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02-04-2008, 07:02 PM   #1
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Normal primes? Big deal!

What is the big hype about getting 30mm to 80mm primes? I can understand why somebody would want a 50mm/1.4 or 1.8 for low light shooting, but also a 31mm and a 77mm and a 71mm and a 40mm and a 65 and a 41 and a 55 and so on just seems like overkill (except you, portrait shooters).

It seems like there are SO many options for standard to wide primes. One that seems like overkill to me is 30mm-ish area. I've heard good things about the limited model but why is Pentax marketing a 31mm LTD, a 35mm macro, and they just announced a DA*30mm. I don't get it! Yes, they will all be slightly different, but not so different that somebody on a budget would buy all of them!

Also, why do you need a 41mm when there's a 50mm? Or a 50mm when there's a 55mm? The difference is so minimal...

Maybe it's just me. I do nature photography, so my ideal setup would be a super-wide zoom, a normal zoom, a fast normal prime, possibly a telephoto zoom, and a long telephoto prime. I hear about people only using a 31mm prime for their landscapes, but I don't see a whole lot of logic behind that.

02-04-2008, 07:27 PM   #2
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there are a lot of situations where you need different focal lengths, and many photographers want tight framing this leads to a lot of different focal lengths, you also have a mix of lenses between full frame (legacy film glass) and ASP-C sensors new digital glass,

The fundamental reason for primes, is when you want exact framing, fast lenses either for limiteed depth of field, or low light shooting, or precise focusing since fast lenses wide open have very limited DOF, ...

lOts of reasons
02-04-2008, 07:54 PM   #3
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Another is to avoid cropping as much as possible. We've seen to many shots where the shot was cropped by 25-50% to appear the shot was closer of better framed. This makes the picture softer and limits enlargment sizes.

Indoors particularly 2,3,4mm could make a big difference between a good shot and a so so shot if space is tight.

also each lens has different characteristics. One may have much better bokeh, another better colour, another better contrast etc. Having the choice to create the image using the right glass for the subject and lighting can result in far better images. But you have to use and know the lens and it's qualities. All that will reduce the need for post processing and the resulting loss in quality.
02-04-2008, 08:05 PM   #4
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It's strange that Pentax would make a 35mm macro and a DA* 30 at the same time? Well, one is a macro and one is a normal "normal". As for the FA 31, it is a holdover from the film days, and my guess is that production is not long for this post-aperture-ring world.

As for a 50 and a 55, same thing. The 50 (actually there are two, one a macro) is also an FA lens, and will undoubtedly (though stupidly) cease production in the coming years. The DA 55 is a digital-only update of the classic 85mm portrait lens.

And of course there are a lot of similar lenses that have been produced in the last 40 years, but you don't think they were all produced at once, do you?

02-04-2008, 09:39 PM   #5
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I agree with you, to an extent. I think it's a little overkill if you owned every one of those lenses. I own the 40/f2.8, I got it for doing portraits. I have a vast collection of 3rd party cheap lenses and I wanted to finally get something of a higher tier quality-wise. The 40 fit the bill and happens to be the cheapest of the limiteds I could find.
Would I get another prime of another length? Probably not.. I think I'd rather spend $699 on a f2.8 zoom covering 2-3 of those primes length rather than $1500 for 3 primes. But the fact that I hardly have money for a bunch of primes helps in my decision making!
02-05-2008, 02:05 AM   #6
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I asked the same questions when I saw these primes of similar focal lengths first time in pentax catalogue. After owning quite a few of these lenses, they all behave differently. Eventhough I thought pentax could be stupid here but these lens options are really great for "something different". For example, 31 mm ltd renders something different for protrait. 43mm ltd gives rather interesting mood around f2.2 to f4. Da 40mm gives you that thin pancake build for light weight.

Da* 30 is hopefully intended to be aimed at f1.4 or maybe f1.8 to replace Fa 31 ltd. Da 35mm f2.8 macro is for copy work. They all have their intended purposes and targeted users.

For landscape, it is not always about how wide you can go. The wider the harder to get a good landscape. Limited crop with some tighter lens can be of use too. Recently I have used Fa 31 ltd to get the following shots (no crop at all)

Regarding how fa 31 ltd could be used in a landscape shots. These are taken in a day's trip. It is not bad at all!









The fun is that fa 31 ltd is small. Usuaully I take 2 primes for a small trip. It lightens the load and gives you the flexibility to adapt to a range of apertures.
02-05-2008, 02:11 AM   #7
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Fa 50mm f1.4 is a bargain for its price but its AF is not so consistent and purple CA is just quite scary outdoor. The build is not so great either (well, it is really cheap for what it is capable of)

Da* 55 is in deed now under a lot of pressure to "perform". I am hoping it to replace A* 85/1.4 in terms of image rendering ability (I sold my Fa* 85 f1.4 since it is just bulky and acting similar to my fa 77 ltd).

