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Old Jun 26, 2009, 4:57 PM   #1
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Default DA 55-300, Revisited

I've had this lens for about 6 months, and i was never quite satisfied with it. I thought it was because I had a number of really good lenses and that I just wasn't going to be satisfied with a lesser quality lens. About a month ago, I took some sunsets with the 55-300 and thought that there was no way that the lens should be as blurry as mine was on both sides, so I asked for advice over at pentax forums. After comparing my brick walls with someone else's, I sent the lens into Pentax for warranty service.

Here's a brick wall taken at f8 - notice how blurry the edges are compared to the center (and don't mind the pin cushion, that seems to be normal for this lens):

I thought it was pretty obvious, even using this reduced size picture. It's a jpg straight out of the camera.

Last night I arrived home to find a box on my front porch. I was afraid that I would open it to find a note saying that my lens was "within specs for this lens" (especially considering how the rest of my day had gone).

But not so! In the box was a brand new lens!!!! I immediately went outside and took a picture of the rough wood siding on the house (no brick wall) and was really pleased with the edge to edge sharpness, even wide open.

So today I spent a short time walking around my subdivision taking pictures with the new lens. I now know why this lens has a good reputation. I'm also no longer interested selling this one.

These have all been processed, some more than others. All were shot raw and covered using LR (with one exception). I've been playing with new ways of sharpening (there are many different ways). I thought these looked OK on my monitor, but I may have over-done things. Let me know if you think they look over-processed.

First, edge to edge - top to bottom - sharpness (f5.6, 162mm, 1/250):

If you take a look at the bottom and top of the picture, then compare it to the center, it's about the same - none of the extra blurriness that the brick wall has.

Looking for purple fringing and CA (f8, 300mm, 1/200). I knew when I took the picture that the rail was going to be blown out. This was as bad as it got. As far as I'm concerned, this is really good (I didn't bother trying to get rid of it). It's not a direct comparison to the brick wall as I (as usual) didn't hold the camera straight so had to straighten it. So it's not completely edge-to-edge.

This next picture is pretty much straight from LR - I did resize and add a bit of sharpening to it. It shows that there's not much for purple fringing, the lens is sharp across it's frame (f8 same as the wall, 300mm 1/200). It also shows how small this ground squirrel is, and that I can't hold the camera straight! Also give one an idea of the bokeh, though the foreground would be pretty brutal no matter what lens you use.

This is a different picture, but taken at about the same spot. It's significantly cropped, resized just a little bit and a little bit of sharpening, f8, 300mm 1/200). Posted because I thought the ground squirrel was really cute.

This one was converted in DxO because it was taken at ISO 2000 (f8, 260mm 1/320) and I wanted to use it for noise reduction, then brought into LR for a bit more color correction (I'm more comfortable with LR for most things and the flowers were in heavy shade because the sun hadn't risen high enough to shine on them yet), exported to CS4 for final resizing and a bit of sharpening, which re-introduced artifacts in the out of focus background. So I made another layer, used one of the blur filters and a layer mask to hide everything I wanted sharp. I thought it came out rather well considering that the original had so much wrong with it (but it was sharp).

Of course, I had to take a picture of a bird (Scrub Jay, one of the most common birds here), f8, 300mm, 1/125 handheld). This wasn't cropped all that much. I know the post is blown out - that was in sunlight, but the bird was in shadow.

This picture was done with a different way of sharpening. I normally have a really tough time trying to get this type of scene without looking way over-done. I thought this one looked all right on my monitor when I was working on it, but don't know if others will think so. I'd really like to know how it looks on other monitors. It's not a brilliant shot, just wondering about the processing.

Last one. This is actually a panorama - I wanted to get as much magnification as I could - on one shot I cut off the top petal, and on the second one I cut off the bottom (I was swaying a bit, these are hand-held). So CS4 to the rescue - let CS4 make the panorama and blend the layers. Flatten, resize, add some sharpening. Never quite thought of a flower being a panorama, but otherwise I would have tossed both pictures.

