Sony

Review Sony 55-300 mm

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Sony 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DT SAM SAL-55300 & Sony A-77 (S APS-C)

The Sony 55-300 mm is a suitable telephoto lens for a wide range of subjects, from portraits to wildlife, and fast-action sports to a lesser extent (i.e.: in bright light only). If you really wish to specialize in action photography, a more expensive 70-200 mm f/2.8 or an even more expensive fast telephoto lens might be a better alternative. This recently introduced lens fits all A-mount camera models with APS-C sensors. In this review, we coupled the Sony 55-300 mm with the Sony A-77; a camera with an APS-C sized sensor.

Sony 55-300 review

Specifications
Sony 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6
Image Stabilization:-
lenses/ groups:12/9
length x diameter:117 / 77
filter size:62
Weight:460
Lens hood:+

Sony 55-300mm review

Sony 55 mm-300 mm @ 300 mm f/5.6. Cropped sample image.
Click (twice) on the image above for a larger version.
Review Sony-55-300 mm
Field of view (FOV) Sony 55-300mm @ 55mm
Sony 55-300 review
FOV Sony 55-300mm @ 300mm

The impressive 5.5 x zoom range of the Sony 55-300 mm gives you a field of view equal to a 83 - 450 mm zoom lens on a camera with a full frame sensor.

Construction and autofocus

 
I was very pleased with the looks and feel of the Sony 55-300mm lens. It is well built and feels very good in daily use. The Sony 55-300 mm lens has a switch to lock the zoom lens in its shortest configuration during transport. The lens has a second switch for manual focus / autofocus. The SAM AF motor offers high-speed AF tracking capabilities for images and Full HD video. Sony claims the Smooth Autofocus Motor (SAM) to be "whisper-quiet." That seems a little exaggerated to me. I would say it has a noise level common for lenses in this price range, but lower than the AF noise of the Sony 75-300 mm.   Sony 55-300 review

In-camera Lens correction by the Sony A77

 
When possible, we use in-camera corrections on jpg files in our tests as much as possible, and RAW files without analyzing in-camera adjustments. The Sony A77 camera in this test provides correction for vignetting, chromatic aberration, and distortion. Sometimes, no correction is available for a lens in the camera profile, especially for very old or very new lenses. Unfortunately, you cannot see if a correction profile is available for the lens you use beforehand.
Our results show that the Sony A77 has made a correction profile for the Sony 55-300 mm available. Distortion and chromatic aberration are smaller in the corrected jpg files than in the uncorrected RAW files.
Lens-correction

Image stabilization Sony 55-300mm

 

The Sony A-77 camera has built-in image stabilization ("steady shot"), which has a gain of 3 stops in conjunction with the Sony 55-300 mm lens. That is very good. A hand held shot image using a focal length of 55 mm and a shutter speed of 1/50 second is as sharp as a steady shot image, taken at the same focal length and a shutter speed of 1/6 second. You cannot switch image stabilization on or off on the lens itself, unfortunately. For that, you have to dive into the menu of the Sony A77.

Image-stabilization-Sony-55-300mm

Vignetting Sony 55-300 mm

 

Vignetting is kept low for all focal lengths, both in jpg and RAW files. With the aperture wide open you might see a little vignetting in clear blue skies, but after stopping down 2 stops (lower focal lengths) or 1 stop (longer focal length), this is completely eliminated. At f/8 and higher, there is no visible vignetting at all focal length.

Move your mouse over the image for the Sony 55-300 mm vignetting in RAW files.

Vignet-Sony-55-300mm

Distortion Sony 55-300 mm

 

In-camera correction of distortion by the Sony A77 yields jpg files without visible distortion over the entire zoom range. The RAW files show the true character of the Sony 55-300 mm lens, with a slight barrel shaped distortion at 55 mm and a more pronounced (~1.5%) pincushion distortion over the 90-300 mm focal range. Only when photographing buildings, the distortion in RAW files will become visible and has to be corrected by software.

Move your mouse over the image for the Sony 55-300 mm distortion in RAW files.

