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04-07-2011, 03:11 PM   #1
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Cheapskate Mid Zoom Deathmatch!

Okay, I'm about to have an unexpected $150, maybe $200 to buy a new lens for my upcoming trip. I have about 4 lenses to consider and I'm looking for some guidance.

Current Situation

Pentax K-X (white)
Kit Lens
DA 50-200 f3.5

I'm pretty happy with the performance of the 50-200. For what I need it to do, it gets it done.

However, though the kit give me good results, I recently got to use the DA * 16-50/2.8 and an FA 50/1.8. That was quite the lens, and the increase in just quality of across the board spoiled me. I happened to be looking through the lens reviews and I noticed a couple of options that I think might get me halfway there.

Needs and Budget

I'm going to Provence, Nice & the French Riviera, Cinque Terre, and Florence at the end of June. The trip is the result of an amazing airmiles deal, and we're going on a shoestring.

Additionally, I just got a really cheap blackberry, and I'm selling my Android phone so I should net around $200. I pretty much HAVE to stay within that.

I'm not a pro, but recently shot a wedding as a favor (it came out great), and I would like to pick up some more amateur gigs. I rented the above-mentioned lenses for the wedding, and if I can pick up something now, that will prevent me from renting one or the other for my next gig, that would be another money savings. As part of my side business, I take some product shots for a company and put them on the website I run.

Interestingly, the last time I was in Europe (honeymoon), I had a Kodak DX7590 - which goes from 38-380, 35mm equivalent.

While I only took a handfull of shots above 250mm equiv, I was CONSTANTLY fighting not having a wider-angle lens. In cities, photographing architechture with narrow streets, etc. I was always backing up, and it was never enough. So I'm going to have to have SOME lens that goes down going down to 18 or below.

However, this isn't just about the trip. I rarely go below 28mm equiv in my day-to-day shooting at home.

So my needs for this lens are:
  • Needs to be a marked improvement over my current glass
  • Needs to be able to handle a large % of the shots I'll take on my trip

The Options
I've been scouring the reviews section, the marketplace, ebay, and KEH, and I have come up with 4 options that I think will work for me.

Option 1 - Marginal Kit Replacement
Sigma 18-125 DC F3.5-5.6
Pentax Forums Rating: 9.0/6 reviews - - Price Range $175-200

Resulting Vacation Lens List:
  • 18-125 (80% usage)
  • 50-200 (20% usage)

Pro/Cons:

Pro: Extremely high ranking in reviews. Con: Those reviews do mention some indoor IQ issues. Photozone's review is fairly negative.
Pro: Replaces my Kit lens and then some Con: On paper, it's not THAT much better than my kit lens
Con: Might be fine, but then again, might not cut it for a paying gig.

Essential Question: Does it improve on the kit lens enough to warrant an upgrade?

Option 2 - Replace It ALL
Tamron 18-200 Di F3.5-5.6
Pentax Forums Rating: 8.25/4 reviews - - Price Range $200 used-300 new

Resulting Vacation Lens List:
  • 18-200 (95% usage)
  • 28mm MF Prime (5% usage)

Pro/Cons:

Pro: Very little switching on my trip. Would allow me to bring my nice MF primeCon: One review mentioned "terrible" AF performance.
Pro: Replaces my kit lens for everyday use Con: Wouldn't cut it for a paying gig
Pro: Gets high marks for IQ Con: I'm not a big fan of superzooms.

Essential question: Does an entry level superzoom trump two entry level zooms of the same spec?

Option 3 - The Tweener
Sigma 28-105 f2.8-4
Pentax Forums Rating: 7/3 reviews - - Price Range <$100

Resulting Vacation Lens List:
  • 18-50 (15% usage)
  • 28-105 (65% usage)
  • 50-200 (20% usage)
Pro/Cons:

Pro: Cheapest lens here. Con: Everyone says its soft wide open, one review said the build quality was poor.
Pro: F2.8 sounds like a good improvement on paper. Con: I'm going to be switching lenses all the time on my trip.
Pro: If it was excellent, it would work for a wedding.

Essential Question: Is this lens a hidden gem? Is it worth the $75 or so to find out?

