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12-08-2011, 09:49 AM   #1
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Good Zoom or Macro Prime?

Hello. This is my first post here, so please be gentle.

Sometime in January I'm getting a small bit of unexpected money, and have decided to put some of it towards enlarging my camera kit. I can afford one lens (I'm also replacing my hand-me-down tripod, and getting a decent flash), but I really can't decide what I really want. Right now I'm conflicted between getting a 17-50mm 2.8 (either the Tamron or Sigma) to replace my stock 18-55 DA L, or getting the FA 100mm f/2.8 Macro.

I'm a novice, I've only been shooting for around a year, so I still haven't quite found what niche I prefer. I currently own the stock 18-55, a DA 55-300, the DA 35 2.4, an old Pentax-A 50 1.7, and two old garage sale 70-200 manual lenses (a QTII and an eight bladed Vivitar). I also own a Raynox 150 that I stick on the 55-300. My shooting seems to be pretty much split between the two primes, and trying to get decent macro shots with the Raynox. Though I learned that the stock lens is the most versatile for vacations and such, it pretty much just stays in the bag.

The Raynox has become the bane of my existence, since trying to focus at 3 feet with a 3mm DOF is not very fun, especially without the benefit of a tripod. Would the 100 2.8 make my life easier? How close in can it focus, and is its DOF at least manageable? My last outing with the Raynox got me over 170 photos, with a mere 10 keepers. Added to this my neighbors got to hear, at times, exactly how colorful and nuanced my vocabulary can be when I try. Could the 100 also double as a decent "walk-about" lens? Is there a better solution (that isn't terribly technical, or non-newbie-friendly) to my macro problem? What, anyways, is a good Macro lens?

In day to day shooting I've noticed I generally stick with the 50 and 35, swapping them several times over the course of a shoot. Replacing both with a slightly slower, but more versatile, zoom might make things a bit easier, with less of me digging around in my camera bag. I recently went to Vegas on vacation, and noticed that I generally stuck with the 18-55, since it was the most versatile, but it generally failed at night, and doesn't come close to the IQ of the primes. I'm guessing the fast zoom would help with this, and might possibly end my love affair with the 50 (which I'm not sure is a good thing).

Obviously no one here can give me an objective judgment on what I should choose, but I would appreciate some opinions. I lean one way, and then the other, but can't seem to come up with a definitive answer. Any input would be appreciated.

Thank you for your time, and input.

12-08-2011, 02:32 PM   #2
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A good macro lens is the tamron 90mm or Pentax 100mm. You'll want longer FL's for marco so that you can be farther away from the subject, but 100mm is a bit long for a walkaround (although it doubles as a telephoto though).

Pentax-D FA 100mm F2.8 WR Macro - Review
Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro Autofocus Lens AF272P700 B&H Photo

Some zooms can go down to 1:3, 1:4 or 1:5 or thereabout, but there's not much consisteny as far as that goes.

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12-08-2011, 02:39 PM   #3
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I have the Pentax-F 50 F2.8 macro, which reaches 1:1 magnification and is incredibly sharp (some say it is the sharpest macro lens available). There is also the FA version which is the same optically, with some minor external improvements like an improved manual focusing ring. On an APS-C digital body, these are equivalent to 75mm on a 35mm film body. The only drawback is the close focusing distance needed for 1:1, if I remember correctly it is just under 2" from the lens front. I used to use this lens as my everyday lens on a ZX-5n film body.
12-08-2011, 02:45 PM   #4
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The 100 F2.8 macro wouldn't be that great for walking around with. A walkaround lens is usually in the focal length range of 35-70.

A good macro lens is one that has great sharpness, flare and CA control, and ease of manual focusing.

12-08-2011, 05:22 PM   #5
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Thanks for the replies.

Over the last year I feel like I've somewhat come to terms with my camera and its various settings and specs, but the whole macro thing still seems a bit arcane. No matter how often I browse around the forums here, I still get a bit of a headache.

cbope: the F 50 sounds pretty good, my only worry would be having another 50 sharing space in my bag. Not much of a worry, I suppose. What would be the difference between the 100 and the 50, in practical terms? I'm sorry if that is a naive question, I'm just not to sure what difference length would make when shooting up close.

To everyone else: I didn't mean walking about with it as a constant thing, but would it be useful in a pinch, in situations where I don't want to take multiple lenses with me. I live in the Arizona desert, so I don't want to expose my cameras innards outdoors much. Taking close ups in the field would be nice, but it isn't really practical with the Raynox.

