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03-11-2010, 10:21 PM   #1
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Fast 50 on the cheap?

So I've been listening to a lot of photo podcasts lately. One thing they say consistently is that 'everyone needs' a fast 50mm... and that being such a common lens, you can find f1.4 50mm lenses for a hundred bucks... sounds good to me...

Unfortunately, the heck if I can't find them anywhere near that price....

Is that a fantasy? Or am I looking in the wrong places...

Thanks,

Ken

03-11-2010, 10:31 PM   #2
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You can find the fully manual 1.4 on ebay or the marketplace here for around that. I recently bought a 50mm M 1.7 on ebay with a film body for $50.
03-11-2010, 10:37 PM   #3
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I paid $10 for my first one, plus $25 for an adaptor to use it (a second adaptor was later purchased for another $10). Deals are out there for those with patience and a willingness to make compromises.

The various Pentax 55mm f/1.8 and 50mm f/1.7 lenses sell for under $100 more consistently, as do 3rd party 50mm f/1.4s.
03-11-2010, 10:42 PM   #4
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50/1.4 M42 and M mount can be found on ebay for under $100, or the 50/1.7 in an A mount. If you want autofocus(F or FA), you're looking at ~$250+

Here's some notes I made as to what I thought the going price was, while looking for some new (to me) lenses. Don't take it as definitive or accurate.

While looking at the M42 lenses, keep in mind that there is a (worthwhile) premium for SMC/super multi coated, and as with all used lenses, the condition impacts the value.

50/1.4 A 110
50/1.4 M 100
50/1.4 M42 40
50/1.4 M42SMC 80
50/1.7 M 45
50/1.7 A 80
50/1.4 FA 250-280
55/1.8 M42 25
55/1.8 M42SMC 40

03-11-2010, 11:13 PM   #5
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You'll find the better buys usually with a camera attached. Occassionally folk list the camreas and not the attached lens so with a magnifying glass you can spot them and get quite the bargain. It's worked for me a few times.
03-11-2010, 11:38 PM   #6
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For an AF fast fifty, you'll just have to fork out the cash it's worth.
Where else will you find an f/1.4 lens for around $300?
If you're fine with MF, then that opens up a myriad of possibilities as discussed above between $100 and $250.
03-12-2010, 12:46 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Javaslinger Quote
So I've been listening to a lot of photo podcasts lately. One thing they say consistently is that 'everyone needs' a fast 50mm...
Are these very old podcasts? That would have been great advice in the 1980's, but between the crop factor that makes the focal length not as generally useful as it was on film, how far along zooms have come, and how much better high ISO is on digital than film, a fast 50 is somewhat more of a specialist lens today. Some really like that specialty, but assuming "everyone needs" one seems pretty msguided to me.
03-12-2010, 01:01 AM   #8
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Marc is right, as always. With 35mm full-frame (35/FF) cameras, fast 50's ruled, but no more. With 35/FF, 43mm is the frame diagonal distance and thus the true 'normal' focal length, but was often considered a wide-normal. 50-55mm was a "sweet spot" for lensmakers, and before zooms, a long-normal fast 50 or 55 was often the kit lens.

On the APS-C sensor in your dSLR, 50mm only sees as much of an image as a 75mm lens would on 35/FF. That makes a fast 50 more of a portrait lens now, and excellent in that role. (The angle that a lens sees is called the FOV, Field of View.) On APS-C, the equivalent FOV would be with a 28mm (wide-normal) or 35mm (long-normal) -- and lenses in that range, old or new, that are f/2 or faster, are few and generally expensive.

[I eagerly await someone to name the exceptions.]

Does everyone need a fast 50? The first lens I got for my K20D was a FA50/1.4, and I love it and use it much. It costs more now. As noted above, manual fast 50's are NOT very expensive. Used with Catch-In-Focus (economical manual autofocus) they give fantastic results AT THE RIGHT DISTANCE. Like I said, with APS-C, a 'normal' lens is in the 28-35mm range, but many shooters love their 40mm glass, for giving closer and more intimate shots. You could think of a fast 50 as taking that just a little further, getting even more intimate. There's certainly stuff you can do with a fast 50 that just can't be approached with any other lens.


Last edited by RioRico; 03-12-2010 at 01:20 AM.
03-12-2010, 01:36 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Javaslinger Quote
So I've been listening to a lot of photo podcasts lately. One thing they say consistently is that 'everyone needs' a fast 50mm... and that being such a common lens, you can find f1.4 50mm lenses for a hundred bucks... sounds good to me...

Unfortunately, the heck if I can't find them anywhere near that price....

Is that a fantasy? Or am I looking in the wrong places...

Thanks,

Ken
If you're a good judge of distance, the 50mm may work well with focal zones, but its still pretty thin comparatively.

The in focus indicators don't work very well with manual lenses..

Do you really need a fast 50 ? I don't think so personally.

Last edited by tokyoso; 03-12-2010 at 01:43 AM.
03-12-2010, 02:40 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by tokyoso Quote
If you're a good judge of distance, the 50mm may work well with focal zones, but its still pretty thin comparatively.
The thinness of DOF depends on distance from lens to subject, and f-stop, and focal length. Assuming you're shooting the same lens and f-stop, DOF gets thinner as the camera gets closer. Generations of 35/FF photographers didn't seem to have too much trouble focusing fast 50s, and because of the wider FOV on FF/35, they (we) could work closer to a subject.