Option 4 - Prime Lens out of Nowhere
Pentax DA 35mm f2.4
Pentax Forums Rating: 9.31/14 reviews - - Price Range $175-200
Resulting Vacation Lens List:
  • 18-50 (30% usage)
  • 35 (30% usage)
  • 50-200 (40% usage)

Pro/Cons:

Pro: Consistently adored by everyone. Con: Means switching lenses a lot on the trip. I'll be in a lot of open spaces that don't suit themselves to Prime shooting.
Pro: I love shooting prime. Loved that 50/1.4 but would have liked it to be 35mm Con:It's kind of expensive for what amounts to a "bonus" lens for this trip.
Pro: I will use it a ton at home. Con:It will be available much cheaper as it starts to come up used.


Finally, I am aware of the DA 16-45/f4 and how much love it gets around here, but it's way out of my . I've seen it go for around $250 used. Is it the answer? Should I suck it up, beg the wife, and post a WTB ad for one?


Last edited by Ryan Trevisol; 04-07-2011 at 07:48 PM.
04-07-2011, 04:44 PM - 1 Like   #2
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The 16-45 has a good rep and it is an improvement over the kit lens...But i'm of the opinion that it should be bought instead of the kit lens, since you are upgrading you might want to save and spend a litle bit more into something with a bit more features.
A Tammy 17-50 f2.8 is a good idea..you might be able to find it a bit more expensive than 250 used...you can read about it, it's got a great reputation.
(I own the 28-75 and i love it..it's 90% of the time on my camera...i like the focal range but i'm in deep need of a Wideee lense...hopefully soon i'll get me a UWA zoom)

You should get a lens that is realy a step up from the kit lense (wich is a fine kit lens by all reviews, one of the few decent kit lenses out there now with entry level cameras...) if it's not a real improvement don't spend the money on it...better to save than to regret it later on.

Or if you don't mind manual focus there are a bunch of off brand lenses out there prety cheap that can get you great IQ for litle money.

Of all your choices i would consider only the 16-45 or the prime.

(put some bambi eyes to your wife and unblock some more bucks)
04-07-2011, 04:55 PM - 1 Like   #3
hcc
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Among the first 3 options, the 18-200 will not improve the IQ. It would be more convenient but no more.

Since you already have two zoom lenses, I would recommend to go for a prime lens: the 35mm f2.4. Prime lenses have a much better IQ for the same price than zoom lenses. I think that you would enjoy the better IQ.

In summary: go for option 4.

Food for thought...
04-07-2011, 05:12 PM   #4
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Hi Ryan, I have experienced the option 1 and i think those ratings are over the top, I found the IQ a bit like a Forest Gump "box of chocolates". I have the 18-250 which is excellent but option 2 doesn't seem to be on par. Yes option 3 (not the correct picture) looks interesting and i think worthy of further investigation as a good copy may serve you well. Option 5 (mine) pentax F 24-50 F4 is well worth a look, i have some F glass and it is very good. Option 4 is a no brainer for IQ. Cheers.

04-07-2011, 06:15 PM   #5
krp
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If you get the DA 16-45 f/4 then you can sell your kit lens. Besides that, the DA 35mm f2.4 would be good since it's in your price range and it would be an improvement in low light and image quality.
04-07-2011, 06:20 PM   #6
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I was kind of in the same boat, and I ended up getting a used Pentax DA 16-45 for $235. It ended up staying on the camera 90% of the time. It really is a nice step up on quality from the 18-55 kit lens, and you will love the extra width. It will work for a paying gig in its zoom range. But... I sure would have liked a bit more tele...
The one I'm considering is the Pentax 18-135, but I'm going to have save up for that one.
04-07-2011, 06:44 PM   #7
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I'm not sure if it's much better than the 50-200, but the F 70-210 is really good glass for less than 100 bucks.
04-07-2011, 07:11 PM   #8
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It is always good to have a nice wide angle when going to cities. There is so much you can do with them! Picking up a tamron adaptall 24 or 28mm is a good option and you can also look for a nice Pentax M 40mm 2.8 and still have $100 in your pocket! Use it for a nice dinner in Nice! They are both manual focus, but for the less bulk you will have, it will be nice to travel with them.

Bon Voyage!

