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07-28-2012, 08:50 PM   #1
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Which 50mm prime to start out with?

Hi All,

So I'm new here and new to photography in general so would appreciate some help in making a decision on which 50mm prime I should purchase. Now I know that these things can be so subjective and have probably be asked before but I'm seeking advise that will sway my decision.

I've just purchased a K-30 with 18-135mm WR DA lens, hope to take delivery of it this week, but I want a 50mm prime to go with it. I'm done what I consider to be a fair amount of research and this is probably the reason I am a little undecided in which way to go. As it is I have narrowed the field to 4 lenses.


So from the top,
Haven't read much about the FA that isn't good, I like the physical size and the IQ seems good by all accounts, although it is not WR.
The DA* seems awesome although I have read of issues with the speed of the AF opposed to the FA and it's expensive, but damn it looks nice.
The DA has only just come onto the market so don't know much about it compared to the others.
The Sigma seems like a beautiful lens, but it's HUGE and the weight definitely concerns me.

I like the look of the DA* for it's IQ, built quality and WR (which all the other lenses lack) and I wonder if buying the FA would be step backwards given I have just purchased the K-30, although I assume the FA would work perfectly with it. I want to do portraits and like the idea of just being able to walk around and be creative which I believe you can be with a fast 50mm prime.

One of the things that attracted me to the K-30 was the WR component so I'm not sure if that should be a factor in choosing a suitable prime. Whilst cost is always a factor, I'm prepared to pay the price to get the most suitable lens

Anyways, any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


07-28-2012, 11:22 PM   #2
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As you said it may be subjective, but it is hard to go wrong with a good 50mm. That is an easy focal length to make in the first place so lots of good options.

I would add the Pentax F 50mm f/1.7 to the list just to complicate things more. IMHO the image quality will be very close on any of those, with the new DA 50mm f/1.8 still being an unknown of course. So you need to make the decision based on what features are more important to you.

Price? DA 50mm f/1.8
SDM & WR? DA*55
Weight and size? FA 50mm
Coolness factor? F 50mm f/1.7

I have no experience with the Sigma so no idea where it ranks.
07-28-2012, 11:59 PM   #3
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In your list, you left out some awesome lenses: e.g., the Carl Zeiss 50m f1.4, the Voigtlander Nokton 58m f1.4.

Both are MF. They are out of production. But they can be found 2nd hand and both are well renown.

I have a VL58mm f1.4 and it an amazing lens IMHO. I use it for outdoot shooting mostly. The lens is very solid. The MF ring is very smooth and easy to use. The IQ odf the lens is brilliant incl. in poor lighting conditions incl. mist, fog, smog, ....

I would not discard to easily suh an outstanding lens, although I acknowledge that it is moe difficult to find nowadays.

Hope that the suggestion may help.
07-29-2012, 12:35 AM   #4
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F 50mm f1.7 - coolness factor? LOL!

Esky; I wouldn't get hung up on the WR. You have the 18-135 for wet weather work, and I am not convinced a fast fifty needs to be weather sealed. That said, the DA* is supposed to be an outstanding lens!

Really you can't go far wrong with any of these lenses. My choice would be the FA50 I think.

07-29-2012, 01:12 AM   #5
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Sigma 50 1.4!
Smooth bokeh, usable from 1.4, sharp, well build, not the most expensive...
The only cons of this lens is the size so first try it before buy. From the others, If I were you I was going to wait for more test shots with the new DA 50 1.8, or make the safe choice and find one FA 50 1.4.
07-29-2012, 02:27 AM   #6
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New to photography--why not go back in time and try a manual lens--the (1) classic (and very cheap) M50 f1.7 or even further back and (2) super takumar 50mm f1.4, or (3) the 50mm f4 macro. My suggestion is (1) as a first manual lens. Likely $50-70. for (1) and (2), or 100-50 for (3). I suggest a BGN condition lens from KEH.
07-29-2012, 02:28 AM   #7
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For the macro I meant the "K" not takumar and not M.
07-29-2012, 03:56 AM   #8
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Thanks all for your advise, really appreciate it.

To be honest I haven't considered the MF option greatly given my thoughts are I'd want to use the lens for amongst other things candids of the kids and family etc. and having AF might assist me being new to all this, although I do like the idea of MF when considering more creative shots and shallow DOF. I will none the less do some research done that path too thanks hcc.

@simbon4o I have held all the lenses mentioned, bar the DA, and was blown away by the physical size and weight of the Sigma, so it's probably not my favourite here for that reason alone, although I'm sure it takes great pictures.

And ok I've got the WR out of my head.... :-)

07-29-2012, 04:42 AM   #9
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Another Option?

