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05-29-2015, 10:40 AM   #1
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Retry a zoom lens?

Before I owned the kit lens for Pentax 18 to 55 I think? I didn't 'really' like it so I sold it...Then I bought a Tamron 17-50 which to me was an excellent lens for the money. Then I made the 'mistake' of buying some Limited glass. My Tamron collected dust for months so I figured it would be better served in a good home where someone would use it.

The only DA/FA Limited left that I am just itching to get is the 77mm. For some reason I never was really attracted to the 35mm macro, but I have a 31mm so we're all good

I shoot almost exclusively prime lenses with the exception of my Tamron 70-200 which I have toyed with the idea of selling but now I am using it a lot more than before. I am glad I didn't sell it now, especially since I got the K3.

Of course I am asking about 'which lens' in a short to mid zoom range, but I am also asking for a 'philosophy of use' for a lens like that (a short zoom). I am trying to decide if I want to give a short zoom another shot or not.

True I could take just one prime lens out at a time and have a jolly old time but I also find myself swapping lenses.

I understand there are some minor trade offs (perceived less sharpness when compared to say a 31mm) but if you were going to sell me on a short to medium zoom tell me when/where/how and why you would chose such a lens when you have a quiver full of limited glass in your bag?

The only real benefit that I can think of is the ease of framing in dynamic situations.

Normally one reason I like primes is because they do come across as a lot more sharp and have a lot more aperture options but also because my style in ways mimics one of my friend's... way back in the day he left the US with his camera and went on an around the world trip....he was gone for quite a while...but as he told it he took just over 36 frames the whole time... and out of those 36 frames (a single roll of film) 2 or 3 of them wound up being published in major magazines. (I guess it goes beyond me having to say that the guy is just good--it makes me kind of sick ).

Of course I am not there yet, but the places I find myself around here there is very little 'exciting' things to shoot and when I go to an event or something (like the Renaissance Festival) people are going all directions so being quick on the draw is kind of a virtue (not that it can't be done with prime lenses)

But considering all the other factors that go into a 'stellar' shot, subject matter, lighting, composition, etc etc sell me on this idea rolling around in my head to try a zoom again...

In my mind a good shot with all the factors checked off--subject matter, light, composition, etc--done with just about any lens will be better than one with the 'best' lens where those things are not in order...

05-29-2015, 10:52 AM   #2
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If primes get you close but not perfect, and cropping isn't an evil practice I'd just crop the prime images. I'm in mid-purge to clean up duplicates in my set though, so I am definitely biased! I'm hoping to go DA14/15, 20-40 Limited and 50-135, with 55-300 for the occasional animal/bird sighting. I'd still have manual primes at 24/50/135 for days when that feels right.

Maybe the 20-40 would meet your needs too? Very 'primal' and decently fast but allows some range adjustments.
05-29-2015, 11:08 AM   #3
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Maybe a 24-70/2.8, or 28-75/2.8 (Tamron).
I just got myself a 35-70, and although not very fast (and not very wide) it's very sharp and already the one that comes out of the bag first (ok, my other lens is a 70-210), but still...
05-29-2015, 11:11 AM   #4
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You might want to check out the Sigma 18-35 f/1.8. I used it to do a photoshoot with someone the other day and when she saw the originals she said she saw more detail that she sees in the mirror. It picked up everything. I'll post some examples:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/y0b0zk42l4b4c8b/Livia12.jpg?dl=0

https://www.dropbox.com/s/s86tshfwx927dvj/Livia16.jpg?dl=0

And this one that I did some masking to smooth things a little:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/z6ej9pqamh0tr0p/Livia18.jpg?dl=0

05-29-2015, 11:15 AM   #5
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I mainly shoot with primes as well, but recently picked up a 50-135 zoom. It's actually persuaded me that there are some good zooms out there, and it's been on my camera more often than I would have imagined. It gets close to the performance of the 77, but has the flexibility or being able to capture at 50 or 135. The images I get with the 77 are better, but it's just the flexibility factor that's nice (at the expense of being huge in comparison!)

