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08-07-2012, 06:28 AM   #1
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Need opinions on a *great* do-all lens.

So just for starters, I have mostly old, non-impressive, lenses.

I'm going to be in the market to buy a nicer lens. Up until this point, my biggest lens purchase was $150. I'd like to stay around $1500 and because I'm spending this kind of money, I want to make sure the lens I buy is the best bang for the buck. So that's why I'd like some opinions from everyone. I've scanned through the lens database and I feel like I'm just overwhelmed by the amount of lenses out there and what's best.

I'm not stuck on it being a pentax lens. It doesn't even have to be automatic. What I *do* want from this lens is the following:
  • f2.8 Max. f1.4 or f1.7 would be even nicer!
  • All-encompassing. 24-200mm would be great.
  • SHARP! SHARP! SHARP!
  • No regrets on spending the $
Every lens I've purchased seems to disappoint. (I know, you get what you pay for). With the exception of my sears and Quantaray! For such cheap lenses, they are my two go-to lenses.The rest of my lenses are crappy are rarely get pulled out of the bag. Every once in a while I give it a try to see if I was just having a bad lens day the last time I pulled them out. (And I wasn't)

My Quantaray isn't all that bad but it's a 70-300. Not great for walk around unless I'm doing macro nose hairs.
My Sears 50mm is my go-to lens. Very sharp. Rarely disappoints.
For weddings, I tend to go to my kit lens, the mark II 18-55 for my group shots.

So I find myself swapping lenses often. I'd like to get a sharp lens to use in place of the 3 I use the most (the 70-300, 50mm & 18-55) when I want to just take one lens with me. It doesn't have to zoom all the way to 300. 100 or 200 would be great.

Can anyone recommend a lens that would fit the bill?

08-07-2012, 06:43 AM   #2
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For a zoom, maybe the Da* 50-135/2.8. For a couple of single focal length lenses, the DA 35/2.8 LTD macro and D FA 100/2.8 WR.
08-07-2012, 06:43 AM   #3
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No such lens exists. Every zoom is a compromise with things it does well and things it does less well or poorly. One of the best all-around lenses for the K mount is the Tamron/Pentax 18-250 which is out of production. But you'll get lots of people telling you about its failings. You'll have others tell you about lenses like the 60-250 but again, it has its problems too. Then there are the sports zooms in the 70-200/2.8 range but each of them is heavy and big - plus 70 on the cropped sensor is just too long for most indoor work.
08-07-2012, 07:15 AM   #4
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I agree with Docrwm, you will tend to have a compromise somewhere with any zoom lens. I have the da 18- 250 and have been happily using it for many years. In the last year or so I have started using the 15, 40 and 70 limited s almost exclusively. It sounds to me like you yearn for this type of picture quality, yes it means a lot of lens changing but it is worth it... you will love the pictures. Look at your best shots, is there a common focal length, if so go for that prime. Something to consider... if you buy a quality lens of any kind like say the 77mm or one of the ones I mentioned, you can always sell it and get most of your money back. Sometimes even more.. the market goes up and down like crazy. I could sell my 18-250 five years after I bought it and break even...but I won't LOL

08-07-2012, 07:15 AM   #5
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appreciate the input. What's frustrating is some of the lenses i bought were based on the lens database giving an 8.5 or higher, yet in reality they didn't deserve that high of a rating. And those lenses were cheap. Im afraid the same will happen again, only this lens will be expensive. :/

I will look into all lenses suggested. Thanks!
08-07-2012, 07:20 AM   #6
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As others mentioned, it is impossible to find a lens that meets your criteria. You can't get a zoom with that range AND max aperture of F2.8.

You could do the Pentax DA* 16-50 F2.8 (or one of the Sigmas/Tamrons) PLUS 50-135mm F2.8 or Tamron 70-200mm F2.8 (my recommendation). If you want a SINGLE lens maybe th Pentax 18-135mm F3.5-4.6 (i.e. much slower), though I cant vouch for the sharpness of that lens. The first combination would be a vast improvement in IQ over the zoom lenses you already have. Problem is they are BIG and HEAVY compared to what you have - defintely will take some getting used too, and may not be acceptable - in which case you have to compromise on the apperture requirement...
08-07-2012, 07:24 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by mishmatta Quote
appreciate the input. What's frustrating is some of the lenses i bought were based on the lens database giving an 8.5 or higher, yet in reality they didn't deserve that high of a rating. And those lenses were cheap. Im afraid the same will happen again, only this lens will be expensive. :/

I will look into all lenses suggested. Thanks!
Often its a matter of matching the correct lens to the right job. Where a M100/4 Macro might get a 10 for one purpose it might be a poor choice for something else. Many lenses are specialist lenses that are great in their niche. Some, like the 18-250, are all-arounders that are fine for most things but not great at any one thing in particular. Other lenses are just dogs no matter how you use them. If you want SHARP and f2.8 in a zoom then there is the 70-200/2.8 from Tamron for $769 right now. its big and heavy but is a solid performer. The Sigma is considerably more money but is faster in the AF but not quite as sharp based on many reviews. That's just one option, there are lots of others.
08-07-2012, 07:31 AM   #8
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Cheap lenses like the 18-55mm II (rating of 8.15) will often get relatively good marks, but the reviews are almost always qualifed by "...for the price". I have owned that lens and many other moderate priced lenses sucn as the DA 55-300 (8.72 in the reviews). I can tell you the IQ of the more expensive lenses are subtantial better. The DA* 16-50 has a rating of 8.44, probably partly dragged down due to SDM issues (I have not had any). Both the 16-50 and my Tarmon 70-200mm produces much better and sharper images than the 18-55 and the 55-300.