Hello Esky,
I'll throw another choice into the mix, but first I must admit (see my sig!) that I am an unrepentant "M" addict.
Why? Well, I started in film and manual focus, manual aperture, even used a (gasp!) hand-held light meter. The M's are the smallest, most fun-to-use lenses ever, IMO. YMMV.
Anyway, for a new digital photographer, the M/F. M/Aperture drill is a bit overwhelming, the green button and all that. doesn't register the aperture used on the photo info, which omits a great learning tool.
So, long story, short, how about an "A" 50mm f/1.7?
Nice small "M" size, same smooth focusing action, (most) A's use the same 49mm filter (M's do also) and, big bonus, available auto aperture with recorded f/stop!
About $100 USD at an online auction just a click away.
07-29-2012, 04:45 AM   #10
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Re: The DA* seems awesome although I have read of issues with the speed of the AF opposed to the FA and it's expensive, but damn it looks nice.

Much brain, little heart you used, young 'Padawan'! Except for that statement...

Do NOT discount the the 'love/excitement' factor when using a lens. [Or anything else for that matter]

You used the words 'awesome', 'damn nice' to descibe this lens. The reality is this: most of the time it would not matter which of those lenses you would use. But at the end of the day if you like the feel/look and handling of the lens, you will use it more. You are more likely to find reasons to 'go out' with this kind of girlfriend!!

So the 'best' lens = the lens you will likely use the most. If you can afford it, the DA* seems the most likely to meet your needs, especially since you are aware that the AF speed is not the fastest.

Best of luck!
07-29-2012, 06:07 AM   #11
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Chiming in a bit belatedly, but if you're after candids, you might want something a bit wider than 50mm. At the very least you'll want something fast.

This would eliminate the DA*55 (as awesome as the lens is, you'd probably find yourself using the 18-135 more often than not except in dark situations). You'd be amazed at how much you might miss that extra 5mm range with uncooperative subjects on the fly.

I'd suggest maybe grab a (cheap) manual or AF 50mm and grab the DA 35mm f/2.4 to go along with it. The 35mm is still fast(ish) and probably would be a lot better at grabbing shots where your kids are running on and off frame then what you'd find with a 50mm.

In my own experience my 50mm shots (all manual mind you, I have no AF 50) tend to be when my kids are limited in movement due to sitting down or sleeping. Once my oldest is running around, its time for the 18-55 or 28-90 (or heck, even the Sigma 70-300) to come out. The ability to zoom in and out to grab them/frame them/etc becomes very important indeed, and may even be just as or even more valuable than the AF.

Since you have the 18-135, this means wider may be better as far as primes go simply as it gives you more wiggle room when your subject is running back and forth and generally not cooperating for a candid. You'd find yourself probably using the 50 more as a 'creative' lens then a quick snapshot lens.

So my suggestion: Whichever 50mm is cheapest from your list (probably the DA 50 unless you find a bargain on the used market), and add the 35mm to your arsenal to go along with it since the 35 would probably suit your needs more as far as candid shots go.

EDIT: To give you an idea of how much more useful the 35 would be for candid, this was shot at 35mm on the kit lens. The hand is mine. and I was holding the camera at eye level with my other hand. A 50 would be just too narrow for this. Once I got inside the laundromat to get him running around the place, I swapped over to the DA 18-55 and then the FA28-90 due to the fact he was running around and I started flying all over the map with my focal length shooting him.

EDIT II: The more I think about it, pairing the new DA50 and the DA35 together just sounds tasty indeed. That said... I'd be far more likely to have the 18-55 on my camera in a situation where I would see myself needing both.

Last edited by Sagitta; 07-29-2012 at 06:38 AM.
07-31-2012, 01:49 AM   #12
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Thanks again everyone that has put in their 2 cents worth.

All the talk of manual aperture setting etc. has made me realise I have much to learn, which is a good thing, so for me an auto lens to start might be the way to go, I assume I can manually set aperture and focus on these lenses should I choose too.

To that end I've decided to buy two lenses instead of one :-)

Pentax DA 50mm F1.8
Pentax DA 35mm F2.4 AL

I figured with both of these lenses I'm going to get bang for my buck and an opportunity to be creative, on top of the 18-135mm which will give me the WR walk around I require.

Thanks again
aka Esky
07-31-2012, 08:25 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Esky Quote
To that end I've decided to buy two lenses instead of one :-) Pentax DA 50mm F1.8 Pentax DA 35mm F2.4 AL
I think that is an excellent starting kit and you are exactly who Pentax designed those for. Great way to learn about primes without spending a fortune. Good luck and post some pictures!
07-31-2012, 08:18 PM   #14
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I think you made a great choice with those two. You should be quite happy with them.

Fast fiftys are addicting... I have this stupid idea of collecting every model Pentax has made faster than 2.0
08-01-2012, 05:03 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Esky Quote

I've decided to buy two lenses instead of one :-)

Pentax DA 50mm F1.8
Pentax DA 35mm F2.4 AL
Personally, I'd go with a more high-end lens like a DA 40 Limited, or (even better) DA 21 Limited, or (even better-better) FA 31 Limited. Get a taste of what the "Limited thing" is all about and be done with it. The 18-135 will serve your on-going utility grade lens needs for many years. Face it, you are going to get into 'Limiteds' eventually anyway, so... Why not start out right with a killer lens, now?

... my 2 cents...

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