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10-13-2010, 08:02 PM   #1
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Pro vs Consumer Digital Camera Lenses

I ran across an article that may have been posted here in the past, but since there are always quite a few threads on wanting to bypass the kit lens and get a better lens, this I found quite interesting.....



10-13-2010, 09:15 PM   #2
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He's reasonable in his summary (aimed mostly to newbies) and for this it's a commendable article.

He said "In most photography, the two key qualities needed from a lens are sharpness, and, sufficient depth of field to keep the entire landscape in sharp focus."
Not sure if he neglected to mention other important attributes that determine IQ, but there is little doubt that an FA ltd will produce significantly better results than a kit lens can do at the same focal length, even at f/8.
10-13-2010, 09:49 PM   #3
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Lots of "within their limitations" and "in most cases" about kit lenses, though that may be true, better lenses provide more cases and less limitations.
10-13-2010, 09:56 PM   #4
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From the article "However, these special qualities [of pro lenses] do not matter much to casual photographers!"

Wide apertures actually matter a lot to me, a casual photographer. I want to take pictures of my kids playing in indoor concerts, I want to take pictures of family and friends with blurred out backgrounds, I want to take pictures indoors without flash, I want fast shutter speeds of my kids playing sport even on overcast days without having to go beyond ISO800.

None of these needs are only the domain of the pro photograoher, in fact they are needed by casual photographers like me on a weekly basis.

Honestly, I think the writers idea of what the needs of a casual photographer are are completely wrong. He seems to think casual photographers shoot mainly landscapes in good light and own tripods.

10-14-2010, 04:51 AM   #5
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Some lenses are really bad, but most lenses are pretty decent, as long as you are able to shoot in their sweet spot. Many photographers are not willing to pay extra to up grade or, are unwilling to sacrifice the convenience of having a super zoom and therefore deal with the compromises inherent in such a design.

I find that pixel peeping is the enemy of contentment. Sure, at web sizes the photos he posts are pretty good, but look closer and you'll start seeing flaws.

For landscape photography on tripods and street shooting in good light, I doubt there is much difference in lenses (I personally would rather have a limited from a size factor). For lower light photos, for kids photos, and even for portraits, other tools are definitely needed to get the most out of your camera.
10-14-2010, 05:41 AM   #6
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I read the article quickly and found it quite interesting and quite accurate within the limits of the discussion.

the problem is, that while "consumer" lenses may work for an average snap shot shooter, they will ultimately become the limiting factor in a photographer's skills as the photographer expands beyond just shooting snap shots. To this end, I am a firm believer that if all you intend to do is take snap shots, get a P&S.

If you intend to develop beyond a snap shot shooter, then consumer lenses are a potential money pit. sure they are cheap, but you will always be replacing them, with better and better lenses, to suppliment your newly aquired skills or to allow you to expand your skills further.

One area that I would disagree is with respect to materials. In this area, materials especially reienforced plastics, are developing so rapidly that just because a lens uses plastic body parts does not necessairly make it cheap.

Overall, the real issue, and it is not addressed in the article, is that you need to start planning (planning NOT buying) your lens system from the onset. The Kit lens while perhaps not the highest quality optically, or mechanically is generally the best value for money lens, and a good place to start. WHat you need to then do, is determine, what focal lengths you like the most or want to use the most, and your follow on purchases should be beyond the limits of your kit lens, either in focal length and or speed. I personally would get different focal lengths before upgrading the kit lens for a faster lens, because that will allow more subjects to be experimented with. My approach to this has always been with zooms first, but the zooms I add would be high quality, either "Pro" or "Prosumer" lenses, typically faster than a consumer lens, because lenses last much longer than bodies. once I have my focal length range covered with zooms, then if I really want a prime, I go for it, but I find it hard to accept seriously aomeone who sets out from the onset by reading all the literature and deciding on a bag of primes.

