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11-18-2013, 09:26 PM   #1
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Need advice: BIG Trip this summer.

Hey guys,

I recently posted a thread discussing which normal prime to get for my K5... And after a lot of thinking and consideration, I've been pondering on what I should replace my 18-135mm with, of course I have a lot of time though.

This summer, in July, I'm going on a 10 day long backpacking trip in Northern New Mexico. If any of you guys have experienced Philmont, you know what I'm talking about. Last time I went to Philmont, it was the summer of 2011. My 14th birthday was during our trek. There were wildfires raging nearby, close enough to make the sky hazy and ruin the usually CRYSTAL CLEAR stars of the zero light-pollution wilderness. It was incredibly dry too, the dust was unbearable. Every day, it would rain for at least 5 minutes, but hell, it was so dusty. My camera then? A Kodak Easyshare Z740 5MP Bridge camera. It was alright I guess, but color performance was pretty bad sometimes, and of course the lens had its own little issues. It performed well though... I got a lot of good pictures, but lost all of them due to wiping my hard drive and forgetting that all of my Philmont pictures were on there. So yeah, this time around, now that I actually know how to take pictures and use a camera (everything was on auto then, I had no idea how anything worked), I plan on getting good pictures. The Kodak pretty much was useless after Philmont though. The fine dust got inside virtually all of the dials and buttons, which worked horribly afterwards... nothing inside the lens though. It's an absolutely stunning place though, and has so many opportunities for beautiful landscapes and nature photography. Unfortunately most people view camera gear as a luxury instead of a necessity, and get something light and cheap to take. I don't plan on packing light as far as camera gear goes though; I view this as my opportunity to get a ton of great shots. I can pack light on other things.

Currently my setup is a K5 with a DA 18-135. Of course, a lot of people are probably going to immediately say that the 18-135 is perfect for a place like Philmont because it's versatile (many focal lengths), relatively light, and weather sealed. I honestly don't like it though. The corner sharpness is horrendous at 135mm, at wider focal lengths it's fine though. CA is bad pretty much anywhere, stopping it down doesn't help very much either. It's not the worst lens in the world, and honestly there are several reasons why I like it and haven't sold it yet, but the negative things are starting to outweigh it.

What am I wanting? The DA Limited lenses really appeal to me right now. The contrast and aesthetic quality of the pictures produced by them is very nice. They're METAL. I'm not worrying about dust, they should be fine if I make sure they're in protection when not in use. Little to no distortion, super sharp, and wonderful microcontrast (especially the 35mm f/2.8). At the moment, I'm considering a trio, which in the end would definitely weigh more together than the 18-135, but since it's a modular system, I'm going to have less camera weight around my neck. The DA15/4, DA35/2.8, and DA70/2.4 are what I'm thinking. A nice wide range, equivalent to about 23mm, 53mm, and 105mm. I don't have to have all of them, but right now I'm seriously considering selling my 18-135 and buying one. The question is, which first? I'd rather have one nice, quality prime than a versatile zoom right now. Probably another question is if I'm overthinking things... the answer's probably yes.

11-18-2013, 09:59 PM   #2
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I like how you think - I sold my 18-135 to finance the DA70, and I'm glad I did. My hiking trio is now the DA16-45, 70 Limited and Sigma 105 macro. In 2009 I carried a Sigma 18-200 and it did all right, but I agree a superzoom is not going to work for those who want maximum image quality. I couldn't afford to go for the DAs 15 and 21, and the bargain 16-45 is good enough to meet those needs for me. I had to let my DA40 go that ultimately led to the Sigma 105, but I want another copy when I can manage it!

My bonus lens is the 50-200WR for the bad-weather days.
11-18-2013, 10:06 PM   #3
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I don't have the 15, I have the 21, 35 & the 70. I'd start with the 35 simply because it's the most versatile. I don't use the "macro" all that much but the 70 is limiting in that it won't close focus (other than that it's fantastic).
To tell you the truth though I would take my 18-135 backpacking. If your thinking about bringing a 70mm prime, why are you worried about corner softness at 135mm? Don't zoom out that far.
11-18-2013, 10:21 PM   #4
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Facing much the same decision as you, and with a major summer trip planned, I have opted for the 21mm/40mm/70mm trio.

At first I thought the 15mm was the obvious wide solution and the 21mm was just an uncomfortable length - neither wide nor normal. But on reflection I decided that the 21mm was wide enough most of the time. It does call for more careful framing, but that is not a bad thing for me. In my hands a wider lens tends to encourage less careful subject selection, as the subject is bound to be covered by the wider lens. If I do sometimes want wider, then I can always do a two or three shot panorama.

The 40mm appeals to me more than the 35mm, due mainly to its size and price. But I also find the focal length quite useful, being definitely on the telephoto side of normal.

The 70mm does not have any real alternative, for the size and price.

With Pentax the problem is not finding a good small prime set, but choosing between the options. That is a great problem to have.

