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04-12-2007, 10:48 PM   #1
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Which Road To Take?

Hi all... looking for input, suggestions, reflections, etc.

So, after 35 years of Pentax film SLR's, I'm finally groping my way in to the digital world; I'll be ordering a K10D by the end of the month.

However, I'm not sure where to go on the issue of lenses. I've never had particularly good lenses, because as much as I enjoy photography, it is invariably incidental to what I'm doing in the first place. In the past that has meant as a soldier arriving by parachute (camera inside shirt or stuffed in ruck), in a dry bag in the front of a kayak, in a set of saddlebags, etc. A few trusty pieces of gear with the word "Pentax" on them gave their mechanical lives over the years...

So I'm older and slower now, and my current surviving glass is two FA series zooms; a 28-80 f/3.5-4.7 and a 100-300 f/4.5-5.6. I know these are somewhat mediocre glass, but they gave pretty good results in exchange for not too many tears over the cost when one got crunched. However, I have no idea what the results of these two lenses are going to look like when coupled with a K10D and displayed on a really good monitor or printed. And of course with the crop factor, I'm going to be a bit short on the wide angle end.

Anyways, for various reasons I have to make lens decisions prior to having the new camera in hands. It seems I have three general ways to go:
  1. Just have a go at it with my old existing FA zooms and suck it up for a year or so if the results are unsatisfactory
  2. Go with the existing lenses and pick up the kit lens for the small extra cost when the rebate is considered
  3. Go for an "all round" lens right off the bat as the primary lense, something in the general area of 28-250 or thereabouts.
Unfortunately, I just DON'T have the loose pocket change at the present time to go too overboard on fine lenses (like I'm the only one in that situation).

I live in the Rocky Mountains in the crown of the continent, surrounded by national parks. So most of my photography is of wildlife, mountains, and the various outdoor activities I take part in. Weight and space is always an issue on those trips, so the fewer lenses I can get away with the better. I've never felt to date that I was missing a telephoto over 300mm, nor the lack of a real wide angle lens. Nor would I feel I was demeaning myself if any lense I added had a name on it other than "Pentax". Given my druthers, if I ended up putting some money into an "all round" lens, I'd probably like one that I can turn around and stick on my PZ-1 as well and shoot film (not quite ready to leave that yet).

Anyways, given those parameters, I'm certainly open to listening to past experiences, suggestions, and information. I've been all over the Internet on this the last couple of weeks, and I'm as indecisive now as I was when I started. (and yes, I've been lurking in the "one lens" thread that is currently running)

Thanks folks...

04-13-2007, 03:44 AM   #2
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Rick,

I'm not a lens expert by any means, as I only have the DA18-55, DA50-200, and an old M50:1.4. With the two lenses you have, I might suggest one of two roads to take to help on the wider end at a very reasonable price. Get the kit lens (DA18-55) or the Zenitar 16mm. Both are good performers for the money. It should be noted that the Zenitar is a manual focus lens and sample pictures can be found in Photo_Moms thread (https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/5496-many-talents-zenitar.html).


I would also suggest that you shoot with what you got for a while to see if you see what ranges you wish you had.

Tim
04-13-2007, 04:11 AM   #3
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I, too, would go for the kit lens. I originally bought only the K100D body, but picked up the 18-55 later because it's your only inexpensive option for a wide angle lens. A 28mm lens (the common wide end of most zooms) on a digital camera is the equivalent of 42mm on a film camera, which in my opinion is longer than I would like for a minimum focal length.
04-13-2007, 05:24 AM   #4
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Hi Rick. I like atupdate's idea of hanging a while with what you have. I'm pretty sure you'll want something wider, but how much wider? You also mentioned wanting to continue shooting with your PZ-1. While I a huge fan of the DA 18-55 kit lens, it isn't very suitable for a film camera. IIRC, the DA 16-45 works better on a film body (I don't own the lens so I'm going by hearsay here)
My advice would be either to get the camera as a kit, with the DA 18-55, I think you will only pay about $50 so or more for the kit lens. If you do a bit of judicious shopping you can even find it for less. The second option would be to get a body only, use your old consumer zooms, and see what else you would want. For instance you might just decide that digital is the only way to go and sell you PZ-1. I haven't sold my ZX-5N yet, but I also haven't used it since I got my DS. When I want to shoot film, I've go an old Vivitar 4000s loaded with B&W film, that does very nicely.