I've noticed no one really mentioned the 17-50's. Is that because spending that much money isn't worth the upgrade?
12-08-2011, 05:31 PM   #6
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I'll start with macro. The popular AF 90-100-105mm lenses are good for close work, good for headshot portraiture (although you may want to soften images in PP a bit), and good as short teles. On the street, they're good for grabbing faces from not-too-far-away. But they're not really what would be called walkaround lenses. And for strictly macro shooting, AF is expensive overkill. See https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-lens-articles/152336-cheap-macro-b...lose-work.html

I have a manual Vivitar-Komine 90/2.8 macro that's sharp and fun. And heavy. I'm more likely to put some 100-110-140mm enlarger lens (EL) onto lightweight bellows (total cost: under US$50) for both close and short-tele shooting. For some reason, the Novoflex Noflexar 105/3.5 on my Bellowscope just feels more liberating, more walkaboutable, than the Komine macro. For portraiture, I like a 75mm EL on tubes (total cost: under US$15).

I can't recommend any specific kit-lens replacement zoom 'cause I don't use those. The Sigma and Tamron 17-50s are recommended by many. I *do* use the cheap tiny F35-70 a lot -- it's agile and sharp, a small package of primes, and also in the US$50 neighborhood. But I am thinking that, if I ever have money again, I'd look closely at the Tamron. An f/2.8 in that 17-50 range would be handy.

QuoteOriginally posted by Omestes Quote
the F 50 sounds pretty good, my only worry would be having another 50 sharing space in my bag. Not much of a worry, I suppose. What would be the difference between the 100 and the 50, in practical terms?
A shorter lens allows you to work closer. A longer lens allows|forces you to work further away. I use my manual 40mm and 50mm macro lenses for inside close work, and the 90mm macro and longer ELs on extension for further outside shooting. For bugs on flowers, it's the 90mm or longer. For craftwork and miniatures, it's the 50mm or shorter. I've also a couple close-focus 28mm's that only go to about 1:4 at 10-15cm; not really macro but close enough for outdoors.

QuoteQuote:
I didn't mean walking about with it as a constant thing, but would it be useful in a pinch, in situations where I don't want to take multiple lenses with me. I live in the Arizona desert, so I don't want to expose my cameras innards outdoors much. Taking close ups in the field would be nice, but it isn't really practical with the Raynox.
My basic lens is the DA18-250. It's the most flexible for the most varied situations throughout my usual range from California to Guatemala. Change lenses? HA! And it's not bad with the Raynox DCR-250 at 50-75mm, with a working distance of about 13cm. Trying to use the Raynox at longer focal lengths is indeed frustrating. But if need by I grit my teeth, shelter the gear as much as possible, and swap lenses. I tend to leave lenses mounted for awhile, so I'll need to be pretty sure I *want* an hour's worth of 50mm macro shots.

QuoteQuote:
I've noticed no one really mentioned the 17-50's. Is that because spending that much money isn't worth the upgrade?
I think everyone's distracted by the macro question. The kit-lens replacement issue gets chewed-over a lot.

Last edited by RioRico; 12-08-2011 at 05:58 PM.
12-08-2011, 05:44 PM   #7
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Have you thought about an old M100 Macro? Very nice glass and as RioRico said - AF in macro is overkill.
12-08-2011, 05:46 PM   #8
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I'm of the opinion that there is no single focal length that works as a walk-around, so forget that :-)

You are getting a decent tripod for reasons unknown, but a macro lens would be a good thing to use on it.

However, you could consider the Tamron 28-75, and Pentax 12-24 or 16-45 pair. The 12-24 is not cheap, but Tamron and the 16-45 can be found used from time to time for as low as $300 and $250 or so. The Tamron focuses pretty closely, but not 1:1 or even 1:2. I guess "how close macro?" is the first question to answer.

12-08-2011, 06:14 PM   #9
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RioRico: Thanks for the reply! I was looking at one of those (the Vivitar) at a local store, it weighed more than my all my other gear combined, though looking at the internet buzz I should of grabbed it (for $50). C'est la vie. You moved a bit into "headache territory" there. I don't feel confident enough to actually get down and play with bellows and rings yet. For now I'd like an easy (probably lazy) solution until I feel somewhat confident. Also this is a pure windfall, so I'm treating myself, price doesn't matter (much.), though I still don't want to waste it.

