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12-31-2011, 03:33 PM   #1
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Manual Lenses

I wanted to start this thread with the hope that we can discuss a phenomenon I have noticed in the last couple of years that I have been using Pentax. Pentax DA, DAL, FA, F are such wonderful lenses that I have a hard time understanding why people go seeking older lenses, difficult to use, hard to find, manual, etc. This is something I do not understand even myself, who have accumulated a large number of those manual lenses. I mean, manual lenses, those that may have manual focus, manual diaphragms, manual, everything. Yesterday, for example I got my Pentax DAL 35mm f2.4 from being serviced by Pentax and after trying it several times, I realized how good this lens (they closed my threat at B&H and I could not post this happy ending), I have the DA40, DA70, and others, they are just wonderful lenses. Here is my explanation, I hope you can post yours.

I know there is some LBA in this whole thing, however, it is a joy to work with them. Here is how I got started:

After I bought my Kx, I found that the kit lenses had limitation, but I could not afford the DAs. Then I started with the Pentax K, M, etc. Suddenly, I found a Sears A lens that was just as good as any Pentax A, then I digged for more Sears, and have now a series of great Sears lenses. Then, I discover Takumar, then Russian lenses, then the Zeiss, then other, etc. While I could afford to buy several of those manual lenses with the money I could buy ONE nice DA, I still bought the DA. Yesterday, when I was trying to explain my son, who went with me on a shooting spree to a local regional park, the use of the DAs and the manuals, he chose the manuals and I discovered how much fun and how much in control one is with the manual lenses. My son also preferred the manual lenses.

12-31-2011, 03:48 PM   #2
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I first came to manual lens because the kit lens have great limits, and my dad gave me its A50/1.7.

After few use of the prime, i realize that i needed more time to set up everything (aperture, framing, speed, etc ...), so i did less pictures, but they were far better.

I really enjoyed to go out for 2 or 3 hours, do only 30 shots and keep almost all of them because all were perfect. The full manual constraint force me to be better.

And i love LBA, and it's cheap.

But make no mistake, i really like good AF lenses, like the DA40

In short : people go for manual lens first because it's cheap, then because its fun !
12-31-2011, 03:58 PM   #3
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Most of my lenses are manual. In fact only 2 of them are fully auto capable. I prefer the control I have with them. They also make me think about what I am doing as opposed to just letting the camera do the thinking . When I have a DA lens on sometimes it is too tempting to just let the camera and lens do the selecting. With M lenses the temptation is gone. I also like the feel of the metal / weight of the M lenses on the bodies.
12-31-2011, 04:35 PM   #4
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I am with patrick9. I only own three fully auto lenses (DA 18-55/3.5-5.6, FA 77/1.8 Limited, and FA 35/2), but use my vintage glass and other manual focus lenses for most of my serious shooting. This is partially because I am cheap and partially because I am happy with the results I am getting and partially because I like to use the same lenses for both film and digital. The strange thing is that I have found that there as some subjects where it makes more sense to go fully manual even when the camera and lens offer full automation. There often is no substitute for control.


12-31-2011, 05:01 PM   #5
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I'd add to all the above is the look & rendering of the manual lenses. There's just something very pleasing about the look many of these lenses give compared to the DA's or some other AF lenses.
12-31-2011, 05:17 PM   #6
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I think it depends on whether this is really a hobby or something else. I use AF and MF lenses, AF when I am on someone else's clock, MF on my clock. Part of this is the relaxation factor. I enjoy the break manual lenses give from the rest of what I am doing. AF lenses font give that break
12-31-2011, 05:54 PM - 1 Like   #7
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I use manual lenses for the same reason I drive stick shift. It's more economical and much more fun to drive.
12-31-2011, 06:02 PM   #8
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I quite agree that sharp and in focus mean the same thing now as they did 35 years ago and a major accomplishment of Pentax has been to recognize this and to provide a reasonable solution for using virtually every optic that Pentax has ever made including those that don't even say Pentax on them. If one shies away from zoom lenses which have benefited from improving computer aided design, it's pretty aggressive to claim that modern automation really produces better results
than you can get by turning the knobs yourself. Indeed my first 35mm SLR didn't even have a light meter in it, and the mirror only cranked down when you rewound the camera. I thought an 'auto' camera meant auto mirror return so you could actually look through the viewfinder without rewinding the camera.

I for one, however, have been updating my lens collections whenever my personal finances and the market sort of made it possible, not because the new ones
will take better pictures, but out of a fear that technology might pass me by and and provide some genuine value added to the later generation of lenses.