The only other zoom I own is the 12-24, which isnt bad, but I always seem to reach for the da15 or da21. The only thing it has going for it is that it does 12mm (not strictly true, it is a good lens, and if I didn't own the wide limiters, I'd probably use it more than I do)

If a DA 20-40 was in front of me, with a discount, I might consider buying it. The WR, relatively small size, and decent image quality being the main draws.

However, since you like primes, and don't have the 77, I'd say that a zoom is the wrong choice. With the 31 and 77 in your bag, you'll banish these pesky notions of zooms into somewhen next year (when they'd have been overtaken by thoughts of full frame)


I'd consider getting a 20-40
05-29-2015, 12:50 PM   #6
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A weather-sealed zoom is good to have. I've got the 18-135 and the 55-300. I use zoom lenses more often than primes (because most of what I shoot are animals in dynamic situations), but in addition to that situation, I use my WR zooms when I wouldn't want to expose my more expensive primes to the elements.

Aside from the Pentax 18-135 and 55-300 WRs, I quite like my Sigma 17-70 in dynamic indoor settings, especially because of its quasi-macro capabilities. When I photograph in an animal shelter, I can get very close and in low light to get some interesting results.
05-29-2015, 12:53 PM - 1 Like   #7
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Zooms are, IMO, all about convenience. They are the minivan/Chinese buffet/Leatherman of the lens world.
Like a minivan, Chinese buffet or Leatherman, a zoom will allow you to sample a wide range of options, (in
this case, focal length), all in one package. There are even zooms of appreciable build and optical quality,
though they all carry serious drawbacks, (notably, size and speed). A fully loaded Chrysler Town & Country
is comfy, can carry a lot and has pretty good acceleration, but in the end it will never excel in any way like
a little roadster or a luxury sedan or even a cargo van. It's an all-arounder that is good at a lot of things but
will never be tops at any one task.

QuoteOriginally posted by alamo5000 Quote
But considering all the other factors that go into a 'stellar' shot, subject matter, lighting, composition, etc etc sell me on this idea rolling around in my head to try a zoom again...

In my mind a good shot with all the factors checked off--subject matter, light, composition, etc--done with just about any lens will be better than one with the 'best' lens where those things are not in order...
Yep. Even the FA31 will produce drab shots if you don't pay attention to the fundamentals of photography.
A zoom won't increase or decrease your grasp of the fundamentals. It's up to you to decide whether convenience,
(multiple focal lengths on the fly), is more important than performance, (size, speed, optical quality).

My guess is that you already know all that. You admit to already owning most all the FA/DA Limiteds. Dare
I say LBA is kicking in and that's why the zooms are becoming of interest? My vote, too, goes for the FA77.
Much more fun than a minivan.
05-29-2015, 02:59 PM - 1 Like   #8
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I had similar thoughts a while back ... zooms v having to change lenses with primes v quality v weight/size. For me the break through, at least in the sense of peace of mind, was to go for two bodies at light primes. Rarely have to change lenses in field. Quality is there. Have a backup camera. Weight very similar to large zoom. And now with offers on k3s looking good, what better time ?

FBA for me alleviated by this solution as I find I understand the primes so much better, than the zoom I have, and I don't have to fret about having to change lenses on walkabout or in foul weather. So more contented with my kit ... for now ...

I'm very glad I found this solution - much more relaxing set up for me ...

05-29-2015, 03:39 PM - 1 Like   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by robthebloke Quote
The only other zoom I own is the 12-24, which isnt bad, but I always seem to reach for the da15 or da21. The only thing it has going for it is that it does 12mm (not strictly true, it is a good lens, and if I didn't own the wide limiters, I'd probably use it more than I do)
I went with the DA 12-24 because for me the versatility of a zoom is particularly valuable at the wide end. The DA 15 is light and compact, but when you are up against a tall tree in a dense forest, or standing on a stone in a river, zooming with your feet isn't really practical!
05-30-2015, 06:39 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by jimr-pdx Quote
If primes get you close but not perfect, and cropping isn't an evil practice I'd just crop the prime images.
I have zero aversion to cropping but for me I try to get the image 'right' from the start. I know it sounds kind of hokey but that at least is my goal.

