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03-24-2007, 01:28 PM   #1
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Is there room for a 'vacation' super-zoom in a (eventual) top-notch kit?

While I've got access to a wonderful range of lenses (Hi Dad!), I'm starting to put together my own set. The plan is to purchase top-notch, fast glass stuff as soon as a budget that includes summer school this year, a very expensive field school next year, and a crappy retail job allows.

However, as I read reviews, and virtually put together my dream kit, I'm struck by the realization that these expensive lenses could probably be a liability in some situations. I backpack, and I've lightened my regular load so I can hike further. Do I really want to add the weight of the glass, and potential expense if they get damaged by the elements to the load I'm carrying? I want to carry the SLR, because I'm stubborn and more than tough enough to carry it for the average 3-5 day trip, but what about the extras?

Second, I've got two school-related things coming up. The first is an honors program trip around northern NM to visit spiritual sites and centers at the end of May. The second is that really expensive field school next summer. I'd love to have a camera with me, but I'm trying to temper my desire to take pictures with the reality that these aren't photography expeditions, and I won't have time to fiddle with lenses, or tripods, etc. There is also the weight/expense liability. And in May, at least, there is the possibility that the lenses I want still won't be available.

This is where the super-zoom comes in, because they aren't terribly expensive ($350-500) for something that will probably only see situations like the above, and seem to fit the bill in terms of portability and range. I'm considering the super-zoom plus a nice, fast, super-wide angle, which I want anyway. What do I look for in a super-zoom though? I want acceptable quality; at least as good as the kit lens up to 8X10, and sturdy build. I'm concerned about the max aperture to some extent (but not totally). Also, is there any real reason to go for, say, a 24-135, instead of a whole-hog 28-200, 18-200, or 18-250? The 24-135 range will be covered with much better glass, and I think I'd feel more 'guilty' about it long term.

Any suggestions? Third party and optimized for digital are great! Please don't tell me to buy the 55-200, 50 f/1.4, or 16-45 f/4. I want a one lens solution for this. I will eventually acquire much better lenses to cover the range those three do.


Last edited by bdavis; 03-25-2007 at 12:05 PM.
03-24-2007, 01:53 PM   #2
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Out of those choices, I'd definately go for the 16-45 if I could only take one. I also have a 50mm 1.7, and the da 55-200. I also hike a ton like you, and I fond that the 55-200 is just too long for most landscape shooting. If it weren't for the digital mutiplier, I doubt I would have that opinion though...
03-24-2007, 01:55 PM   #3
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Beth, I believe that Sigma and Tamron both have an 18-200 super zoom. I've used neither so I can't give you any information on them.

If you're seeking a "one size fits all" type of lens. One of those might very well be the ticket.
03-24-2007, 02:07 PM   #4
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Wait -- you DON"T want me to tell you to take a 50/1.4?

That's hard...my own compact/lightweight travel kit is a ZX-M (cheap build, but very light and very dependable) fitted with an M42 adapter, a Super-Takumar 50/1.4, and a Super-Takumar 28/3.5. This is about as "top notch" as you get in terms of image quality, but very inexpensive -- much less than you'd spend on a halfway decent zoom.

Personally, I'd stay away from too long a focal length if you're backpacking in any western mountains. The air quality is bad enough that your shots will likely turn out hazy and muted. Get close to your subject with a shorter lens; vistas are tempting, but the risk of cliche is great...

I haven't had a chance to take a trip with the K100D, but I imagine the kit wouldn't look that different. I'd be more likely to pick up a DA 21mm if anything...


Last edited by Finn; 03-24-2007 at 03:15 PM.
03-24-2007, 02:20 PM   #5
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You won't find any fast "super zooms," but if you want quality and speed go for the DA*'s, or FA*'s if you can find them. Many manual lenses also boast constant and relatively fast aperture- like the A 35-105mm F3.5.

It's really easy to cover the 28-200mm range with two lenses, however, and IMO you'd be getting better photos with a set of two than with a single extreme zoom. If you're looking for lenses that will still be available in the near future, turn to Sigma.

Because I only use Pentax glass, though, my current ("walkaround") zoom lineup took me forever to find. It consists of two lenses: the Pentax 28-70mm and Pentax 80-200mm, both F2.8 throughout the entire range. Although the lenses are heavy, they deliver unmatched quality, and that's the only thing I'm going for.
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03-24-2007, 02:32 PM   #6
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Ah the glory of the 28-70/2.8 and the 80-200/f2.8. Say if Pentax made it a reality only a couple years ago, why couldn't they just continue it instead of having to go to Tokina for the DA*50-130? I can understand going for something wider that the 28-70 for digital but the 80-200?