11-18-2013, 10:22 PM   #5
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I have the DA15, FA31, FA43, FA50, FA77 as well as the maligned DA18-135. Those are some decent primes. But I would have no hesitation in leaving those at home and just bringing my 18-135 if I was going on a hiking trip OK, maybe I'd slip the DA15 in the pack as well.
11-19-2013, 02:15 AM   #6
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what about the 15ltd combined with the DA 35 2.4?
or
Combo 16-45 & 70ltd

Personally I wouldn't take too much lenses either on a hiking trip.
Last year I did a hiking trip in the Uk and took my 16-45 on my K20d and a DA70ltd on a K01. very handy
11-19-2013, 06:46 AM   #7
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Go with the 35 first and do panos if you want wider vista shots.
11-19-2013, 07:57 AM   #8
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Sam,

Sounds like a super adventure!

Ten days backpacking - I imagine that you'll be trying to minimize your pack weight. If it were me, I'd try to keep the camera gear to the basic essentials in terms of number of items (important for pack management) and total weight. If the environmental conditions are as severe/dusty as you experienced before, then minimizing the number of lens changes will be critically important.

I would have suggested the 18-135 as a decent, single-lens option, in light of the packing and environmental constraints. Otherwise, I'd recommend a two-lens prime kit of DA 35mm Macro Ltd and DA 70mm.

- Craig

11-19-2013, 08:26 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by pentax_sam Quote
The DA15/4, DA35/2.8, and DA70/2.4 are what I'm thinking. A nice wide range, equivalent to about 23mm, 53mm, and 105mm. I don't have to have all of them, but right now I'm seriously considering selling my 18-135 and buying one. The question is, which first? I'd rather have one nice, quality prime than a versatile zoom right now. Probably another question is if I'm overthinking things... the answer's probably yes.
Which one first? Assuming it would be my only lens, DA15Ltd would be too wide for my liking and DA70Ltd would be too long. Leaves the DA35Ltd.
If we take your A50/1.7 into account, DA15Ltd might be the right option to make a two-lens kit for now.

PS I wouldn't buy any of those I personally find 35mm still a tad long and am not convinced of ultrawide for landscape/nature; but as said, that's personal.
11-19-2013, 09:26 AM   #10
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What I would suggest would be to get the 18-55, inexpensive as it is, for really bad conditions. then get the limiteds you want.

If you don't plan on doing macro, the DA40 is a cheaper, smaller, and just as good choice as the DA35.

Regarding 15, if it fits your style then go for it, otherwise as others suggested the 21 is just stellar, and probably easier to use than the 50.

The 70 gets nothing but praises. You could consider getting the DFA100 macro WR instead, giving you more reach, WR and macro.

Disclaimer : my fantastic primes kit is made of the 21, 40 and 100 WR.
11-19-2013, 09:50 AM   #11
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If you want to go limited for landscapes, I would get the DA 20-40, which should be released well before next summer. For New Mexico, I doubt you'll need anything much wider than 20mm. The DA 15 is a speciality landscape lens, made for tight canyons and broad vistas with dramatic skies. For general landscape use I often find it too wide. And generally speaking, I find zoom lenses almost mandatory for landscapes involving telephoto FOVs. It can be pretty challenging to shoot landscapes with a telephoto prime, as you're generally going to be shooting things far away and you won't be able to zoom with your feet.
11-19-2013, 10:14 AM   #12
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It sounds to me like you have a poor copy of the 18-135mm. If it's under warranty, I'd send it in. My copy does not have any of the issues you mention. Image quality is right between my 18-55 and 55-300mm, which is as good as it gets on a superzoom.
11-20-2013, 03:15 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by NZUnicorn Quote
With Pentax the problem is not finding a good small prime set, but choosing between the options. That is a great problem to have.
choices choices choices
11-20-2013, 03:20 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by northcoastgreg Quote
If you want to go limited for landscapes, I would get the DA 20-40, which should be released well before next summer. For New Mexico, I doubt you'll need anything much wider than 20mm. The DA 15 is a speciality landscape lens, made for tight canyons and broad vistas with dramatic skies. For general landscape use I often find it too wide. And generally speaking, I find zoom lenses almost mandatory for landscapes involving telephoto FOVs. It can be pretty challenging to shoot landscapes with a telephoto prime, as you're generally going to be shooting things far away and you won't be able to zoom with your feet.
I've been on your site recently. Saw quite some images of southwest US. The most stunning to me being the mono lake.
I was there last year, so it was recognizable. I didn't get the luck of your lovely skies nor colours though.
DA15?
11-20-2013, 08:13 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by grispie Quote
I didn't get the luck of your lovely skies nor colours though. DA15?
My best images of Mono Lake were taken with the DA 15. It really does help to have great skies when shooting a lens with that wide an FOV.

On my southwest U.S. trip last April I tried to use the DA 15 as much as I could, but I still used an M 20/4 and K 28/3.5 more often. The DA 15 was most effective at Mono Lake, Mesa Arch, Cliff Palace, and in the tighter spots in Arches.
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