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03-06-2007, 03:34 PM   #1
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Prime Macro Options and Opinions in the 70-105mm focal length range

I posted a similar thread over on DPReview, but figured some better discussion might happen over here

I put together a short list (which you can feel free to add to!) of Prime Macro lenses in the 70 (was 90 - tkx Leo) to 105mm range, and their specs. Surprisingly to me, the Pentax lens seems to be the least expensive of the bunch! ($80cad less than the Sigma 100mm, which is $20 less than the Tamron 90mm)

Since the focal length of these is so close, as are the min focus distance specs AND the max aperture, I'm wondering aloud what would make me choose one of these over the others?? Obviously some will have better image quality of others, but these all seem to have higher quality optical elements.

So... Thoughts and opinions??

SIGMA 70MM F2.8 EX DG MACRO PENTAX ($699.99 @ Henry's)
# Focal Length: 70mm
# Minimum Aperture: F22
# Lens Construction: 10 Elements in 9 Groups
# Number of Diaphragm Blades: 9
# Minimum Focusing Distance: 25.7cm/10.1 in.
# Maximum Magnification 1:1
# Filter Size (diameter): 62mm
# Diameter: 3in (76mm)
# Length: 3.76in (95mm)
# Weight 525g (18.5 oz)

TAMRON 90MM F2.8 DI PENTAX MACRO ($649.99 @ Henry's)
# Focal Length: 90mm
# Minimum Aperture: F32
# Lens Construction: 10 Elements in 9 Groups
# Number of Diaphragm Blades: 9
# Minimum Focusing Distance: 11.4in (29.0cm)
# Maximum Magnification: 1:1
# Filter Size (diameter): 55mm
# Diameter: 2.8in
# Length: 3.8in
# Weight: 405g
# Accessory: Lens hood, Case

PENTAX D FA 100MM F2.8 MACRO W/CS ($549.99 @ Henry's)
# Focal Length: 100mm
# Minimum Aperture: F32
# Lens Construction: 9 Elements in 8 Groups
# Number of Diaphragm Blades: 8
# Minimum Focusing Distance: 11.93in (30.3cm)
# Working Distance - 5.12in (0.130m)
# Maximum Magnification: 1:1
# Filter Size (diameter): 49mm
# Maximum Diameter: 2.7in (67.5mm)
# Maximum Length: 3.2in (80.5mm)
# Weight (w/o Hood): 12.2 oz. (345g)
# Accessory: Hood - PH-RBC 49mm (included)

SIGMA 105MM F2.8 EX DG PENTAX MACRO 58MM ($629.99 @ Henry's)
# Focal Length: 105mm
# Minimum Aperture: F32
# Lens Construction: 11 Elements in 10 Groups
# Number of Diaphragm Blades: 8
# Minimum Focusing Distance: 12.2in (31.2cm)
# Maximum Magnification: 1:1
# Filter Size (diameter): 58mm
# Diameter: 2.9in (74mm)
# Length: 3.7in (95mm)
# Weight: 450g (15.8 oz.)
# Focusing System: Floating Internal Focusing

03-06-2007, 04:46 PM   #2
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I haven't used any of the third-party lenses, but I can highly recommend the Pentax FA 100mm. Although it's a bit bigger than the D-FA, it features a focus limiter which is very nice for all AF macro shots.

Adam
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03-06-2007, 05:31 PM   #3
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If you dont mind using K mount for macros, try and find a kiron 105mm f2.8, it can be had for about $150-$200. Excellent Lens.
03-06-2007, 05:31 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mo Quote
I haven't used any of the third-party lenses, but I can highly recommend the Pentax FA 100mm. Although it's a bit bigger than the D-FA, it features a focus limiter which is very nice for all AF macro shots.
Adam, what is a focus limiter?

Jer

03-06-2007, 05:55 PM   #5
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The FA 100mm must be a somewhat rare lens... doesn't appear to be in production anymore (Pentax Canada site) and only one hit off of eekBay .ca and it's in Germany.

Found a single "F 100mm" on eekbay US... probably similar.

Why does Rare so often mean "great" on old Pentax primes?
03-06-2007, 06:34 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Sailor Quote
Adam, what is a focus limiter?

Jer
A focus limiter is a switch on the lens that limits the focusing range to a small sector instead of letting the lens focus all the way from minumum to infinity. This is especially useful for marcos since it effectivaly increases AF speed and accuracy.

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03-06-2007, 06:52 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mo Quote
A focus limiter is a switch on the lens that limits the focusing range to a small sector instead of letting the lens focus all the way from minumum to infinity. This is especially useful for marcos since it effectivaly increases AF speed and accuracy.
IMHO, autofocus is of little use with macro lenses. In macro, you first set the focus according to the size of your subject and the desired magnification, then you move the camera until the subject is in focus. Therefore, any cheap manual focus macro lens would do the job. I have the old 4/100mm SMC Macro Takumar, which is a very good 5 glass lens of Heliar formula.

