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09-24-2014, 02:22 PM   #1
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telephoto lens advice

For bird photos would I be better with the 70-300mm lens or with the 55-300mm lens
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treeman

09-24-2014, 02:35 PM   #2
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The Da 55-300mm is the sharpest at 300mm from most of its competitors. Beyond that, you need to pay 4-5x as much for the DA* line.

check out the flickr pool: https://www.flickr.com/groups/848392@N23/
09-24-2014, 03:27 PM   #3
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DA 55-300mm clearly more capable than cheapo third-party alternatives

Have shot the smc DA 55-300mm for nearly three years now and would prefer it any day over its cheapo Sigma and Tamron competitors. The build quality is quite decent considering the price tag, and optically I've found it to be no slouch either. While several lens tests I recall seem to suggest that the Sigma and Tamron alternatives falter at the long end, my DA 55-300mm holds up surprisingly well. I've even grown more comfortable using it wide open at F5.8.

I'm not saying that it can even begin to equal the sharpness of the DA* 300mm or 60-250mm F4 lenses, but otherwise it is capable of achieving a pretty usable microcontrast. Not only that, it's immensely portable for travel, has an attractive zoom range, and doesn't fall completely apart even on a 24MP monster like the K-3 is. The old-fashioned screw-driven AF may seem a distraction at first, but I needn't fear SDM failure, and when I pre-focus, it's also reasonably fast, particularly on the K-3.

If I were to shop for such a zoom today, I might well opt for the HD WR version, but otherwise I'm perfectly happy with what it does for the money. With regard to likes and faves on 500px.com, it actually happens to be my most popular lens. Check out some sample shots here:

http://500px.com/marc_synwoldt
09-24-2014, 03:56 PM   #4
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I've tried several others and am back with the 55-300 again. Other than 1:2 macro with competitors it really cannot be beat, and going as 'wide' as 55 is very handy. My Quantaray 100-300 is really cheap and faster to focus, but its shots at 300mm are inconsistent - so it misfocuses fast too and is f/6.7 past 250mm.

09-24-2014, 06:53 PM   #5
Des
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The 55-300 is a good lens, and outstanding value.

As other posters have implied, the relatively long minimum focus distance (1.4m) is a limitation, although the lens is said to work well with close focus filters or diopters (e.g. Raynox 150) which address this. Otherwise, there is a lot to like: light weight, relatively compact, versatile range, quite good wide open at 300mm. Also, because it does not have internal focus, the field of view at 300mm (or any other focal length) doesn't change according to the distance from the subject. In other words, 300mm means 300mm. (With internal focus lenses, the FOV varies according to distance from the subject - e.g. 250mm will only really be 250mm, if at all, when focused to infinity.)

For photographing birds in trees, quick shift (manual focus override) is handy, which is an argument for the DA or WR versions over the DA-L. I have the DA-L and have to flick the camera switch to MF in that situation. (I haven't mastered the alternative lens release button technique.)

Lenses going much beyond 300mm for a Pentax K-mount DSLR generally involve a lot more weight, bulk and/or cost. (Mirror lenses are an exception, but they have their own issues.)
09-24-2014, 07:05 PM   #6
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It's sharp enough in the centre, too ... just stop it down.
09-24-2014, 10:29 PM   #7
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Tokina 400 5.6 AF AT-X

You can find it on ebay once a month in the 3-400 dollar range. Makes the 55-300 beg for its mommy.
09-24-2014, 10:57 PM   #8
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+1 for DA 55-300mm lens.
It's light, sharp and at a good price.
I can also recommend the Sigma 135-400mm lens but not sure how common that lens is in Pentax K mount.

09-25-2014, 04:47 AM   #9
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Thanks!

Thank you all who sent feed-back regarding my request for lens information, very helpful all.
treeman
09-25-2014, 05:35 AM   #10
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The Tamron 70-300 sells for under $100 used, and it performs as such. Focus is quick and accurate, but there are some serious optical issues with the lens. It suffers badly from the chromatic aberration called "purple fringing" in high contrast situations. Skip it, spend the extra for a 55-300 of whichever variety you can afford. If you do get the DAL version, you'll need to buy an aftermarket lens hood.
09-25-2014, 08:08 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by TER-OR Quote
The Tamron 70-300 sells for under $100 used, and it performs as such. Focus is quick and accurate, but there are some serious optical issues with the lens. It suffers badly from the chromatic aberration called "purple fringing" in high contrast situations. Skip it, spend the extra for a 55-300 of whichever variety you can afford. If you do get the DAL version, you'll need to buy an aftermarket lens hood.
I have one and you have to stand on your head to get "purple fringing".
09-25-2014, 08:37 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ahab Quote
I have one and you have to stand on your head to get "purple fringing".
Interesting - mine was OK on the K10, the fringing not too bad but on the K5 it was unbearable. Since then I have used Lightroom's tools to remove the fringing on some old images and while it's a little odd it does work OK.
09-25-2014, 06:13 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Venom3300 Quote
Tokina 400 5.6 AF AT-X

You can find it on ebay once a month in the 3-400 dollar range. Makes the 55-300 beg for its mommy.
The reviews look good (apart from the PF). But it weighs double the 55-300 doesn't it? And presumably the OP wants the versatility of a zoom.
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