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03-06-2020, 11:22 AM   #1
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Beginner help -- choosing lenses for K-3

Hello All,

I am a beginner photographer (however, I feel like I have a good eye -- I love doing graphic design, etc.). I have been using a Nikon Coolpix B500, but finally convinced my husband to let me buy a DSLR. After much research, I bought a Pentax K-3 (used body in "excellent+" condition from KEH). I can't wait to try it out, but I obviously need some lens(es). Based on the research I did, I chose not to get a kit and instead bought a body separately from the lenses. I thought I knew what lenses I wanted to get, but now I'm second-guessing everything--there are SO many options! So, if you were in my shoes, what lenses would you buy??

Here is what I plan to photograph:
-- My kids (this is the primary purpose for buying a dslr) -- ages 2 and under right now. Both indoor and outdoor -- everyday life, special occasions, etc. I was planning to get a 50mm 1.8 prime lens, but some people say this can be a little tight indoors??
-- Also, family portraits (most likely using a tripod and remote control).
-- Wildlife in our yard. We have lots of deer (especially a beautiful albino) foxes, raccoons, birds, etc. that frequent our yard. The furthest I usually need to be able to shoot is about 150 feet away.
-- Sporting events. Specifically, we have a Pinewood Derby race (in a gymnasium) coming up that I need to take photos for. Also, sporting events as our kids get older.

Most importantly, my budget is a firm $350 for lenses! What lens or lenses would you buy?? I am happy to buy quality used lenses, so feel free to suggest lenses that may be out of my price range when new.

Thanks in advance!

03-06-2020, 11:49 AM - 1 Like   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by flute215 Quote
Hello All,

I am a beginner photographer (however, I feel like I have a good eye -- I love doing graphic design, etc.). I have been using a Nikon Coolpix B500, but finally convinced my husband to let me buy a DSLR. After much research, I bought a Pentax K-3 (used body in "excellent+" condition from KEH). I can't wait to try it out, but I obviously need some lens(es). Based on the research I did, I chose not to get a kit and instead bought a body separately from the lenses. I thought I knew what lenses I wanted to get, but now I'm second-guessing everything--there are SO many options! So, if you were in my shoes, what lenses would you buy??

Here is what I plan to photograph:
-- My kids (this is the primary purpose for buying a dslr) -- ages 2 and under right now. Both indoor and outdoor -- everyday life, special occasions, etc. I was planning to get a 50mm 1.8 prime lens, but some people say this can be a little tight indoors??
-- Also, family portraits (most likely using a tripod and remote control).
-- Wildlife in our yard. We have lots of deer (especially a beautiful albino) foxes, raccoons, birds, etc. that frequent our yard. The furthest I usually need to be able to shoot is about 150 feet away.
-- Sporting events. Specifically, we have a Pinewood Derby race (in a gymnasium) coming up that I need to take photos for. Also, sporting events as our kids get older.

Most importantly, my budget is a firm $350 for lenses! What lens or lenses would you buy?? I am happy to buy quality used lenses, so feel free to suggest lenses that may be out of my price range when new.

Thanks in advance!
Please, buy that wonderful Pentax 18-135. It will serve for most things on your list. Or buy a 55-300, which is very good for shooting wildlife in your garden. I think that the PLM version will be to expensive, it is such a good one, but perhaps the HD 55-300 WR will serve your purpose. Read the reviews of these lenses on Pentaxforums before you decide.
03-06-2020, 12:04 PM - 1 Like   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by flute215 Quote
Hello All,

I am a beginner photographer (however, I feel like I have a good eye -- I love doing graphic design, etc.). I have been using a Nikon Coolpix B500, but finally convinced my husband to let me buy a DSLR. After much research, I bought a Pentax K-3 (used body in "excellent+" condition from KEH). I can't wait to try it out, but I obviously need some lens(es). Based on the research I did, I chose not to get a kit and instead bought a body separately from the lenses. I thought I knew what lenses I wanted to get, but now I'm second-guessing everything--there are SO many options! So, if you were in my shoes, what lenses would you buy??

Here is what I plan to photograph:
-- My kids (this is the primary purpose for buying a dslr) -- ages 2 and under right now. Both indoor and outdoor -- everyday life, special occasions, etc. I was planning to get a 50mm 1.8 prime lens, but some people say this can be a little tight indoors??
-- Also, family portraits (most likely using a tripod and remote control).
-- Wildlife in our yard. We have lots of deer (especially a beautiful albino) foxes, raccoons, birds, etc. that frequent our yard. The furthest I usually need to be able to shoot is about 150 feet away.
-- Sporting events. Specifically, we have a Pinewood Derby race (in a gymnasium) coming up that I need to take photos for. Also, sporting events as our kids get older.

