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05-20-2015, 04:21 PM   #1
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Lens advice: First FA or DA Limited or ?

So I decided to buy my first Limited lens or something comparable. Have done tons of research, reading, and viewing sample pics on PF. Turns out though it's harder than I thought to choose one. Of course they are all great lenses in that company. But I'm looking for opinions and thoughts so I don't make the wrong decision for my situation wasting time and money to finally get to the right one. Some info and parameters:

What I have:
I'm shooting on a K-50 and own these lenses: DA 18-135 and DA L 35 f/2.4 are the ones I use regularly. I also own but only occasionally use a DA 18-55 and a few other random cheap finds consisting of old cheap zooms and common manual primes not worth naming.

My situation:
Family person with kids so AF and fast is vital. Travel only occasionally, don't need it to be lightest/smallest but it's welcomed. WR is not necessary. My pictures mainly consist of family and trying to get in creative shots of the places we go to or activities we do. Also document family events and gatherings. I'd like to shoot more portrait type shots. Mainly I'd like to overall just give the pictures more character OOC with nicer bokeh. I want to have something special that's worth owning for a long time and take with me as I improve my skill and gear.

What I'm looking for:
Due to my budget, I can't buy more than one at this time or in the near future so I will want it to fill as many roles as it can. Nothing can do everything so here are my priorities:
1) Family pictures, static and active (No sports yet. Just out and about doing normal things or family events.)
2 ) Portraits, at least half-body if not tighter
3 ) Street scenes or general environment
4 ) Landscapes

My budget:
$700-$900. Honestly though, less is better. Not opposed to pre-owned.

My own thoughts:
Perhaps if I share my thought process, I can be informed if I am off-base or be lead to the right direction. My initial thought is to get an FA 77. Iíve seen it do a spectacular job at a few things but portraits of course is where it shines. A bit concerned though at itís limitations with FOV for indoors and tight spaces. I donít think Iíd like my most expensive lens to sit in the bag unused most of the time. Or am I underestimating itís versatility? I then thought something more inherently versatile but didnít want to fall into jack of all, master of none. I also thought maybe two less expensive used lenses instead of one lens using the whole budget. But I didnít want to compromise and always wonder what it would be like to have gone the other way.

Sorry for the long read. And thanks in advance!

05-20-2015, 04:30 PM - 1 Like   #2
Des
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We've been around this loop a few times.

Your list under "What I'm looking for" would lead to four different lenses. You really need to settle on an approximate preferred focal length first. (Try setting the 18-135 to a particular length and use it only at that length for a day.) Otherwise you will get bombarded with arguments for each of the FA Limiteds, plus the DA 40, FA 50 1.4, DA 70, DA*55, other primes, and probably some zooms as well (eg 16-85, 20-40, 50-135).

If your real priority is portraits, surely DA*55 or FA 77 is the place to start. Both are superb. I doubt anyone regrets either. https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/10-pentax-slr-lens-discussion/287142-advi...portraits.html

Last edited by Des; 05-20-2015 at 08:59 PM.
05-20-2015, 04:41 PM   #3
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My FA 43 1.9 does all of the tasks you list. So does my FA 31, with a bonus of wider FOV for landscapes and street scenes. The FA 77 excels at portraits of course but can do nicely as a landscape lens. Interior shots with 77 are tough to find a place to stand, and the FA31 is clearly the best indoor lens. If I had to choose just one, it would be the FA31. But I am exceedingly happy that I don't have to make that choice! You clearly need all three!
05-20-2015, 04:44 PM   #4
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You will not regret any of the DA or FA limiteds. Or the DFA 100 macro. Or any of the DA* lenses. You need to decide what focal length you are looking for.

And if you can only get one lens I seriously question going with a prime. I know this site is prime oriented and if you don't carry 20 prime lenses around you are not a real Pentaxian BUT zooms have their place. You should seriously consider either the DA 16-85 or the DA 20-40 Limited as more flexible alternatives to a single prime. The DA*50-135 is about as good and flexible as it gets for portraits. And the DA*60-250 is currently my most used lens for everything, including studio product shots.

05-20-2015, 04:56 PM   #5
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Yes the FA77 is something magical, and to be fair to it, it's far more versatile that you might imagine (I find that it's a great landscape lens). It is however a bit annoying indoors for anything other than headshots. It will get plenty of use, and your 35mm covers your needs when you want/need to go a bit wider, but if you need to go wider than 35, the 21 is a great choice (and usually a little cheaper second hand than the 15).

