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04-18-2011, 01:17 PM   #1
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Advice on standard and tele primes for K-7

Hello all.

I am the proud owner of a K-7 with standard 18-55mm kit lens. However, I am already finding the quality/speed of the standard lens a little uninspiring, and also find myself in the fortunate position of having family that want to put some money towards a new lens for me as a birthday treat.

To that end, I am looking to purchase two primes; one in the "standard" range, and another in the "telephoto" range. So far, after much reading on these incredibly helpful forums, I've narrowed my selection down to two or three lenses in each.

Standard Lenses (in order of interest)
SMC-Pentax-DA-40mm-F2.8-Limited ~ $360
SMC-Pentax-DA-35mm-F2.8-Limited-Macro ~ $540
SMC-Pentax-DA-Star-55mm-F1.4-SDM ~ $640

Three very different lenses, I grant you, and I am sure each is a keeper in its own right. However, I can only buy one to meet my "standard" prime need right now, and so I am seeking advice, guidance or just downright bullying as to which lens I should start with -- particularly given my K-7 body. The primary goals for this lens are sharpness, speed and simplicity; a lens to leave on the camera for all but formal portraits and long-distance work. In particular, I want a lens that will excel at landscapes, capturing crisp details and true-to-life color with minimal effort.

Telephoto Lenses (in order of interest)
SMC-Pentax-DA-Star-200mm-F2.8-SDM ~ $960
SMC-Pentax-DA-Star-300mm-F4-SDM ~ $1400

I read both sets of reviews on this forum, as well as a number of other independent reviews, and of course I fell in love with both of these lenses, instantly. They are both as expensive as cars I have owned, and in parts of New Hampshire and Vermont, I could almost own land for this sort of money. But still, as Pentax primes go, these two seem to be "the bomb".

As with the "standard" lenses above, what I am looking for again here is, advice, guidance and/or bullying into which lens to buy. Both will be fantastic, but one will likely suit my needs better in the short to medium term. Currently, I am thinking the 200mm will be my best bet. Not only is it $400 cheaper, I suspect that given my relative novice status, the 200mm FL will be a little easier to handle and frame a meaningful shot. I am not likely to be doing any "sport" work with the lens, but I will be looking to sit at the local reservoir and capture some of the bird-life at work (heron, pelican, osprey, cormorant).

Side-note
I *could* be swayed into buying a non-Pentax glass, particularly if the price/performance ratio is significantly better and warrants due consideration. I could also be talked into buying just one, or even none of the above lenses; particularly if you could convince me as to why I should experience one before the other and perhaps wait to make a choice on the second.

Picking two of the lenses above will cost somewhere between $1,300 and $2,100; I would truly welcome some advice from those of you that have already had to make such choices or perhaps already own one of more of these lenses.

Many thanks in advance!

04-18-2011, 02:30 PM   #2
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I'll only comment on the standard section.
Firstly, DA*55 is hardly standard lens on K-7. With it's FOV it's short tele, 40 is tight normal and 35 qualifies...
Now, I used to have DA40 and now I have DA*55. Never tried 35. Out of 40 and 55 I'd pick 55 8x out of 10. The only two times would be when I would wish for faster AF, and frankly I have yet to run into that situation.
DA* is WR, is 2 stops faster, is perfect from f1.6 and usable at f1.4 and is quiet AF and good MF. 40 is MUCH smaller, much lighter with quite a bit faster AF, but f2.8 limit's it's DOF control. OOF is bit more nervous with 55 in certain situations but also smoother in others...

Personally, I'd take 35+55+200. I have 31 + 55 and I think the combination is great.

my 2p
04-18-2011, 03:42 PM   #3
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Thanks axl ... really appreciate the response.
QuoteQuote:
Firstly, DA*55 is hardly standard lens on K-7. With it's FOV it's short tele, 40 is tight normal and 35 qualifies...
Agreed ... I recognize that beyond 35mm is really moving out of standard and into short tele; I was just trying to define two groups at each end of my "range" requirements; they probably warrant splitting out below 55.
QuoteQuote:
I used to have DA40
Why did you let it go? Did you find the 40 range not really worth "filling" between your 31 and 55?