My main worry with the 17-50 is that I still will just reach for a prime instead. I don't know why, but I love the 50 1.7. Sometimes my girlfriend gets jealous of it. Perhaps its a personal taste thing I haven't acknowledged yet.

Docrwm: I'm a bit worried about M lenses. Don't they reduce your metering to spot? I might get one to play with if I can find one cheap. I wouldn't mind an A macro though, since AF is a bit superfluous on them.

SpecialK: Unless I'm terribly confused, both of those are about the same speed as the stock 18-55, no? Not to be naive, again, but what would be the difference? As for how close... Good question, I like the zoom I get with the Raynox on the 55-300 fully out. I think I read on here that that combo is greater than 1:1 though, and I'm not expecting that from a dedicated lens.
12-08-2011, 11:16 PM   #10
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I own both the 90mm macro as well as the kit lenses and the 50 1.7 (among many others.. damn LBA :lol).

Having said all that, have you considered an AF pentax 35-70.

Just came back from a road trip and I must say I was really impressed with the Pentax 35-70.

What kind of macro shots were you thinking of taking? For me, I wanted the macro for flowers. Love taking photos of flowers. The 90mm macro did the job, but the macro mode on the Pentax FA 35-70 did dare I say it? nearly as good a job. A lot of the macro flower shots that I took on the FA 35 -70 were more than acceptable to my eye. And the bonus was, I could still take (fairly) wide angle and close up of distant objects while sitting in the car, looking out at the scenery.

I found my kit lens of 18-50 and 50-200 very limiting. I'm finding I'm not a 50mm gal. I much prefer the 35-70 and 70-210 set up. But having said all that I've just realised you said you liked the 50mm range. Hrmm...

So far I'm finding the quality of the images produced by the 35-70 to be pretty decent, although I think the reviews suggest the FA 28-70 is supposedly even better. I must say I was pretty impressed with a faulty 28-70 that I picked up for the 24 hours I got to play with it before the blades stuck together

I'm thinking that the 35-70 range might help in terms of still covering the focal lengths you're after without having to constantly change lenses? I picked up my 35-70 for $25 with a camera body off a local classifieds. You're based in the US though, and there are hundreds of lenses going for a song on ebay and whatnot, even with shipping that I can't even get near because of the additional cost of crazy shipping to Australia. So depending on what your windfall is like, you might be able to get both a FA 35-70 AND a wide angle 10-17 or whatever as well? Just a thought.
12-08-2011, 11:45 PM   #11
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wolfiegirl: I really wish there was a place to try out lenses around here. If I had one of the "big two" I'd be in luck, but no one around here carries Pentax anymore. It isn't so much the length of the 50, as the optics. For some reason it has be best (albeit a bit exaggerated) colors of my lenses, and its by far the sharpest (though the old Vivitar is sometimes truly surprising for a $7.50 lens). I generally find myself shooting pretty wide (20mm-35mm), unless I'm hiking (55-300) or taking shots of bugs and rocks.

The FA 35-70 isn't listed here. The F is, but it seems the average price is off by $100. Has there been some strange run on old lenses? Everything has hopped by at least 50% it seems. Somewhat aggravating.
12-08-2011, 11:47 PM   #12
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uh.... maybe i mean the F then? when I say AF i just mean AutoFocus lemme go look at the database.

I so deserve a newbie slap.

-----------

k went to look at the database.

Ok. Yeah I mean the F.

here's the linky: Pentax-F 35-70mm F3.5-4.5 Reviews - F Zoom Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

Don't get what you mean here:

QuoteOriginally posted by Omestes Quote
The FA 35-70 isn't listed here. The F is, but it seems the average price is off by $100. Has there been some strange run on old lenses? Everything has hopped by at least 50% it seems. Somewhat aggravating.
What do you mean avg price off by $100? You think $48 avg price is too cheap? You're expecting it to be $150 instead? Rico did say to me that you can usually pick it up for around the $20 mark with a umm.. SF1? I think it was? Since it used to be a kit lens for that camera back in the day.

I didn't try this lens when I bought it. I just bought it based on recs from Rico I think. I say I think because Rico spouts out so many recs for lenses it's hard to keep track of. in fact, i would argue that a lot of everyone's LBA is fuelled by Rico's recs.

I'm finding the optics on the 35-70 to be fine but I'm no pro by any means. I'm just your hobby photographer who shoots what she likes when she likes and only has herself to please. No friends with weddings or pushy customers and such.

