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06-02-2016, 01:39 AM   #1
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A prime next to my tamron 17-50?

Hi everyone,

This is my first post on this forum, although I've been lurking around for quite some time here. But I can't make up my mind (I googled a lot and more options came up and I'm starting to get more and more confused).

I own the Pentax K5 and the tamron 17-50 lens. For travel I really like this lens, it's versatile, sharp in most circumstances and with the K5 it works quite well in low light. But sometimes I miss that kind of oomph in terms of colour, contrast and sharpness and because of that the allure of a prime is really appealing to me. From a friend a borrowed once the 35mm f 2.4, but besides the plastic building quality (I know that the tamron is plastic as well but it feels more solid), I did not like te focal length. It was not wide enough to include enough scenery or close enough for a portrait.

When I travel I really like to go out to marketplaces and capture the people that sell or wander around these places (people portraits are my favourite!) and my most used focal length is somewhere between 24-32mm on the tamron. Considering this, I thought off course of the pentax fa 31 but, due to it's price, it's for now unfortunately off limits. I was thinking of the old carl zeiss distagon 28mm and change it to the pentax mount. However I'm not sure if the manual focus is that easy that you can use it fast enough on a market and streets. I would love to hear other opinions or other options and is a prime a real addition to the kind of photography I'm doing? (I'd like to think so!)

06-02-2016, 02:18 AM   #2
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id suggest the DA21mm.if the HD version is an issue pricewise, you can find a used smc version
06-02-2016, 02:33 AM - 1 Like   #3
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The 21mm is a fantastic lens if that's what you are after. Another good one to try is the F28. I have had both and both are stellar. The F28 is a no brainer replacement for those who don't want or can't afford the 31mm. I really liked that lens to be honest.

Since I do what I do in terms of travel photography and all that this sort of falls in my realm so I can share a bit of my experiences.

I started out with a cheap zoom which I didn't like... so I got rid of it.... then I bought the same lens you have now and I loved it... then I bought some DA Limited glass and after that my zoom sat on the shelf for about a year before I decided to sell it for a lack of use. Then I bought some FA Limited glass and all the DA stuff was sold. I didn't use a zoom lens at all for a couple of years, then when I was about to embark on an around the world trip I got to thinking about it so on a whim I bought a 16-85mm zoom.

The latter decision was probably the best overall decision I have ever made in terms of photography. Not because the lens is the best thing ever or that it out resolves the 77mm or whatever... but that it made doing some things possible. On my trip I think over 90% of my shots were taken with that zoom lens. It was the WR, it was the IQ (it was still really good), and above all it was the flexibility to move with the flow of things.

Don't get me wrong, I am still a prime lens fanatic but this trip really made me rethink everything. When I go on another trip again I am hoping I can carry a K1 and the 24-70. I think that and that alone would do me just fine although I would probably still pack the 3 amigos since they are light and easy.

So connecting that with your statement above... 'going to marketplaces' is something that falls right into prime time travel photography. It's better to have a good yet imperfect shot than to not have a shot at all.

Don't get trapped into pixel peeping. Worry more about content and other elements of your photography. Basically a prime lens won't turn a bad shot into a good shot. Of course primes have their place, no doubt about it. Now for me personally I am really trying to think all that through.

I have a feeling that if you keep on going you too will evolve and go on a wide range of buying sprees of lenses and whatnot.

As for your shooting, are you shooting in RAW or jpeg? Can you show an example of a 'lack of sharpness'? How do you try to shoot? Are you always trying to shoot at f2.8 or whatever or are you ever stopping down to shoot? Do you use Lightroom or some other processing software?

I ask because sometimes colors do come out muted (for technical reasons other people can explain) but often that is by design. Often the files are saved and meant to be post processed. You can then fine tune colors like mad and do what you do.

Personally I found that I was in between f5.6 and f8 about 90% of the time so don't be shy with the aperture either.

I don't want to try and persuade you not to buy a prime lens but I am saying that you are gonna go down a rabbit hole and pretty soon realize that just one isn't enough. Conversely if you can post up some examples of what you like (and don't like) about your shots then maybe we can help you work on possible techniques with your existing gear.

It's easy to buy, buy, buy... but eventually you will hopefully figure out that content matters more than 'which lens'. Again I encourage you to put up examples of your shots and let us (and the forum in general) critique what you are doing.

By all means buy all the prime lenses you want but know what the trade offs are for your mission at hand.
06-02-2016, 03:01 AM - 1 Like   #4
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Thank you for the extensive post! Very helpful!

Right now I'm not at home so I can't post any examples but I will do so later on today (as Facebook examples won't do them any justice). I think 90% of the time I shoot in Raw and I post process usually in Lightroom and sometimes in normal Photoshop, so popping out the colours (or saturating them) and adjusting contrast is something I usually do afterwards and it does work out great.

