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03-08-2011, 07:06 PM   #1
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dSLR newb - which older manual lenses are highly recommended?

I recently purchased a Pentax K-r which I am enjoying quite a bit so far. I'm a newbie to digital SLR's and am going to be playing with the 18-55mm kit lens for a while. Please excuse any ignorance that may be displayed in the following post.

One of the things that interested me about the Pentax cameras is the ability to use older lenses from the '70s and onwards. But I can't seem to find a good list of which lenses are most highly regarded and recommended for today's cameras.

I'm looking for very sharp lenses that will not require any special adapters to fit my camera. My budget isn't very big right now, having just purchased the K-r.

I'm considering the 55-300mm Pentax DA lens as my next purchase, so I my interest in the older lenses would be mostly in versatile primes.

Are all the older lenses manual focus?

I'd like something capable of macro, but overall just want to know what your recommendations are.

Thanks!!

03-08-2011, 07:12 PM   #2
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You might check the reviews in the forum lens database first. You will get 20 opinions shortly...
03-08-2011, 07:14 PM   #3
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What kind of macro work will you be doing, focal length of the lens will varies with different macro works, hence affecting the lens choices.
03-08-2011, 07:15 PM   #4
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HI loco, welcome to the dslr world. I see that you are interested in older lenses - that is a great reason to shoot pentax. However, you do need a cheap adapter if you are interested in the great Takumar primes. The adapter is just 30 dollars and opens up a world of excellent lenses: super tak 85 f1.9; 55 f1.8 are great lenses. the smc 100 f/4 macro takumar is excellent for closeup photography. I have personally tried all these lenses and can attest to their IQ and build quality (as will a ton of forum members here). Please check out the takumar club. It is highly addictive. I shall post pics taken with these primes if you are interested.

03-08-2011, 07:24 PM   #5
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Thanks so much for the replies!

QuoteOriginally posted by SpecialK Quote
You might check the reviews in the forum lens database first. You will get 20 opinions shortly...
Thanks. I will check it out. At first glance, my problem is I can't tell which lenses are old and which are new!

QuoteOriginally posted by yongkun Quote
What kind of macro work will you be doing, focal length of the lens will varies with different macro works, hence affecting the lens choices.
Well, I'd like to get some nature shots. Bugs, flowers, that sort of thing. With flowers you can get up close and they don't fly away, but with living creatures, it would be nice to be able to maintain just a bit of distance.

QuoteOriginally posted by mccarvindh Quote
HI loco, welcome to the dslr world. I see that you are interested in older lenses - that is a great reason to shoot pentax. However, you do need a cheap adapter if you are interested in the great Takumar primes. The adapter is just 30 dollars and opens up a world of excellent lenses: super tak 85 f1.9; 55 f1.8 are great lenses. the smc 100 f/4 macro takumar is excellent for closeup photography. I have personally tried all these lenses and can attest to their IQ and build quality (as will a ton of forum members here). Please check out the takumar club. It is highly addictive. I shall post pics taken with these primes if you are interested.
Do all older lenses require an adapter or just the Takumar lenses? $30 doesn't sound too bad. I'd love to see some photos if you are willing to share!
03-08-2011, 07:53 PM - 1 Like   #6
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smc 100 Macro takumar with bellows:
[IMG] [/IMG]

Same macro takumar without bellows:
[IMG] [/IMG]

STakumar85 f/1.9 with bellows:
[IMG] [/IMG]

The bellows I use was bought cheap from HongKong.
03-08-2011, 09:10 PM - 1 Like   #7
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Quick rundown of Penatx's naming scheme.
DA series lenses are designed for digital cameras, and will vignette severely on film bodies They are all autofocus, and most don't have an aperture ring. F and FA lenses are the film-body auto-focus lenses. FA series are newer. F series are the earliest auto-focus lenses. The absolute earliest autofocus pentax lenses were 1981, but they used a completely different system. Figure late 80's forward for any usable autofocus. Most have an aperture ring (except the FA-J series). A series lenses are manual focus, but have the chip to tell the camera current aperture settings. As such, they can be used in shutter-priority mode, and can do aperture settings all electronically. Earlier bayonet mount lenses (M and K series) have no electronics, and can only be used in manual and aperture priority modes. Earlier lenses (Super takumars, SMC takumars) are screwmount, and require an adapter. Same restrictions as the M and K mount lenses apply.

