Are All Pentax 55-300mm Lenses Created Equal?

Photo of HD Pentax DA 55-300mm ED PLM WR RE lens
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These Pentax 55-300mm lenses aren’t all the same! But, are they worth the differences?

What are the differences?

Pentax DAL 55-300mm ED

Photo of American Gold FinchPhoto of PentaAlthough this lens is a plastic mount kit lens, it really does a good job. The photo on the left is the lens I took the photo on the right with using the Pentax K-5iis. Heavily cropped but when you are using for social media or blogs like this, plenty good enough. That bird was in the bushes behind my house, about 100 feet away. This lens is nothing to be ashamed of and very budget friendly. You can probably find one on Ebay around $100.

HD Pentax DA 55-300mm ED WR

Winter photo taken with HD Pentax DA 55-300mm ED WRPhoto of HD Pentax DA 55-300mm ED WR lensThe photo on the right was taken with this lens on the K-5iis. This lens is definitely a much more solid build than the DAL version. Coatings on the ED WR are superior as well. Focuses faster than the DAL and achieves better focus but I suspect that is connected to the camera software in addition to the actual mechanics of this lens. Sadly, I dropped the camera with this lens on it and broke the lens mount (luckily not the camera) so I don’t have as many pictures from this as I would like. Definitely plan to have it fixed. This lens can be bought on Ebay from $300-400.

HD Pentax DA 55-300mm ED PLM WR RE

Winter scene taken with HD Pentax DA ED PLM WR RE lensPhoto of HD Pentax DA 55-300mm ED PLM WR RE lensConsidered by many to be best of the bunch. Luckily I have multiple cameras though. This is NOT friendly with the K-5iis but works well on my K-S1. The K-1ii handles this lens just fine but there are issues you have to plan for. This is a crop sensor lens and doesn’t cover the full frame of the K-1ii. You can choose to switch the camera to crop mode or accept that only certain focal lengths don’t seem to show as great vignette. It works on full frame at 55mm and about 200mm. 300mm is hit and miss but definitely don’t shoot in full frame mode with the hood attached. This lens can be bought on Ebay from $500-700 unless you get really lucky and I paid less than I did for the previous ED WR!

Which is the best Pentax 55-300mm lens?

Three lenses with three different answers!

  • The DAL version is by far the most affordable and will work well on any digital crop sensor camera. If you plan to use it on a non-Pentax camera, you will need the appropriate adapter and it will only work in manual mode. Remember that the Pentax crop is different than other cameras and you may get slightly different results. None of the lenses will work with non-Pentax mirrorless cameras. The mount would be too close to the sensor. Pentax doesn’t currently make a mirrorless camera.
  • The ED WR version is a much more solid lens and is weather resistant. You may have heard you can stand in the rain with Pentax cameras and WR lenses. Just remember, if you zoom, it may draw in water but generally, no worries! I shoot a lot in winter and these lenses really shine.
  • Now for the PLM version! I would say optically, not much different than the ED WR but the focusing is more precise on PLM and so much faster. The added value is how silent the focus is, especially if you are a birder. In my experience, the focus motor in the camera often scares birds before I get the chance to focus.

I think the real answer is it depends on your budget and intended use. You can’t go wrong with any one of these lenses on a crop sensor camera or if you keep in mind the limitations on full frame. Now, get out there and shoot!

Make it a great day,

Barry

P.S. What am I thankful for today? I’m thankful for Canada’s four seasons, cameras and the health to enjoy them. What are you thankful for today?

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Barry Clermont