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06-08-2011, 10:56 AM   #1
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Downsize from 28-75/17-70 back to 18-55: reality check

Here's the situation. I started out with a K100D Super about 2 years ago. It came with the kit and I bought a 55-300 to go with that. Took it to Vietnam and enjoyed it a lot. Wasn't bothered by having to switch lenses that much. Then I got a Tamron 28-75 which was absolutely fantastic, but heavy as well and not wide enough. Got a 17-70 to make up for that and a 35mm to still have low-light capabilities. Sold the kit. Also got a 100mm macro (also for portraits) and a 10-20mm. I now have a total of 6 lenses (5 if you don't count the Tammy) and I also upgraded to a K-7 and then again to a K-5. I once owned a Pentax 18-250 but found the vignetting and softness at longer focal lengths a letdown.

I feel I have too much gear and it's too heavy.

When traveling - which is where I make most photos - I have a Lowepro Inverse 100AW, which fits the body, 17-70 attached, 55-300 and the 35mm (barely). I tried the 200AW but that's just too big for me to wear.

So there you have it - there is an incompatibility between the lenses that I want and the lenses I'm willing to carry around (and put on the body). I thought about expanding on primes. I like them. They're sharp, fast and relatively light, but the truth is that the convenience of zooms is a big plus when traveling. Still, I want to downsize, to maybe take the 10-20mm or 100mm with me in my Inverse. Also, the 18-55 is WR. And since it has MkII optics, it should be better than the original one that came with my K100D Super back in the day.

So I'm playing with the idea of going "back" to a kit lens. One of the reasons is that when I got the K100D Super, I enjoyed it a lot and just took photos. With the 17-70, I sometimes find myself thinking "hmm... at 70mm f/4 it isn't so sharp". I know this is kind of psychological, but there's not an awful lot I can do about that I'm afraid.

Btw, I did send the 17-70 back once because AF was sometimes dodgy. But even after it came back, my 55-300 at 70mm f/4 is sharper than the 17-70 at the same focal length/aperture. It's great at shorter focal lengths though.

So am I crazy wanting to go back to a lesser quality lens?

06-08-2011, 11:03 AM   #2
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You can also just keep the 17-70 and only use the 70mm at f5.6 or go with f4 up to 55mm and still have a better reach then with the kitlens. Or downsize in weight to a K-r.
06-08-2011, 11:07 AM   #3
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Nah there is nothing wrong with simplifying. I started as a pure beginner about a year ago. I went through the same process as you, probably over-thinking my needs when a kit lens is pretty much all I needed in a lot of situations. Sometimes I prefer my light and extremely capable 18-55 WR lens.
06-08-2011, 11:09 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by starbase218 Quote
Here's the situation. I started out with a K100D Super about 2 years ago. It came with the kit and I bought a 55-300 to go with that. Took it to Vietnam and enjoyed it a lot. Wasn't bothered by having to switch lenses that much. Then I got a Tamron 28-75 which was absolutely fantastic, but heavy as well and not wide enough. Got a 17-70 to make up for that and a 35mm to still have low-light capabilities. Sold the kit. Also got a 100mm macro (also for portraits) and a 10-20mm. I now have a total of 6 lenses (5 if you don't count the Tammy) and I also upgraded to a K-7 and then again to a K-5. I once owned a Pentax 18-250 but found the vignetting and softness at longer focal lengths a letdown.

I feel I have too much gear and it's too heavy.

When traveling - which is where I make most photos - I have a Lowepro Inverse 100AW, which fits the body, 17-70 attached, 55-300 and the 35mm (barely). I tried the 200AW but that's just too big for me to wear.

So there you have it - there is an incompatibility between the lenses that I want and the lenses I'm willing to carry around (and put on the body). I thought about expanding on primes. I like them. They're sharp, fast and relatively light, but the truth is that the convenience of zooms is a big plus when traveling. Still, I want to downsize, to maybe take the 10-20mm or 100mm with me in my Inverse. Also, the 18-55 is WR. And since it has MkII optics, it should be better than the original one that came with my K100D Super back in the day.

So I'm playing with the idea of going "back" to a kit lens. One of the reasons is that when I got the K100D Super, I enjoyed it a lot and just took photos. With the 17-70, I sometimes find myself thinking "hmm... at 70mm f/4 it isn't so sharp". I know this is kind of psychological, but there's not an awful lot I can do about that I'm afraid.

Btw, I did send the 17-70 back once because AF was sometimes dodgy. But even after it came back, my 55-300 at 70mm f/4 is sharper than the 17-70 at the same focal length/aperture. It's great at shorter focal lengths though.

So am I crazy wanting to go back to a lesser quality lens?
No. The kit lens is very good quality, so long as you stay away from the ends of the FL and stop down to f/4.

I keep my my kit lens around because it is a great backup, really cheap (sunk cost), and a nice, light weight.

But it does lose DOF and brightness compared to my Tamron 17-50/2.8 as well as other creative aspects. It's my "close to home lens".

