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09-30-2012, 09:19 AM   #1
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Help me build a lens base

Ok so I'm a proud K5 owner for about 2 months now. I really love that camera. It's my first digital SLR and my first Pentax ever. However I have experience with film SLR cameras.

I bought the K5 with the 18-55 WR kit lens since I thought that it would be handy for bad weather conditions even if it was clear that I would upgrade from the kit zoom to a better zoom as soon as possible (like a backup zoom lens for bad weather). Also I own several Canon FD prime lenses which are mountable to Pentax K with an adapter(it has an internal glass). I bought the adapter but I'm not satisfied.. I should probably have bought old mf primes of Pentax instead.

Whatever.. now the time has come and I want to upgrade from the kit zoom to 2-3 zoom lenses which satisfy my needs until I have more insight to what primes I need.
So i read reviews and watched Flickr pics for about a month now and have several options. I hope you have some advice in helping me to decide.


The most important is a standard zoom lens which replaces the kit lens. My options are:
1) Pentax SMC DA 17-70mm F4: about 530€.. not so cheap, I like the focal length, not so fast with f4
2) Tamron AF 17-50mm F2.8 : about 300€.. nice price, a bit short focal range, fast
3) Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 : about 320€.. nice price, not wide enough on the wide end, fast, is said to have very good IQ

For these 3 options I tend to no. 3 at the moment and plan to throw in a wide angle zoom or a good wide prime in the future.

Additionally I will need a tele zoom especially for surf photography. I have found two options here since i don't want to spend a fortune on this (I'm only surfing about 1-2 times a year)
1)SMC Pentax-DA 55-300mm F4-5.8 ED
2)Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 DG OS

Not really sure what to prefer here.. the Pentax is slightly cheaper but that's not the point here.. which one do you think delivers better on the long end?


And the last question is about the SMC Pentax-DA 12-24mm F4. It's above 800€ here right now.. which I find expensive.. Do you think it's worth that much?


Thank you for reading

-David

09-30-2012, 09:35 AM   #2
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Morning David - Well, it's at least morning here....

Let me ask you some additional questions....
  • Are you looking to replace or augment your present kit/wr lens?
  • What are you trying to do that your current kit/wr lens either does not let you or comes up short on?
  • Do you need faster (f2.8) glass for what you are trying to accomplish with the kit/wr?
  • What is more important to you, appearing to replace/augment your current lens or extending your focal length capability?
  • Surf photography as in landscapes or photographing folks out surfing the waves?
On your Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 DG OS selection, OS stands for optical stabilization. You can't shoot with both OS and SR enabled. One or the other needs to be disabled in that they will cancel each other out.

On your last question on the DA 12-24 - do you like wide angles, i.e. wider than 18mm? Have you tried stitching images together? What are you planning on using the 12-24 for?

09-30-2012, 09:55 AM   #3
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Thanks for your response.

First of all I want to replace the kit lens because I'm not really satisfied with the IQ.. especially at the low end (e.g. for landscapes) it performs below average in my opinion.
Another point is that it's kind of slow and that's why i tend to the tamron F2.8 at the moment. It would offer me >=OK performance for occasional portrait shots.
For the surf photography part I'm more into action candid shots.. so i need at least 200mm tele to shoot from the beach. But as I stated this will be on very rare occasions because I can't afford surfing that often . Also when I'm out surfing I actually spend a lot of time surfing and not shooting. That's why I don't want to spend too much for the tele lens.

I know I'd have to disable the OS of the lens but that wouldn't hurt would it? Just wonder which of the tele zooms has a better performance on the long end.

The DA 12-24 would be for landscape and Europe cities. I'd consider a wide prime(DA 15 or DA 21) instead if it would safe me some money and offered equal quality.

The most important part is a standard zoom which will increase the image quality considerably compared to the kit lens and is a bit faster.

