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07-12-2010, 11:58 PM   #1
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Which Lens Setup Should I Upgrade To?

So after much thought, I've decided to give using multiple lenses at a given time a whirl, as opposed to just slapping an 18-250mm on and forgetting that other lenses exist.

After a while of research, these are the potential setups I've come up with, with a soft budget of $600, and absolutely nothing exceeding $700, or more preferably the upper 600s. (I already have the kit lens, obviously.)

Kit Lens + Sigma 105mm + (not sure about adding this last one in, it'd push my total to a bit over $650) Tamron 70-300
Pros - extremely high versatility
- amazing quality with the sigma
- it'll teach me to use my feet and not become overdependant on huge zoom ranges; the Tamron for when my feet can't carry me (IE, past fences or across cliffs )

Cons - pushing the limit of my budget
- when school starts, I'll be taking the digital photography course, which'll require me to take alot of pictures of our school's sports teams and the like, for which neither the sigma nor the tamron are ideal
- would have to change lenses more often


Sigma 17-70mm (original) + Tamron 70-300mm (more of a definite in this set up)
Pros - cheaper
- also quite versatile
- the sigma would be quite good for my school assignments, probably
- i'd have more of a "main" lens than the above setup; the sigma also is known for its pretty damn good quality

Cons - basically with an effective range of 17-300mm, might get spoiled by it and then never move again and never go on actual photo "walks" again
- i'm sort of coming up short on cons for this one (unless you guys can enlighten me), which leads me to think i shold go for this one....inferior macro capabilities? =p
- yknow....stuff.

anyways, that's what I've come up with, if I'm wrong or if there are better alternatives, please do let me know! (:

07-13-2010, 02:09 AM   #2
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Food for thought: I would choose the second option (if it was me), but I would think also of a series of prime lens for the next step, including a fast prime.

Most zoom lenses lag behing the prime lenses in terms of image quality (IQ), aperture and size.

A good prime lens can deliver superb IQ. Most zoom cannot compete with a prime because the zoom needs to be a compromise over a range of focal lengths.

One disadvantage of zoom lens is the limitation in aperture. A fast prime can deliver a large aperture (low f) that is very useful, for example, in low light.

Lastly a prime lens is usually small: eg the Pentax pancake primes (DA21, DA40, DA70) are renown for their small size and excellent IQ.
07-13-2010, 03:54 AM   #3
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I've been looking at small lens kits (i.e. small number of lenses) for walking around (I typically have a bag of lenses!) and at the weekend was very impressed by a tamron 17-50mm f.2.8 and a tamron adaptall 60-300mm combination. The image quality og the 17-50 is superb and the f.2.8 helps the autofocus even in bright conditions. The 60-300mm is a bit of a sleeper lens. It is manual focus, but if you get a pka adapter it will be auto aperture. Its image quality is fantastic though - really sharp and lovely colours. It's a heavy combination of lenses the 17-50 is about 400g and the 60-300mm about 800g but I really think it's going to be my standard day kit for the next year or so.
07-13-2010, 07:39 AM   #4
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The great lens kit design debate

I have posted this concept before, but believe that it is worth posting here again.

In my opinion, almost every photograper should at some point consider "designing a kit" and then making purchases towards achieving that kit.

My thinking to this end is the following

You should consider a basic need to cover the range of focal lenghts from 10/12mm at the wide end to 200mm at the long end, using 3-4 zooms, with as much as possible at F2.8, and a means to reach 300-400mm if you intend to do wild life.

This gives you really 2 options. If you are not really into wild life you get 3 zooms
- ultra wide sigma 10-20 or pentax 12-24 for example
- wide to normal pentax 15-50 F2.8 or something equivelent
- normal to tele pentax 50-135F2.8 or sigma 50-150 F2.8

If you want to do wild life you can take the above kit, and add a long fast tele (300F4 or similar/faster) or go the second route to a different kit with 3-4 zooms
- ultra wide sigma 10-20 or pentax 12-24 for example
- wide to portrait like tamron 28-75 F2.8 or sigma 24-60F2.8 or 24-70 F2.8
- portrait to tele zoom Sigma / Tamron 70-200F2.8 and 1.4x and 2x TCs to give you 300 or 400mm options
- a bridge zoom to cover perhaps the gap between the ultra wide and wide angle if it exists. (I use an SMC-FA J 18-35 for this)

I have the second option, with Sigma 10-20, The SMC-FA J 18-35, tamron 28-75 F2.8 and sigma 70-200F2.8 plus TCs.