Seriously though, the macro on the 35-70 in full daylight - I was more than thrilled with. I even managed a bee shot where it was caught in still motion heading for a flower!! Of course I hadn't intended to take that shot - it just happened, but I must say I was pretty thrilled to get it!

Another option is to look at the sample test shots that lots of people do on the forum? I think I saw a thread somewhere where people put up photos taken with a specific lens so you get an idea of the IQ of each lens. That might help with making the decision as well?

As to your usual shooting of 20-35, I can't help you there unfortunately. I tend to take lots of pics and stitch together before I dial backwards. Although often I have wished for a wide angle when the puppies get super close and I want to get their face in focus. More often than not though, the moment passes before I can get to my kit lens for the 18mm shot. And 9 times out of 10 I usually like getting up close and personal with my photography subjects anyway, so yeah, anything under 28 I'm often a bit 'meh' about.

Last edited by wolfiegirl; 12-09-2011 at 12:00 AM.
12-09-2011, 12:45 AM   #13
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I've been invoked again. My F35-70/3.5-4.5 is the smallest zoom Pentax ever made, and a fave of mine. And yes, mine was on an SF1 body; together they cost me US$21 shipped, and I sold the body (with a lesser lens on it), so the F35-70 was pretty damn cheap. The bargain source is eBay. Search for ca. 1990 AF bodies, not for the lens itself, which alone likely sells for ~US$50. (How to know what those AF bodies are? Click on CAMERAS on the top of this page and see the database.)

The F35-70 is just a damn nice lens. It's not really macro, with a close-focus of about 33cm, but that's still handy. IF I were stuck with a two-lens kit (18-55 plus 55-300) and IF I didn't have my 18-250, THEN I would depend on the 35-70 to overlap and fill in that critical focal range. But since OP (that's you, Omestes!) wants to avoid lens-swapping due to blowing-dust (and worse) situations down around the Valley of the Sun (Arizona's urban toilet bowl) then my recommendation is still the DA18-250 or its Tamron twin. I favor it for usability rather than environmental concerns.

I must also say that I don't find the interior desert hard on photo gear. I'll soon be relocating back to the Arizona-Sonora border for a few months and I'll take my usual huge kit. The monstrous temperatures bother me more than the gear. I fear windy Pacific beaches. There, blowing sand+salt+moisture scare me enough that I do want a WR lens. I say this based on having lived for many years on the northern and central California coasts and in the California and Arizona deserts, and various less-than-hospitable locales in Mexico and Central America.
12-09-2011, 12:49 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
I've been invoked again. My F35-70/3.5-4.5 is the smallest zoom Pentax ever made, and a fave of mine. And yes, mine was on an SF1 body; together they cost me US$21 shipped, and I sold the body (with a lesser lens on it), so the F35-70 was pretty damn cheap. The bargain source is eBay. Search for ca. 1990 AF bodies, not for the lens itself, which alone likely sells for ~US$50. (How to know what those AF bodies are? Click on CAMERAS on the top of this page and see the database.)

The F35-70 is just a damn nice lens. It's not really macro, with a close-focus of about 33cm, but that's still handy. IF I were stuck with a two-lens kit (18-55 plus 55-300) and IF I didn't have my 18-250 THEN I would depend on the 35-70 to overlap and fill in that critical focal range. But since OP (that's you, Omestes!) wants to avoid lens-swapping due to blowing-dust (and worse) situations down around the Valley of the Sun (Arizona's urban toilet bowl) then my recommendation is still the DA18-250 or its Tamron twin. I favor it for its usability rather than environmental concerns.
I just figured that if he wanted to have more lenses (aren't we all LBAs deep down inside?) and he can get the 35-70 for a song, plus whatever you (Rico) recommend, then why not? If he can get a cool deal, I mean, what's $21 or even $25 between friends, right?

As to the macro.... it may not be a proper macro, but I was seriously impressed with the images it rendered in 'macro' mode. And in some cases, the images that came out - I think I might prefer some (note I said some, not all) from the 35-70, compared to the 90mm. I certainly felt the 35-70 gave the Tammy a run for its money!

That's my 2 cents anyway.

Last edited by wolfiegirl; 12-09-2011 at 12:54 AM.
12-09-2011, 01:35 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Omestes Quote
I wouldn't mind an A macro though, since AF is a bit superfluous on them.
Pentax A 100 f/4 Macro I use that for my sporadic macro shoots. It only goes to 1:2 magnification, but that is enough for me. DOF is still very thin at that magnification, so you may keep entertaining your neighbors while shooting macro
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