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10-19-2011, 06:45 AM   #1
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Do you own a *sharp* (& cheap, so manual ok!) wide lens? Need recommendations!

I was interested in some input from those who own a sharp wide lens.

I have several lenses, all cheap mind you. The lenses that I *want* are way out of my price range right now. I love manual focus lenses, and have found them to be a cheap alternative so far!

The problem I have with my lenses is that at a reasonable distance (less than 25 feet maybe?), they're pretty sharp. The closer the subject, the sharper the image.

But when shooting groups, I find the sharpness decreases significantly. Almost to a loss of details.

I would like a lens that I can shoot a group shot (maybe 10-15 people) and still have a sharp quality to the image. If I shoot a wedding, or if I shoot a family, the quality is not great at all. The bridal party or the group shot of family is not very sharp. The details seem blurred together.

I've posted before, and quite frankly have gotten some criticism of my choice of lenses (as in not being good enough, and I should by no means even be shooting ANYthing with the lenses). I know they're not the best lenses, but they work for me for the price. I'd love to get a decent lens that will give me the sharpness I desire. And for less than $100 right now.

Here's what I have (a lot are old and used):

Sears 50mm f1.7 manual focus - very sharp close up. Love this lens. Group shots.....not so great. Fuzzy details.
CCT 28mm f2.8 manual focus - not very sharp in any setting. Don't use very often.
Pentax DA 18-55 - kit lens. Decent goto lens. Not as sharp as my 50 at it's sharpest. About the same softness as the 50 at the 18-20 range.
Promaster 28-105 f4 - when I bought this, I was told it was a little sharper than the kit lens. Not so.
Other assortments of lenses, but most are zooms greater than 70mm

I'd love either a prime or a zoom with a at *least* a f2.8 or better. Manual would be great, plus it's cheaper.

If you can offer some suggestions based on your own lens, I'd SOOOOO appreciate it! Thanks so much.

Quality is the key. I don't care about brand, autofocus, etc.

Oh, K-mount too.

Thanks again!

10-19-2011, 06:55 AM   #2
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I'll nominate the MF version of the Sigma 24/2.8. Terrific lens--and affordable.
10-19-2011, 07:18 AM   #3
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If 28mm is wide enough for you, there's lots of good, sharp manual 28s out there. M28/2.8, or M28/3.5 (better but pricier), also the various Sears, Vivitars, etc. I have an Image 28/2.8 (possibly re-branded Vivitar) that is tack-sharp, and inexpensive. Check out the lens review section here on the forums.

What apertures are you using? You might need to stop down more (f/8-f/11) to achieve max sharpness.

Last edited by paulh; 10-19-2011 at 07:23 AM.
10-19-2011, 07:39 AM   #4
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Da 21?

10-19-2011, 08:08 AM   #5
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At 24mm, the Kiron 24mm f2.0 and the Sigma SuperWide II 24mm f2.8 are very close, and well ahead of the kit lens. The Kiron might be over $100, but it's fast, it's a good size and I think worth it. Look at Kiron-built Vivitars too. The gap between good and bad 24mm primes is large.

At 28mm, there are more good sharp lenses. Again, the Kiron or Kiron- built Vivitar 28mm f2.0 is a good choice, except the 24 and 28 look very similar in a camera bag and I'm always picking up the wrong one first. I have a Sigma 28mm f1.8, manual focus with a KA mount and 58mm filter, that's very sharp. It's hard to find this exact model.
10-19-2011, 09:52 AM   #6
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I think you have already wasted a lot of cash for cheap lenses. Sell the cheap manual lenses and save up for something real like DA14, DA16-45 or DA21. Or buy Zenitar 16mm f2.8 and defish it by SW.
10-19-2011, 10:05 AM   #7
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If you want mf lens i can recommend Pentax K 30/2.8 ... nice and sharp, but pricy. I don't have experience with any other 24mm than expensive FA*24, but Kiron 24/2 pictures amazed me and this lens get a lot of praise. I personally wouldn't go wider than 24, as the image corners either get rubbish or you end up paying enormous prices for great lenses.
Oh btw. I used to have K30/2.8, now i own K35/3.5 - a very sharp lens and not expensive, however it might not be wide enough and is is slow.
10-19-2011, 10:18 AM   #8
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Is it common for lenses to go from sharp to blurry at 25 feet? This sounds like something else might be going on.

But I think it would be hard to shoot group shots with a 50 at a wedding. And probably impossible indoors. The Kiron 24's have an excellent rep and the Pentax K 24's are also very good. Although both are probably in the 125ish range. You could also look at a fast 2.8 zoom in the 24to28-70to80 range. 300ish I think but you wouldn't have to be swapping lenses as much. I'm a prime guy but I think I would like a zoom since weddings tend to give you moments that vanish while you're swapping lenses.