Haha if I got the Vivitar S1 70-210/3.5...I'd be one-two puching too! (I have the SI 28-90/2.8-3.5. both have 67mm filter threads and look the same interms of styling too)
03-24-2007, 02:51 PM   #7
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Beth, I have more or less the same problem with Pentax. I want to start with a single lens of decent quality and range and later buy more specialized lenses along the way. However I fear I might get annoyed with the optical quality of a 18-200/250 and I don't really need that much range. Pentax themselves don't really offer a one lens sollution, I'm hoping that they'll considering a Pentax version of the Tokina 16.5-135mm (hopefully with SDM) and offer it as a kit.
03-24-2007, 05:36 PM   #8
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Like most 2.8 zooms, those DA* 16-50 and 50-135 f2.8s are going to be pretty heavy.

If you are looking for a light and fairly good lens, I recommend that you take a look at the Sigma 18-125mm. Yes its not as fast at 3.5-5.6 but its much lighter and more compact (not to mention way cheaper) that the new DA* solution.

03-24-2007, 07:51 PM   #9
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Thanks for the replies, everyone. I was a bit frustrated when so many of you didn't really answer my query, but I've also done more research now. What I really want doesn't seem to be available, from any manufacturer. (A consumer lens would be fine (without terrible vignetting/distortion), 24-100mm-ish range, about $350-400, and less than 1 lb, and I would buy it right now.)

I don't want to carry the weight of a 2.8 zoom into the backcountry, especially because I've got my pack weight before food and water down to less than 10 pounds, and even more because the vast majority of my shots would be stopped down a great deal (who needs 2.8 when you'll be shooting at 8 or smaller?). I also don't want to worry about the expense during field sessions because it might take a beating/get stolen, nor do I want to change lenses under pressure (time).

However, vignetting, distortion, and tremendous sample variation are also things I don't want to deal with, and these are generally problems of super-zooms. The available x-125/135 typically fall into the same category as the x-200/250. It really sucks that there isn't a lens with a good balance between cost, weight, and range+quality. My aim with such a lens under these situations would really be more to just document the occasion, and not create great art.

I continue to wait (and wait, and wait, and eventually worry about) the DA*'s. I might just have to buy that ultra-wide to console myself.

Last edited by bdavis; 03-24-2007 at 08:02 PM.
03-24-2007, 08:52 PM   #10
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Tamron used to make a 24-135mm (don't know if they still do) that was pretty highly regarded.
03-24-2007, 09:31 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by FotoPete Quote
Ah the glory of the 28-70/2.8 and the 80-200/f2.8. Say if Pentax made it a reality only a couple years ago, why couldn't they just continue it instead of having to go to Tokina for the DA*50-130? I can understand going for something wider that the 28-70 for digital but the 80-200?
Why? Because the DA* is much smaller and lighter. The FA* 80-200mm f/2.8 weighs 1.51kg vs DA* 50-135mm's 0.685kg. The former's dimension is 88x195mm vs DA*'s 76.5x136mm. And DA* is a internal zoom and internal focusing design, so it would not extend any more from focusing or zooming. 50-135mm is equivalent to 75-202mm FOV, so it is meant for a direct DA replacement for 80-200mm.

As for cooperation with Tokina, these lenses were co-developed with Tokina, it is not a rebadged job. To get out almost 20 DA lenses in such a short period of time, it would be difficult for Pentax to do it all alone.
03-24-2007, 09:42 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by DAP Quote
Tamron used to make a 24-135mm (don't know if they still do) that was pretty highly regarded.
Damn, had a margarita and missed that one. Thanks.
03-24-2007, 10:23 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by bdavis Quote
It really sucks that there isn't a lens with a good balance between cost, weight, and range+quality. My aim with such a lens under these situations would really be more to just document the occasion, and not create great art.
So...what's wrong with a P&S? It sounds like you're not that concerned with having a lot of control over aperture (per your comment about f/2.8 lenses), so I'm not exactly sure why the DSLR is so important. Find a good P&S with a decent zoom and I would think you'd be all set. As for "quality", most of that is up to the photographer anyway, not the camera or the lens.
03-25-2007, 12:11 AM   #14
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How about a sigma 17-70mm (which is a nice lens you will probably want to keep later) and a 1.4x TC (or a 2.0x bit that's quite a bit more weight and quality loss) for when you need a bit more reach. That would be a cheap, low-risk (currently easy to sell without much loss), lightweight and yet fairly good IQ solution...
03-25-2007, 05:54 AM   #15
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I am giving you a different solution. I did a lot of packpaking around twenty to ten years ago, carrying only a compact but very high quality Minox EL with fixed 35mm, leaving my Pentax gear with lenses from fish eye to 300 mm at home. While sometime I wished for a wider view or for a logn tele, I still was able to get 95% of the picture I saw in my mind.

So, I suggest you to find a good Pentax lens around the 24mm range, like the 21mm pancake if you want to buy new, or the FA 24 if you are able to find it used. The price would be a lot more than you are hoping for, but the quality would be outstanding, and it would a much lighter solution than a low quality superzoom.

While, if you just want to just record things, take a good compact, whose superzoom are much better than the ones you can mount over a reflex, thanks to the smaller sensor they have to cover.
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