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Old Jul 3, 2009, 9:30 PM   #1
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Default New Pentax DA*300 or Older Model

Looking at getting a lens in the 300mm range. Looking at the new DA*300 but there seems to be some good buys on the older *300's or even the Tamron SP 300 2.8. Any advice on whether the new Pentax is better than the older lenses? Manual lens is not an issue for me.
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Old Jul 3, 2009, 10:34 PM   #2
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I don't have the DA*300, but I sure have seen good pictures taken with it. I've sometimes thought about it just because of the AF.

On the other hand, I have the A*300. It's smaller and lighter than the DA*300, it easily fits in the A200 Slingshot bag. I can hand-hold it, though it's balance isn't the greatest - all of the weight is on the front, but it's not that awkward. It does not have a tripod mount, but it doesn't really need one (would be nice though). One of the reasons why its smaller is that it's minimum focusing distance is something like 11 feet - significantly further than the DA. Optically it's excellent, it's one of my best lenses. If you don't care about auto focus, then I'd take a good look at this one, if you can get it for a reasonable price.

The F*300 would be another good lens to get if you can find one with both the tripod mount it came with and at a reasonable price (they used to command a premium just because it came with a tripod mount while the FA* didn't).
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Old Jul 4, 2009, 2:03 AM   #3
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I've got the F* 300mm and love it. If the new DA* is better, it must be by a hair. It's hard to understand how any lens could be optically better. I can recommend this lens fullheartedly.

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Old Jul 4, 2009, 3:48 AM   #4
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i've got the tamron 300/2.8 and will also highly recommend it..
i've also have the pentax K300/4 and the super takumar 300/4..
i've also had the A300..
all are MF but i'd recommend any of them.
however, this is a lens i want with AF. problem is tho the AF lenses from any maker are to costly for me to buy..
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Old Jul 4, 2009, 6:22 PM   #5
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Hi 06 Goat,

The DA*300/4 is IMO the best of the medium fast 300 primes for the K mount. I had a chance to try one pretty extensively for a few hours, comparing it to my FA*300/4.5. I ultimately chose to stick with the FA*, but found the DA* to be a tad sharper, controlled Chromatic Aberrations and Purple Fringing at least as well, and the SDM focusing was, of course quieter and at least as fast as the FA*. It also is 1/3 stop faster and focuses closer (about 4 feet as opposed to about 6ft for the FA*), and I did prefer the DA*'s AF/MF switch on the lens better than the FA*'s push/pull focus ring for the same function, though it's not very necessary with the DA*'s Quick Shift focusing (but very convenient for focus trap shots).

The FA* is a bit smaller and lighter (has a 67mm front element as opposed to the 77mm one on the DA*), has a more robust aluminum hood, and I find that I don't miss the tripod collar -- tho I do have one that fits the lens, I've only rarely used it. The FA*300/4.5, especially with SR, is at it's best for me handheld, even with a TC. The biggest factor of the FA* for me was that it was already paid for. . .

Other AF 300/4s are the Pentax F*300/4.5 which is optically the same as the FA*, with the differences in handling being the F* model has an integrated slide out hood, the removeable long base tripod ring, and the F* has to be switched at the lens and at the body to go from AF to MF. Tokina and Sigma also made premium 300/4 AF models that are supposed to be almost as good as the Pentax models, but I've never seen either. The Sigma EX 100-300/4 is easily the best of the premium AF zooms in the range, and is very close to prime quality optically, bigger and heavier than the primes, and pretty expensive in its own right. Used prices have dropped for these lenses since the DA* became available. They used to go for $1000-1500, but I'd expect that you can find them now for $800-1100, which just a year ago would have been considered a steal.

In the manual focus 300's, the Pentax M* and A*300/4s are probably the best. These are sister lenses that share the same optical formulae. The A* has aperture coupling in the A position, and can use exposure automation with the Pentax DSLRs. They differ from the AF F* and FA* and DA* models in that they have no ED elements, so they don't control CA and PF as well, are slightly softer wide open, have longer min focusing distances as Harriet noted, and have generally conceded better build quality. Realize that here, "slightly softer" still is markedly better than any of the consumer grade 7x-300/4-5.6 zooms and a full stop faster. The K 300/4 is a very good lens, though considerably bigger than the M* and A*, it's optically close, and can be gotten for significantly less money. I'd say reasonable used price ranges would be $200-300 for the K, $300-450 for the M* and $400-550 for the A*, now that the DA* is readily available. Just before the DA* was released, the A* was selling for as much as $800.

