
04-19-2010, 08:16 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by badbrother Quote
I have a similar problem with my da16-45 which is quite wobbly when extended, resulting in images not always sharp edge-to-edge as many has marveled. I have tested the issue extensively and find that when tipping the extended lens barrel a bit , sharpness at the edges improve markedly.

Sent the lens to the Pentax dealer hoping they would "tighten things up for more sharpness consistency" only to be greeted with a "within spec" no.

I find it a blatant disregard of quality standards and unfair to the consumer when Pentax never publish their spec standards.

Anyone has any experience in fighting the "within spec" excuse?
Do you know ANY manufacturer that distributes its specs? Can you seriously imagine Leica, Zeiss, Nikon to publish these data? Zeiss at least publishes some MTFs, but not the tolerances for their lenses in detail. And as far as I know, outside the scientific community, where specs are part of the product, no consumer goods company will publish factory specs.

Ben
04-19-2010, 08:24 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by badbrother Quote
Dear Timo,
When you say centering problems, and you referring to a lens element not position exactly parallel to the focal plane, with the effect of one side softer than the other?
Precisely. The 55-300 is such good value that I don't think we can realistically expect it to be perfect. What surprised me is how different the two samples are - the edge sharpness is good, or bad, at different zoom settings, and on different sides of the image, as between the two lenses (I compared the two using the 'compare' facility in Lightroom, which is useful for this kind of time-wasting, obsessive, pixel-peeping nerdery!).

Whereas the M200 just plods on reliably without vices however much I bash it around As does my old, secondhand FA24-90 which seems to have no centering problems at all, despite allegedly dubious build quality

Tim
04-19-2010, 08:57 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ben_Edict Quote
Do you know ANY manufacturer that distributes its specs? Can you seriously imagine Leica, Zeiss, Nikon to publish these data? Zeiss at least publishes some MTFs, but not the tolerances for their lenses in detail. And as far as I know, outside the scientific community, where specs are part of the product, no consumer goods company will publish factory specs.

Ben
Although not all products (consumer or industrial) comes with a full spec, reputable
companies do make public their spec/standards when quality issues are being questioned by the public.

I used to be in the furniture business and if a customer question the emission standard of the particle board we use, I would gladly inform him we use E1 standards and welcome any testing by qualify 3rd party if it is up to spec.

When the quality level of a quantifiable attribute in a product is in question and after- sale service is refused based on the "within spec" excuse, I think it is only fare the consumer should know what the spec standard is, no matter how sloppy that would be (like a generous tolerance).
04-19-2010, 11:43 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by badbrother Quote
Although not all products (consumer or industrial) comes with a full spec, reputable
companies do make public their spec/standards when quality issues are being questioned by the public.

I used to be in the furniture business and if a customer question the emission standard of the particle board we use, I would gladly inform him we use E1 standards and welcome any testing by qualify 3rd party if it is up to spec.

When the quality level of a quantifiable attribute in a product is in question and after- sale service is refused based on the "within spec" excuse, I think it is only fare the consumer should know what the spec standard is, no matter how sloppy that would be (like a generous tolerance).
Emission levels, production standards, ISO certification etc. - that's clear and at least partially required by law anyway. But production specs, is something very different, especially tolerances acceptable/or not during QC. Yes, I support your notion, that the consumer "should know", but really, that is not to happen anytime soon, which , by the way, I can understand from a purely business point of view.

Ben
04-19-2010, 11:58 AM   #14
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Since no one has said anything about the SMC-A 70-210mm f/4 I will start by saying that this is a great lens that is actually really sharp. My copy is in really nice shape and it is a little on the heavy side, but it is worth it for the images that you get in the end.

Another thing that I like about this lens it that it is a push-pull type zoom. That means unlike the DA lenses, when you zoom out the lens does not get any longer and it still stays relatively compact even though the lens is quite large.

Another great feature of this lens is the constant F/4 aperture. Sure, it’s not the fastest lens around but at least at 210mm the lens is still at f/4 and not f/5.6 like on other lenses. That means at 210mm you get a beautiful background bokeh that most lenses for the price can’t compete with.

For anyone that has seen this lens and has been thinking about picking it up, I would definitely do it as it is a real keeper and a true gem from the older Pentax line.
04-19-2010, 01:20 PM   #15
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It comes down to maximum aperture sizes at the wide end versus AF of the lens. Build quality also factors in. I'd first narrow it down to one AF an one mf.

The af would be the DA 55-300mm. The mf would probably be one of the Viv Series 1 lenses.
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