Four outdoor walkaround I picked up a Tamron 28-105. In natural light and with some tele options the DOF issue is nowhere near as important and it is very light compared to a 28-75/2.8 (or the 24-135).

I just don't haul all my lenses with me. About the only one that tags along is my 10-17FE (because you never know).

06-08-2011, 11:11 AM   #5
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I have the 18-55 and 50-200 kit lenses and I found that I often had to switch lenses when I am in the dustiest conditions. I have since picked up a Promaster 28-200. It is heavy but I only carry it when I know I really don't want to change back and forth between the kit lenses.

Tim

Last edited by atupdate; 06-08-2011 at 11:17 AM.
06-08-2011, 12:48 PM   #6
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I think your logic is sound.

Compared to expensive primes, the DA 18-55 holds up admirably, assuming that you are willing to stop it down to f5.6.

The best range for the lens is 24mm - 40mm. I have sold a DA 40 and A 28mm f2.8, because I was happy enough with the kit for these focal lengths (for my purposes).

In contrast, I kept my DA 15, because it is just that much better than the kit at 18.

---

That tamron is going to be a killer portrait lens, assuming you have it with you. I don't think I could consider that a travel lens (would prefer a 50mm prime for those sorts of portraits, I would think, on a vacation).

Have you considered the 18-135mm WR for travel? It won't be much better at the wide end, but it gives you a LOT more reach. You could travel with the 18-135, and a 50mm prime for portraits / low light, and have your bases covered with a reasonably compact kit. I'd imagine it would not cost you anything, if you sold all of your other lenses (and went for, say, the SMC A 50mm f1.7), or K55 f1.8.
06-08-2011, 02:48 PM   #7
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I went through a number of copies of the kit lens, a (very good) copy of the DA 18-250mm, two copies of the Tamron 17-50mm (which I returned due to BF), and a Pentax 16-45mm. In the end, I got hold of an excellent copy of the DA 18-55 AL II--not all of them are made equal. Mine is superb: almost as sharp as the 16-45 (which I sold), and no unequal border softness. (There is some border softness at 18mm f3.5, but then DxO takes care of it.) A good copy of the kit lens + DxO is a formula that competes with heavier and otherwise better glass. I use the kit lens as my travel lens, when portability is crucial, and I use it mainly in daylight (f5.6-f11). I would not use any other lens. For low light I have a couple of primes: 24mm or 28mm, and the DA 40mm, whose weight is negligible. Plus, for superlative quality, nothing beats primes.
From my perspective and based on my experience, I'd say your decision makes a lot of sense. But I'd advise you to use the kit lens again for a while before selling any of the other zooms.
Unfortunately, we are torn between two divergent passions: photography and LBA. Enjoying photography goes hand in hand with portability--and Pentax, with its nice old and new primes, places an emphasis on this value. LBA just makes us want this and that, independently of what on genuine reflection we think we need.

Last edited by causey; 06-08-2011 at 02:54 PM.
06-08-2011, 02:53 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by paperbag846 Quote
The best range for the lens is 24mm - 40mm. I have sold a DA 40 and A 28mm f2.8, because I was happy enough with the kit for these focal lengths (for my purposes).
You, Brutus? You, the passionate advocate of the DA 40mm? I bet you'll regret it in a couple of months. Regret made me buy it a second time. The first time I had decided I was happy enough with the DA 16-45mm at 40mm. (I had made side by side comparisons to justify my happiness!) But later I came across some pics taken with the DA 40mm, and I fell in love again...

06-08-2011, 03:01 PM   #9
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By the way, I forgot to mention I also had the 16-45, but sold it after I got the 17-70, because I wanted something longer. I have to say I liked the lens otherwise though.

The biggest gripe I think I would have when downsizing to a kit lens would be subject isolation - 70mm @ f/4 is probably a lot better in that regard than 55mm @ f/5.6.
06-08-2011, 03:14 PM   #10
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The various 50-55-58mm f1.4/f1.7/f2 lenses (Pentax, Chinon, Helios, etc.) are excellent for subject isolation, and optically much better than the DA 17-70 at 70mm. Having a small prime in the bag doesn't add much to the felt weight. Weight distribution is also important from the viewpoint of portability. Longer zooms weigh more subjectively than shorter lenses that objectively have the exact same weight. Also, any weight that hangs from your neck is going to "weigh" more than something you put in a backpack or in your pockets.

Last edited by causey; 06-08-2011 at 03:24 PM.
06-08-2011, 03:24 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by causey Quote
You, Brutus? You, the passionate advocate of the DA 40mm? I bet you'll regret it in a couple of months. Regret made me buy it a second time.
Don't worry, I also bought a 50mm to replace it.

The DA 40 is a *magnificent* lens, but so is the FA 50. In fact what happened was I was able to sell one to buy the other.

This is why I buy things used... I'm sure I'll see a 40 again. If Pentax makes an ASPC evil, there's no sweeter combination I could think of than the DA 40 + on a compact digital.

