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02-21-2014, 11:06 AM   #1
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Macro Lens and DSLR Camera Newbie

Just purchased a K-50 with the DA 18-135mm WR f3.5-5.6 Lens. Have not gotten it in my hands yet. Very excited to use it and buy a macro lens when I have the money.
Doing research and have narrowed it down to two lenses based on affordability and ratings. The Tamron SP AF 90mm f/2.8 and the SMC Pentax -D FA 50mm f 2.8. (The Pentax 100mm looks great but is more expensive. If I could get it cheaper used, I would reconsider.)

Between the Tamron 90mm and the Pentax 50mm, what is the best bang for my limited buck? I want the lens that is the best for macro, but don't mind if it has some versatility as well. Based on reviews I am leaning towards the Tamron at this time. Wondering where to get a good deal on one of these, new or used.

On a side note: Are extension tubes a smart, functional, economical tool to get me started, or a waste of time?

Thank you!

02-21-2014, 11:31 AM - 1 Like   #2
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What kind of things will you be shooting? More focal length gives you more distance from the subject while maintaining the same magnification. Working distance can be a big consideration when dealing with living subjects.

Extension tubes can be a great way to start with macro, and I have a 60mm macro and still use extension tubes with my other lenses. I also use a Vivitar macro focusing teleconverter sometimes.
02-21-2014, 11:37 AM - 1 Like   #3
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https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/54-pentax-lens-articles/152336-cheap-macr...lose-work.html

I have 2 auto aperture MF macro lenses. A Sigma A 50mm f/2.8 and a Rokunar 90mm f/2.5. The two cost me less than $300 combined.

BTW, if you can live without WR and buy used, the D FA and FA 100mm f/2.8 macro sell for about half what the WR sell for.

Last edited by boriscleto; 02-21-2014 at 11:45 AM.
02-21-2014, 11:44 AM - 1 Like   #4
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Welcome to the forums and congratulations on your new camera kit!

Macro lenses are almost uniformly excellent. It really comes down to usability more than optical quality. The main factors are magnification, working distance, handling, and robustness. If your goal is to photograph insects in the wild, for flying insects you generally want reasonable working distance so you don't scare the critters away before getting your shots. If the insects are small (an inch or less), you also want high magnification (1x or greater). (Note: magnification refers to the size of the image on the camera sensor; your K-50 has a sensor that is about an inch across.) High magnification and longer working distance requires a longer focal length.

Autofocus is not particularly useful for macro work, so consider an older, manual focus, lens -- they are generally cheaper.

Extension tubes are great. But your 18-135 lacks an aperture ring, so you would need A-type tubes, and these are very difficult to find. The other issue with tubes is that the focal range is greatly reduced; to significantly change magnifications you need to change (or remove) tubes. So handling is not as convenient.

I mention robustness because there are many ways to achieve high magnification (tubes being one of them), but they tend to be more fiddly and less robust for field work.

02-21-2014, 11:53 AM - 1 Like   #5
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It seems there is some attraction to "macro lens" that is almost magic. Instead of asking which macro lens a better question would be "how do I shoot "xyz"?" Define what you want to achieve, define what 'macro' means to you. Quite often, maybe most of the time, what you want to achieve is easily done without a macro lens. There are of course things that require a good macro lens, but they are not the only way and sometimes not even the best way to achieve something.

Read the article noted above. Think about what kind of pictures you want to take. Think about the magnification ratio you need: 1:1, 1:2, 1:3, 1:5? Think about the working distance you need (the longer the lens the further you can be from the subject), which changes what subjects you can shoot and how you get light onto them. For example it is difficult to shoot insects at high magnification with a 50mm because you are so close you block out the light. (And scare them off).

I'm not against macro lenses, just don't spend money until you know what you need. I have 35mm, 50mm and 100mm true macro lenses as well as a 200mm lens with extension that serves as a very long macro for me. Each has things they do better than the others. But there is nothing magic about any of them, they are tools that perform a specific function.
02-21-2014, 12:21 PM - 1 Like   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by EdithCosmos Quote
On a side note: Are extension tubes a smart, functional, economical tool to get me started, or a waste of time?
As others say, you need A-type tubes--tubes with electrical contacts that communicate the aperture to the camera--to work with lenses newer than the FA series, unless you want to shoot wide open all the time. Digital lenses don't have aperture rings, so the only way to adjust is via the e-dials on the camera. Pre-DA series (FA,F,A,M,and K) lenses can adjust the aperture the hard way and use stop-down metering in M mode to get the correct exposure.