The zoom technology with pentax is in deed like in an infancy stage. Primes are just really the reasons to stick with pentax. Go, pentax
02-05-2008, 05:06 AM   #8
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I was thinking about this, and if you want to see a system with a lot of focal length overlap, look no farther than Leica. They have a 35/1.4, 35/2, 50/1.0, 50/1.4, 50/2, 50/2.8...

02-05-2008, 07:32 AM   #9
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James, thanks for a nice series of shots. I second your opinion with regards to sticking with primes. While zooms are touted to be more flexible with their variable focal lengths, in practice, I find they don't really replace that many prime lenses, or at least one can often zoom with the feet to get the right composition in view.

The variety in the number of prime lenses that Pentax offers is a boon as one can assemble a combination that will fit the kind of photography or angle of views one is familiar with.

finn, Leica makes no bones of the virtues of prime lenses. The variation in lens construction and maximum aperture is because they make a clear distinction of what each lens is good for. For example the 50mm f/2 Summicron is outstanding in terms of sharpness and resolution among the 50mm lenses in their stable.

No need to be like a Leica purist to have an aversion to zooms but it would be good if many Pentax zoom only advocates wean away from their zooms to give primes a try. I am sure the discipline of using a single focal length will be beneficial in honing photographic skill.

Last edited by creampuff; 02-05-2008 at 07:43 AM.
02-05-2008, 08:00 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by FastPhotography Quote
It seems like there are SO many options for standard to wide primes. One that seems like overkill to me is 30mm-ish area. I've heard good things about the limited model but why is Pentax marketing a 31mm LTD, a 35mm macro, and they just announced a DA*30mm. I don't get it! Yes, they will all be slightly different, but not so different that somebody on a budget would buy all of them!
But different enough that someone on a budget can choose the one that fits them best.


QuoteQuote:
Also, why do you need a 41mm when there's a 50mm? Or a 50mm when there's a 55mm? The difference is so minimal...
41mm? I assume you mean 40. There's about a 25% difference in field of view — that's not minimal.
02-05-2008, 09:30 AM   #11
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Can someone tell me what makes the FA 77mm much more desireable than the DA 70?

Thanks...Blake
02-05-2008, 10:16 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Sprags Quote
Can someone tell me what makes the FA 77mm much more desireable than the DA 70?

Thanks...Blake
its faster, so techinicaly one could have more depth of field control

its FA, so you can use it on a film camera

it looks cooler (who doesnt want a silver lens on a black camera?)

and it simply has better optics resulting in better images if you're a pixel peeper, altho some will swear that the contrast and colours are out of this world, something that can easily be screwed around with in photoshop.

the resolution however is something that photoshop cannot fix, and technically the 77 will have better sharpness than the 70.

is it worth the price? only if you're making money from photography, or if you're simply rich, then just buy it because its the best.
02-05-2008, 10:55 AM   #13
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Emphatically disagree

QuoteOriginally posted by Gooshin Quote
its faster, so techinicaly one could have more depth of field control

its FA, so you can use it on a film camera

it looks cooler (who doesnt want a silver lens on a black camera?)

and it simply has better optics resulting in better images if you're a pixel peeper, altho some will swear that the contrast and colours are out of this world, something that can easily be screwed around with in photoshop.

the resolution however is something that photoshop cannot fix, and technically the 77 will have better sharpness than the 70.

is it worth the price? only if you're making money from photography, or if you're simply rich, then just buy it because its the best.
I own a 77. It happens to be the black version. AFAIK there are very few silver versions available. And yes, it looks nice, and is built exceedingly well.
It has better optics period. No need to pixel peep.
And I don't know about your photoshop skills, but even tho mine are fair, fixing color isn't that easy and why spend the time if you don't have to?
The 77 is sharper than the 70 across the board, no technicalities about it. And it is considerably faster so you can get shots that the 70 is incapable of getting. They might not be perfect, but something decent is better than nothing.
I don't make money from photography and I am DEFINITELY NOT RICH but the money I've spent on the 77 was very well spent and I'd gladly spend it again, if I didn't already have it.
Finally, Mike Johnson of Luminous Landscape fame calls it "one of the best autofocus lenses ever made" and he mostly shoots Nikon!

NaCl(climbs down from the soapbox)H2O
02-05-2008, 11:02 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by NaClH2O Quote
And I don't know about your photoshop skills, but even tho mine are fair, fixing color isn't that easy and why spend the time if you don't have to?
i wouldnt call it fixing, colour is arbitrary anyway.


also from personal experience, i tend to change my photographs so drastically in photoshop that it really doesnt matter how they started off to begin with

contrary to how most people feel about image programs, ie, consider them a chore, i think its the greatest thing since sliced bread, and i enjoy working with photoshop/lightroom immensely.
02-05-2008, 11:37 AM   #15
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There isn't really a huge amount of overlap--remember, most people like a wide, normal, and portrait prime to have a complete setup, and there are special purposes for each of these. At least some of these are going to be discontinued when the new lenses come out.


Wide:
14mm
15mm
21mm

Normal:
30mm
31mm
35mm (discontinued)
35mm Macro
40mm
43mm

Portrait:
50mm
55mm
70mm
77mm
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