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08-23-2010, 03:56 PM   #1
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Macro Lens question

Hello, everyone
I'm still fairly a beginner but have been building experience using a Pentax K-x with a 18-55mm kit lens. In the somewhat near future I'm looking to upgrade to a nicer macro lens but I'm clueless in regards to several things:

1) Is a nicer macro lens all about lens speed (the max aperture) or are there other factors involved?
2) I don't know how ranges are classified, but I would primarily be taking macro shots, portraits, or full body shots (not much at a great distance). Is there something that could be a noticeable upgrade from the kit lens?
I've heard good things about the DA 40mm but it's a little steep for me. Any alternatives?

Any input appreciated, thanks!

08-23-2010, 04:13 PM   #2
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There are lots of options out there for you. Depending on what you plan on shooting, may also make a difference as to what macro lens you want. If your planning on doing bugs, then a longer lens in the 100mm + range may be better, that way you won't be to close to them. The shorter the focal length, the closer to the subject you've got to be. A true macro lens is 1:1, but if your looking to save a few $$$, then a 1:2 is a good option. I've got a Takumar 100mm 1:2 macro F4, and it's a nice sharp lens. Hard to beat for the money.

p.s. - Welcome to the forum!
08-23-2010, 04:19 PM   #3
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A macro lens is a lens that lets you focus that close to your subject so that it is rendered life size (1:1) or half life size (1:2) on the film/sensor.

The DA 40mm is not a macro lens. The current macro lenses in the Pentax lens line-up are the DA 35mm f/2.8 Limited, D FA 50mm f/2.8, the D FA 100mm f/2.8 and the D FA 100mm f/2.8 WR.

The longer focal length the more convenient for macro photography in my opinion, because you can put some distance between the lens and the subject. So if macro photography is your main interest, go with a lens around 100mm. This will also be a fine focal length for portraits. For full body shots you can use the kit lens.
08-23-2010, 04:22 PM   #4
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Thanks!
Haha, I think bugs are a little more 'macro' than I intend to get.

Reading around a bit I've heard that the M 50mm / 1.7 will produce some sharp images. Would it be a noticeable upgrade from the kit lens?

edit: Ole I didn't see your post, so I'll have to look into those lenses. Thanks

08-23-2010, 04:29 PM   #5
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The M 50mm f/1.7 lens is an upgrade in the sense that it is faster (let's more light in) and sharper if stopped down somewhat (to perhaps at least f/4).

However, it is a downgrade regarding convenience because you can only use it in manual exposure mode (and it is manual focus of course). It would be better to go with an A 50mm because it allows for all exposure modes, or an F or FA 50mm which supports all exposure modes and also is autofocus.

You may want to check the market place on this forum. Last I saw there was an A 50mm f/1.7 for sale.
08-23-2010, 04:42 PM   #6
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There of course other options for macro work, but you'd need to be comfortable with manually focusing and manual aperture. You could get a cheap 50mm lens for $30 - $50, and get yourself a cheap set of extension tubes from China for $15, and you can do some decent macro work. This shot was taken with this type of combination.

08-23-2010, 04:52 PM - 1 Like   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by yoon395 Quote
Thanks!
Haha, I think bugs are a little more 'macro' than I intend to get.

Reading around a bit I've heard that the M 50mm / 1.7 will produce some sharp images. Would it be a noticeable upgrade from the kit lens?

edit: Ole I didn't see your post, so I'll have to look into those lenses. Thanks
Maybe you've seen some of my posts/macro's with the Pentax M 50mm F/1.7?
If so, than yes VERY sharp images. Just buy a reverse adapter and some extension tubes and figure out your lighting setup and your good to go for many different magnification macro's.

Here's one taken with a reversed 50mm straight on the body:



heres one taken with a reversed M 50mm on a full set of extension tubes:



and another, same setup as above:



etc. etc.

check out my flickr link below for larger image sizes.
08-23-2010, 05:26 PM   #8
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yeatzee, those are some cool shots. Great examples of what you can do with tubes / reversing ring. I've got to get one of those reversing rings to play with.

08-23-2010, 05:54 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by yoon395 Quote
Hello, everyone
I'm still fairly a beginner but have been building experience using a Pentax K-x with a 18-55mm kit lens. In the somewhat near future I'm looking to upgrade to a nicer macro lens but I'm clueless in regards to several things:

1) Is a nicer macro lens all about lens speed (the max aperture) or are there other factors involved?
2) I don't know how ranges are classified, but I would primarily be taking macro shots, portraits, or full body shots (not much at a great distance). Is there something that could be a noticeable upgrade from the kit lens?
I've heard good things about the DA 40mm but it's a little steep for me. Any alternatives?

Any input appreciated, thanks!
I haven't read any of the replies so if this is repeatative, consider it a second on whatever was said.

First and foremost, you need to learn what Macro Is. There is nothing about your kit lens that could be considered a macro lens. A macro lens will allow you to reproduce 1:1 (or 1:2) typically. What that means is that the image on your sensor/film plane will be the same size (or half in the case of 1:2) as it is in real life.