The 55 sounds like an awesome lens, but how does it fair with landscapes and day to day shooting? The primary thing drawing me to the 40, other than the great price, was the strength of the reviews for this lens in casual shooting.
04-18-2011, 04:33 PM   #4
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I tried 2 DA*55mm lenses before going with the Sigma 50mm F/1.4. I would have liked to have had the smaller D*55mm with the weather sealing, but the Sigma was sharper from f/1.4-4.0 and I needed the wide open performance more. I have been very happy with the color, contrast, bokeh, and AF. The fact that is was $200.00 less than the Pentax 55mm was a nice bonus.

04-18-2011, 04:50 PM   #5
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You mentioned a lens for "casual shooting". I think it's really hard to beat the DA40 for that, especially on a K-7. When I travel, or just go wandering around my home town, that is often all I'll take. The tiny size of the lens, and the balance of the K-7 with it, is great. I do have the DA35 as well, and while I almost prefer the field of view, the compactness of the DA40 often wins out. Really, in the end either would be a great choice. I would not part with either of those lenses. For what you described, I think a 55 would be a bit long.

As for the long lens, especially if you want to shoot birds etc, I would go with the 300/4. It will be easily handholdable on the K-7, especially nice with the SR. For the use you described, you'll feel limited very quickly with only 200mm. I don't have a Pentax 300 (other than the 55-300, which do I like) but I do have an older Nikon 300/4 that I use on a D7000 (long story as to why 2 systems). I've had the lens for close to 12 years now, and it's my "walking around" lens for the San Diego Zoo. Even without in-body SR on the Nikon, I can still handhold it at absurdly low shutter speeds. I would love to have a 300/4 for Pentax.

If you want to see examples from the DA40, or from the 300/4 on an APS-C sensor (it's not Pentax, but you'll get an idea as to field of view etc) you can check out my smugmug galleries. Smugmug is temporarily down right now so I can't get you links, but there is a whole gallery of shots with the DA40 on a K2000, and many of the most recent San Diego Zoo and Safari Park galleries were shot with the 300/4 (and some with an 80-200/2.8) on the D7000. You can see the tech info by mousing over the large display image on the right and clicking on the info button that pops out. Link to my main page below.

Hope this helps.
04-18-2011, 04:57 PM   #6
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Thanks for the reply.

QuoteOriginally posted by Winder Quote
I tried 2 DA*55mm lenses
Did you have problems, Winder?
04-18-2011, 05:11 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Frank B Quote
You mentioned a lens for "casual shooting". I think it's really hard to beat the DA40 for that, especially on a K-7.
This is what I am reading from the rave reviews for this lens. Do you take much in the way of landscapes with it, Frank? And do you find it nice and sharp across the FOV? What is the sweet spot for this prime?

QuoteOriginally posted by Frank B Quote
I do have the DA35 as well, and while I almost prefer the field of view...
Is that the DA35 2.4 or the 2.8 Macro you own, Frank? If the latter, have you enjoyed/made use of the macro capabilities of the lens?

QuoteOriginally posted by Frank B Quote
For the use you described, you'll feel limited very quickly with only 200mm
This is a genuine concern, Frank; particularly as I have so little experience to draw on. I did also look at the DA* 60-250mm zoom to try and "resolve" that issue, but that lens is nearly $1600!

I will take a look at some of your 300/4 pictures when available.

Thanks!
04-18-2011, 05:54 PM   #8
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For a standard lens I find that 40 and 55mm are too tight for me and rarely shoot at those focal lengths. I have the 35mm f2.4 now and it not always wide enough for my use. I plan to get a new lens in the next year that is even wider and for primes I would recommend you look into the 31mm, 21mm, and 15mm limited primes.

Since your financial cap seems to have some room for variance, I would recommend the 31mm and combine it with the 200mm. If that is too much, I would still get the 31mm and perhaps the 100mm WR macro. That's just me though. You might experiment with your kit lens or look through your recent photos and see which focal lengths you shoot at more often. The fast speed and nice focal length of the 31mm make it the ideal lens for the K-7 IMHO.

04-18-2011, 07:02 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by pjthiel Quote
This is what I am reading from the rave reviews for this lens. Do you take much in the way of landscapes with it, Frank? And do you find it nice and sharp across the FOV? What is the sweet spot for this prime?


Is that the DA35 2.4 or the 2.8 Macro you own, Frank? If the latter, have you enjoyed/made use of the macro capabilities of the lens?



This is a genuine concern, Frank; particularly as I have so little experience to draw on. I did also look at the DA* 60-250mm zoom to try and "resolve" that issue, but that lens is nearly $1600!

