after the DA 55-300... which lens is "better" ?

Started 8 months ago | Questions
jf_tea
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after the DA 55-300... which lens is "better" ?
8 months ago

Hi,

This is a topic I have thought about for a long while without finding any good answer(s). I believe that I have already read the relevant threads here.

Short version: Which lens (zoom or prime) can meet the following requirements, without being too expensive (let's say, no more than $1500) ?

  • at least 300mm
  • sharper than the Pentax 55-300
  • preferably as bright or brighter than f/5.6

I know there is the HD 55-300, the DA*300, and, the Sigma 50-500 and 150-500. Are there other candidates? Which ones are useable for walking or in a canoe? (Probably not the "bigma").

Background story:

I've had the DA 55-300 in 2010. It was good enough for its price. The IQ was better than the superzoom I had since 2009 (a FZ-28). Then, I tried a Panasonic 100-300 on a G3. It was much sharper than the DA 55-300 (the copy I had, I did not try many copies). (At equivalent FL, it was also sharper then a SMC 200mm f/4, which is sharper than the DA 55-300, at 200mm). But, not everything was great with the Pana 100-300. Its zoom ring was stiff at some points (the feel of plastic rubbing on plastic). And, the mirrorless EVF and AF system are not convenient for moving wildlife. Surprisingly, my canoe partner had much better shots of the morgansers with a FZ-150 (which also yields an effective FL of 600mm FOV, in 35mm equivalent).

Now, I've kept the DA 50-200 WR. The FL is much less, but, at least the lens is small and WR. In a pinch, I would still use the old FZ-28 for wildlife. In good light, it gets nice results, but needs more luck than the DA 55-300.

The HD 55-300 has the same specs as the DA 55-300. It will not focus faster, nor with less noise and, it is not smaller. But, at least it is WR. Does the new coating improves the sharpness too? Does it reduce the CA?

Since I live in a city, I get few opportunities to go see wildlife. Also, I often use the FA43 and DA70. I understand that my usual expectations for sharpness might never be met with a long focal length (300mm +). Perhaps I will settle for a superzoom to fulfill my needs when I go hiking or in a canoe. The size would be much more practical. And the cost would be commensurate with the frequency of use.

I would like to have the opinions of those who already use long lenses (with Pentax cameras).

thanks,

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Leandros S
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WR narrows your choices
In reply to jf_tea, 8 months ago

AFAIK, there isn't yet a version of either one of the Sigma with any level of weatherproofing.

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Britney Elvis
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Why not the 300 or 60-250?
In reply to Leandros S, 8 months ago

WR is not gonna happen at those ranges

Why not the DA300 f4? Not WR but a really nice 300 and they go for about 1200
Also the 60-250 is a very good lense... at 1200  If you want a zoom

As far as a canoe goes... I would use a long zoom P&S like the canon sx50 or panny FZ200... (fuji has a nice one too...
I would never risk a turn over in a canoe with a bag full of lenses and a WR camera... but I am poor and a chicken.

-

"It is not necessary to understand things in order to argue about them."
~~ Pierre Beaumarchais~~

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Petroglyph
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Re: after the DA 55-300... which lens is "better" ?
In reply to jf_tea, 8 months ago

Here is what happens to me in practice.  I have a zoom such as 70-300 and when I take it out it is always because I'll need some reach.  In other words 300.  I wind up never much using the 70mm end of the zoom.  Might as well learn my lesson and get the better IQ and faster 300 prime.  YMMV

Cheers.

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Holger Bargen
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Re: after the DA 55-300... which lens is "better" ?
In reply to jf_tea, 8 months ago

Dear jf_tea,

I own the 55-300 for my private Equipment. First I was very satisfied with it and I still think that it is a very nice lens if you Keep in mind what it costs.

Then I tried to use it for a Task at my Job and found that it is not sharp enough - especially to the edges it is  not good enough. In my Job I found the 60-250mm lens as a very reliable lens with a very good quality.

Later on I found that DxO offers a correction module for this lens and for camera lens combination of a lot of Pentax cameras. This correction works very fine. I do not know if the lens togehter with this correction would be good enough for my Needs at my Job - but for my private Needs I am more than satisfied with this combination.

Maybe this could be a solution for you, too.

For my private Equipment I have two very good non-AF lenses within the rang of this lens if I Need high-end sharpness: The Tamron 180 mm f=2.5 and the Pentax A* 300. If you cann efford the DA 300mm it would be an excelent lens for you. The Sigma lenses seems to be to bulky for me.