Which ones to get, though... The old Super Takumar 50mm F1.4 is a joy, especially if you get the model with 8 aperture blades. The bokeh is superb. In addition, I've had a lot of fun with the Super-Tak 28mm F3.5. I recently replaced my Tak, though, with the F-series 28 f2.8. This serves as my walk-around / normal lens. The M and K series 50mm's are also excellent - but the 1.7 and 1.4 are much better than the f2. The M-series 50mm and 100mm f4 macro lenses both have a cult following, IIRC. Beyond that, though, your best bet is figuring out what focal length you want first.

In my experience, second hand shops, flea markets, and consignment stores can occasionally hold diamonds for cheap. I've gotten a couple old lenses in places like that, like my SMCP-M 50mm 1.7. Craigslist, too - but there the lenses are more likely to come attached the front of a camera. Keep your eyes open.
03-08-2011, 10:10 PM - 1 Like   #8
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Welcome to the madhouse! Congrats on your new camera! Now start buying lenses -- if you're like me, you can hit the 200 mark in just a couple years.

No, not all older lenses are manual. As mentioned, F and FA lenses are autofocus (AF), as are many third-party lenses made for older Pentax cameras. As with manual lenses, some are great, and some aare ordinary, and some suck. Read the user reviews here.

M42 screwmount lenses, such as most Takumars, need a simple adapter. Lenses made with the Pentax K bayonet mount, often called PK mount, do not need adapters. Virtually every Pentax lens ever made will work on your Kr. So will many third-party lenses, some of which are amazing bargains.

What to get: Ask yourself, WHAT CAN'T I DO WITH WHAT I HAVE NOW? Answering that led me to fisheyes and ultrawides, to fast and weird lenses, to long and slow lenses, to ~200 lenses. Aaargh. For shooting bugs that move around, a longish AF macro lens would be good. For other stuff, ask here.

Some amazing Pentax buys: M28/2.8, Super-Tak 35/3.5, M50/1.7, Super-Tak 55/1.8, M135/3.5, Tele-Tak 200/5.6. Some great other brands: any Vivitar 24-28-35mm lens; almost any Sears prime; Zenitar 16/2.8; Helios-44 58/2; Jupiter-9 85/2; Meyer Trioplan 100/2.8; Vivitar 200/3.5; and many many more.

You are doomed. Have fun!

03-09-2011, 12:42 AM - 1 Like   #9
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Pentax Reviews - Pentax Lens Reviews & Pentax Lens Database
Third-Party Lenses for Pentax - Pentax Third-Party Lens Review Database

And basically anything not starting with a D (DA/DA Limited/DA*/DFA) is older although some of them can still be bought new (FA Limited).

Welcome to the wonderful world of Pentax; life is full of difficult decisions.
03-09-2011, 05:52 AM   #10
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Thank you all so much!

Wow, so much to choose from and so much research to do. It is a bit overwhelming, but with everyone's help and all the resources here, I will persevere.

It's nice to know there are some autofocus options available as well! I'll be sure to check into the lenses you all have listed for me and read the reviews and attempt to learn more before making any purchases.

I'm intrigued by the Takumar lenses, but don't necessarily want to go the adapter route unless I'm going to get more than one of those type of lenses (the M42, correct?). But they appear to be reasonably priced and the photos mccarvindh posted are gorgeous!

Thanks again and I welcome any and all recommendations and information you are willing to share!
03-09-2011, 11:44 AM   #11
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One other thing to keep in mind about older lenses is that any lens without the A features will not work properly with your built-in flash or any flash in P-TTL mode. You will need an older flash or a current flash in "Auto" mode. Absent an A lens or later AF lens, the built-in popup flash will not adjust to the aperture and lighting conditions and exposure will have to be calculated manually.

Metering can be a little funky, too, requiring a separate step. I'm not sure which button does it on the K-r, but on most bodies it is the Green Button or the EV adjust button near the shutter.
03-09-2011, 12:10 PM   #12
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Personally, If I were you, which I was 8 months and a couple grand in lenses ago, I'd get something with an 'A' setting on the aperture ring until you fully understand all the ins and outs of manual exposure on a DSLR. Some personal favorites fitting that criteria, Pentax-A 50mm f1.7 or f1.4. The 1.4 can be had for between $80 and $150 depending on the current demand. The 1.7 can be had for anywhere from $45 to $100, again depending. Both are very sharp lenses. If you pair a 50mm lens with a vivitar macro focusing teleconverter, you have a 1:1 macro lens. Another option would be a Sigma 50mm f2.8 macro lens. There are a couple up on e-bay right now. They have the 'A' setting, are very sharp, and do 1:1 macro.A 50mm macro lens isn't great for bug shots but it can at least get you started in the world of Macro. A 50mm prime is probably your best bet to start out with as they are relatively cheap and plentiful. Stay away from the 'A' 50mm f2 , not the greatest lens to start out with (some are good others horrible, quality control issues) though they are extremely cheap. If you are dead set on bug shots right now, you are going to have to save all your nickels and dimes as the price goes way up for 90mm and above macro lenses. There are other ways to do macro without the expensive macro lenses, but they require lots of other mics equipment that will add up in cost over time. Probably the cheapest way to go is to pair a good prime or zoom lens with a Raynox 250. There is a thread about it in the Lens club section.
03-09-2011, 12:15 PM   #13
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The A 50mm 1.7.

