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11-13-2009, 07:58 AM   #1
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A Lens Quest

Dear fellow friends of the Pentax

somewhere, i got it stuck in my head that it would be nice to get me some lenses for my K20D. Currently, i have the A-series 50 1.7 and the M-series 28 3.5 and i'm very pleased with them indeed. The 28mm makes for a very nice outdoors walkaround lens. But i thought about extending some, while keeping it cheap - one reason for going for Pentax was that i didn't necessarily have to buy very expensive lenses, while still having access to the good stuff. I don't do a lot of wildlife shooting or stargazing, so for the moment i'm mainly concerned about the wide end. And in keeping it all relatively compact - that's why i steered clear from zooms so far - apart from romantic reasons.

In comes the Zenitar - seemingly the only affordable wide angle, or so i thought at first. There's also a Mir 20 mm, and a Tamron/Vivitar/Tokina 17mm that seem fairly interesting, but i find less information about them (especially about the Mir, and i tried a Tokina before and did not like the contrast and colour rendition at all). I do covet fancy toys like the Voigtländer 20mm 3.5 or the Pentax 21 3.2, but they're -to me- rather unacceptable pricewise. What is pleasing about the Zenitar is that it's not too expensive (around 150 euro new), and that it's compact. I'm a bit concerned about it being too fishy, but from what i gathered here, that does not need to be a problem (and who knows, it might just be interesting to learn how to yield fisheye power). What i haven't heard a lot about yet is how it compares colour- and contrast wise to the smc lenses. In short, my Zenitar question is 'does it make for a nice landscape lens'?
Since it seemed that there's no cheap wide angle primes, i looked a bit into zooms as well. I don't necessarily need a 12-24, if i would go for a zoom i want something 'wide to standard'. Since i do long for the wide end, i don't seem to find a nice old lens that would do the job. In new lens land, i looked at the Tamron 17-50 2.8, which costs around 350 euros (which is a bit expensive), and the Pentax 16-45, which runs at 250 (there's a cashback promo on pentax for the moment, it actually runs at 300). The Tamron seems to have the edge with the 2.8 diaphragm, i like using DOF or the lack thereof and with the 4.0 of the Pentax, i don't think i'll have a lot of room for playing. What i don't know is how they actually compare in IQ and build quality. Both are a bit too big for my taste, but still relatively compact for zooms. Has anyone tried out both and has good reasons for choosing one over the other? And for both, would they make my 50 1.7 and 28 3.5 obsolete with regards to possibilities and image quality? I also considered just getting myself the ALII or WR version of the kit lens, since it's compact, cheap, apparently acceptable and would make for an interesting travel companion, but i don't know if that would make sense, and i would feel a bit bad for taking the least romantic lens of them all.

Next, i was also thinking about a portrait lens -right now i would do that with the 50mm, and it seems to make sense, so this is no real need. Because of that, i have a slightly diverging question about APS-C versus full frame: i know the field of coverage of the 50 mm on digital is equal to what a 75 on film would give me, but does it also bring me the other qualities of a portrait lens? I gather i mean by this what every telelens does, apparently 'flattening the image a bit' (i don't know how to word this) and setting the subject apart. If that also magically gets transported to your 50 mm when using it on digital, i don't see why i should necessarily get a 'real' portrait lens (since the 55 mm is currently marketed as being a portrait lens, perhaps this makes sense).
Anyway, there were two interesting candidates i came across, one being the Jupiter 9 85mm 2.0, which everyone seems to like. I just wondered if it focuses to infinity (or only with a special adapter, and in that case, which one would that be?). The other one is the M-series 100 2.8, which might just be way to tele-ish, but i saw it for sale for 59 euros, and that did not seem too shabby. Apart from the obvious difference in focal length, how would that one compare to the Jupiter?

I know it's a lot of questions, and most of them are the old 'see for yourself' kind of question, but i guess there's more people than me who had to solve this on a budget, and i'd like to see how they went at it. So it basically goes between
-getting the Tamron or Pentax zoom and potentially selling my 50 mm and 28 mm
-getting a real wide angle on top of the 50 and 28, probably the Zenitar.
(-optionally getting a tele-portrait lens, and in that case Jupiter or M 100 2.8?)

pricewise, the difference would not be extreme, sizewise also not really, romanticwise i prefer the primes. What would you do, or what have you done?
Of course a voice in my head also says that i should be able to tell every story i want to tell with a 28 and a 50, that voice might be right.
well, thanks a lot in advance!

11-13-2009, 09:27 AM   #2
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I'd say to hang onto the 50mm whatever else you do. The f1.7 has a real following, performs well and doesn't take up much space. I have the M version and intend to buy an A next month. I would like an F or FA version but they always go for close to three times the price of the A version, and I can live with manual focus for a saving like that.

