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05-12-2016, 12:47 PM   #1
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upgrades from a legendary 55mm f2

i've had a 55mm f2 (from the K1000) for quite some time now, and it's been my total go-to for portraits. it's a little bit knackered, and a little bit bashed up, and to be honest, not nearly sharp or nice enough to use, and i'd like something a little better.

my budget is 100, tops. i'm a student, shooting on a second-hand k10.

obviously this limits me to the various iterations of the 1.7, or the DA 1.8, within that range of focal length. no doubt there are tons of copies from other brands, but unless one is consistently seen as decent, they're almost always a gamble.

so if anyone's got any recommendations, owning or having owned these lenses, i want to hear them. cheaper the better.

no, the 77mm limited is not an option, nor is the 43.

cheers

05-12-2016, 12:51 PM   #2
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It's hard to go wrong with the DA 50mm in my opinion!

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05-12-2016, 01:08 PM   #3
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With AF in mind, I'd agree with Adam - the DA50 f/1.8 is pretty hard to beat at current prices.

If you're happy with manual focus, I'd also suggest looking at the A50 f/1.7 *if* you can find a good one for considerably less than the DA50 (I picked mine up for a lot less). The focusing ring is very smooth (at least, it is on my copy), and if you prefer to manual focus it's a more enjoyable experience than with the DA50 It doesn't feel quite as nicely made as the M50 f/1.7, but the auto-aperture capability makes it the better buy, IMHO.

Last edited by BigMackCam; 05-12-2016 at 01:14 PM.
05-12-2016, 01:14 PM   #4
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For that price you could get a SMC M 50 1.4 if manual is your thing, probably for approx 50. Otherwise the SMC DA 50 1.8 for not much more and all the advantages of autofocus.

05-12-2016, 01:19 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by discoinfiltrator Quote
my budget is 100, tops. i'm a student, shooting on a second-hand k10.
QuoteOriginally posted by discoinfiltrator Quote
no, the 77mm limited is not an option, nor is the 43.
That's too bad. That really limits you to DA 50mm f1.8 (if you want a new lens). Or Pentax A 50mm f1.4 - it gives you a little automation but no AF. Great overall IQ and character.

Or DA 35mm f2.4 if you want a slightly wider lens, to cover more focal lengths. There is also the DA 40mm XS, which is sometimes a little rare, but still fairly affordable. Not super fast, but very small, full automation, and it has Limited style colours and contrasts, and Tessar style bokeh.
You have other options, like Helios 44-2 (or 44K, or one of the other versions), Horus Bennu 50mm f1.7, Zenitar K2 50mm f2..

In your situation, I think I would go with DA 35mm to cover more angles or DA 50mm if you really enjoy how 55mm looks on your camera and you want a similar FoV. Maybe A 50mm f1.7 if you can find a good deal, or a Soviet lens like Helios if you want something really different (but not necessarily higher image quality, at least wide open. Soviet lenses have big variation, so you can get lucky and get a stunning copy, or an okay copy, or a really bad one; good idea to buy from a reputable dealer)

If you want to go cheapest possible option, get Helios 44 and Flektogon 35mm. You can get both of those for around 100 pounds total and you get an interesting kit - artistic wide open, sharp once stopped down. And nice character to both lenses. Question is just how much better this will be from your current 55mm. If you want high quality wide open, then go with Pentax A 50mm

Good luck

Last edited by Na Horuk; 05-12-2016 at 01:27 PM.
05-12-2016, 01:27 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Na Horuk Quote
You have other options, like Helios 44-2 (or 44K, or one of the other versions), Horus Bennu 50mm f1.7, Zenitar K2 50mm f2.
Actually, those are good ideas. I have the Helios 44M and it's a lovely lens... as you say, not necessarily *better* in terms of technical IQ, but lots of character. I do find the lower contrast typical of Soviet lenses of the era, but that can either be dealt with easily in post-processing or used as part of the creative "look".