Best regards

Holger

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Pentax K-5 Pentax smc DA 55-300mm F4.0-5.8 ED Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG Macro Sigma 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 EX DG Aspherical HSM Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM +2 more
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FrancW
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Re: Why not the 300 or 60-250?
In reply to Britney Elvis, 8 months ago

both are WR, all da* are WR

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Russell Evans
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Re: after the DA 55-300... which lens is "better" ?
In reply to jf_tea, 8 months ago

Why not get the K-3 and crop tighter where the 55-300mm will have better performance?

Thank you
Russell

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AJSAUco
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Re: after the DA 55-300... which lens is "better" ?
In reply to jf_tea, 8 months ago

I have the 50 - 500mm Sigma. It's a great lens once you get used to it.
I will be buying the 300mm Pentax for the WR so I can still have a long lens in wet conditions. The Sigma has been used in quite heavy rain but I don't want to push my luck.
I would buy them in the order I have. Sigma then Pentax unless WR was a major factor.

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jf_tea
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Re: after the DA 55-300... which lens is "better" ?
In reply to AJSAUco, 8 months ago

AJSAUco wrote:

I have the 50 - 500mm Sigma. It's a great lens once you get used to it.
I will be buying the 300mm Pentax for the WR so I can still have a long lens in wet conditions. The Sigma has been used in quite heavy rain but I don't want to push my luck.
I would buy them in the order I have. Sigma then Pentax unless WR was a major factor.

thanks AJSAUco.

The Sigma 50-500 looks quite exciting, especially its 500mm FL.

With its size, it requires the use of a tripod or some other support, right?

The WR of the DA*300 is certainly a good feature.

-JF

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jf_tea
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Re: after the DA 55-300... which lens is "better" ?
In reply to Russell Evans, 8 months ago

Russell Evans wrote:

Why not get the K-3 and crop tighter where the 55-300mm will have better performance?

Thank you
Russell

Hi Russell,

The K3 is interesting by itself, already

The reports about its better AF tracking makes it more suitable for moving animals and birds. The more powerful screwdrive might help with the 55-300 too.

thanks,

-JF

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jf_tea
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Re: after the DA 55-300... which lens is "better" ?
In reply to Holger Bargen, 8 months ago

Holger Bargen wrote:

Dear jf_tea,

I own the 55-300 for my private Equipment. First I was very satisfied with it and I still think that it is a very nice lens if you Keep in mind what it costs.

Then I tried to use it for a Task at my Job and found that it is not sharp enough - especially to the edges it is not good enough. In my Job I found the 60-250mm lens as a very reliable lens with a very good quality.

Later on I found that DxO offers a correction module for this lens and for camera lens combination of a lot of Pentax cameras. This correction works very fine. I do not know if the lens togehter with this correction would be good enough for my Needs at my Job - but for my private Needs I am more than satisfied with this combination.

Maybe this could be a solution for you, too.

For my private Equipment I have two very good non-AF lenses within the rang of this lens if I Need high-end sharpness: The Tamron 180 mm f=2.5 and the Pentax A* 300. If you cann efford the DA 300mm it would be an excelent lens for you. The Sigma lenses seems to be to bulky for me.

Best regards

Holger

Hi Holger,

Thanks for your advice. I agree that there is a difference between Private and Job uses. The expectations and cost should match with the importance of the task.

About DxO correction module, I use LR4 and I think that the Development tool in LR4 already has a good section about Lens Profile and correction.

Myself too, I have some longer MF lenses, two 200mm. The Pentax SMC 200/4 and a Takumar S-M-C 200/4. Both are quite sharp. But, I find MF very frustrating when trying to capture wildlife images. I'm not one of the more experienced photographers who grew up using MF

I thought about using a AF teleconverter with the SMC 200/4, but, those AF TC are difficult to find.

thanks for your input !

-JF

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jf_tea
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Re: after the DA 55-300... which lens is "better" ?
In reply to Petroglyph, 8 months ago

Petroglyph wrote:

Here is what happens to me in practice. I have a zoom such as 70-300 and when I take it out it is always because I'll need some reach. In other words 300. I wind up never much using the 70mm end of the zoom. Might as well learn my lesson and get the better IQ and faster 300 prime. YMMV

Cheers.

Hi Petroglyph,

I often used the 300mm end too !

-JF

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GossCTP
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Re: after the DA 55-300... which lens is "better" ?
In reply to jf_tea, 8 months ago

jf_tea wrote:

Hi,

This is a topic I have thought about for a long while without finding any good answer(s). I believe that I have already read the relevant threads here.