Most importantly, my budget is a firm $350 for lenses! What lens or lenses would you buy?? I am happy to buy quality used lenses, so feel free to suggest lenses that may be out of my price range when new.

Thanks in advance!
Buy a used 18-135.... and a used 50-1.8 if you can find them.
Also for indoors, the DA 35 2.4 is cheap and bit wider than the 50, but I've many time used the 18-135 indoors.

Last edited by normhead; 03-06-2020 at 12:38 PM.
03-06-2020, 12:17 PM   #4
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I would start out with either the sigma or Tamron 17-50 f2.8. it is going to be fast enough and wide enough to use indoors. Used you are looking at $200 and a little less for the tamron.

Right now I will pick up something inexpensive for the long end. You can find 50-200 or 70-300 with a f4-5.6 well under $100. But this isn't going to be great in the gym, pool, under high school stadium lights or a school stage. Depending on how you feel I would look at getting a 70-200 f2.8 in the long term future. used you are at 400-500 for a sigma or Tamron.

I don't have the 18-135 but it seems like a well respected lens. I bet you get the most recommendation for it. It I was going to only have one lens that might be the one. I just question the slowness in dimly lit situations with moving kids.

I have a 8 year old and a 16 year old and a lot of pictures from poorly lit events. The ones with the slower lenses are not as good as the faster lenses. In good light a kit lens will do the job

03-06-2020, 12:58 PM   #5
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I have the 18-135 for my K-5 and it is a nice lens. The 16-85 is a little sharper but it is significantly larger and more expensive. You will be happy with it.

I agree you probably need something a little faster for shooting in a gymnasium. On my full-frame film camera, I had a manual focus 28-80 f/2.8. So something like the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 mentioned above would be the cropped sensor equivalent. It actually isnít too bad shooting something like basketball in a gym because the lights usually do a good job lighting up the players while the background is dark.

The Pentax 55-300 comes in a couple of versions. The optics are the same, I think. I have the DAL version which is a little slower (and louder) screw-drive focus and doesnít have quick-shift manual focusing, but it is sharp. It is good outside but the lens is probably too slow to use indoors, like in a gym. It cost me about $125 used.
03-06-2020, 01:03 PM   #6
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My wife has been happy with her Tamron 17-50 and Tamron 90 for years. But, you are buying into lens changes in standard shooting situations.
For indoors, the 18-135 at 18mm and ƒ3.5 the maintaining ƒ4 until 40mm, the 18-135 is just a half stop to a stop slower. People seem to vastly overstate the importance of that. When you consider many lenses are constant ƒ4, you begin to understand how silly trying to avoid ƒ4 is. It's 1 stop from ƒ2.8. You can seriously over think these things.

The ideal lens set kit would be the DA 16-85 and the DA 55-300 PLM for outdoors.
The best heavy yet relatively inexpensive kit for indoors sport would be the Tamron 70-200 2.8 screw drive.

If money wasn't an object the Sigma 18-35 1.8 is a lens some hate and some swear by. The 24-70 2.8 or 15-30 2.8 could be quite good if you like big and heavy.

I've tried shooting indoors in a fairly dim basement with both the 35 2.4 and the DA*55 1.4. Dim basements are just dim basements. Results are unpredictable.

The DA 55-300 PLM is very quick focusing, maybe the fastest focusing lens Pentax has. It'a new optical formula, more elements more groups. It's not the same lens as the screw drive versions. As far as I can tell, it's an improved optical formula.

But essentially for a tight budget the 18-135 will do quite nicely. Especially since the 17-50 type lenses have to include buying a second lens for even mild telephoto work.

But a 17-50 is preferable with the Tamron 90 and possibly a TC if you don't mind lens changes.

Last edited by normhead; 03-06-2020 at 01:15 PM.
03-06-2020, 01:49 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Sidney Porter Quote
I would start out with either the sigma or Tamron 17-50 f2.8. it is going to be fast enough and wide enough to use indoors. Used you are looking at $200 and a little less for the tamron.

Right now I will pick up something inexpensive for the long end. You can find 50-200 or 70-300 with a f4-5.6 well under $100. But this isn't going to be great in the gym, pool, under high school stadium lights or a school stage. Depending on how you feel I would look at getting a 70-200 f2.8 in the long term future. used you are at 400-500 for a sigma or Tamron.