QuoteQuote:
The in focus indicators don't work very well with manual lenses.
So we use focus screens, and learn to focus manually (like those generations of 35/FF photographers); and with newer dSLRs we have Catch-In-Focus aka trap focus, which nails things pretty well. I've just been shooting with a Tak 55/1.8 and Chinon 55/1.7 wide open in dim light, and trap focus works just fine.

QuoteQuote:
Do you really need a fast 50 ? I don't think so personally.
As always here, we get personal preferences. Some shooters have no need or use or desire for any specific type of lens. I yawn over discussions of birders' lenses, etc. (And I can't afford such goodies anyway!) We know and like what we're used to (if it doesn't bore us to death).

Still, fast lenses are prized, which is often reflected in the cost. Speed not only allows for low-light or fast-shutter shooting; IQ generally peaks at a wider f-stop. At a specific focal length, an f/1.4 lens stopped down to f/2.8 is usually sharper than an f/2.8 lens wide open. At any focal length, faster is often more desirable. (50mm seems to be THE sweet spot. Someone else can point out the other super-fasts.) Some slow lenses are incredibly crisp throughout their aperture ranges, like my little Tele-Takumar 200/5.6 -- what a gem! But it doesn't get used as much as my fat Vivitar 200/2.8. Imagine that...
03-12-2010, 10:06 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Javaslinger Quote
So I've been listening to a lot of photo podcasts lately. One thing they say consistently is that 'everyone needs' a fast 50mm... and that being such a common lens, you can find f1.4 50mm lenses for a hundred bucks... sounds good to me...

Unfortunately, the heck if I can't find them anywhere near that price....

Is that a fantasy? Or am I looking in the wrong places...
Canon's and Nikon's 50mm f1.8 lenses are $100. At that price, if you had one of those cameras and one or two kit-type zooms, a fast 50 is a reasonable next lens purchase. Even if it's only a $100 lesson in depth of field, using a prime lens, how cheap construction holds up and stuff like that, it's probably worth it. (Nikon users should probably save their money for the 35mm f1.8, a more useful focal length.) I think the podcasters were misleading to suggest f1.4 lenses could be that cheap; no one's new lenses are, and not many used lenses would qualify.

In the Pentax world, you have lots of choices, but first need to consider how useful a 50mm lens really is. At $350 or whatever the FA50/1.4 is now, you can buy other stuff that might be more useful. Or eliminate some features and buy used for the ~$100 lesson.
03-12-2010, 10:38 AM   #12
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And before someone else jumps in to argue this, note I *did* acknowledge that there 8are8 those who 8do* like the special-purpose FOV provided by 50mm on APS-C. I do agree that different people will have different preferences in terms of focal length. I'm just sugesting that you don't leap to the conclusion that it will happen to be a focal length you like enough to spend $350 on until you do some experimenting to see for yourself. Because it happens to be the only $100 AF lens for Canon or Nikon, it seems a no-brainer choice on those systems - not because it's especially useful, but simply because it's especially cheap.
03-12-2010, 11:02 AM   #13
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My personal opinon is 'fast' would be f/2 or below. This is only 1 stop slower than a f/1.4 and most of us have one that we never use (i.e cheap!). Heck, for $20 shipped, you can have my old Rikenon.

The point is, if you look... not too hard... you will find a fast 50mm, for cheap. This is a guide to the prices you should roughly be paying on the used market + shipping:

- 'Generic' f/2 - full manual - $5 to $30
- Pentax f/2 - full manual (K, M) - $30
- Pentax f/2 - Auto aperture (A) - $40
- Pentax f/1.7 - full manual (K, M) - $60
- Pentax f/1.4 - full manual (K, M) - $75
- Pentax f/1.4 - Auto aperture (A) - $120
- Pentax f/1.7 - Auto aperture (A) - $120 (not as fast but super sharp!)
- Pentax f/1.7 - Autofocus (F, FA) - $180
- Pentax f/1.4 - Autofocus (F, FA) - $230

I haven't included the price of an f/1.2... but they go for much money!
03-12-2010, 11:20 AM   #14
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If your going to use a fast 50 often enough they're all cheap. I believe that the most expensive main brand one, being the Sigma 50mm f1.4 is still only around $500.00 US... which can often pay for it's self with one shot
03-12-2010, 11:34 AM   #15
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The fact is, whether or not one likes the fov/or angle of view of a 50mm lens on our aps-c bodies, there are not many Pentax glass options at the f1.4 or f1.2 range. Yeah there is the mythical 35mm and the Sigma 30mm f1.4. But all of the m42 options at 55mm f1.2 are in the same price range as the 50mm A and k f1.2.

Edit: I posted this in a similar thread a week or so ago and decided to repost it since it augments Keyser's post.

QuoteQuote:
The average I have for the A is $494 with a range of $300-685 based on 14 lenses from fleabay, KEH, and here.

The k averages about $381 with a range of $153-500 for 28 lenses.

That doesn't count the person that sold about 30 of the A on ebay for an average of $285 and 9 of the k for $217. He also sold 5 K1000 with f1.2 A attached for about $100 before he realized what they were.
Edit: Edit: And to re-iterate, it is relatively cheap to get into a good f1.4 50mm lens. The sigma 30mm f1.4 and various f1.2 changes the economics dramatically.
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