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03-26-2014, 01:57 PM - 1 Like   #1
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Monthly Contest Winner Lenses

Of course I know what wins a contest is not the lens, but the photographer... but a lens can prove to be the right tool at the right time.

So, I thought I'd look into the winners and runners-up of the Monthly Contest threads, to see what lenses the winners were using... expecting a full lineup of Limited lenses, or at least prime lenses. I had to start at 2011 because before that, a lot of pictures were either missing or didn't have any information.

So here's what I found... the lenses with the most Monthly Contest wins are actually zooms. Two standouts:

1. DA 18-55 - Surprise! The best lens is the lens that's on your camera when you need it. 6 wins, 3 runner-up spots.

2. DA 55-300 - 4 wins and 1 runner-up

3. DA*300 - 3 wins, 1 runner-up

4. DA*50-135 - 2 wins, 2 runner-ups

5. (tied) DA 16-45 and Sigma 105f2.8 - 2 wins, 1 runner-up

7. DA 15 - 2 wins.

8. Sigma 10-20 - 1 win, 4 runner-ups.

Then after that, a bunch of lenses with one win and the odd runner-up spot: DA 18-250, DA 12-24, Sigma 170-500, A50f2.0, FA*645 300f4, M135f3.5, Tammy 10-24, DA35f2.8, DA50-200, Pentacon50f1.8, FA24-90, DA*16-50, DFA100f2.8, FA43, DA*55, Tammy17-50, Orestor135f2.8.

I've been known to bash the 18-55 in the past, but now I'm sure it's me who needs improvement, not the lens

The point of the thread is: LBA doesn't necessarily improve anyone's protography! Just use what you have, take lots of pictures, stop looking for the "perfect lens", just look for the perfect picture

03-26-2014, 02:07 PM   #2
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I'm not surprised. There are so many applications for the 18-55, that it seems to just fit the bill for those opportunities of awesome photography. Much the same for the other 'kit' lens, the DA 55-300 - that one has quality that surpasses any other consumer telephoto lens I know.
03-26-2014, 08:59 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by ChristianRock Quote
I've been known to bash the 18-55 in the past, but now I'm sure it's me who needs improvement, not the lens
I am as guilty as many in wanting the best available, just for the sheer pleasure of having it. However, I am earthbound enough to know that my photos will not be limited by the 18-55. Only when specialist type photos are required, is a like lens required. I am skeptical of anyone who claims to be able to pick out various lenses by the pictures they take in normal circumstances. It would take a pretty awful lens to ruin a dramatic picture of it's drama.
03-27-2014, 12:25 AM   #4
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I sold my kit lens, now I only have one lens on the list, the M135/3.5.
I'm doomed!

Seb

03-27-2014, 09:10 AM   #5
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For certain types of images, it may not matter much whether it is shot with DA 18-55 or a better lens. An image may be so unique or special that the loss of quality with the lesser lens becomes largely insignificant. However, for other types of images, shooting with something better than the 18-55 provides that crucial X factor that can separate the "nice" image from the "wow" image. I've won two of the monthly contests and been a runner-up in a third. That wouldn't have happened if I were still shooting with the DA 18-55. I'm just not a good enough photographer to get anything better than "nice" out of that particular optic.
03-27-2014, 10:58 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by bassek Quote
I sold my kit lens, now I only have one lens on the list, the M135/3.5.
I'm doomed!

Seb
Buy an A50 f2 quickly

But like I said, photographers take great pictures, not lenses. I just created this thread because I'm surprised at the fact that the "Pentax is for primes" mantra isn't really being reflected in the monthly contests. Zooms seem far more useful, at least in the sample data I looked into...

So the two conclusions:

1. Zooms aren't bad... don't feel bad if you like one!
2. The lenses you already have are very likely good enough for your needs!

QuoteOriginally posted by northcoastgreg Quote
For certain types of images, it may not matter much whether it is shot with DA 18-55 or a better lens. An image may be so unique or special that the loss of quality with the lesser lens becomes largely insignificant. However, for other types of images, shooting with something better than the 18-55 provides that crucial X factor that can separate the "nice" image from the "wow" image. I've won two of the monthly contests and been a runner-up in a third. That wouldn't have happened if I were still shooting with the DA 18-55. I'm just not a good enough photographer to get anything better than "nice" out of that particular optic.
Oh stop - I'd trade half my equipment for a little bit of your ability I think what you do is a bit more specialized than what most of us do, so you do need specialized lenses. For nature and landscape, you do need that DA15 and 12-24 Especially the DA15 - what it can do well, I don't think there's any lens that can get anywhere close to the result.
And you've made that 24-90 look great as well. I bet that particular picture would have looked great with any of your zoom lenses, perhaps even with the 18-55!
03-27-2014, 12:18 PM   #7
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I would agree that most photography doesn't need anywhere near the full capability of the lens, that is the basic premise of a kit lens. The fact that kit lenses have gotten really good due to improved computer design and manufacturing processes means the kit lens will last a lot longer for a person before they outgrow it than they used to.
Zooms have also improved in quality and affordable speed to the point that a prime is rarely if ever needed for that slight edge in quality and speed. Something like the DA15 is handy mostly because it is optimized for that very wide rectilinear angle of view wheras most zooms that wide tend to develop more edge quality issues and distortion on their widest end. Its not such a problem on zooms in the middle latitudes of focal length or extremely short focal range zooms though.
I don't know about the earlier versions quality wise, but the current 18-55WR still has a place in my lens kit. The cheap WR is a critical feature for me in keeping it though.

