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09-07-2009, 10:35 AM   #1
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55-300 For outdoor Concert?

Ok, I had posted another thread about lenses for outdoor concert.. in past I shot with some quality Canon/Nikon... but the game has changed, now a pentax user, and this event isn't paid, rather just for fun.

In previous years I used a wide angle17-50 Range and a telephoto 70-200 2.8 Tamron/Canon/Sigma..

I have the 18-55 Kit, 50mm 1.7 SMC-A, and the 70mm Limited...

So I need something on the longer end of things. I was going to get a prime ( my budget is limited, would like to keep around $500 ) but it seems the 100mm Macro might be slow to focus and won't give me much more reach than the 70mm.

So, looking for a telephoto and seems the Sigma 70-200 is soft wide open, Tamron is slow to focus... so...

I was thinking about the 55-300? Is this lens, in your opinion too slow to focus for an outdoor concert event? Would it be faster than the Tamron? I don't need 100% keepers, just something with decent quality at a decent price so I can get close enough for some tight portraits.

What would be PERFECT for me, is a 135mm 2.8 prime with decent focus speed, but no options I am aware of exists.. and the sigma 50-150 is getting up there in price.

09-07-2009, 11:04 AM   #2
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Also, I would like to add, that having F2.8 isn't a requirement. Most previous years when I zoomed in for portrait shots of the band members I was between 135-175mm.. and the F stop was around 5.6.

Depth of field for F2.8 at 150mm about 25 feet away is about 10 inches.. and at f5.6, its still only about 19 inches... so shooting stopped down a bit gave me more room to work with acquiring accurate focus.

If anyone has some 100% crops of the Da 50-300 they can post of portraits at different focal lengths that would be fantastic.
09-07-2009, 01:37 PM   #3
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There are a couple of assumptions you've made which I'll address:

A 70-200 will always be more versatile than the DA 55-300.
I've tested both the Sigma and Tamron versions of the 70-200 against my own DA 55-300, and both simply outperform the DA 55-300 in every aspect even with a 1.5x TC attached to each (comparing equivalent FLs). This, of course, is an unfair comparison as the 70-200 is stopped down a couple of stops to compare with the 55-300 wide open. Nevertheless, there is no doubt a 70-200 opens up a lot more opportunity to capture concerts, indoors or out. Saying the Sigma is soft wide open is less important for you shooting at f/4 and smaller, and saying that the Tamron's AF is slow is in relation to what lens?!? The Tamron focuses MUCH faster than the DA 55-300, and quieter too.

Now the 55-300 is still a very decent and sharp lens, even wide open, and could do remarkably well for a *well lit* outdoor concert. As soon as you have overcast or late afternoon lower lighting conditions, you'll find that shooting at 150-200mm and beyond will require a significant (perhaps even unacceptable) boost in ISO to get a sharp image handheld.

Having said all that I have a number of sharp 55-300 samples, but not in your desired setting, so will not be exemplary for your purposes. These are both at 300mm (the biggest test of sharpness for a telephoto zoom...)

Image uncropped:


100% crop:


Image uncropped:


100% crop:
09-07-2009, 09:54 PM   #4
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A few obserations:

- why does it matter is the 70-200 is soft wide open if you plan on shooting at f/5.6 anyhow?

- seems that being soft at f/2.8 beats not having f/2.8 at all

- "soft" is a relative term, and is not synonymous with "useless"

- AF speed is, in my epxiernece, not terribly relevant for concerts, as I end up using MF most of the time anyhow. Too mcuh clutter on a typical stage (mics, instruments, hands, cables, stands, etc) for an AF to accidentally try to focus on instead of the face

Bottom line for me: if you expect to *also* want to use the lens in lower light, I wouldn't shy away from either of the 70-200 options if you need AF and don't mind the size. But I'd also consider the possibility lower light tends to mean indoors, smaller venues (larger venues tend to be more well lit), and 70-200 is overkill - the DA*50-135 is kind of the ideal smaller club concern lens. Outdoors, at least during the day when f/2.8 isn't particularly necessary, I think pretty much any consumer zoom would produce perfectly adequate results. For instance, I get better results from my DA50-200 outdoors during the day than I do from my DA70 indoors in typical club lighting, simply because the light is so much better, and that's more important to the quality of the photo than the quality of the lens per se. Although actually, I tend not to *like* the outdoor concert shots as much, because all that light tends to expose the clutter too well.