Distortion-Sony-55-300

Bokeh Sony 55-300mm

 
Most telephoto 4.5-5.6 zoom lenses on an APS-C camera do not show very attractive bokeh. The Sony 55-300 mm is no exception to this rule. If its bokeh you are after, the Sony 50 mm macro lens has a lower price tag and a much nicer bokeh. Click here for an image crop of a sample image with a less attractive Out of Focus area (OOF). If you wish to use this lens as a portrait lens, you should choose your background well. bokeh

Flare

 
The Sony 55-300 mm comes with a hood, but if you do not use it, it is probably not a disaster. The Sony 55-300 mm seems highly resistant to flare. Only in a limited number of situations where, at a specific angle, a very bright light shines directly into the lens, green and purple ghosting may occur. This is a really good achievement by the designers of Sony. flare
Dikdikmini
A Dikdik (Madoqua) is an antelope of 30 cm. For such an animal, a 300 mm telephoto lens comes in handy. This sample image illustrates the disadvantage of a not so fast (f/4.5 - 5.6) lens. To prevent camera shake, the Sony A77 camera was set to ISO 1600 for this image. By doing so, you will obtain a sharp picture but, because of the noise suppression, it looks less natural compared to an image shot at 200 ISO.

Click (2x) on the Dikdik for a larger version.

Resolution Sony 55-300 mm

 

As is usual for a telephoto zoom lens, the Sony 55-300 mm shows its highest resolution at the shorter focal lengths. Nevertheless, over the 55-267 mm zoom range, this lens will give you a resolution of 2000 LW/PH, which is very good. At focal lengths below 100 mm, the corner resolution almost equals the center resolution. At higher focal lengths, you will have to stop down one or two stops to obtain this same high performance. At a 300 mm focal length, the center resolution still amounts 1500 LW/PH, which might be 25% lower than the resolution at lower focal lengths, but it is still a value not reached by many lenses that are more expensive. Well done, Sony.

Click on the graph to the right to see all test results for Sony 55-300 mm resolution. Click (twice) on the flamingo at the top of this article for an impression of the sharpness @ 300 mm.

Sony-lenstest-resolution

Chromatic aberration Sony 55-300 mm

 

jpg-chromatische-aberratie

RAW-chromatische-aberratie
The Sony 55-300 mm contains an ED (Extra-Low Dispersion) glass element, commonly featured on premium Sony G Lens models, that reduces color aberrations. Chromatic aberration is indeed low and will not be visible in jpg files, even at large magnifications. Even large prints made from Sony A77 & Sony 55-300 mm jpg files show no visible chromatic aberration.
In order to determine whether this good performance originates from the in-camera correction of chromatic aberration by the Sony A77, or the ED glass element in the Sony 55-300 mm, we visually assessed the uncorrected RAW files. It appears to be a combination: the ED lens element really limits the amount of chromatic aberration, but the RAW files do show a little chromatic aberration, so the in-camera correction did a good job too. Whenever needed, you can still correct the RAW files for chromatic aberration in Lightroom or Photoshop, but I expect this will be rarely necessary.

Click at the graph to see all test results for Sony 55-300 mm chromatic aberration.

Chromatic-aberration-Sony-lenstest

Sony 55-300 mm vs Sony 75-300 mm

We have already tested the Sony 75-300 mm on the same camera used for this Sony 55-300 mm review. This makes direct comparison of these two Sony lenses easy. Both lenses are zoom lenses with an approximately equivalent zoom range and price. The Sony 55-300 mm has a slightly larger zoom range and is built slightly sturdier. The zoom lock available on the Sony 55-300 mm lens securing the lens during transport is a nice addition. The largest differences in performance can be seen in chromatic aberration and distortion in jpg files. These differences can be explained by the in-camera correction of distortion and chromatic aberration, which actually occurred for the Sony 55-300 mm, but not for the Sony 75-300 mm. In both reviews, the in-camera correction was enabled. However, with the Sony 75-300 mm, we saw no difference between corrected jpg files and uncorrected RAW files. In terms of resolution, the differences between the two lenses are small, but the Sony 55-300 mm has a higher sharpness at a focal length of 300 mm and higher sharpness in the corners at the lower focal lengths. Add to this that the autofocus of the Sony 55-300 mm is quieter than the autofocus of the Sony 75-300 mm, and it will be clear that we prefer the Sony 55-300 mm.