NaCl(hope that helps)H2O

04-13-2007, 03:27 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by atupdate Quote
Rick,

I'm not a lens expert by any means, as I only have the DA18-55, DA50-200, and an old M50:1.4. With the two lenses you have, I might suggest one of two roads to take to help on the wider end at a very reasonable price. Get the kit lens (DA18-55) or the Zenitar 16mm.
My first choice at this point is definitely to go with the 18-55 kit lens. The package price and the rebate running to the end of the month kind of make it almost a no-brainer. However, I have seldom felt the need for anything wider than a 28mm setting in 35mm for the type of things that leads me to be hauling my camera out of my pack or whatever. So... we're talking about a 35mm equivilency of... ummm... (math skills aren't great) 12-36? Unless my imagery inclinations changed with the move to digital, I'd end up with a zoom that I was mostly using just the one end of. That's what leads me to look at available (and reasonably priced) zooms that start around 24-28mm in the 35mm world, 18mm or so in the digital box.

That doesn't rule the kit lense out - especially at that price - but I don't think I would get the use out of it that a zoom in a different range (or at least including a macro capability) would give me. That's why I was musing about buying something like the Sigma 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Macro. A lot more useful to me and the slow speed doesn't concern me much - but I have to wonder what kind of image quality you get out of a lense with that range that sells for $250. I see similar zooms in the Tamron and Tokina lineups, but again, I know there's no such thing as a free lunch.

I should probably mention I'm stuck on zooms, for better or worse. Basically, when something goes into my pack, something else has to come out - after all the mandatory stuff for doing my job goes in there, the space that is left has to be shared by clothes, food, and similar non-essential things. So while I would love to have a wide selection of fine lenses to sort through while using my camera, even having two amounts to somewhat of a luxury. At some point in the future, hopefully I'll find one lense that will give outstanding results from about 24-300mm (in the film world), and I'll be quite prepared to pay through the nose to own such a lense. For now, however, I have to be a bit more modest in my shopping.

QuoteQuote:
I would also suggest that you shoot with what you got for a while to see if you see what ranges you wish you had.
In a more ideal world I would do just that, and also to see how my old entry level zooms stand up - maybe with the image being cropped around the center of the glass in digital format, they might get a quality boost. However, for a whole whack of reasons I won't go into here, whatever choices I make regarding lenses before ordering my camera, I am going to have to live with for at least a year and a half - for better or worse.

Thank you, Tim
04-13-2007, 04:24 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by NaClH2O Quote
I'm pretty sure you'll want something wider, but how much wider?
That's a question I've been asking myself. Normally in film, I've never felt a great need for anything wider than 24-28mm. But with the move to digital and no film cost associated with pointing my camera at whatever catches my attention or gives rise to the urge to try something, who's to say? For now, I'm inclined to stick with what I know from my old habits.

QuoteQuote:
You also mentioned wanting to continue shooting with your PZ-1. While I a huge fan of the DA 18-55 kit lens, it isn't very suitable for a film camera.
For a narrow wide zoom like the kit lens, I don't really care - as I mentioned above that range is marginally useful to me anyways given my normal photography habits. My existing FA zoom goes down to 28mm, and that has been just fine for me the last 15 years. When I said that, I was thinking of the lenses like the Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 Di for example. However, it isn't a huge issue if it won't work or won't work properly with the PZ-1...