This gives a good all around set of performance lenses, that make a simple kit that can do an lot of things.

one lens, usually the wide to tele should also be able to close focus, for 1:3 or better macro.

You can then add primes as you like but you always have a good kit with the 3-4 zooms

For travel within a city, I sometimes drop to just the sigma 10-20 and tamron 28-75, and will add either a 85mm F1.4 plus 1.7x TC or my 135mmF2.5 along with it.

It is up to each individual to determine how to get the basic kit tthat suites them, but the above approach is a really good start that can outlast your camera body in terms of useful life

07-13-2010, 08:05 AM   #5
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Both the Tamron 70-300 and Sigma 70-300 have a quasi-macro mode that gets you down to 1:3 or 1:2 over certain focal-length ranges. This of course is not the same quality or magnification as with a dedicated macro lens, but they work in a pinch, especially if macros are not high on the list of priorities. The Pentax 55-300 seems to have a better IQ than those two, but no close-focus ability. However, some nice results can be had by adding a Raynox lens up front.
07-13-2010, 08:25 AM   #6
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I would tend to agree with Lowell's concept. If you have the awareness to realize what a good "someday" lens kit would be, and then the discipline to stick to a plan to acquire that kit, you will be much better off, and will have spent less money in the process. It is rare for someone to be interested enough in photography to visit this forum and be satisfied for long with average quality zooms. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but it's rare. I would also agree that a good quality fast prime should be on your radar. It will open your mind to the real capabilities of your camera. Just my opinion, of course, but I wish someone had told me this several years ago.
07-13-2010, 10:27 AM   #7
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The problem is very to difficult to anticipate how your needs will change over time. All i can say is, neither of the proposed kits would come close to making me happy, as there is nothing f/2.8 or better except at 17mm (with the 17-70) and 105mm (with the macro).

Not sure why you're thinking the 70-300 woudln't work for sports though. I mean sure, a faster lens would be better, but "fast" and "long telephoto" don't mix well. They require a catalyzing agent - the input of large sums of money.
07-13-2010, 10:36 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
The problem is very to difficult to anticipate how your needs will change over time. All i can say is, neither of the proposed kits would come close to making me happy, as there is nothing f/2.8 or better except at 17mm (with the 17-70) and 105mm (with the macro).

Not sure why you're thinking the 70-300 woudln't work for sports though. I mean sure, a faster lens would be better, but "fast" and "long telephoto" don't mix well. They require a catalyzing agent - the input of large sums of money.
Marc, I agree with you here, and it is why I posted my "ideal kit" concept and how to build one. I agree it costs a lot to go with some good high quality F2.8 zooms, and also agree that it is hard to predict how each one's tastes develop over time, BUT this is why I offered 2 different approaches to the kits, and many who are not really interested in wild life can go for a 2 pentax (if they are so inclined) zoom kit of 12-24, 15-50 and 50-135, or even swap out the 12-24 for the 10-17 fisheye. It won't disappoint them and it is enough to last many a lifetime.

wild life is a speciality that can be addressed with a good prime beyond this kit,


If $$$ is an issue, then maybe look at F4 across the range, but get quality lenses not cheap ones, and save some money and weight, and rely on higher ISO capabilities. That is an option, but the limiting issue will always be the extremes, I would really miss the 70-200F2.8 if I had to shoot at F4 or F5.6 with some of what I have done.

the other issue with slower zooms is the reduced creative ability of isolating background with shallow DOF. SOmeone who limits themselves to F4 would probably end up with a bag full of primes as well.

the greatest advantage of zooms is flexibility and the ability to explore exonomically whole ranges of focal lengths to determine how and what you really are interested in shooting.