That said I still don't like going out with anything other than a fixed aperture parfocal zoom. My recently acquired FA 28-70 F4 has become my new favorite lens and it cost almost nothing (the rare Pentax hood I found was 1/3 the price of the lens).
I didn't notice how annoying it was to have to adjust focus every time I changed the zoom on a varifocal lens like the kit lens, until I switched to this FA lens and didn't have to. It also has a more useable wide end quality wise than the kit lens in my opinion. I don't mind the extra size or cost of a fixed aperture zoom either since the fastest speed on a variable aperture is usually only for the widest end (18-20mm or so on the kit lens) and losing a stop on the long end is not fun. I like to set my aperture and not have to worry that it will get automatically meddled with even in M mode as I recompose with the zoom.

As far as the list as a whole goes, I think you often see more basic lenses on it because I have found newer yet skilled photographers with starter kit to still be in the creative and highly driven early point of photography more than many of the rest of us who are buying fancy kit to try and fix a problem behind the camera. They also seem to enter the contests more because of that. I will admit to having become depressingly lazy and uncreative with the poor weather and boring surroundings where I currently live but I am working on it.
03-28-2014, 07:10 AM   #8
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The DA 18-55 always continues to surprise me. It's easy to get into the mindset that you "need" better glass to get good photos. You don't. The most important thing is learning what a lens does well and how to use it effectively. That means learning a little about exposure, aperture, and how the lens you are using behaves at different settings. A good photo is always about composition first. A really well composed photo is going to look good regardless of the lens or camera used as long as it doesn't have some bad user error.

You "need" different lenses to get certain shots and effects and obviously, the kit lens or the cheaper zooms sometimes won't do what you want. But a lot of the time they will. For those who have some focal length redundancy in their lens bag, try comparing some shots with the kit lens and other lenses in your collection at a slightly stopped down aperture like f/6.3 or f/8. You might have to look at the EXIF to tell the difference.

It's also amusing to look at the reputation of past kit lenses. The DA 16-45 is highly regarded today as is the film era F 35-70 Macro.

03-28-2014, 08:36 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by ChristianRock Quote
Buy an A50 f2 quickly
If you can find one cheaply.

I'm well on my way, since I have the 18-55, 55-300, M 135/3.5, and the A 50 f2.
Would have to dig around for the A 50 though.
The only thing I'm lacking is talent.
03-28-2014, 08:50 AM   #10
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I see A 50 f2s on Ebay for 30 bucks or less, all the time...

Maybe you're thinking about the A 50 f/1.2?
03-28-2014, 08:58 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by ChristianRock Quote
I see A 50 f2s on Ebay for 30 bucks or less, all the time...

Maybe you're thinking about the A 50 f/1.2?


Sorry, I was just kidding since there is a glut of them.

I have the A 50/1.7 too, love it!
03-28-2014, 09:45 AM   #12
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Lenses That Are Winners?

Hello ChristianRock,
Interesting list, thanks for doing the research. But, I'm not sure you're drawing the same conclusion from the data as I would.
What it tells me is that zooms get used much more than primes and more people have inexpensive zooms on their camera than $1,000 primes, at any given time.
Not much of a mandate to choose inexpensive zooms, is it?
Five out of the first 8 winners (six @ nine, counting the tie) are zooms. Zooms are much more versatile and flexible for different situations and get used more. I'll bet most of the users here have (or, had) the kit zoom at one point. How many have a 300mm prime? Or a 20mm prime? How often do they use it?
While it's certainly true that the best lens is the one you have, it's also equally true that better glass (if used properly) yields better-quality images. If zooms get used more, they win more. Simple as that.
If a thousand people are running around with the DA 18-55mm and ten are using a fifty f/1.4, guess which lens is more likely to win? Plus, let's say you've got the kit zoom on, and a great photo scene unfolds. You view it with the zoom, find the framing works best at 28mm, take the shot(s). Even if you had a better-quality 28mm prime with you, once you framed the scene at 28mm (with the zoom), would you stop, change lenses and risk missing the shot? Of course not. Take the zoom shot and submit it. Primes won't even be entered, or certainly not as often.
The standard kit, like it or not, is a short zoom and a long zoom, plus maybe a fast fifty for low light. Those (many) users enter a lot and win often. Deservedly so, they made the most of their available gear and the opportunity.
Weirdos like me that run around with a bag of primes and no zooms? Not so much. There's fewer of us, even here (Pentax Land) where cool, Legacy primes, manual-focus or just plain old, prime lenses rule. Whether anyone agrees that primes might yield a tiny boost in I.Q. per shot doesn't matter. Their numbers are so much smaller, of total submissions.
That's an alternate take on your numbers, jmo,
Ron
03-28-2014, 09:55 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by robtcorl Quote
Sorry, I was just kidding since there is a glut of them.

I have the A 50/1.7 too, love it!
I've got the M 50 1.7 and I used to have the A 50 1.7. Can't go wrong with either!
03-28-2014, 10:37 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by ChristianRock Quote
And you've made that 24-90 look great as well. I bet that particular picture would have looked great with any of your zoom lenses, perhaps even with the 18-55!
The 24-90 is, optically speaking, a pretty good lens, particularly for landscape use. It's probably the best variable aperture FF zoom that Pentax has ever made, and the best non-star, non-limited standard zoom (although the DA 17-70 may be as good, if not better). It features the same ghostless coatings as are used in the FA limiteds and the FA* 200 macro, and shares some of the same color rendering DNA as those legendary primes.

There are two issues with DA 18-55 in comparison with better glass: lack of microcontrast and poor light transmission of the blue portion of the color spectrum (as discovered via the lenstip review). I actually have a lot of expeience shooting with both versions of the DA 18-55. At a certain point, I just got tired of fighting against the limitations of those kit lenses: the lack of snap in the images (due to mediocre microcontrast) and the poor rendering of blues and greens. I found trying to remedy these defects in post to be extremely an frustrating and ultimately fruitless endeavor.
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