I don't have the 18-135 but it seems like a well respected lens. I bet you get the most recommendation for it. It I was going to only have one lens that might be the one. I just question the slowness in dimly lit situations with moving kids.

I have a 8 year old and a 16 year old and a lot of pictures from poorly lit events. The ones with the slower lenses are not as good as the faster lenses. In good light a kit lens will do the job
I would not call the 18-135 slow in dimly lit situations, it is after all an F3.5 at the wide end and only F5.6 at 135mm. What I noticed is that at the moment the used 18-135's are relatively expensive compared with a new one. To be honest, I always hesitate to recommend third party lenses. You just bought a Pentax and a Pentax camera deserves a Pentax lens, in my opinion. If you asked for a further suggestion I suggest a Sigma 18-250 HSM Macro, because it gives you a lot for a decent price. I bought one second hand and it was quite cheap. Cheaper than a used 18-135. And it will work well with your guests in your garden . But a combination of a WR DA 18-55 (not the DAL version) with a HD 55-300 will cover all that you wish for. DAL versions of Pentax lenses do not come with a hood and lack a metal mount and quick shift. Buy lenses that work the same, so two DAL versions or two DA versions. Be sure to buy WR versions of Pentax lenses, Pentax K-3 has in body lens corrections but that only works with Pentax lenses. It helps you making better pictures in an easy way.
03-06-2020, 02:42 PM   #8
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I missed the part about deer in your yard, in which case I'd go with a used Sigma 70-300 macro. Just make sure it's in working condition. The zoom ring breaks on them, they don't become inoperable , just harder to use. You should be able to find one for $100.

It's not the sharpest, but it will do until you get something better.


03-06-2020, 03:03 PM   #9
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Welcome to the forum flute215. Glad to have you. There are lots of knowledgeable, helpful people here. The K-3 is a very capable camera; I think you've made a good choice.


When I shoot family snaps indoors at Christmas and birthdays I'm almost always using the pop-up flash. It seems to me that for moderate indoor distances (up to 12-15 feet) you don't need an especially fast lens because of flash coverage. And you can use the red-eye reduction setting for shots where people are facing the camera. The pre-flash adds a slight delay before the actual exposure, so fast kids or pets may move. Catching those fleeting cute expressions on kids faces requires instant exposure, so red-eye reduction has to be off. If they are not looking directly at the camera it shouldn't be a problem. My K-5IIs gets good image results with the ISO sensitivity set as high as 1600. Your K-3 should be in the same ballpark. For indoor snaps it's usually set at 800 or so, which allows me to stop the aperture down a little. The flash output can be adjusted up or down somewhat. I'm not trying to talk you out of getting a f2.8 or f1.8 lens as others have suggested, but for me it wouldn't be the deciding factor.

I haven't used the 18-135 lens, but have read a lot of good things about it. Sounds like an excellent choice for first lens. A little short for wildlife, unless it's really tame.

Pentax-DA 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 Review - Introduction | PentaxForums.com Reviews
SMC Pentax-DA 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 ED AL [IF] DC WR Reviews - DA Zoom Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

I too have found my 50mm prime lens to be a little too long for many indoor shots. A 35mm lens will give you a 'normal' field-of-view for an APS-C camera like the K-3.


For outdoor sports the DA 55-300mm PLM lens is one of the fastest, if not THE fastest, auto-focusing lenses that Pentax makes. The 300mm reach should be able to grab some larger wildlife 150 feet away since your camera has 24 megapixels. You can add a 1.4X or 1.7X teleconverter later for more reach.

Welcome to the Pentax family! Looking forward to seeing some of your images.
03-06-2020, 05:32 PM - 3 Likes   #10
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Welcome to PF.

The K-3 is a very capable and durable camera. You've made a good choice.

You mention the DA 50mm f1.8. It's a good lens for portraits and low light, but the field of view will often be a bit narrow for your intended use.

I agree with other posters that, given the limited budget and the range of requirements, a zoom would be a better option to start with - the obvious choices are the Tamron 17-50mm f2.8, a Sigma 17-70mm f2.8-4 or a Pentax DA 18-135mm f3.5-5.6. I'd suggest the Pentax for these reasons:
- it's weather-resistant, unlike the other two;
- the wide zoom range makes it very versatile (e.g. kids and pets at a distance one minute, up close the next);
- centre sharpness is excellent and the colours are very good.
For real-world samples see this thread: DA 18-135 WR, Show us what it can do - PentaxForums.com You should get a good copy for around $US200 second hand. Look in the marketplace here: The Pentax Marketplace | Buy & Sell Pentax Cameras and Lenses - PentaxForums.com