Cheers,

Abbazz
03-06-2007, 06:52 PM   #8
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yu don't need AF for macros. in fact it's a PITA. set the lens to the mag you want and lean in and out to attain focus. there are many older macro lenses that are as good as the modern ones for a fraction of the cost. i use a vivitar 105mmf2.5 made by kiron that cost me 140usd delivered. i'll put it up in IQ to any modern lens.. oh, the older macros have gone up in price since the k100 came out as has all older pentax lenses have.

03-06-2007, 06:53 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by roy Quote
yu don't need AF for macros. in fact it's a PITA. set the lens to the mag you want and lean in and out to attain focus. there are many older macro lenses that are as good as the modern ones for a fraction of the cost. i use a vivitar 105mmf2.5 made by kiron that cost me 140usd delivered. i'll put it up in IQ to any modern lens.. oh, the older macros have gone up in price since the k100 came out as has all older pentax lenses have.
Sorry Roy,

It seems that we posted similar messages at the same time...

Cheers,

Abbazz
03-06-2007, 07:02 PM   #10
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sorry Abbazz
the same info from 2 may be a positive thing.
03-06-2007, 07:21 PM   #11
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Ignoring the MF vrs AF camps (and I don't mind MF... 4 of my 6 lenses are MF )

In my case I would likely use a Macro in the defined range as an all-rounder, replacing my SMC 135/3.5 MF for portraits as well, and AF would be useful here.

So, thoughts on optical quality diffs of the current crop of Macro Primes?
03-06-2007, 07:40 PM   #12
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If you want a like new Tamron 90 DI macro then PM me ;-) I just don't use macro like much anymore, habits have changed I guess, and would prefer to use the money elsewhere...

As for my review of it... The colour and general rendition is fantastic, I have compared it to James (roentarre's) DFA100 and I think he will agree that esp 2.8-4 the Tamron is definately sharper than the Pentax (though physically a bit bigger too)...

The only real fault with it which I have seen on multiple samples I have tried is the focus hunts/gives-up from time to time at infiniti. Normally you can just release the shutter and half press again and it is OK, but I am not sure why it hunts with the K100d/k10d as it doesn't at all on the DS which I still have.. I tried another two samples at stores and they all did the same thing.. But for macro it maks no difference as you are obviously no where near infiniti..

Ohh and I had the Sigma 105mm for a while too.. the Tamron is better..
03-06-2007, 09:31 PM   #13
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All manufacturers' 1:1 macro lenses are generally high quality. In the end, it will probably boil down to your personal taste in rendering characteristics, price and availability.

I own the Tamron SP90 (non DI version) and it's a great lens. I got it because it was the cheapest. I'm pretty sure I would be happy with any of the other 1:1 macros in the 100mm range.

Without getting into a discussion about whether to get a manual focus version and just limiting myself to the options you laid out... if I were in your shoes I would get the Pentax DFA100. It's the cheapest, small, has a great reputation, and the Quick Shift Focus feature is really really handy for macro or slight focusing adjustments.

Why is the Pentax the cheapest? A Pentax sales rep told me last year that Pentax Canada dropped their prices on some lenses, including the FA Limited and DFA macros, in response to the fact that too many people were importing them from the U.S. They brought the prices down to about what the cost in Canadian dollar equivalent would be after rebate.

Order from Chez Henry's before March 31 and shipping is free.

Oh, and if you are interested in the FA100/2.8 macro, Henry's has a couple of demos for $900. I wouldn't get it because it's quite big (and pricey) compared to the DFA100, but at least you can add it to your list of options...

My opinion. Worth 2 cents.
03-06-2007, 09:57 PM   #14
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There's an FA 100/2.8 at the Outlet Store for $700 or $800 I don't quite remember. Its been a while since I was there. Damn that thing is like a mortar round. Smooth gunmetal body. Weighs like a brick.

If money was not factor, I'd choose that D-FA 100/2.8 on your list of considerations. Its pentax so you can go wrong with lens communication issues. Its light, comes with a hood. Its 49mm filter and still f2.8. You know light transmissions top notch.
03-06-2007, 10:49 PM   #15
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Ebay has been selling Fa 100mm macro for about 300 Us dollars or so ... Definitely not more than D FA version

Sigma 70 mm macro has been sworn to be the sharpest lens sigma ever produed better than 105 or even 150 macro. However, the examples I had seen did not convince me so far - mainly the the problem with low contrast or wash out colour of the subjects ... Just google them to see samples

Tamron 90mm macro has been the no 1 macro for some time with a good pricing.

D FA 100mm macro is compact and handy to use. I love the bokeh rendering personally but it is not something I like to use all the time for macro (I prefer 200mm macro

The macro reviews posted on line or in magazines are just not that reliable as these macros are approximately of the same high quality standards. I think pentax lenses do have that rich contrast to the bokeh comparing to the rest ...
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