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02-25-2007, 02:42 PM   #1
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Great Pentax Bargains

Hi,

It seems like the expensive limited and star series lenses are constantly being recommended (err… praised, worshiped, etc.) on this forum. While I do believe that these are great chunks of glass - I think that the "modern legend" status they have been developing recently is a bit exaggerated. I have owned a couple of star lenses in the past and at one time owned all 3 of the original limiteds (the only one that I kept was the 31mm) - yes they are great lenses, but IMHO they weren't worlds apart from some of the more common, slower Pentax offerings. I find that so many people today are obsessed with "getting the best" (stars and limiteds) that they overlook some truly great bargain lenses. I'm interested in hearing everybody’s picks for the best bargain lenses currently available for pentax.

One stipulation before we start - only list lenses if you have actually used them and have seen the results - No rehashes of 2nd hand web reviews

Ok......here is my list (in no particular order):

1)Pentax 28/3.5M - This has to be one of the best 28mm lenses that Pentax has ever made. It is small, light, and feels better made than any of the auto focus era limiteds or * lenses (well.....this is true of almost any manual era pentax lens). I debated over giving the honors to the 28/3.5 K version of this lens, but in the end the M takes the day. Sure, the K version is commonly thought to be better (I have both - I haven't really noticed any real world difference in picture quality between the two), but the K is relatively hard to find and goes for 2-3x the cost of the M version - just not worth it IMHO.

2)Pentax 50/1.7M - Awesome picture quality at dirt cheap prices. Probably the best bargain currently found in the Pentax world.

3)Pentax 85/2M - This lens gets a really bad rap, but I think it is just misunderstood. Consider this a special purpose lens - IMHO this is one of the best "portrait" lenses that Pentax has ever put out. Yes it is a bit soft wide open, but the images it produces certainly are not mush - and truthfully this softness is what makes it a great portrait lens (who wants to see every zit or wrinkle on the face of the person you are photographing?). When you move past the fast apertures and arrive at the middle apertures it is just as sharp as any other lens. Picture quality aside, its construction is top notch and it is amazingly small for a short telephoto - easy to put in your pocket if you are traveling with a bare bones kit. The street price for this lens may not be cheap but compared to the other Pentax 85mm lenses floating around it is by FAR the most affordable. This is one of those lenses that I will never get rid of (did I mention that it is a GREAT portrait lens ;-P).

4)Pentax 135/3.5M – Easy to find, cheap, good picture quality, probably the smallest 135mm ever made. Yeah, the 135/2.5K may be a hair sharper (and about 3x the cost), but I would much rather carry the M around than the K tank.

4)Pentax 35-105/3.5 A – One of the best manual focus zooms Pentax ever made (maybe the best). Great picture quality, high quality build, a joy to use. Only downside - Heavy!

5) Pentax SMC 70-210/4-5.6 F – Sure it is ugly (looks like it was designed by RoboCop), the autofocus is slow, and the focusing ring is cheesy, but the IQ is FANTASTIC (and it reportedly contains ED glass).

BTW – I shoot film, so I have no idea how these perform on digital – if they suck let us know (actually that would be a great topic for a thread…..”Great Pentax film lenses that are mediocre on digital”)

02-25-2007, 04:16 PM   #2
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Star lenses are definitely up at the top, but I'd have to second that several MF lenses can almost match their quality.

I've used the A 35-105mm for over a year as my standard lens (I still have it), and on film, it produced some of the sharpest shots I had ever taken. The same would go for the A 70-210 and SMC Takumar 85mm, but I disagree on the M 135mm as I haven't found it to be that great.

And yes, the F 70-210 does have ED elements

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02-25-2007, 06:42 PM   #3
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QuoteQuote:
I have owned a couple of star lenses in the past and at one time owned all 3 of the original limiteds (the only one that I kept was the 31mm) - yes they are great lenses, but IMHO they weren't worlds apart from some of the more common, slower Pentax offerings.
I agree, and that is because almost all Pentax lenses are good lenses. Limiteds and "star" lenses are for various reasons considered to be better than the rest, but not all of the reasons are irrelevant to all photographers.

QuoteQuote:
I'm interested in hearing everybody’s picks for the best bargain lenses currently available for pentax.
OK, here are the lenses I had actually owned or still own (marked with +) and use with *istDS:

M 200/4 - good
M 75-150/4 - good
M 50/1.7 - very good
A 28/2.8 - good (+)
K 135/2.5 - very good, although rare and expensive (+)
A 50/1.4 - very good (+)
DA 50-200/4-5.6 - very good (+)
FA 35/2 AL - excellent, closest to Limiteds but much cheaper (+)

-= IVAN =-
02-25-2007, 06:48 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mo Quote
Star lenses are definitely up at the top, but I'd have to second that several MF lenses can almost match their quality.

I've used the A 35-105mm for over a year as my standard lens (I still have it), and on film, it produced some of the sharpest shots I had ever taken. The same would go for the A 70-210 and SMC Takumar 85mm, but I disagree on the M 135mm as I haven't found it to be that great.

