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10-03-2013, 08:23 PM   #1
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Good travel lens for a new DSLR owner

Hi all,
In anticipation of a big trip overseas I splurged and got a K-50, my first DSLR. Since I'm new to all this and hopping on a plane in 2-1/2 weeks, I'm not sure I'll have the time to do all the research that I really want to do and still have a chosen lens arrive on-time. With that said, I would greatly appreciate any advice, wisdom and experiences with good all-around lenses.

While I'm traveling I expect to be in the city looking at architecture and statues, out in the country shooting some landscapes and taking some pictures of new (and old) friends I meet along the way. I realize finding a single lens that excels in all those areas may be a pipe-dream, but if I can find one that is "pretty good" I'll be happy.

The Sigma 18-250mm DC Macro HSM has caught my eye as Sigma seems well respected, this lens seems to cover most anything I might want to do and it's decently priced. Anyone have any thoughts on this lens as a one-stop shop to use while traveling? Any other lenses you'd suggest I look at instead?

Thanks!

10-03-2013, 08:33 PM   #2
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If you are in the city, you will appreciate something a bit wider than 18mm. I've found the 12-24 is a really handy focal length on vacations. Not cheap. A 15mm Limited prime, also not cheap, is quite compact and would be a handy complement to an 18-250.
10-03-2013, 09:11 PM   #3
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If you're trying to watch your budget, or don't want to make any hasty decisions, try the 18-250 and buy a cheap wide angle filter/adapter/converter thing.
Neewer has a .45x on Amazon for about $25 that will convert the 18mm to about 8. The quality will probably be very low compared to a real wide-angle lens, but you're only out a small amount of money and you don't have to mess around with changing lenses.

Since you did spring for the camera with the weatherproofing, though, maybe you should consider the Pentax 18-135 instead of the Sigma 18-250. It's a little bit more expensive, and you lose some telephoto length, but you won't have to hide your camera if it starts raining. (You know that without a weather resistant lens, your camera isn't sealed, right?)

Someone on eBay has a bunch of the 18-135 lenses for $405 with free shipping. The sigma seems to run about $350.
10-03-2013, 09:15 PM   #4
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I think the Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 II DC HSM would be a good choice. Note this is the "II" version. It has had some good reviews. There are three reviews of it in the lens database, but one of them I think is pretty dubious (unless it was a particularly bad copy of the lens). I have also compared this lens with the SMC Pentax-DA 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 AL II (which is about the best of the kit lenses) in the 18-55 range and I think the Sigma comes out better - good resolution and certainly more contrast (check the comparison at 18mm). The comparison images are in my album "Comparison".
I carry my K-01 with the Sigma 18-200 with me nearly every day when I am working in the bush. It may not be WR but it is rugged enough for the job.

10-03-2013, 09:18 PM   #5
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I meant to add that the Sigma 18-250mm DC Macro HSM is probably comparable in performance and would be good if you need the extra reach. The dpreview test on that lens is worth taking a look at..
10-03-2013, 09:47 PM   #6
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I agree with naural. Go for the 18-135mm as it is WR and has a silent DC autofocus.
10-03-2013, 09:55 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by CoreyC Quote
Hi all,
In anticipation of a big trip overseas I splurged and got a K-50, my first DSLR. Since I'm new to all this and hopping on a plane in 2-1/2 weeks, I'm not sure I'll have the time to do all the research that I really want to do and still have a chosen lens arrive on-time. With that said, I would greatly appreciate any advice, wisdom and experiences with good all-around lenses.

While I'm traveling I expect to be in the city looking at architecture and statues, out in the country shooting some landscapes and taking some pictures of new (and old) friends I meet along the way. I realize finding a single lens that excels in all those areas may be a pipe-dream, but if I can find one that is "pretty good" I'll be happy.

The Sigma 18-250mm DC Macro HSM has caught my eye as Sigma seems well respected, this lens seems to cover most anything I might want to do and it's decently priced. Anyone have any thoughts on this lens as a one-stop shop to use while traveling? Any other lenses you'd suggest I look at instead?

Thanks!
Currently on a long-term travel of my own. All I brought with my K30 are three lenses: DA 18-250, DA 15, and DA 35 2.4.

The DA 18-250 is almost exclusively on my camera during the day, and it is way better than "pretty good". It takes pictures of just about everything I want from shots of buildings, to landscapes, to street shots. It is a joy not having to switch lenses or lug extra lenses around. Having tried the Sigma 18-250 before I left, I would get that over the DA 18-250. The macro ability works better on the Sigma.

