I got my first DSLR-a Pentax-only four years ago. To make it work for me, I bought gear and I sought help from friends, from blogs and from forums like this one. Eventually, a very simple lens taught me to use my camera. That lens was the smc PENTAX DA 50-200mm F4-5.6. I had the WR model. I feel this is the thing that has had the biggest positive influence on my photography.
The smc PENTAX DA 50-200mm F4-5.6 ED WR is a medium telephoto zoom lens. It has Pentax's Quick-Shift Focusing System, ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass, and is available with or without weather sealing. It is just 3.1 inches (79.5mm) in length (when not zoomed) and weighs only 10.1 oz (285g). The retail price for the WR model is around $250 and the non-WR versions (the same lens optically) are less than half of that used.
This lens covers a wide range, is easy to own and takes pretty nice photos. However, is not exceptional. The 50-200mm is actually a little hard to use and that is how it helped me.
Prior to owning the 50-200 all my lenses were the constant-aperture type and I always used the Av mode, or sometimes, a Scene mode. However, the 50-200 is very picky about ISO, shutter-speed and aperture combinations and the camera's convenience modes never got it right. I was making only dark, grainy or blurry photos with this lens so I was planning to sell it. However, I found, accidentally, that if I could get the right configuration for a setting, photos in that setting could be really great with the 50-200. This was the motivation I needed to really learn about my camera: that is to learn to set up shots without the camera's help. I start using my camera in the M mode setting almost exclusively. Eventually I was using fewer and fewer test shots, and had start to use M mode with other lenses as well. My camera was no longer just a larger point-and-shoot; it actually felt small considering all the options it held.
Here are some photos taken with the lens. The point of this article is not the quality of the photos this lens can make, but that one can make photos with this lens at all. So these that I have selected are simply pointing out some of the highlights of the lens, that can be brought out through the use of camera settings. I chose photos I took of moving subjects in low light settings, a tricky thing with this lens. The drummer, for instance, was playing on a parade float on a cloudy day:
|200mm ISO 200 f/8 1/350 sec|
|95mmISO 400 f/6.7 1/180th sec|
|137.5mm ISO 1600 f/6.7 1/125th sec|
|105mm ISO 200 f/4.5 1/250th|
I used to think "a starter lens" meant: "a cheap lens". However, I now feel a Pentax "starter" lens is just that: a lens to get us started, to force us to work, and to teach us. I no longer own this lens. However, I doubt that I would have become comfortable using the features of a DSLR had I not tried the Pentax DA 50-200mm F4-5.6 ED WR!