Greetings from Germany where it is early evening
09-30-2012, 09:58 AM   #4
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Hi David --- Although the range is very attractive, I have not used the Pentax 17-70, mainly because I find f/4 a bit slow for my uses - YMMV. I have been happy with the Tamron 28-75. Even though it is lacking on the short end and not WR, I use it more than the 18-55, but usually end up carrying a small, wide prime along with it. Just purchased a Tamron 17-50, so can't say much about it, although I plan to use it interchangeably with the 28-75 and Pentax 50-135 for my walk-around lens, depending on my anticipated needs for the day. Seriously considered the Pentax 18-135 for its WR and nice range, and might ultimately go that route, although the sharpness of the Tammys and 50-135 was the deciding factor at present.

I have had both the Sigma 70-300 and Pentax 55-300. I like the close focus of the Sigma, and found the sharpness equivalent between the two, although sharpness drops noticeably, but not horribly, in both above 225mm or so. But I l liked everything else about the Pentax --- smaller, better build, smoother zoom, better rendition. I think you'll be happier with the Pentax, but If you don't expect to use it much, and mainly at the long end, the much lower price of the Sigma would tip my decision.

Don

09-30-2012, 10:16 AM   #5
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With a camera like the K-5 I wouldn't worry about f2.8 vs f4 - just up the ISO. In any event, few lenses perform well wide open; most have their sweet spot around f5.6>8.

I'd choose the lens that is (a) in budget, and (b) 'feels' right.

I have the Pentax 17-70 - great replacement for the kit lens and a great walk-around lenses, the 12-24, which is superb, and the 55-300, which is again, very good for the money.
09-30-2012, 10:28 AM   #6
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Thanks again for your comments.

@donras: All you say reflects a lot of my thoughts. Thanks for that input. The only thing i wonder about is the price of the Sigma 70-300.. Looks like I looked up the wrong one (the version with OS) which is way more expensive. Still the Lens database has very different ratings for these two.. so I wonder if they are the same lenses?!

@JohnX: I'm not so worried about low light capabilities but about depth of field. How would you say does the 17-70 perform on the wide end?
09-30-2012, 10:32 AM   #7
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I have the Sigma 70-300 you mention. Mine in the non stabilized version and is a few years old. The only reason I have no surf pictures is because I haven't had the oppurtunity, living several hundred miles from the ocean and the few vacations I have been there, the conditions weren't good and nobody was out except a few little kids. I have used it for skiing shots however and it has performed well. It's a sunny day, outdoors lens and is best stopped down to at least f/8 and on mine, f/11 is the sweet spot. That may be limiting to some but snow and ocean are similar conditions, lots of light everywhere so stopping down isn't an issue. The Pentax wasn't available back then so the only other choice was the 70-300 Tamron. My Sigma has suffered a drop and while still working, the zoom mechanism is a little funky so it will need replacing soon. I'm leaning towards another Sigma based on my good experience in the past. That said, there are some fantastic shots from the Pentax 55-300 all through the forum and it may be a better all around lens.
09-30-2012, 11:41 AM   #8
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I have the DL version of that lens. Its definitely a 'you need a bright sunny day' lens. I collected a bunch of my shots from it as a set on Flickr.

On the long end, my Sigma at least is fairly soft, but not horribly so stopped down. I managed these shots at 300mm with mine, but again the bird was closer then what I suspect you'd want to use the lens for.







Sigma 70-300 DL Macro Super - a set on Flickr

09-30-2012, 11:53 AM   #9
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All double posting up in here....

I managed to find a brick wall taken with the lens at 300mm. I'd assume the newer models would be somewhat better, but I'm guessing not THAT much better. The lens is just plain soft when focused on distant stuff at 300mm. Add in haze (which I'd bet you'll see a lot of with surf shots) and it would probably be worse.