For night time, get a good low-light prime. The DA 35 2.4 doesn't really cut it in my opinion. I wish I had the FA 31, but that is a bit of a pipe dream right now. The Sigma 30 f1.4 could be an option there.

A wide angle would be the last lens I would look for. I'm okay with the DA 15, but it disappointed me a bit with its inability to take good starscapes. I would get something a bit faster, perhaps one of the Vivitar/Samyang/Rokinon/Bower manual focus wide angle lenses.

But all in all, I give a big thumbs up to any of the 18-2xx superzooms. Spend more time taking pictures and enjoying your vacation, and less time switching lenses and lugging extra things around.

Have fun!

A note about the 18-135 vs the 18-250: Unless you plan on doing extensive kayaking/white water rafting, don't worry about it. You will want the extra reach more than you will want the weather sealing. Trust me!
10-03-2013, 10:29 PM   #8
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Get one of the 18-250s or 18-270s. That's all you need.

10-03-2013, 11:26 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by EarlVonTapia Quote
Currently on a long-term travel of my own. All I brought with my K30 are three lenses: DA 18-250, DA 15, and DA 35 2.4.

The DA 18-250 is almost exclusively on my camera during the day, and it is way better than "pretty good". It takes pictures of just about everything I want from shots of buildings, to landscapes, to street shots. It is a joy not having to switch lenses or lug extra lenses around. Having tried the Sigma 18-250 before I left, I would get that over the DA 18-250. The macro ability works better on the Sigma.

For night time, get a good low-light prime. The DA 35 2.4 doesn't really cut it in my opinion. I wish I had the FA 31, but that is a bit of a pipe dream right now. The Sigma 30 f1.4 could be an option there.

A wide angle would be the last lens I would look for. I'm okay with the DA 15, but it disappointed me a bit with its inability to take good starscapes. I would get something a bit faster, perhaps one of the Vivitar/Samyang/Rokinon/Bower manual focus wide angle lenses.

But all in all, I give a big thumbs up to any of the 18-2xx superzooms. Spend more time taking pictures and enjoying your vacation, and less time switching lenses and lugging extra things around.

Have fun!

A note about the 18-135 vs the 18-250: Unless you plan on doing extensive kayaking/white water rafting, don't worry about it. You will want the extra reach more than you will want the weather sealing. Trust me!
the part about weather sealing - kind of depends on where the op is going - personally, I rarely use long shots unless I'm doing sports, wildlife, or close up portraits, so I'd rather have weather sealing than a long lens. But I'm also from Oregon... Anyways, if there is a decent chance for rain or wind with sand or dust, I'd get the 18-135. It's a great lens that you'll apreciate having.

One thing about these lens advise threads - it's pretty important that posters put in a budget. Sometimes all the advise we give is worthless since we may recommend things the OP can't afford.

Back to your city / architectural shots - getting a super wide is very helpful here. If you're on a budget, the tamron 10-24 or sigma 10-20 f4-5.6 are good and can be found used for around $350. Personally when I'm in a city, that's usually what I have on my camera 75 percent of the time if I'm shooting architecture. If you can afford a bit more, the 12-24 is great as is the Sigma 8-16.

Thing is, you're new to DSLR's. Unless you do some serious studying, you're going to be relying on the camera to make a lot of the decisions.... here's what I'd recommend. Put the camera in aperture priority. Make sure you know when to use exposure compensation before you leave on your trip - this means when there is a lot of bright parts to the image but you want the dark area to be properly exposed, dial in higher exposure compensation. If there is a lot of dark in the picture but what you want to be exposed correctly is a dark area, dial in negative exposure compensation. And before you move on to your next shot, it's really important that you put your camera back to neutral exposure compensation or your next pictures will be wacked. We've all done this and it will happen to you - so if you look at your picture after you take it, you'll know if your settings need to be adjusted.

Also - learn what it means to stop down a lens. Most lenses work best when the F# is a couple clicks above their minimum. So if your lens has a minimum f# of f4, it will probably be sharpest at around f6. The lenses you are probably considering will have variable maximum apertures - get familiar with the best f# for a given focal length.

