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07-26-2013, 09:26 AM   #1
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Macro Lens - Decision Time!

Hi everyone!

After a lot of research, I have finally narrowed down my choices for a macro lens for my K-x:

Tamron 90mm 2.8 Di Macro
* Pros: sharpness, focal length, focus limiter, price
* Con: no QS, need to use clutch to switch btw. A/M

Pentax 100mm SMC FA or DFA
Pros: smaller size and weight of the DFA
Cons: no focus limiter on DFA version

Sigma 105mm EX DG
Pro: extra focal length,
Cons: weight, no QS?

Optically, I know I will be happy w/ whichever lens I choose.

1) Which feature is more useful to have: focus limiter or QS? What is the cheaters QS and how is it used?
2) I will be using the lens handheld which is why I am considering weight; which lens is easier to use handheld?
3) Focus is primarily on macro, but want to take food, portrait & landscape sometimes, so which lens is more versatile?

Also, I am ok with buying either new or used versions; but only if there is a significant difference as I would be losing out on the warranty w/ used.

Please help me narrow down my choice so I can start using my new lens

Last edited by bellavida; 07-26-2013 at 09:47 AM.
07-26-2013, 09:50 AM   #2
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I've had both the Tamron 90 and the DFA 100 WR. I say go with the Tammy. My WR had the advantage of being weather sealed(of course you're going with the non WR version), but the limiter was sorely missed. The Tamron, with the limiter, makes it an excellent portrait and short telephoto. When you're shooting macro, you're likely going to be using manual focus, so the Quickshift really isn't that important, IMHO.

Edit: I haven't tried the Sigma, but Macro lenses tend to be slow focusing because of the long focus throw. I think you're in the same boat regardless of the one you pick. I did find the limiter of the Tamron made it more useful as a telephoto. My DFA WR hunted more, and over the full focus range.

Last edited by kenafein; 07-26-2013 at 10:38 AM.
07-26-2013, 10:00 AM   #3
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I went with the Pentax DFA 100mm WR version as the K5 is WR and I like walking around in the woods/garden/rain for those awesome macro shots. Weather sealing gives me a little piece of mind and the sharpness of the Pentax lens is incredible. It should also be called a "limited" as the build quality is that good.

I can see where a focus limiter is a good thing, but in my case, the other features outweighed it.
07-26-2013, 10:04 AM   #4
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I have the Tamron for my D3100. The clutch is a bit weird at first but it works well once you get used to it.

My copy had a problem where it wasn't switching from manual to auto-focus correctly. Initially, it just happened every once in a while but eventually the lens would not switch to auto-focus at all. I sent it in to Tamron and they fixed it and had it back to me in just a few weeks. The lens has worked flawlessly since.

On the NIkon mount, this lens focuses rather slowly in macro mode and not much faster in limit mode. It's probably fine for portraits and events but not for anything that moves quickly. Often when it loses focus it will go through nearly its entire focus range before it finds focus again.

This lens has some really obvious chromatic aberration but the CA tool in Lightroom cleans it up with a single click 99% of the time.

I use this lens primarily for digitizing my partners art work. She works in watercolors and color markers. The Tamron lens does a fantastic job for this use.

On a more subjective note, I like using this lens a lot. It's fun to shoot with and I like the images I capture with it. I like it's bokeh, color rendition and contrast. The focus ring feels really good to me. I very rarely use manual focus but if I am going to it will be with this lens. I wish I had it in a Pentax mount version because I would *love* to use it on my both my K5ii and my K-01, but especially the K-01.

I haven't used the other lenses on your list but I thought you might appreciate hearing about my experience with the Tamron.

07-26-2013, 10:31 AM   #5
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I see a lot of great photos posted one this forum, taken with each of those lenses. Pentax has some advantages, but also has the big disadvantage of missing limiter.
So I would say that instead of looking at "which is the better lens" you should look at it in terms of "which of these fits my shooting style best."
Do you have a WR camera and shoot in bad weather? Do you need quick AF or can you take your time for each photo?

But I doubt you would be disappointed by any of these three in terms of photo output
07-30-2013, 12:24 PM   #6
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Thanks for the great feedback and comments! Sigma is out, so based on the build and smaller size/weight, I'm leaning toward the Pentax.

