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10-01-2012, 09:19 PM   #1
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Pentax Primes

I have a general question about the Pentax lens line up...

I have a couple of actual Pentax branded lenses... they are: the kit lens 18-50, which I do not like AT ALL. Its in a box now. It will never see the light of day again unless I sell it.

I have the DAL 55-300 which is a fine lens if given proper light. Its small, light, and pretty sharp.

I also have the 10-17 fish eye. Actually speaking this lens is quite impressive. I have taken some great shots with that one.

All my other lenses are older A series, manual, or modern 3rd party zoom lenses...

My question is on the lens line up... I don't really know the main differences between DA, DA F, FA, DA*, and DA Limited...

Lets cut the chase... I don't want a 'decent' lens... I want 10 gold stars lenses...I hear good things about the 15mm and the 31mm...but what about the various 21mm, 70mm, various 40mm, the star 55mm ...there is just a bunch on there and they are all different lines but from the same brand all with the same or marginally different focal lengths so long story short its confusing.

If I was going to cover the range with the best of the best (image quality) primes I am kind of at a loss as to which ones to ask for for Christmas...

If I go straight DA Limited would that be a 'no brainer' or are there some good ones and some 'great ones' dispersed throughout the different lines?


I am talking straight primes here folks. If I wanted to cover the gamut starting at 15mm and going up with the best of the best...all these different designations confuse me.

The all metal FA lenses look cool, but are the DA Limiteds better image wise? Its giving me a headache trying to figure out... I guess I could just read the reviews and see which ones have the best reviews and most stars, but it still leaves a lingering question about the various lines and which ones offer up the best performance.


Last edited by alamo5000; 10-01-2012 at 09:34 PM.
10-01-2012, 10:04 PM   #2
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You want good lenses, Limited Series, DA*, and the macro lenses will all perform quite well. Now, you want the money to afford primes from 15-77mm? Good luck with that.
10-01-2012, 10:14 PM   #3
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Here's the most complete summary: Pentax K-Mount Lenses Explained: The differences between various Pentax lens series
In general Pentax makes very good primes, there are not many (if any) ones that will not make you happy. I have a mix of F series (50mm f/1.7 & 28mm f/2.8) and three of the DA Limiteds (21, 40 & 70), I also have the DFA 100mm macro WR which as far as I'm concerned should be a DA Limited, the built is equivalent.

The FA's will work on a mythical full frame camera if one is ever introduced, the DA's have coatings and other internals designed for digital. The FA's have aperture rings, the DA's don't. The DA's have quick shift focus, the FA's don't. The FA's are largely discontinued so you need to look for used except for the FA 50mm f/1.4 and the 3 limiteds, maybe the 35mm f/2 is still available not sure, and the DA's are all in production and available new. I am sure you will find folks who will argue one is better than the other but I say they are just different, pick the features you need or want and go with those.

Take a look at the focal length you use the most and get one prime in that range. Then look for the next one that fits what you want to shoot.

Seriously, there is not a prime in the box that you would not be happy with, despite pixel peepers trying to make one better than another.
10-01-2012, 10:14 PM   #4
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DA = Digital Lenses designed for APS-C, metal mount, plastic/metal body, usually screw-drive and not sealed unless otherwise noted.
DA-L = same as DA, but entirely plastic including the mount.
DA* = Same as DA, but uses SDM and is weather sealed.

FA = Full frame era lens, usable on digital cameras, but are prone to CA/purple fringing.
D-FA = Full frame lens updated for digital specifications.

The "Limiteds" are lenses which are recognisable for their metal body construction.

10-01-2012, 10:14 PM   #5
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Like the old saying, a master with a stone can defeat a novice with a knife.

or something like that, point is, its nice that you want to pursue higher goals, but you should really take a look at what and how you shoot first. Depending on your style, some prime lenses wouldn't quite be as useful to you. All the Limited (DA and FA) and the * (DA and FA) signifies excellence. The FA Limited are highly regarded here, but that doesn't make them better lenses than the DA Limited. We've all seen great work with all type of lenses, it just how you use them that counts.

If I were you and money is not an obstacle, the FA 31mm would probably be one of the best choice of course. If money is tight, the DA 40mm Limited is a wonderful starting point for Prime Lens Photography. Just my 2 cents
10-01-2012, 10:18 PM   #6
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The reviews are a starting point but as price increases, expectations rise too. So you may find a critical comment on a Limited lens that mentions a flaw, which may be overlooked on cheaper lenses. Some lenses also attract polar opposite opinions, leaving you not knowing what to believe.

Focal length is a really good first requirement, because it's harder to need 15mm and have 21mm. That will rule out some lenses immediately. Then you can work out steps between your good lenses, which don't need to be every lens in the book. A lot of film users got along with a normal, wide and telephoto/portrait. Use your zooms to see how some focal lengths feel and work.

If you can find someone whose work you like, see what they are using. Unfortunately, it takes time to sort through all the ordinary photos from people like me, but it can sell you on a lens. When I got my DS, Pentax only had a handful of new lenses and every decent photographer bought the DA 16-45/4. They all took great photos with their new lenses, same sensor I had, and I was sold. (The second problem is taking those great photos yourself.)

