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01-09-2009, 04:50 PM   #1
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Little iffy on telephoto lenses...

Okay, I have made my decision that my next lens after having my 18-55mm Kit lens for 4 years through 3 pentax DSLR cameras (now on the K20D) is going to be a telephoto.

I need to know differences in lenses that makes me make my new decision of what exact lens I'm going to get...

There's the telephoto's that are $$$ and are fixed at 300mm or so, why are they so expensive and what's the advantage over a 18-250mm that is very versatile, are the versatile ones less clear/fast ?

I've realized that my 18-55mm kit lens is really terrible in the range of clarity when it comes to owning this k20d. Cropping to what should be crystal clear isn't actually so clear. Eye lashes and letters/numbers, edges, etc is just terrible. I'm not pro of course only having experience with one lens.

I decided on getting a telephoto because I find myself wanting to zoom in in places I cannot get up close and personal very often. I just don't know wether I should spend little and get a very versatile telephoto lens or spend the bigger bucks on the fixed/less range telephotos, what would YOU do ?

Off topic for a moment, I also love doing portraits, whether it's senior photos or friends who just want some sweet photos either with backdrops, or out around town and in wild areas, would I want 55mm F1.4 for the best result? .. I'm trying to catch on here without screwing myself over

Any suggestions very appreciated.

-steve!

01-09-2009, 05:04 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by steve500 Quote
Okay, I have made my decision that my next lens after having my 18-55mm Kit lens for 4 years through 3 pentax DSLR cameras (now on the K20D) is going to be a telephoto.

I need to know differences in lenses that makes me make my new decision of what exact lens I'm going to get...

There's the telephoto's that are $$$ and are fixed at 300mm or so, why are they so expensive and what's the advantage over a 18-250mm that is very versatile, are the versatile ones less clear/fast ?

I've realized that my 18-55mm kit lens is really terrible in the range of clarity when it comes to owning this k20d. Cropping to what should be crystal clear isn't actually so clear. Eye lashes and letters/numbers, edges, etc is just terrible. I'm not pro of course only having experience with one lens.

I decided on getting a telephoto because I find myself wanting to zoom in in places I cannot get up close and personal very often. I just don't know wether I should spend little and get a very versatile telephoto lens or spend the bigger bucks on the fixed/less range telephotos, what would YOU do ?

Off topic for a moment, I also love doing portraits, whether it's senior photos or friends who just want some sweet photos either with backdrops, or out around town and in wild areas, would I want 55mm F1.4 for the best result? .. I'm trying to catch on here without screwing myself over
Steve, you have already answered your questions yourself to a degree. Top-quality prime (fixed focal length) lenses will usually yield better image quality, than a typical zoom lens. There are some exceptions to this rule (The Sigma 100-300/4 zoom might be one). In practice a really good zoom lens will nevertheless give youresults, which are very good. (Your old 18-55 on a K20 is really not the measure, as this lens wasn't intended to be used with such a high-res camera.)

If you need a second lens, I would therefor suggest to buy one of the more versatile but good quality zoom lenses. As my own experience is very limited here, my recommendations may be far-fetched for you. But you could consider a secondhand Penatx A 70-210/4 manual focus lens. This is comparably fast and has very good image quality - you just have to focus manually. It is by far the cheapest quality-option.

Up from that, I can recommend the Sigma 70-200/2.8 (very good lens, even with a 1.4x teleconverter, which would give you a 300/4 focal length) or the Sigma 50-500 - but this is a big and bulky beast and probably not the right choice for you!

I have read (but never used) very favourable comments about the older Pentax 50-200 and the more recent 50-300 zooms. The last one seems to be sharper. I am confident others, who actually used these lenses, will give you better advice in this respect.

As a second lens I would not suggest to go to a 300/4 immediatly. You will more often want a focal length in the 70-200mm range and onyl occasionally use the 300mm lens (except when you are a wildlife enthusiast). So the two Pentax zooms might make the most sense to youi and seem to be decent offeres at good prices.

Ben
01-09-2009, 05:11 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by steve500 Quote
Off topic for a moment, I also love doing portraits, whether it's senior photos or friends who just want some sweet photos either with backdrops, or out around town and in wild areas, would I want 55mm F1.4 for the best result? .. I'm trying to catch on here without screwing myself over

Typically for portaits you would choose a focal length (on a DSLR) of 50-70 or 80mm. So the good old 50/1.4 is the one, that comes immediatly to ones mind. But the tiny DA 70/2.4 might also be quite good. You can only decide yourself, which focal length is the most practical here. At least you existing kit lens allows to try the 50mm option. If you find that this is too short for the kind of photographs you take, then the 70mm might be the way to go.

Ofcourse for portaits it is always best to aim for the fastest lens you can afford (to reduce depth of field). If it is within your budget the FA 77/1.8 Limited lens would (for me at least) preferably to the DA 70.

And don't forget, that there are many older, secondhand lenses available with manual focus. Personally I find manual focusing being the standard procedure for portraits, so AF is not really needed. With older manual focus Pentax lenses you can achieve quite the same image quality at a lower price.

Ben
01-09-2009, 05:23 PM   #4
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Since you've expressed some dissatisfaction with the kit lens, I would recommend upgrading it to a better quality zoom in the same range. The 16-45 is an excellent lens and is now less than $300 brand new.

The 16-45 and the 55-300 make a great cost-effective pair for the times where you just don't want to fool with primes. The way I approach primes is that I choose them based on my shooting style and what individual lenses do well. In my case, I have the DA21 for landscapes and other WA duties, the FA43 for low-light and "normal" walkaround, and the DFA100 for macro and mid-tele tasks. Depending on what it is that I'm shooting on particular day, I may very well combine primes with zooms; for example, the DA21 with the DA55-300 for a lightweight hiking/nature setup.