10-19-2011, 10:36 AM   #9
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Some grim facts: Good wide fast lenses ain't cheap. 28mm ain't wide; 24mm starts to be wide, and usually ain't cheap. And sometimes technique really matters.

If your budget can take the hit, look for one of the fast kit.lens replacement zooms around 16-45 or 17-50. EVERY such zoom will be newer AF -- MF zooms that wide weren't made when 135/FF was king. If your budget can't take the hit, think about the suggested Vivitar-Komine 24/2 in PKM mount (probably over US$100), or the Tokina-made 21/3.8 in M42, variously badged as Lentar, Vivitar, Soligor, etc (probably under US$100). And stop them down.

I wouldn't really recommend the Zenitar 16/2.8 (around US$200) for group shots unless the group remains within the center half of the image. Defished and downsampled, the edge distortion is unpleasant. I'll use it for groups at tables etc when I want the margins to fade away.

Selling lenses: Unless your cheap oldies have nice 'character' (flaws) that you exploit in other types of shooting, sell them. Yes, I have a zillion lenses. And I've sold-off half as many as I've kept because they just don't measure up. If it ain't good enough, find it another loving home.

Technique? If you're handholding your 18-55 wide-open at 18/3.5, loss of detail isn't remarkable. Set the focal length to between 21-52mm, the aperture to f/8, and use a tripod or flashes. Tripod: something sturdy. Flashes: cheap thrift-shop flashes -- don't let them touch the camera (they could fry the electronics), get some slave-trigger cubes for US$4 each. Mount these on cheap 'pods or on boards with 1/4in machine screws protruding. Trigger them with your on-board flash. With careful shopping, you can put together a monster flash system for under US$50.

Last edited by RioRico; 10-19-2011 at 01:36 PM.
10-19-2011, 11:03 AM   #10
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Follow RioRico's advise on shooting groups and you may find the lens you are using now are adequate.
10-19-2011, 02:00 PM   #11

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QuoteOriginally posted by dadipentak Quote
I'll nominate the MF version of the Sigma 24/2.8. Terrific lens--and affordable.

The Sigma 24/2.8 is my suggestion as well.
10-19-2011, 11:15 PM   #12
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I'd recommend posting images. I think it's pretty unlikely that the sharpness of the lenses is your problem - more likely, just not focusing well enoguh for the MF lens, not comtrolling where the camera fchooses to focus well enough for the F lens, or perhaps just pixel peeping too mich and having unreasonably high expectations.
10-19-2011, 11:24 PM   #13
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I would agree with marc, I am not sure your isssue is lens related, as many older 24 and 28mm lenses are pretty good.

there is a thread on the vivitar 28mm lenses (ther are about 30 different variants) I have 3 of them, all pretty good. My 3 are 2 different versions of 28/2.5 (one K and one M42 mount) and the 28mm F2 (kiron really but marked vivitar) all are nice and sharp.. I also have an SMC-M 28/2.8 and a tamron 28/2.5 which are also good.

the only bad 28 I have is a sigma Mini wide II in KA mount, which suffers badly from lateral CA, but which can be corrected for.

In 24 mm I have tamron 24/2.5 which is a good lens, ans also a vivitar (kiron 24 F2 which is a very good lens)

All relitively cheap
10-20-2011, 12:47 AM - 1 Like   #14

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QuoteOriginally posted by abacus07 Quote
Is it common for lenses to go from sharp to blurry at 25 feet? This sounds like something else might be going on.
Probably a combination of using a small aperture and focusing errors. It is easier to manually focus on objects up close than on people sitting at 25 feet - you're just not going to be able to see the details of their features in the viewfinder to confirm focus. And if he's using a K-x/K-r camera, the pentamirror doesn't help either.


Can you describe in a bit more detail your Sears lens? Is it made in Japan or Korea? Metal or plastic? A photo would help. I have a metal one made by Ricoh and it's a decent lens - if you have the same, it is probably the best lens in your lineup.

Cheap zooms under $100 won't give you greater IQ than your kit lens or a Sears-Ricoh lens. Frankly, no cheap lens under $100 will beat your kit lens in 18-30mm range. You could go for a Helios 58/2 - that lens is sharp wide open and can be found under $100. Otherwise, just practice more with your Sears or with your kit lens.

And do post some sample shots so we can see what exactly is the sharpness issue that you are hitting. My feeling is that you are not using your lenses to their full potential and buying more inexpensive stuff won't get you anywhere.
10-20-2011, 11:29 AM   #15

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Hey Guys,
For the wide lenses if I am not mistaken for shooting from a distance of 25 feet you do not need to focus, because it will be already infinity on the lens, so the problem focusing manualy is not the one which depends on the "shooter".
Of course, the best would be to see a picture...

I love Vivitar Series 1 24-48mm, even with a little bit the front element scratched it produces great pictures.
With Tokina EL 28 1:2.8 faced with CA issue, SMC Pentax 28 1:2.8 is a nice toy.


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