DA 55-300 vs DA* 300 f4

Started Sep 16, 2013 | Discussions
paulkienitz
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DA 55-300 vs DA* 300 f4
Sep 16, 2013

How much real gain is there in upgrading to the star prime, over the consumer zoom?

I would have assumed the improvement is large, but DxOMark says otherwise. According to their numbers, the 55-300 is optimized to favor the long end, so 300mm is actually the sharpest point in its focal length range, and at that point, it produces the same sharpness score as the 300/4!

Can this really be true, or is it yet another case of DxO not seeing quality that other testers have no trouble seeing?

In a way, though, I'm not that surprised, because of how flawless the images I get from it at the long end continue to be.

Leaving aside other performance qualities such as speed, focusing, vignetting, distortion, lateral CA, and everything else other than sharpness near the center... can those who've used both really say the star lens is significantly better?

. v . v .

After that comes the $2000 question... what about similar lenses from C and N? Are any of them significantly better?  DxO says Canon's 300/4 L is around the same quality as our 300/4...

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leopold
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Re: DA 55-300 vs DA* 300 f4
In reply to paulkienitz, Sep 16, 2013

Hi,

i have the Canon 70-300mm IS (not the L one) and it's good at 300mm but not as good as a Prime 300mm lens, i did own the FA*300mm/4.5 in the past and the FA*300mm/4.5 was better than what i get from my Canon 70-300mm IS which is probably equal to the Pentax 55-300mm.

I have own different long Prime lenses and a Prime will always be sharper from 300mm and up than a Zoom especially consumer zoom like the DA55-300 and my Canon 70-300mm IS unless you pay for premium Pro lenses like a Pentax FA*250-600mm/5.6 or the Canon 70-300mm IS L or the new 200-400mm/4 L !

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GossCTP
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Re: DA 55-300 vs DA* 300 f4
In reply to paulkienitz, Sep 16, 2013

paulkienitz wrote:

How much real gain is there in upgrading to the star prime, over the consumer zoom?

I would have assumed the improvement is large, but DxOMark says otherwise. According to their numbers, the 55-300 is optimized to favor the long end, so 300mm is actually the sharpest point in its focal length range, and at that point, it produces the same sharpness score as the 300/4!

I have a hard time believing that. Especially since the 300 f/4 is supposed to be sharp at f/4 and maxes out at f/5.6. I've done test shots with the 55-300, and it is by no means at it's best wide open at 300mm. I think it improved until at least f/9.5, particularly at the corners.

I remember comparison images that were done by one of the veteran forum members back when those lenses were both fairly new - richardday perhaps. Anyway, they were full size pics and in comparing them it looked no contest to me. I have a 55-300, and I don't consider it to be sharpest at 300mm. Perhaps 230mm or so.


Leaving aside other performance qualities such as speed, focusing, vignetting, distortion, lateral CA, and everything else other than sharpness near the center... can those who've used both really say the star lens is significantly better?

So other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln

Seriously, those are all huge factors. I've never been fond of the rendering of the 55-300. It's certainly miles ahead of the Tamron 70-300, but not in the same ballpark as the DA* 300, which I have been tempted by for some time. The 55-300's OOF specular highlights are generally rendered with purple boarders which makes certain backgrounds kind of nervous. The 50-200 beats it in that regard IMO, although it is not as sharp and doesn't go to 300mm.

The expensive long zooms like the Sigma 120-400 have a hard enough time competing with lenses like the DA* 300 f/4. I don't think the 55-300 is a real challenger.

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Gary2010
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Re: DA 55-300 vs DA* 300 f4
In reply to paulkienitz, Sep 16, 2013

I have both at this point in time.  Have bought the 55-300mm 3 times and the DA* 300 twice.  As far as IQ, the DA 300* wins by a decent margin.  Mostly to do with subject isolation at F4 vs F5.8.  It also renders finer detail if you like to pixel peep.  Focus on the DA*300 is also better and quiet.  The 55-300mm is noisy and it ratchets back and forth if it misses initial focus. The DA*300 is also water resistant and at F4 you have a possibility of using a Teleconverter with it with decent results.  I use the AFA 1.7x with mine.

All that said.  The DA 55-300 is packed and ready to go with me on a cruise next week which includes a whale watch excursion.  I decided to travel lighter on this trip and plan to get some nice shots with the DA 55-300mm.

When I lived in Louisiana and loaded my pelican cases in the truck and went to the Bayou to take pictures, I did not mind hauling the larger lenses with me.  They are easier to haul around in a vehicle than on your shoulder around town.  Also, after hauling the 60-250 to Alaska, I have decided to try lighter and hope not to give up too much IQ.

As far as other lenses from Nikon or Canon, I believe both have decent lenses in the 55 or 70-300 range but probably more expensive.  Their F 300mm lenses are just s good as ours.