As I slowly learn photography I walk around looking for things that would make for great shots... I don't know how to explain it all. When I try to take pictures (at least in a perfect scenario) I want to capture something unique. Sometimes that subject is unique all on it's own but in other cases what makes the image unique is the setting where it's taken.

For example I have a friend who lives in Africa. If I take a shot of him it's just another picture of a white guy that could have been taken anywhere. But if I take his photo of him standing on the dirt street of an African village it's something totally different. In both scenarios he's the subject but in the latter it's something else entirely.

In some cases if I am hanging out in some place for a while I can envision what I want, wait for the light, and bam. Got it. In other cases that action just happens too fast. If I am walking around with a 70mm on my camera and it could be something as simple as a vendor walks by on the streets of Bogota, then bam, I just missed it.

QuoteOriginally posted by VoiceOfReason Quote
You might want to check out the Sigma 18-35 f/1.8.
So far as far as I am concerned this is the most interesting lens. Is the aperture a constant f1.8? Not that I always shoot wide open but I don't like lenses that change stuff for you. Truth be told I would be just fine with a constant f2.8.

As far as the focal length is concerned I know for sure I want to start with something that can go wide. 17mm ish or so...I don't really shoot that super wide all that much and although I want the 77mm the lenses on the ends of the spectrum are my least used lenses. I can't remember the last time I pulled out the 70mm...if I am going long I just use the 70-200.

But thinking outside the box most of my shots are done with just a few lenses. If I super glued a 31mm to one body and super glued a 43mm to another I could get 75% of my shots. BUUUUTTTTT....the big BUT... is that is me around here where I am now. I am planning in the next few months to go 'off road' so to speak and travel around more and do the adventure man thing.

On one hand I do dream of taking the perfect impromptu snap shot while walking down the streets of Zanzibar but in reality just random shots are not what I am about. The keeper rate of random street shots is about 2% if you ask me. I would much rather err on the side of having at least a semi planned idea of what I want to shoot. It's like walking up to a golf ball as my buddy Sean put it... 'you have to know what you want to do before you do it'...

I would rather get a stellar pre planned or semi pre planned shot than a random walk about shot but that said sometimes on those walk about shots you have just a few seconds to catch something awesome.

I don't know but here is kind of how I approach things now if/when I go somewhere (please note that I am still learning)... I scout out an area...I look for something--a scene---anything that could be cool or a nice backdrop...I try to make note of the sun, where its, how the shadows are cast etc etc. Then I try to envision in my head when and how that scene will play out in an image. Sometimes I take shots that look like random shots just to see how they would look on a screen. It's all part of scouting. Then I can go back to that spot 2-3 or more times right when I think the light would be good hoping for something to be going on, or if I could I would bring something or someone to 'be going on' in the shot. It might take 2 or 3 days or more to get a really good shot.

That is how I would describe my 'dream scenario' for shooting photos. I might have to talk to that vendor and ask them if I can take their photo... fine. So be it. This is all assuming cooperative subjects.

That said in my mind I keep on wondering if shooting with a zoom... any kind of zoom (lets say a 17-50 or the 18-35 mentioned above)...if I could produce the results I like or want. I don't know. I keep on having this debate. Lets say for example I catch a ride on a motorcycle to a small African village.... and all the kids are out playing stickball or something... if I don't want to disrupt them and catch what they are doing I am going to need a zoom of some sort. That said 95% of the time my 'off the cuff' shots never turn out. Yeah, it would be great for a scrap book or a travel log, but if I am trying to steer more into the artistic side of things....I really could do that with either or.