That leaves about $150. You will probably want something with more reach for wildlife, so that probably means an xx-300 zoom. Norm has mentioned the Sigma 70-300. Another to consider is the Pentax DA or DA-L 55-300mm f4-5.8. You should find one of them for around $100-120. (There is a weather-resistant/HD model too, using the same optical formula, but it would be more like $250 second hand.) Down the track, if the budget is available, you might want to upgrade to the current model, DA 55-300mm f4.5-6.3 PLM - which has very quiet and fast autofocus (the older ones are noisy and rather slow), but the older ones will suffice in the meantime. The older models can produce sharp images (especially if you can stop down the aperture by one or two stops). Here are some examples with the DA-L 55-300mm f4-5.8:














You can't really ask more from a $100 lens. More samples here: Pentax DA-L 55-300mm f4-5.8 sample images - Des(Australia) - Flickr

I would strongly suggest you keep a little of your budget for a flash. Yes you can use the popup on the K-3, but you will get much much better results with an external flash. Look for one that has a swivel head, so you can bounce the beam off walls and ceilings when the flash is mounted on the camera. You can get powerful manual flashes (ie you set the flash strength manually) for around $60, but I think you would find an automatic flash, using Pentax through-the-lens (PTTL) metering, much more convenient.

There are good third-party PTTL models (Metz, Godox, etc) which would be quite satisfactory on-camera, but for off-camera use you need a way to trigger them (another flash or a radio trigger) - on a tight budget, it may be better to get a model that can be triggered off-camera out of the box. The Pentax models can be triggered off-camera by the popup flash on the K-3 (with or without the popup flash contributing to the lighting of the image). I'd suggest you look for a second-hand Pentax AF-360FGZ II. Or if that is too expensive version I of that flash would be a possibility but its capability for on-camera use is limited because it doesn't swivel.

An alternative would be to get two Godox TT350P flashes (one on-camera to trigger the other off-camera) or one TT350P and one Godox X-Pro P trigger. The flashes are about $US75 each and the X-ProP about $US60. The Godox units are very compact, light-weight, well featured (they include HSS) and easy to use. The only downside is that the recycle time is rather slow, because they run on only two AA batteries.

For more information about flashes for the Pentax system, see this guide: Comprehensive Pentax Flash Guide - Articles and Tips | PentaxForums.com

It's really worth learning about using flash effectively. Just the simple expedient of bouncing the flash from more surfaces will make a big difference to the quality of the exposure. Bouncing diffuses the light and gives much more flattering results. Have a look at these articles from Neil van Niekerk:
Bounce flash photography tutorial
bounce flash photography - be bold!
How to bounce your flash
In this video, van Niekerk tests a lot of diffusers for an indoor on-camera flash. The best results? No diffuser, just bouncing the bare flash pointed behind him.

Better still, use directional bounced flash with a flag. Van Niekerk demonstrates this with his "Black Foamie Thing" (a piece of black card strapped to the flash) in the last couple of minutes of the video. See also Indoor Exposure Mixing - PentaxForums.com

Flash can also be a big help with outdoor shooting too, e.g. to brighten up shadows on faces in harsh sunlight. (A flash with HSS helps for this.)

You may also be surprised at how useful fill flash can be when photographing wildlife, to bring out details. Here's an example.

The key is not to overdo it. Just aim for a one-two stop increase in exposure.

My other tip for a beginner would be to take photographs in RAW + jpg formats. Jpg will give you shots to view and share immediately, but RAW images let you make a lot more adjustments. There is a learning curve with post-processing but it's well worth it. If you aren't up to learning to use processing software straight away, save the RAW files for the day when you are. My biggest photographic regret is not shooting RAW for the first 6 years in which I had a DSLR - I look now at the jpgs and think how much more I could have got from those images. For images of your children, you would hate to be saying the same thing years later. Store the files and back them up (either in the cloud or to an external hard drive stored somewhere else) to preserve them.

Last edited by Des; 03-07-2020 at 04:23 PM.
03-06-2020, 05:49 PM   #11
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da35/f2.4 (cost effective) fa35/f2 (not as cost effective)

da50/f1.8.....fa50/f1.7 close to same but the da is more likely cost effective

da55-300 (cost effective)…...Tamron 70-200/f2.8 a pretty penny but very nice
03-06-2020, 08:57 PM   #12
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welcome to the forums

you will find friendly members and knowledge here


and advice on how to spend YOUR money on lenses

I suggest the following method

decide if you want new or are willing to try " experienced " lenses

go up to " lenses " above and check out the " user reviews " and " in depth reviews " of various lenses

decide if you want a prime ( one focal length ) or zoom ( a combination of focal length)

should you decide to get an " experienced " an excellent place to look for one is the forum's marketplace under " buy/sell ''

It can be sorted by country where the seller is located

The Pentax Marketplace | Buy & Sell Pentax Cameras and Lenses (United States) - PentaxForums.com

Last edited by aslyfox; 03-06-2020 at 09:02 PM.
03-07-2020, 02:56 PM - 1 Like   #13
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Something different here. I'll give you suggestions on what not to buy.

