Sony 55-300 Comparison

Started Sep 29, 2012 | Discussions
jcurtistx
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Sony 55-300 Comparison
Sep 29, 2012

Today I received the Sony 55-300mm lens and have some initial impressions compared to the Sony 18-135mm and Minolta 100-300 APO D using the Sony A57.

Compared to the Sony 18-135mm

  • This is NOT the SAM II drive as in the 18-135mm

  • Focus speed is slower

  • Noisier

  • Optical quality is very good in both of these lenses

  • Build quality is comparable

Compared to the Minolta 100-300 APO D

  • Focus speed is comparable (maybe a little quicker)

  • Quieter, but not nearly as quiet as SAM II or SSM or USD from Tamron

  • Comparable at f/5.6, slightly sharper at f/8 at 300mm

  • A little larger in size - comparable weight

Compared to the Tamron 70-300 USD

  • Smaller and lighter

  • Noisier

  • Slower focusing (unsure if the Sony is good for fast action sports)

  • Sharper at 300mm

As with most lenses, there are some tradeoffs to be had - especially at $300. I cannot say I am disappointed in the lens as it is a great value for the money - just do not expect the focusing speed and quietness of the Tamron 70-300 USD or Sony 70-300 G.

As for which lens I recommend between the Tamron 70-300 USD, Minolta 100-300 APO D and the new Sony 55-300, that is a tough call. I would say it depends on your use. If size is the most important, get the Minolta. If silent and faster focusing is most important, get the Tamron. If size and quieter (but not silent) focusing are more important, get the Sony. If optical quality is the most important, flip a coin (they are all very good - at least in initial thoughts on the Sony).

I returned the Tamron a while back as I either had a bad copy or it was not as sharp at 300mm compared to the Minolta 100-300 APO D. The comparison shots below are between the Sony 55-300 and Minolta 100-300 APO D.

Jeff

Sony 55-300mm @ 300mm f5.6

Minolta 100-300mm @ 300mm f5.6

Sony 55-300mm @ 300mm f8

Minolta 100-300mm @ 300mm f8

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danny006
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Re: Sony 55-300 Comparison
In reply to jcurtistx, Sep 29, 2012

Thx for the comparison. Looks like this budget tele performs quite well, except for the AF noise. I assume you can't have everything for the price and it wouldn't be appropriate against the 70-300g.

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Dave Oddie
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Re: Sony 55-300 Comparison
In reply to jcurtistx, Sep 29, 2012

jcurtistx wrote:

  • This is NOT the SAM II drive as in the 18-135mm

Does that mean DMF doesn't work with this lens?

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jcurtistx
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Re: Sony 55-300 Comparison
In reply to Dave Oddie, Sep 29, 2012

This lens does not have DMF like the Sony 18-135mm does.

Dave Oddie wrote:

jcurtistx wrote:

  • This is NOT the SAM II drive as in the 18-135mm

Does that mean DMF doesn't work with this lens?

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jcurtistx
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More on the focus speed/accuracy
In reply to jcurtistx, Sep 29, 2012

So I was playing around with the Minolta 100-300 and the Sony 55-300 comparing focus speed. To my surprise, when focusing from near to far or far to near, the Minolta was a little quicker.

The SAM motor in the 55-300 is accurate and quick as long as you do not lose focus and the lens then focuses all the way in or out and back. The Minolta is slightly quicker in that regard (not by much but it is quicker - accuracy may be a little better on the Sony 55-300).

Here is a video of the Minolta 100-300 focusing:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMWAaVMTq2I

Here is a video of the Sony 55-300 focusing:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NMmHgxA2Mg

Here is a video of the Sony 18-135 focusing:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9coFDQccSXM

Jeff

At this point, the 55-300 is a great lens for the price and is comparable to the Minolta 100-300 so far, but more of a sideways move than an upgrade.

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Setter Dog
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Re: More on the focus speed/accuracy
In reply to jcurtistx, Sep 30, 2012

Personally, I like lenses with IS and have been considering the Sigma 70-300 OS for use on my Sony a57 and a65. However, I also am for lighter lenses whenever possible so am trying to convince myself I'd learn to love this lens. I am aware that Steady Shot produces just as good an image as lens IS, just not as pleasant to view through the EVF at long zoom.

I have the Sony 18-135 and enjoy it. I'm not sure what the references to SAM and SAM 11 refer to. I take a lot of video and wonder about the reported noise of the 55-300mm.

Thanks to the OP for his excellent comparisons to other lenses. That's one of the nice things about this forum,....thoughtful and helpful members. I know there are some more complete reviews coming one of these days but I'm not sure they are important now.

