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12-06-2014, 06:58 PM - 1 Like   #1
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My K-3 and the lens culture

I have been a photographer pretty much my entire adult life. I am now a retired educator and ready to expand my skills. While I have always been a student of photography, I truly believe you cannot declare yourself to be any kind of an expert until you have taken thousands of pictures and taken the time to closely analyze why some pictures work and why others never come close to your aesthetic threshold. With that in mind, I purchased my K-3. I have a Kx and a couple of lenses that I purchased over the past couple of years. I am on a fixed income and one of the things that had great appeal for me was the notion that I would have access to all of the old K-mount lenses from the period when film was king. They are inexpensive and some of them have marvelous glass in them. I realize that these lenses do not have ability to utilize all of the great features built into my K-3, but I am truly okay with that fact. I will save my money and eventually buy some nicer lenses that have all the bells and whistles, but most retired teachers do not have the extra money to buy them.

So that brings me to what I feel is a bit of a camera cultural divide. Of course it could just be me, but I thought I might start a thread and see if anyone besides myself has felt that there are several factions in regards to the uses of older lenses. I do not wish to single anyone out, but I am somewhat surprised when a fellow photographer brashly comes out and pronounces that all of these old lenses are a pile of rubbish, inferior in every way and unworthy of consideration. This is generally followed by a somewhat revealing bit of logic. I read today that you should forget those lenses...after all, for just a few dollars more than you paid for the body of the K-3, you could have a really decent (not top f the line) lens and take some real pictures. Uh, I took an extra job temporarily to earn enough to buy my K-3. It felt as though the author was saying, and I am interpreting here, "Hey pal, do not buy anything that is beneath the K-3. If you ain't got the cash, you need to get out of the game."

Others spend a great deal of their time talking about the value in these "mechanical marvels" with their finely ground glass lenses. They seem interested in promoting the use of these older units, providing you are careful to look for haze, oil and mold. But even then, these frugal types are quick to share tips on just how to spot a bad unit before you waste your money. They rarely go out of their way to criticize the owners of newer and more expensive lenses.

Do not get me wrong, if there is a divide, I can live with that. I have acquired a number of these old gems and I am getting some fantastic results despite what some have said. I just thought the question needed to be asked. Is there a divide between those that have the best and most modern lenses and those who choose to use vintage lenses while they save for newer ones. Or are there others who choose to use both and take advantage of old glass when they have the time or inclination. Just thought I would see what others thought.

Robert

12-06-2014, 07:12 PM - 1 Like   #2
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Different approaches is all I see most of the time. Occasionally you get a person that holds an extreme position out of arrogance or ignorance (or both) but generally this is a pretty open group that is simply a bit fanatical about Pentax and the K-mount. I have both in my collection of lenses. For instance, when I'm being lazy (or an really rushed) I'll do portraits with my 70Ltd because of its AF (or if space is at a premium) but if I am being energetic, have the extra time, and can afford the size I'll use my Vivitar 85/1.4 instead because it can produce truly wonderful images - but it takes time a patience to manually focus it at those waffer thin depths of field it can generate. Each has their place and each brings something to the collection. I have yet to find one lens that does it all, even marginally. In all honesty I will say that I use my AF lenses more than my MF lenses, with the exception of macro work, because of the convenience.
12-06-2014, 07:16 PM - 2 Likes   #3
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This is among the nicest, and most civil forums on the internet. That said, there are some who have money and enjoy buying and using the finer things Pentax has to offer. Some are in a different boat. The great thing is, pictures talk. Nobody disses a good image just because it was made on old glass. At least not on this forum. To my knowledge.
12-06-2014, 07:18 PM - 1 Like   #4
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I think it more as diversity in photography.

When I started out in Pentax land I did acquire a few manual focus lens and a superzoom.

I now have very few manual focus lenses and really quite dislike supwrzooms in general.

I think after a while we find out what we like and I certainly prefer primes to zooms but we are all different.

As to old lenses, in general, they do lack some contrast. Easily added in post production or alter the jpg settings to have higher contrast.

I now prefer autofocus but definitely nothing wrong with the legacy lenses.

If you really get into legacy lenses check out the Helios. Famous for it's swirly bokeh.

In many ways the Pentax autofocus lenses give you a choice between old and new image qualities.

The FA limiteds are film based do the images look different to the DAs. The DA Limiteds are sharp across the frame and have great contrast. Whether this is in fact better is in fact a personal preference disregarding aperture differences.

Anyway, enjoy the older M42s and other legacy lenses. Definitely nothing wrong with them.

12-06-2014, 07:22 PM   #5
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Thanks Wolfeye. I have not experienced a lack of civility by any means. I was just surprised at the lengths to which some go out of their way to make the point about older lenses. Almost to a person, advice is given with sincerity.

---------- Post added 12-06-14 at 07:25 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by howieb101 Quote
I think it more as diversity in photography.

When I started out in Pentax land I did acquire a few manual focus lens and a superzoom.

I now have very few manual focus lenses and really quite dislike supwrzooms in general.

I think after a while we find out what we like and I certainly prefer primes to zooms but we are all different.

