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01-14-2009, 08:28 PM   #1
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Help needed: Macro lens

Hi everyone,

I am looking into getting a macro lens for the K10D and K20D and I am told that the Pentax DA 35mm F2.8 Macro Ltd is quite a gem.
Frankly, I am looking for comparisons of any GOOD/excellent macro lenses which will fit the Pentax KD's.
Price is not really an issue unless there is a huge discrepancy in quality of make, sharpness, bokeh, etc ...
I have looked into Sigma (not really great reviews) and Zeiss (great reviews but no AF, no quick-shift and very high price).
Any help or suggestion(s) sure would be appreciated.

Can macro lenses be used for something else than "just macro"?
I have never used a true macro lens before but I did do some macro photography using other types of lenses, for instance, telephoto lenses.
One more question: isn't it rather difficult to get close to a moving insect, for example, and do macro-photography?

Anyway, I'll leave that to you pro's out there!
Cheers.
JP

01-14-2009, 08:33 PM   #2
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For macro work the longer focal length the better, so that you can put some distance between the object and the lens. I would not recommend anything less than 100mm.

Macro lenses can be used for general photography but they tend to hunt in autofocus mode unless they have a focus limiter.

A used FA 100mm f/2.8 would be a good choice since it has a focus limiter. The D FA 100mm f/2.8 is also excellent optically but has no focus limiter and is thus best used in manual focus mode for general photography.
01-14-2009, 08:38 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ole Quote
For macro work the longer focal length the better, so that you can put some distance between the object and the lens. I would not recommend anything less than 100mm.

Macro lenses can be used for general photography but they tend to hunt in autofocus mode unless they have a focus limiter.

A used FA 100mm f/2.8 would be a good choice since it has a focus limiter. The D FA 100mm f/2.8 is also excellent optically but has no focus limiter and is thus best used in manual focus mode for general photography.
Thanks Ole.
So, I was wondering why all the fuss about the 35mm Ltd.!
As I said, must be hard to get very close to, let's say, a moving dragonfly with a 35mm lens!
I'll look for that FA 100mm 2.8.
JP
01-14-2009, 09:13 PM   #4
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The other thing I should have said: If you want to use extension tubes or bellows at a later point in time you need the aperture ring which the DA 35mm lacks.

01-15-2009, 06:15 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ole Quote
For macro work the longer focal length the better, so that you can put some distance between the object and the lens. I would not recommend anything less than 100mm.
I agree. To get 1:1 macro with a 35mm, you're right on top of the subject, frightening the little critter and blocking your light. A 100mm provides a useable working distance.

QuoteOriginally posted by Ole Quote
A used FA 100mm f/2.8 would be a good choice since it has a focus limiter. The D FA 100mm f/2.8 is also excellent optically but has no focus limiter and is thus best used in manual focus mode for general photography.
I don't agree with that. I use MF for macro and AF for general photography. In AF mode the DFA 100mm usually snaps into focus. If it starts to hunt I just bring it back with the manual override (Quick Shift).

One thing I really like about the D FA 100 is its size. It's pretty compact, easy to throw in the bag when I'm goiing out for other types of shooting.
01-15-2009, 03:14 PM   #6
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I definitely wouldn't advocate the selection of the Da 35mm ltd in lieu of a 100mm or 105mm macro. However, in my case, I already had a Sigma 105mm when I got the Da 35mm and it serves several purposes including an additional macro. I actually got it to use as an alternative to my 50mm Macro-tak on the digital bodies.
01-15-2009, 03:28 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by jpzk Quote
So, I was wondering why all the fuss about the 35mm Ltd.!
JP
Well, simply because it is among the best lenses ever produced by Pentax! It is a very versatile lens - you can take a landscape shot and next moment focus on a nearby flower. It is perfectly usable also as a short focal lenght portrait lens. As I have a weakness fo macro photography, then all this versatility has maid it mine absolute favourite walk-around lens - you never know, when a good macro opportunity is waiting for you.

I agree though that when your main aim is shooting butterflies, then even 100mm is a bit short. I consider 150 or longer to be a good focal lenght for butterflies. For the majority of other bugs a 35mm or 50mm would be good enough. In case you have a high quality telephoto prime, it is well worth experimenting with extension tubes.
01-15-2009, 03:31 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Urmas R. Quote
Well, simply because it is among the best lenses ever produced by Pentax! It is a very versatile lens - you can take a landscape shot and next moment focus on a nearby flower. It is perfectly usable also as a short focal lenght portrait lens. As I have a weakness fo macro photography, then all this versatility has maid it mine absolute favourite walk-around lens - you never know, when a good macro opportunity is waiting for you.