Conclusion Sony 55-300mm review

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See our overview of all tested lenses or the list of tested lenses with a Sony mount to compare the performance of this lens with other lenses.
ECWYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens when you store the files in the camera as jpg, with all available in-camera lens corrections applied. This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: "What you see is what you get".
90
135
7.7
6.9
9.0
8.6
9.2
133
200
7.3
6.5
8.6
8.2
9.5
200
300
7.6
6.7
8.6
8.2
9.8
267
400
7.2
6.6
7.9
8.3
9.0
300
450
7.0
6.3
7.9
8.4
9.3
57
85
7.9
7.2
8.6
8.8
9.1
Overall
Overall
7.3
6.4
8.5
8.4
9.9

Pros

  • Compact design and built well
  • Attractive price and high price performance ratio
  • Jpg files very well corrected for distortion and chromatic aberration
  • High resolution over almost the entire zoom range

Cons

  • Visible distortion and chromatic aberration in RAW files
  • Slightly lower resolution at 300 mm
The Sony 55-300 mm is a well-built and compact lens with a large zoom range and an attractive price tag. In-camera correction of distortion by the Sony A77 yields jpg files without visible distortion or chromatic aberration over the entire zoom range. Vignetting is kept low at all focal lengths, both in jpg and RAW files. Surprisingly, vignetting in RAW files proved to be a little lower in comparison with vignetting in the jpg files. With the aperture wide open you might see a little vignetting in clear blue skies, but after stopping down 2 stops (lower focal lengths) or 1 stop (longer focal length) this is completely eliminated. At f/8 and higher, there is no visible vignetting at all focal lengths. The Sony 55-300 mm shows almost no flare or ghosting, even in high contrast backlight situations. The resolution at 300 mm might be 25% lower than the resolution at the lower focal lengths, but it is still not bad at all with 1500 LW/PH. To summarize our Sony 55-300 mm review: this lens offers a price / quality ratio that is hard to beat.
Ivo Freriks
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.

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Comments (19)

  1. John

Thanks guys,<br /><br />This Sony 55-300 mm review is the first I found on the internet. Is there any cheap zoom that hasn't a lower resolution at its largest focal length?

 
  1. Pramod

After lots of googling around, finally found a first ever review of 55-300 that too with a comparison with 75-300... superb job done.. I m going for 55-300.. thanks a lot...

 
  1. Ivo    Pramod

Thanks for your compliments for our Sony 55-300 mm review.<br />It was a pleasure.<br /><br />Ivo

 
  1. zstan

Thanks for the review!

 
  1. Lai Ming

As the other folksy said, it's really hard to find a comprehensive review of this lens, here's a great job from you Ivo!<br /><br />Helpful and Thanks

 
  1. Ivo    Lai Ming

Thanks Lai Ming. <br />It's the Sony 55- 300 mm that did a great job. ;-)<br /><br />Ivo

 
  1. ELIASJOTA

Que buen trabajo totalmente informado y definitivamente voy por este objetivo para mi a57 gracias

 
  1. Ivo    ELIASJOTA

muchas gracias por su comentario :lol: <br /><br />Greetings from Holland,<br /><br />Ivo

 
  1. Normand Jacob

Merci pour cette évaluation ,très bien expliquée.<br /><br />Bien à nous tous!

 
  1. Ivo    Normand Jacob

Malheureusement, notre Sony 55-300 mm review n'est pas disponible en français.<br /><br />L'espoir est votre niveau d'anglais meilleur que mon français......<br /><br /><br />Ivo

 
  1. tarovar

Thanks for this review - it was really helpful :lol:

 
  1. Deepak Janardhan

Thanks for the review. I loved it.<br /><br />Has this lens been tested with Sony Alpa SLT A58? I recently bought this camera and I am looking forward to buy this lens.

 
  1. Ivo    Deepak Janardhan

Hi Deepak,<br /><br />We haven't tested the Sony 55-300mm with the Sony A58 and I don't know of any such published review.<br />But I have no doubts you will love the combination: both camera and lens offer a high price/ quality ratio.<br /><br...

Hi Deepak,<br /><br />We haven't tested the Sony 55-300mm with the Sony A58 and I don't know of any such published review.<br />But I have no doubts you will love the combination: both camera and lens offer a high price/ quality ratio.<br /><br />Ivo

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  1. Naresh    Deepak Janardhan

Hi Deepak , did u buy 55-300 ? Whats your exp of using it with A58 ? I also have a58 and would like to know your opinion...

 
  1. Deepak Janardhan    Naresh

Hi Naresh, <br /><br />I bought the 55-300mm lens, I found it good for the price. Here are some things that you must know before you buy it. I found that the sharpness gradually reduces past 200mm. It also becomes shaky when you cross the 200mm...

