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07-02-2010, 10:55 AM   #1
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What do do. (Or: Pentax lenses are driving me crazy.)

QuoteOriginally posted by JeffJS Quote
As much as I would like to argue the point with you, you're right. Your best bet is to define what it is you want to do and then choose a lens to fit that purpose.
Actually, what I want to do and how I shoot is already pretty solidly defined. That's part of what's making this so difficult.

I shoot lots of high shutter speed telephoto work at low ASA. Which means relatively fast primes, or a fast constant-aperture zoom.

All my life, I was heavily invested in Canon film gear. Starting in the early 1980s, I'd worked my way up from AE-1s, through F-1s and T-90s, and by the end I had an EOS-1n, EOS-1v, and a bag full of L series glass. One trip to the hospital in 20004 took care of all that, though. For what seemed like an eternity, I didn't even own a camera. Well, a couple of years ago I bought a "lowly" EOS-1 and an EF 50 1.4, and got back in the game. All I shoot is Provia 100F, and occasionally a few rolls of Efke 50 or 100.

I knew that digital was the way to go, though, and I always figured I'd eventually end up with one of the entry-level EOS-1D cameras. That way, any investment I made in EF glass would carry over.

Well, fast forward to this spring. A friend of mine who often ribbed me about still shooting film passed away and left me his K10D and a Pentax 18-250 zoom. At that point, ditching my modest investment in EOS gear and sticking with Pentax seemed like a no-brainer.

That was, until I started looking over the very confusing Pentax lens line. It took me forever just to figure out that there are sometimes three or even four versions of the same lens. Then I started noticing what the "Pentax Tax" ... which is to say that all the lenses I really consider useful are either "new and limited" or "old and rare". Take the 200 2.8, for example. The new version, which isn't even full-frame, costs $900 or more. Well, the FA version is years old and *starts* around $900 but gets up over $1000 real fast. It seems like that's the story for nearly all Pentax lenses. In some cases, you can't even consider the older A, M, or K lenses, because they cost even more! Even buying a simple 50mm lens was frustrating.

But anyway, back to the story... I knew very quickly that the Pentax 18-250 wasn't doing it for me. It was too slow and the variable aperture was an issue. I also felt like it wasn't really showing me the full capability of the K10D body. So I sold it, and a few days later bought a FA 50 1.4, which I considered to be a solid, benchmark lens. Well, on the first trip out of the house, it fell apart in my hands. No parts, even though it's still being sold new ... so no repair. Basically, half the equity in my Pentax gear went up in smoke.

Well, now the puzzle is even more confusing, and further complicated by the fact that I can't really invest in one system without liquidating the other. Do I unload the K10 and try to trade it in on an EOS-1D? Do I unload the EOS-1 and buy Pentax lenses, even though I'd be pretty much stuck buying older M or A lenses and hoping to upgrade later? Is it worth keeping a $300 body, even though I pay that much or more for a Pentax lens when compared to something equal from Canon? (For example, the aforementioned 200 2.8 can be had for around $500.)

It seems like there are a million options, and no clear winner. I love the feel of the EOS-1s and am so familiar with them I can operate them in my sleep. Digital is the future, though, and the K10 seems like a very good camera. And I have no doubt that Pentax's primes are optically excellent ... but good lord, the prices!!

Argh. No wonder I have a headache.

I apologize for the length, but this has really been frustrating me lately, and I don't have anyone I know personally who I can talk this over with. So anyone who's read this far has my thanks, and I could really use some sensible advice.

