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12-29-2012, 09:07 PM   #1
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Best Pentax lens for stitched panoramic photographs?

I am looking to add a lens to use for landscape panoramic photographs, stitched together from multiple overlapping shots in PS. My objective is to have the absolute best sharpness across the entire frame while also minimizing distortions. Am thinking of something in the 35mm range. What would you guys recommend?

FA 31mm f/1.8 limited?
DA 35mm f/2.8 macro limited?
DA 35mm f/2.4?
Something else?

While the two limited lenses noted above have been on my wishlist for a long time, the Photozone test results (Pentax SMC DA 35mm f/2.4 AL - Review / Lens Test) tempt me to save a while lot of money and go with the DA 35mm f/2.4.

Does anyone have experience with this lens for the above stated purpose?

Note that my other current lenses are the DA* 55mm f/1.4, the Sigma 70mm f2.8 macro (sharpest lens in my bag), the FA* 24mm f/2.0, the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8, and the old (non HSM) Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8.

Thanks in advance for your help!

12-29-2012, 10:03 PM   #2
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Depends on how many photos you want to take, the landscape you're shooting, and whether you're comfortable with multi-row stitching.

Personally, my best panos have been done with the FA 50/1.4 in portrait orientation -
https://plus.google.com/u/0/115017005099942426830/posts/JYHvjwHKbt6

If you use a dedicated pano tool (something like Hugin - Panorama photo stitcher ) distortions will be eliminated when you post-process.

If you're gonna do multi-row, I'd recommend a dedicated panorama tripod head, and the longest lens you have.
12-29-2012, 10:06 PM   #3
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I'd go for a 31mm or a 35mm as 50 is a bit long on APS-C.

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12-29-2012, 11:19 PM   #4
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Good Evening,

I shoot panoramas - primarily ambient low light. I am probably 80% single row, and 20% multiple row. The primary question is what focal length. I see that you are specifically asking about the 30-35 range, so that is really gating my response. However, you can shoot stitched landscape panoramas with any focal length lens. The longer the focal length, the less area each pixel represents, thus it has an inherent sense of "sharpness". The wider you go beyond about the mid 20's the more distortion you accumulate. Most commercial landscape photographers shoot with mid 20mm to mid 30mm, due to this.
  • DA 12-24/f4 - I really like this lens, and usually wind up at the 24mm end. The distortion is well controlled, however the lens is at its sharpest at 18mm.
  • FA 31/f1.8 Ltd - While I was really impressed with the 12-24, the 31 blew it away for several reasons. Its a prime, its a Limited, it has pixy dust, and its sharp. There is no comparison.
  • CZ 28/f2.8 - The Contax Carl Zeiss 28mm f2.8 Distagon T* rivals the 31 Limited for about 1/2 the price. It is extremely sharp, and a full frame lens (like the 31). Even on a full frame sensor, it retains and is noted for its sharpness. With a cropped sensor - its even better.
  • K 28/f2 and the CZ 28/f2 - These are the same lens. Pentax received the Zeiss design, same optical formula. The K lens is cheaper if you can find it, since most folks don't know that they are the same lens. The CZ 28/2 has a cult following with the Canon/Red Dot folks - called "Hollywood" since its so sharp - that they shoot movies with it.
  • A 50/f1.7 - A good sharp lens, very reasonably priced, small and handy.
  • CZ 85/f2.8 - the Contax Carl Zeiss 28mm f2.8 Sonnar T* has the same sharpness as the CZ 28 however with the longer focal length, each pixel takes on an even smaller area to represent, and thus appears even sharper.
  • Super Tak 85/f1.8 - This is a M42 lens, and matches the CZ 85/f2.8 in sharpness. Wonderful lens.
I have and use all of these lenses (other than the f2 K/CZ 28 - I don't need the speed nor the expense) for stitching. Other than the DA and FA they are all fully manual lenses. Manual focus, manual aperture. For panos, there is no advantage to auto focus. Manual aperture works just fine.I do not have any 35mm lenses - with the 28's and the 31Ltd, I really do not see the need.



12-29-2012, 11:47 PM   #5
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sigma 10-20-most popular
sigma 8-16
pentax10-17
pentax 12-24
12-30-2012, 01:57 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by TaylorRiverGuy Quote
I am looking to add a lens to use for landscape panoramic photographs, stitched together from multiple overlapping shots in PS. My objective is to have the absolute best sharpness across the entire frame while also minimizing distortions. Am thinking of something in the 35mm range. What would you guys recommend?