Zoom lenses are every day work horses, for general use. Primes are special purpose lenses, which are wonderful in their own right, but not as flexible. both have their place, and a good system would have both, with a backbone of fast zooms from around 10-400mm with 20-200mm at F2.8 I do this with 3 main zooms, a sigma 10-20, a tamron 28-75 F2.8 and a sigma 70-200F2.8 (which I can add a 1.4x and 2x TC to reach 400mm)

I also have primes, and shoot a lot with them, but, they are more specialized. Zooms go on vacation, primes when I want to work on my photography/
10-14-2010, 06:05 AM   #7
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I think that with other lens systems there are a lot more obvious tiers in lenses than with Pentax. Canon has three 50mm lenses, an f1.8, an f1.4, and an f1.2. Obviously there are a lot more differences than just that small difference in aperture between them. However, I would venture to guess that Canon sells 30 or 40 f1.8s for every f1.2 that they sell. However, for the photographer who needs the benefits that the 50mm 'L' offers, the cost is clearly worth it.
10-14-2010, 02:32 PM   #8
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You posted this over on Steve's Digicams too, and here's how I replied there:

Kit'n'konsumer lenses can do wondrous things, but not everything. I like to say that a fast AF zoom is great for snapping shots quickly, but a manual prime teaches you to see.

Trying to shoot action sports with a lens that isn't superfast AF? I'll use a manual 135/2.5 or 200/3.5 with Focus-Trap aka Catch-In-Focus (CIF), and I'll boost the ISO as needed. Want to shoot close, intimate portraits with a slow lens? Add a cheap #1 CloseUp filter-lens and stay within 1m, and/or keep the background far away. (My favorite for portraiture is 75-80mm @ f/2.8-4, whether shooting 9x12, 6x6, 135/FF, or APS-C-size frames.) Want to shoot in lower light? Manual 50-58mm lenses with f/1.4-2 apertures are still amazingly cheap. Or you can just boost ISO.

Pro-quality lenses are amazing tools. They can also be bling, braggables, underused. A wise observation: the best lens is the lens you use, the worst is the one you don't use. By this measure, my cheapest Chinon 55/1.7 (US$3) is a much better lens than my Lil'Bigma 170-500 (US$1k) because I use it much more. If I still made my living with a camera I'd probably buy pro glass. I don't so I won't, not having the budget. It depends on how much you're willing to spend to be how happy?

10-14-2010, 03:39 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
You posted this over on Steve's Digicams too, and here's how I replied there:

Kit'n'konsumer lenses can do wondrous things, but not everything. I like to say that a fast AF zoom is great for snapping shots quickly, but a manual prime teaches you to see.

Trying to shoot action sports with a lens that isn't superfast AF? I'll use a manual 135/2.5 or 200/3.5 with Focus-Trap aka Catch-In-Focus (CIF), and I'll boost the ISO as needed. Want to shoot close, intimate portraits with a slow lens? Add a cheap #1 CloseUp filter-lens and stay within 1m, and/or keep the background far away. (My favorite for portraiture is 75-80mm @ f/2.8-4, whether shooting 9x12, 6x6, 135/FF, or APS-C-size frames.) Want to shoot in lower light? Manual 50-58mm lenses with f/1.4-2 apertures are still amazingly cheap. Or you can just boost ISO.

Pro-quality lenses are amazing tools. They can also be bling, braggables, underused. A wise observation: the best lens is the lens you use, the worst is the one you don't use. By this measure, my cheapest Chinon 55/1.7 (US$3) is a much better lens than my Lil'Bigma 170-500 (US$1k) because I use it much more. If I still made my living with a camera I'd probably buy pro glass. I don't so I won't, not having the budget. It depends on how much you're willing to spend to be how happy?

This is why i decided to stick with pentax. Since photography is hobby , i do not want to spend lots of cash on photo stuff.
If i were pro i would be probably shooting with Mamiya MF (mamiya fanboy here :-D).