Stay away from the Pentax 17-70. While the image quality is fine the lens itself is unreliable and expensive to fix. Some people might say that this was only true on the older ones but do you really want to take that risk? Besides if you buy used it's difficult to know how old the lens is.

Stay away from the Pentax 50-200 simply because it's the cheapest lens in the Pentax family and there's no point in putting a cheap lens on a good camera body.


I agree with most of what others say here. Nearly everyone has at one time owned either the Sigma or Tamron versions of the 17-50 f/2.8 lens. I had the Sigma that I bought used for a low price and it was my main lens for many years. It finally gave up last year and even then it's still usable but the zoom function doesn't work. They are versatile lenses that you can pick up for great prices. The Pentax 18-135 is also a great lens for the money. It's also light making it easy to carry around. I used to use mine all that time until I bought a heavy and expensive DA*50-135 that I really enjoy using. I still keep the 18-135 for times when I don't want to deal with the weight of the other lenses.
03-08-2020, 04:24 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by flute215 Quote
Hello All,

I am a beginner photographer (however, I feel like I have a good eye -- I love doing graphic design, etc.). I have been using a Nikon Coolpix B500, but finally convinced my husband to let me buy a DSLR. After much research, I bought a Pentax K-3 (used body in "excellent+" condition from KEH). I can't wait to try it out, but I obviously need some lens(es). Based on the research I did, I chose not to get a kit and instead bought a body separately from the lenses. I thought I knew what lenses I wanted to get, but now I'm second-guessing everything--there are SO many options! So, if you were in my shoes, what lenses would you buy??

Here is what I plan to photograph:
-- My kids (this is the primary purpose for buying a dslr) -- ages 2 and under right now. Both indoor and outdoor -- everyday life, special occasions, etc. I was planning to get a 50mm 1.8 prime lens, but some people say this can be a little tight indoors??
-- Also, family portraits (most likely using a tripod and remote control).
-- Wildlife in our yard. We have lots of deer (especially a beautiful albino) foxes, raccoons, birds, etc. that frequent our yard. The furthest I usually need to be able to shoot is about 150 feet away.
-- Sporting events. Specifically, we have a Pinewood Derby race (in a gymnasium) coming up that I need to take photos for. Also, sporting events as our kids get older.

Most importantly, my budget is a firm $350 for lenses! What lens or lenses would you buy?? I am happy to buy quality used lenses, so feel free to suggest lenses that may be out of my price range when new.

Thanks in advance!
flute215--
Just to concur with the others, for an initial tight-budget kit you can't do better than the 18-135mm. It was my first lens, and is still one of my favorite walk-arounds.
If you can push it a bit, consider the "plastic fantastic" DA 50mm f/1.8 as your second lens. That will let you play in lower light and works well for portraits (but the FoV is too narrow to use it as a first general purpose lens).
After that, your own needs and experience will start to make your lens needs clear, whether that's in the direction of faster, longer reach, macro capability, etc.
Welcome and enjoy!
traveler
03-08-2020, 07:08 AM   #15
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Very funny.....

But you make a good point. Many many people warn folks to stay away from lenses that others have used successfully for years.
If you want to be soundly and boldly contradicted, tell someone why they shouldn't own a lens because of this that or the other. Someone who successfully uses the lens will chime up. It happens every single time.

There is no quicker way to be proven wrong than to advise people not to use a particular lens. This is made worse by those who read all about people's problems with a particular lens without realizing that if you did random sample of various owners, those who have problems would be a very small minority. But the ones who do have problems are loud enough to completely drown out the silence of the successful. It's even worse when it turns out the criticism is from someone who never learned to use the lens to it's strength. So many end up believing it's the lens that's the problem.

Such people buying a new lens may solve the problem in that the new lens works in a way more in sync with their own personal style, and there's nothing wrong with that. But it's not usually a reflection on the lens. Its reflection on the shooter who couldn't alter his shooting style to make the best use of the lens.

Last edited by normhead; 04-19-2020 at 05:34 AM.
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