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01-18-2009, 01:21 PM   #1
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Looking for "Crazy sharp" portrait zoom lens

Hey there everybody!

I've just started taking portraits for friends, family, and co-workers, and I'm running into a lens rut. Please help me out.

I have a Pentax K10D, with
  • The 18-55 kit lens (not very sharp, but all around alright. This shot has the same flash output as the next one)
  • A wonderful 50mm1.4f prime (indeed crazy sharp, but limited. I couldn't back up enough to get the frame I wanted)
  • Cimko MT 28mm 2.8f (thrift store score: manual focus, but nice for wider shots)
  • Albinar ADG 135mm 2.8f (thrift store score: amazing, but too zoomed in for most portraits)
  • Sears 60-300 4.0f (thrift store score: nice, but not all that great for portraits)

I use the 50mm prime for most portraits, as it is my most sharp lens and has amazing bokeh, but every portrait kinda comes out the same, and I also have to back up quite a bit to get people (head and shoulders) in frame. It also isn't all that great for full body portraits, either.

So I'm looking for an amazing zoom lens to take portraits. I've seen some amazing photos from people like David Hobby (the Strobist) who just mentioned this in his blog; "Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 is scary sharp and far and away my favorite lens"

I'm looking for something like that for my Pentax rig. Of course, I'd like to spend less than a grand on it (hopeless?). I do see some nice lens like SMC Pentax-FA* 28-70mm F2.8 AL. Is that the kind of thing I'm gonna need to kick it up a notch? It has about the same range as David's Nikkor lens.

Any suggestions?

01-18-2009, 01:26 PM   #2
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Depends on how you define "portraits" and how you see them. 77ltd is my first choice for portrait, but in a zoom I'd use my 50-135*. I tend to like a bit longer lens though...I will use my 43ltd some as well. Others have great success with wider lenses (21ltd) but I can't really use one. Just depends...
01-18-2009, 01:33 PM   #3
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Yes, if you are after a crazily sharp zoom with strong contrast, Da* 50-135mm f2.8 is the one to go for.
01-18-2009, 01:45 PM   #4
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I think you'll be very happy with a used Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 zoom lens. It's great for portraits and landscapes. Very sharp, very versatile, and 28mm is plenty wide enough for me. You can find good used copies on the *Bay for around $200.

01-18-2009, 03:46 PM   #5
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ScannerBrightly, you mentioned wanting a wider field of view and your two images appear to be from a hiking or camping trip. Considering weight and image quality I'm curious if the DA 16-45/4 zoom might be the lens you seek. It has a good reputation for image quality and you can view several sample images in the Pentax Photo Gallery on the Pentax corporate site. Your stated goal is to find a sharp lens so I'll guess you're not necessarily looking for the limited depth of field of an F2.8 zoom.
01-18-2009, 05:10 PM   #6
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The benefit of an f/2.8 lens is that if you want to stop it down to sharpen it up, you can go to f/4. If you choose a f/4 lens you need to go to at least f/5.6 to sharpen it and you lose another stop and it becomes less useful in low light.
01-18-2009, 05:27 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by B Grace Quote
...
Considering weight and image quality I'm curious if the DA 16-45/4 zoom might be the lens you seek. It has a good reputation for image quality...
I've never used either, but either the DA 16-45 or the new DA 17-70 (is it available yet? is it sharp?) might be what you're looking for.

I can recommend the DA* 16-50mm as sharp and beautiful, but you have to be willing to trade in a bad copy if you get one, till you get a good one (although I think the good:bad ratio is improving a lot lately - my copy is great - never had to send it back). If I didn't want the weather sealing I'd be real interested in a zoom in the 17-70mm range.
01-18-2009, 05:46 PM   #8
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I was going to suggest the Pentax DA*50-135mm, but it sounds like you like to go wider so the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 should fit the bill at a very reasonable cost.

01-18-2009, 06:30 PM   #9
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Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 all the way - the perfect portrait zoom.

It can be crazy sharp at f/4, and even at f/2.8 is pretty sharp. Nice bokeh for a zoom, also.

01-18-2009, 06:42 PM   #10
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Original Poster
Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 does look like it might be the one I'm after. Pretty much right in the sweet spot for my taste, as well a nice 2.8f all the way down the zoom.

Now, I just have to save up enough money. :-) Oh, and keep my fingers away from a Nikon D90. I mean, who doesn't want to shoot some HD video?

Thanks everybody! Keep it coming!
01-18-2009, 07:01 PM   #11
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Looking for "Crazy"?

Go... Lensbaby - Photo Gallery

Cheers...
01-18-2009, 08:18 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by ScannerBrightly Quote
Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 does look like it might be the one I'm after. Pretty much right in the sweet spot for my taste, as well a nice 2.8f all the way down the zoom.

Now, I just have to save up enough money. :-) Oh, and keep my fingers away from a Nikon D90. I mean, who doesn't want to shoot some HD video?

Thanks everybody! Keep it coming!
I hear ya on that. I'm pretty sure the next Pentax body will do HD video or else there will never be another to follow... I mean, I'm really into still photography, and love my pentax, but as a father, I'd love to be able to get video out of these lenses too. My next camera will have video capability and I think most consumers feel the same. Both friends who've lately asked me about DSLR's have ended up with D90s.

Love your screen name by the way... Philip K. Dick - good writer.
01-18-2009, 08:30 PM   #13
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As others above have noted, the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 is the lens you are looking for.

c[_]
01-18-2009, 08:37 PM   #14
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Well, I do not know about "crazy sharp" but I have found the Pentax F 35-70mm to be great for pictures of people with a little context. Specifically I use it a lot chasing my kids aound the yard. It is a notch or two above the kit lens in image quality, and has a useful close focusing "macro" mode that is much sharper than I would expect.

For wider shots, I really like the FA 20-35mm zoom. True it is only f/4, but the image quality is incredible even wide open. I often use this inside with a bounce flash stopped to 5.6, and I marvel at the picture quality (when I hit it right, which has been happeneing more and more :-)

Both of these lenses are nice and compact, which I value highly. The F zoom (and its A counterpart, with the same optics) is cheap, <$100, and the FA, while pricier, is less than say a DA 50-135mm. You could also look a a 31mm FA limited, but that is a lot of cash without any zoom at all.

Good luck! n
01-18-2009, 08:48 PM   #15
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You probably won't notice a difference, unless you save in a lossless format and pixel peep.

Use a steady tripod and a mirror lockup (mirror slap causes vibration).
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