The Horus Bennu isn't a bad call either... I have a Chinon 50mm f/1.7 (I think) which produces lovely images and is probably the same lens. I find it a little harder to achieve critical focus than I do with my A50 f/1.7 and M50 f/1.7, for some reason, but the IQ is great... Now, that Chinon lens was cheap! Mine is like new and I think I picked it up for 15 or so here in the UK.
05-12-2016, 02:59 PM   #7
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I've picked up the following for $100 (CAN) or less

m44 - so you'll need an adapter
Helios 44 and 44/2 - the 44 is continuous aperture which can be fun to play with.
SMC 50/1.4 (wonderful lens)
SMC 55/2 - very cheap lens if you look carefully.

K mount
F50/1.7 - very lucky purchase, usually a bit more expensive and you may as well get the DA 50 new
A50/2.0 - another cheap one and easy to find. Not as good as the faster 50s, but useful when you stop down, and one I may use for macro work with A type extension tubes
F35-70 - not what you are looking for but a lens that punches above its price point.

Feel free to ask about any of them if you have specific questions.

A couple of years ago you could pick up some of these for $20-40. Locally they are a bit pricier but some like the Helios are plentiful in Europe.
05-12-2016, 04:31 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote
or used as part of the creative "look"
thing is; i won't be getting rid of the 55mm, and there's some fantastic soft, dreamy photos that can come out of it. it's got a really nicely controlled flare, and i'll be keeping it for when i need something like that. but for me the sharpness, and the colour just isn't quite there.

QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote
If you're happy with manual focus, I'd also suggest looking at the A50 f/1.7 *if* you can find a good one for considerably less
30! prefer manual focus to auto tbh - learnt on film cameras and auto is just loud, unless you spend a lot of cash. seems like it's coming down to the smc 1.4 or the A50 1.7 so:

QuoteOriginally posted by MSL Quote
SMC 50/1.4 (wonderful lens)
why this over the A 50/1.7?

cheers for your help, everyone

05-12-2016, 04:43 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by discoinfiltrator Quote
thing is; i won't be getting rid of the 55mm, and there's some fantastic soft, dreamy photos that can come out of it. it's got a really nicely controlled flare, and i'll be keeping it for when i need something like that. but for me the sharpness, and the colour just isn't quite there.

30! prefer manual focus to auto tbh - learnt on film cameras and auto is just loud, unless you spend a lot of cash. seems like it's coming down to the smc 1.4 or the A50 1.7 so:
Right, well you've found a very-well-priced A50 f/1.7 at 30. I paid almost the same (I'm in the UK too and paid just a *tiny* bit less, but I was really lucky). I can't speak for the benefits of the f/1.4 over the f/1.7 other than the obvious gain in shallow depth-of-field and possibly the aperture at which the maximum sharpness is reached, but we're not talking a *huge* difference here. You'll pay quite a bit more for the f/1.4, for sure. Personally, the A50 f/1.7 is plenty fast enough for me, very usable wide open and really excellent when stopped down just a little. At that price, I'd be jumping on it (assuming it's in good condition), whatever the other options might offer. Given your preference for manual focus, you'll love it

EDIT: I have the A50 f/2 also... you can pick these up *very* cheaply when they appear, but I do think the f/1.7 is the better buy and, as you've seen, it can be well within your budget and leave you money to spare

