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02-17-2009, 11:51 PM   #1
emr
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A general Q about upgrading to * or ltd

As I'm just beginning my DSLR usage (and LBA?) and my current lens set is humble to say the least, I'm just wondering what _real_life_ gains does one get upgrading the lenses to stars or limiteds? I know they get better results in measurebations but does that show in photographs taken in normal circumstances? Or only in extreme conditions? When the placebo effect isn't there, have you really felt your pictures have gained from the better lens? I'm not trolling but seriously considering whether I should one day upgrade my lenses.

I know of the weather sealing of the stars. Some lenses also bring the obvious aperture benefit. And one can never ignore the street cred aspect . But what I'm now asking is the benefits besides these obvious ones.

02-17-2009, 11:57 PM   #2
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I think you covered it all :-)

With the K20D, the lens will probably be the limiting factor. Even the relatively inexpensive 55-300 will be a significant upgrade for the 50-200, though (I have both). I had 2 primes and 2 zooms (plus a mirror telephoto) in my Canon film days, but nothing compels me to go for primes now as they don't fit my style of shooting. In a studio with a mostly fixed setup, they might be more valuable. Out and around I prefer the convenience of a zoom and don't feel I'm sacrificing much. Weathersealing could be useful for those people who have actual weather. In Southern California, not so much. There are many variables in photography, and lenses are only one.

Last edited by SpecialK; 02-18-2009 at 12:07 AM.
02-18-2009, 12:01 AM   #3
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Not that I've owned any *s or limiteds so take this with a grain of salt. IMHO the kit lens is amazing for what it is at f 5.6-8. A "real life" gain I think would be the extra speed. I just got a Tamron 28-75 which is a step up from the kit. Not a star, I know. The sharpness, contrast, and color rendition improvement is definitely there but the only "real life difference" I see from my 2 week use of it is the extra speed. If you dont find yourself in need of stopping up to bigger apertures. I'd say expand the range that you have to give more possibility (fisheye? macro?)
02-18-2009, 12:04 AM   #4
emr
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QuoteOriginally posted by SpecialK Quote
I think you covered it all :-)


But the main question was

QuoteQuote:
...but does that show in photographs taken in normal circumstances? Or only in extreme conditions?


02-18-2009, 12:22 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by emr Quote
but does that show in photographs taken in normal circumstances? Or only in extreme conditions? When the placebo effect isn't there, have you really felt your pictures have gained from the better lens?
this past weekend i was on a whale watching boat being tossed around a rough ocean in the rain. i took my favorite lens (M 200/4) and was so worried about the rain and spray that i missed shots. the ones i did take were wonderful, but the ones i missed were... missed. having weather seals would have made the event truly magic. i wish all pentax lenses were weather sealed, but they aren't. so you do gain that with the * lenses. it's not just extreme conditions, it's the freedom you get when you don't worry about the lens, but about the shot, the art, instead.

as for the ltd's, i have a 35ltd and really, for macro work that doesn't run away, it's magic in itself. the bokeh is buttery and soft, and inside the DOF it's crystal clear. none of my other macros come close.

my suggestion? read the database reviews, do searches on this forum, check out the "Clubs" and decide if the weather seals and magic are worth the bucks. there's LOTS of great pentax lenses out there, and in your hands they can have their own magic, too.

by the way, that M 200/4 cost about $70 and i shoot most of my wildlife subjects with that alone. of course, i run screaming for shelter when it starts to rain.
02-18-2009, 01:17 AM   #6
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Put simply, yes, good glass does make a real life difference.
You have the FA 50/1.4 - how does it perform against the kit lens at 50mm? 'Better' I presume. Why? You've got a world of creative opportunities open to you with the 50/1.4 which you simply cannot do with the kit lens - let alone the better contrast, colour rendition and sharpness.

What are you looking for in a 'better' lens anyway?

Macro photography? You'll benefit greatly from a true macro lens.
Telephoto shooting for fast action? You'll notice the difference immediately with a 70-200/2.8 lens or 300/2.8 prime.
Landscape photography? The DA 16-45's awesome and not pricey - yes, significantly better than the already good kit lens.

You need to ask yourself what you're REALLY after before you can ask whether one lens is better than another.
02-18-2009, 02:36 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by emr Quote
As I'm just beginning my DSLR usage (and LBA?) and my current lens set is humble to say the least, I'm just wondering what _real_life_ gains does one get upgrading the lenses to stars or limiteds? I know they get better results in measurebations but does that show in photographs taken in normal circumstances? Or only in extreme conditions? When the placebo effect isn't there, have you really felt your pictures have gained from the better lens? I'm not trolling but seriously considering whether I should one day upgrade my lenses.

I know of the weather sealing of the stars. Some lenses also bring the obvious aperture benefit. And one can never ignore the street cred aspect . But what I'm now asking is the benefits besides these obvious ones.
What you are asking is a functional, empirical, practical question rather than an abstract theoretical one about what defines a "better" lens.

From an abstract point of view, all else being equal, a lens that resolves 2350 line widths per picture height (LW/PH) is "better" than than a lens that "only" resolves 2200 line widths per picture height (LW/PH).

What you are asking, referring to the two examples above, is how much am I being limited by not have the "better" lens.