Short version: Which lens (zoom or prime) can meet the following requirements, without being too expensive (let's say, no more than $1500) ?

  • at least 300mm
  • sharper than the Pentax 55-300
  • preferably as bright or brighter than f/5.6

I know there is the HD 55-300, the DA*300, and, the Sigma 50-500 and 150-500. Are there other candidates? Which ones are useable for walking or in a canoe? (Probably not the "bigma").

I think I would go with the DA* 300 f/4 for that criteria. I didn't want to put down that much money, nor do I have faith in SDM, so I went with the older A* 300 f/4. The drawback is it is manual focus, though in good light it is easy to see when it is in focus. The nice thing about that particular lens is that compared to the 55-300 at 300mm, it is actually physically shorter. It also has less focus breathing. At about 15 feet the 55-300 is about 90% as long as the A* 300. That probably isn't the case with the later AF * 300s, because they were all internal focus IIRC.

Background story:

I've had the DA 55-300 in 2010. It was good enough for its price. The IQ was better than the superzoom I had since 2009 (a FZ-28). Then, I tried a Panasonic 100-300 on a G3. It was much sharper than the DA 55-300 (the copy I had, I did not try many copies). (At equivalent FL, it was also sharper then a SMC 200mm f/4, which is sharper than the DA 55-300, at 200mm).

I have a Sears 135 f/2.8 that beats the 55-300 at 135. Well, at equivalent apertures. My A* 300 seems to have a lot more contrast. I have a good hood on it though. The hood for the 55-300 is likely a lot less effective because of having to allow for 55mm.

But, not everything was great with the Pana 100-300. Its zoom ring was stiff at some points (the feel of plastic rubbing on plastic).

Their 14-42 mark I is like that as well. Some lenses are two-touch. That one is three lurch. It lurches from 14 to 20 something, and from there to 42.

And, the mirrorless EVF and AF system are not convenient for moving wildlife.

I never tried one in that role, but I was pretty impressed with the g5 for more static scenes.

Surprisingly, my canoe partner had much better shots of the morgansers with a FZ-150 (which also yields an effective FL of 600mm FOV, in 35mm equivalent).

The more important issue is, does he rock the boat? I'm torn about taking my A*300 on my canoe, and I paid less than $500 for it. It only takes an instant. I lost a DS that way. I could have lost a lot more.

Now, I've kept the DA 50-200 WR. The FL is much less, but, at least the lens is small and WR. In a pinch, I would still use the old FZ-28 for wildlife. In good light, it gets nice results, but needs more luck than the DA 55-300.

I liked my 50-200 (non wr version) back in 6mp days. Those who have been around here long enough will remember that for many of the early digital years, the 50-200 was actually the longest lens on the Pentax roadmap. Even on my K100d I could tell the corners were softer at 200mm than the 55-300. As far as I know the WR version doesn't have improved optics.

The HD 55-300 has the same specs as the DA 55-300. It will not focus faster, nor with less noise and, it is not smaller. But, at least it is WR. Does the new coating improves the sharpness too? Does it reduce the CA?

I'm skeptical if the "HD" versions will improve any of the lenses. Especially resolution and CA wise. Coatings improve transmissivity and boost contrast. Some are more scratch resistant. That's about all I think we can hope for. Oh, and it gave a guise for Ricoh to rebadge all the existing lenses and raise the prices.

Since I live in a city, I get few opportunities to go see wildlife. Also, I often use the FA43 and DA70. I understand that my usual expectations for sharpness might never be met with a long focal length (300mm +). Perhaps I will settle for a superzoom to fulfill my needs when I go hiking or in a canoe. The size would be much more practical. And the cost would be commensurate with the frequency of use.

I would like to have the opinions of those who already use long lenses (with Pentax cameras).

My advice would be, which option sounds like the most fun to you. Because hobbies should be fun. If you have fun shooting with a superzoom, then it is the best option. If it has limitations that are frustrating you, ditch it and find something else. I learned my lesson with the K20d. I had no fun with that camera. Too bulky and wide. I love the K5ii. I've learned as long as I'm having fun, I shoot more and enjoy what comes of it more.

Oh, and if I were going to get a superzoom, it would be the panny fz200. That constant f/2.8 lens would be a must for me with the smaller sensor. Especially at the longer focal lengths.

Good luck.