Hi Naresh, <br /><br />I bought the 55-300mm lens, I found it good for the price. Here are some things that you must know before you buy it. I found that the sharpness gradually reduces past 200mm. It also becomes shaky when you cross the 200mm focal length and maximum at 300mm. Also, you must have a tripod or some sort of support to get an accurate shot at full zoom. If you are expecting good bokeh effect, then think twice..its not all that impressive. Otherwise, price to performance ratio is pretty good. <br />If you are willing to spend more or want to buy a faster lens, then save your money and its worth the wait..go for lenses like 18-270mm with 3.5 maximum aperture, will be as fast as your kit lens. On the 55-300mm lens, the maximum aperture is 4.5 which at many occasions proved to be insufficient for me. <br />But if you have made up your mind for 55-300mm lens like me, as I could not spend a rupee more.. I would suggest, go to a camera store and try it out yourself, focus on some object that is 200-300ft away and then see for yourself. If what you see is what you want...or not..and then decide.<br /><br />Regards,<br />Deepak Janardhan

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  1. Deepak Janardhan

Hi Naresh, <br /><br />I forgot to mention one more point. I mentioned the 18-270mm lenses specifically because, when you have a variety of shots ranging from wide angle to full zoom,it is very convenient, you dont have to swap lenses...

Hi Naresh, <br /><br />I forgot to mention one more point. I mentioned the 18-270mm lenses specifically because, when you have a variety of shots ranging from wide angle to full zoom,it is very convenient, you dont have to swap lenses frequently.<br /><br />With only zoom lenses like 55-300mm, you will have to fit your kit lens back when you want a wide angle shot. <br /><br />I found it inconvenient to change lenses, as you might miss the event that you plan to capture. Especially when you want to shoot a wide range of shots. For example, you want to capture the birds with full zoom but also want to capture wide landscape with sunset. So by the time you take the sunset and change your lens to shoot the birds, they might fly away. <br /><br />There is one from Tamron with Sony mount on Flipkart, check it out..I think its costlier than Sony..but you can give it a try.

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  1. Kevin Chen

Hi, I've been using this lens several months on my Nex7 with the LA EA2 Alpha to Nex mount adapter. There are a couple of things I wish to point out...<br /><br />Regarding the drop in performance between 200mm - 300mm, it is not as bad as 25%...

Hi, I've been using this lens several months on my Nex7 with the LA EA2 Alpha to Nex mount adapter. There are a couple of things I wish to point out...<br /><br />Regarding the drop in performance between 200mm - 300mm, it is not as bad as 25% with my copy of this lens... The optical performance is actually excellent at the long end when stop down 1 stop to f8. A possible reason for the perceived drop in performance at 300mm could perhaps be due to atmospheric haze and related conditions?<br /><br />This lens is so sharp I actually see magnified atmospheric distortions during Photoshop post processing.<br /><br />I only own 1 other telephoto zoom, an old Nikon 80-200 f2.8 AFD, and the first day I bought the Sony 55-300 I made comparisons between the 2 lenses at the 200mm settings at f8 on both lenses My results shows almost matching sharpness, with the cheap Sony just a hair sharper, but with the venerable Nikon providing slightly better micro contrast. CA was about the same on both lenses, and not any issue using the photoshop CA removal tool in lens correction.<br /><br />With this lens, I now leave the Nikon lens at home, with the added benefits the Sony lens being far lighter, and more compact, and providing AF instead of manual focus if using the legacy Nikon zoom adapted to my Nex7. I'm happy as a clam with this lens... My kit now comprised of the Sony E 10-18 f4, the new Zeiss E 16-70 f4, and this DT55-300, all in the tiny Domke F10 bag! Imagine having a focal length range in 35mm full frame terms between 15mm ultra wide to 450mm super telephoto carried in a bag measuring only 8" wide by 7" tall and only 5" deep, weighing well under 5kg! I do have the other Sony E prime lenses, but simply can't be bother to carry those out unless for specific purposes.

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  1. Bob    Kevin Chen

Hello Kevin,<br /><br />I somehow managed to overlook your comment, so I'm a bit slow with my response. My apologies for that.<br /><br />It seems you have figured out your own perfect photo set. Of course other photographers might find other...

Hello Kevin,<br /><br />I somehow managed to overlook your comment, so I'm a bit slow with my response. My apologies for that.<br /><br />It seems you have figured out your own perfect photo set. Of course other photographers might find other combinations that better fit their needs, but our readers can be inspired by your choices.<br /><br />As for the performance drop, I'm afraid it's a fact. There has been no change in atmospheric conditions between the sample shots (only minutes) and all other factors in the chain of testing are identical (ceteris paribus). And obviously we are not the only ones to discover this. Still, let's not focus on the flaws, this lens is a very good one for a very good price.<br /><br />Regards,<br /><br />Bob

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