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12-03-2011, 07:06 AM   #1
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Feedback on a "Normal" Lens, Please

I am fairly new to DSLR photography, though I have been using decent point-n-shoots for years. However, I am not a techie and am baffled by the various features with different lenses, i.e. a slower lens can cost considerably more, etc. I realize I lack understanding of the technology, and quite frankly I am not as concerned with that as I am with creating nice photos. Low tech here.

I am looking for a 'normal' lens for my K5. Money IS an issue but if the quality is THAT much better, I would consider spending a bit more. I'm looking roughly in the 28-35mm range. I do some street work, also walk-around nature, and low light would be a consideration.

I'm researching four lenses.

1) Pentax DA 35 L f/2.4 AL
2) Pentax SMCP DA 35 f/2.8 Macro Ltd (quite a bit of price difference between these two!)
3) Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC Auto Focus
4) Sigma 28mm f/1.8 Ex Aspherical DG DF Macro.

Having macro capabilities would be nice.

However, I'm trying to balance value and cost. I guess a question here is can I get 'decent' photos with the cheap plastic DA 35 f/2.4? Do I need a magnifying glass to see the difference between this and the other lenses? Is this lens significantly lower photo quality than the other three (I'm lumping them together because they're all more than 2X as expensive)?

How do the other three compare? Which is the best value for what I would be buying? I have one prime lens, the FA50 1.4 (and I'm still trying to figure out how to use it in aperture priority, but I have a question on that in another thread.)

If I can figure this all out, using various lenses on my K5, perhaps I should also bring in manual focus lenses into my self-discussion. (If you think this thread is a bit diffused and confusing, you have no idea what's going on inside my head.)

If you are familiar with these lenses and could help me sort through the various choices, I'd be most appreciative.

12-03-2011, 07:25 AM   #2
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Have you read the reviews of each in the Lenses section? They have been a big help to me. For example the Sigma 30mm seems to have more trouble locking on focus from the reviews. That sort of user information has made it easier for me to select lenses than merely reading the marketing and specs. There's also the Pentax SMC Pentax-DA 40mm F2.8 Limited.

Oh, and they don't call the DA35 2.4 the Plastic Fantastic for nothing.......
12-03-2011, 07:34 AM   #3
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Definitely give the DA 40 limited (pancake) a look too.
12-03-2011, 07:34 AM   #4
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The Sigma 28 only gets to 1:2.9 magnification, whereas the DA 35 ltd is a true 1:1 macro lens. Is the quality enough better than the DAL 35 to justify the price difference? As always, it depends. No question the 35 ltd is finely crafted -- that's the point of the ltd series.

The DAL 35 is considered very good value, however. The Sigma 30/1.4 has many fans also. If you need the extra speed there's no contest.

If you're willing to consider MF then of course you have loads of options. You can easily pick up an M 28/2.8 any day of the week for $50 or so.

12-03-2011, 08:08 AM   #5
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I was at a party last night and brought along a Pentax 21mm f3.2 Limited, 35mm f2.8 Macro Limited and Voightlander Nokton f1.4 58mm

After the initial deletion of bad photos I ended up with following number of pics with each lens:
21mm: 26
35mm: 103
58mm: 44

I was most concerned about bringing along something that was wide enough and ironically, the widest lens was the least used :P

Would I had used the nokton more if it auto focused? Yes, but I doubt it would be to a degree that I'd have taken more pics with this vs. the 35mm.

I love my 35mm and it's defo one of my favorites (image quality is superb) but if money is a true issue then the DA 35 L is a good option too. I bought mine because of the macro ability.

I once bought the sigma 30mm after reading lots of good things about it. However, It was a bad build and after waiting 6-7 weeks for the replacement that never arrived, I decided to cancel the order and get my money back. I can recommend this one as well.

Can't say anything about the Sigma 28mm.
12-03-2011, 12:53 PM   #6
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There are a couple of things to consider when evaluating lenses.

First and most important is the quality of the resultant image. Unfortunately there is not a linear relationship between optical quality and price. Once you go beyond a 'good' lens the price increases dramatically for every small increase in quality. For example look at the 18-55 'kit' lens versus the 16-50 f/2.8 roughly a 6x increase in price but certainly not a 6x increase in optical quality. Of course the 16-50 has features the 18-55 does not and you pay for that. You need to decide where on that quality curve you are happy at.

