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01-16-2010, 09:14 PM   #1
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BEST lens for fine art repro?

I am looking around for a suitable lens - autofocus, specfically for reproduction work . Namely, photographing artworks on canvas with sizes ranging from 300x300mm up to 3 metre x 2.4 metres. Using a K100d and a #029 mk2 Manfrotto tripod and natural light.
These shots are then loaded into adobe Lightroom and then into Photoshop for final tweaks and print ready etc
Given that the sizes are variable , i think i need a decent zoom that will cover the range of sizes, given that there is only so much depth/distance away from the image source one can place the camera.
Any suggestions-
(apart from getting out my 4x5 or 8x10 plate cameras- NO digital backs!)

01-16-2010, 09:45 PM   #2
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Without having any experience in this type of photography, off the bat I would recommend the Tamron 17-50/2.8 or the Pentax 16-50/2.8. Both offer professional-grade image quality, the Pentax being a bit better, while the Tamron is more reliable and much cheaper. I would also work on getting a better lighting setup than natural light, especially if you're going to be selling these prints.
01-17-2010, 06:33 AM   #3
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I wouldn't use one of the standard zooms because they have a lot of distortion. I think the DA 35mm 2.8 macro would be the best as it is a short focal length and has very little distortion.
01-17-2010, 06:50 AM   #4
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I would definitely go with a prime. If the shots are in your studio you can pick a prime that would fit the distance at which you'll be shooting. If you shoot on location, you might need to consider a couple of primes.

01-17-2010, 06:56 AM   #5

Prime lens defiantly and I'd recommend a limited as well. My personal recommendation would be the 77mm f1.8 Ltd purely for it's stunning image quality.
01-17-2010, 07:04 AM   #6
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Because of the needed flat field of focus I would go for a macro prime.
The DA35macro would do the trick.
If you run out of distance a K28/3.5 or m28/3.5 would serve your purpose.
I just measured that a 3mtr.wide subject requieres a shooting distance of 3,5 mtr.
01-17-2010, 09:02 AM   #7
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I'd definitely got the DA 35 Macro ... for sure.
01-17-2010, 09:58 AM   #8
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What about an older MF macro

Why limit yourself to autofocus to take images of a stationary object? If budget is a consideration any number of older Pentax macro lenses or aftermarket brands such as Tamron's 90/2.5 would be ideal for this sort of work. They are all very sharp. I have an old M series 50/4 which is brutally sharp and well corrected for flatness of field. I've often said this lens is the real sleeper in the M series lineup. They are readily available on EBAY for well under $200. Don't overlook these older MF macros.

Tom G

01-17-2010, 10:38 AM   #9
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I don't think anything over 50mm would be good for works ranging up to 3x2.4m large.
01-17-2010, 10:44 AM   #10
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DA 35

close focusing yet still wide-ish
seems ideal.
01-17-2010, 10:50 AM   #11
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I would go for a macro lens, because these are designed for flat field and repro work,

Pick your focal length based upon the working distance you want.

To get a rough Idea

Image size (24 x 16 mm in your case for the pentax dslr) = object size x focal length / distance
01-17-2010, 03:19 PM   #12
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Realistically, expecting to get by with one prime for images of such widely varying sizes is not wise. You don't want to shoot the small images from too close or you're likely to see distortion and field curvature issues, and you probably don't have infinite space for shooting the large works. Read up on the subject of flat art phoography for tips on shooting distance, then use a zoom to see what focal length range you need, and either get a couple of primes to cover this (MF is fine - you'd want to focus manually in these cases even with an AF lens) or a zoom if you've verified that it's free enough of distortion at the encessary focal lengths.

I shoot mostly pieces between 8x10" and 16x20", and have used my DA40, A50/1.7, and will probably start using my DA70 for the smaller pieces.
01-17-2010, 05:26 PM   #13
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I would definitely buy a good macro lens. The main issues when doing art repro work are distortion, vignetting and field flatness.

Most lenses, including the best ones, exhibit a small amount of distortion, which is perfectly OK for everyday photography (according to Photozone, the FA 35/2 has 0.85%, the DA 40 Ltd 0.6%, the FA 43/1.9 Ltd 0.65%, the DA* 55/1.4 0.6% and the DA 70 Ltd 0.5%). But this small amount of distortion is not acceptable when you shoot a painting on a rectangular canvas, because the edges of the canvas must appear as straight lines on the picture. Even the slightest amount of distortion would be very visible, as the canvas edges run parallel to the frame edges and very close to them. Even some macro lenses, like the DA 35/2.8 Ltd, have a quite a bit of distortion (0.4% for the DA 35), which makes them more apt at photographing flowers, coins, watches or jewelery than rectangular artwork. The D FA 50/2.8 Macro or D FA 100/2.8 Macro are much better choices, with both lenses exhibiting a very small amount for distortion (<0.05%), which shouldn't be visible on the pictures.

Regarding field flatness, most lenses have a slightly curved field of focus, which is normally not a problem, as usual photographic subjects are not flat. But when you copy a painting, it is very important that the corners are also in focus if the center is in focus. That's why the FA 77/1.8 Ltd, despite its low distortion figure (0.1%), is not ideally suited with its somewhat pronounced curvature of field (and vignetting). Macro lenses are normally much better corrected regarding field flatness and vignetting than other lenses, except for the DA 35/2.8 Ltd, which is not perfect in this field either.

So, my recommendation would be to skip the DA 35/2.8 Ltd and to go for the old FA 50/2.8 Macro, if you can find it, or the D FA 50/2.8 Macro, as these are among the sharpest lenses made by Pentax, with very low distortion and superb field flatness. The D FA 100/2.8 Macro is also good, as is the Tamron 90mm Macro, but the focal length is too long for repro work on an APS-C DSLR.


01-20-2010, 06:37 AM   #14
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I fully agree with Abbazz here. As long as you have enough room, go for longer to minimize distortion.

But if you already have a zoom, I suggest you give it a try with your current zoom so as to determine which focale works best for you, in terms of available room to work. Then pick up the prime according to this.

And you may want to try older manual Macro lens, such as a 50 F4. You don't need 1:1 magnification, you don't need fast aperture (you're on a tripod), and most likely you will have plenty of time to focus correctly...
01-20-2010, 07:01 AM   #15
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In looking at image sizes, and my recomendation to use macro to insure a lens designed for flat field, the 3 meter by 2.4 meter painting poses a problem even for a 35mm macro, since you will require 5.25 meters between you and the painting. ANd the camera may need to be several meters in the air.

This, to me is not an unsurmountable task, but will require deliberate set up.

People have posted that you need to watch out for distortion. I am not so sure this needs to be addressed at the lens, since virtually all software today has distortion correction features, for correcting even fisheye lenses. I have corrected both barrel distortion and perspective quite successfully for my sigma 10-20 mm in PSP X2

You do need to concern yourself with flatness of field and illumination corner to corner (i.e. no vignetting) which I still think dictates the use of a macro,

or perhaps 2, since the 35mm would have you so close to the 300mm square painting that you have a great risk of creating a shadow.

Natural lighting is also an issue, and you may need to consider doing the color balance in PP, and use a grey/white card at the edge of the frame for white balance reference. You will also need to consiuder using reflectors to evenly uilluminate the subject.

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