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03-30-2013, 09:36 PM   #1
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help me choose wide-to-standard zoom for landscapes

I snagged a K-5 a couple of months ago on a whim when I noticed how low the price was and I didn't really need any of the new K-5 II updates. I bought the 18-55 WR and the Tamron 70-300 for it. I love the camera, but those lenses are mediocre at best.

I'm struggling to find a good zoom. (high sharpness, low distortion and aberrations) I'm struggling so much that Nikon and their world-class sensors are looking really good right now. Please help! I really do like the K-5! A Nikon full-frame setup would be heavy and expensive, even with the "consumer-grade" D600, so it would be nice I could find glass to make a K-5 setup work for me.

Pentax:
I thought about the 18-135 WR, (the WR is nice, and the DC focus motor is quieter than the screw drive), but it seems to really be only good around 24mm which leaves me feeling like I'm paying for a lot of lens I won't ever use. I dismissed the DA* 16-50/2.8 pretty quickly, as it seems to be pretty soft in the corners and is very expensive for a dressed-up Tokina. (Reviews database uses phrases like "besieged by chromatic aberration", so the current price of around $1500 makes the DA* absolutely out of the question.) The 17-70/4 seems OK, but the troublesome SDM-only focusing does worry me, and it's not as sharp as the Sigma 17-70.

Sigma:
Since Sigma hit a home run with that new 35/1.4 "Art" lens I thought the new 17-70 "Contemporary" might be perfect for me, but it seems to be getting mediocre reviews. The 17-50/2.8 won the comparison here but had some minor flare issues.

Tamron:
Tamron 17-50/2.8 (non-VC version) seems decently sharp to the corners @ f/8-f/11 and the prices are fantastic right now, but I've read that the AF is loud (screw drive?) and the Sigma is sharper in the corners. Is the Tamron a decent lens for landscapes? If so, the price is right, maybe is the Sigma 17-50 is the right choice. (?)

Help!

Thanks in advance.

03-30-2013, 09:44 PM   #2
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The 16-45 Pentax is well regarded and often found in the Marketplace, that's worth a look. I had and liked it more than once, but decided WR was important in that range so I've stuck with the 18-55WR. I owned the 18-135 and found it decent from 18 to maybe 85mm (probably longer with corrections enabled in-cam but I don't), but decided to go the Limited prime route for that expense. The original 17-70 Sigma (f/2.8-4.5) was very fine optically and focuses really close (both these lenses can do that, even at 16 or 17mm); subsequent copies of the lens are good but seldom do I hear that they are better than generation 1 optically. The later models have silent focus and the OS option so each has its place, including the DA17-70.
03-30-2013, 09:44 PM - 1 Like   #3
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Get the Tamron 17-50. Do not use autofocus for landscape photography.
03-30-2013, 10:10 PM - 1 Like   #4
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DA*16-50 would be my choice at the 'old' price. But at the new price, no it is too much. The Tamron 17-50 is nearly as good, IMHO, but far less expensive.

Here is a good review / comparison of all three 16/17 - 50's.

The 18-135 is an excellent lens for walk around and general application It is noticeably better than the 18-55 but you seem to be very particular so I'm not sure it will be enough of a step up for you.

03-30-2013, 10:18 PM - 1 Like   #5
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You seem very particular about iq, maybe consider a few primes instead?or a 12-24+DA35+FA50
03-30-2013, 10:28 PM - 1 Like   #6
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I like my 18-135, and I get pretty decent pics from it. The Tamron 17-50 isn't too loud to me while autofocusing. I know I've been using it alot this weekend at the anime convention I am at. It's awesome on the K5!
03-30-2013, 10:31 PM - 1 Like   #7
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Many of the quibbles with each lens seem to be small issues.

Landscape = tripod = no SR/OS/VR needed.
Landscape = small aperture = sharp corners.
Landscape = manual focus.
How much shooting in the rain do you plan to do, and would not a plastic bag and rubber bands work for WR?
03-31-2013, 01:51 AM - 1 Like   #8
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This may not help you at all, in fact it may just muddy the water even further.

Would you consider a decent prime, for landscape work you don't even really need autofocus. This being the case, it presents a whole new world of affordable fantastic glass that you can be pick up second-hand to play with.

03-31-2013, 03:16 AM   #9
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Besides my Sigma 17-70 (non OS/HSM version) which is excellent my best landscape lens in my zooms would be the humble DAL18-55! It has great colour/contrast and seems to be fine when stopped down and on a tripod.
I find landscape shots are quite forgiving on lens quality. If I was buying a lens specifically I would probably go for the DA*16-50 mostly for the Pentax colour and extra width. The DA16-45 a great cheaper option.
03-31-2013, 10:16 AM - 1 Like   #10
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My recommendation for DA 12-24/4, he is super sharp along the entire length, starting from f4, DA 17-70/4 is great for an all in one, equally sharp along the entire length unlike sigma, use that DA 17 - 70/4 approx. 3 years and I'm still the second hand and I have no problems with SDM
03-31-2013, 12:32 PM - 1 Like   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by kevwil Quote
I dismissed the DA* 16-50/2.8 pretty quickly, as it seems to be pretty soft in the corners and is very expensive for a dressed-up Tokina. (Reviews database uses phrases like "besieged by chromatic aberration", so the current price of around $1500 makes the DA* absolutely out of the question.)
The reason to avoid the 16-50 is the QC and the price: optically, however, it's about as good as you're going to find for landscapes in its range, with better microcontrast and color rendition than the competition. The Tamron and Sigma options are fine if you're comfortable with how they render color. The only issue with all the f2.8 zooms is that in landscape photography, you really don't need the f2.8. You might want to look at the Pentax 16-45 f4. That lens has quite good corner to corner resolution (at f8), with surprisingly little field curvature considering it's a zoom lens. Also there's a ~16-85mm DA* (probably f4) on the roadmap, due out this year. If that lens maintains good corner to corner resolution throughout it's focal range, it could make for an ideal landscape lens.
03-31-2013, 12:45 PM   #12
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Thank you all! Very thoughtful advice. Obviously there are many ways to make a very fine lens kit in the 12-100mm ranges - primes are good, the Pentax 12-24 is highly recommended - but what if you could only have one lens?