The DA70 will get you 97% of the way towards an FA77, but for half the price on the used market. With the money you'd save, you'd be able to pick up a 21 as well.

Personally I'd go with the 21+70 option initially, and maybe replace the 70 with the 77 at a later date. The 21/35/70 set would be formidable.

There will be others who will suggest the DA15, and I'm half inclined to recommend it over the 21. If however photos of kids are involved, the DA21 can switch between landscape/street/portrait roles on a dime. The da15, that's a bit more of a one trick pony, so I think the DA21 might be a better choice in your case.

Everyone else will recommend the 15/31/77 combo (I would too!). However, when finances are tight, the 21/35/70 makes more sense to me than 35/77 (even though I love the 77).

---------- Post added 05-21-15 at 01:04 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by jatrax Quote
The DA*50-135 is about as good and flexible as it gets for portraits. And the DA*60-250 is currently my most used lens for everything, including studio product shots.
The only problems with the 50-135 are:
* It's big. If you're carrying all the usual kid stuff as well as your camera kit, you'll appreciate the size of a prime.
* it doesn't focus that close. Sitting next to your kid with the DA21 will yield some great snapshots. With the 50-135 you'll always need, to take a few steps away before you can get focus.
* young children are intimidated by the 50-135 pointing at them.

It's a great lens, but not great for kids I find.
05-20-2015, 05:22 PM - 1 Like   #6
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I also think the DA70 is ideal. I have the FA77 and really like it, but it has two weaknesses: AF speed and purple fringing at maximum aperture. The former might be a problem for you with your kids. In fact it focuses more decisively in live view in my opinion. The latter somewhat cancels out the benefit of the wider maximum aperture, but is only really a problem in high contrast scenes.

I sometimes think I made the wrong decision. The FA77 is lovely, but it is by far my most expensive lens and not one that I use that often. It's going to take me longer to get my money's worth from it. The DA70 seems to give you most of the performance, including nice bokeh, in a cheaper package.
05-20-2015, 05:25 PM   #7
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This will quickly turn into yet another discussion about ALL the Limiteds. The real question is what focal length do you want? All the Limiteds are excellent lenses. I can make arguments for each one. Hence I own each one

But if you had to pick one area to start with.. and want something small and nimble yet good... that meets your requirements... the DA 40mm Limited would do the trick.

Not meaning to say anything about the OP but these kind of 'what lens should I get' thread should be a lot more pointed. "What focal length is best?" is a more accurate question.

You will be hard pressed to find anyone who be bashing any of the limited lenses.

---------- Post added 05-20-15 at 07:40 PM ----------

Piggy backing on my previous comment I think the forum should get members to do portrait shots with various focal lengths of lenses... same scenario, same scene, just set up to do it how you do it with different focal lengths. Then make that a sticky because we get so many people asking what equates to that.

Being able to see what and how each lens is used in a side by side comparison will answer so many questions.
05-20-2015, 05:51 PM   #8
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I am partial to the FA series because being full frame lenses I can use them with my film bodies. All of the FA Limiteds are wickedly sharp and do a wonderful job rendering colors and contrast. You really can't go wrong by picking any of the three but you mentioned the 77. The 77 will require you to have more working space around yourself than the 31 - so keep that mind if you want to shoot in tight spaces. I don't think you will find yourself unable to "take the shot" but you may change on the fly what you want to do. The full torso shot may suddenly work better as a head shot. We do that all the time as photographers without thinking about it.

For a bit more versatility you may want to consider the 43. It's a tough lens to master because it is temperamental when it comes to harsh light and out of focus areas. Once you figure it out then you will never want to remove the lens from the body! It works great as portrait lens on APS. The 43 is also the most affordable of the Holy Trinity. FF lenses may start carrying a premium soon with the upcoming release of the FF body. Shop used when you can and it could save you significant money.

Unfortunately, I don't have any experience with the DA Limited or the DA * series. Many people rave about the DA * 55. Maybe that is another lens to consider?

05-20-2015, 05:55 PM   #9
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Zerv,

Thank you for describing your situation so clearly. You obviously put a lot of thought into it.

I know you are asking about the next lens you should get. However, the two main lenses you have are quite good. The 18-135 performs well at most apertures in the 20-60mm range, and okay out to 135mm if stopped down (I have one). You're probably aware of the strengths and weaknesses of that lens. Your 35mm provides excellent value for its cost. Although neither delivers a wide aperture, the 35/2.4 is fairly wide. The 18-135 is an excellent general-purpose lens for outdoors (and indoors in some environments).