This probably won't help with making a decision but I'd suggest keeping an eye out for the old Pentax-K 55mm f1.8. I've had mine for a couple of days now and it's a very handy lens on digital - gives you the same short telephoto as the kit 18-55mm zoom but it's incredibly sharp at an aperture the kit zoom can only dream of.
11-13-2009, 10:09 AM   #3
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100 mm 2.8 out of the race

well, that nicely priced m-series 100 2.8 was quite scratched up on the front element, and had a lot of dust about everywhere inside, so while that may be salvageable, it didn't seem as fun anymore. Also, i remember that when i did make a lot of portraits, they were all done with a 50mm, even though i had other focal lenses. So unless the Jupiter is really worth it (and i don't know about the focussing), i may not expand towards the long end. Also, i had the luck to be able to try a Zenitar today, and it seems to be a decent lens, and far less fishy then the Pentax 10-17 (which i also had the pleasure testing today, just for the heck of it).
11-13-2009, 11:22 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Dangermouse Quote
This probably won't help with making a decision but I'd suggest keeping an eye out for the old Pentax-K 55mm f1.8. I've had mine for a couple of days now and it's a very handy lens on digital - gives you the same short telephoto as the kit 18-55mm zoom but it's incredibly sharp at an aperture the kit zoom can only dream of.
That sounds very pleasant indeed, i gather it's equal to a 83mm 1.8 on digital. Nice! Not really helpful in keeping a mind under control of course, but i'll keep an eye out. Is what i hear about the 55 2.0 being the same lens true?

11-13-2009, 11:28 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by mr. jef Quote
In comes the Zenitar
It's a very good lens, and well-loved by man. I've had fun using it when I've borrowed it. The fisheye effect is actually subtle enough on APS-C (the most "fishy" parts of the image are outside the crop area) that you might not notice it in landscapes. And it *can* be corrected in PP.

Here's a couple of image from it that I happen to have posted, with no special distortion corrections applied:





In the end, I decided to get the DA15 instead, but obviously, tht rather more expensive.

QuoteQuote:
i looked at the Tamron 17-50 2.8, which costs around 350 euros (which is a bit expensive), and the Pentax 16-45, which runs at 250 (there's a cashback promo on pentax for the moment, it actually runs at 300). The Tamron seems to have the edge with the 2.8 diaphragm, i like using DOF or the lack thereof and with the 4.0 of the Pentax, i don't think i'll have a lot of room for playing.
That kind of depends. A common way to use a wide angle lens is to get really close to a subject so it fills much of the frame, with a wide background behind it. Because your distance to subject is so short in these cases, you get surprisingly shallow DOF. Of course, not *as* shallow as f/2.8. But 16mm is also noticeably wider than 17mm, so you do gain in flexibility there. And really msot landscapes are taken stopped down.

QuoteQuote:
i have a slightly diverging question about APS-C versus full frame: i know the field of coverage of the 50 mm on digital is equal to what a 75 on film would give me, but does it also bring me the other qualities of a portrait lens? I gather i mean by this what every telelens does, apparently 'flattening the image a bit' (i don't know how to word this) and setting the subject apart.
Those qualities that are commonly attributed to telephoto lenses actually have nothing to do with focal length, and everything to do with distance to subject. A telephoto lens appears to flatten features for one reason and one reason only: because they make you standard further away to take the picture. If you took a picture with your 28, your 50, and a 100 from the exact same spot, and cropped the former two to match the latter, you would be completely unable to tell the difference in perspective. You might see a difference in DOF depending on what aperture you used, but that's under your control.

I find 50mm on APS-C too short for the kind of portraits I tend to like - that is, it either forces me to stand too close to my subject to fill the frame, or if I stand farther back I have to crop to get the framing I generally prefer. On the other hand, 100mm is on the long side - I have to be further away thn I'd prefer to get the framing I like, or I get tighter framing thn I'd prefer if I standard at what for me is an ideal distance. My DA70 is perfect for me more often than not. But I do like my M100/2.8. Even if the one you found is not ion good condition, this is an easy to find lens. I just noticed a couple on KEH.com for less than the cost of any of the other lenses you are considering. Here's an example, showing off the tight framing you get if you don't stand back a bit:



But I don't use it for portraits much; it's more of a concert lens for me.

If you're looking for other relatively cheap alternatives in that range, you might consider the M85/2, which usually goes for a bit over $200 (USD). I think there's one on the marketplace forum right now.

No idea if the Jupiter focuses to infinity, but I can't imagine why it wouldn't - is there something that made you suspect it wouldn't?

