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Old May 22, 2011, 7:34 PM   #1
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I just left Las Vegas and sent my FAJ 75-300mm back to Newfoundland with Annette. This image will show why. These three shots were taken within minutes of each other with my K20D from the same vantage point. The lenses were:

My FA J 75-300mm (awful)
Harriet's DA 55-300mm (acceptable - barely)
Harriet's DA* 300mm (magnificent)

The FA J works better with Annette's K100D Super because the lower resolution is a little more tolerant. At least now I know why my shots were soft (and thankfully it wasn't just my technique).

Back in Tuk now, a special thanks to Harriet for giving me the opportunity to use some quality lenses (my FA primes, my DA 10-17 and my DA 14 are the only really good lenses I own). The chance to try DA* lenses and FA and DA limited lenses has changed my buying habits forever.

Got to see things in Vegas area that we would not have gotten to see if it had not been for Harriet and Dan. This forum has become a place where friends meet.
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Current equipment
Pentax K5, K3:
FA 35mm f2, FA 50 f1.4, FA 28-70mm f4, FA 28-80mm f3.5-5.6, FA 80-320mm f4.5-5.6, F 50mm f1.7, Tamron SP 70-200mm f2.8 Di, DA 10-17 f3.5-4.5, DA 14 f2.8, DA 16-45mm f4, DA 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 WR, DA 50-200mm f4-5.6 WR, AF-540FGZ

Olympus E-P2, E-P5, OM-D E-M1: 9mm to 150mm lenses

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Old May 22, 2011, 11:24 PM   #2
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Hi Ira.

I have both the 55-300 and *300 (and before them the 80-320 and Tamron 70-300 di macro) and have to say that I totally agree - the *300 is a magnificent lense and immeasurably superior to the others.

However I think you are doing the 55-300 a disservice. It is a budget lense (though much more expensive than the others mentioned) and clearly an improvement on any of the other zooms but note that at 300mm it is softer than at it's best FL, about 260mm, where it is much sharper and would crop sharper to a similar 300mm FL. Worth a try next time !
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Pentax : 15 Ltd, 77 Ltd, 43/1.9 Ltd, Cosina 55/1.2, DA*300/4, Contax Zeiss Distagon 28/2.8, Raynox 150/250, AFA x1.7, Metz 50 af1.

Nikon : D800, D600, Sigma 500/4.5, Sigma 120-300/2.8, Zeiss Distagon ZF2 - 21/2.8, Zeiss Distagon ZF2 - 35/2.0, Nikkor 85/1.8G, Sigma 50/1.4. Nikon x1.4 TC, Sigma x2.0 TC
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Old May 23, 2011, 12:04 AM   #3
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Hi Ira.
However I think you are doing the 55-300 a disservice. It is a budget lense (though much more expensive than the others mentioned) and clearly an improvement on any of the other zooms but note that at 300mm it is softer than at it's best FL, about 260mm, where it is much sharper and would crop sharper to a similar 300mm FL. Worth a try next time !
Didn't mean to show the DA 55-300 in a bad light, as the image shows it is much better than the FAJ 75-300 (which, BTW, I got almost for free with a *istDL and FA 28-105 from ebay). I didn't look for a "sweet spot" because I had only one day with Harriet to try out the lenses so I checked them all out at the same 300mm focal length. The FAJ was the worst but the DA* was so good that it totally eclipsed the others. I would love to try a DA* 60-250mm.
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http://aicphotography.blogspot.com/
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Current equipment
Pentax K5, K3:
FA 35mm f2, FA 50 f1.4, FA 28-70mm f4, FA 28-80mm f3.5-5.6, FA 80-320mm f4.5-5.6, F 50mm f1.7, Tamron SP 70-200mm f2.8 Di, DA 10-17 f3.5-4.5, DA 14 f2.8, DA 16-45mm f4, DA 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 WR, DA 50-200mm f4-5.6 WR, AF-540FGZ

Olympus E-P2, E-P5, OM-D E-M1: 9mm to 150mm lenses

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Old May 23, 2011, 3:16 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Monza76 View Post
Didn't mean to show the DA 55-300 in a bad light, as the image shows it is much better than the FAJ 75-300 (which, BTW, I got almost for free with a *istDL and FA 28-105 from ebay). I didn't look for a "sweet spot" because I had only one day with Harriet to try out the lenses so I checked them all out at the same 300mm focal length. The FAJ was the worst but the DA* was so good that it totally eclipsed the others. I would love to try a DA* 60-250mm.
I compared the 60-250 side by side with the *300 before I bought the *300. The 60-250 is almost as good - but not quite, there's a visible difference but then that's no surprise when one is a zoom and one a prime ! However what you lose in resolution you gain in flexibility. Swings & Roundabouts - choose your poison !
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Pentax : 15 Ltd, 77 Ltd, 43/1.9 Ltd, Cosina 55/1.2, DA*300/4, Contax Zeiss Distagon 28/2.8, Raynox 150/250, AFA x1.7, Metz 50 af1.