Set the auto iso to 100-6400 and leave it on auto unless you plan on using a tripod. Learn how to use spot focusing and how to change the focus point. Shoot in Raw format.

probably most important - DSLR's can give you awesome pics once you know what you're doing with it. But it's also easier to screw up a picture with a DSLR than a point and shoot since there are more controls. You're new to this type of camera - don't try to learn it all in 2 weeks. Just focus on these things and it should go ok. But just because you have a nice camera won't make your pictures nice without practice which you don't have a lot of time to do. I guess I'm saying be realistic about your expectations.

Sorry for being preachy - just want to give you the best chance possible given the short amount of time you have...

Good luck.
10-03-2013, 11:49 PM   #10
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Very good advice so far
Just have to say that there is some discount on Tamron 10-24mm and Tamron 18-200mm
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-price-watch/238598-tamron-10-24mm-...m-rebates.html
Two good lenses that would cover your travel need. I used to have the 18-200mm and it was glued on my K-r when traveling. Later sold it to get the 18-135mm WR and I also picked up the 10-24mm for landscape and architecture shoots. Been very happy with my copies of the lenses.
Just my two cents
Good luck deciding!
/Yos
10-04-2013, 12:04 AM   #11
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The DA18-135 would be my first choice.

But if you want an 18-250 or 18-270, Tamron is generally considered to be the better brand here (which is my opinion as well). That's probably why Pentax used Tamron as the basis for their 18-250 and 18-270 lenses. Probably a used DA18-250 or DA18-135 will be your best bet here.


if you also want a low-light lens like EarlVonTapia suggested, the A50/1.7 or DA50/1.8 would be good choices here - they're both economical and are good performers. I don't think you want to worry about a wider angle lens until after the trip - it takes a while to learn how to use one well, and they tend to be expensive (even the mediocre ones) so you need to shop carefully.

Last edited by DSims; 10-04-2013 at 12:17 AM.
10-04-2013, 12:33 AM   #12
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As an all-around travel lens with good focal range, I would also recommend the DA 18-135, especially since it's WR. I don't own one, but I have borrowed one from a fellow K-5 user and it's a very solid performer except at the end of the tele range where it's a bit soft. It's definitely better than the DA 18-55 kit lens at the same focal lengths and you get silent focusing with the DC motor compared to the noisier screw drive of the 18-55.

I personally tend to prefer wider angles for city photography, practically anything over 50mm on APS-C is good for isolating details but is otherwise not as useful for my style of photography. I'm just about to get the Sigma EX 17-50/2.8 as a travel lens. It goes a bit wider than 18mm and has very good reviews overall with a reasonably fast constant aperture. The only thing missing on this lens is WR in my opinion. B&H is currently selling this lens for $100 off normal price.
10-04-2013, 03:04 AM   #13
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Go for the sigma18-250 hsm ,brilliant travel lens for the money.
10-04-2013, 03:39 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by CoreyC Quote
got a K-50, my first DSLR. Since I'm new to all this and hopping on a plane in 2-1/2 weeks........
At this stage of your dslr experience, you will be fine with any 18-200/250/270 or similar focal lengths out there. I started out with one of these and it served me well. I would get a lens very very quickly and spend more time learning to use the dslr than anymore time on lens research. I would not buy a second lens unless I was sure I was going to do a lot of low light shooting in which case I would get a DA 50 1.8 also and that's it.
Get this book from the library or better still buy it to get a hold of the basics:
Amazon.com: Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition eBook: Bryan Peterson: Books
10-04-2013, 05:06 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by CoreyC Quote
The Sigma 18-250mm DC Macro HSM has caught my eye
It's a good choice as long as you understand its limitation. AF will not be fast, it will not perform well in low light, and creative photographic effects (shallow depth of field, for instance) will be limited. I would couple it with a faster lens, such as a 35mm or 50mm prime for low light and when higher optical quality is required.

Two other options would be

the DA18-135, which is weather proof, a bit better than the Sigma optically, and has silent AF
get the 18-55 kit lens and couple it with either the 50-200 WR telephoto or the 55-300 telephoto (higher quality). You would preserve the WR aspect, gain about the same reach as with the Sigma, at the cost of changing lenses from time to time.

In any case, I would get an inexpensive fast prime, as previously mentionned.

QuoteOriginally posted by SpecialK Quote
I've found the 12-24 is a really handy focal length
I think it's quite a specialized focal length, and clearly not the type of lens the original poster is looking for. Some people love ultra wide, and that's fine, but really it's not a majority.

QuoteOriginally posted by narual Quote
cheap wide angle
Those cheap wide converters will strongly decrease the IQ of an already average lens...
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