Such tubes are hard to find and will be significantly more expensive than "plain" tubes.

If you want to do macro photography, I'd look into the legacy lenses. For one, macro shots are invariably best done in manual focus mode anyway, so getting a macro lens that doesn't have AF is not much of a loss. When you look in this direction, you no longer care about A-type tubes and can get some without electrical contacts entirely. It's a good way to get into this sort of thing while saving a boatload of money.

I have an f/4 M-series 50mm macro:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/lensreviews/SMC-Pentax-M-50mm-F4-Macro-Lens.html

It's really quite good and can be obtained relatively inexpensively. Because it's M-series, it works great with extension tubes. f/4 may seem slow, but in macro mode, DoF is soooo small that f/4 is more than enough. Going to 2.8 will reduce your DoF to tiny fractions of inches (think 0.10" or smaller) when you focus closely. A major advantage of this lens is that you can shoot it wide open, so actually, you don't even need to do stop-down metering or worry about much else.

So, I'd say if you want to use tubes--they allow you to increase magnification beyond real life (shoot insects with a 50 while being farther away!) or turn lenses that are not true 1:1 into that--then look into legacy offerings. Otherwise, just stick with what you have.

Last edited by MadMathMind; 02-21-2014 at 12:26 PM.
02-21-2014, 12:37 PM - 1 Like   #7
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Good advice all around, IMHO. What I would emphasize is how extreme 1:1 magnification is. On a 100mm lens, your subject will be about a foot from the focal plane (near the back of the camera), and most of that foot is taken up by your camera and lens! So although I have a Sigma 105mm f2.8 autofocus macro, in all honesty my personal closeup needs would probably be just as well served by an older manual focus 1:2 macro, such as the Pentax M series 100mm f4. Just my perspective, if you just want get your feet wet doing closeup work. Enjoy your new toys!
02-21-2014, 01:59 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by MadMathMind Quote
If you want to do macro photography, I'd look into the legacy lenses. For one, macro shots are invariably best done in manual focus mode anyway, so getting a macro lens that doesn't have AF is not much of a loss. When you look in this direction, you no longer care about A-type tubes and can get some without electrical contacts entirely. It's a good way to get into this sort of thing while saving a boatload of money.
The A-type tubes aren't for the autofocus - at least not for screw drive lenses. The recommendation to get A-type tubes was so that a newer DA style lens, without an aperture ring, could be stopped down.

Even if the lens has an aperture ring, if you have an A-type tube, you can put the lens in A mode and use auto exposure modes. I've got a set of Kenko A-type tubes. They don't support auto-focus, but they do support auto-exposure. At least, that's what I remember. I don't use them since I now have an 100 DFA WR macro lens.

QuoteOriginally posted by MadMathMind Quote
It's really quite good and can be obtained relatively inexpensively. Because it's M-series, it works great with extension tubes. f/4 may seem slow, but in macro mode, DoF is soooo small that f/4 is more than enough. Going to 2.8 will reduce your DoF to tiny fractions of inches (think 0.10" or smaller) when you focus closely. A major advantage of this lens is that you can shoot it wide open, so actually, you don't even need to do stop-down metering or worry about much else.
The advantage of an F 2.8 macro lens is the brighter view you get in the viewfinder. I can attest to that because I went from the M series F4 macro to the DFA F 2.8. It's not a huge difference, but every little bit helps when you're loosing light due to magnification.

But in my case, the lens earns its keep. The M series lens was falling apart and repair would have probably cost 1/2 the price of the brand new lens, so I could justify the upgrade.

---------- Post added 02-21-2014 at 04:06 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by filoxophy Quote
What I would emphasize is how extreme 1:1 magnification is. On a 100mm lens, your subject will be about a foot from the focal plane (near the back of the camera), and most of that foot is taken up by your camera and lens! So although I have a Sigma 105mm f2.8 autofocus macro, in all honesty my personal closeup needs would probably be just as well served by an older manual focus 1:2 macro, such as the Pentax M series 100mm f4.
I'll agree with that. When I was shooting film with the M series 100 F4 macro lens ( 1:2 magnification ), I would very occasionally add the narrowest extension tube to get the desired framing on a small subject. Once I went digital, the crop factor of the sensor made this unnecessary. And even if I needed additional cropping, it's easy to crop the digital image, and probably preferable to adding extension. I eventually
upgraded to the WR that goes 1:1, but I rarely come close to using that level of magnification.