Honestly I'm very happy with my lens at the moment and it suits me in most occasions. However, when you read the forums and people make comparisons they say that 28mm on the tamron is no way near comparable with 28mm on a prime in terms of sharpness or the bokeh and it makes you wonder... I know it's the photographer that makes the photograph and the camera + lens is just a tool, but the curiosity remains

06-02-2016, 03:32 AM - 2 Likes   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by VdMeer Quote
Thank you for the extensive post! Very helpful!

Right now I'm not at home so I can't post any examples but I will do so later on today (as Facebook examples won't do them any justice). I think 90% of the time I shoot in Raw and I post process usually in Lightroom and sometimes in normal Photoshop, so popping out the colours (or saturating them) and adjusting contrast is something I usually do afterwards and it does work out great.
While I am far from an expert this is by design as far as I know. So you are not off the beaten path by any means.

QuoteOriginally posted by VdMeer Quote
Honestly I'm very happy with my lens at the moment and it suits me in most occasions. However, when you read the forums and people make comparisons they say that 28mm on the tamron is no way near comparable with 28mm on a prime in terms of sharpness or the bokeh and it makes you wonder... I know it's the photographer that makes the photograph and the camera + lens is just a tool, but the curiosity remains
If you try to keep up with the joneses you will be doing a whole lot of spending. You got money for a 645z and a bunch of lenses? What about a K1 and all that...you really are going down a rabbit hole by listening to all that stuff.

Believe me man, I can tell you 100% honest that I have been exactly where you are at. I don't have all the answers but I do know that more lenses won't make a better photographer. That said unless there is some real reason that you can justify then try to avoid gear rabbit holes... it makes a good hobby but it's expensive.

For example right now I shoot with a K3 and a 16-85mm. On my trip I found the limitations to my gear... which is aperture and ISO. I found the constant shifting aperture kind of annoying but eventually I got used to it. The ISO in extremely low light... not so much. ISO 3200 on a K3 is one thing... but 3200 on a K1 is something different. Again, its very specific and something I ran up against so I am considering an upgrade based on that kind of thing. I missed and messed up several one time only shots because of the combination (and lack thereof) of those two things...

But if you just take internet chatter at its face you will never have enough stuff and you will never be happy.
06-02-2016, 03:49 AM   #6
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I think if you have a specific repeating need for certain FL then its worth buying that but otherwise a nice fast prime will probably sit on the shelf while you go out with your catch all lens. Either that or you change your shooting habits to always use the one prime lens.
06-02-2016, 03:57 AM   #7
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I would suggest a Sigma 30mm, but the new Art version seems to have autofocus issues. Otherwise, the 21 Ltd is a great lens, although it's not a fast one.
06-02-2016, 05:36 AM   #8
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I second the Sigma 30mm. I have one and when I'm out and about with a zoom, the 30 goes along with. It's also a perfect FL for people indoors. If you need corner sharpness, this is a terrible choice, or if you need close focus, also a terrible choice. It's pretty much brilliant otherwise.

Another often-overlooked contender is the Sigma 24mm/1.8. It's huge, but great close-focus, and renders very nicely. Again quite weak in the corners, but that doesn't matter to me. I like the 24mm FOV for cities, and building interiors. It's just a bit short for flattering portraits, but quite fine for people-in-environments kind of shots. A 24mm and a 50 make a nice travelling pair as well.

I have the DA21 Limited as well. It is truly a magical lens. Not very fast, but corner-to-corner sharp when stopped down, and tiny, and so much fun to shoot with.


So here's the most important thing: Buy ANY LENS at all, just get it used here on the forum. Don't put much more thought into it, just pick one and get it. If for some reason you don't like it, sell it again on this forum. It's basically a free rental program.

06-02-2016, 06:42 AM   #9
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I think something nice and wide, like the Samyang 14mm or 15mm Ltd would be a good compliment to the 17-50 you have now. On the long end there's a ton of options; Pentax 55mm 1.4, 70mm, etc etc. Figure out if you want to deal with full-time manual focus or not to help weed out wrong answers.

I bought a DA 35 f2.4 and can relate to not really enjoying that focal length. It's also not that fast, really, making it sort of hard to find a strong purpose for. I shoot live music shows in a small local bar a lot and this lens just isn't as useful as I had hoped. In any case, I like the above suggestions of a 24mm. I've used an old 28mm prime and like that focal length a lot on APS-C. If you like either focal length and can get with manual focusing (I don't really enjoy it much with my K-5II but I keep trying) there's a ton of old glass at both of these focal lengths.
06-02-2016, 06:44 AM - 1 Like   #10
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I have both the FA 31mm f1.8 Ltd and Carl Zeiss distagon 28mm f2, Let me share a few thoughts and idea.

You are 100% correct that a prime lens will complement very nicely your zoom lens, and you obviously know very well what focal length range you want. Well done, that is a very smart way to plan your lens roadmap.

There are many good primes lenses about 24-35mm IMHO. Examples include CZ28mm, CZ35mm, FA31 mm, FA*24mm, DA21mm Ltd, DA35mm f2.8,.... First you may wish to consider if you want AF or MF. Next what type of photography do you want?