QuoteQuote:
romanticwise i prefer the primes
Then I'd say, don't get rid of your current primes, even if you get a zoom also. I've got the 18-55 and use it here and there, but I prefer my primes.

QuoteQuote:
Of course a voice in my head also says that i should be able to tell every story i want to tell with a 28 and a 50, that voice might be right.
I used to hear a similar voice. Well, in my case, I use a 40 instead of a 50, and I also have longer telephotos. But I got by without anything wider than 28mm most of the time (my 18-55 usually stays at home). But I have to say, I am loving having a true wide angle now in the DA15. The Zenitar is enough larger heavier that this actually influenced my decision, but of course, it's not really that big or heavy compared to other wide angle lenses, and really, the IQ is quite nice. So I'd get that without hesitation first, then decide if 50mm cuts it for portraits in your view or if you need something longer to get your the framing you want at the shooting distance you want.
11-13-2009, 12:22 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by mr. jef Quote
That sounds very pleasant indeed, i gather it's equal to a 83mm 1.8 on digital. Nice! Not really helpful in keeping a mind under control of course, but i'll keep an eye out. Is what i hear about the 55 2.0 being the same lens true?
According to the reviews here they're the same lens sold with two different maximum apertures, but the f2 doesn't seem to get as high a rating as the f1.8. I don't know if you could convert the f2 to have the wider aperture, but to be honest I'd advise waiting for a 1.8. I paid £13 for mine so it's not a case of needing to spend vastly more for the faster lens, as it can be with a 50mm f1.4 compared to the 1.7 version.
11-13-2009, 12:40 PM   #7
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Thanks a lot! Those Zenitar pictures look not too fisheyed indeed - but would you say it still serves as a wide angle in a cityscape, where there's straight lines a plenty? I like landscapeshooting, but (at least for the moment) i would not buy a lens just for that. Then again, i suppose one just has to learn how to use this type of lens, and then there's always postprocessing. And the 28 will shoot cities just fine as well, i guess.

Portraitwise, i don't really feel like i 'need' anything, back when i was shooting film and had to do portraits regularly, i used a minolta with a 50mm 1.4, and even though i was often quite up close, it seemed to work for me (and fine backgrounds it gave indeed). So i might just be raving when it comes to longer focal lengths (probably that's due to seeing very fine pictures on this forum that were taken with the Jupiter (that possible infinity focus issue had something to do with it being a 42mm lens with an adapter, and i don't think any adapter will do)).

And thanks for your explanation of 'the tele phenomenon', it all makes perfect sense now (and i wonder why i couldn't think that up myself).
11-13-2009, 12:59 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by mr. jef Quote
Thanks a lot! Those Zenitar pictures look not too fisheyed indeed - but would you say it still serves as a wide angle in a cityscape, where there's straight lines a plenty?
I'd say yes -- the Zenitar will nicely bend most of those troublesome straight lines!


Zenitar K-16; K20D


You can de-fish to get the same angle of view as as 13-14mm-ish lens (with less resolution in the corners than a real rectilinear lens). It's all great fun but not a substitute for a (non-ultra-) wide prime such as the DA21.

11-14-2009, 01:57 PM   #9
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thanks for the examples. Does anyone have any experience with the mir 20mms?
11-14-2009, 02:07 PM   #10
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I know you asked about K-mount lenses. But why not consider M42 screwmount lenses? There are many great lenses for what you want. I would recommend the Helios-44M for portraits. it's 58mm/F2 and has a great bokeh. There are photos made with it all over this place! The same holds for it's adepts .
11-14-2009, 09:30 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by mr. jef Quote
Dear fellow friends of the Pentax

somewhere, i got it stuck in my head that it would be nice to get me some lenses for my K20D. Currently, i have the A-series 50 1.7 and the M-series 28 3.5 and i'm very pleased with them indeed.
Well, you seem to have done your homework and started out with two wonderful lenses. that M 28 3.5 is the sharpest 28mm I've ever shot, rivaled only by the legendary Vivitar 28 2.8 Close Focus. And that A 50 1.7, is, what else to say, a classic.

QuoteQuote:
Since it seemed that there's no cheap wide angle primes, i looked a bit into zooms as well. I don't necessarily need a 12-24, if i would go for a zoom i want something 'wide to standard'. Since i do long for the wide end, i don't seem to find a nice old lens that would do the job. In new lens land, i looked at the Tamron 17-50 2.8, which costs around 350 euros (which is a bit expensive), and the Pentax 16-45, which runs at 250 (there's a cashback promo on pentax for the moment, it actually runs at 300). The Tamron seems to have the edge with the 2.8 diaphragm, i like using DOF or the lack thereof and with the 4.0 of the Pentax, i don't think i'll have a lot of room for playing. What i don't know is how they actually compare in IQ and build quality. Both are a bit too big for my taste, but still relatively compact for zooms. Has anyone tried out both and has good reasons for choosing one over the other?
I own the 17-50 in Nikon mount, and I also just picked up a 16-45 for Pentax.
The 17-50 doubles as a nice portrait lens - f/2.8 available at 50mm is something that the 16-45 just can't offer. BUT, if your primary use will be wide-angle, the 16-45 is every bit as sharp and contrasty as the 17-50, and built about as well.