Anyway with pentax and old lenses, i could have

135 f2.5 for 150$
50mm f1.2 for 180$
50mm f1.4 tak for 50$
55mm f1.8 tak for 50$
105mm f2.8 tak for 80$

and many more cheap glasses. It is best of both worlds.


I do not agree with article in OP though. I had sony r1 (i still have) though sony r1 has very very good zeiss lense on it. It is limiting on many ways.
I struggle for anything in low light. I struggle if i want shallow DOF.

In good light R1 i think is still miles ahead of my k-x. But when light is any worse i have to look at my fast glass and k-x.

glass makes difference.
10-14-2010, 05:45 PM   #10
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Yeah, I think we all know kit lenses can be "good enough" and can "suffice" for most people.

I still question the "sharpness" aspect, but There is a lot more to a quality lens than some measurement on a black and white scale.
1. build quality
2. ergonomics (quick shift, lens hood, etc)
3. Maximum aperture (eg. larger sweet spot, easer to produce nice bokeh)
4. Contrast and rendering quality (those lens coatings he talks about). As a lot of people mention the 3D effect that some Pentax glass can produce.
10-14-2010, 06:37 PM   #11
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The best lens *for you* is the lens used often - which is very different to the best IQ lens.

As I mentioned earlier, take a shot with an FA 31 and with the same settings and conditions take it with a Sigma 18-50 f/3.5-5.6 at 31mm and I'll bet in overall image results alone there will be a significant difference.
10-14-2010, 08:35 PM   #12
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QuoteQuote:
I like to say that a fast AF zoom is great for snapping shots quickly, but a manual prime teaches you to see.
I like to say BS :-) You should see before you even raise the camera to your eye.
10-15-2010, 09:36 AM   #13
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The biggest difference is build quality. I have Takumars that have served me well for over 30 years. I also own a Sigma 70-300 zoom. It does a decent job and is very sharp at the shorter end and still good on the long end when stopped down. It's inexpensive and falls in the consumer category. It's all plastic and after 3 years of good use it's starting to show problems. A few bumps here and there and the zoom mechanism doesn't work right any more and the lens is nearing the end of it's life. If you plan on using a lens a lot, get a good one because a cheaper zoom won't hold up to hard use, even though the optics may be fine.
10-15-2010, 02:17 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by SpecialK Quote
I like to say BS :-) You should see before you even raise the camera to your eye.
And you should brush your teeth every time you eat something. Do you?

What one should or shouldn't do is a moral issue. What one actually does is more pragmatic. Seeing a picture before shooting is nice. Sometimes the picture can't be 'seen' until a frame is in PP being cropped and diddled. That's just reality. Or sometimes the pre-'seen' picture must be cropped and diddled, to emerge from a raw frame. And some pictures are total accidents. Tsk tsk.

My point: AF zooms let one get away with composing a picture while standing in one spot, shooting quickly, etc. Manual primes force the shooter to move around, look at subjects from different viewpoints -- to see. That's my experience from over a half-century of shooting. (Your gear list is notably short on manual primes. Do you dislike them?)
You just stand there, looking cute
And if something moves, you shoot!

--Tom Lehrer
10-15-2010, 02:53 PM   #15
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I would rather take antipodal view to article in OP.

I would like to argue that Kit lense is the one thing i would avoid at all costs.

There are hundreds , thousands and millions of cameras sold very year. A great amount of which are used with the lense that comes with it. Lets call it a kit lense. (coupling fixed lenses too).
These hundreds , thousands and millions of buyers take pictures just as you and me would do.

And exactly this is the reason i would avoid kit lenses, because with kit lense i would take pictures that these masses are taking. If i have to differentiate i need to find angle, framing , view different that what these masses are doing. This is why I would like to spend money on ultrawides (10mm types,) fisheyes. Ultra teles. Ultra fasts like 1.2s or 1.1s or 1.0.

I would like to make pictures that everyone can not make. I would like to be different.

PS: I actually try to follow what i have written.
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