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01-02-2009, 06:23 PM   #1
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Zoom versus Prime

Logic, and (alot of posters) tell us that primes are better than zooms. I am curious as to how big of an impact this has on forum members. Since I have started my hobby and started building a knowledge base (thanks fellow posters) I have really started focusing (pun intended) my energies into using my manual focus lenses. It was a no brainer for me when you compare prices, however as the prices on the old lenses creep up and my photography grows I don't know where to go next. I am amazed at the quality of the images produced but it takes more time to get the shot and I sometimes have metering issues. I only have the 3 lenses listed below and rarely use the 16-45 anymore as I LOVE my 50. I guess the question is what is the next step for me. I want to invest is some glass that will always be useful to me as my experience grows. I'm really just a little overwhelmed.

My take is I need a wider lens than the 50, a longer lens than the 135, and something in between. Should I buy separate pieces of glass, or is there a zoom that tackles this range and maintains the IQ of the Manuals?

Sorry one more, has anyone shooting the M42 mount lenses noticed any problems not associated with the K mount manuals?

.....I know, I'm rolling my eyes at myself after this post....

01-02-2009, 07:20 PM   #2
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I don't think there is one zoom that will tackle wider than 50 and longer than 100 with the IQ of primes, but I shoot with a mixture of zooms and primes. I would say that one of my favorite "walk around" lenses is a zoom, the Tamron 28-75 F2.8 which is almost as good at any focal point in it's range as any of my primes. I say "almost as good" because I like the bokeh and character of my FA 43 ltd more, but it cost me more than the 28-75 did. The main question is how much you like to shoot wide. If you don't feel constrained by 50mm, then I'd say "stay long". One of my favorite lenses is a bit of an oldie, the "A" 70-210mm F4.0, if you don't mind manual focus, this is a very good long zoom, and can be had relatively cheaply. I don't have and M42 lenses so I don't have any opinions there.

NaCl(there's lots of people who don't 'go wide' )H2O
01-02-2009, 07:21 PM   #3
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oooh boy. This is a topic that you can probably use the search button for. I did a search when I first started and found numerous threads.

But I've been in the same boat as you and even now I'm still kinda lingering over it. But after much trial and error and experience, my setup now is primes for wide angle and normal, then I use my DA*50-135 zoom for anything over.

Basically, it comes down to style and how you like to shoot. I found that my style is as above: primes in the wider end, a zoom in the longer end. My style is such that I'm best with using primes, but the DA*50-135 is such a great lens that I decided to go zoom for that end.

I recommend you get a Fast 50 or even a Fast 35 used and cheap. Experiment with it, play with it, get to know it... and then go from there.

My one mistake was trying to learn a whole bunch of lenses at once.
01-02-2009, 07:23 PM   #4
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I prefer primes, but I have to say that my 50-135* comes damn close to my 77 and 43ltd lenses...and in some cases I get better looking shots from the zoom. Damned if I understand it, as I can't say that about any other zoom lens I've owned/shot.

If you rarely use your 16-45, then why get a prime in that range? The 16-45 is actually a very good lens for the money, and if you don't see/shoot in that FOV then just use that when you want to.

For something inbetween 50 and 135, 77ltd is a peach. My favorite lens.

01-02-2009, 07:48 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Aaron1971 Quote
My take is I need a wider lens than the 50, a longer lens than the 135, and something in between. Should I buy separate pieces of glass, or is there a zoom that tackles this range and maintains the IQ of the Manuals?
The DA*50-135 obviously nails the "something in between", and by all accounts does so well enough that if you're OK with the size and price, it would seem the obvious choice. Me, I'm cheap and I hate big lenses, so I use the M100/2.8 as my "something in between". Someday I may get the DA70.

For inexpensive options longer than 135, there is the M200/4, but I'm not crazy about it. It's cheaper than any comparable zoom, I'll grant, but not smaller or obviously better in any way except speed, and f/4 isn't enough speed for me to be impressed. So I'm happier using my 50-200 most of the time when I want longer than 135. The 55-300 is not much more expensive, is obviously longer, and by most accounts is somewhat but not hugely better in IQ. To make any significant step up in quality would be a *huge* step up in cost and size, whether prime or zoom, and I'm just not willing to go there.

