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04-16-2010, 07:32 PM   #1
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Zoom telephoto lens advice

I recently purchased a K-x that shipped with the standard 18-55mm zoom lens. All things being equal, I realize that a zoom in this range will likely address 90% of the shooting needs of the average everyday digital camera user (amateur enthusiasts or those with few special photography needs such as macro and telephoto). However, I am more interested in shooting in the mid-telephoto range. I have two concerns I need advice on.

1. I am thinking of buying a telephoto zoom lens in the 55-300mm range and make this my primary shooting lens, instead of going thru the hassle of swapping it back and forth with the 18-55mm zoom. If I decide not to use the 18-55 mm lens at all, are there any major downsides to no longer shooting in the 18-55mm range? Will I be making a major sacrifice in shooting options if I give up the lower focal lengths, or will it not make a major difference in the total scheme of things? Most of my shots will be outdoors (plant and wildlife, landscape, etc.), with only a small need for indoor shooting. I also plan to by a macro lens in the future for extreme closeups.

2. In researching telephoto zoom lenses I am trying to decide between a 200mm, 300mm, or 400mmm max. focal length. I am leaning toward the 300mm only because it splits the difference. However, (again, all things being equal) if a max. 200mm lens will suffice for the majority of outdoor shooting situations, then I certainly don't want to waste money on a 300 or 400mm lens if it's just going to be overkill and throwing money away.

Thanks for anyone's advice on these two matters.


Last edited by Gary G; 04-16-2010 at 07:33 PM. Reason: I purchased a new K-x, not a K10. Sorry.
04-16-2010, 08:15 PM   #2
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The 55-300mm is an excellent lens; it's arguably better than the 70-300 Sigma & Tamron, and is better than the DA 50-200 in the focal lengths they overlap and is about 1/2 a stop in that range. I'm not aware of any 400mm lens' that are practical to handhold for a long period of time or anywhere near the price of the 55-300.

As to whether it's a good everyday lens, only you can decide that. Hang on to the 18-55. Lens changes are no big deal, take 30 seconds and that's being carefull.

The other possible option is to source a 18-250mm lens. If you are that against lens changes then that is probable a better option for you than the 55-300 as it goes much wider. There are 3 downsides with the lens compared to the 55-300; 1) not as much reach 2) image quality in the range they overlap is better in the 55-300 3) the 18-250 costs more.
04-16-2010, 08:27 PM   #3
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Twitch gave you some good suggestions: the DA50-200mm, DA50-300mm and DA18-250mm.

There has been some debate between the 50-200 and 50-300. Both are good; the former is lighter; the latter has a longer reach. Honestly, you would not be wrong with either.

The alternative is indeed the DA18-250mm (or its brother Tamron 18-250mm). An excellent all-rounder lens that is one of the best in its class and range among all brands, and used by a number of professionals. For example, read the stories https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-dslr-discussion/93367-k-7-steve-kr...gua-6962m.html and https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/86984-pentax-d...50mm-lens.html.

If you want only one lens, the DA18-250mm is your best option. With the camera, it is relatively small package that fits easily in a small top loader bag and can be carried quite easily, with to need to swap lens.

Hope that the comment will help...
04-16-2010, 10:48 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Gary G Quote
1. I am thinking of buying a telephoto zoom lens in the 55-300mm range and make this my primary shooting lens, instead of going thru the hassle of swapping it back and forth with the 18-55mm zoom. If I decide not to use the 18-55 mm lens at all, are there any major downsides to no longer shooting in the 18-55mm range?
Well, sure - you won't be able able to take the shots that make up probably 90% of what most people shoot. Right now, you might be missing longer focal lengths and imagining you wouldn't need the 18--55 range at all, but I have to believe you'd get tired of only being able to shoot at 55mm and above after about twenty minutes. Landscapes in particular are mostly shot way below 55mm.

04-16-2010, 11:36 PM   #5
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Depends on what you shoot, but keep in mind that a 'superzoom' could be what you need. Maybe not the best in terms of image quality, but if you don't want to switch lenses in certain situations and do need wide(-ish) to tele, it's probably the best shot.