07-02-2010, 11:30 AM   #2
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I know it is really dissappointing that your first acquisition didn't went well. fwiw, there is a lesson learned here, never buy an FA50/1.4 again. you should had bought the DA*55/1.4 though. and I believe that would had knocked your socks off. if I were you, I will have the lens repaired by Eric for a few bucks, sell it after that and buy the DA55/1.4. I don't think you will need an upgrade after that. problem solved. everyone goes home happy.
07-02-2010, 12:03 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Pentaxor Quote
I know it is really dissappointing that your first acquisition didn't went well. fwiw, there is a lesson learned here, never buy an FA50/1.4 again. you should had bought the DA*55/1.4 though. and I believe that would had knocked your socks off. if I were you, I will have the lens repaired by Eric for a few bucks, sell it after that and buy the DA55/1.4. I don't think you will need an upgrade after that. problem solved. everyone goes home happy.
While it's undoubtedly an outstanding lens, the DA 55 *starts* at $650. That's way too much for a single-purpose lens. If I was going to spend that kind of money, I'd buy the 50-135 2.8. I'm very interested in that lens, but I'm trying do decide if the failure reports of the motors in the SDM lenses are exaggerated or not.

Regarding the 50 1.4, I considered a repair, and even contacted Eric about it. But after reading more on the failure, and how others dealt with it, I noticed that the AF contact brushes are bent, and that part is not available. (Even though the lens is still being sold new.) Buying a lens for parts, and *then* paying for the repair seems like throwing good money after bad.

Unfortunately, I'm spooked on the FA lenses in that form factor now. I was seriously looking at one of the FA 35 2.0s the other day, and all I could picture was it sitting in two pieces after the first day in the field. Unfair, perhaps, but after having a virtually mint lens self-destruct in my hands, I'm a little skittish.
07-02-2010, 12:27 PM   #4
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I have myself just gotten into the DSLR arena in the last six months and chose the K-7 over some Nikons and Canons I was considering. I am very pleased with the K-7. But the lenses are confusing as you mentioned. I have spent hours reading this and other forums, as well as scouring lens reviews websites, and I am just barely getting a handle on it. One approach I am taking is that considering possible lens failures and the high price of used lenses, I am buying new to have the warranty. My most recent purchase was last night when I bought a DA 40mm 2.8 Limited; a guy in the marketplace (this forum) had a slightly used one for only around $15 less than a new one at B&H. So I recommend saving up and buying new if at all possible.

07-02-2010, 12:47 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by sataraid1 Quote
That was, until I started looking over the very confusing Pentax lens line.
It's no more confusing than any other lens line. You just aren't familiar with it yet. I similarly don't understand Canon's lineup, but I haven't shot Canon for decades like you have. Anyhow, there are quite a few web sites with explanations of the various lens lines in the Pentax family, including guides on this site and on Dimitrov's K-mount site (Welcome to Bojidar Dimitrov's Pentax K-Mount Page).

QuoteQuote:
It took me forever just to figure out that there are sometimes three or even four versions of the same lens
To be fair, that's really only true of the "kit lens", and it's pretty much equally true for all manufacturers.

QuoteQuote:
Then I started noticing what the "Pentax Tax" ... which is to say that all the lenses I really consider useful are either "new and limited" or "old and rare". Take the 200 2.8, for example. The new version, which isn't even full-frame, costs $900 or more.
So that *one* lens is somewhat more expensive for pentax than Canon. But similarly, with other lenses, you might find Pentax' versions *less* expensive than others. Try pricing Pentax 16-50/2.8 against the closest analogues from Canon or Nikon, for instance. In the long run, these differences pretty much all even out, though.

And I'm not sure where you're finding the Canon version for $500 - that's a $750-$800 lens normally. Maybe you are finding one older refurbished or discontinued model being closed out somewhere, or maybe someone selling it used for under market value? That's all well and good if so, but that's more a matter of good luck on that one transaction than any general statement about Canon versus Pentax.

As for FF, that's kind of irrelevant since Pentax doesn't offer a FF camera. If you are planning to buy FF, you might as well not invest in Pentax at all - know knows if they'll ever off it, and even if they do at some point, then indeed, few of their currently lenses would work except in crop mode.

QuoteQuote:
I sold it, and a few days later bought a FA 50 1.4, which I considered to be a solid, benchmark lens. Well, on the first trip out of the house, it fell apart in my hands. No parts, even though it's still being sold new ... so no repair. Basically, half the equity in my Pentax gear went up in smoke.
OK, that explains part of your frustration, but you've got to realize, occasional duds happen with all products. That one rare isolated experience - unfortunate as it might be - should not reflect on Pentax. If you bought it new, it's under warranty and will be replaced. if you bought it used, I'd be more incliend to have bad feelings about the seller than about pentax (seems quite likely he broke it then attempted to glue it together long enough to sell).