In other words, you can't just compare scores - you MUST read the reviews, and compensate for the price.

08-07-2012, 07:51 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by HenrikDK Quote
Cheap lenses like the 18-55mm II (rating of 8.15) will often get relatively good marks, but the reviews are almost always qualifed by "...for the price". I have owned that lens and many other moderate priced lenses sucn as the DA 55-300 (8.72 in the reviews). I can tell you the IQ of the more expensive lenses are subtantial better. The DA* 16-50 has a rating of 8.44, probably partly dragged down due to SDM issues (I have not had any). Both the 16-50 and my Tarmon 70-200mm produces much better and sharper images than the 18-55 and the 55-300.

In other words, you can't just compare scores - you MUST read the reviews, and compensate for the price.
Absolutely. Excellent point. Price is one of the factors in arriving at an overall review of a lens. So is size as another example. The 55-300 is an amazingly compact lens for what it does and the images you can get out of it. Compared to the 70-200/2.8's its tiny - but, as you point out the images from the 70-200/2.8s are much better overall than those from the 55-300. Size and Price plus build quality have nothing to do with Image Quality. If you're just interested in IQ and nothing else then primes are you answer.
08-07-2012, 08:09 AM   #10
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I like to use 2 bodies and 3-4 primes. It sure beats the hell out of using a big and heavy zoom. I once tried a D90 and a 70-200mm. I didn't enjoy it at all. That said, if you don't mind the weight, its hard to beat the Tamron 70-200mm for value. Its way sharper than the sigma equivalent at f2.8, and its pretty close focusing too. With the remainder of your $1500 budget you could consider the sigma 17-50mm or tamron 17-50mm.
08-07-2012, 08:54 AM   #11
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My recommendation would be an FA* 85mm F1.4 (or Sigma 85mm F1.4). As long as you're looking to do artistic shots rather than documenting landscapes, the focal length is ideal for many applications, and the fast aperture lets you do a lot with the bokeh and also lets you shoot in low light. This lens used to be the only thing I would carry around with me on trips, until the lighter and less-precious DA 18-135mm came out...you know how it goes with collectable lenses!

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08-07-2012, 08:55 AM   #12
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The title of the thread told me all I needed to know, a "*great* do-all lens" is an oxymoron. Zooms are never as sharp, as fast or as contrasty as primes, and the greater the coverage of a zoom, the worse it's likely to be. The hypothetical lens that you are describing would be an 8.3X zoom, and good zooms rarely exceed 3X magnification. Also it would probably have to be an f/4-f/6.3 maybe 5.6.

That being said the DA* 50-135 covers a large potion of the range you're looking for, and the optical quality is beyond reproach for a zoom, its better even than a lot of primes.

Finding something to fill the 24~50 range is tough though. I've almost given up on trying to find a zoom that will do it. If you go with a series of primes though, there are plenty of good ones in that range. The FA 20, the FA 31 limited, the FA or DA 35, the DA 35 limited macro, the DA 40 limited and the FA 43 limited. Sigma has a few as well.

The DA* 60-250 is also worth mentioning, but it's max aperture is f/4.

The Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 might also be a good partner with either of the DA* zooms, but while it's sharp, it's not "SHARP SHARP SHARP"
08-07-2012, 09:42 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Blue Quote
the DA 35/2.8 LTD macro and D FA 100/2.8 WR.
The principle here is the best advice, you are not going to be happy with one lens. Get a 15mm ltd, a 35mm f2.4 daL or the 40mm XS and the 100mm f2.8 macro.
08-07-2012, 09:45 AM   #14
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if you are like alot of people on this site you start out thinking i want x, and after using x you may think you want to shoot a different kind of picture so now you need y and before you know it you have several lens...i think the 18-250 is a great all around lens but as i shoot more pictures i realize how much i want faster speeds...i originally bought zooms and not i like primes ...so the main thing is to buy something that you think will cover the types of pictures you plan to take...the other thing is if you buy from B&H (and may also be the case with adorama), you can buy a lens and return it within 30 days...if you buy it and it doesn't feel right send it back and pick another...my 2 cents for what its worth..amy
08-07-2012, 09:50 AM   #15
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I'd recommend prime lenses if you want sharp. Zooms typically aren't as sharp. Also, they don't render as nicely either. There are some really good and fairly cheap primes if you wanted to try this. For example, you can typically find the Pentax K/M 50mm f/1.7 for less than $100, and that is a fantastic lens. Of course, I can't resist the urge to plug the FA 31 Limited. It is a great lens.

If you must insist on a zoom, I have a Pentax F 35-135 that renders beautifully, but it's not very fast (f/3.5 at the wide end) and it also isn't very wide. On APS-C, 35mm is just a normal lens. Also, that lens is a little hard to find The Pentax F 35-70 is easy to find, but it has the same gripes as the 35-135, and it is shorter.
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