QuoteQuote:
My advice would be either to get the camera as a kit, with the DA 18-55, I think you will only pay about $50 so or more for the kit lens. If you do a bit of judicious shopping you can even find it for less. The second option would be to get a body only, use your old consumer zooms, and see what else you would want.
Yes, that's pretty solid advice, although I have some unique issues here at the moment as mentioned in my previous post.

QuoteQuote:
For instance you might just decide that digital is the only way to go and sell you PZ-1.
That's more than possible. Particularly when, as a GIS analyst/cartographer, I have access to lots of large, luscious moniters that are a natural fit with digital. However, my wife the landscape architect seems to be in a profession that still places a great deal of emphasis on film photography. I'm not sure why that is, but she's been pretty clear on letting me know my PZ-1 isn't going anywhere since her Nikon died a few years ago. She could probably pick up a lightly used, slightly older Nikon 35mm for nearly a song these days, but...

Anyways, thank you for those comments Salty... I've still got about five days to look at my options before it's Decision Day.
04-13-2007, 05:53 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rick Quote
Hi all... looking for input, suggestions, reflections, etc.

So, after 35 years of Pentax film SLR's, I'm finally groping my way in to the digital world; I'll be ordering a K10D by the end of the month.

So I'm older and slower now, and my current surviving glass is two FA series zooms; a 28-80 f/3.5-4.7 and a 100-300 f/4.5-5.6.

Anyways, for various reasons I have to make lens decisions prior to having the new camera in hands. It seems I have three general ways to go:
  1. Just have a go at it with my old existing FA zooms and suck it up for a year or so if the results are unsatisfactory
  2. Go with the existing lenses and pick up the kit lens for the small extra cost when the rebate is considered
  3. Go for an "all round" lens right off the bat as the primary lense, something in the general area of 28-250 or thereabouts.
Unfortunately, I just DON'T have the loose pocket change at the present time to go too overboard on fine lenses (like I'm the only one in that situation).
Definitely go with option 2. The kit lens gives you a decent wide (18mm-equal to 28mm on a 35mm film camera) to short telephoto (55mm-equal to 85mm on film). It is a good performer and will let you learn about what your photos interests will be. The cost with a camera body is only about $80, which is a great deal. Your exisiting FA lenses will cover the long range and will work perfectly fine with a new digital body.

After you get some experience you can then decide what additional lenses will aid in your photography. Don't buy lenses simply because you think they may be useful; buy a specific lens to get a particular image that you cannot get with your existing equipment.

Another idea is to get a K100D instead of a K10D. That will save you a substantial amount of money that you can invest in future lenses as the need arises. The K10D is a fine camera, but the K100D is capable of producing fine images and you probably don't need the more advanced features of the K10 at present.
04-13-2007, 08:40 PM   #8
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Hi Rick:

Many have recommended going with the kit 18-55 lens. However, that is about the lowest optical quality available, so do you really want to use that on your fairly high-end body?

It is inexpensive, and is wider than what you have, however.

Sigma has a 18-50 constant f2.8 still available at Cameta Camera for $300.
Amazon.com: Sigma 18-50mm F/2.8 EX DC Lens for Pentax Digital SLR Cameras: Camera & Photo
It is a pretty decent lens, and gains 2 stops over the kit at the maximum FL, and a stop over the Pentax 16-45 that is comparably-priced after rebates. However, the extra (or fewer?) 2mm at the wide end of the Pentax can be useful.

I don't think $300 is too much for a decent lens on a good camera.
However, $50 for marginal performer may be too much.

There is a newer "macro" version (1:3) for about $75 more.

There is also a Tamron 18-200 that covers about the whole range you seem to want, for just under $400. It is not particulary fast, though.
Amazon.com: Tamron Autofocus 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di II Macro Lens for Pentax Digital SLR Cameras: Camera & Photo

It's still under 1/2 the body price, which seems reasonable.

Both are digital-only, so no film shooting...

Good luck with your choice.

