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10-29-2009, 02:28 PM   #1
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AF Primes on the cheap?

I've been lurking for a while, and thought I'd throw a question out there. And I'd like to say up front, i'm not troll - just an honest question about something important to me.

Okay don't get me wrong, I'm not talking 50 bucks. I'm talking about new Pentax or 3rd party glass in sub $200-250 range.

I have a K100D Super. I've had it for 2 yrs with the 18-55mm kit lens, an A 50/2 , A 24/2.8, and a Takumar 28/2.8. I've also got some cheap manual zooms like Vivitar 70-150mm that I was actually VERY impressed with. In the grand scheme of things I've spent little compared to what I could have or may spend going forward. I want value out of my hard earned greenbacks.

So for me, it's time for an upgrade body wise, and the availability of AF primes for that specific setup is going to be a key factor. Now I love my Pentax gear I have, and I will keep it regardless of what brand I choose (Considering K-x/K7 or D90). From what I've seen, the primes available at an enthusiast level from pentax are much more spendy than the competition.

For example:

Nikon:

AF-S Nikkor 35mm F1.8G DX - $199 or less
Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 AF - $125 or less

Canon:
28mm/2.8 $250
50mm/1.8 $100

I realize these are not perfect, but their pretty good. Especially for someone in beteen beginner and prosumer bracket. It seems that what Pentax and 3rd party companies have to offer doesn't even start until $330ish. Albeit arguably, it's nicer glass.

So my question after all that is - do such lenses exist for the K mount, or is this just the way it is?

10-29-2009, 02:35 PM   #2
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They exist, but only as used.

You can find a good condition F 50/1.7 for $150, and it is notably sharper then the 50/1.4 at 1.7 and 2.0 and much better than a 50/2 all around. You can find them cheaper if you look in the right place.
10-29-2009, 10:04 PM   #3
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Basically, the way it is. I suspect Pentax doesn't sell in the kind of volume that would be necessary to support primes that cheap. But in any case, there are of course cheap *MF* primes that are easily availabe.
10-30-2009, 12:09 AM   #4
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To TS, good examples on the Canon/Nikon primes. I wish Pentax had similar offerings at the same/cheaper price level. Even the FA35/2 is no more.
Then again, open up your options to manual focus, and a whole world of good cheap primes awaits.

10-30-2009, 05:06 AM   #5
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One plus up for the Pentax primes over the Canon and Nikon is the SR built into the body. At those prices, i doubt the Canikon lenses have VR.

I just bought an AF Pentax lens, F 28 f2.8 at $248 on ebay and glad to get it at that price. But no, its not new. Sigma has their faster primes for Pentax cameras, the 20, 24 and 28, but not nearly as small or as lightweight.

One hopes they would bring back some of the older glass as DFA editions, as the current prices for the used glass seem to indicate the customers desire to have some of these lenses.

Best wishes
10-30-2009, 06:18 AM   #6
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Thanks guys. I have couple examples of MF primes. They are great no doubt. And a very valid point about SR in body, vs those inexpensive primes without IS or VR. Not to mention that Nikon 50/1.8 would require a D80/D90 to work. All very good points.

I've just been frustrated at what I feel is loss of some good shots due to having to focus manually in lower light situations or for specific shots where I want the sharpness of these primes over the kit lens. Also, with the K100D I've had shots that the view finder has led me to believe are in focus and the result is an out of focus shot. Frustrating. Maybe it's just me needing more practice with these lenses.
10-30-2009, 07:18 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by pinholecam Quote
To TS, good examples on the Canon/Nikon primes. I wish Pentax had similar offerings at the same/cheaper price level. Even the FA35/2 is no more.
Pentax themselves have confirmed that the FA35/2 was *not* discontinued: https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/485307-post13.html

QuoteOriginally posted by philbaum Quote
One plus up for the Pentax primes over the Canon and Nikon is the SR built into the body. At those prices, i doubt the Canikon lenses have VR.
I am not aware of any prime below 85mm with stabilisation in Canon/Nikon land. And I believe there is only one below 100mm: the new Nikkon 85mm f/3.5 macro.
10-30-2009, 08:02 AM   #8
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The cheap Nikon and Canon 50mm primes haven't exactly been getting glowing reviews. The glass is not the same quality of their older versions and the construction is cheap. Check out Pop Photo or some of the other sites in their reviews for these lenses. The DA 40 is very reasonably priced and is a high quality lens. There are always plenty of used lenses available at decent enough prices.