HTH,
Heather

01-09-2009, 05:35 PM   #5
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If you intend to hand-hold your telephoto lens its f-stop is important. Pentax manual 200/4 lenses are very good and less than $100USD; SMC, Super-Takumar, etc. With Shake Reduction they can be hand-held in a broad range of situations.

QuoteQuote:
Off topic for a moment, I also love doing portraits, whether it's senior photos or friends who just want some sweet photos either with backdrops, or out around town and in wild areas, would I want 55mm F1.4 for the best result?
I've been quite happy with a 50mm 1.7 - But the 50% higher speed and 50% smaller depth of field of the 55mm at f/1.4 might come in handy on occasion in social settings.

For a field width of 1 meter the depth of field at f/1.4 is about 140-150mm - just right for isolating someone's head.
01-09-2009, 07:31 PM   #6
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Biggest difference between expensive lenses and cheaper ones: maximum aperture. The 18-250 can only do f/6.3 at best at the 250mm end. You're not going to get very fast shutter speeds compared to a lens that can do f/2.8, meaning it's a lot harder to get s blur-free picture, even with SR.

Plus the more expensive lens is likely to be sharper too overall, even given a fast enough shutter speed.

Trying to make a zoom as "fast" (large maximum aperture) and sharp as a prime means making it huge and expensive compared to the prime. A 200/2.8 is big and expensive enough. An 18-250 that could do f/2.8 would be *enormous*, if was even technically possible. And it's unlikely it could ever be even close to as sharp.
01-09-2009, 08:58 PM   #7
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QuoteQuote:

I have read (but never used) very favourable comments about the older Pentax 50-200 and the more recent 50-300 zooms. The last one seems to be sharper. I am confident others, who actually used these lenses, will give you better advice in this respect.
I have both. On the K20D, the 50-200 would be pushing the limit of performance.

The Pentax 55-300 is much better, and only about $100 more. I think it is one of the better deals in Pentax lenses.
01-10-2009, 07:09 AM   #8
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Have just purchased the 55-300 and currently just doing test pics.

Remember 300mm= a 450mm in 35mm format!

The pic below has only been resized with no sharpening/color adjustments.

Pic data = 300mm, 1/200th sec F8, Camera Settings=Jpeg, Natural (contrast,Sharpness,Sat all at +1) handheld

Also to get a sharp result handheld (as this was from an awkward position) with a 450mm lens at 200th sec would be virtually impossible without in camera stablisation.

Also a prime 300mm f4 here in SA is R 18 000, the 200 f2.8 R 16 000.

So the 55-300 (with it's f stop tradeoff) at R 4 500 is an incredible deal!

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01-10-2009, 11:32 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by hwblanks Quote
Since you've expressed some dissatisfaction with the kit lens, I would recommend upgrading it to a better quality zoom in the same range. The 16-45 is an excellent lens and is now less than $300 brand new.

The 16-45 and the 55-300 make a great cost-effective pair for the times where you just don't want to fool with primes. The way I approach primes is that I choose them based on my shooting style and what individual lenses do well. In my case, I have the DA21 for landscapes and other WA duties, the FA43 for low-light and "normal" walkaround, and the DFA100 for macro and mid-tele tasks. Depending on what it is that I'm shooting on particular day, I may very well combine primes with zooms; for example, the DA21 with the DA55-300 for a lightweight hiking/nature setup.
Hi dylansalt,

I like Heather's suggestion of the 16-45 and the 55-300. It will cost some money, but will cover just about all the FLs you're likely to want, and if you miss the 45-55 FL range, you can get an FA 50 f1.4 or equivalent to fill the gap with a very useful short portrait tele. The 16-45 would be a quality upgrade from the standard kit lens that you have, but if funds are limited, you could stand pat with the kit and just get the 55-300.

If you choose to go this route, you can then find out what FLs that you prefer to shoot at by reading the exif info from the shots you take, and if you desire better image quality at those FLs, you can look for faster primes at those lengths. The two zooms will still have their place as a great two lens travel kit.

Once you've taken a good number of images, you can analyse them using Exposure Plot, a freeware program that will show your preferences for FL, ISO, aperture, and shutter speed in graphs. You can download it here:

ExposurePlot (former Focalplot)

Another alternative to get a very wide range of FLs to choose from among current lenses would be either the Sigma or Pentax 17-70 along with either the Tamron or Sigma 70-300. There are quite a few lower cost alternatives to get the FL range of @16-300, if you're willing/able to go with used manual focus lenses -- too many to list here --

One more thing -- about your preference for shooting portraits -- I have found that the 24/28 -70/75 f2.8 zoom is a very practical fast zoom for shooting people in most settings. I have had the Tamron SP 28-75 f2.8 XR Di for over 4 years, and it's the first lens I'll grab when people are to be the main subject.

Scott
01-10-2009, 12:24 PM   #10
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steve- welcome from a fellow Utahn!

As others have mentioned, there a couple good older manual focus lenses out there. The 55-300 seems to be a pretty good telephoto lens.

The 18-250 is a great lens given it's massive range. However, a high-quality zoom lens of a smaller range or any prime will give you better results at any given focal length. The advantage to the 18-250 is that it doesn't matter how sharp your DA* tele is if you can't get it on the body in time for the shot

For portraiture, try the FA 50 1.4. It's a great little lens, and you can use the softness at wider apertures (1.4, 2) to soften up the skin a little. It's only $200, which makes it a steal for the quality you're getting.
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