The other factor is build quality. Many of the 'plastic' lenses that Pentax has made have quite good quality optics but they just don't feel as nice as the metal ones. That is important to some not to others. I happen to love the build quality of the older Takumars but I don't carry them when I'm hiking very far because they weigh too much.

The best 'value' on your list is likely the DA 35 f/2.4 the optical quality is very good. Again this is a curve with value defined as the best quality for the money. This is completely different than saying the 'best quality'. To obtain that you simply throw money at the problem to achieve even minor improvements.

Just starting out I think I would try out the DA 35 f/2.4 , your are not into it for much money and if you decide later you need an even better lens you can still sell it on for not much of a penalty. The other option is to look at some of the manual focus primes available if you want to try out various focal lengths. Be cautious with this approach however as LBA (lens buying addition) is a slippery slope.
12-03-2011, 01:14 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by TooLoose Quote

I'm researching four lenses.

1) Pentax DA 35 L f/2.4 AL
2) Pentax SMCP DA 35 f/2.8 Macro Ltd (quite a bit of price difference between these two!)
3) Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC Auto Focus
4) Sigma 28mm f/1.8 Ex Aspherical DG DF Macro.

Having macro capabilities would be nice.

Since a main concern is money, the DAL 35 is sort of a no brainer - don't forget to buy a hood.

If you really plan to do macro, I'd suggest a longer focal length to give more working room, and double as a short telephoto.
12-03-2011, 01:14 PM   #8
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After scouring groups I'd suggest a look at the 'FA35mm f2' as well...

12-03-2011, 03:40 PM   #9
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Yes, I did read through the reviews on this site, and customer comments at B&H. That alone did not help because I really wanted more information, and I certainly got it here. For one, the comment about quality and price are not always running parallel. So many of the lenses are within the same basic size and aperture. And not having physical access to the lenses before buying is another concern. We don't have a Pentax dealer in my area. The few camera stores that are left are Canon, Nikon, Olympus, and Sony, basically.

The pancake 40mm is not on my list. I have a FA 50mm 1.4 and I really want something more in the 28-35mm range (considering the crop factor.) Not reading members here dogging the 35mm 2.4 Pentax is swaying me in that direction, and then...the fast Sigma 28 f/1.8 could be nice, being a faster lens.

I'm leaning more to saving some money and going for the Pentax 35mm.

Thank you all so much. I learn so much when I post questions as above.
12-03-2011, 03:55 PM   #10
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I can't comment on those specific items -- of my ~225 lenses, only the FA50/1.4 is AF -- but I can talk a bit about focal lengths etc.

28-35mm are too short for field macro work; they're pretty much for studio shooting only. Close-focus (CF) at those focal lengths in the field is fine. I'll define MACRO as 1:2 (0.5x) or greater magnification, and 1:3 or less as CLOSE. Just about my favorite MF walkaround is a Vivitar-Komine 28/2 CF which was under US$20. For real macro work, AF is not your friend. For just fairly close shooting, without trying to capture reflexions on an ant's butt, then an AF 28-30-35mm macro lens will be fine.

28-31mm are 'normal' focal lengths for APS-C cameras. IMHO 35mm is a touch on the long side, and I use 35s much less than 28s. Your mileage may vary. Compared to 28mm, a 35mm lens will either give you more intimate shots, or will force you to stand back a bit further. The FA31/1.8 Ltd would be ideal. But you may have to rob a minimart to pay for it. Oh bother.

My fastest lenses in that vicinity are 24/2, 28/2, and 35/2. DOF isn't too thin at 24-28mm. The speed is nice. Fast lenses give big, bright viewfinder images. But I find that shooting moving subjects in low light (like my grandkids playing in the basement) they work better at f/4 with the ISO floating up. The extra DOF can make a great difference in keeper shots.

My recommendation: Try them all! Buy from sellers with no-questions return+refund policies. If that's not workable, shoot a bit with your kit lens set first to 28mm, then to 35mm. See which focal length works best for you. This can help narrow-down your choices. Good luck!
12-03-2011, 08:51 PM   #11
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The "normal" range of lenses has been my favorite when it comes to getting and using lenses.