Primes are much better once you hone your skills, and develop specific needs

just mt 2 cents worth

07-13-2010, 10:38 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by DogLover Quote
I would tend to agree with Lowell's concept. If you have the awareness to realize what a good "someday" lens kit would be, and then the discipline to stick to a plan to acquire that kit, you will be much better off, and will have spent less money in the process. It is rare for someone to be interested enough in photography to visit this forum and be satisfied for long with average quality zooms. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but it's rare. I would also agree that a good quality fast prime should be on your radar. It will open your mind to the real capabilities of your camera. Just my opinion, of course, but I wish someone had told me this several years ago.
don't feel too bad, it took me almost 30 years to figure it out
07-13-2010, 12:31 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
Marc, I agree with you here, and it is why I posted my "ideal kit" concept and how to build one. I agree it costs a lot to go with some good high quality F2.8 zooms, and also agree that it is hard to predict how each one's tastes develop over time, BUT this is why I offered 2 different approaches to the kits, and many who are not really interested in wild life can go for a 2 pentax (if they are so inclined) zoom kit of 12-24, 15-50 and 50-135, or even swap out the 12-24 for the 10-17 fisheye. It won't disappoint them and it is enough to last many a lifetime.

wild life is a speciality that can be addressed with a good prime beyond this kit,


If $$$ is an issue, then maybe look at F4 across the range, but get quality lenses not cheap ones, and save some money and weight, and rely on higher ISO capabilities. That is an option, but the limiting issue will always be the extremes, I would really miss the 70-200F2.8 if I had to shoot at F4 or F5.6 with some of what I have done.

the other issue with slower zooms is the reduced creative ability of isolating background with shallow DOF. SOmeone who limits themselves to F4 would probably end up with a bag full of primes as well.

the greatest advantage of zooms is flexibility and the ability to explore exonomically whole ranges of focal lengths to determine how and what you really are interested in shooting.

Primes are much better once you hone your skills, and develop specific needs

just mt 2 cents worth
Given the budget I'm on right now, I obviously can't really get the kit you suggested just yet. Do you think I should just get one of the middle focal length lenses (eg. 18-50, 17-70, that area sort of thing) that has great quality, and then see how much I really need to augment my focal lengths with future lenses then, instead of getting 1 good and 1 cheap one right now ? Also, when should I get primes, near the beginning of getting my kit, or after I've got my desired focal lengths covered, in your opinion?
07-13-2010, 01:48 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by jaieger Quote
Given the budget I'm on right now, I obviously can't really get the kit you suggested just yet. Do you think I should just get one of the middle focal length lenses (eg. 18-50, 17-70, that area sort of thing) that has great quality, and then see how much I really need to augment my focal lengths with future lenses then, instead of getting 1 good and 1 cheap one right now ? Also, when should I get primes, near the beginning of getting my kit, or after I've got my desired focal lengths covered, in your opinion?
Note it took me about 25-30 years to get to the kit I have now, so these things can and do take time.

I guess the biggest thing is where are your interests?

If it is general photography, and you can live with F4, then either the 17-70 which is f2.8-F4 could be a good option, or, perhaps the pentax 16-45 (i think it is) F4 lens which is quite sharp as well.

There are also 3rd party lenses in the 16-50 range if I recall correctly at F2.8. This gives you a good middle lens, and you can start with this and see where it goes, you will always find a place to use it. Or, if the kit lens does the job right now, you could consider keeping it for the moment, and getting a good lens at either end. This is how I did it, expanding my focal length range first, and then replacing the middle "kit lens" range later.

So you could get one really good zoom lens now, either long or ultra wide, and use it. then when funds permit, get the other range covered if you find you want to explore it further, followed by filling in the middle last.

Also do not forget used lenses, they can get you what you want at a lower cost.

The thng to consider is that you don;'t have to buy the kit all at once. My experience is lenses far outlast camera bodies, so you have lots of time to put it together.
07-13-2010, 03:12 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
Note it took me about 25-30 years to get to the kit I have now, so these things can and do take time.

I guess the biggest thing is where are your interests?

If it is general photography, and you can live with F4, then either the 17-70 which is f2.8-F4 could be a good option, or, perhaps the pentax 16-45 (i think it is) F4 lens which is quite sharp as well.

There are also 3rd party lenses in the 16-50 range if I recall correctly at F2.8. This gives you a good middle lens, and you can start with this and see where it goes, you will always find a place to use it. Or, if the kit lens does the job right now, you could consider keeping it for the moment, and getting a good lens at either end. This is how I did it, expanding my focal length range first, and then replacing the middle "kit lens" range later.

So you could get one really good zoom lens now, either long or ultra wide, and use it. then when funds permit, get the other range covered if you find you want to explore it further, followed by filling in the middle last.

Also do not forget used lenses, they can get you what you want at a lower cost.