Shot from the 16-45:


QuoteQuote:
And for both, would they make my 50 1.7 and 28 3.5 obsolete with regards to possibilities and image quality?
Perhaps the 28, but I think you should always have a fast prime like the 50 available.


QuoteQuote:
Next, i was also thinking about a portrait lens ... there were two interesting candidates i came across, one being the Jupiter 9 85mm 2.0, which everyone seems to like. I just wondered if it focuses to infinity (or only with a special adapter, and in that case, which one would that be?).
Yes, it focuses to infinity, and yes, it's a pretty special lens. The bokeh can be funky, but I liked it.

Shot from the J-9:



QuoteQuote:
The other one is the M-series 100 2.8, which might just be way to tele-ish, but i saw it for sale for 59 euros, and that did not seem too shabby. Apart from the obvious difference in focal length, how would that one compare to the Jupiter?
Again, good homework. 100 is slower, longer, but lighter and brings maybe more modern rendering - less CA, more 'standard' bokeh. Probably just as sharp at f/4, but f/2.8 -> f/4 that J-9 is pretty sharp. I used to own both, and the M 100 was one of my favorite M's.

Shot from the M 100:


QuoteQuote:
So it basically goes between
-getting the Tamron or Pentax zoom and potentially selling my 50 mm and 28 mm
-getting a real wide angle on top of the 50 and 28, probably the Zenitar.
(-optionally getting a tele-portrait lens, and in that case Jupiter or M 100 2.8?)
I'd probably go with option 1 - get a DA 16-46 as your wide-angle specialist, sell the 28 3.5, and keep the A 50 1.7. And get the M 100 2.8 or the J-9 as a longer portrait lens or walkabout telephoto.



.

Last edited by jsherman999; 11-14-2009 at 09:42 PM.
11-15-2009, 05:05 AM   #12
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thanks for the advice! in the long portrait / short tele range, would you rather suggest the m 100 2.8, m 85 2.0 (i just came across a nicely priced one) or the Jupiter? i don't mean regardingfocal length of course, i'm more talking about IQ and possible issues, and about bokeh
11-15-2009, 01:08 PM   #13
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I spent the day outside with my k20 and my two lenses, and boy, am i ever happy about them. Nothing to complain about with them. And the 28 does give quite a nice street perspective on digital. It got me in a bit of a pragmatic mood, and made me realise i might not really need to spend a lot of money on lenses. Still, the mind wonders, and i thought that maybe, since the 21mm and below range does not seem to hold any cheap-compact-good-wonders (and i fear the use of the Zenitar might just be too limiting), the 24mm range might just hold something that offers me with enough of a wider perspective with regards to the 28, but without breaking the bank. Checking out the eBay brought up a K 24 2.8 and an m 24-35 (which is a rather cute zoom). Did anyone try these out as landscape/street/whatnot lenses, and did they keep up with the quality of the pentax lenses i have so far?
Man, it's quite the search, i'm wondering with what i'll end up eventually.
11-15-2009, 02:01 PM   #14
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If you want real wide angle, the DA12-24 is the best single lens you're going to find, since it covers a range of focal lengths from wide to near normal with excellent quality. And this from a prime fan.

The DA16-45 is the best deal in a walk-around lens if you do not need "very wide". Perfect as a landscape lens since it is quite sharp even out to the corners. However, I find it redundant with a DA12-24 in the bag.

Get the FA77 for portraits. End of story.
11-15-2009, 02:38 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by mr. jef Quote
thanks for the advice! in the long portrait / short tele range, would you rather suggest the m 100 2.8, m 85 2.0 (i just came across a nicely priced one) or the Jupiter? i don't mean regardingfocal length of course, i'm more talking about IQ and possible issues, and about bokeh
.

Holy crap, if you can get an M 85 f2 for a nice price, go for it. I'm a bit biased about that lens, it happens to be my favorite MF lens in two mounts.

See --> My favorite Lens.

I'd probably get the M 100 2.8 over the J-9 - you won't need an m42 adapter, it's a bit lighter, doesn't smell like a burned out tractor engine , and has more creamy bokeh. The J-9 is a super fun lens to shoot, though.

How much did you see that M 85 for?


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