Let's put it this way:

I have a FA 35. If I started to use, from this point on, a DA 35 limited (ignoring the macro capability of the limited) would it make a noticeable, practical real world improvement in my images over using the FA 35? In my opinion NO. In other words if I was just looking at files created by one or the other lens, without knowing which lens created which file, my expectation is that I would not me able to tell the difference with any degree of accuracy.

My photography is constrained by a lot of things but it's not the lens in this case.

Last edited by wildman; 02-18-2009 at 05:07 AM.
02-18-2009, 02:49 AM   #8
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Thanks, everybody. Many good points worth thinking about.

02-18-2009, 04:52 AM   #9
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Good lenses certainly make a difference in image quality (your FA50 should tell you that)...and in what you can do with them.

f2.8 - f1.4 means you can seriously blow out backgrounds over f3.5 or higher. Better bokeh.
Better contrast and colours
Can shoot in dimmer situations
Much sharper
Lens effects (i.e. 3D quality from 77ltd)
Infinitely better build quality (incl: weather sealing, all metal build, etc)
...etc.

Here's my biggest thing about quality lenses...if the lens can do what I would do in PProcessing on it's own then it has saved me time. In business this time = money (speed of service to clients, etc.) so to me the quality optics are certainly worth it - within reason.

c[_]
02-18-2009, 05:02 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ash Quote
opportunities open to you with the 50/1.4 which you simply cannot do with the kit lens - let alone the better contrast, colour rendition and sharpness.
But bear in mind that the 50/1.4 is relatively soft wide open. It doesn't really get sharp unless you stop it down to 2.8 or so.
I have that and the 77Ltd and the 77Ltd takes portraits that just look better, though it has an annoying amount of flare as I detailed in a thread below...

So the answer is "it depends". Give them a try; if you can't see the difference, your wallet thanks you and you can move on with just enjoying photography (same as if you're trying out audio gear). If you can see the difference, your wallet will be emptied as you try out different gear to find that "perfect set" of lenses or speakers or headphones, or amp, etc....
02-18-2009, 05:13 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by emr Quote
but does that show in photographs taken in normal circumstances?
Try to keep this short, lets say that I had the same doubts you are having when I was considering buying the DA* 16-50. I just didnt want to pay that much more "just" for USM and weatherseal.... And I was so doubtful that i decided to actually rent one instead of buying it.

Well... lets put this way: first day with the rental lens, in a nice spring day, and i was totally shocked about the colors and definition. I just could not believe the results i was getting.


I did no buy the DA* 16-50 after that but the 50-135 and then 77 LTD. And I have no problems stating that the DA* series and the FA LTD (havent tried the new LTDs yet) are top notch glasses and not only they are constructed better and have faster glass, but they deliver OOTW results!!



Here are my first pictures with the 16-50, all jpges straight out of the K10D:









And here some of the striking results of the DA* 50-135, shot in RAW and exposure fixed a bit, but NO COLOR changes:




Last edited by Buddha Jones; 02-18-2009 at 06:22 AM. Reason: Please use the "WIDE" option for your large images
02-18-2009, 06:40 AM   #12
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Of all of the lenses that own and have owned, the 'kit lens' is my sentimental favorite. I still own it and use it from time to time but a lot less since I got the DA35LTD. Versatility is lost in some areas going from zoom to prime, but gained in the most important ones IMO with amazing bokeh that can be produced with the wide aperature, getting ridiculously close to my subject with it being a macro and still take wonderfull landscapes with its brilliant color rendition.

To its' credit, Pentax doesn't make crappy lenses... the specs make them great, the IQ make them legendary, it's just a matter of what level of greatness do you want to play with.
02-18-2009, 07:35 AM   #13
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Correct me if I'm wrong but with the current generation of lenses, the *'s and the Ltd's are the only lenses that will get you down to the 2.8 and under F-stops.

Not something you notice right away when you just start shooting and frankly hard to justify when you've just dropped a chunk of change on the camera itself (I think my first kit lens was a crappy Tamron 28-200 3.5-5.6), but something you start to crave when you see pics with bokeh that make you wet your lens bag.



QuoteOriginally posted by ll_coffee_lP Quote
f2.8 - f1.4 means you can seriously blow out backgrounds over f3.5 or higher. Better bokeh.
[_]

Last edited by legacyb4; 02-18-2009 at 10:56 AM.
02-18-2009, 07:55 AM   #14
emr
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QuoteOriginally posted by legacyb4 Quote
Not something you notice right away when you just start shooting and frankly hard to justify when you've just dropped a chunk of change on the camera itself (I think my first kit lens was a crappy Tamron 28-200 3.5-5.6), but something you start to crave when you see pics with bokeh that make you wet your lens bag.
I have to admit that since I bought the "fast fifty", it's the one that has been used the most. And shot wiiiiiide open, soft or not. I love playing with the DOF so far.
02-18-2009, 03:05 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by kauaiguy Quote
this past weekend i was on a whale watching boat being tossed around a rough ocean in the rain. i took my favorite lens (M 200/4) and was so worried about the rain and spray that i missed shots...

by the way, that M 200/4 cost about $70 and i shoot most of my wildlife subjects with that alone. of course, i run screaming for shelter when it starts to rain.
That's because you are in the height of winter out there. It's the time of year when Ron Wiley uses the word "chilly" a lot. When the temperature can plummet below 60 on a clear night, and you strongly consider closing some windows in the house. I was there for the 40 days of rain (2006?) and weather sealing would have been very nice.
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