Just to pull some numbers out of thin air (I know these aren't accurate, just for discussion sake), let us assume the sensor size is 1 inch square. That's 1 inch wide, 1 inch tall. If you were to take a photo of a coin that is 1 inch in diameter, at 1:1, the image would fill the frame (except the corners because the coin is round). If you were to take a photo at 1:2. it would fill roughly Half the frame. 1:4, one fourth of the frame and so on and that is about where your kit lens lies in the grand scheme of closeup. With a bellows, extension tubes, reversing lenses, mounting front to front, etc you can actually go larger than 1:1.

There are some macro masters around here that take drop dead gorgeous photos with their cobbled together setups. Then there are the rest of us who purchase dedicated macro lenses. These lenses are usually silly sharp and usually pretty expensive. They also make good telephoto lenses (most are in the 100mm range commonly). Pentax offers a few options. The DA35mm Limited is a normal lens that is capable of doing 1:1 macro. You really can't go wrong with this lens but to do 1:1 magnification, you are practically resting the lens front on your subject. This one would be nicely suited to a full body shot (but would not be macro at that point). Then there is a DFA50 f2.8. If I'm not mistaken, this is a 1:2 macro lens. Usable as a regular 50mm and could be suitable as a portrait lens or for full body shots. Then there is my favorite, the DFA100mm f2.8 WR. Great for portraits, as a 100mm telephoto, and shines nicely as a macro lens.

Other manufacturers also offer macro lenses, Tamron makes a very nice 90mm and sigma, a 105mm. I think they both have shorter range lenses as well but those two are 1:1 macro. Lenses that claim to have macro capability (all in one zooms) could be considered more Closeup capability rather than macro. Still usable to get up close and personal but not what I would call 'macro'.

Edit: If you want to get a DA40, go for it. By all accounts it's one of the fastest focusing and sharpest of the Pentax lineup. I don't have one because I cannot get past it's lack of bulk (and really don't need another lens in that range). But, it is not a macro lens.



Last edited by JeffJS; 08-23-2010 at 05:59 PM.
08-23-2010, 06:48 PM   #10
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All 50mm macro's from sigma and pentax are true 1:1 macro lenses

I have a sigma 105mm, and think its a great lens.... but I'd much rather use my (to quote you ) "cobbled together" setup.
08-23-2010, 06:51 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by eccs19 Quote
yeatzee, those are some cool shots. Great examples of what you can do with tubes / reversing ring. I've got to get one of those reversing rings to play with.
Thanks! Just the ones I had up on flickr at the time. I still think my reversed m 50mm F/1.7 is the sharpest macro setup I own

And just as an FYI, every one of those three have atleast 3 images stacked... infact I think only the last one has 3 while the others have 4 or five.
08-23-2010, 06:51 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by JeffJS Quote
Just to pull some numbers out of thin air (I know these aren't accurate, just for discussion sake), let us assume the sensor size is 1 inch square. That's 1 inch wide, 1 inch tall.
Actually, the sensor *is* very close to one inch wide, but only 2/3 of an inch tall. So if you limit the discussion to the horizontal dimension, your example actually works very well: a 1:1 macro lens means you can focus close enough to allow a one-inch object to fill the width of the viewfinder. 1:2 would only allow you to focus close enough for a two-inch object to fill the viewfinder. The kit lens is 1:3, meaning you can fill the viewfinder with a three-inch object.

Anyhow, I agree, for the the OP: I agree with Jeff that you need to gain a clearer understanding of what *specifically* you are looking for in a lens - is it better macro capability, is it a larger maximum aperture, or something else entirely (sounds ike perhaps you don't yet understand the concept of focal length and how it relates to your stated needs; that's the *first* thing you need to understand about lenses).

And realistically, you have to accept the likelihood that if you list more than one thing, then you are talking about more than one lens. And you also have to realize the DA40 is, at $340, actually quite *inexpensive* as new lenses go. Most macro lenses will cost more than that, as will virtually all autofocus lenses with a larger maximum aperture than the kit lens.
08-23-2010, 07:00 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by yeatzee Quote
All 50mm macro's from sigma and pentax are true 1:1 macro lenses

I have a sigma 105mm, and think its a great lens.... but I'd much rather use my (to quote you ) "cobbled together" setup.
You were one of the people I was thinking about, take that however you wish (hint, it was a compliment )..

I stand corrected on the DFA50. I was thinking it was the same type as my A50 f2.8 which is a 1:2. Still a very nice lens but not 1:1. I've never used a Sigma macro.

08-23-2010, 07:06 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by JeffJS Quote
You were one of the people I was thinking about, take that however you wish (hint, it was a compliment )..
I actually quite like that phrase for my setup, because it describes it perfectly

Its just a bunch of pieces thrown together
08-23-2010, 11:20 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by yeatzee Quote
Maybe you've seen some of my posts/macro's with the Pentax M 50mm F/1.7?
If so, than yes VERY sharp images. Just buy a reverse adapter and some extension tubes and figure out your lighting setup and your good to go for many different magnification macro's.
...
yeatzee, I have seen and enjoyed your macro work! Your pictures are stunning! But the OP is a beginner so I didn't want to go into extension tubes, reversal rings, manual exposure and all that. That might just discourage rather than encourage OP to enter the field of macro photography.
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