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paulkienitz
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Re: DA 55-300 vs DA* 300 f4
In reply to leopold, Sep 16, 2013

leopold wrote:

Hi,

i have the Canon 70-300mm IS (not the L one) and it's good at 300mm but not as good as a Prime 300mm lens, i did own the FA*300mm/4.5 in the past and the FA*300mm/4.5 was better than what i get from my Canon 70-300mm IS which is probably equal to the Pentax 55-300mm.

In other words, you're guessing?

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ozdean
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Re: DA 55-300 vs DA* 300 f4
In reply to Gary2010, Sep 16, 2013

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robbo d
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Hit and miss sometimes....
In reply to Gary2010, Sep 16, 2013

I own the 55-300 and always sung it's praises from a value for money perspective.

It has always seemed to me to give excellent results across the whole focal range, so much so, that I couldn't really tell where the sweet spot was. I then read an article that stated the sweet spot was at 250mm, but if you read Photozone test, it's emphatically at the 55-100 end where it shines and centre sharpness at 55 is better than the DA*300 could achieve at any aperture!!!, then apparently it dramatically drops off...........this isn't my experience at all. Iv'e had some very sharp images at the long end and beautiful colours to boot.

I guess this is all indicative of lenses giving different results and then also on different cameras. I read of a sigma lens tested on a Canon body giving poor results, but "stellar" results on a Nikon body.........most likely a lens issue.

I think the 55-300 is noisy and hunts for focus, but gives excellent IQ and punches well above it's weight. I would assume the DA* is a better performer, but that many hundreds of $$ better is again up to you to decide what's worth to you. Also better build quality and the overall border performance will give the DA* a better overall look.

These lens tests give a fair indication but not always reliable......not so much from a testing point of view, but perhaps that lenses just seem so fickle in their back and front focusing issues and quality control.

My Kx kit lenses were always sharp in focus....not high IQ, but sharp, my FA 28-105 just seems to be a peach of a lens, but I purchased a DA*50-135 I took to a wedding the other week and had horrible focus issues. Tried my new DA12-24 and so far not impressed either.....seems soft.

Maybe my new K5IIs will change the whole ball game again.........bit frustrating really.

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paulkienitz
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Re: DA 55-300 vs DA* 300 f4
In reply to GossCTP, Sep 16, 2013

GossCTP wrote:

I remember comparison images that were done by one of the veteran forum members back when those lenses were both fairly new - richardday perhaps. Anyway, they were full size pics and in comparing them it looked no contest to me. I have a 55-300, and I don't consider it to be sharpest at 300mm. Perhaps 230mm or so.

I hope someone can actually locate such a comparison...

Leaving aside other performance qualities such as speed, focusing, vignetting, distortion, lateral CA, and everything else other than sharpness near the center... can those who've used both really say the star lens is significantly better?

So other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln

Seriously, those are all huge factors.

For some, yes, but for me, less than you think.

I've never been fond of the rendering of the 55-300.

I think its bokeh at the long end is pretty decent.  It gets much worse as you pull back toward the short end.

It's certainly miles ahead of the Tamron 70-300, but not in the same ballpark as the DA* 300, which I have been tempted by for some time. The 55-300's OOF specular highlights are generally rendered with purple boarders which makes certain backgrounds kind of nervous. The 50-200 beats it in that regard IMO, although it is not as sharp and doesn't go to 300mm.

The expensive long zooms like the Sigma 120-400 have a hard enough time competing with lenses like the DA* 300 f/4. I don't think the 55-300 is a real challenger.

Considering everything, of course not... but if you judge solely by center sharpness?  As a birder, I often don't care in the slightest what the corners have in them -- you could have impenetrable fog in the first, a smear of feces in the second, a flashing ad for Viagra in the third, and in the fourth a vision of Satan commanding me to kill, and it wouldn't impair my shooting at all.

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paulkienitz
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wow, that is a dramatic difference.
In reply to ozdean, Sep 16, 2013

Thanks.  But I wonder if there's something wrong with the copy in that first shot, because I don't think mine is capable of doing that badly.

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leopold
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Re: DA 55-300 vs DA* 300 f4
In reply to paulkienitz, Sep 16, 2013

paulkienitz wrote:

leopold wrote:

Hi,

i have the Canon 70-300mm IS (not the L one) and it's good at 300mm but not as good as a Prime 300mm lens, i did own the FA*300mm/4.5 in the past and the FA*300mm/4.5 was better than what i get from my Canon 70-300mm IS which is probably equal to the Pentax 55-300mm.

In other words, you're guessing?