As for wider than 50, there are a number of prime and zoom options at a variety of price, size, and quality points, so you'll kind of need to narrow things down further.
01-02-2009, 08:44 PM   #6
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Depending on how wide you want to go, there's the DA21 (I want one of these) and then your choice of 35s--either the FA35/2 or DA35/2.8 macro. All are excellent lenses; which one that would work best for you would depend on your budget (cheapest to most expensive ---> FA35, DA21, and DA35) and how wide or closeup you like to shoot.

HTH,
Heather
01-02-2009, 09:05 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
The DA*50-135 obviously nails the "something in between", and by all accounts does so well enough that if you're OK with the size and price, it would seem the obvious choice. Me, I'm cheap and I hate big lenses, so I use the M100/2.8 as my "something in between". Someday I may get the DA70.

For inexpensive options longer than 135, there is the M200/4, but I'm not crazy about it. It's cheaper than any comparable zoom, I'll grant, but not smaller or obviously better in any way except speed, and f/4 isn't enough speed for me to be impressed. So I'm happier using my 50-200 most of the time when I want longer than 135. The 55-300 is not much more expensive, is obviously longer, and by most accounts is somewhat but not hugely better in IQ. To make any significant step up in quality would be a *huge* step up in cost and size, whether prime or zoom, and I'm just not willing to go there.

As for wider than 50, there are a number of prime and zoom options at a variety of price, size, and quality points, so you'll kind of need to narrow things down further.

I know I need to narrow it down, that's what's driving me crazy!!! I haven't been using the 16-45 LATELY because I have been focusing on learning the 50 and 135. the real issue is my wife has suggested I invest in some good equipment and I want to make sure I don't just buy something that won't fit the bill in a couple of years. I can get away with the 16-45 but the success I have been having with the SMC 50 had me thinking about the quality of the primes over the zooms. I love the 1.7 of the 50 and the 2.8 on the 135 is pretty nice. I have gotten used to shooting manually. The last time I put the 16-45 on the K10 I was trying to green button it! I guess it comes down to this, if I decide to make an attempt to sell my photos what lenses are going to give me the best chance at success. I realize that the photographer is the X-factor but if their is a lens that can help make a good photo exceptional I would be interested in having it. This is all just a feeling out on my part, I am just curious to hear what the pros here on the forum would add to my collection. I should add that I gave my son my K100D and the 2 kit lenses for Christmas so I still have access to the 18-55 and 50-200. Thanks to all for the input.
01-02-2009, 10:08 PM   #8
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now that I have a 50-135 I will say that it can beat my da 70mm in some cases but one thing the prime has is less weight and size, it's easier to get a candid portrait with the 70mm than the 50-135, and the da 70mm does focus faster, it's a toss up in this case, but my da 40mm and 70mm cost the same as the 50-135 and are much smaller to, so I can walk with just the cam and 2 lesnes in my pockets vs needing a whole bag, all depends on what your doing.

01-02-2009, 11:04 PM   #9
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I spent today doing some walkabout, and also handled a D700 for a bit. Then tonight I've been messing around, swapping back and forth between the 50-135* and my primes. I also did some research into weights and dimensions of various lenses between Pentax and Sony. The reason being if I were to jump to FF, it would likely be an a900.

What the numbers and my hands tell me, is that what makes Pentax truly special are the ltd primes and the K20d being a reasonably small/light body. While my 50-135* has outstanding iq, at 685g it is on the verge of not being a great walkabout lens. It isn't bad, but it is all relative. Compared to 155g for a 43ltd? After an hour or so it makes a difference.

Then you look at the Zeiss glass for Sony. The 24-70 is 995g. Yikes. The 85/1.4 prime is 650g. Again, not the end of the world and certainly you'd expect a FF lens to be heavier. Then again the 43ltd *is* FF. I think the bottom line is that while iq and character of the lens is important, usability it a big factor as well.
01-03-2009, 01:04 AM   #10
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If you do not know what your own photography is about, stick to zoom. It would help you to discover what you want to do with photography in general.

If you know what you want to photograph, the lens selection would be rather obvious to you.