10-30-2009, 09:54 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by txshooter Quote
Thanks guys. I have couple examples of MF primes. They are great no doubt. And a very valid point about SR in body, vs those inexpensive primes without IS or VR.
And note - the only stabilized Canon and Nikon primes are telephotos, and as far as I know, the only one under $1000 is the Nikon 105 micro.

QuoteQuote:
I've just been frustrated at what I feel is loss of some good shots due to having to focus manually in lower light situations or for specific shots where I want the sharpness of these primes over the kit lens. Also, with the K100D I've had shots that the view finder has led me to believe are in focus and the result is an out of focus shot. Frustrating. Maybe it's just me needing more practice with these lenses.
Practice does help. So do other focusing aids, such as the O-ME53 viewfinder magnifier or a split prism focus screen. And do be sure to check your diopter adjustment periodically to make sure neither it, nor your eyes, have changed recently.

But the main thing is practice, and in particular, realizing that at large apertures with shallow DOF, the viewfinder *does* lie. It shows too much in focus. Meaning it *will* be the case that some things will look in focus but turn out not to be, and this is unfortunately normal. Once you learn to anticipate and quantify this, though, you can improve markedly. I would recommend practicing on a sheet of paper with relatively small printing on it - a newspaper, CD booklet, etc. Lay it down flat, point your camera at it on an angle, try to focus on a line of text, make a mental note of how many lines above and below the chosen line *also* look in focus, then snap the picture. For apertures larger than f/2.8, you will find *fewer* lines in focus in the picture than the viewfinder. Learn *how* the focus zone constricts - on my camera, it changes such that objects toward the front of the apparently-in-focus zone stay in focus, but objects to the rear do not.

So focusing for me changes from just just trying to get the subject in focus to trying to place it at the front of the apparently-in-focus zone. That's the part that takes practice, but it can be done. Learn to actually see the whole focus zone forward and backward as you turn the focus ring, and stop when it sits so that your subject is at the front edge. At least, that's how it works on my camera. Yours might differ slightly in the position of the focus screen, so that's why you practice first on printed material, where you can easily see the effect.

Anyhow, I think it's worth it, because there are so many good and relatively MF lenses out there, it would be a shame to not to be able to use them. Also, it's not like AF is a panacea at large apertures either - with the shallow DOF even the slightest BF/FF discrepancy can lead to errors, as can the fact that you can't really control exactly where the camera focuses. For example, in a portrait, you might want focus on the eye and not the nose, but try telling an AF system that. Unless it's a very tight shot tha puts the nose and eye far enough apart in the viewfinder, chances are both the eye and nose will be range of the same AF sensor, so it will be difficult if not impossible to force the camera to focus on the eye. And again with the shallow DOF you get at large apertures, that could the difference between success and failure. So good MF skills are important even with AF lenses, I find.
10-30-2009, 10:29 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by reeftool Quote
The cheap Nikon and Canon 50mm primes haven't exactly been getting glowing reviews. The glass is not the same quality of their older versions and the construction is cheap. Check out Pop Photo or some of the other sites in their reviews for these lenses. The DA 40 is very reasonably priced and is a high quality lens. There are always plenty of used lenses available at decent enough prices.
Actually, I wouldn't much trust anything Pop Photo says anymore. The 2 sources I did read about the Nikon said was a great lens, 1 of them indicating it was the sharpest Nikon prime around.

The 50mm Canon is definately a value lens. Platic, cheap construction, but decent optics.

Besides, I admitted that the Pentax glass was superior. I'm not saying that the Canikon stuff is better, but at least they have those options.
10-30-2009, 10:51 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
And note - the only stabilized Canon and Nikon primes are telephotos, and as far as I know, the only one under $1000 is the Nikon 105 micro.



Practice does help. So do other focusing aids, such as the O-ME53 viewfinder magnifier or a split prism focus screen. And do be sure to check your diopter adjustment periodically to make sure neither it, nor your eyes, have changed recently.

But the main thing is practice, and in particular, realizing that at large apertures with shallow DOF, the viewfinder *does* lie. It shows too much in focus. Meaning it *will* be the case that some things will look in focus but turn out not to be, and this is unfortunately normal. Once you learn to anticipate and quantify this, though, you can improve markedly. I would recommend practicing on a sheet of paper with relatively small printing on it - a newspaper, CD booklet, etc. Lay it down flat, point your camera at it on an angle, try to focus on a line of text, make a mental note of how many lines above and below the chosen line *also* look in focus, then snap the picture. For apertures larger than f/2.8, you will find *fewer* lines in focus in the picture than the viewfinder. Learn *how* the focus zone constricts - on my camera, it changes such that objects toward the front of the apparently-in-focus zone stay in focus, but objects to the rear do not.