I will take a look at some of your 300/4 pictures when available.

Thanks!
- I've used the DA40 for all sorts of stuff, and it seems fine all the way across the frame to me. However, I've never shot a test target with it. If smugmug ever comes back to life, I have a gallery in the Photography section that is all shot with the DA40. I forget if it's labeled something like K2000 Test or similar. As for landscapes in particular, I actually don't like too wide of lens unless the sky has some dramatic clouds, so the 40 can be fine.

- I have the DA35 Macro. I actually bought it for the specific purpose of "scanning" old 35mm slides. It works brilliantly for this. I use it on either a K20D or K7, and just tip my ballhead over to 90 degrees over the edge of a table with a lightbox masked off to just have an opening big enough for the slide. The close working distance is a benefit for this sort of thing. I think I posted somewhere on this site about the technique. There is a post on my blog that shows some of the results here. I've also done some flower shots with it, it's a great lens.

- There is a gallery of shots on my smugmug site taken in Old Town San Diego entirely with the DA35 Macro. I find it quite a versatile lens actually. Some people say that it hunts for focus because of the long focus throw. Well, it is certainly not as quick to focus as the DA40 (but I'm not sure if anything else is that fast), but one of the great things about the DA Limiteds is the quick shift focus. If I take a close focus shot with the DA35 I just use my hand to rotate back to infinity afterwards. Then if my next shot is a general shot I'm pretty much there. After a few minutes of use you don't even notice doing it.

- As for the 300/4, I really like that length on APS-C sensor. Now that I also have an 80-200/2.8, I can say that I still think the 300/4 is better for zoos and wildlife shots. As for maybe being too long at times, yes that can be an issue, especially with the older AF-D Nikon that I have, since the minimum focus is like 9'. That said, here is a link to my blog post for the St. Patrick's Day Parade in San Diego this year. I shot the whole thing with the 300/4. It took some thinking ahead because of the minimum focus distance, and we were kind of encroaching into the middle of the street at times too (a few of us all with big lenses, people assumed we were supposed to be there). If you look at the various zoo posts on my blog from about mid-February 2011 those were all taken with a 300/4 except for some very recent ones with an 80-200/2.8. Earlier zoo shots were with the 55-300 Pentax.

I just realized that if you're not logged in you don't see the links in my signature to smugmug or blog, so here they are:

Frank B. Baiamonte

Frank B. Baiamonte's Photos
04-18-2011, 09:12 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by pjthiel Quote
Thanks for the reply.


Did you have problems, Winder?
No problems. I have a friend who had a Sigma 50mm f/1.4. I bought the DA* 55mm and we compared them. I had expected the DA* 55mm to be a higher quality lens. I had never owned a Sigma before, and coming from Canon I always avoided Sigma. I was looking for a lens that was really good from f/1.4 - f/2.8.

The K-7 is also my first body with AF micro Adjustment and I never could get the DA* to dial in. The Sigma was spot on, but it does have a slight front focus at f/1.4 at the minimal focusing distance. The second DA*55mm worked fine, but it was just not as sharp until you got to F/4.0. It was a good lens, just not as good as the Sigma. I ended up ordering a Sigma lens and it has been just as good as the test unit I borrowed. This lens has made me a Sigma fan and I will probably be ordering the new 85mm F/1.4 soon.
04-18-2011, 10:19 PM   #11
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Don't be afraid of the DA L 35 2.4.

Buy the DA 40 for ease of use and sex-appeal. It's super fun, but the DA L 35 will get you there too.
04-19-2011, 12:31 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by pjthiel Quote
Thanks axl ... really appreciate the response.

Agreed ... I recognize that beyond 35mm is really moving out of standard and into short tele; I was just trying to define two groups at each end of my "range" requirements; they probably warrant splitting out below 55.

Why did you let it go? Did you find the 40 range not really worth "filling" between your 31 and 55?