Really high quality, good for portraits, good for macro reverse-mounted.
03-09-2011, 12:44 PM   #14
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+1 for the Sigma A 50 f/2.8 macro.

If you are looking for autofocus on a budget there are several F series lenses that are potential gems. The 24-50, 35-70, 35-105, 35-135, and 70-210 are all excellent lenses, if you can find them. None of the should be budget busters. The 35-70 is usually less than $50 and none of the rest should be more than $150.

If you look hard enough you can find good deals on A series lenses. I found a Super Program with an A 50/1.7, A 28/2.8, and A 135/2.8 for less than $200.

I'm not quite as addicted as RioRico, but I have accumulated more than 30 lenses in the last year. 17 of them in the range of 50-58mm. Be very careful of the auction sites, they are like crack. Just Monday I completed an auction for a S-M-C Takumar 35/3.5 that I really don't need, but it gets such good reviews here that I couldn't pass it up. Another $60 gone.
03-09-2011, 12:54 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by GeneV Quote
One other thing to keep in mind about older lenses is that any lens without the A features will not work properly with your built-in flash or any flash in P-TTL mode. You will need an older flash or a current flash in "Auto" mode. Absent an A lens or later AF lens, the built-in popup flash will not adjust to the aperture and lighting conditions and exposure will have to be calculated manually.

Metering can be a little funky, too, requiring a separate step. I'm not sure which button does it on the K-r, but on most bodies it is the Green Button or the EV adjust button near the shutter.
I thank you for this piece of advice. I think you are steering me in the right direction. So far, after reading up on how the older lenses work, I am starting to conclude I might be in over my head with one of those, at least for now.


QuoteOriginally posted by Damian Quote
Personally, If I were you, which I was 8 months and a couple grand in lenses ago, I'd get something with an 'A' setting on the aperture ring until you fully understand all the ins and outs of manual exposure on a DSLR. Some personal favorites fitting that criteria, Pentax-A 50mm f1.7 or f1.4. The 1.4 can be had for between $80 and $150 depending on the current demand. The 1.7 can be had for anywhere from $45 to $100, again depending. Both are very sharp lenses. If you pair a 50mm lens with a vivitar macro focusing teleconverter, you have a 1:1 macro lens. Another option would be a Sigma 50mm f2.8 macro lens. There are a couple up on e-bay right now. They have the 'A' setting, are very sharp, and do 1:1 macro.A 50mm macro lens isn't great for bug shots but it can at least get you started in the world of Macro. A 50mm prime is probably your best bet to start out with as they are relatively cheap and plentiful. Stay away from the 'A' 50mm f2 , not the greatest lens to start out with (some are good others horrible, quality control issues) though they are extremely cheap. If you are dead set on bug shots right now, you are going to have to save all your nickels and dimes as the price goes way up for 90mm and above macro lenses. There are other ways to do macro without the expensive macro lenses, but they require lots of other mics equipment that will add up in cost over time. Probably the cheapest way to go is to pair a good prime or zoom lens with a Raynox 250. There is a thread about it in the Lens club section.
Thanks for the specific recommendations. I will check them out for sure. I actually already have a Raynox 150. Would it work well with any of those lenses, just not as much magnification as the 250?


QuoteOriginally posted by paperbag846 Quote
The A 50mm 1.7.

Really high quality, good for portraits, good for macro reverse-mounted.
Another vote for the A 50mm 1.7! I'll keep an eye out for those!

My primary concern, after spending the day researching and thinking about this, is really sharpness and the ability to shoot in low light without flash. So, I am leaning heavily towards the faster larger aperture lenses.

Would I be better off just getting the newer Pentax DA 35mm 2.4? It is $200. Would something like the A 50mm 1.7 be a sharper, better option at a lower price?

Many thanks again to all for helping to educate me and for all the recommendations!
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