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08-01-2013, 09:56 AM   #1
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Which cheap low-light AF lens?

I read a couple of older threads about this, but I think it's been long enough that it's worth asking anew:

What "cheap" AF capable lenses are best for low light indoor photography? (e.g. family parties)

Used is fine. "Cheap" means less than $300, less than $200 would be fantastic.

You can recommend manual primes all day long, but this is for my girlfriend, and she doesn't like prime lenses, and almost never uses any MF lenses.

Despite that, I'm still looking at some AF primes, because I feel like she might like primes more if she didn't have to deal with the twice-over change of both losing zoom and AF at the same time. If you have a recommendation for a good low-light manual (A, not M) zoom for less than $200, I'll listen to that, too.

Here are the lenses I'm aware of that might make a good choice:

Pentax DA35/2.4 (new)(or used if I see one for more than 10% less than the new price)
Pentax F 50/1.7 (used)
**Pentax DA 50/1.8 (new)(adding this one now that they've dropped the price below $200)
Tamron 28-75/2.8 (used)
Sigma 28-70/2.8 (used)
Tamron 28-105/2.8 (used)

Any recommendations, either of those against each other, or of other lenses to consider that can be had in that price range?

Does anyone have experience with the Sigma x/2.8-4 zooms? (e.g. 28-70/2.8-4, or 28-105/2.8-4) Do they work well in low-light indoor situations, or is the f/4 max aperture at the long end too slow? My guess is that most indoor shooting happens between 28-35, although I haven't taken the time to check through our collection and see what focal lengths she's been using indoors (with the 18-55 kit lens--I will do this before actually purchasing something).

Other info that might be useful:

Her current camera is a K-x, looking at upgrading to a K-30 if the Hunt's deal lasts long enough.

Current lenses:
18-55 kit (most used)
70-300 tele-macro (used a lot outdoors, less indoors)
50/2.8 Sigma MF macro (rarely used)
135/2.8 Sears MF (just got this)

(edited to add the DA 50/1.8 due to price drop--I didn't consider it worth it at $250, at $180 I might give it a shot)


Last edited by thornburg; 08-01-2013 at 10:07 AM.
08-01-2013, 10:00 AM   #2
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Of that bunch, the best would probably be the 35 F2.4.

Of the bunch of zooms, probably the Tamron (albiet it may not be accurate, it should be quick).
I don't think the 24-70 Sigma you reference is the HSM one, right? I don't know much about the older screw drive one.
08-01-2013, 10:00 AM   #3
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Tamron 17-50/2.8(used), but that might put you closer to $350. I loved my Tamron 28-75, but 17-50 is much more useful for indoors.

F35-70/3.5-4.5, cheap, small. $~50-70
DA16-45/4 ~$250

Pentax AF 360 FGZ + your kit lens. Can be found, used, for under $200. Point the flash at the ceiling and you'll have great pictures.
http://www.amazon.com/Pentax-Flash-Samsung-Digital-Cameras/dp/B00007EE00

Last edited by kenafein; 08-01-2013 at 10:09 AM.
08-01-2013, 10:16 AM   #4
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I would second the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8, but that does seem a litte more than you want to spend. Another one that is under 200 is the Sigma 18-50 f/2.8-4.5 HSM. It's faster on the wide end and is suitable for low light, and gives decent IQ. You may also find a Sigma 18-50 f/2.8 for under 300 on occasion. The F 50 f/1.7 is great in low light, but I find 50mm is simply too long for most of my indoor stuff. I generally hang out in the 20-28mm range indoors.

08-01-2013, 10:25 AM   #5
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It is simply very difficult to get a good & cheap AF low light lens. A prime lens will give you a better IQ and better value for money within your budget. I suspect that your girlfriend will be more happy if she gets good shots.

I would second the F50mmf1.7 and DA50mmd1.8.

You may also consider a second hand lens, from a reputed 2nd hand store or from PF marketplace. I have myself the FA50mm f1.7 that I got from keh.com for $205. (Generally Keh is a reputed second hand photo store, and it can be highly recommended.) The FA50mmf1.7 is very sharp and it may fit your needs. (Personally I prefer my VL58mm f1.4 but it is a MF lens.)

Hope that the comment may help.
08-01-2013, 10:26 AM   #6
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I just got a F 50mm f1.7 for 180 $. It was a great buy and I'm very very happy about it
08-01-2013, 10:28 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by thornburg Quote
(edited to add the DA 50/1.8 due to price drop--I didn't consider it worth it at $250, at $180 I might give it a shot)
That price makes the Pentax-F 50/1.7 maybe not such a good idea.

I think one of these for primes:
Sigma 24mm f2.8 Superwide AF
Pentax-F or FA 28mm f2.8
Pentax-DA 35mm f2.4
Pentax-XS 40mm f2.8
Pentax-DA 50mm f1.8
08-01-2013, 11:10 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Just1MoreDave Quote
That price makes the Pentax-F 50/1.7 maybe not such a good idea.
A used F 50/1.7 can be had for similar money. Do you feel that the DA 50/1.8 is better, or just that buying new is better? I do like the idea of warranty.

EDIT: Also, is it possible to get the F or FA 28/2.8 for that money?


Last edited by thornburg; 08-01-2013 at 11:12 AM. Reason: added comment about 28mm primes
08-01-2013, 11:14 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by JinDesu Quote
Of that bunch, the best would probably be the 35 F2.4.
Agreed. The 50mm 1.7 might be a little too long for indoors.
08-01-2013, 11:23 AM   #10
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I have a Sigma 18-50 f/2.8 zoom that is convenient for indoor use and I got it for $250. I've seen it for sale for even less than that, depending on its condition. Anyway, you may want to keep your eye out for this zoom; it's a nice inexpensive upgrade of the similar focal lengths as the kit lens and gives you f/2.8 constant.

If you can push up to $300, the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 is well regarded, and available here used from Adorama for $299 (excellent condition):

Used Tamron Af 17-50 2.8 Xr Di-ii Sp F/pentx

Primes would also be a good choice although I wonder if your gf would get annoyed at having to zoom with her feet when she's used to the kit lens' zoom ability. I would not recommend any zoom that begins only at 28mm at the wide end, as that's pretty narrow for indoor shooting.
08-02-2013, 06:50 AM   #11
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I recently tested all my lenses at 50mm: DA 50 f1.8; A50 f1.7; M50 f1.7. I also compared to the zooms I have in that length: F35-70; DA 18-135; Tamron 24-135. In my testing, the DA50 f1.8 beat them all. (And that made me a little sad because I really like the A50 and M50...) Here is the 50mm test link.
I also went through all my 35mm lenses: DA 35 f2.4; DAL 18-55; DA 18-135; F35-70; Tamron 24-135. As you might expect (since the others are zooms), the DA 35 f2.4 outperformed them all. It's a really nice lens. Here is the 35mm test link.
So, my vote is for the DA50 f1.8, but it it's too long for anticipated indoor use, then the DA 35 f2.4. And if that's too expensive, and f3.5 at 35mm is not too slow, then get the F35-70 which usually can be found for quite cheap.
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