Yes, I'm being rather particular. There's no good camera stores around here, and renting or buying + selling used takes a toll in both time and money, so I'm trying to research online and be as critical and detailed as I can be. I know actually shooting with the lenses myself is the best way to judge, but I'm rarely able to afford that. I'm already going to lose my shirt on the 18-55WR and Tamron 70-300 I bought, so I want to get it right this time.

I'm looking for a single zoom to minimize lens changes (and cost). I'm fine with a standard zoom, because I have a tripod with a pano head and can stitch shots together to make a wider image. (Amazing how well that works, when it works well, if you know what I mean.) With a single lens, I'd use autofocus for walkabout stuff, but the optical quality at infinity matters much more when I get the tripod out.

Trade-offs: The wider range of a 17-70 or 18-135 is nice, but optical quality is still more important. Weather sealing helps the gear last longer and means less cleaning, but I'll still pick optical quality first. A set of prime lenses might be best optically, but lens changes can mean sand/rain/snow/mud getting inside and could mean missing the shot at the crucial moment.

This is how I've come to ask about a wide-to-standard zoom. It seems like I need to choose between the Sigma 17-50/2.8 (best optics) and the Tamron 17-50/2.8 (half the price of the Sigma).
03-31-2013, 01:06 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by kevwil Quote
a) I'm looking for a single zoom to minimize lens changes (and cost).

b) The wider range of a 17-70 or 18-135 is nice, but optical quality is still more important.
Every one of us meets this barrier at some point: convenience, or optical quality? And we come to slightly different answers as suits us at the time; some times we're right on, some times we're back in the Marketplace swapping (the voice of experience here ). The 18-250 seems (DA or Tamron) to be the best one-lens option overall simply for its good image quality and exceptional range, with the new 18-270 nearly as good but quite a hit on the wallet. The 18-135 is great if in-cam corrections are enabled for long shots, which some folks are OK with and others dislike for the processing penalty between shots.

I had the 18-135 and liked it, but optical quality won out; I now have 18-55wr and 55-300 for minimal changes, and various fine primes from 15-100mm for best optics (and better low-light abilities). Sometimes convenience is a single do-it-all lens, other times it's a Limited prime on the body and a small prime in each pocket!
03-31-2013, 02:08 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by jimr-pdx Quote
Every one of us meets this barrier at some point: convenience, or optical quality? And we come to slightly different answers as suits us at the time; some times we're right on, some times we're back in the Marketplace swapping (the voice of experience here ).
Yep, this isn't my first time having this problem. ;-)

QuoteOriginally posted by jimr-pdx Quote
I now have 18-55wr and 55-300 for minimal changes, and various fine primes from 15-100mm for best optics (and better low-light abilities). Sometimes convenience is a single do-it-all lens, other times it's a Limited prime on the body and a small prime in each pocket!
My 4/3 setup is like that, 12-50 (is a slow-but-contrasty sealed lens) and 45-175 for minimal changes, and some primes for low light / better optics. That's kinda the road I thought I would follow here eventually, starting with the 18-55 WR and Tamron 70-300. Unfortunately, I find the 18-55 to be very soft and slow (dark viewfinder) and the 70-300 to have low build quality (front barrel rotates during focus & when trying to take the hood off) and have CA issues. I could maybe live with the 70-300, but the 18-55 just won't work for me (could I have a bad copy?). I could see myself getting the 15/4, 21/3.2, 35/2.4, 50/1.8, and 70/2.4 over time, but those would mostly be for casual walkabout stuff and not a high priority.

I may have to check out that 55-300 someday, it seems decent for the price.
03-31-2013, 02:43 PM   #15
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Might you be tempted to get a 30-35mm prime of some description and shoot everything with it... see how you go, keeping the 18-55mm WR as bad weather back up. When I got the FA 35mm f2, the 18-55mm WR never got a look in...

As said the DA 35mm or Sigma 30mm f1.4 (yeah I mean 30mm not 35mm) might be options.....

-----------------------------

On the zoom front:

SMC Pentax-DA* 16-50mm F2.8 ED AL [IF] SDM Reviews - DA Zoom Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

I thought this member review (by yasik) of the 16-50 DA* was great and it made me think - that's the one to save for and get one day...

A lot of things on here seem to suggest the later 16-50mm's didn't have as many issues and also [the earlier ones] once repaired they were solid (yes the repair is a cost though)...

But for all it faults real/perceived/whatever it really does seem a "do-it-all" lens as that review shows very well IMO...

****As another member pointed out on another thread - you have to be careful that you don't just buy something that is merely a stop gap... the Tamron looks great.. but it doesn't have the WR.. so if you want all condition shooting you still need a WR in the bag for that range perhaps..


-----------------------------


Samyang 14mm f2.8 and DA 35mm might also give you quite a bit for your money...

The Samyang looks very good... but I ruled it out, thinking ultimately the 15mm f4 is what I'm after.. no matter how painful! which goes back to ****
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