Like I said earlier... a shot that has all the right stuff in it could be a stellar shot regardless if it does or does not have pixel peeping sharpness to it. That said I think good zooms are still good.

Maybe I am just over thinking this whole thing.
05-30-2015, 07:39 PM - 1 Like   #11
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I can take just as bad of a photo with a prime than I can with a zoom. Any good photographer can take great images with zooms, they just have to work harder at it. But there are a lot of really bad zooms out there. And a lot of not so great photos are taken with zooms because they are being used in situations where speed and convenience are what the photographer wants. I know I seldom use a tripod with a zoom, compared to primes. I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you get a zoom, a really good zoom and take photos with the same care as you are taking with a prime, you should get good results.
05-30-2015, 08:02 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by ramseybuckeye Quote
I can take just as bad of a photo with a prime than I can with a zoom. Any good photographer can take great images with zooms, they just have to work harder at it. But there are a lot of really bad zooms out there. And a lot of not so great photos are taken with zooms because they are being used in situations where speed and convenience are what the photographer wants. I know I seldom use a tripod with a zoom, compared to primes. I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you get a zoom, a really good zoom and take photos with the same care as you are taking with a prime, you should get good results.
I guess my comment/question isn't really about whether I can or can't get results. It's more like thinking about situational things.

For example if I am walking around the streets with a 70mm lens hanging on the camera and then a scene unfolds in front of me that would be perfect for a 35mm lens...I just missed the shot. So for all the benefits of a prime, that would be one strike.

I am just contemplating if it would be worth it for me to try a zoom again. I don't doubt for a minute that I could get good shots from it... it's just to me that most of the time hastily shot pictures rarely turn out how I would have liked. I haven't had much luck with it at all.

I am not sure if it's worth it to get a lens in hopes of having a split second reaction to a scene when what I really am after is trying to create an artistic result.
05-31-2015, 08:52 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by alamo5000 Quote
I have zero aversion to cropping but for me I try to get the image 'right' from the start. I know it sounds kind of hokey but that at least is my goal.

As I slowly learn photography I walk around looking for things that would make for great shots... I don't know how to explain it all. When I try to take pictures (at least in a perfect scenario) I want to capture something unique. Sometimes that subject is unique all on it's own but in other cases what makes the image unique is the setting where it's taken.

For example I have a friend who lives in Africa. If I take a shot of him it's just another picture of a white guy that could have been taken anywhere. But if I take his photo of him standing on the dirt street of an African village it's something totally different. In both scenarios he's the subject but in the latter it's something else entirely.

In some cases if I am hanging out in some place for a while I can envision what I want, wait for the light, and bam. Got it. In other cases that action just happens too fast. If I am walking around with a 70mm on my camera and it could be something as simple as a vendor walks by on the streets of Bogota, then bam, I just missed it.



So far as far as I am concerned this is the most interesting lens. Is the aperture a constant f1.8? Not that I always shoot wide open but I don't like lenses that change stuff for you. Truth be told I would be just fine with a constant f2.8.

As far as the focal length is concerned I know for sure I want to start with something that can go wide. 17mm ish or so...I don't really shoot that super wide all that much and although I want the 77mm the lenses on the ends of the spectrum are my least used lenses. I can't remember the last time I pulled out the 70mm...if I am going long I just use the 70-200.

But thinking outside the box most of my shots are done with just a few lenses. If I super glued a 31mm to one body and super glued a 43mm to another I could get 75% of my shots. BUUUUTTTTT....the big BUT... is that is me around here where I am now. I am planning in the next few months to go 'off road' so to speak and travel around more and do the adventure man thing.

On one hand I do dream of taking the perfect impromptu snap shot while walking down the streets of Zanzibar but in reality just random shots are not what I am about. The keeper rate of random street shots is about 2% if you ask me. I would much rather err on the side of having at least a semi planned idea of what I want to shoot. It's like walking up to a golf ball as my buddy Sean put it... 'you have to know what you want to do before you do it'...