Typical 'superzooms' cover 18-200/250/270 or 28-200/300. Pentax had the DA18-250. Sigma and Tamron has a couple of 'superzooms' as well.
04-17-2010, 12:06 AM   #6
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This is why Pentax needs an 18-105mm, although that wouldn't really help you since you wanted a 300mmish telephoto on it. Why not just get the 55-300mm? You might as well keep your 18-55mm just because since you're not sure if you're going to ever use it again. If you don't ever use it, then you can sell it later and get a flash or something. The 55-300mm is a great lens, especially if you like to shoot around that focal length. Just remember that your 55mm wide angle would be like using the 55mm on your kit lens all the time, so try it out and see if you can live with it being that wide and losing all of your wide angle. Then you'll know if you want to keep it.
04-17-2010, 12:48 AM   #7
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The story I've told here before: Before buying my first dSLR a couple years ago, I asked myself: What do I want to do that my 5mpx Sony DSC-V1 (infrared capable, 4x Zeiss zoom, manual controls) can't do? The answers: ultrawide, ultralong, and better low-light. Pentax had the ultrawide and body I could afford, so my original kit (and still most used) are the K20D, DA10-17, DA18-250, FA50/1.4, and AF-360. I've acquired many lenses since, but those fit most of my needs, in a smallish bag.

I analyzed and cost-checked MANY walkaround lenses, and decided upon the DA18-250. It's still on the camera most of the time. It's been invaluable on my long drives across Mexico to Central America, where it can cover *almost* everything given sufficient light. It's just the most flexible tool I have. Do better lenses exist? Yes, but you need to carry more of them. Does it handle macro? No; to keep the kit small, I add a Raynox DCR-250 to the FA50; closer requires other gear. Does it handle tight expanses? No, that's why I got the 10-17. But the 18-250 is a winner because it's THERE, the perfect street lens IMHO.
04-17-2010, 12:50 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
The story I've told here before: Before buying my first dSLR a couple years ago, I asked myself: What do I want to do that my 5mpx Sony DSC-V1 (infrared capable, 4x Zeiss zoom, manual controls) can't do? The answers: ultrawide, ultralong, and better low-light. Pentax had the ultrawide and body I could afford, so my original kit (and still most used) are the K20D, DA10-17, DA18-250, FA50/1.4, and AF-360. I've acquired many lenses since, but those fit most of my needs, in a smallish bag.

I analyzed and cost-checked MANY walkaround lenses, and decided upon the DA18-250. It's still on the camera most of the time. It's been invaluable on my long drives across Mexico to Central America, where it can cover *almost* everything given sufficient light. It's just the most flexible tool I have. Do better lenses exist? Yes, but you need to carry more of them. Does it handle macro? No; to keep the kit small, I add a Raynox DCR-250 to the FA50; closer requires other gear. Does it handle tight expanses? No, that's why I got the 10-17. But the 18-250 is a winner because it's THERE, the perfect street lens IMHO.
Well said, RioRico.

Happy Pentax day everyone...

04-17-2010, 05:06 AM   #9
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Definitely look at a super zoom like the 18-250. Used, you can pick them up for not much more than the 55-300. I think you would miss the wide angle more than you realize -- to me super zooms make the most sense for people who don't like to change lenses very much (I personally would be more frustrated with the inadaquacies of the lens and would rather change lenses).

As to a super zoom with shorter focal length, I am not certain what the point is. They don't seem to improve image quality much and they aren't much faster. The Tamron/Pentax 18-250 currently seems to be the best of the lot at this point.
04-17-2010, 08:35 AM   #10
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You should look at the posts in the lens forum discussing lenses and options.

there is another thread running right now where the OP has a 18-55 a 70-300 and an 18-250 and is looking at advice for primes.

through out the thread as his lens uses and likes changed, he realized he didn;t like the18-250 and aside from shooting with his new toy when he got it, the lens is vertually unused.

he thought changing lenses was a hastle and this would solve the problem.

The fact is that there are too many compromises in super zooms, from poor low light performance because of the small maximum aperture, to loss of focal length due to the focusing at other than infinity, to poorer optical quality and performance overall to 2 more conventional zooms.

In addition, except for wild life shooters the use of longer focal lengths is somewhat limited and as Marc points out, dropping the 18-55 range will cut out about 90 % of the shots most people take.