And yes, the F 70-210 does have ED elements
pfft.. oh sure.. where were you when I was debating whether or not to purchase the A 35-105mm

02-25-2007, 07:03 PM   #5
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Haha funny stuff. Artyste, I guess that would have to depend on how much you use your Sigma Zoom. Having a 28-75 and 70-300 is pretty good focal length coverage.
02-26-2007, 10:10 AM   #6
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Glad you like the 135/3.5M, I've got one hopefully winging its way to me from America now!
02-27-2007, 07:40 AM   #7
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Best "Bang for the Buck" lenses I own

Hi DAP, I agree with you that Pentax makes some pretty good "second tier" glass.
I'm just starting my collection but here are three standouts on the basis of a price/performance ratio

DA 18-55 kit lens. Excellent lens for the money. Teensy bit soft wide open, some distortion at the 18mm end, if you pixel peep you can detect slight vignetting at same focal length, (but it doesn't reveal itself in prints) but pretty sharp stopped down throughout its range. Very good "newbie" lens, and it's usually under 100 usd coupled with a camera. I still use it as my "walk around" lens. Best "bang for the buck" lens in my bag.

DA 50-200: Good medium tele. Pretty sharp. Standard fstops. Relatively inexpensive. Best feature, surprisingly small and light. Very good quality for it's cost.

FA 50 1.4. Fast sharp and cheap. Excellent bokeh, probably the most inexpensive new "fast 50" on the market today. It's only problem is that it tends to "stick" on the camera. Once it's on, I don't take it off.

NaCl(those are my pics for a gold star)H2O
03-06-2007, 09:48 AM   #8
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One lens that performed very well on film, and it is very bad on my istD is the A 24mm f/2,8.

As it was razor sharp on Velvia, now it is extremely muddy on digital. The only possible justification I have is that the one I used on film was not the same one I own now. Maybe the first one was a gem, and the current one a lemon... Is there anyone that uses it on digital?

03-06-2007, 10:35 AM   #9
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On the K10 I have recently compared the K35/2 and the FA35/2 regarding sharpness. Absolutely identical, even wide open. You can get the K for half the price of the FA from ebay.

Also very good and recommended:
K 35/3.5
K 28/3.5

I also agree on the M85/2. A much underrated lens.

I have the impression that apparently the K series works especially well with the K10. It's probably the name ...

03-06-2007, 12:39 PM   #10
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Quite honestly, almost all of those M (and K) lenses suffer on digital - because there is no mechanical connection for the aperture, Pentax dSLRs will not meter for you in Av mode! So, while they might be fantastic, they're a bit of a pain to use in digital real life.

My votes for underrated lenses are all in the M42 mount. Pick one, any one.
03-06-2007, 03:09 PM   #11
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A 50mm f1.7A

Super sharp on digital and film.

Also used an M 28mm f2.8. Loved it on film, but not so keen on digital.

100mm f4 M macro is a great bargain. Underexposes a bit on my DS but have to say the results I've got have been lovely. Really nice out of focus areas and a creamy soft look (but still sharp, if you get what I mean).

I do like my one expensive the lens, the 21mm limited, but I wouldn't call it a 'bargain'.
03-06-2007, 10:15 PM   #12
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I think any of the old manual focus 135's are great bargains. I found a Sears 135 f/2.8 for $5 that took nice pictures, and my SMC-A 135 f/2.8 (probably the least favorite 135 out there) has taken some of my best photos. For the equivalent reach and relatively fast aperture, I don't think you can beat them.

I know everyone's probably seen this shot, but I don't think any other lens could have done much better with this subject in available light - taken with the SMC-A 135mm f/2.8 lens.
03-07-2007, 12:11 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by eurostar Quote
One lens that performed very well on film, and it is very bad on my istD is the A 24mm f/2,8.

As it was razor sharp on Velvia, now it is extremely muddy on digital. The only possible justification I have is that the one I used on film was not the same one I own now. Maybe the first one was a gem, and the current one a lemon... Is there anyone that uses it on digital?

Eurostar,

I have the A 24mm and find it to be very sharp on my K100. In fact, it has become my primary indoor lens.
03-07-2007, 01:22 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by eurostar Quote
One lens that performed very well on film, and it is very bad on my istD is the A 24mm f/2,8.

As it was razor sharp on Velvia, now it is extremely muddy on digital. The only possible justification I have is that the one I used on film was not the same one I own now. Maybe the first one was a gem, and the current one a lemon... Is there anyone that uses it on digital?
I used my A24/2.8 extensively in Italy. It was pretty darn sharp, even surprising me at f/2.8.

I can post some crops if you're interested.
01-19-2008, 02:16 AM   #15
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Well I was not very happy with 24 2.8's performance on mY ist DS and given the sale price 200$, I sold it on the bay. ANd never regret it. I think it is hard to focus a 24 mm on the digital bodies. And I was not happy with the FOV. It becomes almost like a normal lens (36mm) but actually is and acts like a wide angle with the distortions and all.
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