04-07-2011, 07:55 PM   #9
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IMO, the DA 16-45mm f4 offers you 16mm, an IQ gain over the kit lens, probably an IQ advantage over the other lenses listed, and resale value. You could buy it for $250, use it on the trip and sell it for $250. Or keep it as an almost-pro lens. Reading your requirements, I'm not convinced any of the other listed lenses are going to meet them. Maybe use the $200 for something else.
04-07-2011, 08:23 PM   #10
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Original Poster
Thanks for the input guys.

It's kind of what I figured, that the 16-45 and the prime are the front runners. As usual, something just slightly more expensive than what you want to spend is the best option.

Interesting that Coeurdechene should mention the Tamron 17-50 2.8. Looking at the average price paid in the reviews section I didn't think it could be gotten that cheap. I guess I can look for a deal but it probably won't be found cheap enough.

Also interesting the suggestion that perhaps the 16-45f4 isn't enough of a step up. If I start getting paying gigs on a regular basis, my current plan is to get a K-5 and keep the K-X as a backup, in which case I don't want to have an overabundance of lenses that limit the body's capabilities.

Any thoughts on that being the case or not?

Let me know if anybody wants to get rid of a Tamron 17-50 2.8 for under $300.
04-08-2011, 01:26 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ryan Trevisol Quote

...Also interesting the suggestion that perhaps the 16-45f4 isn't enough of a step up...
I'm not sure that anyone's suggesting that the DA 16-45 isn't enough of a step up - in fact my impression from everything I've seen on the Internet is that it is an excellent lens in just about every respect. (Unfortunately, as I don't own one - yet - I can't give you a first-hand verdict!)

My only quibbles would be that it covers a similar range to the kit lens and is bigger/heavier. But it is significantly better - check this out (apologies to all who've already been here!):

To Kit or not to Kit ? Three Pentax Kit Lenses ERPhotoReview

If eventually you want to replace it with something a lot more exotic then you can always get your money back by selling it...
04-08-2011, 02:55 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ryan Trevisol Quote
If I start getting paying gigs on a regular basis, my current plan is to get a K-5 and keep the K-X as a backup
There are some people here in the forums that have used the Tammys as workhorses...i got mine for a paid gig and it delivered (you just gotta make sure you get a copy without BF or FF issues).
The thing that i like about it in comparison with the 16-45 is the extra f stop and the fact that it is sharp wide open.
(i don't own the 17-50 but it is said to have similar quality than the 28-75)

QuoteOriginally posted by m42man Quote
it is an excellent lens in just about every respect
Here i agree, it renders good images and everyone who has it and most of the reviews i have read consider so.
I'm sure either one would suit you fine...

Said it before and more people mentioned it, consider if you don't want a MF prime...you can get, maybe, two good lenses for your money with good IQ.

Good luck with the choices.
04-08-2011, 04:55 AM   #13
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Thanks for the clarification.

The reason I don't want to go MF prime (and I do have a nice 28 2.8 and a 50 f2 that works in full manual) is that I wear glasses, and the combination of the glasses and the lack of confirm lights in the K-X makes it real difficult for me - either I shoot with my glasses on and squint to see the viewfinder, or I take them off and have to mess with the diopter. but even then, I have astigmatism so it doesn't really help me.

Maybe if I had a focusing screen but even then it gets old after a while.
04-08-2011, 05:06 AM   #14
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I'd definitely recommend the 16-45. You'll see my comments anytime it is mentioned. It's a lot of lens for little money. I've rotated through some lenses but it's still in my quiver. Can't beat it for the bucks.

Get a 16-45, and then look around for a tamron or promaster clone 28-105 zoom. I picked one up for 40 bucks a few weeks ago. It's a remarkably good little lens for not much money. It would be great to have for short tele & general carryaround when you don't need the wide.
04-08-2011, 05:06 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Just1MoreDave Quote
IMO, the DA 16-45mm f4 offers you 16mm, an IQ gain over the kit lens, probably an IQ advantage over the other lenses listed, and resale value. You could buy it for $250, use it on the trip and sell it for $250. Or keep it as an almost-pro lens. Reading your requirements, I'm not convinced any of the other listed lenses are going to meet them. Maybe use the $200 for something else.
+1 for this. In addition I think you will find that 16mm invaluable on your vacation.

NaCl(everybody is surprised at how much more they use wide instead of long on vacation)H2O
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