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10-25-2009, 11:24 PM   #1
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Most Useful Prime Lens.

Hi all,

I have a Pentax K200D and have been using the 18-55mm kit lens that came with it. I have noticed though that I don't really use the lenses ability to zoom all that much. 95% of the time I either have the lens at 18mm for landscapes and somewhere between 45-55 for portrait/candid shots.

I recently borrowed my friends Pentax 50mm F1.4 prime and was blown away by the increased sharpness of the pictures and the extra flexibility to control depth of field and low-light shooting afforded by being able to shoot at f1.4-f2. I'm therefore thinking of building a collection of a few prime lenses to fit my shooting conditions rather than focusing on getting zoom lenses to cover all the possible focal lengths.

I would love to hear peoples advice on which lenses to go for (even if someone thinks a zoom would be the way to go instead?)

I'm mobile and do a lot of traveling so the size of the lens is an issue too. I'm pretty sure the bigger the lens the more likely it will end up sitting in a cupboard somewhere.

I will be building the collection of lenses bit by bit so I'd really like to buy the one I would probably get the most use out of first and go from there. I'm currently leaning towards the FA50mm as my initial purchase if for no other reason than I've used it and it seemed to be very useful and closely matches the telephoto of the kit lense I've been using. Other lenses I've been looking at are the 31mm, 43mm and 77mm pentax lenses. At the wide angle I would be interesting to know if people would recommend something like the 12-24mm rather than going with a fixed lense?

Sorry for the long post. I just thought the more info I provide hopefully the better advice I can get. Any help/advice will be greatly appreciated.


Last edited by Peter Zack; 10-27-2009 at 04:09 AM. Reason: Title spelling
10-26-2009, 01:18 AM   #2
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Steven, would you mind going Manual? There are many cheap (and I mean *CHEAP*) possibilities once you decide legacy glass is no problem....
10-26-2009, 01:26 AM   #3
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Primes all the way!

I'd have an FA 50mm 1.4

and the ltd 31, and 77mm

In fact...I do :P

Then maybe add a 10-20mm sigma HSM f3.5 and a DA* 300mm or 200mm and you've got everything covered.

Cept macro... Tamron 90mm macro there ya go :P
10-26-2009, 01:34 AM   #4
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I'm of the thinking that a mix is the best combination. The kit lens is a nice start to any camera but as you've seen, there are a large number of better lenses to consider.

The FA50mm is excellent value for the money and should be in every camera bag IMO. There are better primes but this ones still a real work horse that is perfect for limited DOF shots and portrait length photos. At under $300, you can't beat it.

The 3 you mention above are about as good as it gets for glass. If you got the FA50mm, I'd suspect that on or the other between it and the 43mm ltd would see little use. The 50 is faster and a little longer. The 43 is sharper and renders a better image but slower. You might want to consider the 40mm f2.8 limited. A bit wider than the 43 and certainly the 50. Slower but for travel, you'll be shocked how small that lens is. It's the perfect hi resolution travel lens.

I would not sway you against the 40 or 43,31 and 77mm's. All are stellar and for many shooters, all you would ever need.

Below 20MM I really think it's zoom territory. I've owned the Sigma 12-24mm, The Sigma 10-20mm and the Pentax 12-24mm. The Pentax is hands down the best of the 3 lenses. There are a few lens choices here. Pentax has the small 15mm f4 and the larger 14mm f2.8. Then there's the smallish 21mm f3.2 Plus some other brands like Sigma which are quite large relative to the Pentax primes in this focal length.

A wide zoom is big compared to the FA50. but the Pentax 12-24mm isn't much (if any) longer than your 18-55mm and just a larger diameter. IMO this is the lens to get.

Finally keep your 18-55mm. A good general purpose lens. that you don't mind treating poorly. Maybe you want to go to the beach on a windy day. If sand gets in the kit lens and grinds it up, well not a big deal. If it happened to a 31mm ltd, you'll be talking about it till the day you die.

BTW welcome to the forums and you should go back to the forums page to find the lens review database. It has every lens listed and users reviews. Very helpful to try and decide on a purchase.

10-26-2009, 03:27 AM   #5
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Hi Stephen,
don't be sorry to post long text, that's much better than leaving people clueless.

All has been said, but here's one more thing and it's for free :-)
With the kit lens, try to limit the long end to 21mm and use it in AV-mode at f/9 or more closed down (should be equally good with f/11 f/13 ish). The wide angle IQ should go up substantially.

Wishing you all the creative energies with your personal style,
Georg (the other)
10-26-2009, 04:57 AM   #6
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Thanks for everyone's responses. I've been trawling through the lens reviews on here which have been extremely helpful but with so many options it can sometimes be a bit daunting knowing where to start!

The kit lens has indeed served me well. I wanted to use it for as long as I could before investing in new lenses to determine what my shooting habits were. If I'd purchased additional lenses straight away I think I would have gone for something in the range of a 18-70 and a 70-200mm zoom assuming the range of focal lengths would be best. As I mentioned though I realised I don't really use zoom that much.

I think at some point the 12-24mm Pentax sound like a great option. I definitely want to get a bit wider than 18mm at some point and this would be ideal.

The 31 and 77mm also both seem like easy options as they provide distinct focal lengths and seem to be head and shoulders above the competition.

The real sticking point is deciding between the 40, 43, 50 options (I believe there is also a new 55mm option but from reviews it appears to have some problems focusing and is wayyy more expensive than the FA50). I think I will go for the FA50. The term "everyone should have one" seems to be popping up everywhere and sounds like an ideal entry point into the prime world (and it's a good price too!) Thanks again for all the input.

