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Old Jan 10, 2009, 2:20 AM   #1
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I got the DA 55-300 yesterday and spent a bit of time playing with it. Here's some results.

The reason I got it was that I missed having something around 200mm. I've been finding myself in situations where 135 isn't long enough and 300 is too long.

A couple of shots taken today at the Botanical Gardens:

A leaf:

Another leaf (I love visiting the gardens and never tire of taking pictures of leaves and flowers)

This morning's moon (this picture has been resized down a bit, had a bit of USM/Smart Sharpen then did a high pass filter layer for additional sharpening:

Patient pooch waiting for his Mom:

The lens is pretty sharp, especially considering it's got such a big zoom range. It isn't a fast lens, and it isn't a macro lens, but it does focus closer than the A*300 does.

It seemed to me that the field of view at 300mm is slightly more than the field of view that the A*300 has - leading me to think that it's more like 280-290 rather than 300. It's biggest aperture at 300mm is 5.8, an awkward aperture for comparison shots. I took some comparison shots, just to see how it compares (not that I'm planning on using 300mm much with this lens, but I was curious). I saw less purple fringing with the DA, but some very minor CA in super-high contrast situations (mainly noticeable when pixel-peeping at 100%).

100% crop, DA55-300 at 300mm, f5.8 (which is wide open), jpg version completely unprocessed. I thought it was pretty sharp and did a good job with such a high contrast subject and the lighting. This shows some of the CA I saw wide open. Its not noticeable when you resize down.

100% crop, A*300 at f6.3 (the lens is an f4), also jpg version unprocessed. I've never noticed much CA, but the lens often suffers from purple fringing in super-high contrast situations (not visible here).

There's a bit less contrast and its sharper. However, I thought the DA lens really held it's own pretty well, even though it doesn't match it.

I also took some other comparison shots using the M 50mm 1.7. The difference between them was small - I keep forgetting how much fun it can be to shoot with that 1.7.

The DA lens does not hold its own against the 77 Limited, however. The 77 is so razor sharp and the DA, while nice, just doesn't compare.
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Old Jan 10, 2009, 9:55 AM   #2
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Looks like a great performance package for the price of this lens! You are right about the sometimes limited reach of the DA*50-135 lens which I exactly the reason I still use my Sigma 70-300 DG APO. I wish Pentax released a DA* version of a 70-200mm zoom with a f/2.,8 openning. The upcoming 60-250 seems a nice range but it lacks the f/2.8 opening.

Have fun with the lens and post some more examples.
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Old Jan 10, 2009, 12:31 PM   #3
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Really like mine-great lens for the price.
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Old Jan 10, 2009, 12:56 PM   #4
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Don't forget the compact size and handling ease of the lens - the ability to touch up focus manually without having to switch off autofocus is a dealmaker for me. A little pp can go a long way towards making up for whatever shortcomings it may have. Stop nitpicking and enjoy it! :P :G :G

Those two leaf shots are outstanding.
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Old Jan 10, 2009, 1:38 PM   #5
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Congrats with your new lens, and the lens looks real good.

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Old Jan 10, 2009, 4:22 PM   #6
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Hi Harriet,

Congrats on the new lens. Looks like a good one, but after seeing some of the shots posted already, I'm not surprised.

It looks like you and the 55-300 are already getting along fine. I'm thinking it'll fit into your shooting style pretty well, and at about a pound, it'll certainly be more easily handlable than the A*300, not that it's a replacement necessarily. I've found it's just too hard to push the * glass out of the collection.

It might be the particular shots (it's hard to really come to any conclusion from a single shot), but in your comparison at 300mm, the zoom appears to have the very slightest touch of what I call a "dreamy" softness, and actually a little less contrast than the A*, but I could definitely be wrong, and the difference is not something that I'd worry about. I'm sure the AF and the versatility of the zoom can offset the slight optical differences.

I'm thinking that this is a very good choice for you. You have the availability of faster options in the 50-135 and A*300 if you need them, and the lightweight versatility of the 55-300 if that fits the situation. I'm sure that you're gonna have fun with this one.

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Old Jan 10, 2009, 4:56 PM   #7
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Outstanding shots of the leaves, Harriet (not that I'm surprised). Now that you don't need your very heavy, not zoomable, hardly any better A* 300 mm...

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Old Jan 10, 2009, 6:47 PM   #8
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Congrats, Harriet. Looks like you're going to like that lens. Keep posting from the botanical gardens. I enjoy them.

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Old Jan 10, 2009, 7:06 PM   #9
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Scott - I wasn't quite sure how to explain the DA's fault when comparing with the A - I was thinking it was a bit of CA, which I also noticed in a couple of other, higher contrast pictures. But your description is excellent - dreamy. It isn't that it's truly soft, just not as sharp as the A.

I'm really delighted with this lens. As I said, it holds its own quality-wise (except against the 77). It's biggest advantage is its size/weight and cost. I was in the market for something around 200mm so I figured my choices were the DA50-200, DA55-300, DA*200 f2.8 and DA*60-250. I wasn't real happy with the DA50-200 when I got it, and mine now needs repair. I'd love to own the DA*200 - but it's large and heavy (it would have been my first choice if weight and price didn't count so much). There's no point in me buying a lens I'll never carry around because it won't fit in my bag with the Viv 105 macro, DA12-24 and A*300. That applies to the new DA*60-250 also, and it gives up a bit in speed (not that I was concerned about that - I wanted a lens for outdoors so speed wasn't an issue). It just seemed like the 55-300 was the best solution, a bit better than the Tamron or Sigma 70-300 lenses, small and lightweight.

It's an excellent compromise lens, and the quality is certainly acceptable for what I want it for. Today I went hiking with it and tried to juggle my full Slingshot bag, snow shoes, ski poles, a new 60CSx GPS (way cool!), water bottle, clothing to keep comfortable (a headache in itself as those Santa Ana winds can sure be cold at 8800 feet elevation!). I ended up not using the macro (unusual) and didn't take any comparison shots at all - I really need to find a better way of dealing with all that stuff than what I'm doing now. I'm getting more and more convinced that the Army has the right idea for carrying equipment while hiking - I'm now considering Lowepro's belt/harness system.
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Old Jan 10, 2009, 10:08 PM   #10
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nice choice of lens Harriet, I hav an offer on one right now and I'm just waiting to hear back from him. hopefully I'll be joining you & Penolta and a few others here with my own 55-300 soon.
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