QuoteQuote:
I have no doubt that Pentax's primes are optically excellent ... but good lord, the prices!!
About the same as any comparable-quality primes from anyone else. Only problem is that Pentax doesn't *also* make a line of less-quality cheap primes.

FWIW, I think you'd be a fool to switch systems if you've already a good collection of high-quality Canon lenses that meet your needs. Just get a digital Canon body and you're done, it seems. But if you've got to buy all new lenses either way, it would be about a wash long term. Reasons to go with Pentax would be if they have particular lenses that interest you that no one else makes (eg, virtually all the DA Limiteds), or to get "free" stabilization on all your lenses. One 50mm lens - if that's all you've got right now - doesn't seem like reason to stay with Canon.

Last edited by Marc Sabatella; 07-02-2010 at 01:40 PM.
07-02-2010, 12:51 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by sataraid1 Quote
While it's undoubtedly an outstanding lens, the DA 55 *starts* at $650. That's way too much for a single-purpose lens. If I was going to spend that kind of money, I'd buy the 50-135 2.8. I'm very interested in that lens, but I'm trying do decide if the failure reports of the motors in the SDM lenses are exaggerated or not.

Regarding the 50 1.4, I considered a repair, and even contacted Eric about it. But after reading more on the failure, and how others dealt with it, I noticed that the AF contact brushes are bent, and that part is not available. (Even though the lens is still being sold new.) Buying a lens for parts, and *then* paying for the repair seems like throwing good money after bad.

Unfortunately, I'm spooked on the FA lenses in that form factor now. I was seriously looking at one of the FA 35 2.0s the other day, and all I could picture was it sitting in two pieces after the first day in the field. Unfair, perhaps, but after having a virtually mint lens self-destruct in my hands, I'm a little skittish.
It Seems that the disintegrating 50 is a problem isolated to that particular lens. I tend to wonder if it has something to do with the place of manufacture (Vietnam vs Japan). I cannot and will not say that it's not possible on the FA35. I just haven't seen any reports of it here. The FA35, as you know, is no longer made, so there is going to be a PT associated with it. Brand new, Nov 08 (less than 2 years ago) it could be had for $325. I instead opted for the DA35 Limited at the same price.

While it seems that people want to retire on reselling their old lenses, bargains (relative) can be found. 2 weeks after I took delivery on my FA*200 f2.8 that I paid the going rate for, one turned up on ebay for $750. That lens had a more scratched up body than mine but I've never seen anyone that couldn't take a photo because the lens body paint was scratched. There are zoom options currently available that will get you f2.8 up to 200mm (Tamron or Sigma 70-200) for around $700. They turn up used here all the time. The Pentax 50-135 is a stellar lens and I don't think you'll find too many reports of IT failing. That seems to be limited to the 16-50 for some reason. It does happen, just not as much.

Bottom line is this. Since long fast AF primes seem to be your goal, your best bet may be to sell the K10d and whatever you've collected for it, cut your loss, and return to Canon. As much I would like to argue the point, you're right once again. The options you have are far greater with one of the big 2, C and N.

07-02-2010, 12:51 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by sataraid1 Quote
While it's undoubtedly an outstanding lens, the DA 55 *starts* at $650. That's way too much for a single-purpose lens. If I was going to spend that kind of money, I'd buy the 50-135 2.8. I'm very interested in that lens, but I'm trying do decide if the failure reports of the motors in the SDM lenses are exaggerated or not.

Regarding the 50 1.4, I considered a repair, and even contacted Eric about it. But after reading more on the failure, and how others dealt with it, I noticed that the AF contact brushes are bent, and that part is not available. (Even though the lens is still being sold new.) Buying a lens for parts, and *then* paying for the repair seems like throwing good money after bad.

