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06-05-2014, 08:52 AM   #1
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Newbie trying to decide what portrait lens to add!

Hi! I have had the KX for 3 years which is my first dslr. My dad had the K1000 with a few lens growing up so I have those now (which helped me decide to go with Pentax). I finally started shooting exclusively in manual for over a year now, but feel like I still have so much to learn.

My question is regarding portrait lens. I have done so much reading about portrait lens, but would like some personal input please :-) I sew a lot for my 17 month old daughter and enjoy taking pictures of her outfits. Sometimes I enter contests with pattern designers and I have had pattern designers use my photos as well. A quality lens with sharp clear focus and beautiful bokah is my objective. Currently I'm shooting with my dad's M 50mm 1:2, but I feel like I have trouble getting it in clear focus. Like I said, I'm still new to terminology and perhaps my settings are wrong. I also have my dad's SMC-A Pentax 80-200 and a Sears 135mm 2.8 (which I have not tried for portrait!). From research it looks like the Samyang 85mm 1.8 would be a good lens to purchase. Would this be a better lens than the 135mm lens I have?

06-05-2014, 09:28 AM   #2
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Hey, welcome! Awesome, we love manual lens users here!

The Samyang is definitely a great portrait lens, but from what I read it is not easy to focus at all. The DoF is very shallow, and the DSLR viewfinders cannot really represent it accurately.
A worthwhile investment might be buying a focusing screen, if you use manual focus lenses. Katzeye,, JinFinance. And then there are also many cheapo ones available on ebays (some like them and they often cost under $30). Just read up on more threads about focusing screens. There are many different types (matte, split prism, etc.) with various markings (rule of thirds, AF points, none at all, etc.). If you choose to buy one, be very careful with the installation - if you touch the screen you will leave finger marks and ruin it. And you will need to add shims for it to be properly calibrated. And make sure you don't insert it the wrong way!

The other thing is, you could buy a camera body with a larger viewfinder. If you want to go budget, the K-500 might be a good choice. Or a used K-30. A bigger viewfinder makes focusing easier. But a focus screen would still be very helpful even on those cameras.
The default focus screens are simply made for rather slow lenses with AF. They are meant to give the user a good idea where focus is, but are sometimes not precise and large enough for accurate focusing at very wide apertures. You can see the difference if you look through a K-1000 SLR and a K-x DSLR, with the same lens mounted.
06-05-2014, 11:08 AM   #3
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If you want to stay with Manual Focus the Pentax A or M100/2.8 (non-macro) are wonderful. The M50/2 you have is pretty good, but an A or M 50/1.7 is much better, so it's possible the lens itself (not your focusing ability) is the problem. But as stated above, MF can be difficult anyway. I had to get a focusing screen for my K-x and then took a full 2 hours to get it properly adjusted with the right number of shims (in my case it took the camera's 1 original shim and 1 extra that came with the screen, IIRC - they weren't the same thickness).

For AF the DA 50/1.8 makes a good affordable lens, while the DA*55/1.4 is outstanding, and by some was considered the best 50ish on the market (any brand) until the significantly more expensive Sigma and Zeiss OTUS came out recently.

The DA70/2.4 is a great mid-range choice, and the FA77 is outstanding. Many of these lenses have significantly lower prices if purchased used.

Last edited by DSims; 06-05-2014 at 11:18 AM.
06-05-2014, 11:20 AM   #4
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You didnīt specify a budget but I agree with DSims. For full body of your baby daugher the DA50/1.8. The DA70/2.4 would be even better for sure but if you donīt have a flash Iīd get the DA50/1.8 and use the rest for a Yonguo YN-560III manual flash, RF-603N radio trigger and stand / umbrella (arround U$150 total)*

*In case you are not using flash already! or have good light available outdoors..

06-05-2014, 02:01 PM   #5
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Thank you all! This helps! I think I'm a little intimidated to change out the screen at this point, but I will keep that in mind for sure. I will go check out these lens.

And to answer questions, yes mainly outdoors and full body shots, but sometimes closer for details :-)

---------- Post added 06-05-14 at 04:02 PM ----------

oh and I would say I'm wanting to stay under $300
06-05-2014, 03:15 PM   #6
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There are many lenses you could get that should take great portraits. See if you can figure out what focal length works best first, which will narrow down the choices a lot. It's more complicated because your primary subject is 17 months old, not 17 years old. And maybe you have to imagine what will happen in a few years. The typical range of portrait lenses is 50 to 135mm. Outside this range on either side, faces start to look a little weird, and taking the shots becomes harder. You can find the technical reasons why this is true, or just skip them for now.

When you use the 50mm lens, do you feel like you are the right distance away to frame the shot, including or excluding anything you want in the foreground or background? Distance is also helpful for interacting with your subject, or being discreetly far enough away so you don't change their natural behavior. With an 85mm lens, you will have to be further away, at 135mm further still. Indoors, some rooms aren't big enough for 135mm. You might try using your other lenses just to simulate other focal lengths, such as the 80-200mm zoom. You are just seeing what framing looks like and distance from the subject to get that framing.

Try to estimate how much of the shot you'd want in sharp focus. That probably means your daughter and the whole outfit, but not much more than that - maybe something like one foot. Now you might look at an online depth of field calculator. Plug in your camera and the focal length you're thinking about. Change the distance to where you want to be and aperture (f number) until you see what you'd have to shoot at.

With an idea about focal length, shooting distance, possible apertures and a budget, picking a lens is way easier. It looks to me like you don't need the typical portrait lens that opens to f1.4. If you plug in a 90mm macro lens, you could be at 10 feet, shoot at f9.5 and be able to count stitches on the outfit. At 17 months, wrinkles won't be an issue.
06-05-2014, 05:47 PM   #7
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2 For 1?

Hi chari, welcome to the Forum!
I agree with the advice you're heard so far and will add a vote for the DA50mm f/1.8, it's a dandy modern AF prime, smooth bokeh below f/4.0 and very sharp stopped down. For portraits and candids it renders beautifully, shoot at the wider apertures and you'll be fine.
For 'product' shots, stopping down for detail, resolution and depth of field will be helped greatly by the addition of a small flash and tripod. A used Pentax AF280T will work well enough for this and a tripod allows longer exposures without camera shake. Your sample images will be better and more professional.
A few inexpensive light reflectors and flash modifers from eBay will take both the portrait and sample shots to another level.
The DA50 should do the rest quite well.
p.s. A link for you; Strobist: Lighting 101
Good luck!

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