The rules about different lens series are like grammar for English, enough exceptions so it might not matter. If you like 21mm, you only have one choice anyway.
10-01-2012, 10:30 PM   #7
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For the record, I've screwed up shots with my limiteds and got excellent results with my kit lenses. And vice versa. So the limiteds are nice to have to let me know I'm the limitation.
10-01-2012, 10:32 PM   #8
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If I had the money and wanted the best Pentax Primes... (dream cloud appears)
I'd get:
DA Limiteds 15, 21
FA Limiteds 31, 43, 77
DA * 55
DFA 100 WR
DA * 300

If Zoom is allowed DA * 50-135

10-01-2012, 10:58 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by John Poirier Quote
How many prime lenses have you actually used?
Not many. I have a couple of older lenses but not much.


QuoteQuote:
Some of us live in the real world with limited incomes, and try to work smart rather than throwing money at things.
I don't really care what YOUR income is, so please keep your snide remarks to yourself.

How do you know that's all I am doing is throwing money at it? How do you know I am not working smart? You assume this merely because someone ELSE wants to buy ME a lens for Christmas? How quaint of you.

I am working smarter than you may think and with people that are extremely good at what they do, but in your rush to judgement you've seemed to pass some smart aleck judgement when that's not even the question and when its not even warranted.
10-01-2012, 11:00 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Eagle_Friends Quote
Like the old saying, a master with a stone can defeat a novice with a knife.
I was asking about the products in the line up not for two cents on this. I might not get any lens. I don't know.

Please, for future reference please keep these kinds of comments to yourself. You have no idea who I am working with or how I am working my system to get better at photography.
10-01-2012, 11:05 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by calsan Quote
For the record, I've screwed up shots with my limiteds and got excellent results with my kit lenses. And vice versa. So the limiteds are nice to have to let me know I'm the limitation.
Here's another one. See the responses above.

I am asking a lens specific question about Pentax's lenses.

I am fully, more than fully, aware than 50,000 bucks in gear won't make a good photographer.

I am trying to do research here.
10-01-2012, 11:26 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Just1MoreDave Quote
The reviews are a starting point but as price increases, expectations rise too. So you may find a critical comment on a Limited lens that mentions a flaw, which may be overlooked on cheaper lenses. Some lenses also attract polar opposite opinions, leaving you not knowing what to believe.

Focal length is a really good first requirement, because it's harder to need 15mm and have 21mm. That will rule out some lenses immediately.
After a bit of experience in shooting I find that 'wider' primes would be where I want to go. maybe the 15mm or the 21mm.

When I first got started I was all about long lenses.... I was taken in by those guys with 20 pounds of metal and glass sitting on the sidelines of a football game...but as I have learned more and more about photography I have come to like shorter better for the most part. Of course there are exceptions.

RIght now 99% of the time I am shooting a zoom. I have a tamron 17-50 that is usually my go to lens. While not always that way, I probably take more shots at 17mm than any other focal length. I am leaning heavily towards the 15mm limited as my christmas present but I am not versed in primes so much. The 21mm I could probably make use of too.

I do not own any prime lenses that have auto focus. Everything is manual (for the couple that I own)

I don't really 'need' a lens... would like to have it all but I don't really need it. I am one of the people who when your mom/dad/sister shops for you and asks 'what kind of present do you want'... 99.8% of the time the answer is 'I don't know'...because I really don't know.

That being said I am being pushed so if someone else is buying I at least want to get something I can make use of. If they bought me an Xbox the thing would never get plugged in...
10-01-2012, 11:38 PM   #13
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Maybe you can describe the type of shooting you like to do?

The DA21 is one of my favorite lenses for street photography,
A lot of my shots with the DA21 are on my street flickr stream below.

The DA15 seems a bit too wide so I haven't purchased one - yet
See samples at https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/lens-clubs/86234-15mm-limited-controls-my-mind-club.html
10-01-2012, 11:45 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by alamo5000 Quote
You have no idea who I am working with or how I am working my system to get better at photography.
Hi Alamo, If I may offer some friendly advice, when asking this type of question it might be nice of you to introduce yourself and your interests a little, so people answering would have a clue how to direct their answers. Otherwise it looks like you're just trying to spend money...
QuoteOriginally posted by crewl1 Quote
DA Limiteds 15, 21
FA Limiteds 31, 43, 77
DA * 55
DFA 100 WR
DA * 300
Agree...
QuoteOriginally posted by alamo5000 Quote
I am leaning heavily towards the 15mm limited
This is an excellent choice for build and image quality and compactness (one of my favorite and most used lenses) but make sure the focal length will suit your needs! 15mm is quite noticeably wider than the 18mm on that kit lens. You might also want to check out the thread about it in the "Lens Clubs" section.
10-01-2012, 11:56 PM   #15
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All the limiteds whether DA or FA are metal and the best quality for the given aperture and focal length. They ain't the fastest primes available though - if you consider something like the FA50 - that's a 1.4, but it's not so good until f/2.8 or if being very critical, f/8. The limiteds are very usable from wide open, so in practice, they're faster because there's no need to stop down.

PS: I wouldn't read the comments about money / tripods / kit lenses above as intended to be insulting. I've done paid architectural shoots with my 18-55 lens and a tripod and a circular polarizer and no-one ever complained about image quality. I consider the importance of various technical goodies to getting the shot to be Tripod > Filter > Lighting > Flash > Lens > Camera. It's just that lenses are the most fun.
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