Nikon : D800, D600, Sigma 500/4.5, Sigma 120-300/2.8, Zeiss Distagon ZF2 - 21/2.8, Zeiss Distagon ZF2 - 35/2.0, Nikkor 85/1.8G, Sigma 50/1.4. Nikon x1.4 TC, Sigma x2.0 TC
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Old May 23, 2011, 9:36 AM   #5
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I'm somewhat surprised at the difference between the FAJ and the DA 55-300, I would have thought they would have been closer as far as quality. It does look like it's a step up, though definitely not in the same league as the DA*300 (but I already knew that).

As you probably discovered shooting all of the various lenses, the DA*300 comes at a price in weight and size (as well as expense). Ultimately one has to decide where to compromise, and the answer isn't always the same for each person. I tend to compromise on portability so that I don't sacrifice quality (as you saw with my two big camera bags)!

Hopefully next time we'll have more time to play around with everything - one afternoon and evening wasn't enough!
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Old May 23, 2011, 11:40 AM   #6
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I am limiting myself to 200mm until I can get a longer lens that works for me. I haven't ruled out my technique completely, perhaps the FA-J is too light weight for me to hold steadily BUT... I cannot get sharp pictures with it. Annette has much better success with her K100, perhaps because of the lower resolution or perhaps she is better at hand holding. As a result it is now hers and I will stick with the DA 50-200mm WR until something better comes along.
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Riverview, NB, Canada
http://aicphotography.blogspot.com/
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Current equipment
Pentax K5, K3:
FA 35mm f2, FA 50 f1.4, FA 28-70mm f4, FA 28-80mm f3.5-5.6, FA 80-320mm f4.5-5.6, F 50mm f1.7, Tamron SP 70-200mm f2.8 Di, DA 10-17 f3.5-4.5, DA 14 f2.8, DA 16-45mm f4, DA 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 WR, DA 50-200mm f4-5.6 WR, AF-540FGZ

Olympus E-P2, E-P5, OM-D E-M1: 9mm to 150mm lenses

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Old May 23, 2011, 10:16 PM   #7
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Very interesting comparison, thanks for sharing this Ira. I have to admit I'm surprised, as I have read many times that many "economy" lenses are slow, but quite sharp. This shows that the less expensive lenses are both slower and softer than the top notch glass. That isn't something I wanted to hear, as I really can't afford a DA* 300. But I'm seriously considering renting one later this summer, when my wife and I go on a puffin-watching trip.
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Old May 23, 2011, 10:34 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by mtnman View Post
Very interesting comparison, thanks for sharing this Ira. I have to admit I'm surprised, as I have read many times that many "economy" lenses are slow, but quite sharp. This shows that the less expensive lenses are both slower and softer than the top notch glass. That isn't something I wanted to hear, as I really can't afford a DA* 300. But I'm seriously considering renting one later this summer, when my wife and I go on a puffin-watching trip.
If you can rent one do it, puffins are small and keep their distance so a good lens is a must.
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Ira
Riverview, NB, Canada
http://aicphotography.blogspot.com/
_______________________________
Current equipment
Pentax K5, K3:
FA 35mm f2, FA 50 f1.4, FA 28-70mm f4, FA 28-80mm f3.5-5.6, FA 80-320mm f4.5-5.6, F 50mm f1.7, Tamron SP 70-200mm f2.8 Di, DA 10-17 f3.5-4.5, DA 14 f2.8, DA 16-45mm f4, DA 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 WR, DA 50-200mm f4-5.6 WR, AF-540FGZ

Olympus E-P2, E-P5, OM-D E-M1: 9mm to 150mm lenses

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Old May 23, 2011, 11:07 PM   #9
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Hi Ira,

While I can't argue with the lure of * class lenses, especially in the 300mm FL class since I own and use both an FA*300/4.5 and an FA* 300/2.8 (in addition to 3 more premium lenses in this FL class, and if I take TCs into account, add 3 more lenses), the last lens I bought was an EX cond. used DA 55-300 f4-5.8. This is not an counter argument to your post however, but just another perspective. . .