The 55 sounds like an awesome lens, but how does it fair with landscapes and day to day shooting? The primary thing drawing me to the 40, other than the great price, was the strength of the reviews for this lens in casual shooting.
You are welcome...
I never had 40 with 55 at the same time. Back then (pre 2010) I had DA40, Sigma 10-20 and Sigma 105 and some zooms. I really liked it. Then I got a great deals on mint F50/1.7 and new FA31 so it suddenly got very crowded. Combination of 31+50 often suited my needs more than 40. I only used 40 instead of body cap when in transit, while other lenses were in pouches. Then in January 2010 I found good deal on FA43 and sold off my 40+50. Never missed 40, but regreted selling 50 very soon. Since then I was trying to replace the 50mm. I went through K55/1.8, K50/1.2, DA*55(looking back at it it must have been a dud copy), K50/1.4. I always felt that despite all the goodness the 43 is just too close to 31. Then when I sold all of those 50+mm lenses to fund 77 and later K-7 I was left with 24+3 FA ltds. I got disillusioned with 77 very quickly (it's a great lens just awfully long for my vision - on APSC that is, I'm sure I'd love it on FF) and I decided to sell it to give another to DA*55. My second copy is great. I used to feel I need to have lens to fill each gap but not anymore. My Mrs is using K-x + 31 while I have K-7 + 24+55. These two lenses can do it just about all for me. With FOV equivalents of 35 and 85mm it makes a lot of sense!
40 has great reviews but it all depends on how you percieve world around you. I never had problem with 40/43 FOV but given the choice 24+55 suits me more. And 55 for casual shooting? We went for walk with Mrs last Sunday. I took bot my lenses and used 24 for 4 keepers while 55 for 40 odd keepers...that says it all IMO
04-19-2011, 01:53 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Frank B Quote
I've used the DA40 for all sorts of stuff, and it seems fine all the way across the frame to me. However, I've never shot a test target with it. If smugmug ever comes back to life, I have a gallery in the Photography section that is all shot with the DA40. I forget if it's labeled something like K2000 Test or similar. As for landscapes in particular, I actually don't like too wide of lens unless the sky has some dramatic clouds, so the 40 can be fine.
I took a look through your DA40 galleries, some nice shots in there; a real mix of shots that show how versatile the lens is.
QuoteOriginally posted by Frank B Quote
There is a gallery of shots on my smugmug site taken in Old Town San Diego entirely with the DA35 Macro. I find it quite a versatile lens actually.
I looked through these too Frank, thanks. I can see how the lens would be great for scanning your old slides -- great idea. I'm not sure how much I'd use the macro on a 35mm lens. I've seen from the reviews of the lens that some truly amazing shots are possible, but with such a short FL, I suspect that creating such opportunities is tricky at best -- at least with anything that moves!
QuoteOriginally posted by Frank B Quote
That said, here is a link to my blog post for the St. Patrick's Day Parade in San Diego this year. I shot the whole thing with the 300/4.
Some amazing shots in here Frank, and the IQ looks to be superb. You'd never know that these were all shot on the 300/4. As you say, some planning needed when shooting, but it can be done!
04-19-2011, 02:10 AM   #14
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Thanks for the reply, Heegz.
QuoteOriginally posted by HEEGZ Quote
For a standard lens I find that 40 and 55mm are too tight for me and rarely shoot at those focal lengths. I have the 35mm f2.4 now and it not always wide enough for my use. I plan to get a new lens in the next year that is even wider and for primes I would recommend you look into the 31mm, 21mm, and 15mm limited primes.
Is your 35/2.4 you "walkabout lens" as of now? The SMC Pentax-FA 31mm does indeed look like a fabulous lens.
QuoteOriginally posted by HEEGZ Quote
You might experiment with your kit lens or look through your recent photos and see which focal lengths you shoot at more often.
This is exactly what I have been doing of late, trying to sit at a specific FL for each particular outing to see what it might be like to shoot with a prime. It's actually harder than I thought, and I found myself "cheating" as soon as I needed a different shot; particularly with any kind of portrait shot -- I was usually banged up against the 55mm to get the shot I was looking for.

As I have the 18-55 kit lens, I am going to try and be more disciplined with this exercise and really sit at one or more of these FL and see if one suits my "eye" or style of shooting more than another. Perhaps it'll help me decide.
04-19-2011, 02:15 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Winder Quote
The K-7 is also my first body with AF micro Adjustment
I still have a lot to learn about photography and my K-7 body in particular. Is this something I'll be doing with each lens I buy? What about my kit lens? Does the 18-55 need dialing in?

I have not yet looked at any of the Sigma glass as I wanted to look at some lenses from Pentax as my first buys. I can't explain "why" in particular, it just feels right. That said, I really just want bang for my buck and good quality for when I capture a great picture. I'll take a look at some of the Sigma units.
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