If you really only want 300 mm, you would be better off getting the DA300 F4 than a zoom, and keep the existing lens you have.
04-17-2010, 08:55 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by jct us101 Quote
This is why Pentax needs an 18-105mm, although that wouldn't really help you since you wanted a 300mmish telephoto on it.
And I'd say 90% of people would say the same. I think the time for 18-105-ish lenses has come and gone. Now that 18-250 lenses are clearly viable, I just can't see that many people settling for an 18-105 that is almost as expensive, almost as heavy, and optically no better. Especially when one of the other choices would be a 17-70 that's a full stop faster.
04-17-2010, 09:47 AM   #12
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Hi Gary,

I think that you should go ahead and get the 55-300, but keep the 18-55.

I'm primarily a tele shooter. That's just the way I tend to see things. I look at a scene and want to pick out details. Most shooters see a scene as a vista and want to take in as much as possible. I can understand that, but it's not how I see things, and not how I normally want to capture them. I shoot way over 90% of the time at FL over 150mm, and mostly over 300mm. I own quite a few lenses, including the kit, DA 10-17, Sigma 17-70/2.8-4.5, Tokina 20-35/2.8, Tamron 28-75/2.8, FA 28-105/3.2-4.5, and while I'll carry a couple of these in the bag all the time, tele primes and zooms are on the camera the great majority of the time, and I spend most of my time shooting at 300-714mm. By far, the bulk of my 20+ lenses are teles, and I was a bit surprised to realize that I have 8 lenses that cover 300mm, and that's not including TC use, which I use more often than not.

There are, of course, situations where wide is the only way to go, and that's why I'd keep the kit lens. It's small, very easy to carry for the few times I need a wide perspective, and a good lens.

I bought a DA 18-250 because I thought it would be a good walkaround single lens solution, and it is, but I still rarely shoot it at the wide end, and consistently wish that it would go longer. I've since realized that I would be better served with the DA55-300 for a single lens solution, but I really don't need another lens that covers 300mm, and though it's a lot heavier (and not quite as sharp), I often carry the Tokina 80-400/4.5-5.6 as my walkaround, single lens compromise. Most here will never understand this, but it's just the way I like to shoot.

I say go with your gut. I realize that most people on fora like this prefer to shoot wide, but it's not for everyone. Wide can be neat, and is sometimes essential, but I rarely shoot in this range (I must admit to be extremely fascinated by the very odd perspective of the DA 10-17 FE though, and it's always in the bag).

I thought it important to provide a different perspective to the great majority.

Scott
04-17-2010, 10:28 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by snostorm Quote
I think that you should go ahead and get the 55-300, but keep the 18-55.
A short comment here: Long after getting the 10-17 and 18-250 and Nifty Fifty, and many other lenses, I got an 18-55 pretty cheap. I use it rather a lot now -- not so much as a general walkaround, but as a support for other gear.

The 18-55 is a good mount for my cheap ringflash, with or without the Raynox DCR-250 for almost-macro work. Or I'll use a cheap set of tubes for tighter macros. Naked, it focuses quite close, great for florals etc; and with a diopter lens added, it can achieve remarkably thin DOF for full-face shots. I'll top it with my Kenko (Hoya) 180 Fisheye Adapter for full-circle shots. It's a flexible mount for affordable color and B&W filters for my spectrum-slicing and tone-altering endeavours. Et cetera. And it takes nice pictures, as evidenced by many of the shots posted around here.

I still say the 18-250 is the best tool when prowling around, when you don't have time or inclination to change lenses. But the 18-55 is great for special projects. It and its filters and add-ons are usually at least in my behind-the-driver's-seat bag.
04-17-2010, 10:45 AM   #14
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Not trying to be nasty but if you're more interested in mid-telephoto range, you should already know what you're going to miss. Else you can't say that you're more interested.

That being out of the way leaves the question where to end. Buy the cheapest option (I guess the 50-200) and see how far it gets you. It might do everything that you want in which case you have not wasted any money or after time it might show you what you really want (longer, better IQ, ...) in which case you haven't wasted too much money.

My opinion:
Something like a 55-300mm is not really suitable as a general purpose lens for indoors unless indoors is the size of a cathedral. This is because of focal range as well as minimum focusing distance (1.4 meters for the 55-300mm).
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