It really comes down to the QS or focus limiter. I've read for macro, QS is really useful to lock focus in with auto, then fine tune with manual. Based on the fact that I will be shooting more macro/food than portraits and will rarely, if ever take motion shots, which feature would be more useful to me? One thing to note, the Pentax has rounded aperture blades and if bokeh is better due to that, that would also be a consideration.

Thanks again!
07-30-2013, 12:38 PM   #7
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If macro would be your primary need, I would think the WR would outweigh the absence of a limiter. I am trying to make the same decision for down the road (can't afford it now) but my primary use for the lens would be macro work. In my mind, crawling on the ground after bugs screams WR!

07-30-2013, 01:35 PM   #8
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I have the FA and like it a lot. Only one time have I regretted not have weather sealing - in Montreal at the botanical gardens, in the tropical rainforest greenhouse. They maintain 50% humidity there, so I thought it best not to expose my unsealed lens to that for very long.
07-30-2013, 02:00 PM   #9
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For food and landscape do you need the 100mm? To get a plate with drinks etc in the field you're going to have to be about 8 feet from the table...

I have an FA100, it's a great macro, but it's no foodie lens!
07-30-2013, 02:25 PM   #10

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If you don't have Quick-Shift on the lens,
it's easy to flip back to MF from AF on the K-x body.

That feature of the K-x is way nicer, IMHO,
than the fiddly three-way deal on the K5.
07-30-2013, 02:44 PM   #11
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Also worth mentioning is that the FA 100mm has a MF dial mode on the lens body which does not require you to move the camera body switch to MF. (Don't ask me why more lenses don't have this feature, I think it's great.)
07-30-2013, 03:49 PM - 1 Like   #12
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I've had both the Tamron 90 and Pentax DFA WR.

I'm glad you left IQ out of the equation because both lenses are just phenomenal.

For me, having to make 2 moves to go to and from AF were the deal breaker for me. I don't do any actual macro work, but do a lot of closeup work with flowers and greenery. I find myself using a combination of AF and MF a lot with this type of shooting.

Also while a focus limiter is a nice option, I've found the quick shift on the DFA WR works fine for me. I've gotten used to using the focus ring to get the focus close before activating the AF with a half press of the shutter button. Doing this prevents the lens from racking all the way out and back in. Then also at the other end of the equation, using the AF to get close then a little twist to the focus ring to make it perfect is just golden to me.

The other thing is build quality. While to some that doesn't matter, for me part of the lens experience is how it feels in your hands. The DFA WR has a beautiful feel to it with the aluminum barrel construction.

And finally, while the Tamron has great IQ and rendering, there is just something about those Pentax colors that sways me every time.
07-30-2013, 04:27 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by TER-OR Quote
For food and landscape do you need the 100mm? To get a plate with drinks etc in the field you're going to have to be about 8 feet from the table...

I have an FA100, it's a great macro, but it's no foodie lens!
That is definitely a valid point. I have the kit lens which works fine for food photos and so it is not a factor for the macro. I have seen some impressive landscape shots w/ macro lenses but again, the macro will be my main focus. Thanks for the feedback!

So, I came across this thread regarding the rounded aperture blades and the difference in bokeh is pretty significant:

Influence of rounded aperture blades on DFA 100/2.8 WR: Pentax SLR Talk Forum: Digital Photography Review

After my prior research and all the help I've received here, I will most likely be going for the Pentax 100 WR unless I decide I can't justify the price at the last minute, lol. Thanks everyone for all your help!
07-30-2013, 06:48 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by bellavida Quote
So, I came across this thread regarding the rounded aperture blades and the difference in bokeh is pretty significant:
At the risk of being a bit pedantic, rounded aperture blades don't affect bokeh per se, but rather the out of focus highlights *in* the bokeh. Those out of focus highlights will take on the shape of the aperture blades. The overall quality of the bokeh is the result of the optical design of the lens, i.e. the elements themselves, their material, and the optical formula they embody physically. The sample you linked to is an extreme example which is emphasizing out of focus highlights as the primary subject matter, and thus can give the impression that rounded aperture blades have a more significant role in the quality of bokeh than they would on a day-to-day basis. Other factors besides composition that could impact this include the size of the subject matter, whether the picture is cropped or not, and the size of the final print.

For a more complete explanation of bokeh, I recommend this:

About Bokeh

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