Another relatively inexpensive good lens optically is the Tamron SP 300/5.6 (Adaptall 2)-- a bit slow, and relatively heavy, but a nice lens for what it is. A very good alternative in an MF zoom is the Tokina 100-300/4 AT-X SD. I have one that's not quite up to snuff, but I've seen other examples that are VERY sharp.

Another alternative would be a Tamron SP80-200/2.8 Adaptall 2 which is, IMO the sharpest of the MF 2.8 zooms. This lens can be found for a bit over $200, but you'd also need an adaptor. A slower but even less expensive zoom in this FL range would be the Pentax A 70-210/4. These are very commonly available for around $100. Both are great with the 1.7x AFA, giving you AF 340mm at f4.8 or f6.8 respectively at the long end.

A big advantage of f4-4.5 class 300's is that they can be made to AF with the Pentax F 1.7x Auto Focusing Adaptor. This TC will allow the camera to AF within the TC and will make a 300/4 into a 510/6.8 or a 300/4.5 into a 510/7.7. This last seems slow, but it will AF in all but the dimmest daylight situations.

The 300/2.8's, for me at least, are the most versatile of the ultra tele lenses. This class lens is the largest that I can handhold at all with any confidence, but I now shoot them almost exclusively with a tripod and gimbal. I actually have 3 of these currently -- the Tamron m60B SP300/2.8 LD, A Sigma EX 300/2.8 APO, and an FA*300/2.8 ED (IF). Of the 3, the Pentax is in a class by itself, optically, build quality, and size and weight. The Sigma and Tamron are similarly sharp, but the Sigma controls CA and PF significantly better and has AF. Tamron also made their SP300/2.8 in AF for the K mount, but these are VERY rare. Tokina also made a very nice MF 300/2.8 AT-X SD, but it is also very rarely seen.

I like the Tamron because it's the easiest to handhold, especially with the little palm rest that usually comes with it. It's also easily the least expensive, with a lot of user class lenses available on the market. These will go anywhere from $300-900 USD, but you have to get a PK or PK/A Adaptall 2 mount to go with it, and these have become relatively rare in the last 2 years. The SP 1.4x TC (mod 140E) is excellent, and included with many of the used lenses sold, but it's an Adaptall 2 only TC. The 1.7x AFA also works with this lens (AF 510mm/4.8), and stacked on the lens+TC combo (AF 714mm/6.7). I usually only use this lens with the 1.7x AFA, so I it's mostly on relatively bright days when I anticipate needing the reach.

I bought the Sigma because I thought I'd never get a chance to own an FA*300/2.8. As usually happens, within 6 months, a nice user-grade FA*300/2.8 that was significantly less expensive than average for this lens became available, so I bought that one also -- I just can't let *teles pass when offered at bargain prices. The Sigma gets called on on overcast days when I want portability, lens speed, and AF at 300 and 420mm. The removeable tripod ring is a major plus for handholding, but the lack of strap lugs on the lens is a significant oversight by Sigma in a lens of this class and size. Figure on $1500-2000 USD for the APO model used, and slightly more for the APO Macro and DG models used. The new price is $3299 at B&H.

The FA*300/2.8 is pretty much in a class by itself. It's easily the sharpest in this class of lens, controls CA and PF better than either of the others, and is by far the biggest and heaviest -- and the best built in class. I use this lens almost exclusively with a tripod and Wimberley Sidekick. I'm kinda small (5'6"/160lbs) with small hands, so the much larger lens barrel is difficult for me to handle easily. This lens is usually $3000-4000 used and the last price for a new one was $4700 USD. My user grade lens with a few scratches on the barrel and hood, but very clean glass was obtained for significantly less than $3000. . . still an ouch to the wallet, but worth every penny to me. . .