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jf_tea
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Re: WR narrows your choices
In reply to Leandros S, 8 months ago

Leandros S wrote:

AFAIK, there isn't yet a version of either one of the Sigma with any level of weatherproofing.

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No amount of perceived entitlement can replace actual expertise.

hi Leandros,

WR is not absolutely mandatory. But it's very useful when in the wilderness. Running for cover or stowing the equipment under a tarp is not always easy to do quickly.

-JF

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jf_tea
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Re: Why not the 300 or 60-250?
In reply to Britney Elvis, 8 months ago

Britney Elvis wrote:

WR is not gonna happen at those ranges

Why not the DA300 f4? Not WR but a really nice 300 and they go for about 1200
Also the 60-250 is a very good lense... at 1200 If you want a zoom

As far as a canoe goes... I would use a long zoom P&S like the canon sx50 or panny FZ200... (fuji has a nice one too...
I would never risk a turn over in a canoe with a bag full of lenses and a WR camera... but I am poor and a chicken.

-

"It is not necessary to understand things in order to argue about them."
~~ Pierre Beaumarchais~~

Hi, Britney (?),

In a canoe, indeed, the superzoom is a more convenient sized camera. And, it's less expensive in case of mishap in a canoe.

The DA*300 is WR, as written in the next reply.

The DA*60-250 would be too heavy and too short for my purposes.

-JF

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jimrpdx
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awaiting the roadmap zoom
In reply to jf_tea, 8 months ago

That 130-400 has just hit another radar screen, it seems.  I sure wouldn't hold my breath for its imminent release, but hopefully it will be WR at least and capable of good images beyond 300mm.  My radar is cluttered by the ~17-85 zoom, and I'm breathing though perhaps shallowly... 

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paulkienitz
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Re: after the DA 55-300... which lens is "better" ?
In reply to jf_tea, 8 months ago

jf_tea wrote:

Short version: Which lens (zoom or prime) can meet the following requirements, without being too expensive (let's say, no more than $1500) ?

  • at least 300mm
  • sharper than the Pentax 55-300
  • preferably as bright or brighter than f/5.6

I know there is the HD 55-300, the DA*300, and, the Sigma 50-500 and 150-500. Are there other candidates? Which ones are useable for walking or in a canoe? (Probably not the "bigma").

The 55-300 is not that easy to beat.  I know, I've tried.  I think you've already named all the reasonable alternatives: either the DA* 300 or one of the two Sigma zooms.  The HD version is not going to be significantly different.

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paulkienitz
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Re: after the DA 55-300... which lens is "better" ?
In reply to jf_tea, 8 months ago

jf_tea wrote:

thanks AJSAUco.

The Sigma 50-500 looks quite exciting, especially its 500mm FL.

Bear in mind that the actual focal length range is something like 60 to 450 -- a bit less than advertised.

 paulkienitz's gear list:paulkienitz's gear list
Pentax Q Pentax K-3 Pentax smc DA 55-300mm F4.0-5.8 ED Pentax smc DA* 300mm F4.0 ED (IF) SDM Samyang 8mm F3.5 Aspherical IF MC Fisheye +4 more
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jf_tea
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Re: after the DA 55-300... which lens is "better" ?
In reply to paulkienitz, 8 months ago

paulkienitz wrote:

jf_tea wrote:

thanks AJSAUco.

The Sigma 50-500 looks quite exciting, especially its 500mm FL.

Bear in mind that the actual focal length range is something like 60 to 450 -- a bit less than advertised.

Thanks, Paul,

hmmm... so, it would not give a much longer 35mm equivalent FL (FoV) than the 100-300 on MFT (crop 2x). 450 * 1.5 = 675mm.

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jf_tea
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Re: after the DA 55-300... which lens is "better" ?
In reply to paulkienitz, 8 months ago

paulkienitz wrote:

jf_tea wrote:

Short version: Which lens (zoom or prime) can meet the following requirements, without being too expensive (let's say, no more than $1500) ?

  • at least 300mm
  • sharper than the Pentax 55-300
  • preferably as bright or brighter than f/5.6

I know there is the HD 55-300, the DA*300, and, the Sigma 50-500 and 150-500. Are there other candidates? Which ones are useable for walking or in a canoe? (Probably not the "bigma").

The 55-300 is not that easy to beat. I know, I've tried. I think you've already named all the reasonable alternatives: either the DA* 300 or one of the two Sigma zooms. The HD version is not going to be significantly different.

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"A good photograph is knowing where to stand." -- Ansel

Yes, indeed, there are very few alternatives to the 55-300.

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