PS. And cheers for the advice George. I'm looking forward to trying it out soon!
10-26-2009, 06:48 AM   #7
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I like small primes for general shooting. My walkaround kit is the 15/5, 21/3.2, 40/2.8 &70/2.4 (all LTD lenses). If I'm thinking the 40 will be too long, I'll slip in either the 31LTD, FA35/2 or the A35/2. The 40 is very small, so another lens close to it's FL is not really a bother.
The DA*55/1.4 is WAY sharper than the FA50/1.4 at any stop wider than ~f/5.6, so if you tend to like to shoot with a fairly wide aperture, the 55/1.4 is worth consideration.
Note it is a very large lens for what it does. I don't know what the deal is with focusing it, my lens works just fine.
I suspect you've read some internet hyperbole somewhere and are taking it as fact.
10-26-2009, 06:58 AM   #8
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most useful?

a 50mm if you want to do portraits and it may be fast, good for low light.

a wide one, 21ltd. or a 24mm manual lens, specially if you go M42

and a tele, heaps of very good 135mm available for just a few bucks, specially if you go m42

10-26-2009, 09:04 AM   #9
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I had the FA50 and feel it is a bit overrated. If you are looking for sharp images, you won't be using it below f2 and more likely f2.8. For not much more you can get the DA40 which by all accounts is a very good lens. I don't have that one but I have other limiteds and the build and image quality of the limiteds are excepetional.
10-26-2009, 09:07 AM   #10
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I have/love my FA 50 1.4, but my Sigma 30mm 1.4 (which I also love) spends more time on my K200D due to it being closer to a "normal" focal distance on an APS-C sensor.
10-26-2009, 09:08 AM   #11
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Of my current lenses, I find the 31 the most useful. I am awaiting delivery of the 43 so this may change. I suspect I will like the FOV of the 43 better but of course that is quite subjective. I really like the DA70 for portraits. I was debating between it and the 77 but chose the 70 based on cost. I no longer desire the 77. The 70 is outstanding.
10-26-2009, 09:14 AM   #12
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What prime will be most useful to you, depends on what kind of photography you want to do - where you tend to shoot, what kind of light you've got to deal with, etc.

If you mainly want to take candid pictures of people indoors, say, your child's birthday party, well, the 50mm lens may be a little too long. Remember that, for our Pentax DSLR's, the normal field of view is achieved with a lens in the 31-35mm range. I own the Pentax 50. It's true, it's a lens you can hardly go wrong with. It's the fastest lens in my kit. But I use it very seldom.

For normal shooting, I'd rather have use Sigma 28 f/1.8, Pentax 35 f/2 or Pentax 40 f/2.8. I think if I had to live with just 1 lens, it might be the Pentax 40. I wish it were a little faster but otherwise it's nearly perfect. My second favorite is the Sigma 28 f/1.8.

If you're shooting landscapes, you will want to go wider, perhaps like the Pentax 21 (which I do not have, yet). If you're shooting subjects that are a little farther away and/or you just need to really narrow the field of view, you can try the Pentax 70 (excellent) or 77 (unbeatably good, apparently, but much more expensive).

One last point. I was reading recently about the great British portrait photographer Jane Bown. Terrific photographer, known for portraits of the Queen, the Beatles, even a great shot of Cartier-Bresson himself. What I did not know about her until the other day is that she spent just about her entire career shooting with the same camera and the same lens: an Olympus SLR with an 85mm f/2.8 lens. I found it a humbling reminder that it may not be essential to my future as a photographer for me to buy every prime that is sold for Pentax.

Will
10-26-2009, 09:20 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by al_undy Quote
Of my current lenses, I find the 31 the most useful. I am awaiting delivery of the 43 so this may change. I suspect I will like the FOV of the 43 better but of course that is quite subjective.
Yes. I wish I had the 31. I have the Sigma 28 and the Pentax 35 f/2. I prefer the Sigma's FOV and I like the fact that it's just a tad wide of "normal". But I know the 31 must be an even better lens. Wish it weren't so expensive!


QuoteQuote:
I really like the DA70 for portraits. I was debating between it and the 77 but chose the 70 based on cost. I no longer desire the 77. The 70 is outstanding.
Thanks for this note. I just received the 70 and have been agonizing over whether to keep it or send it back and get the 77.

Will
10-26-2009, 09:49 AM   #14
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I had the FA 50 and 35. The 35 was a much sharper lens with better overall IQ than the 50 IMO. I sold both to finance the 31 and am glad that I did.

My 70/77 debate was driven by a search for the lens that provides the "magic." Reviews of the FA limiteds are littered with such subjective comments and of course that's what I wanted! I have found that regardless of the abilities of the photographer (I find that my style is more quantity with hopefully some quality scattered in there), the DA 70 has that ethereal magic/punch/grab ya by the short hairs that makes you think you have really captured your subject and made a beautiful image. So, no need to spend the extra bucks for the 77.

QuoteOriginally posted by WMBP Quote
Yes. I wish I had the 31. I have the Sigma 28 and the Pentax 35 f/2. I prefer the Sigma's FOV and I like the fact that it's just a tad wide of "normal". But I know the 31 must be an even better lens. Wish it weren't so expensive!




Thanks for this note. I just received the 70 and have been agonizing over whether to keep it or send it back and get the 77.

Will
10-26-2009, 10:04 AM   #15
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If you plan on getting something in the 50mm range, you might want to consider looking for a F series instead of an FA series. As I understand it they are the same glass, just wrapped in a different skin. I personally use a F 50 f1.7, and it is a phenominal lens. The f1.4s and the f1.7s use two very different optical formulas, so be sure which one you want before you lay down the money.
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