This week it was not my intention to acquire two new high end lenses, I swear. But circumstances do tend to lead one astray.

As you probably know, Circuit City is going out of business and has been in liquidation mode for awhile. Many people looking for a bargain have been sorely disappointed at not finding any real deals as the consumer electronics super store “slashes” prices. Wondering the store you see 10% off on just about anything worth having, including digital cameras. Crimminy! At best, 10% is a sucker’s deal on anything priced under $500. I’ve worked for and shopped at the big box stores over the years, and if you can’t get 10% off your purchase, you just aren’t trying hard enough.

As I was perusing some of my favorite photo forums I noticed a discussion thread about the closing of Circuit City and the “deals” some of the participants had found. Of course CC has the prerequisite kit lenses and lower end stuff that isn’t worth buying, even marked down but one thing caught my attention. Apparently while CC was only discounting cameras a mere 10%, some of the accessories were unceremoniously marked down 30%. This includes lenses and flash units and so forth.

Surprisingly, several people had indicated they were able to acquire the highly regarded Sony SAL70300G 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 SSM ED G-Series Compact Super Telephoto Zoom Lens for $250 off retail. Retailers cannot discount Sony equipment as part of their resale agreement. That means the price is the price unless you shop Ebay and buy from the so-called “gray market” out of China. Even then, deals are few and far between.

Cynthia shoots Pentax and has the SMCP-FA 80mm-320mm and it does inspire just the weensiest bit of lens envy in me. My longest reach lens has been the Minolta 70-210mm f/4 which is fine, but some of the shots she gets with that extra 100mm just make me covet the longer focal length. And while her lens is not a high grade model, she must have a good copy because the results are very nice.

The Sony SAL70300G 70-300mm is a fairly new lens, only having been announced at PMA in 2008 so it was VERY surprising to learn that Circuit City even carried this lens, much less that they might have one in stock and be selling it at a substantial discount.

There’s a CC right down the road from the office so I took my lunch break and headed over. As I looked around I saw the display model, but no boxed units in the case. I went ahead and asked the sales person if she could check their stock and she went to the back and returned shortly with a brand new, still in the box SAL70300G in hand. I asked her the price and she said 10% off the price shown on the shelf. I asked her to scan it and the look of surprise on her face when it showed the 30% discount was priceless. I was still on the fence, but I am a sucker for a real deal and knew this lens would not last long at that price so it was now or never. Sure, it might have discounted more in the coming weeks, but who knows if there would be one to be had. Needless to say, I snagged it while the snagging was good.

To say this lens is “fantastic” would be an understatement. It’s quiet, it focuses fast and the results are incredible.

Click the above image to see the larger version. Note that this was shot THROUGH a window and from back in the room so as not to spook the birds while they took their bath. The detail on the forward sparrow is remarkable.

I also thought I would grab a photo of the waxing moon using my tripod.

Again, you need to click through to the larger version to appreciate this shot. Even better, the full sized image here tells the story.

I’ve not had much time to really take the lens through it’s paces, but so far I love this thing and am glad to own it.

Which brings us to the second lens which I’ll tell you about in Part II.

A Tale Of Two Lenses – Part I
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