Last edited by BigMackCam; 05-12-2016 at 04:48 PM.
05-12-2016, 04:43 PM   #10
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I have M 50mm f1.7, but wish i had the A version. A version might have slightly newer coatings, but that's not a big deal, as all Pentax 50mm lenses are pretty great in terms of optics (and there are some lineages, like the f1.4 lineage and the f1.7 lineage, which go all the way to modern offerings). Its the other features that are important.
A series is when auto-aperture was introduced, and it allows the camera, even modern DSLRs, to control the aperture. This means you get full Av, P and other modes; instead of just M and wide open Av. To me, this is quite a big step, as it can speed up photography quite a bit. The main reason to go for A instead of M is that A often doesn't cost much more, but it has A mode, and it is slightly less old (keep in mind, these lenses are 30, almost 40 years old).
The f1.4 lenses are slightly softer than the f1.7 until f2.4 or so, but by f3 there is practically no difference in sharpness. And f1.4 vs. 1.7 can be noticeable in some situations. So if you want wide open, big bokeh, low light, then go with f1.4. If you want sharpness and a little lower price, go with f1.7. It really comes down to what is available in your local market. If you shoot these lenses at f5.6 or f8, they will be damn sharp. This is what I read from various reviews and experienced myself (I have a couple 50mm lenses, but only the M 50mm is from Pentax)

Also, think about buying some lens hoods. A lens hood can really help these older lenses, especially if you get a lens hood that is tight enough for APSC (can be tighter hood than for FF film). It might even help that 55mm that you have. A good lens hood can help with contrast, colours, and (obviously) flare. You can find really cheap hoods online, even with free shipping from China, if you don't mind waiting a month or two for it to arrive. If you are into old glass, hoods are the most simple accessory that can make a big difference. Especially with digital sensors.
Also, don't use UV filters on digital cameras. Just FYI lol, we're trying to squeeze the most out of these old gems

Last edited by Na Horuk; 05-12-2016 at 04:52 PM.
05-12-2016, 04:51 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Na Horuk Quote
Also, think about buying some lens hoods. A lens hood can really help these older lenses, especially if you get a lens hood that is tight enough for APSC (can be tighter hood than for FF film).
I couldn't agree more. A cheap lens hood (I have a nice screw-in metal one for my 50mm lenses - I think it cost less than 5 on eBay) is a really worthwhile investment. Depending on the lighting situation, it can make a big difference regarding flare and increasing subsequent contrast.

Last edited by BigMackCam; 05-12-2016 at 05:14 PM.
05-12-2016, 05:04 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote
At that price, I'd be jumping on it (assuming it's in good condition), whatever the other options might offer. Given your preference for manual focus, you'll love it
cheers for the advice!

QuoteOriginally posted by Na Horuk Quote
This means you get full Av, P and other modes; instead of just M and wide open Av
yeah, but... M for the win. i hold a serious distrust for my K10 to get the contrast and exposure i want on anything other than M. I've tried, i spent a whole day in P, but it just annoyed me. after a while, minor adjustments become second nature, and it means you often can pause to compose a shot. ironically enough, the only A lens i own (apart from the kit 18-55) is an M42 on my spotmatic. only then is A sensible.

QuoteOriginally posted by Na Horuk Quote
Also, don't use UV filters on digital cameras. Just FYI lol, we're trying to squeeze the most out of these old gems
umm, thought this went without saying...? you've gotta shoot them like it's 1979...

i'll have a think about the lens hoods, never really bothered before, thought they looked a bit too try-hard but if there's contrast to be gained then definitely. looks like the 1.7 is the way to go, once again cheers. back to studying for exams for now!
05-12-2016, 05:20 PM   #13
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There is a K50/1.4 for sale on Pentax user for 70, you missed out on an A50/1.4 for 89. An F50/1.4 is up for 159. Thing is, the 55 is in my opinion a better portrait lens than any of the 50's, you might be better off hunting down a less battered K55/1.8. A lens hood is a must on the 55's and 50's to boost contrast. Maybe less so with a DA version but definitely the FA's and older benefit.
05-18-2016, 02:19 PM   #14
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quick update - damn! this thing is sharp!

ended up with a mint M 50/1.7, costing just under 30. hitting the green button hard but slowly getting used to eyeballing it...

love the small size of it, K10 plus grip is pretty hefty so a smaller and lighter lens is helpful. cheers everyone
05-18-2016, 02:29 PM   #15
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Congrats I have two copies of the M50 1.7... they are *great* lenses, no doubt about that. So long as you're happy with the stop-down metering, you can't beat 'em for the price
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