The kit is *not* the 40. They might be indistinguishable at f8, but the DA 40 is pretty spectacular at f2.8-f4 (where the kit either sucks, or can't do). However, what I realized is that when I need a normal, I tend to stop down to f5.6 and just fire away. Because of this, I wasn't really using the 40 to it's potential. And before the 40, I owned the FA 50... and like you, I began to regret selling (just it was the 50).

Unlike a lot of people... I really like 50mm on aspc. It's a *little* short for portraits, but at the same time, 1/2 the price of traditional portrait lenses.

If I had all the money in the world, I'd own the whole DA ltd. line up. However, since I primarily use fast primes in that range for portraits, I found that the FA 50 was a better focal length for me, and the speed didn't hurt, either. I didn't have enough money to buy a 50 on top of owning the 40, so I swapped.

If I decided I didn't want the 50 any more, I'd likely sell it for the 40. But I need one fast prime for portraits, and my 70-210 only works for low-DOF stuff if I have a lot of space.

--

I was also advocating the DA 40 as a reasonable alternative to the FA 43... but that limited thing is a whole other matter. It took me some time to realize it does not need to say "limited" on the barrel for it to be a top-notch lens... and I really think that the 50 1.4 is a top notch lens.

What I'm actually lusting for is a DA ltd. version of the DA* 55.
06-08-2011, 03:31 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by paperbag846 Quote
Don't worry, I also bought a 50mm to replace it.

The DA 40 is a *magnificent* lens, but so is the FA 50. In fact what happened was I was able to sell one to buy the other.

This is why I buy things used... I'm sure I'll see a 40 again. If Pentax makes an ASPC evil, there's no sweeter combination I could think of than the DA 40 + on a compact digital.

The kit is *not* the 40. They might be indistinguishable at f8, but the DA 40 is pretty spectacular at f2.8-f4 (where the kit either sucks, or can't do). However, what I realized is that when I need a normal, I tend to stop down to f5.6 and just fire away. Because of this, I wasn't really using the 40 to it's potential. And before the 40, I owned the FA 50... and like you, I began to regret selling (just it was the 50).

Unlike a lot of people... I really like 50mm on aspc. It's a *little* short for portraits, but at the same time, 1/2 the price of traditional portrait lenses.

If I had all the money in the world, I'd own the whole DA ltd. line up. However, since I primarily use fast primes in that range for portraits, I found that the FA 50 was a better focal length for me, and the speed didn't hurt, either. I didn't have enough money to buy a 50 on top of owning the 40, so I swapped.

If I decided I didn't want the 50 any more, I'd likely sell it for the 40. But I need one fast prime for portraits, and my 70-210 only works for low-DOF stuff if I have a lot of space.

FA 50mm 1.4 was the first prime I bought/tried/sold. And I've never regreted it, partly because I have 4 manual lenses in the 50-58mm range which cost me 1/3 of the current price of the FA 50mm 1.4 (I mean, all of them). But it might be a matter of taste. The images from FA 50mm 1.4 seemed a bit flat to me... I think the DA 40mm has a far better micro-contrast. I agree 50mm is excellent for portraits.

Last edited by causey; 06-08-2011 at 04:02 PM.
06-08-2011, 03:32 PM   #13
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I had a 50mm f/1.7 A lens a while ago, but didn't want to fiddle with manual focus anymore - once I managed to bring the subject into focus, the moment would be gone. So I sold it. I was tempted by the DA 70 Ltd a while ago, but went for the macro instead - more versatile, but also bigger/heavier.

I have to say an FA 28-200 sounds interesting. Since it's a FF lens, vignetting is probably not an issue. But I'm not sure yet. O well, I can sleep over it.
06-08-2011, 03:59 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by causey Quote
DA 40mm has a far better micro-contrast. I agree 50mm is excellent for portraits.
Agreed, although, what I discovered is how the 50 1.4 is pretty underwhelming without a hood, and completely different with a hood.

What I like so much better about the 50 is the bokeh, for obvious reasons, the 40 can't compete. The 50 is also deadly sharp stopped down, the 40 has an advantage between f2.8-f4, but I call it pretty even after that.

The major thing I miss from the DA 40 is the CA control. The FA 50 isn't exactly a champion in this respect (neither is the FA 77), but the DA 40 (and the DA 70) are just phenomenal.
06-08-2011, 08:53 PM   #15
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Unless the WR aspect is vital for you, I couldn't see going back to the 18-55mm kit lens when you could get the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 or Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8. Both of them will probably be sharper than the kit lens, but more importantly they're faster at f/2.8, and are constant aperture.

I shoot at f/2.8 so much (and often wish I could go wider) that I couldn't imagine going without it for my main lens. At the long end, the kit lens is a full two stops slower. That will require much slower shutter speeds, which can make getting sharp pictures tough when lighting isn't good. Plus, they're slightly wider at 17mm. Yeah, they would be slightly larger and heavier, but to me it would more than be worth it.
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