For example a decade ago, I took note of the crippled K mount appearing on some low end camera bodies. At that time the Pentax-M and Pentax-A lenses were
all selling somewhat interchangeably at near the same price and I had a few bucks to spare, so I fed all of my SMC and Pentax-M lenses into EBay and bought Pentax-A versions.----- The shuffle didn't cost me much but when crippled K mounts ended up everywhere, I had a leg up. Did I get better pictures---well no, but I could turn
my brain off and push the button sort of.... More recently, I noticed that I was n't using the manual focus lenses and was primarily using auto focus stuff, not because
it produced better photos but because I am old and lazy. I have now largely disposed of my Pentax-A family of lenses--but not because they don't take good photos.

Rather, there is some reason to believe that technology is moving forward which may actually lead the newer glass to actually taking better photos (and of course I will never get less lazy. Specfiically, I have concluded that it is likely that soon the camera body will be so smart that it will need to know what lens is attached
to function optimally, i.e. the XDIF will need to be accurate.
This can show up in a couple of ways: a) Shake Reduction (SR) goes fully solid state-----Lens and focal length will be mission critical to the calculations needded for this. b) ever increasing MP counts will overtake the optical limits of the lenses making 'corrections' critical to maximizing the optical capability.
c) Program modes that will take into account the optical characteristics of specific lenses.

12-31-2011, 06:19 PM   #9
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I think manual lenses are faster than AF lenses. I had the kit lens but sold it with my kx and then bought the kr body only. My only AF lens is an ordinary 18-200mm for practice. It's loud and slow AF but it works well for indoors for my dogs and astrophotography. My three 50mm (I think I have an obsession) lenses are where I really start to get creative. One is a lensbaby and that is a whole separate class on its own but it's still manual and so much more fun. I think you can compose your shot better with a MF too since you have to actually LOOK at your subject instead of just waiting for the camera to beep.

Price isn't a huge concern to me as if I want a nice lens I'll just save up for it but I just feel that even my old smc-a took better pictures than the kit lens. My smc-m and lensbaby are the best lenses I own. Sharp contrast, amazing colors, quick to shift and change. I'm about to venture into M42 lenses to see the quality of those are. "They don't make them like they used to" is a true statement I feel when it comes to lenses. My smc-m is all metal and the kr is plastic compared to how it feels. Not that it's a poorly made camera it just isn't as solid as my k1000 even.

Now all I need is the K-5 for a brighter viewfinder.
12-31-2011, 06:21 PM   #10
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Great thread, but I wonder why I find things to be the opposite from everyone else. I had purchased a number of lenses new in the early 80s so part of the reasoning for ditching Canon and going back to Pentax was that I could use these lenses once again. I decided that I should probably have a few better lenses to go with a new digital, so I picked up a DA*16-50, and I finished the set with a DA*50-135 and DA*300. Nice lenses for sure but if I want to nail a shot, I had to set the lens to manual focus as auto focus is too darn slow to a point where it is hopeless.

I then decided to add the FA LTDs to get past the speed issue with SDM. I've had 2 copies of the 43 ltd, the 77 ltd and one of the 31. Speed is a little better than the DA*s, but I hate trying to control *what* is in focus when the camera is trying to do that for me. I like the 77, but found the 31 and 43s to be flat, so they went off to new owners.

I went to a family members 90th birthday party over the summer. I spent some time walking around with K series lenses, but I decided to finally walk around with the DA*16-50. Ironically, the pictures from the K85 are wonderful and the ones from the DA* are nice and sharp, but have more of a point and shoot feel to them. Feedback from family confirm that the shots from the K series lenses have a much better quality to them.

Perhaps it is what I am doing with the lenses that makes the pictures, but I don't understand why people seem to love the newer lenses and why they seem to get good reviews.

Last edited by SteveM; 12-31-2011 at 07:00 PM.
12-31-2011, 07:09 PM   #11
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Autofocus is a powerful tool but in some ways it is still very crude. Maybe it's better in other systems or with other cameras, but at least with my K10D I'd usually rather focus manually. I really don't want to think about where the AF point is set, or use focus lock and recompose, either or which takes my concentration away from the subject and composition. Manual focusing skills are invaluable, and I am definitely getting better at it with practice. And if I'm going to focus manually, I'd rather use a lens designed for that, with a focusing ring that is nicely damped with a long throw.