Both the Tamron 1.4x AF PZ MC4 TC and the Sigma 1.4x EX APO TCs work well with both the AF 300/2.8s, and both stack well with the 1.7x AFA, so all these lenses are useful to me at both 510mm and 714mm. Both the AF lenses are excellent at 300mm and 420mm with a 1.4x. The TCs have very little effect on center sharpness and resolution which is my main consideration as a birder. Both TCs, either alone or stacked do adversely effect the bokeh, making it a bit frantic when the backgrounds are a bit close to the subject, but since this can be usually be taken care of in PP, I personally don't allow this to limit the usefulness of the extra reach.

Most often, I have the FA*300/4.5 on a K10 with or without a TC for handheld shots and the FA*300/2.8 on a K20 with or without TCs mounted on a tripod. When using two bodies, I stick to the two FA*s because they both focus in the same direction -- The Sigma and Tamron turn in the opposite direction to infinity, and I'm easily confused -- The two FA*'s also match in color and look, which doesn't matter a whit photographically, but I have to admit they look pretty cool together.

A lot of people are reluctant to purchase the 1.7x AFA because they've gotten so expensive in the past couple of years. If you are interested in very long teles, it's really a bargain. Considering that a Sigma EX 500/4.5 is @ $4000 (new) and there's no real equivalent to the 714/6.7 available, but it would easily be in the $3000-5000 range (used) if it were, and the fact that we'd be talking from about 7-12lbs per lens, a couple of high quality TCs with a 300/2.8 is the bargain alternative, both in price and portability. In addition to making a MF lens AF, the AFA also acts as a focus limiter which allows for very fast AF once you get used to the drill. I personally prefer the 510mm combos to a lens like the Bigma because they're internal focusing so don't extend excessively like all of the xxx-500 zooms. This is very important if using a gimbal head as it's effectiveness is dependent on balancing the lens/body combo on the head.

Here are some posts with examples:

FA* 300/4.5 alone and with 1.7x AFA
http://forums.steves-digicams.com/pe...-3-images.html

FA*300/2.8 + 1.7x AFA and FA*300/4.5 +1.7x AFA
http://forums.steves-digicams.com/pe...ne-jelpee.html

FA*300/2.8 + Sigma 1.4x + 1.7x AFA
http://forums.steves-digicams.com/pe...es-4-imgs.html

FA*300/4.5
http://forums.steves-digicams.com/pe...rait-crop.html

Sigma EX300/2.8 + 1.7x AFA
http://forums.steves-digicams.com/pe...ight-beak.html

Sigma EX300/2.8 + Tamron 1.4x
http://forums.steves-digicams.com/pe...-f2-8-apo.html

Tamron SP300/2.8 + 140E 1.4x +1.7x AFA
http://forums.steves-digicams.com/pe...portraits.html

Scott
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Old Jul 4, 2009, 7:37 PM   #6
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scott,
being able to type must be great but your post wears my brain out..LOL!
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Old Jul 4, 2009, 8:24 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robar View Post
scott,
being able to type must be great but your post wears my brain out..LOL!
Hi Roy,

You think you're worn out. . .

I think that it's just that I've done so much thinking about these long teles and all the possibilities of what will give me the most performance. Every time I decide to post on a question like this, I seem to get carried away, and the post turns into a novel. . .

I guess it's a good thing that the Pentax system is so weak in long tele choices, or there'd be another 10 or 15 lens posibilities. . .

Scott
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Old Jul 4, 2009, 9:08 PM   #8
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the new DA lenses are digital only for the aps-c size dslr sensor..
everyone here knows my thoughts about that..
get the older lens
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Old Jul 4, 2009, 10:54 PM   #9
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Thanks everyone for the replies, especially snostorm, might be long (lol) but sure answered a lot of my questions. Appreciate them all, especially when you all have probably answered a bunch of questions like this. Now I guess it is decision time!
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Old Jul 4, 2009, 11:11 PM   #10
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Snostorm, I looked at all of your posts and must say they are all pretty impressive. Guess I need to decide on a lens so I can start practicing!
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