So focusing for me changes from just just trying to get the subject in focus to trying to place it at the front of the apparently-in-focus zone. That's the part that takes practice, but it can be done. Learn to actually see the whole focus zone forward and backward as you turn the focus ring, and stop when it sits so that your subject is at the front edge. At least, that's how it works on my camera. Yours might differ slightly in the position of the focus screen, so that's why you practice first on printed material, where you can easily see the effect.

Anyhow, I think it's worth it, because there are so many good and relatively MF lenses out there, it would be a shame to not to be able to use them. Also, it's not like AF is a panacea at large apertures either - with the shallow DOF even the slightest BF/FF discrepancy can lead to errors, as can the fact that you can't really control exactly where the camera focuses. For example, in a portrait, you might want focus on the eye and not the nose, but try telling an AF system that. Unless it's a very tight shot tha puts the nose and eye far enough apart in the viewfinder, chances are both the eye and nose will be range of the same AF sensor, so it will be difficult if not impossible to force the camera to focus on the eye. And again with the shallow DOF you get at large apertures, that could the difference between success and failure. So good MF skills are important even with AF lenses, I find.
Great information. I'm in impatient person that unfortunately enjoys something that takes patience. I think maybe before I purchase anything should study and practice use with my MF lenses. Then maybe the rest will fall in line as to my body choice for an upgrade.
11-01-2009, 05:04 PM   #12
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I've been playing around some yesterday and today with some nature type photos, and have totally realized I have so much more to learn. And at this point, these lenses are far more capable than I am.

So here's some first attempts at practicing with getting things in focus.
Granted, these aren't the low light shots I would typically take but it's a start.
I made a slight diopter adjustment and it seems to have helped some.
Of course I could really use the viewfinder on the K-7 or D90.

The biggest issue seems to be that the point I focus on doesn't end up being the
where the image if focused. For instance:

Image 1: I focused on the red center of the flower, but it appears to be focused upper middle of the left petal. However this image shows overall greater detail than the other two.

Image 2: For some reason this image has more visible noise than the other 2 and I can't figure out why as no settings were change in any of these shots. Focal point was the
center protruding piece of the flower. While this does show detail, the rest of the flower is too soft.

Image 3: In an attempt to correct issue with #2, I ended up getting the entire flower in the same general focus, subject flower is too soft.


Anyway, wasn't so much looking for a critique as I was saying "man do I have ways to go" But, you know what. I had fun finding the "shots". I don't even mind that they aren't perfect.
11-01-2009, 10:40 PM   #13
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Have you tried the newspaper test I suggested so you can see the effect I was describing? I think your pictures above are just examples of that phenomenon - the viewfinder is showing you *more* in focus than it should. You need to learn to anticipate this and account for it when focusing.

Last edited by Marc Sabatella; 11-02-2009 at 11:58 AM.
11-01-2009, 11:08 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by txshooter Quote
Actually, I wouldn't much trust anything Pop Photo says anymore. The 2 sources I did read about the Nikon said was a great lens, 1 of them indicating it was the sharpest Nikon prime around.
DO you mean the 50/1.8 or 35/1.8??? the 35 is amazing value for money though not stabilised obviously, I guesss they get the price down based on the number they sell...

The 50/1.8 isn't great, it is cheap ut not wholly nice image quality (and not just resolution there is more than that to a lens).. well anyway that is my experience with the one I have.. Though except for the 35/1.8 there is little good choice in Nikon land the 20,24,28,35/2 are not good lenses in my opinion.

QuoteQuote:
Besides, I admitted that the Pentax glass was superior. I'm not saying that the Canikon stuff is better, but at least they have those options.
fair enough, we also have a lot of options they don't have (like the DA limited range) and SR.. Depends what you want, it is a shame though the FA50/1.4 has gone up in price so much, it was the cheapest 50/1.4 for a while and worth skipping up to.. I have been able to find the FA50/1.4 in the US for just over US$250 new, just takes a bit of online searching unfortunately.. maybe things will improve as the market recovers??
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