As to old lenses, in general, they do lack some contrast. Easily added in post production or alter the jpg settings to have higher contrast.

I now prefer autofocus but definitely nothing wrong with the legacy lenses.

If you really get into legacy lenses check out the Helios. Famous for it's swirly bokeh.

In many ways the Pentax autofocus lenses give you a choice between old and new image qualities.

The FA limiteds are film based do the images look different to the DAs. The DA Limiteds are sharp across the frame and have great contrast. Whether this is in fact better is in fact a personal preference disregarding aperture differences.

Anyway, enjoy the older M42s and other legacy lenses. Definitely nothing wrong with them.
I have found the 28mm to 100mm primes to give extraordinary clarity and color. Thanks Howieb 101.
12-06-2014, 07:34 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Badger Logic Quote
I am somewhat surprised when a fellow photographer brashly comes out and pronounces that all of these old lenses are a pile of rubbish, inferior in every way and unworthy of consideration.
Hard to believe anyone on this forum would say that, most seem to really love and promote the old glass. Of course that might be because we have so little new glass to brag about
QuoteOriginally posted by Badger Logic Quote
Is there a divide between those that have the best and most modern lenses and those who choose to use vintage lenses while they save for newer ones. Or are there others who choose to use both and take advantage of old glass when they have the time or inclination. Just thought I would see what others thought.
I don't think there is much of a divide, old versus new. Even those that have lots of new glass usually have some classic glass as well. My carry bag has DA 12-24, DA*16-50 and DA*60-250 in it and that's what I use when I am shooting seriously. For fun, I have a good set of Takumars that I love to play with.

I think there is more of a zoom versus prime divide. There is a strong tendency on this forum to recommend primes and especially limited primes to everyone who asks "what lens should I get?. Generally without any real thought about the needs of the person asking. Primes are wonderful, but I'm not sure we do a new photographer who states they want a good lens to take pictures of the kids with any good by recommending a bunch of primes. Primes are wonderful when your focus is on photography, when it is on getting pictures of your kids a good, a simple zoom does the job better.
12-06-2014, 07:48 PM   #7
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"old stye" lens designs from Canon, Nikon, Pentax, etc. were rarely sharp wide open, generally only sharp at f/4, f/5/6 or f/8. However, most of these old lens *ARE* more than sharp enough for digital sensors (if stopped down). Many "modern" lens are much sharper wide open due to better design/manufacturing (e.g. Leitz Otus, new Sigma Art, etc.). But not *ALL* modern lenses are sharp wide open so it depends on the lens. Most old zoom lenses are not particularly good, but there are some real gems out there (e.g. Nikkor 80-200mm, Pentax 35-70mm). Modern zooms are simply amazing in comparison, in some cases matching primes (e.g. Nikkor 14-24mm, Sigma 18-35mm etc.). And last but not least, pretty much ALL old macro primes are still excellent performers and you can't go wrong there.

YMMV

Michael
12-06-2014, 07:48 PM   #8
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It's all a matter of perspective

Different approaches, but I have to say with the advent of mirrorless cameras and the ubiquity of different adapters that allow all manner of "frankencams" to be used has broadened the appeal of any good glass. Certainly Pentax was ahead of the curve as natively the glass can be used directly, but it can also be used in a similar manner with mid-high end Nikon gear.
I'd say there are the some for whom the shooting style matches the subject, such as macro work, those who maintain mixed film and digital media to whom older (or modern as per Docrwm above) manual focus lenses make sense (and allow valuable dollars for actually getting to shooting locations!). There are also those generally curious who want to try a focal length or particular lens in this camp. Astrophotographers too (where AF makes no sense) also tend to use MF, or older glass.

All that being said, usually the newer lenses are better designed and coated for digital sensors, and often the better older glass is priced within the same $X00 range, plus you get AF, which can be very useful. I don't know for example whether I could now get rid of my 18-135mm, or 60-250mm, the former as it is a flexible "beater" lens, and the latter as it is just so good.

To finish (my ramble), I think that the proof is in the pudding. Rhetorically, are you getting the results for whatever photographic interest you are applying your kit into? I'm also sure that as Docrwm comments above that ignorance is a factor.

Personally, I've been into this obsession interest (I've never been interested in commercial work) for around 20 years, and in that time have gone from a 110 film snapshot shooter to a medium format snob to somewhere in the middle in digital land. Early on it was all about documenting travel, then playing with the advent of digital and learning to post-process, then diving, then printing, then family portraits, etc. The journey isn't over. While forums are a great place for information, IMO, they are also full of individuals, from different countries, who hold different viewpoints, that I suspect differ according to where they are on their own journey. Each has their own budget and tolerance for results.

I have both (MF/AF) sorts of lenses. This afternoon I was using a Fuji X-E1 with a Minolta MD 100mm F3.5 lens that has ten years on me for age. It's a beautiful piece of kit, that is great wide open. However, this afternoon was a bit dim, and I should probably have used the 18-55mm kit for the IS/shake reduction. Then again, the subject motion was pretty high, so maybe I just should have cranked the ISO....... Digital does give one lots of choices.