I would rather get a stellar pre planned or semi pre planned shot than a random walk about shot but that said sometimes on those walk about shots you have just a few seconds to catch something awesome.

I don't know but here is kind of how I approach things now if/when I go somewhere (please note that I am still learning)... I scout out an area...I look for something--a scene---anything that could be cool or a nice backdrop...I try to make note of the sun, where its, how the shadows are cast etc etc. Then I try to envision in my head when and how that scene will play out in an image. Sometimes I take shots that look like random shots just to see how they would look on a screen. It's all part of scouting. Then I can go back to that spot 2-3 or more times right when I think the light would be good hoping for something to be going on, or if I could I would bring something or someone to 'be going on' in the shot. It might take 2 or 3 days or more to get a really good shot.

That is how I would describe my 'dream scenario' for shooting photos. I might have to talk to that vendor and ask them if I can take their photo... fine. So be it. This is all assuming cooperative subjects.

That said in my mind I keep on wondering if shooting with a zoom... any kind of zoom (lets say a 17-50 or the 18-35 mentioned above)...if I could produce the results I like or want. I don't know. I keep on having this debate. Lets say for example I catch a ride on a motorcycle to a small African village.... and all the kids are out playing stickball or something... if I don't want to disrupt them and catch what they are doing I am going to need a zoom of some sort. That said 95% of the time my 'off the cuff' shots never turn out. Yeah, it would be great for a scrap book or a travel log, but if I am trying to steer more into the artistic side of things....I really could do that with either or.

Like I said earlier... a shot that has all the right stuff in it could be a stellar shot regardless if it does or does not have pixel peeping sharpness to it. That said I think good zooms are still good.

Maybe I am just over thinking this whole thing.
It is a constant 1.8 and I've found it to be good. However, if you are wanting something a little wider and longer and are fine with f/2.8 then check the price watch section. They have the 16-50 for 399.
06-01-2015, 12:29 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by alamo5000 Quote
I guess my comment/question isn't really about whether I can or can't get results. It's more like thinking about situational things.

For example if I am walking around the streets with a 70mm lens hanging on the camera and then a scene unfolds in front of me that would be perfect for a 35mm lens...I just missed the shot. So for all the benefits of a prime, that would be one strike.

I am just contemplating if it would be worth it for me to try a zoom again. I don't doubt for a minute that I could get good shots from it... it's just to me that most of the time hastily shot pictures rarely turn out how I would have liked. I haven't had much luck with it at all.

I am not sure if it's worth it to get a lens in hopes of having a split second reaction to a scene when what I really am after is trying to create an artistic result.
The thing is an infinite number of awesome things appear all the time. For most your are not even there. if you go to a place where you want to take something and can't anticipate and can't move fast enough, a zoom is going to save the day. But this also mean you will not choose the perspective compression/distorsion or the angle of view to the scene. This is the good compromize for many events.

As for zoom, high quality zooms are very limited in focal range. This 18-35 for framing can be replaced 99% of the time by the DA21 or the 50-135 by the FA77 you get almost the same possibility. True the 18-35 can be cropped to 50mm with high quality or the 50-135 to 200mm with high quality, very true. But the DA21 can already be cropped to 30-40mm and FA77 to 100-135mm. The difference is finally not so huge.

What would give you the most of zoom flexibility would be a zoom with a wide range like the 16-85.. or 18-135. There no way you can crop a DA15 to have good enough 85mm framing because it leave you less than 1MP worth of picture. Then we are not in the same league for apperture/size/quality as would be the prime. No way the DA16-85 approach the FA77 or DA35 macro.
06-01-2015, 05:32 AM   #15
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I would agree your statement about the wide(r) angles, but it's not so linear in regards to the longer focal lengths; as you surely know, compression comes in play, and with it a more controlled/thinner DOF...
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