If you are a gear head like me, you will buy everything.
01-03-2009, 01:28 AM   #11
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I just got back myself. I was just taking some shots of my wife. I decided to "borrow" my sons 50-200. Man, after shooting manual lenses for a while the AF was nice! The bokeh was nice......I have to think I will just have to be like Roentarre and buy them all!!!! I will say though f4.5 is a little slow for me now.
01-03-2009, 01:32 AM   #12
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A little insight from me...

It is not wise to buy everything. It will wreck life and I am not speaking from my own personal experience...

50-200 is a consumer grade zoom that can do most scenery sharp stopping down. Good typical colour and contrast from the zoom. However, its bokeh tends to display nissen bokeh with a lot of nervious appearance in the background. This zoom marks the beginning of chalky bokeh in the DA series. Still, fine art can be produced by the zoom but it can be quite limiting for some people.
01-03-2009, 02:11 AM   #13
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There are as many different answers to this as there are photographers. We all have our own preferences and ways of doing things. What fits one won't necessarily fit another.

I like primes because I don't like a honking big long heavy lens on my camera. I got into Takumars primarily because they are so cheap that compared to new lenses they're practically giving them away. Then I discovered that in addition to being cheap they have fine optical qualities as well. I sometimes find myself wondering why anybody would use anything else.

But as a practical matter you have to match your gear to what you intend to do with it. For all my love of Takumar primes I still have sense enough to recognize that I needed a quality autofocus zoom for my dance shooting, and I bought the Tamron 28-75/2.8 specifically for that purpose. For other situations where I can shoot in a more leisurely fashion, it doesn't bother me to swap a prime for a prime or to perhaps "miss" a shot because I don't have mounted (or with me) the focal length that would produce what I want. I either work it with what I have or I just let it go. Sometimes I'm carrying a camera that doesn't allow for interchangeable lenses, and I have no choice in the matter. Most of the time, though, I will just mount a mid-range lens on the camera, put a wide-angle prime in one pocket and a short telephoto in the other and go on my merry way. I could cover it all with the 28-75, but just as a matter of personal preference I choose not to.

If you want to see what primes would suit your shooting, mount one of your zooms that covers that focal length and spend the day shooting with it at only that focal length. You'll quickly come to see whether a prime of that focal length will fit into your shooting needs or not.

I can see no reason why some good M or A series (or Takumars) shouldn't give you years of good service. There is no absolute need to plonk down the scratch for brand new lenses unless you really want to. After all, the wonderful support for backwards compatibility is one of the most appealing aspects about Pentax to begin with. I know I got a bag overflowing with excellent Takumar primes for less than the cost of one new quality (not consumer-grade) lens. Yes, they have their limitations, but they fit my needs just fine. Whether they would fit yours is a matter only you can decide.
01-03-2009, 08:39 AM   #14
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Ditto on what Mike said, its all a matter of personel preference. I used a Spotmatic for several years with nothing else but a 55 Takumar and a 2x converter for my "telephoto". I have albums full of great pictures taken with that setup. When the zooms became the standard kit lens with new cameras I really came to love the zooms. I had a Nikon film camera with a 24-70 and I loved it. With a growing family I couldn't afford a bag full of lenses and the zooms let me cover all the ranges I needed with a couple of lenses. I'm currently using the kit lens and a Sigma 70-300. I'm quite satisfied with the kit lens although some folks don't like it. The Sigma is a little soft at 300 and unless its a bright sunny day it stayes in my bag. I do use my 55 f2 Takumar sometimes and the IQ is great but i've become so used to the zoom it stays on the camera unless I need a faster lens because I prefer the range of the zoom. I am shopping around for some longer Takumars to use instead of the Sigma. I'm kind of waiting for my tax refund and see whats left over after my daughters tuition and books next semester.
01-03-2009, 09:14 AM   #15
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I was a zoom guy until I really gave a prime a chance. Once I did I quickly snatched up primes in all my most used FL's (35, 50, 70macro, 77) and now rarely use a zoom at all.

I like the better IQ, the size, the 2.8 or better glass, the construction, the feel, the weight, and the fact that I think more about my shot because my legs now do the zooming.

I still wanted AF, but I can certainly see the appeal of M or A lenses.

c[_]
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