Between the FA 31mm f1.8 Ltd and Carl Zeiss (CZ) Distagon 28mm f2, I love both lenses, but the FA31mm gives me better colour and rendering. It would be my first suggestion. The CZ28mm is very sharp but I prefer the colours of the FA31mm (or even CZ35mm f2) The price of 2nd hand FA31mm is not much more than that of for CZ28mm. Worth to consider the FA31mm.

The DA21mm Ltd is an excellent suggestion for a wide AF lens.

Personally I would possibly recommend the FA31mm Ltd, especially if you could get a good quality 2nd hand copy at reasonable price.

I hope that the comment may help.
06-02-2016, 07:33 AM   #11
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Ok, so based on your comment that the 35 isn't long enough for portraits and not wide enough for scenery, a 28, 30 or 31 will honestly not feel that much different. You'll have to get a 21 or 24 for those scenery pictures, and maybe a DA 70 for your portraits. I would start with the 70 since the Tamron is strong in the 24-32mm range you use a lot. If you get the DA 21, give it a chance even if in the beginning it is wider than you usually would pick. Just get a bit closer. If after a while it still feels too wide, then your options are going to be a lot less straight forward - the Sigma 24 1.8 that was mentioned is a very big lens, the Sigma 24mm 2.8 Superwide AF is rare and might not be all that much better than your Tamron zoom, and the FA*24mm f2 is a bit on the expensive side. I've been hoping for a long time that Pentax would release a plastic fantastic 23 or 24mm lens, f/2.4 or f/2.8, to cover this critical focal range that has been always associated with street and event photography, but now with the K-1 out, that's probably never going to happen for their APS-C line. the 35mm FL (or equivalent, which means 23mm on APS-C) really is a sort of goldilocks focal length for scenery and environmental portraits, not too wide, not too narrow, just right...

tl;dr: try the DA 70 and the DA 21 for portraits and scenery.
06-02-2016, 07:52 AM   #12
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There does seem to be a bit of a gap in the Pentax prime lineup. I would love to see a lens somewhere between the 21 and 35 at a better price than the FA 31 Limited. I agree with the DA 21 as a suggestion for your needs, but you might try and find an FA 20-35 f/4, one of my favorite lenses of all time, light weight, compact, excellent image quality. They can be hard to find and sell for a bit of a premium, but worth it. Don't ask me to sell mine.
06-02-2016, 08:14 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by VdMeer Quote
...When I travel I really like to go out to marketplaces and capture the people that sell or wander around these places (people portraits are my favourite!) and my most used focal length is somewhere between 24-32mm on the tamron...
I faced a similar decision: which lens for street photography on my K-5? I prefer a wider angle than 24mm (36mm FF equivalent) to capture street scenes rather than going for single-person portraits. I came very close to buying a DA21 but took a different approach buying a Ricoh GR. The GR gives me a tiny camera with a great user interface for street photography, as well as a compact second body to carry with my K-5.
06-02-2016, 09:29 AM   #14
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I went on a trip to England two years ago and chose to take my Canon S100 and it worked wonderfully. It has an f/2.0 zoom lens with a 24-120 equivalent range, 12mp with a very fast processor. The images came out really well and I did not miss taking an sir at all. It also has GPS function as well so you can link your images with google maps (though that function uses a good deal of battery power and you need to carry a couple of spares). I do love my Pentax K-3, but sometimes you just don't want to carry that much. While not Canon's latest model, it is still quite a nice "pocket" camera and you can get them for under $200. A lot better than a smart phone.
06-02-2016, 01:14 PM   #15
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Whoah! Thanks a lot for all the response. I'll take it all in consideration and I'll have to google some new options. I added some photo's of the tamron and in the first three you can see what I like about this lens the dynamic range and also the sharpness (maybe not from corner to corner, but the white beard hairs in full resolution jump of the screen) (they are edited in lightroom so they are brighter in color).

In the last two (both actual market scenes) you can see some details I don't quite like (I can work around it though). I find that in the first of the last two, the face of the woman is not quite sharp, the focus is off center. Yes there is a lot going on and it's shot at f5, ISO 200 and 1/200s, so maybe it would have been sharper if the aperture was smaller. But this happened a few times during my trip.

In the last one (which is shot at 17mm, as you can see the wide-angle) the flare comes in from the right on the females head in the center is disturbing. I have to say that it was broad daylight and I'm not a 100% positive I had the hood on the lens, but flare something that every now and then comes along with this lens.

Going through my photo's again I realized that actually my focal point is not that fixed as I thought it was (I also reckon that the majority I uploaded here is actually around 42mm..) and also that some very different but decent shots were taken within seconds from each other and that of course you can move yourself with your legs but sometimes it's just a matter of seconds and being able to zoom in or out can be so helpful.

I sometimes get the feeling that a prime can add a certain depth, less flat (I think carl zeiss calls it 3D), but I might romanticize this.

How do prime users do this, do you change really fast? Because pentax primes are quite small of course, or do you stick around with what is on the camera and just make it work?
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