09-30-2012, 12:21 PM   #10
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Thank you both for your inputs and for the pictures you provided. I don't expect wonders from a tele zoom in that price range. That said I think the IQ is really good for the price the lens goes for.
Regarding the tele zoom I'm still undecided but for the standard zoom I think I'll stick to the 28-75mm Tammy.. seems to be a good deal.
@Sagitta: At the spots I surfed or watched a 200-300mm is absolutely enough to shoot. The waves are close enough to the beach. Also it's not the worst to include some wave presence into the picture!
09-30-2012, 12:24 PM   #11
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The Kit lens for landscapes is really pretty good, once you stop down. In order to get a good depth of field, you are going to be at f5.6 to f8 anyway. A better replacement for it can be the DA 16-45/4. It has better IQ, is larger, and probably going end of life, and slower than your list of alternatives, but its cost has come down from the $400's to the ~$200-$250 range.

The 12-24 is a wonderful lens. Landscapes and exteriors it excels at. Its distortion is pretty well controlled. It can be a tad slow for interiors, but that is what tripods are for. It is a larger lens, and its front element is large and sticks out there to a degree. I have just been careful and it has worked for me extremely well. I will say that to effectively employ the 12-24 you really need to include some foreground interest, other wise stitching is an excellent alternative. The 12-24 has been referred to as a pocket full of primes. The DA 15 is substantially smaller, and the DA 21 is slightly different in character as observed in the lens review area.

On the OS topic, where I was going is, if you are not planning on absolutely wanting OS in the lens, then why pay for it. You can put the funds elsewhere.

09-30-2012, 12:28 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by dbriemann Quote
Thank you both for your inputs and for the pictures you provided. I don't expect wonders from a tele zoom in that price range. That said I think the IQ is really good for the price the lens goes for.
Regarding the tele zoom I'm still undecided but for the standard zoom I think I'll stick to the 28-75mm Tammy.. seems to be a good deal.
@Sagitta: At the spots I surfed or watched a 200-300mm is absolutely enough to shoot. The waves are close enough to the beach. Also it's not the worst to include some wave presence into the picture!
The other consideration would be possibly trying to grab something weather resistant. I'd hate the thought of sand and surf spray sneaking its way into the camera body through an un-sealed lens.

The ideal lens would be the DA*60-250 but... yea. $2,000.
09-30-2012, 12:37 PM   #13
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@interested_observer: You are absolutely right.. I had the impression that the two lenses: Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 DG Macro and Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 DG OS are different ones 'cause the ratings are so different (6.21 vs 9.00).
This was the reason for my confusion
Regarding the kit lens I am convinced by its performance from 35mm upwards with f8. But on the low end (<24mm) it didn't convince me at all.. no matter what aperture. May be a problem with my copy who knows.
The DA 12-24 sound really good to me but purchase needs to be postponed due to the price (>800).

@Sagitta: While that lens sounds good and I would love to have weather resistant lenses it's WAY to expensive for me.. Perhaps after I finished studying next year and have a job that actually earns some money
09-30-2012, 02:52 PM   #14
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Hi David --- Why the differences in scores for various versions of Sigma's 70-300? My understanding is that Sigma tweaked the lens formulas for most (all?) of their lenses when they added OS; certainly did for the 70-300. I think they traded off some close focusing for better overall performance. Tough to believe that the new lens is THAT much better, however. If you look at the reviews, they are all over the place. Some of the variation may be due to sample variation, although I suspect that most is because various people put their emphasis on various lens aspects. The Sigma is an inexpensive, consumer-grade lens, and will be average in most respects and outstanding in none. But bottomline, it is a functional lens that represents good value and can produce acceptable or better images under most circumstances when intelligently used.

Don
09-30-2012, 03:26 PM   #15
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I had the Tamron 17-50 non-IS for a Canon 20D for awhile, and while it was generally sharp, I found it very noisy and somewhat slow to focus. It is, however, a very good value, so if the noise isn't a bother, it is a fine option. It also may be faster with the K5. I tried the Sigma 17-50 on a friend's camera and found it to be very snappy with great IQ. I haven't tried the Pentax version, which I am considering myself as its the only option with WR--dealbreaker to me as I do outdoor photography/hiking in not-so-great conditions.

Can't comment on the zooms as I haven't used 'em.

Good luck with your decision. -SB
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