Jack

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jcurtistx
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Re: More on the focus speed/accuracy
In reply to Setter Dog, Sep 30, 2012

Setter Dog wrote:

I have the Sony 18-135 and enjoy it. I'm not sure what the references to SAM and SAM 11 refer to. I take a lot of video and wonder about the reported noise of the 55-300mm.

Jack

The SAM motor in the 18-135 is a new design that is both quieter and faster than the original SAM design that the 55-300 has. The motor on this lens is much like the 55-200. The good thing is noise while in movie mode is not very noticible. The sharpness of the 55-300 even at 300mm is excellent with the focus speed being adequate as long as you don't need fast focus for sports or in low light.

Overall for the price it is great.

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Setter Dog
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Re: More on the focus speed/accuracy
In reply to jcurtistx, Sep 30, 2012

Low noise level in video and sharpness at max zoom are both features that I value. I find that I am generally shooting at max zoom when in Teton and Yellowstone NPs.

Thanks for answering my questions so clearly. I think this lens may work just fine for me.

Jack

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Fulton17
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Thank you
In reply to Setter Dog, Oct 1, 2012

Hello Jeff

Thank you so much for all the time you have spent on helping us out. I really appreciate your sensible, focused feedback and for me, I am going to stick with my Minolta. It will also help me to save spending more money which is really rather tight at present, so that is good.

May you enjoy many happy years of great photography with the lens (and look forward to seeing some of the results

Simon

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Setter Dog
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Re: Thank you
In reply to Fulton17, Oct 1, 2012

Fulton17 wrote:

Hello Jeff

Thank you so much for all the time you have spent on helping us out. I really appreciate your sensible, focused feedback and for me, I am going to stick with my Minolta. It will also help me to save spending more money which is really rather tight at present, so that is good.

May you enjoy many happy years of great photography with the lens (and look forward to seeing some of the results

Simon

Jeff, I second Simon's comments thanking you. I'll be hoping to see some more long end results with the 55-300mm. If they look pretty good, I'll get one of these.

As Simon says, enjoy your lens and please keep posting your impressions when you can.

Jack

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jcurtistx
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More thoughts on the Sony 55-300mm
In reply to jcurtistx, Oct 1, 2012

So I have had the weekend to use the Sony 55-300 lens and play around with it more and compare it further with the Minolta 100-300mm APO. The more I use the Sony the more it becomes apparent this is not a lens for fast action or moving subjects (at least not in my experience). The SAM motor often times would lose focus when trying to keep up with fast moving subjects such as a Bird in flight and have trouble finding it again.

The Minolta is clearly faster on the A57 in focus speed, however the Sony did a little better in focus accuracy in lower light (neither are great in low light)

About image quality. I will take more pictures and post them later today or this week. I must say that the image quality is very close between these two lenses. I was photographing the moon last night and under extreme cropping it was difficult to tell a difference. Both resolved a decent amount of detail for a lens of this price range. Better than I thought the Sony would to be honest. The Minolta had a greenish hue to the moon in CA where it was better controlled on the Sony. However, there is CA on the Sony lens and I noticed it when capturing a photo of an white egret and a dark background - not too bad though.

So to make things a little more confusing for me I went ahead and ordered the Tamron 70-300 USD again to compare this week. I am not sure the advantages that the Tamron has in focus speed will outweigh my opinion of its size. Also, the first copy I had 6 months ago was not as sharp as the Minolta at 300mm, so I will see how this copy does.

The good thing is we have decent choices for good prices. All three of these lenses have pluses and minuses and any decision you make would be based on your use of the lens.

I still think the Sony 55-300 is great value for the money (depending on your needs). The added focal length on the wide end of the Sony is nice to have and the quieter motor helps in video. I also still think the Minolta is just as good of a choice if you need faster focus in a smaller package.

It is difficult for me to choose right now which lens I like better between the Minolta 100-300 APO D and the Sony 55-300 SAM. There is no clear cut winner for me.

I am no pro, so my reviews are in my limited use, so hopefully this helps some of you.

Jeff

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Jason Reuschlein
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Re: More thoughts on the Sony 55-300mm
In reply to jcurtistx, Oct 1, 2012

I look forward to your comments on the Tamron vs. the new Sony. I am pretty happy with mine though I do get purple fringing on bright outdoor shots.