Cheers

02-21-2014, 02:22 PM - 1 Like   #9
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You could stick a Raynox DCR-150 / 250 on the end of that 18-135. For around 50$ it's an inexpensive way to get your feet wet.
02-21-2014, 02:28 PM - 1 Like   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by KSmith Quote
You could stick a Raynox DCR-150 / 250 on the end of that 18-135. For around 50$ it's an inexpensive way to get your feet wet.
See this first: https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/10-pentax-slr-lens-discussion/185747-pent...ml#post1950765
02-21-2014, 02:37 PM - 1 Like   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by arkav Quote
The A-type tubes aren't for the autofocus - at least not for screw drive lenses. The recommendation to get A-type tubes was so that a newer DA style lens, without an aperture ring, could be stopped down.
I think I said that in my first paragraph.


My point was that if you realize that AF is not going to be used in macro mode anyway, you can expand your search for lenses to A-series and before. Then you can get pretty much whatever for tubes, since you'll be using stop-down metering with those lenses.
02-21-2014, 02:40 PM - 1 Like   #12
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The working distance for 50mm macro is a major pain in the ass. The 90mm lens would let you be further away from your target.
02-21-2014, 02:57 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by MadMathMind Quote
I think I said that in my first paragraph.
Sorry, my bad.
02-21-2014, 05:15 PM   #14
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Thanks for the information. Lots to digest

Wow! So much information and it takes me in many directions, which is great and also overwhelming. I do understand that I have to delve into taking more pictures with my new camera, before I will truly understand the intricacies of macro and all that it entails. I can play around with my regular lens and see what it can and can't do. Maybe that will guide me more specifically.

However, I do know what I like when I see other people's work. I really like shooting outdoors in nature. My garden is a favorite place for me, and so many times I have wanted to zoom into and capture the detail of a flower, an insect, or a bird, and did not have a camera, let alone a lens, that would allow me to even come close. Right now, it is a case of knowing more what I want, than how to get it.

Finding a compatible lens - not easy for me. Searching online is confusing! Knowing that I like nature and outdoors and live subjects, I have gleaned from the comments, that I want a longer lens so I can take the shot further away from my subject, as not to scare it away. Also, I have learned that MF is better for macro work. That makes perfect sense, as I want to be in control of where my focus lands and like to be very precise about this. (That is, while taking macro wanna-be shots with a sub par camera! Ha! But, I try, oh I try.)

When my new camera arrives, I will have much to play with in the way of attempting macro shots. and get closer than I ever have. Exciting! But, because I like macro so much, and really want to explore it, I want a lens or device that can guide me to new places. Does that sound naive? Probably.

So, if anyone has a very specific recommendation of what that lens might be, or how to narrow my search down, please let me know. Because I have been searching all day and feel I am going down the rabbit hole of camera lens online retail. Whew! I have to go back and reread some of the comments to make sure I did not miss a lens suggestion.

Also, I think I need to read a book on how to take macro.

So:
Affordable. Dare I say cheap? But good.
Longer lens for not scaring tiny critters away.
Manual Focus. Legacy Lens?
Compatible with k-50

I am going to dive back in now, knowing what I know thanks to your comments and tips, but if anyone wants to throw an example or a link to a lens that might fit my needs, please share.

I appreciate the guidance!

---------- Post added 02-21-14 at 06:18 PM ----------

In other words:

Just tell me what to get!

I wish it were that easy.

---------- Post added 02-21-14 at 06:22 PM ----------

and where to get it.....if only.

---------- Post added 02-21-14 at 06:33 PM ----------

I will look into those lenses boriscleto.
02-21-2014, 06:25 PM   #15
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Reading a book on macro now. Really helpful.

---------- Post added 02-21-14 at 07:56 PM ----------

SMC Pentax-A 50mm F2.8 Macro Reviews - A Prime Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

This lens looks great and I can add tubes to make it longer, correct?
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