Sigma 30mm f/1.4 - Interesting lens that tends to just sit on my shelf. It looked great when it came out, but sits on the shelf most of the time. I take it out and try to like it, but it ends up as just weight in the camera bag. Never been a favorite.
Pentax 31mm - Was my absolute favorites. Used it all the time until I traded it even up for two mint K-7 bodies (prior to K-5's existence). Great trade that I regret doing.
Pentax 35mm f/2 - Fantastic lens that I purchased back in the film realm, sold and regret a bit. Experience chromatic aberations when shooting in certain conditions.
Pentax 35mm f/2.4 - Great lens that performs excellent. Just rather cheaply constructed and priced accordingly.
Pentax 35mm f/2.8 Limited Macro - Great lens that is excellent, but can't say that it actually performs optically any better or worse than the 35/2.4. Macro nice, but not the best for distance from subject (5.5"). I leave the actual lens cap at home and use a generic cap.
Pentax M 40mm f/2.8 - Nice lens, but overrated. Purchased new back in the film days for around $70 because it was cheaper than the 50mm lenses. Not as sharp.
Voigtlander 40mm f/2 SLII - The lens that I am currently using the most on the body. Nice lens, but manual focus. Has the chip for metering. Weird hood and junk lens cap. It has a close-up diopter that I have never used. Now discontinued, but still in stock at most Voigtlander vendors.
Pentax 43mm f/1.9 Limited - Great lens that I love to use, but lately is being supercede by the Voigtlander 40mm. Both are similar in sharpness, but two different qualities.
Pentax 50mm f/1.7 - Nice sharp, cheap lens.
Pentax 50mm f/1.8 - Nice sharp lens, not quite as sharp as the 50/1.7.
Voigtlander 58mm f/1.4 - Fun lens that is great to work with. Sharp and wonderful. Manual focus and chip for metering. End up setting the Input Focal Length as 55mm since the cameras don't have 58mm (or 60mm) as an option.

Money and optical performance makes the Pentax 35/2.4 the most likely candidate.
12-03-2011, 10:34 PM   #12
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The DA 35 2.4 is an excellent lens, plastic mount or not. Also, it's not a DA L, it's a true DA lens.

You might also start looking for older Pentax film SLRs for sale on your local Craigslist. You can get excellent F and FA series lenses for great prices sometimes, just watch out for the many late 90s models that sometimes have less than stellar Quantaray and Promaster lenses.

Out of the ones you mentioned, unless you want to do "real" macro photography, the DA 35 is the one I'd suggest. The Sigma 30 1.4 is also excellent, but it's also 3 times as expensive and not that much better. For the price of the Sigma, you could get both the DA 35 and the also excellent DA 70 Limited.
12-04-2011, 02:50 AM   #13
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If you have the kit lens, I would start putting it on 28/30mm and 35mm for a while and try out those focal length and see which one will work better for you as a prime. Personally I prefer the wider side in the range that you've specified.

QuoteOriginally posted by Don From The Radio Quote
The DA 35 2.4 is an excellent lens, plastic mount or not. Also, it's not a DA L, it's a true DA lens.
Plastic mount, no lens hood and no focus distance scale makes it a DA L in my opinion.
12-04-2011, 04:11 AM   #14
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I have the FA50 1.4 and find it too telescopic for some of my situations, though I must say now that I finally learned how to use the lens, I'm really looking forward to doing so. I just may pick up the Pentax 35mm DA L F2.4. I think it is pretty close to my first real camera, a Minolta SRT101 with a fast 55mm 1.2. I will definitely put on my list something in the 28-31mm range, however.

Before I bought this K5, I was buying brand new decent point-n-shooters for the price I'm paying for some of my lenses (not incl the 35mm mentioned above that I want to buy.) I also want to explore the manual focus end of things more, too.

Again, I want to thank all of you for your input as I am really starting to understand a lot more about camera lenses from reading your comments and suggestions.
12-04-2011, 06:00 AM   #15
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Hope you kept that great Rokkor lens (BTW it's 58mm; 55mm is the filter thread size). Mine is waiting patiently in the closet for the emergence of a full-frame EVIL/mirrorless/thingy, whence it will come out into its fully glory once again.

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