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02-20-2011, 03:18 PM   #1
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Looking for advice: landscape lens(es)

I currently have a (half) broken K20D, a Vivitar MF 100mm f2.8 1:1 macro, Tamron 28-75mm f2.8, and a Tokina 28mm f2.8 (which is very impressive for the $25 I got it for here - but obviously not a top quality lens). I almost exclusively use the Vivitar, because it's so very sharp and good quality.

I plan on upgrading to the K5, due to my K20D being broken (basically, it still takes pictures, but I can't go to the menu, it's reset to all the defaults, and I can't use the front or back dials for their normal functions in any shooting mode). I was going to wait for the price to come down some more, and I had no plans to get more lenses, but two things happened recently... First, I'm planning to drive across Canada in May, and second, I just got some unexpected money. I don't want to get into the "oo, I could buy this, and this, and this!" mindset, but on the other hand, I think it'd be quite a missed opportunity if I were to drive across the country without a working camera, and a good landscape lens or two!

I haven't done much landscape photography before, but of the lenses I have, I'm only REALLY happy with the Vivitar, and I think 100mm is pretty clearly NOT a good landscape focal length. So finally the point of this post: what should I get? I was thinking of the DA* 16-50mm at first, but I'm not sure if I trust the IQ of any zoom, even if it is a DA*, plus the possible SDM issues. So what I was thinking was the DA 15mm F4 Limited, and either the DA 35mm f2.8 Limited Macro, or the DA 40mm f2.8 limited. Obviously I'm used to using a prime, and this'll be mainly landscapes which aren't going anywhere, and I'll have a tripod as well.

Thoughts? I don't want to spend "much more than" $1,000 Canadian (not including the K5; I know it'll cost more than that itself).

02-20-2011, 03:40 PM   #2
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IQ? Da12-24.
02-20-2011, 03:45 PM   #3
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The DA 15 Limited is one of the best landscape lenses you can get anywhere for any price. It is dipped in detail and sprinkled with magic. How sweet it is!

Last edited by Ron Kruger; 02-20-2011 at 03:47 PM. Reason: adding
02-20-2011, 03:49 PM   #4
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Another vote for the DA 12-24mm - it's sharper than the Pentax primes available (Da14mm, DA 15mm) although the primes seem to have slightly nicer colour/contrast rendition. It works well as a walkabout in cities too due to the useful focal range

Simon

02-20-2011, 03:51 PM   #5
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Overview: Most published landscape photos have been shot using a focal length about equivalent to the 18-55mm range. AF is not needed for most landscape shooting. If resolution and detail and fine tonal gradations are your priorities, then a 6x9cm folder and a film scanner can't be beat by anything digital. Oops, gotta go now, more later.
02-20-2011, 03:59 PM   #6
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I agree with Rice about the focal lengths, wide angles are fun but aren't always the best for a landscape. I personally find I only use my wide for excess drama occasionally - but it can be much easier to compose in the 28 - 70mm range.

However overall, if it's really wide angle you are after, then the 12-24 is a good suggestion. The 15/14's have their merits but you can't beat flexibility w/ wide angles IMHO.
02-20-2011, 04:00 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
Overview: Most published landscape photos have been shot using a focal length about equivalent to the 18-55mm range. AF
I don't know about that. I've recently got a few landscape photography books (not how to's, books showcasing landscape photos), and from memory most fall in the 15-50 35mm equivalent range. 18 on APS-C is not very wide at all, definitely not wide enough if landscapes are the main purpose for the lens.
02-20-2011, 04:05 PM   #8
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Seeing the type of photos you have in your portfolio I think you would enjoy the DA14. It is larger than DA15, but focusing a bit closer and sharpness is more even across the image.

02-20-2011, 04:14 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by twitch Quote
definitely not wide enough if landscapes are the main purpose for the lens
I suppose the thing is that landscapes can be shot with pretty much any focal length because it is such a huge subject. Wide angles are really for accentuating the foreground against the background, but that isn't always what looks best. Some of my fav. landscapes are shot at tighter focal lengths because they tend to be better composed and appear more natural.