The thng to consider is that you don;'t have to buy the kit all at once. My experience is lenses far outlast camera bodies, so you have lots of time to put it together.
Well, that time frame certainly does put things into perspective currently, I guess it's more of a general thing. While I'd really like to get into nature photography, that's much easier said than done, considering I'm still a high school student, and next year will be moving on to university - I probably wouldn't have the time/ability to go out driving past the city, where there's "actual" nature, as opposed to the hordes of gulls and crows in the city.

I'd say 40% of my pictures taken (kit lens only) are macro-ish/bokeh, 25 or so % is on the lower end on the focal length, but not totally wide (it's mostly low/mid 20mm), 15% nature shots of birds/squirrels/whateverelseanimals (a good chunk of which are frustrating due to the animal in question taking up only a small part of the picture because of a maximum FL of 55mm), and 5% candids (which I find quite interesting/fun, but difficult to do with the current lens without getting too close to them).
*a good chunk of my pictures would also include sports/action once the school year starts, which my photography course at school will require me to do.

While your suggestion of getting a good quality zoom lens was very appealing, I couldn't find anything that got good reviews under $700, and other than, only budget lenses, which I guess defeats the purpose of taking things slow as far as kit upgrade/augmentation goes. Do you know any good zoom lenses that could fit my purpose? Also, I gave a bit of thought into going into another direction, and getting a tamron 90mm or sigma 105mm, since I do do alot of macro, and it could also maybe double as an impromptu telephoto. And maybe I could just do wider shots with my kit lens. What dyou think?
07-13-2010, 04:34 PM   #13
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I have a suggestion for a high-quality zoom under $700. The Sigma 50-150, if bought at Abes of Maine, would be $675 with free shipping once you put it in your cart. I know that's pushing right up against your budget limit but it is within the range you quoted, and that's a really good lens. It's fast at a constant 2.8, has HSM, which you'll love, and has wonderful sharpness and bokeh. You will absolutely see a difference with that lens versus an 18-250. Its a solid building-block lens that you won't need to replace anytime soon, and the focal length will complement your kit lens very nicely until you can replace that someday. The only possible negative I can think of for you is that it doesn't have any real macro abilities, though it might with an extension tube. I don't know, I'm not the guy to ask about that. OTOH, it would be pretty good for shooting your school sports, or at least better than the Tamron 90 or Sigma 105. Those are both good choices too, by the way. Just thought I'd throw out a good zoom possibility. Keep in mind that almost everyone eventually needs/wants a fast 50. It's often the first prime that many folks get. I'm just not sure that that would serve you best at this point in your life. Just my opinion.
07-13-2010, 04:58 PM   #14
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Unfortunately I live in Canada so that pushes it to over $700 ):
07-13-2010, 05:18 PM   #15
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What Lowell has posted is excellent advice, and is worth re-reading and pondering. I feel it is exactly the right strategy. My personal taste is option #1, I find the 70-200 simply too big and heavy and I would leave it at home too often, so my road map is: 16-50 f2.8 (don’t have), 50-135 f2.8 (just acquired), 55-300mm (do have). Unfortunately I have a 17-70 f2.8-4.5 which doesn’t fit into the road map, as soon as I get my 16ish-50mm f2.8 it will go.

I think primes are more than an after thought though and not something to add to your kit in a completely ad-hoc way. I think it’s as important to have a prime road map as a zoom road map, and both road maps should complement one another as well as being able to stand on their own.

A well balanced prime set for me would be a 21, 40, 70 and 200; for me cost is a consideration otherwise I’d be aiming for 15/31/43/77/200. As you can see macro is not my thing, otherwise you might swap the 70 or 77 for a Tamron 90 or Pentax 100.

By complementing one another, I mean that there’s times when it’s nice to leave the house with a zoom on the camera to cover 80% of what I intend to shoot, and a prime in the pocket for the rest. I don’t like going out with more than 2 lenses. My thinking is that the 21 would be a great match for my 50-135 shooting outdoor family events. The 200 to complement the 50-135 at indoor kids concerts. The 70 would complement the 16-50 at indoor family events. The zoo calls for a 40 for photos of the family and photos in the dark reptile house, and the 55-300 for the outdoor animals.


So... with $700 what would I buy? If I only had the kit lens I'd probably use the $700 to buy only one lens; the DA70, and that's it. I might even buy none and simply save another $120 and buy the 50-135mm.

Last edited by twitch; 07-13-2010 at 05:24 PM.
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