I agree though that when your main aim is shooting butterflies, then even 100mm is a bit short. I consider 150 or longer to be a good focal lenght for butterflies. For the majority of other bugs a 35mm or 50mm would be good enough. In case you have a high quality telephoto prime, it is well worth experimenting with extension tubes.
These are very good points!

01-15-2009, 03:32 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Urmas R. Quote
I agree though that when your main aim is shooting butterflies, then even 100mm is a bit short.
I'm anxiously awaiting the new Pentax 1.4X convertor shown on the roadmap. That should give my DFA 100 a nice boost.

Last edited by audiobomber; 01-15-2009 at 07:02 PM.
01-15-2009, 03:34 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
I'm anxiously awaiting the new Pentax 1.4X convertor shown on the roadmap. That should give my DAF 100 a nice boost.
I'm using the Kenko 1.5x on the interim. After I get the "new" Pentax 1.4x, the Kenko may become an auto focus extension tube.
01-15-2009, 04:13 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Urmas R. Quote
Well, simply because it is among the best lenses ever produced by Pentax! It is a very versatile lens - you can take a landscape shot and next moment focus on a nearby flower. It is perfectly usable also as a short focal lenght portrait lens. As I have a weakness fo macro photography, then all this versatility has maid it mine absolute favourite walk-around lens - you never know, when a good macro opportunity is waiting for you.

I agree though that when your main aim is shooting butterflies, then even 100mm is a bit short. I consider 150 or longer to be a good focal lenght for butterflies. For the majority of other bugs a 35mm or 50mm would be good enough. In case you have a high quality telephoto prime, it is well worth experimenting with extension tubes.

Thanks for your reply, Urmas.
Where in the world can one find such extension tubes? And for what lenses?
I have a Sigma 100-300 F4 which I believe is good, but not a prime lens, of course.
Maybe I could give it a shot with the Zeiss Plnar 85/1.4? Not sure if that would work.
01-16-2009, 03:16 AM   #12
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Extension tubes, that go between the camera body and the lens are available everywhere. Search Ebay, Adorama or Amazon for "Pentax Auto Extension Tube". Usually they are sold in a set, consisting of tubes with different length. In theory you can use the tubes then with any of your lenses. There are a couple of things to consider though. First of all magnification. In order to get 1:1 magnification you have to add tubes equal in length to that of your lens. Obviously, this is not easy with longer lenses. Secondly, you will loose some light. So they work better with faster lenses. Practically, for instance when shooting butterflies in the field, you usually do not need that high magnification. Hence I think that 100-300 would work nicely with tubes for larger subjects on a sunny day. Your Zeiss might be a better bet for more magnification. You will loose a lot of working distance though. The tubes are inexpensive and you can try your different lenses. It is hard to predict the optical quality of each one of them.

If you are interested in above life size magnification (above 1:1) then get a reverse stacking ring so that you can reverse for instance a 50mm prime in front of your 100-300 or any other lens. You can combine this with extension tubes. It wouldn't be possible to handhold such a setup and you would probably need a sturdy tripod plus a focusing rail.

All these possibilities are cheaper than true macro lenses, with which it is usually easier to work. Also the optical quality is mostly superior. Yet, a good tele on tubes can rival this in several cases.

Best,

Urmas
01-16-2009, 03:54 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ole Quote
......

A used FA 100mm f/2.8 would be a good choice since it has a focus limiter. The D FA 100mm f/2.8 is also excellent optically but has no focus limiter and is thus best used in manual focus mode for general photography.
Can you (or someone else) be so kind and explain / translate this "focus limiter" thing ?

Thanks in advance
01-16-2009, 04:54 AM   #14
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Focus limiter (a switch on the lens) allows to limit auto focus either to a short distance (below 50cm for instance) or to infinity. Switching it on in macro photography helps, since otherwise the autofocusing could hunt through the entire range and thus waste time.

In my humble opinion and based my experience auto focus is of limited use in macro photography anyway. It is mostly better to shift the camera back and forth than to use auto focus. Manual focusing tends to be also more accurate than automatic in macro photography.
01-16-2009, 04:57 AM   #15
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