Wide angles are a good idea if you want that massive perspective, but you don't need it for landscapes.
02-20-2011, 04:27 PM   #10
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Landscapes can be a wide subject. 2 lenses come to mind - the 12-24 that has been touched on already. Also the DA 16-45. Its not quite as wide, but very sharp and it can be acquired for around $200. At 24mm its sharper than the 12-24 and as others have pointed out for most landscapes you may not need the width of the 12-24.

02-20-2011, 04:33 PM   #11
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OK, I'm back. (Had to pull my car out of a snowbank. Don't ask.)

First, I said ABOUT 18-55mm -- let's stretch that to 16-50mm on APS-C, or 24-70mm on 135/FF. Yes, landscapes are like portraits and can be shot with anything from 8mm to 1200mm. But I think the gold standard of landscape photography is Arizona Highways magazine, and ultra-wides and super-longs are just a small fraction there.

Second, being a cheap bastard, another way to do landscapes on my K20D employs my MacTak 50/4(1x) @f/8 for stitched panos. If I'm in more of a hurry, something wider, in the 20-28mm range. Without stitching, sometimes only my Zenitar 16/2.8 will do. Aim carefully to prevent leaning forests, eh? Or I could suggest fine-grain 135 film in a 6x9 folder for sprocket-hole panos. But that might be too funky for you.

Third, there's the matter of presentation. Penguin, how will you display your images? On-screen, in video slideshows, small or large prints, posters, billboards? Is your mode of presentation worth spending a kilobuck on a lens or two? Again, I'm a cheap bastard, so I think of such things.

Last edited by RioRico; 02-20-2011 at 06:33 PM.
02-20-2011, 05:12 PM   #12
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My goodness, thanks for all the advice!

Re: presentation and being cheap, I mostly don't do a whole lot with my photos, to be honest, but I would like to the ability to make large prints out of them - and basically, I'd like to use the full potential of my camera. I'm usually cheap too, but I'm also really picky about quality, which is why I don't have anything very wide or tele. I kind of regret spending $450 on the Tamron 28-75mm, because I don't really use it due to its lower-than-1:1-macro quality. And so, I'd rather spend a kilobuck on lens(es) I'll use, than spend half as much on something I'm not really happy with. As for using film instead... maybe it's technically the best quality available, but I'm very much a computer person and just not interested in film.

I'm surprised by all the suggestions for DA 12-24mm. I don't have much experience with Pentax lenses (I've only used the kit 18-55, an old 50mm f2, and 100-300mm f3.5-5.6), but I sort of assumed that "just regular DA" wouldn't be that great quality. Whereas it seems a given that all the Limited lenses are really good. I guess the "AL" means better quality too? I can't figure out what it means. It's certainly expensive enough though...

The DA14 is interesting too. To be honest, I'm a bit biased towards the Limiteds just because I want to have one, after hearing so many good things about them!
02-20-2011, 05:30 PM   #13
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The DA12-24 is a cut above other DA lenses in IQ (and cost too).
02-20-2011, 05:42 PM   #14
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The limited line are known for good quality, but the more expensive DA lenses look very good as well. "Limited" more or less means small and metal. I like the DA 15 because it is a tiny tool for the occasional landscape... I don't think you get much if any IQ improvement from it.

If you want a flexible limited for landscapes because you really want a limited, the 21 might also be better if you can work well with that focal length. It keeps you in the classic wide-angle range, but it's a more flexible lens than the 15 is.

I think tops overall would be the 12-24.
02-20-2011, 05:44 PM   #15
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Don't leave the 100mm at home. It perhaps seems a bit long but I've taken a few landscape shots in the mountains on the 300mm end of my DA55-300mm and it gives you the ability to frame the shot very precisely and compress those features in one photo. With a wide lens it is more difficult to keep unwanted clutter out of the frame. Since you are already covered from 28mm to 75mm you might get something wider and for that you have already gotten some very good advice. Mind you the DA*16-50mm is my 'weapon of choice' for going wide and I certainly wouldn't exclude that one. But I still lust for the DA 15mm limited...
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