12-06-2014, 07:48 PM   #9
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If you want to hear people rave about the new lenses just ask the question of what new the next lens you should buy. Personally I have only one MF Pentax lens and it is one that will be replaced but then I use a large format camera and a Hasselblad V system so I get enough manual focusing with them.

Although I have no desire to return to using the screw mount Takumars I started with I truly enjoy reading what others are doing with them. Most on this forum are both knowledgeable and open minded and the others can be read with a grain of salt.
12-06-2014, 07:59 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wolfeye Quote
This is among the nicest, and most civil forums on the internet. That said, there are some who have money and enjoy buying and using the finer things Pentax has to offer. Some are in a different boat. The great thing is, pictures talk. Nobody disses a good image just because it was made on old glass. At least not on this forum. To my knowledge.
Very true IMO also.
If you haven't already (and if there is one in your area), do take the opportunity to join one of the photography groups here. I've had a blast over the years, and have met some great people I otherwise wouldn't had the chance to, and to play with some gear that I couldn't possibly own.....
12-06-2014, 08:00 PM - 2 Likes   #11
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Since buying a K-x in Dec. 2009 I have acquired about 80 lenses. Most are manual focus primes or older auto focus zooms. I have not personally spent more than $270 for any of them (the Sigma 150-500 was a gift).

I don't own any Limited or * lenses, but I've been able to get 104 photos with the K-x and K-5 into PPG. Now there is a subject that can bring out the snobs...
12-06-2014, 08:13 PM   #12
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I don't know exactly what you've been reading, but if what you're getting at is that you may not be able to take full advantage of a K3 vs. a KX without some high quality lenses, then possibly that's true, although results at large display sizes with a higher-mp sensor are still likely to be better than those same sizes from a smaller sensor camera - even if the sensor can out-resolve the lenses at that point. Also remember that some forum members make more use of wider apertures, for example, and they are likely to see more performance difference from higher-quality lenses than those of us who frequently use f11 or f16.

As for old vs. new lenses, I'm not convinced that there's all that much advantage to purchasing typical older lenses, particularly considering that the farther back you go in history, the more you lose in convenience and functionality for general-purpose photography, not to mention you're buying older technology (design, coatings.) There are exceptions, and not everyone here agrees about the merits of older lenses. A number of the older lenses favored by many on the forum are simply not that inexpensive (in good condition) - they were premium-priced when new, and still are now.

I do think there's some tendency here to overstate the performance of some fairly routine old lenses, because there's some psychological compensation that happens to expectations when you pay $60 for something vs. $600.

As for choosing a K3 vs. one or more better lenses, you don't mention what lenses you have, so that's difficult to comment on. What were you finding was a shortcoming of your KX?

I don't see the divide you're talking about - it seems to me more like a spectrum, where people may have slightly different opinions but mostly don't come down entirely on one side or the other.
12-06-2014, 08:18 PM   #13
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The GREAT thing about the K-Mount system is that you can get some awesome legacy glass dirt cheap. I think that the reason that you see people pushing them is that a lot of members are on restricted budgets. With these lenses you can still generate a quality image for a fraction of the cost of the glass that is now available.

If you look at the lens club section, people are generating high quality images using all sorts of K-mount and screw mount lenses from many manufacturers. I love that section of the forum. People experimenting, combining old and new technology etc.

My personal favorite lenses of all time are the 75mm or so triplets that were used on 120mm roll film folders and TLR's from the 1930's to 1950 or so. These lenses are not perfect but make an image with an atmosphere to them that later, higher quality lenses just cannot reproduce. Silky smooth images that are just sharp enough.
12-06-2014, 09:40 PM   #14
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I was pretty certain when I wrote my thread starter that some might view it as a newbie who was being critical of Pentax Forums. I want to assure anyone who might be reading this that I have nothing but the utmost praise for this site. I have only recently joined but I have followed it for years. I appreciate all the feedback and I think that from the replies that I have seen thus far that most people do not believe that there is any significant divide. That is helpful considering the average duration of membership listed on each person's is measured in years with some having literally thousands of posts.
In response to what my Kx lenses are that I am currently using with my K-3, they are in no special order,
(1.) SMC Pentax 1:3.5 - 5.6 18mm - 55mm AL
(2.) Tamron AF Aspherical 28mm-80mm
(3.) Tamron AF 70mm - 300mm 1:4.5 - 5.6 Tele-Macro
(4.) SMC Pentax F 1: 4.5-5.6 100mm - 300mm
12-06-2014, 09:55 PM   #15
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I haven't noticed any "divide" or snobbery from folks who collect the new-age, auto-everything lenses. I like the old lenses, 'cause I don't have a lot of money, and, to be honest, I'm kind of horrified at the idea of having a lens with no manual aperture ring. I don't want to have to count on an electronic connection to change my aperture, and I want to be able to use my lenses on my film bodies, too.

Plus, I like the rendering of old lenses better. I have a couple of new lenses (Rokinon) and the quality of the image is different and less pleasant to me than the old glass I own.

It's just a preference. Have fun. Make some images you like. Don't worry about people who disagree with you about petty things. Life's short.

Last edited by severalsnakes; 12-06-2014 at 09:56 PM. Reason: redundancy
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