Unfortunately, I'm spooked on the FA lenses in that form factor now. I was seriously looking at one of the FA 35 2.0s the other day, and all I could picture was it sitting in two pieces after the first day in the field. Unfair, perhaps, but after having a virtually mint lens self-destruct in my hands, I'm a little skittish.
Out of curiosity, why did you not send the FA 50/1.4 back to the seller? While many FA series lenses are plastic build, they are hardly flimsy. A lens that falls apart has been tampered with or had been damaged at some point before sale. (I know, I know...this issue has been reported by other people, but given the long run of this lens, disintegration is hardly a hallmark. Given that you had just purchased the lens, it seems highly suspicious that it failed on your first outing.)

As for the FA 35/2...I own that lens and it is usually mounted to my K10D. In the last two years, it has been a consistent performer and has given me no problems mechanically or otherwise. My only complaint is that manual focus is a pain with the lens hood mounted. (I regularly use it on my older K-mount cameras as well.) Pity that it is no longer available in North America. Pentax still sells it and it is readily available in Japan.

In regards to your comments regarding Pentax pricing...The Canon lineup of moderately priced gear is pretty impressive. In fact, the entire Canon line is pretty impressive, though you will generally pay a premium price for the L glass. The 200/2.8 EF that you mentioned is the big exception. It is a bargain at the going price in the mid-$700s. The DA* 200/2.8 is a little under $200 more. A person might argue that its full-metal construction and weather sealing make the price worth it. Not in my world. I think the DA* 200/2.8 is a $650 lens, considering that the FA 77/1.8 Limited sells in the mid-$700s.


Steve

P.S. I am with the other suggestions above. I would find a good home for the K10D and buy a 50D to mate to your collection of L glass.

Last edited by stevebrot; 07-02-2010 at 01:07 PM.
07-02-2010, 01:10 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by sataraid1 Quote
While it's undoubtedly an outstanding lens, the DA 55 *starts* at $650. That's way too much for a single-purpose lens. If I was going to spend that kind of money, I'd buy the 50-135 2.8. I'm very interested in that lens, but I'm trying do decide if the failure reports of the motors in the SDM lenses are exaggerated or not.

Regarding the 50 1.4, I considered a repair, and even contacted Eric about it. But after reading more on the failure, and how others dealt with it, I noticed that the AF contact brushes are bent, and that part is not available. (Even though the lens is still being sold new.) Buying a lens for parts, and *then* paying for the repair seems like throwing good money after bad.

Unfortunately, I'm spooked on the FA lenses in that form factor now. I was seriously looking at one of the FA 35 2.0s the other day, and all I could picture was it sitting in two pieces after the first day in the field. Unfair, perhaps, but after having a virtually mint lens self-destruct in my hands, I'm a little skittish.
Sorry to hear about your FA50 f1.4. At the time i bought it 3 years ago, all the reports i could see recommended it and there was noone reporting any problems with it. So 3 years into that lens and its still doing fine.

I have the DA50-135 and really like it. I also have the DA*300 with SDM, both about a year old now and doing fine. Again i bought before reading any reports of SDM problems. I have read 3 reports now of Pentax installing "upgraded motors" where failure has occurred. One of these reports was from benjikan on this forum, who had 2 sdm lenses upgraded to the new motor before they failed (if they are goiing to fail :-)). Just knowing that there is a good motor fix out there for SDM has reduced any worry i had about failure-I would lose the use of the lens for a period of time, but i can manage that.

best wishes,

07-02-2010, 01:16 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
Out of curiosity, why did you not send the FA 50/1.4 back to the seller? While many FA series lenses are plastic build, they are hardly flimsy. A lens that falls apart has been tampered with or had been damaged at some point before sale. (I know, I know...this issue has been reported by other people, but given the long run of this lens, disintegration is hardly a hallmark. Given that you had just purchased the lens, it seems highly suspicious that it failed on your first outing.)
Honestly, I have no evidence that the lens was anything other than "as advertised" when I bought it, and it looked flawless upon inspection. I really don't suspect any foul play. Maybe the lens took a rough hit during shipping. Maybe it was on the verge of failure, and had the original owner taken it out one more time it would have failed on them.