, and in this context might not be relevant at all
Seems soft

09-07-2009, 11:07 PM   #5
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Marc, I agree to a point. I guess for me, the Sigma is out. I just don't see the point of paying $700 for a telephoto at F2.8.. that is not usuable at the F stop. Ash posted samples, and from others I have seen, this just seems like a very heavy lens that does not produce images usable at F2.8 at the longer end of the range that I would ever want to use. I had the Non DG version, and it was JUST as good at my friend Canon 70-200 2.8 at 2.8-200mm.

The Tamron isn't bad, I have used one as well, and I found on the D200 for it to be slow. We had a bad wind storm here last year when I used the Tamron for the same concert. After the show, my Tamron was so filled with dust that I took it back. I admit it was windy.. but I found that totally not acceptable. And when I say filled with dust.. the inside of the barrel had HUNDREDS of dust speckles after just two hours of shooting. It was coated with dust inside.

I think I am going to take the advice and save and just get the Pentax. Either the 50-135, or the 200.

Does your camera that you manual focus for concert photography have the Katzeye split focus screen installed. Or do you do it with the stock focus screen? Thanks for the suggestions guys.

QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
A few obserations:

- why does it matter is the 70-200 is soft wide open if you plan on shooting at f/5.6 anyhow?

- seems that being soft at f/2.8 beats not having f/2.8 at all

- "soft" is a relative term, and is not synonymous with "useless"

- AF speed is, in my epxiernece, not terribly relevant for concerts, as I end up using MF most of the time anyhow. Too mcuh clutter on a typical stage (mics, instruments, hands, cables, stands, etc) for an AF to accidentally try to focus on instead of the face

Bottom line for me: if you expect to *also* want to use the lens in lower light, I wouldn't shy away from either of the 70-200 options if you need AF and don't mind the size. But I'd also consider the possibility lower light tends to mean indoors, smaller venues (larger venues tend to be more well lit), and 70-200 is overkill - the DA*50-135 is kind of the ideal smaller club concern lens. Outdoors, at least during the day when f/2.8 isn't particularly necessary, I think pretty much any consumer zoom would produce perfectly adequate results. For instance, I get better results from my DA50-200 outdoors during the day than I do from my DA70 indoors in typical club lighting, simply because the light is so much better, and that's more important to the quality of the photo than the quality of the lens per se. Although actually, I tend not to *like* the outdoor concert shots as much, because all that light tends to expose the clutter too well.

, and in this context might not be relevant at all
Seems soft
09-08-2009, 05:12 AM   #6
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I certainly won't argue; a faster lens is better, but the 55-300 is a very useable choice for a daytime outdoor concert. Depending on how close you can get to the stage and your shooting style, the 300mm length is a "nice to have", and so is the 55mm. Price and weight are pretty appealing too.

Here's a set I did last summer. I used flash on some shots to overcome backlighting:

Picasa Web Albums - Dan - Digging Roots...

K100DS, DA 55-300 at 300mm, F5.8.


Last edited by audiobomber; 09-08-2009 at 09:36 AM.
09-08-2009, 08:46 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by designinme_1976 Quote
Does your camera that you manual focus for concert photography have the Katzeye split focus screen installed. Or do you do it with the stock focus screen?
Stock screen. Takes practice, but is perfectly doable, I find. Did it this way on my DS with its pentaprism viewfinder. Continued to do it this way on my K200D with its smaller pentamirror, but eventually got myself an O-ME53 magnifying eyepiece to bring the size of the viewfinder image more in line with that of the DS.

Regarding the Sigma 70-200 at f/2.8, I don't have the lens, so I can't really comment from personal experience. But what I can say is that in the sort of low light situations where you'd need f/2.8, that also means increasing ISO, which robs the sensor of enough resolution that it's incredibly unlikely you'd notice the degree of softness you might see in whatever sample images you've looked at to give you the impression that the lens is "unusable". Plus you're dealing with shutter speeds in which you are unlikely to be eliminating all vestiges of subject motion or camera shake. Which is to say, even if some other lens might be noticeably sharper when pixel peeping shots taken under ideal conditions, low light concert photography is definitely not ideal conditions. It's pretty much impossible to take full advantage of a lens in that settings. Like I said, my DA70 - which is probably the sharpest lens I own in the good conditions - is nothing special for concert photography, simply because all those other factors keep me from taking full advantage of its potential. The lens could easily be a lot softer and it just wouldn't matter.

But then, as I said, I wouldn't be looking at a 70-200/2.8 for concert photography anyhow - it's just the wrong focal length length range. Too long for most smaller venues where it's size is also a big problem; not really long enough for outdoor concerts where f/2.8 isn't often necessary.
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