I rue the crippled mount, though. I've been buying mainly K- and M-series lenses anyway, because they're less expensive than the A-series equivalents, and just because I love the craftsmanshp. The latter is not logical, but it is helpful in its own way -- I so enjoy using those lenses that I look for excuses to take them out for a shoot. It's a pleasure just thinking about which three or four primes to put in the bag.

I also like the color rendition of the K and M glass. Some of the DAs seem oversaturated to me. I wonder if that's part of what SteveM is saying about the "feel" of the newer stuff. Not so important when shooting RAW, but it's still nice to do as much as possible in camera.

All that said, I'd love to try out some of the Limiteds. And I do really like my DA* 200, only wishing it were better for manual focusing. I've thought about "downgrading" to an A* 200, but the short minimum focus distance of the DA* is too useful.
12-31-2011, 07:55 PM   #12
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I grew up manually. Never had autofocus till I was almost 55 years old. But for my first dSLR (the K20D) I started with only AF lenses: DA10-17, DA18-250, FA50/1.4. I've since bought a few more AF zooms (no primes): Tamron 10-24, DA18-55, F35-70, FA100-300, a half-dozen others including the monstrous Lil'Bigma 170-500. But the vast bulk of my glass pile is MF.

One reason is cost (I'm a cheap bastard). My database tells my that currently, my average AF lens cost US$278 and my average MF lens cost US$20 shipped. So that's US$258 per lens for an AF screw. Whew! And F- and FA-type lenses aren't getting any cheaper.

But the main reason is character. The older lenses each have their own flavor that's distinct, not homogenized like over-corrected modern glass. And some old glass just hasn't been replicated by newer designs. AFAIK nothing new can match the performance of the K50/1.2, the Schneider Betavaron, or a Petzval-formula projector lens.

I won't consider coolness or bragging rights; not my style. But odd lenses sure are fun!

So there's cost, character, and coolness, the pros of old glass.

The cons? They're slightly more work to use than new AF lenses. Different skill-sets and reaction-times are needed. And modern zooms (especially ultrawides) just beat the pants off old designs. Nothing vintage comes close to the performance of my Tamron 10-24, DA10-17, DA18-250 -- nothing. Nothing comparable existed back in the day. These are UWA's glory days.

Demand for MFLs does not seem to be diminishing. Get'em while you can!
01-01-2012, 03:25 AM - 1 Like   #13
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My first AF and first dslr was from 2009, the k20d. AF helps to hunt kids, but not required. I have now around 20 newer glasses, and still use MF lenses. The K85/1.8 is on top of uses, but also almost all lenses in K and M series.
I just love the look from the old lenses.
01-01-2012, 07:30 AM   #14
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I go hiking a lot so MF lenses are perfect. They are inexpensive if something happens and it's easy to take your time and focus. But I wanted a DA40 for a versatile street lens because things happen fast and you might need the point and shoot to get a shot. I wanted a DA15 (and recently got) because there is not a comparable MF lens (M20 is the closest). I would like more AF lenses but it's not really a priority right now. Next up on my list is a K5 for the iso improvement.

One thing that I've noticed since I got the DA40 a month ago is that I still use my A50/1.7 a lot. It's a much different lens and there are some things that it is just flat out better at than the DA40. My only gripe with MF lenses is that the viewfinder is small and I suck at MF. I have the magnifying eyepiece and it helps a little but I feel like I'm going to lose it. And I've been planning to get a focusing screen but haven't gotten around to it.
01-01-2012, 09:38 AM   #15
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This is great and interesting thread. I think there is some appeal in using manual focus lenses, something to do with being off mainstream and doing it like old-school photographers. Sure it is more demanding and less convenient to use them, but also I find it more rewarding. To me shooting manual lenses on digital cameras make more sense than ever - with film cameras, we needed fast AF in many situation, because we had few film frames to get the photo we want. There was no way of checking out the results unless the film was developed. Whereas with digital cameras we have this convenience and much more space. Focusing manually requires some experience and occassionally results in misfocused photos or missed decisive moments, but on the other hand it gives me rewarding feeling when I got focus correct and photo that has everything in it right. Regarding the optical performance of the AF and MF lenses, I suppose it is up to everybodys personal taste - I find my 3 K-lenses (K20/4, K35/3.5, K85/1.8) splendid and capable of deliver the performance even, yet different to my 2 limiteds. Only thing I wish for is some 'K-5 super' with decrippled mount and viewfinder like pre-AF film cameras

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