This is really 2 different subjects, the post processing and the lens, but thought I'd leave them together as the pp does apply to my satisfaction with the lens. I wasn't as pleased with some of the long distance shots, but don't think it had to do with the lens. For relatively close-ups (I have some nice sort-of large dandelions and mid-distances, this copy is really very, very good.
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Old Jun 26, 2009, 5:46 PM   #2
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Default Great News

I could tell right from the start you were not happy with your 55-300. You had every right to be disapointed. I then read your post with your photos on another forum. I viewed all the photos full size and could not believe how bad of copy you had. I followed that thread and was glad to hear you were sending it back. I wanted to tell you to do that but I am not a member of the other forum. You did the right thing and it turned out for the best. I could feel your disgust with it. When your used to sharp photos from your primes and DA* lenses. It is hard to settlle for less. It was acually your photos that made me buy the DA*50-135. I do have the 55-300 and glad I have it. It is a good lens when you need that distance and you only want to carry 1 lens. I'm so glad it worked out for you

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Old Jun 26, 2009, 8:55 PM   #3
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Stevie - didn't realize anyone here was following that thread. I just wasn't sure whether my lens had a problem or if I just wasn't willing to settle for a consumer lens. I really struggled with this issue for a while, kept thinking of getting one of the 70-200 f2.8 or the DA*200 f2.8, and just didn't want to add another heavy lens to my camera bag. I hate sending anything in for warranty repair!

There's two things I'm taking away from this experience:
1. The DA 55-300 lens really is as good as it's reputation, a lens I can now recommend without reservation.
2. I won't hesitate to send in something to Pentax if it needs repair again. They were great - no questions, just a new lens (with a one year warranty starting from the date of their letter) in a couple of weeks.
3. Since I now have a good lens for the 200mm range, I can think about the K-7 without twinges of regret, trying to decide between a lens I feel a need for or a camera that I don't really need, but really want.
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Old Jun 27, 2009, 12:07 PM   #4
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Congratulations, Harriet. Glad you got the replacement and are now as happy as I have been with this lens. I hadn't seen that thread either, as I haven't been visiting there lately due to the excessive volume of inane speculation about the K7. Like some of the other commenters on that thread I got mine to use for critter pics, and not brick walls, so I probably wouldn't have noticed your problem if I did have it.
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Old Jun 27, 2009, 1:24 PM   #5
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Well, Harriet, I'm glad for the both of us that you found out what the problem was and got a great result from Pentax. Happy for you because you weren't pleased with your first lens and that's never good. Happy for me because I am pleased with my 55-300 and was wondering if either my vision was getting worse in a technical sense or if I simply was losing my photographic "eye."
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Old Jun 27, 2009, 2:04 PM   #6
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Mtn. Gal,

Too bad you got a lemon originally, but I'm pleased that Pentax replced it with a new lens that functions well.

I have had a Pentax 55-300 since June, 2008. I'm very happy with it. I use it for pictures of birds (Owls, Pelicans etc.) , animals, racing cars (ice racing) etc.

I attach either to my K10D or KM. Some of the pictures that I have taken with it (under great lighting conditions) have been excellent in clarity, detail, colour rendition.

I'm very pleased with this lens...if it was ever lost or stolen (heaven forfend ) I would not hesitate to replace it with another Pentax 55-300.

In the winter I often wander about in forested areas for an hour or so at a time...often when the temps are -25 C or so...to this date, both the K10D and the 55-300 work well...no loss of function in this cold Canadian winter weather. BTW I get a kick out of Pentax rating the K7 for temps as cold as -10...I have a feeling based on my experience with Pentax equipment that the K7 will function well in colder temps.

Actually camera equipment needs to...lot's of sales in Canada, Northern US, Northern Europe...they need to be able to do this.

Last edited by lesmore49; Jun 27, 2009 at 2:09 PM.
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Old Jun 27, 2009, 9:50 PM   #7
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Hi Harriet,

Very good to see that you've resolved the problem with that lens. These results look much more what I would expect from the 55-300.

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Old Jun 27, 2009, 11:20 PM   #8
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Thanks everyone.

Penolta - that is probably why it took me a while to decide what to do. I would use the lens for near-macro and get good results, but then I'd shoot a landscape or a street scene and wonder what I was doing wrong. I'd put it aside and just not use it for a while.

Now I think I have found the walk-about lens that I had wanted, something to use when I want something light and/or around 200mm.
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