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

Started Jan 24, 2014 | Questions thread
OP jf_tea Senior Member • Posts: 1,104
Re: after the DA 55-300... which lens is "better" ?

GossCTP wrote:

jf_tea wrote:


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.

Isn't it surprising that some older, much older, lenses can be sharper than a "modern" lens like the DA 55-300?  Or is it just that a prime is sharper than a zoom?

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.

Of course, being in a canoe, there is a risk of suddenly getting *out* of the canoe. No WR gear would survive being submerged. In shallow water, there is a risk about equipment becoming useless. In deeper water, I'd first be worried about survival. Basically, I would not board a canoe with someone who does not respect rules about keeping their balance in a small craft. Nonetheless, even with care and practice, there is a certain level of risk.

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 50-200 is far from perfect (euphemism), but, if I close it a bit, it improves quite well. Those snow monkeysare rather nice, well, at least I was satisfied enough Also, that small lens did not take too much room in my luggage afterwards in the trip. The snow monkeys are somewhat mischievious. I was more confident because the lens and camera were WR.

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.

I used to like the K7... until I had a K5. I lived with its limitations for AF under artificial light. And, then, finally, I became really satisfied when I got a K5IIs. That's how I want AF to work!

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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Thanks for the long reply, Goss.

The FZ-200 would be at the top of the list for a superzoom. I'm surprised Panasonic has not announced a newer model to replace it. (The FZ-70 is a lower end camera).

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