04-13-2007, 08:59 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rick Quote
My first choice at this point is definitely to go with the 18-55 kit lens. The package price and the rebate running to the end of the month kind of make it almost a no-brainer. However, I have seldom felt the need for anything wider than a 28mm setting in 35mm for the type of things that leads me to be hauling my camera out of my pack or whatever. So... we're talking about a 35mm equivilency of... ummm... (math skills aren't great) 12-36?
I don't want you to be confused -- the crop factor works the other way around:

18-55 on a DSLR is equivalent to 27-82.5 on 35mm.
04-18-2007, 08:30 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by SuperJared Quote
I don't want you to be confused -- the crop factor works the other way around:

18-55 on a DSLR is equivalent to 27-82.5 on 35mm.
I understand the crop factor. However, I have gained the assumption that SOME digital lenses are labelled with what they are when on a digital camera. Which is why I used the crop factor in reverse in that particular example. If I had thought about it further, I probably would have realized that this lens is labelled with the "35mm equivilent" or whatever it is properly termed.
04-18-2007, 09:35 AM   #11
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Thanks again for all the comments and perspectives. Have spent most of my free time the last few days pouring through archived threads here and elsewhere, looking at lens reviews, etc and so forth.

There are a couple of the extreme zooms that caught my attention, but there was a combination of comments relating concerns over build/image quality and the pricing that made me look a little further and change my focus somewhat. I also had a closer look at the existing rebate offer and realized that the kit lens wasn't included in that anyways - that's what you get for doing your computer shopping evaluation at three in the morning... So the "can't lose" pricing wasn't quite that good...

I've kind of surrendered on the "all in one" idea for the next year or so, and looked instead for something that will cover most of my usual needs. Furthermore, given the move to the K10D, it seemed to me that if I was going to be buying lenses to supplement my old Pentax lenses, in the long run I should be looking for a pretty high standard of image quality in any lens I add. I don't jump out of airplanes for a living anymore, and although I still have a pretty active lifestyle, the chances of my lenses being subjected to destructive testing as part of my work/activities is far less likely now. So "don't buy anything so expensive you'll cry when it inevitably gets crunched" doesn't apply anymore (although at the moment "expensive" isn't in the budget).

For now, that has lead me to shortlist the Sigma 17-70 DC Macro and the Sigma 18-125 as a distant second choice. That's where the majority of my shooting occurs anyways, somewhere within the 35mm equivilent of that lens range. It's a little short on the telephoto end for me, particularly the 17-70, but the positive comments on that lens and in particular some of the examples of closeup photos here posted recently has really caught my attention. I haven't found a lot of information on the Sigma 18-125 in the various forums and on the internet, and I doubt it has the quasi-macro ability of the 17-70 from what I have read. It's an obviously slower lens as well.

The Pentax 16-45 (with rebate) and Sigma 18-50 EX are also right in there around the $300 - $325 mark. But if the 17-70 is a bit on the short side to cover most of my requirements, then those two lenses would fall short just that much further. I could probably go as high as $425 -450 and justify it with not only the Residential Sergeant Major but myself as well. However, it would have to be something like an 18-200 or 250 that there was wide agreement is always good in both build quality and image quality. The lenses that would fit that general description so far have struck me as not meeting some part of that criteria. I did look at the Tamron 18-200, but impressions on this lens led me to the opinion it wasn't quite what I was looking for. Enough that I kept going back to look at the two Sigmas mentioned above, anyways.

Anyways, Decision Day will be tomorrow evening, so I still have a day and a half to poke around in my spare time, think about it, etc. It would be one hell of a lot easier if I didn't live out in the boonies and could simply go to a large camera store, try the various lenses, and see for myself rather than gleaning through others' impressions.