Something else?

Note that my other current lenses are . . . the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 . . .
I would recommend using the Tamron 17-50/2.8 set at 24mm.
At this focal length, it is very sharp, and virtually free of any geometric distortion.
Even if you use a fancy stitching program that corrects distortion,
you lose sharpness in the process of correction.
12-30-2012, 05:36 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by TaylorRiverGuy Quote
I am looking to add a lens to use for landscape panoramic photographs, stitched together from multiple overlapping shots in PS. My objective is to have the absolute best sharpness across the entire frame while also minimizing distortions.
Based on your criteria, you should use the Sigma 70 macro. You're not going to get any better than that.

You don't want to go too wide because of distortion. Your other 2 primes are good, sharp candidates too, although 24mm may be a bit wide.

Since you already have 3 excellent primes, I think you'd be better off investing in a Gigapan or similar unit. I rented one a while back and it was amazing.


If you really still think you need a ~35mm lens, I'd go with the DA35/2.4 (or the FA43). But I suspect you may want to go with either the Sigma 70mm macro or the DA*55 anyway.

Last edited by DSims; 12-30-2012 at 06:22 AM.
12-30-2012, 08:45 AM   #8
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to shoot panoramas you need wide angle lenses to stich pictures 30 % similar area beetween shots
more you have wider angle it is easer to do it without tripod
like i wrote before
sigma 10-20
sigma 8-16
is the best choice


Last edited by koper; 12-30-2012 at 09:12 AM.
12-30-2012, 09:11 AM   #9
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12-30-2012, 09:11 AM   #10
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12-30-2012, 09:12 AM   #11
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12-30-2012, 09:40 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by koper Quote
to shoot panoramas you need wide angle lenses to stich pictures 30 % similar area beetween shots
more you have wider angle it is easer to do it without tripod
OP was asking about landscape panoramas.

While your architectural samples are very impressive,
your marina shot appears to have some unusual effects
which might be due to the vignetting of ultra-wide zooms.
12-30-2012, 10:17 AM - 2 Likes   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by TaylorRiverGuy Quote
I am looking to add a lens to use for landscape panoramic photographs, stitched together from multiple overlapping shots in PS. My objective is to have the absolute best sharpness across the entire frame while also minimizing distortions. Am thinking of something in the 35mm range. What would you guys recommend?
You left another important parameter from your objectives, final resolution of the panorama. Do you plan to view the result on a screen or print it really big (e.g. 10 feet or more)?

The two main reasons one makes stitched panoramas is to increase the wide coverage of a lens (if an ultra wide lens is not available or practical) or to increase the pixel count of the resulting image so it can be printed big.

If the intent is to view the image on a display or print it small (less than 3 feet wide) then an ultra wide (or fisheye) lens can do the job just fine. Simply crop the excess sky and foreground to get a pleasing cinema-scope-like crop. If an ultra wide lens is not available, then a wide angle one will do the job with the fewer possible frames to minimize the stitching effort. Just use the one with the best overall image quality across the frame and the least distortions.

If the intent is to print big, then you have to do some reverse math to determine how big (in pixels and dpi) the final image should be. Assuming a 30% overall then you can figure out how many frames you need and if it can be done in one row (preferably in portrait orientation to maximize vertical pixel counts) or in multiple rows. Given the area you want to cover in degrees, the number of frames will tell you what focal length to use to get the proper coverage. Again, choose the lest with the best IQ across the frame for the selected focal length.
12-30-2012, 10:21 AM   #14
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Wide as possible, and in the compositional phase, get as much overlap as possible.
12-30-2012, 11:01 AM   #15
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I've actually had interesting results with a SMC Pentax-DA 15mm F4 ED AL Limited, but you need to overlap a little more- about 30% and may need to transform the perspective before stitching. I usually use a SMC Pentax-M 28mm F2.8 with about a 20% overlap, and have used a SMC Pentax-M 50mm F1.7 as well. When I have the patience, the SMC Pentax-M 100mm F2.8 works well with only a 10% overlap. Each lens gives a different perspective, the 15 is somewhat 'trippy' while the 28 is a good balance between wide and normal perspective. If I had to pick one lens only and price was no object, I'd go with the SMC Pentax-FA 31mm F1.8 AL Limited. Of course I'd want a lens with a hard infinity stop. The full frame primes used on an APS-C crop have less problems with vignetting- I'd stay away from zooms.
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