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01-13-2013, 02:50 PM   #1
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K-5 lens for model train photography

I recently purchased a K5 with the DA L 18-55mm kit lens. I've got an older SMC Pentax-A 1:2 50mm lens too. I am primarily photographing my HO model railroad and the regular family occasions. I noticed when switching to the older lens that I have to be at least a foot away from my subject to be in focus. With the kit lens, I can be 6 inches away and have still have it focus which is great. I want to be able to get in close to my subjects (within 6") for focus and of course shoot the wide overall layout shots as well.

1) Should I just dump the older Pentax-A 1:2 lens since the kit lens in my opinion looks better and I can get in close on my subjects and still focus.

2) Is there a better lens out there I could use instead of the kit lens thats going to get me good close up shots and shoot wider as well?

01-13-2013, 03:09 PM   #2
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The reason the 50mm can't focus closer is that it has a longer focal length than the kit lens at the wider end. In order to get a 50mm to focus closer, you'll need one with macro capabilities. I'd hang onto yours, though, as it is capable of producing much nicer bokeh than the kit lens, and it's also 3 stops faster

For wide close-ups, you'll want a fast wide-angle such as the Pentax 15mm, which renders things beautifully:
SMC Pentax-DA 15mm F4 ED AL Limited Reviews - DA Prime Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

Overall I'd recommend a longer macro lens for your train shots. I also happen to like model trains (built a nice big layout this summer) and I mostly shoot then in the 70-100mm range. Either of these will work wonders:
Tamron 90mm Macro vs Pentax 100mm WR: Review - Introduction - PentaxForums.com

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01-13-2013, 03:11 PM   #3
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The 100mm wr macro is such an amazing lens I can't keep it off my camera. If you have the room to work with a 100 it is a fantastic lens and will get you as close as you want.
01-13-2013, 03:13 PM   #4
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You are running into what is called the minimum focusing distance. This varies depending on the lens. Your kit lens has a MFD of about 9-10". Your 50mm has a MFC of about 18". There are any number of ways to get closer focus depending on what you want to do.

Nothing wrong with using the kit lens if you are happy with the images it produces. If you want something sharper then you need to look at macro lenses or close focusing zooms. Or you get a set of extension tubes for your 50mm which will allow it to focus closer.

01-13-2013, 04:39 PM   #5
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Maybe the 35mm F2.8 Macro Limited would be good for it? It's wide for a macro and you can focus pretty much right up to the lens.
01-13-2013, 06:05 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
The reason the 50mm can't focus closer is that it has a longer focal length than the kit lens at the wider end. In order to get a 50mm to focus closer, you'll need one with macro capabilities. I'd hang onto yours, though, as it is capable of producing much nicer bokeh than the kit lens, and it's also 3 stops faster

For wide close-ups, you'll want a fast wide-angle such as the Pentax 15mm, which renders things beautifully:
SMC Pentax-DA 15mm F4 ED AL Limited Reviews - DA Prime Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

Overall I'd recommend a longer macro lens for your train shots. I also happen to like model trains (built a nice big layout this summer) and I mostly shoot then in the 70-100mm range. Either of these will work wonders:
Tamron 90mm Macro vs Pentax 100mm WR: Review - Introduction - PentaxForums.com
Wow, lots of choices here. I'm inclined to go with the 15mm or 35mm macro lens. I'd rather stay away from the 100mm just because of the sheer size of it even though it may be the best lens for model railroad photography. Adam, do you have any qualms about purchasing the 35mm macro lens? Or would the 15mm be the way to go?

On a side note do you have a website that shows your train layout or are you a regular poster on one of the many train forums I could look at your layout there?
01-14-2013, 08:04 AM   #7
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I'd like to see a close up picture of an object taken with the 15mm lens. Say the minimum focus distance of 18 mm?
01-14-2013, 10:03 AM   #8
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I'd suggest the DA35 macro, if you're OK with the short working distances. I think it is the best "short" AF macro out there, it's wide enough to use as a everyday lens, and the price is more accessible that the DFA100WR or the DA15.

01-14-2013, 01:58 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by HSV Quote
I'd suggest the DA35 macro, if you're OK with the short working distances. I think it is the best "short" AF macro out there, it's wide enough to use as a everyday lens, and the price is more accessible that the DFA100WR or the DA15.
I prefer the short working distance actually.
01-14-2013, 02:09 PM   #10
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The 35macro would be perfect! A cheaper alternative would be the Sigma 24mm SuperwideII, which focuses pretty close. I think the slightly wider focal lengths would suit shooting model trains. Use live view and shoot with the camera set down right on the platform!
01-14-2013, 03:12 PM   #11
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Hi,
usually I use the "classical" lenses for model railways, at least to shoot the model in its environment; therefore, the 21 limited, 31 limited and 50 f1.2 are my most used lenses. I play with the bokey of the lenses to melt the background image with the decor; here are some shots of a wonderful exhibition that took place in Paris every year, with high qualities HO and O gauge models; you'll probaly enjoy





01-14-2013, 03:27 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by goubejp Quote
Hi,
usually I use the "classical" lenses for model railways, at least to shoot the model in its environment; therefore, the 21 limited, 31 limited and 50 f1.2 are my most used lenses. I play with the bokey of the lenses to melt the background image with the decor; here are some shots of a wonderful exhibition that took place in Paris every year, with high qualities HO and O gauge models; you'll probaly enjoy




Nice shots! Especially the one of the wooden bridge from the side, the perspective makes it almost look like a real sized object.
01-14-2013, 03:40 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by VisualDarkness Quote
Nice shots! Especially the one of the wooden bridge from the side, the perspective makes it almost look like a real sized object.
Thanks, this illustrate the use of a 50 mm stopped down at f2 only to create a slightly blurred background and a good perspective to give this impression of a "real" railway. Have you noticed the eagle fying over the train ? On the model he really moved ! That's why it is slightly blurred too.
My opinion is that a range of focal length from 21 to 50 should be used to find the "right" perpective and field of view that makes the model looks like a real one
01-15-2013, 05:42 AM   #14
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I have seen somewhere someone using a mirror to get down to street level inside a cramped model. He placed the mirror on the "ground" with a 45 degree angle and then aimed from above down at the mirror. Simple trick which makes it possible to take pictures from points where the camera normally wouldn't fit.
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