I wanted a lightweight carry around xx-300mm zoom, and my old Tamron 70-300 and Pentax FA 80-320, while serviceable, were not doing the job the way I wanted them to do. The DA is smaller and lighter than either, and most importantly, it has Quick Shift focusing. I don't value QS for the ability to touch up minor AF misses as most seem to use it, but rather for its ability to allow easy prefocus of the lens for difficult AF conditions as in lower light and AF confusing scenes. This allows me to get fast focus lock without those frustrating full throw focus hunts. I've relied on AF for focusing for quite a while, and the DA55-300 is best in class in the 300mm zooms with the exception of the Sigma 100-300/4 which is not anywhere in the same class, either optically (in a positive sense) and size, weight, or cost (in a very negative way).

At this point in time, for me, the body (sensor) can make a critical difference. The ability to stop down a lens, using higher ISO in the K-5 to compensate for the slower apertures without much penalty in IQ (noise) or shutter speed makes a significant difference in the ability to use lower grade optics. A lot of people have said that the higher resolution of the new sensors exposes the faults of the lesser optics, but I'm finding that the greater sensitivity of the new sensors allow me to shoot consumer grade lenses at smaller apertures than had previously been practical, so in many cases, you can get a significant boost in IQ without paying the size, weight, and cost penalties of premium tele primes.

This somewhat evens the playing field in tele lenses where sharpness wide open (or close) had been considered a high priority for practical use since the most practical carrying lenses are necessarily slower in max aperture. Of course, the premium lenses will still outperform the "consumer" glass at f8 and f11, but the differences are smaller. Smaller apertures also negate some of the advantages of the expensive ED glass for CA/PF control, though the DA 55-300 uses ED glass in at least one element. I do lose some ability to control DOF, but in close quarters, the long fast glass has very thin DOF, and I usually want more anyway. The DA 55-300 does focus to 1.4m v 2m for the FA*300/4.5, and gives me the ability to shoot at shorter FLs to give some context perspective to some series of shots without having to change lenses. I rarely have used intermediate FLs on this lens so far. . .

All that being said, the DA 55-300 is a compromise/convenience lens, and if I know that I'll only be shooting long, I will always choose one of the others for any number of reasons, but if I'm just grabbing my camera to take with me to run errands, there's a good chance that the DA 55-300 or maybe even the DA 18-250 will be on it. . .

I'd also look at the F* or FA* 300 f4.5 or the Sigma EX 100-300 f4 APO as possible alternatives to the DA* 300/4. They all have the advantage of screw drive (I see it as an advantage, at least) so Sigma and Tamron or Kenko 1.4x TC can get you 420mm f 6.3 or f5.6 respectively with AF, and 510mm f 7.7 f6.8 respectively with the 1.7x AFA. The DA* will also give you 510mm f6.8 and AF with the AFA, but there are no 1.4x TC designed for SDM lenses. The Sigma has the advantage of the zoom, but it's a 3 lb lens as opposed to about 2 lbs for the F*/FA*. The DA* is a hair better lens optically than these three, IMO, but the versatility of the screw drive lenses with TCs gives them an edge in my use.

Scott
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Old May 24, 2011, 12:04 AM   #10
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Thanks Scott, of my three test shots the difference between the FA-J 75-300 and the DA 55-300 was much greater than going from the DA 55-300 to the DA* 300. That is the DA 55-300 would probably serve me very well instead of the added expense of the DA* for what would be occasional use at best.

Check out the first shot here http://forums.steves-digicams.com/pe...y-harriet.html it was taken with the DA 55-300 and I think it is a marvelous shot with a very nice "look" to it. The exposure was at 300mm, f8 and 1/320s. I could be very happy with performance like that.

I think that for my shooting a quality lens like an FA 77 limited or a DA 70mm limited would be a better investment and the DA 55-300mm as my long lens would do fine. I love the DA* 300mm but it is hard to stretch the budget that far for something that will get so little use.

I am not backtracking on my original comment merely pointing out the budget has to play a role for most of us. You have just made me acknowledge that point.

Thanks for the comment.

BTW, I also use the quick shift to prefocus my DA lenses.
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Ira
Riverview, NB, Canada
http://aicphotography.blogspot.com/
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Current equipment
Pentax K5, K3:
FA 35mm f2, FA 50 f1.4, FA 28-70mm f4, FA 28-80mm f3.5-5.6, FA 80-320mm f4.5-5.6, F 50mm f1.7, Tamron SP 70-200mm f2.8 Di, DA 10-17 f3.5-4.5, DA 14 f2.8, DA 16-45mm f4, DA 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 WR, DA 50-200mm f4-5.6 WR, AF-540FGZ

Olympus E-P2, E-P5, OM-D E-M1: 9mm to 150mm lenses

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