Any other lenses I might have missed taking a look at in the 16-18 and up zoom range that anyone is aware of and which might fit my criteria?
04-18-2007, 10:11 AM   #12
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Hi Rick, I can't think of any. I don't own the Sigma 17-70 but I know many who do and all but one love the lens (that one doesn't particularly like anything not Pentax so I suspect some bias) It's probably a good choice. If the Keeper of the Purse Strings agrees, and your kit will allow it, have you thought of getting a TC? That would boost your long end a bit and the Sigma 17-70 is certainly fast enough to handle it.

NaCl(just to confuse the situation a bit more)H2O

Last edited by NaClH2O; 04-18-2007 at 10:12 AM. Reason: spelling
04-18-2007, 12:03 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rick Quote
Go for an "all round" lens right off the bat as the primary lense, something in the general area of 28-250 or thereabouts.
..... Given my druthers, if I ended up putting some money into an "all round" lens, I'd probably like one that I can turn around and stick on my PZ-1 as well and shoot film (not quite ready to leave that yet).
See if you can find one of the Tamron non-DI super zooms. I found a 28-300 zoom last summer for $140 new in box. It's a full frame lens, meaning you can use it on film as well. The Tamron model number is A06 (that's a zero in the middle). If you can find that one on ebay or somewhere, it would make a good choice for your digital and film cameras. I'd say anything around $200 is a really good price. The $140 was a total fluke, and the new ones I've seen lately are usually over $250. The subsequent versions of this lens may also be full frame. I'd check Tamron's website to see. I'm pretty sure the DI lenses are for APS-C sensors only, meaning you'd get vignetting on your film camera.

Good luck!
04-18-2007, 12:10 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by SpecialK Quote
Many have recommended going with the kit 18-55 lens. However, that is about the lowest optical quality available, so do you really want to use that on your fairly high-end body?
Maybe you have a bad copy? I've heard a few complaints about the kit lens (and seen solid evidence of a bad copy by one person), but I've had good experience with mine and seen many more compliments of the kit lens. It's certainly not a "Limited" or "Star" lens, but for $60, it's well worth that. In fact, I'm usually surprised by the color and contrast I get with the lens, and if it's stopped down just a bit, the sharpness is really good.

I just wouldn't say it's the lowest optical quality available, not by a long shot. Even some of the older Pentax zooms are much worse than this. The 18-55 is generally regarded as one of the better kit lenses out there by most reviewers.
04-18-2007, 01:58 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by rfortson Quote
See if you can find one of the Tamron non-DI super zooms. I found a 28-300 zoom last summer for $140 new in box. It's a full frame lens, meaning you can use it on film as well.
That's a great price you got, but not really a solution for me. My existing Pentax zooms cover the 28-300 range. Somewhat average lenses, but will do until money comes along to purchase better lenses to cover this ground.

While the ideal would be a superb zoom that would cover the 16/18 - 200/250 range so one lens would indeed cover everything, what I really need right now is something to cover the wide end of things that my existing lenses no longer do due to the crop factor. Something like the 17-70 does that and will cover most of my historical shooting habits as well. The somewhat macro capabilities are also a very nice addition.

Give it a year or so, and I have no doubt somebody will come up with, at the very least, something like a very superb and fast 28-250, 70-300, etc. With that and a very good 17-70, it would just about take care of all my needs in a package that will take minimal space and weight in a backpack or field vest.

QuoteOriginally posted by NaClH2O Quote
Hi Rick, I can't think of any. I don't own the Sigma 17-70 but I know many who do and all but one love the lens (that one doesn't particularly like anything not Pentax so I suspect some bias) It's probably a good choice. If the Keeper of the Purse Strings agrees, and your kit will allow it, have you thought of getting a TC? That would boost your long end a bit and the Sigma 17-70 is certainly fast enough to handle it.
Funny you should mention a TC... yes, as a matter of fact I have... I have also thought of looking for a conversion mount for a very fine old 135mm lense I have buried around here somewhere. Haven't seen any, but I presume they allow you to mount the old screw mount lenses just like the K mounts. I think I can probably manage to use manual focus when required without shedding too many tears...
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