Sony DT 55-300mm F4.5-5.6 SAM A-mount lens review by Miranda F

reviewer#23456 date: Dec-25-2015
sharpness: 4.5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 5
overall: 4.9
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP; 61MP61 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:Sony DT 55-200mm
Minolta 75-300mm
Minolta 100-300mm (APO and non-APO
Cosina/Soligor 60-300mm
Various MF primes in the 300-500mm range
price paid:£100 after cashback
positive:Another very sharp DT lens from Sony.
Extremely sharp
Low CA, distortion, etc, especially with in-camera correction.
Very solid build, metal camera mount
Zoom lock
Lovely wide manual focus ring
Decently large lens hood provided
Not far off constant aperture (f4.5 - 5.6)
SAM AF works well.
negative:filter thread turns while focussing
Longer than the 100-300mm or the 55-200mm
MFD isn't as close as the 55-200mm
Incompatible with some teleconverters
comment:I started off my Sony A-mount telephoto collection with a Minolta 75-300mm lens, which I like a lot for its shape and handling but found was not sharp enough for birding and had significant CA in ksy shots at 100% crop, I next tried the Minolta 100-300mm (non-APO) lens, which was conveniently shorter but no better at 300mm. At about this time I got a M-AF adapter for a few older M42/T-mount MF primes (the long preset ones) which were a lot more awkward to carry; these were maybe a tad sharper with maybe a trifle less CA. The Cosina/Soligor 'licensed to Minolta' 60-300 I acquired next was a great deal sharper at full-stretch and showed pretty good CA even at full aperture, but was heavy and AF was very slow.

This Sony is better at 300mm than all of them - my own outdoor tests show it to be extremely sharp (even on 100% crop) just as the SLRgear test shows, and it is useable at full aperture and excellent one stop away over the whole focal range. Unlike most of the other DT lenses, manual focus is good to use with focus peaking set, as the wide knurled ring and low friction make MF quite easy. If you're not getting sharp results with this in either AF or MF then you're not focussing on the right place!

If we forget the older lenses and judge it on its own merits, it is a high-quality and well-designed lens despite being a DT model. It has a zoom lock at the short end which would be very welcome on the Minolta lenses but is hardly needed here. Despite the plastic body it is very solid with a metal rim at the front and a metal body mount (see Kurt Munger review) and gives the feel of a high-quality lens rather than a cheap one.

Optically, it is very good indeed, hugely sharp and shows very little CA (essentially none even at 100% crop on the A58 with lens corrections on).
As a 300mm lens I cannot fault it, except to say it is quite a lot longer than the 100-300mmn which might be an issue if you wander around with the camera around your neck.

Comparison with the Sony DT 55-200mm lens is more interesting, because despite the simnilar sounding specification they are completely different lenses. The 55-200mm is much smaller and lighter, more plasticky, though is nicer to leave on the camera when you're going for a walk, and it focuesses much closer too which often it makes it a better lens for butterflies and flowers. Both lenses are very sharp at fiull stretch, though I have trouble getting my copy of the 55-200mm to focus exactly at the long end as I mention in my review. I've not had the same issue with the 55-300mm.
I got a really good deal on this lens new in 2015, and it does everything I expect (unlike all the other lenses I mention which disappoint me in some way or other when I use them). However if I don't need the long end I will be as likely to take out the Sony 55-200mm due to its dinky size.

EDIT: since getting a nice copy of the Minolta 100-300mm APO and doing some more testing, I've downgraded the sharpness of the Sony. The APO is sharper wide open, as well as being smaller and lighter, and now tends to be my go-to 300mm zoom rather than the Sony (and it does FF as well which is useful). And when I don't need 300mm, I tend to pick the Sony 55-200mm is a lot shorter and lighter.

I have noticed that aperture & focal length don't get corrected with a Kenko 1.4x dgx TC fitted (so IBIS no longer works properly either), unlike the other DT lenses I've tried and will not even try to AF, unlike the 100-300 APO which will happily AF in good light with the same TC fitted.
This may be an issue with this specific TC but I think there is something screwy in the way the 55-300mm talks to the camera.
So for birding/etc the Min 100-300 APO plus 1.4x TC is the current best option.
2x Tcs are definitely waste of time!

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 18
  • sharpness: 4.67
  • color: 4.50
  • build: 4.11
  • distortion: 4.67
  • flare control: 4.50
  • overall: 4.49 - Home of the alpha system photographer
In memory of Cameron Hill - brettania