It really doesn't matter now. I've written it off and am moving forward. All I know is that I won't buy another copy of that specific lens model.
07-02-2010, 01:22 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by sataraid1 Quote
While it's undoubtedly an outstanding lens, the DA 55 *starts* at $650. That's way too much for a single-purpose lens. If I was going to spend that kind of money, I'd buy the 50-135 2.8. I'm very interested in that lens, but I'm trying do decide if the failure reports of the motors in the SDM lenses are exaggerated or not.

Regarding the 50 1.4, I considered a repair, and even contacted Eric about it. But after reading more on the failure, and how others dealt with it, I noticed that the AF contact brushes are bent, and that part is not available. (Even though the lens is still being sold new.) Buying a lens for parts, and *then* paying for the repair seems like throwing good money after bad.

Unfortunately, I'm spooked on the FA lenses in that form factor now. I was seriously looking at one of the FA 35 2.0s the other day, and all I could picture was it sitting in two pieces after the first day in the field. Unfair, perhaps, but after having a virtually mint lens self-destruct in my hands, I'm a little skittish.
true it is a bit pricey. but I was talking about long term investment as you mentioned would serve you well in the long run rather than to spend again on an upgrade. besides, it's a well-constructed WR fast SDM lens.

anyway, it's funny that you've mentioned the FA35 since it was one of the lens that I had in mind that I would suggest if your budget doesn't permit you the DA55. the FA35 is one of the first Pentax lenses that I had owned. I bought it used and in my experience, I haven't encountered any problems like that even when using the more powerful and faster K-7 body. nor have I heard of any problems with the FA35 from other users/owners as well.
07-02-2010, 01:45 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by sataraid1 Quote
It really doesn't matter now. I've written it off and am moving forward. All I know is that I won't buy another copy of that specific lens model.
That's not moving forward, then - that's continuing to live in the past. Moving forward would be accepting this as a fluke that could have happened with *any* lens, especially a used one, and not letting that fluke cause you to irrationally avoid buying another such lens that happens to be of the same model if that's a spec that interests you (it doesn't me - I don't find 50mm all that useful on APS-C). But the fact that the lens that failed on you happened to be a Pentax FA50 is no more significant as a predictor of future behavior than the fact that you happened to buy it on Tuesday (or whatever) - you might just as well swear off ever buying anything on the same day of the week you bought that lens.
07-02-2010, 02:37 PM   #12
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QuoteQuote:
That's not moving forward, then - that's continuing to live in the past.
Nah, that is a typical reaction of people who have had a problem with a product. (I'm a CS manager :-)

They are moving forward - just stepping around the repaired pot-hole.
07-02-2010, 08:51 PM   #13
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Get yourself a DA 40 and you wont regret it. "Cheap", sharp. Maybe not as fast as the nifty fifties, but well worth it. Add a Pentax-A 50/1.4 or 1.7 for $100 and you have a fast lens (manual focus only, full metering support). If you want longer focal lengths and cheap lenses, look at the Pentax-M 135/3.5 (less than $80). You might want to have a look at the lens reviews here: Pentax Lens Review Database - Lens Listings
07-03-2010, 03:50 AM   #14
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Just FYI: the DA *200 f2.8 is full frame. Don't know that it changes your opinion of it, but it has been tested in Falconeye's thread on full frame compatability and it works great without vignetting. The lens is apparently based on the FA 200mm design.

You need to draw up a list of lenses/equipment that you think that you would use in either Canon or Pentax and compare the two. Look at the cost of the equipment that you personally would use and see which direction you should go. I do have to say that it is unusual for an FA 50 to fall apart. I owned one for several years and sold it to another photographer who is still using it -- working great.
07-03-2010, 09:08 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
the fact that the lens that failed on you happened to be a Pentax FA50 is no more significant as a predictor of future behavior than the fact that you happened to buy it on Tuesday (or whatever) - you might just as well swear off ever buying anything on the same day of the week you bought that lens.
Nice analogy, Marc.
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