Here's a shot with mine at 300mm, no post processing (and in the evening, so fringing not an issue):

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasonrwi/7539884302/sizes/l/in/photostream/

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aim120
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Re: More thoughts on the Sony 55-300mm
In reply to jcurtistx, Oct 1, 2012

jcurtistx wrote:

So to make things a little more confusing for me I went ahead and ordered the Tamron 70-300 USD again to compare this week. I am not sure the advantages that the Tamron has in focus speed will outweigh my opinion of its size. Also, the first copy I had 6 months ago was not as sharp as the Minolta at 300mm, so I will see how this copy does.

I am no pro, so my reviews are in my limited use, so hopefully this helps some of you.

Jeff

Hello Jeff
Can't wait for the comparison between this and the tamron 70-300USD .
Your reviews certainly does help.

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Setter Dog
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Re: More thoughts on the Sony 55-300mm
In reply to aim120, Oct 1, 2012

Jeff,

What a break for me that you are getting the Tamron 70-300mm. Also, that you seem to question the same thing about it that I do,....weight.

Your comments on the Sony have been helpful to me and I will probably buy either it or the Tamron.

Thanks for this service you are performing for forum members.

Jack

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jcurtistx
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Re: More thoughts on the Sony 55-300mm
In reply to Setter Dog, Oct 1, 2012

Glad this helps... I will leave the expert analysis to the experts though. My review is more like a consumer would conduct - just using these and see which one I like more.

When I originally had the Tamron 70-300 6 months ago and the Minolta 100-300 APO D, I thought the Tamron was just too bulky for me to want to carry around to the park with my kids for example and surprisingly was not as sharp as the Minolta. Now will my opinion of the weight and size change if I think the optical quality of this sample is much better? Maybe.

If the Sony focused faster (not SSM fast) I may not have bought the Tamron again. The focusing speed is what is holding me back from saying it is a keeper in my situation. I really do like the feel and optics of this lens though - just not the focus speed (mostly when you have to track an object moving).

I like Tamron lenses so I hope this copy is better than the other one. I should have a better idea when it gets here Wednesday.

Jeff

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Fulton17
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Re: More thoughts on the Sony 55-300mm
In reply to jcurtistx, Oct 1, 2012

jcurtistx wrote:

I am no pro, so my reviews are in my limited use, so hopefully this helps some of you.

Jeff

To be honest Jeff your comments are way more helpful to me than some of the "pros" and pros as they are real. I think some people like to make things complicated for the sake of impressing, and some because they know all the terms and speak (which I do not!!!), so keep up the good work.

At the end of the day, the final product is what counts, and in a real world situation. When I look at pictures I am not worried about what it will look like at 100% crop etc. I want something that reflects a time and situation - that is what counts to me.

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Just Having Fun
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Re: Sony 55-300 Comparison
In reply to jcurtistx, Oct 1, 2012

Thanks for this. I am looking for smaller telephoto zoom to take hiking and such. The 50mm on the short end is appealing as is the 300mm on the long end.
I do wish focus speed was better.

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al.
al.
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Thanks for doing the comparison
In reply to jcurtistx, Oct 1, 2012

I was curious how the Sony would do compared the 100-300 APO D. I have the Minolta APO non-D (sharper than a Minolta APO D I once had). Based on your comments, looks like I'll stick with the Minolta.

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jcurtistx
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More photos...
In reply to jcurtistx, Oct 2, 2012

So tonight I grabbed my camera with the A57 attached around 6:40pm to see how the 55-200 did. Overall, I am still very impressed with the optical quality. The focus speed is a problem when they were running around or running at me - granted this was near dusk. That said, the lens does feel well balanced on the A57 so it is enjoyable to use. I just wish it focused quicker, but for $300 I can't complain at all. These were all shot at ISO 800.

Jeff

It was not my fault!

Dang I got caught!

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Setter Dog
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Re: More photos...
In reply to jcurtistx, Oct 2, 2012

Jeff,

After seeing those great pictures of your children, I think I understand better what you are looking for in a zoom lens. It would seem that the Sony would certainly be handier for that kind of thing than the heavier Tamron. On the other hand, fast focus has great value in those situations. You have some interesting tests to run and decisions to make. I'd have to think you will find some value in the short end of the Sony at 55mm.

I've been using my Sigma 18-250 with the lens IS off to see how I would enjoy shooting at 300mm without lens stabilization. I wish I could say I had adapted to the non lens IS, but I haven't. Results with lens IS and Steady Shot are the same, of course, but the lens IS makes using the cameras more enjoyable for me. I sort of wish I'd never tried a stabilized lens as it's really reduced my lens options.

Your tests of the Tamron/Sony for practical shooting are going to be very interesting to several of us. I hope you're enjoying the process.

Jack

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