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06-16-2009, 06:12 PM   #1
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Lens Recommendations for China, London, Europe


I'm a college student, and I will be spending ~10 months studying abroad. I'll be in Hangzhou, China for the fall semester and London for the Spring semester. I've used a K100D kit for a few years, but I'm ready to move up, so I've been saving for a K-7 and some glass to help me document what I hope will be the best 10 months of my life. I'll mostly be in urban environments (street photo, people, portraits, ect), but I also plan to do some traveling to the more naturally picturesque areas of China and around Europe (landscape and architecture). Weight and size is a concern, WR is a plus, but most of all I want to be able to get the most out of the K-7 IQ wise.

BUT I'm stuck sifting through all of the amazing lenses Pentax (and others) have to offer, and I need some help deciding. I really can't spend more than ~$1000, and the less I spend on lenses, the more I can spend on travel, etc.

My first thought was a DA* 16-50 and 50-135 pair for the weather sealing, but its a bit out of my price range, even used, and I'm hesitant about QC issues with the 16-50. But I'm loving every image I see coming from the 50-135, and I feel I might use this range more as I very often find myself wanting more reach from my kit lens.
So maybe 50-135 and a wider prime? Or possibly the tamron 17-50 or sigma 18-50?

While I'm attracted to the versatility of zooms, I also have had the thought that it might be interesting and challenging (in a good way) to shoot this entire experience with only one or two prime lenses. The FA and DA Limiteds have definitely caught my regard in this sense, there is just something about the images they produce that you know just couldn't come from a zoom, and I'm sure they would produce stunning video as well. But I'm worried that if I take, say, just a 31 Limited, I'll be wanting more reach or more WA.

For me, this is a huge investment, so I am considering carefully and would value any advice anyone has to offer. Thanks in advance!

06-16-2009, 06:51 PM   #2
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If I was in your shoes, along with my K20D, I'd take along my Sigma 17-70 + my DA55-300, for sure. Between the 2, I would have moderately wide-angle to fairly long tele covered, which will work for me in almost any situation. The Sigma 17-70 also has a nice close up feature (1:2.3), which is great if you think you're going to want to shoot some of the local flowers along the way. Both can be had new for under $800 total.

If you'd rather stick with Pentax-branded lenses, then the DA16-45 is also a good option--nice IQ and a bit lighter in weight than the Sigma 17-70. Pricewise, it's in the same general ballpark as the 17-70. While a good bit more expensive, the DA17-70 is also worth looking at.

If I wanted something for handheld low light, I'd throw in the FA43; I think it would work well with the video of the K7, too.

If you've got the room, consider picking up a small tripod and ballhead. Along with a cable release, a tripod will help you improve the IQ of your images regardless of which lenses you use and will allow you to get some shots in low light that you wouldn't be able to do just handheld (think nighttime cityscapes); you'll be able to use ISO 100 + smaller apertures for greater depth of field no matter what the lighting situation.

06-16-2009, 07:02 PM   #3
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Hi I am from hong kong and currently living in London and I know the weather both in China and the UK, In china in does not really rain after September until Late march so I am sure it you do not need the WR offered by the DA*s, however China is a countries full of air pollution and lots of dust flying around. I am not saying that dust will go into your lens but I am sure you will not be very happy to change lenses all the time in urban areas of China. Yes forget about the DA* 16-50 if you think that is too expensive and go for the tamron 17-50 F2.8, this is a great lens and has very good review. Do not buy the Sigma, I have the sigma 18-50 F2.8 but I notice that the F2.8 is not a real 2.8 and I would have to stop it down to at least 3.5 to see the apeture is closed down a little so this is rather a F3.5 lens.

You will be taking photos of lots of flowers in parks in china. They look great. and the 50-135 will do a great job for sure.

Do you have any gears to sell now? I would suggest you to sell your old camera body if you have one and get yourself a sigma 10-20mm for wide angle photos.

When you go to china by any chance you will be stopping over in hong kong? Hong Kong is the cheapest place on earth to purchase lenes. It will be around 15-20% cheaper than the US and 25-30% cheaper than the UK. if you are planning to spend $1000 then you are taking about saving around $200+ and $200 you can do alot in china, $200 is the average monthly wage over in China. So I am sure you will enjoy.

However in the UK it rains alot during spring, I am not sure if you want WR for London but then I never had any problem with my K110d and sigma lens.

In short I think it is worth checking out the prices in China or Hong Kong for pentax gear and you might better off buying over there.

Note: Pentax-M lenses worth alot more over in china then in the US or Europe. And M42 lens will be the killer you will able to make lots of money if you bring lots of old lenses to china.

peoople love to use the M42 on canons

Drop me a message if you need anymore help

P.S. do not worry about light in china since lots of light aviable in CHina but not so much in the UK
06-16-2009, 08:43 PM   #4
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I would be doing my best to get the DA* combo, weather sealing and all.

Why not rent if you can the DA*16-50 for a few days and see if you like it as well. Its my travel zoom, great for landscapes great for tight places.. for me it would be more wothwhile than the 50-135 for such a trip.

Not many complaints as well of late regarding bad copies and its terrific lens.


06-16-2009, 10:52 PM   #5
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Where are you going to be studying in Hangzhou? I spent last year studying there, at Zhejiang University. In terms of camera gear, I had my K10D, the Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6, Sigma 17-70mm F2.8 - 4.5 and Pentax-F 50mm F1.7 lenses with me. The 50/1.7 didn't see much use at all, and the 17-70mm was perfect as an everyday lens, and I also made a lot of use of the 10-20mm. I found that having a max focal length of 70mm didn't prove to be a problem at all, and perhaps only once or twice did I wish I had something longer.

And as you have said, you'll mostly be taking shots in urban environments, and of nature and landscapes, so I would definitely recommend a wide angle lens similar to the 10-20m, and then a general purpose everyday lens, say one of the Sigma or Pentax 17-70mms, or maybe something around 24-70mm, 28-75mm.

I did also find that there were quite a few times where I wished I had a compact camera with me, so you might want to keep that in mind as well.
06-17-2009, 09:17 AM   #6
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Original Poster
I'll be studying at Zhejiang University of Technology, as part of the Middlebury-CET school abroad.

I am definitely more concerned about rain in the UK, not so much in China, as you said.

I looked through the EXIF data of a few of my albums, and honestly maybe 2-5% of my shots were at 18mm, so I'm just not sure if I should let a UWA like the 10-20mm take up so much of my budget. Any other suggestions?

I've got the digicam covered with a Fuji 50fd, which actually takes pretty good photos.

I'm also personally not big on flower photography, so a lens with macro capability is not really a must.

I have heard good things about the 55-300, but I think i would rather have a brighter lens at the sacrifice of longer reach. Ideally, I'd like to be able to have f2.8 or faster available most of the time.

Keep them coming!
06-20-2009, 03:26 PM   #7
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I have the DA17-70 and FA43. I do mostly street shots and close landscape shots. I don't really need anything else.

I'd consider the 55-200 if I was to add a third lens and I didn't zoom long a lot. I did have the 55-200, which I gave to my dad, and it went along great with the K10.

If I did use long zoom a lot, in low-light, I'd try to get a 50-135/2.8.

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