Not guessing that much, the DA55-300mm is a consumer zoom lens and the DA*300mm/4 is a Pro prime lens, so there is no way a consumer zoom will equal a Prime 300mm at it's 300mm settings from my experience and the DA*300mm/4 is said to be a little sharper than my FA*300mm/4.5 i had before, which was quite a sharp lens.

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brandrx
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Re: DA 55-300 vs DA* 300 f4
In reply to paulkienitz, Sep 16, 2013

The DA 55-300mm is a very fine consumer zoom lens. One of the best IMO. I bought, checked out, and gave away 7 copies as gifts to relatives. I still have my DA*300/4 pro lens which, IMO, is the best danged 300mm lens in the whole danged universe. Ask me for proof and I will say I cannot prove it. Ask me which lens I would use if I had the choice between the two and I would say the DA*300/4 lens everytime.

Cheers.

Ron

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veroman
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Re: DA 55-300 vs DA* 300 f4
In reply to paulkienitz, Sep 17, 2013

I really don't know how the 55-300 compares to the prime since I've never used the prime. But I do own some sharp, detailed Canon L glass as reference, particularly my 70-200 f/4 L IS.

I purchased my 55-300 specifically for traveling light and still having reach. I used it for the first time yesterday at my granddaughter's 1st birthday party.

The pics are excellent, even at 300mm. I'm impressed and surprised. I had expected compromises in IQ at this price point ... and certainly at that focal length ... but it performed really well.

The downside to the 55-300, as one poster has already pointed out, is noisy focusing and occasional ratcheting if it doesn't catch the focus right away or if it hunts when it can't find enough contrast in the subject.

Other than that, I consider the 55-300 to be an excellent performer.

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ozdean
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Re: wow, that is a dramatic difference.
In reply to paulkienitz, Sep 17, 2013

I was fond of my 55-300 until I got my DA*300, the stars are in another league.

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Gary2010
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Re: DA 55-300 vs DA* 300 f4
In reply to ozdean, Sep 17, 2013

ozdean wrote:

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Ha Dean. I remember those shots.. Are you glad you got the 300 prime?

best I remember, you got some good shots with the 55-300 also.

maybe I should pack heavy. Lol

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audiobomber
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Re: DA 55-300 vs DA* 300 f4
In reply to paulkienitz, Sep 17, 2013

paulkienitz wrote:

How much real gain is there in upgrading to the star prime, over the consumer zoom?

Two stops+ gain, IME. I own both and have done comparative tests. I'll take the DA*300 @ f4 over the 55-300 at f8. The 55-300 is unacceptably soft at 300mm f5.8, and pretty good at f8. The DA*300 is freakin' amazing at f5.6. I use the star lens with a Kenko 1.5X. The 55-300 is crap with the TC.

NOTE: I am a pixel peeper. I judge sharpness at 100% crop. I was thrilled with the 55-300 on a 6mp camera, not at 14.6 or 16mp. With the DA*300, I can crop to 100%, even with the TC, and still have sharp images. Weather-resistance is hugely important, in my corner of the world. It is an amazing pro quality lens. I value the 55-300 for its good IQ, compact size and range of focal lengths. I use it when I don't expect to crop hard.

I would have assumed the improvement is large, but DxOMark says otherwise. According to their numbers, the 55-300 is optimized to favor the long end, so 300mm is actually the sharpest point in its focal length range, and at that point, it produces the same sharpness score as the 300/4!

I don't know what they're doing. No previous tests have shown max sharpness at 300mm, and that is intuitively wrong.

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John Cafarella
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Re: wow, that is a dramatic difference.
In reply to ozdean, Sep 17, 2013

ozdean wrote:

I was fond of my 55-300 until I got my DA*300, the stars are in another league.

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+ 1 for me.

My wife has the 55-300, it's good, but the *300 is indeed in another league.

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ozdean
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Re: DA 55-300 vs DA* 300 f4
In reply to Gary2010, Sep 17, 2013

Gary 55-300 is a good general lens I personally think it is better at the short end but if you really want quality at 300 the DA* is it. I compared it with another brand 70-200 which was very good but just not there. I have to agree with Ron it is tops.

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ozdean
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Re: wow, that is a dramatic difference.
In reply to John Cafarella, Sep 17, 2013

Hi John, heading down your way next week I hope you put on some good weather!

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joseluismx
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Re: DA 55-300 vs DA* 300 f4
In reply to ozdean, Sep 17, 2013

ozdean wrote:

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Worth every penny.

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UtahManSir
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Re: DA 55-300 vs DA* 300 f4
In reply to ozdean, Sep 17, 2013

ozdean wrote:

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Thanks. Trying to decide what to put on my wish list next, was gonna put the Bigma on there.... now you post these.....

FYI I don't think that my 55-300 is that bad at f10 or so on a tripod... could be wrong...

Lloyd

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