Have you thought about adding a good flash to your kit? I had a similar set-up several years ago, and decided to invest in a flash rather than buying a new lens at the time. I can't count how many times I've used the flash indoors at family gatherings, parties, etc. It really improves my indoor shots.

I appreciate that this suggestion might be outside the scope of what you're considering.

- Craig
05-20-2015, 05:59 PM   #10
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You've got a nice lens in the normal range, Zerv - treat yourself to the DA70 or FA77 for portraits and detail shots. :-)
05-20-2015, 06:23 PM   #11
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I would really like to recommend the DA 35 macro Limited but I see you have the DA 35 F2.4 so I cannot see reason for you to get another 35 mm or 40 mm. My recommendation for you would be the DA 21 & 70 mm Limiteds. If budget is tight, you can find used copies in excellent to like new condition. That is how I got mine and my DA 21 Limited, bought in LN- condition from KEH is indistinguishable from a brand new lens. My reason for these recommending two are: Optical quality, build quality, fast autofocus and exceptional compact size. Be aware with the Limiteds, get one and you cannot stop there, you will eventually want all of them. They are addictive.
05-20-2015, 08:31 PM   #12
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+1 for the FA77mm.

The focal length will add nicely to your lens lineup. In addition, with kids, you will love the FA77mm for portraiture.

The DA70mm is not bad (quite the contrary), but the FA77mm is truly outstanding. While it might be will help. out of your budget as new, there are plenty of good quality 2nd hand FA77mm within your price range.

Hope that the comment will help.
05-20-2015, 08:41 PM   #13
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No love for the Pentax 20-40? It is within your budget range

-It is has round aperture blades for nice bokeh
-Ideal as a one lens, (covers 21mm 35mm and 40mm limiteds) no need to get them all!
-WR
-Nice build
-Fast AF via DC motor
-Covers your shooting purpose
*after getting this lens you can sell your existing lenses to fund either a DA 15 or 50/70/77 if you want to go wider or more tele in the future

Last edited by wed7; 05-20-2015 at 08:46 PM.
05-20-2015, 08:46 PM   #14
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Not likely one prime lens is going to accomplish all 4 of your priorities. The Fa 77 has been mentioned repeatedly. It would be great for tighter portraits, and you could make it work for family shots by backing off a bit (if outdoors), but its use indoors is limited by tight quarters and necessity for higher shutter speeds in low light (leading to lower quality, higher ISO images). It's great as a landscape lens, but more for landscape details; this may be acceptable depending on your style of shooting, but most people who shoot landscapes probably prefer something wider. The Fa77 in my mind, would also be generally too long for your 3rd priority "street scenes and general environment". It's an awesome lens that produces wonderful images, but I find myself using it far less than my Fa 31, Fa 43 (when I had one) and even my Zeiss 50, because those focal lengths are all more versatile for everyday shooting (and they provide comparable IQ to the 77).

If I had your budget and your priorities, I'd do the following:

1) sell your Da 35/2.4 and increase your budget a bit with the proceeds
2) Buy a used Fa 31, can probably get a good one for $700 or so if you watch the Marketplace closely and aren't in a huge hurry, based on recent offerings. This lens would come the closest to any single prime of accomplishing all your listed goals.
3) Use the remainder of your budget to get a less expensive, longer prime. My choice would be the F 50/1.7 (phenomenal lens that is hard to match in terms of price-to-performance, can probably find for $125-150 used), but I'm sure folks could make arguments for others. If you wanted something longer, perhaps one of the manual 85's (M 85/2 or Samyang 85/1.4).

Happy hunting,
Brandon
05-20-2015, 09:08 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by alamo5000 Quote
Piggy backing on my previous comment I think the forum should get members to do portrait shots with various focal lengths of lenses... same scenario, same scene, just set up to do it how you do it with different focal lengths. Then make that a sticky because we get so many people asking what equates to that. Being able to see what and how each lens is used in a side by side comparison will answer so many questions.
Not exactly this, but some interesting examples of different focal lengths for portraiture here: https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/10-pentax-slr-lens-discussion/285016-pent...portraits.html

---------- Post added 05-21-15 at 02:09 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by JPT Quote
I sometimes think I made the wrong decision. The FA77 is lovely, but it is by far my most expensive lens and not one that I use that often. It's going to take me longer to get my money's worth from it. The DA70 seems to give you most of the performance, including nice bokeh, in a cheaper package.
That's easily fixed! Would be plenty of takers for the 77. (Maybe even more when the FF camera comes out.)
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