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11-03-2013, 11:59 AM   #1
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trying to choose a lens

Good Morning to all of you! I have a K5 body and have been using my old 1970s screw mount lenses with an adapter. I've decided to enter the "modern" world and want to buy a decent lens to get started. I enjoy macro, landscapes, somewhat close range (100 feet or so) birding. I realize I cannot get a lens that will encompass all of that perfectly. This morning I've been looking at the HD DA 55-300mm f/4-5.8ED, the SMCP-DA 17-70mm f/4, and the SMC DA 18-135 f/3.5 lenses. Any recommendations regarding those 3 or any other lens? I should say that at some point I will buy a dedicated macro lens, but not this year. My price range is up to $800. My thanks in advance for any help you can give me.

11-03-2013, 03:04 PM   #2
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It sounds like you could still use some work on composition to really get a sense for your personal style... If that is the case, your visual quality would suffer somewhat, but I'd recommend the 18-135, maybe with one of the teleconverters that passes through the SDM contacts.

Alternately, you could try one of the other superzooms, like the Sigma 18-250. (Sigma 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC Macro HSM Lens Reviews - Sigma Lenses - Pentax Lens Review Database) That said, when I started with Pentax, I started with an ebay deal that got me the 18-55, 55-300, and the 50 f/1.4. All three lenses are great for their purposes.

For me, the 50 f/1.4 was my first portrait lens, which it is amazing at. For random/walkabout stuff, the 55-300 and 18-55 pair is very versatile in composition, just harder to use for low-light. I've had a few good trips though where those two were the only lenses I needed to bring along. Also, the WR is very good, if you get the WR lenses. I was at Burning Man this year, shooting with a 50-200 WR on my K-7 and a 15-55 WR on my K-5iis. Both lens/camera pairs acquit themselves wonderfully in the field. I literally only had to clean my cameras 'Heie-style' after I got home. (AKA under the sink and with a toothbrush, rinse and brush all the sand off the nooks and crannies, and the cameras didn't miss a beat.)
11-03-2013, 03:54 PM   #3
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I have the 18-135 WR lens, and it is terrific. It's fairly light and compact and the zoom range on an APS-C camera is very useful (equivalent to 27 to 203mm on a FF 35mm camera). It has quick, accurate and quiet auto-focus, and the IQ is frankly stunning for a consumer kit lens.

I'm using my old SMC Pentax 50mm F1.2 with a macro tele-converter to do some macro stuff and that's been working well.

I like to do a bit of sport photography too so have decided on a DA 55-300mm f/4-5.8ED for my birthday in a few weeks. As far as value for money (cost vs IQ over the whole zoom range) for a zoom with longish reach it seems to be in a class of its own. (Available in the non-WR version in Australia for $369 AUD delivered). I'm not going down the tele-converter route because you lose a couple of stops of light through one, and the IQ suffers. I did a bit of testing with one recently and got better results just cropping the image taken without the tele-converter compared to the full size image produced with it.
11-03-2013, 04:06 PM   #4
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Merts, if you were using an A-teleconverter, one thing to keep in mind iirc as that the teleconverter does not communicate the change in effective focal length. Will this make Pentax's SR counterproductive when using a TC?

11-03-2013, 04:18 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by kain Quote
Merts, if you were using an A-teleconverter, one thing to keep in mind iirc as that the teleconverter does not communicate the change in effective focal length. Will this make Pentax's SR counterproductive when using a TC?
Yeah, it probably would cause issues.

The testing I did was with my old Kenko manual converter and fully manual lenses (the SMC 50/1.2 and an old Sun zoom).
I had the SR turned off, and used a tripod. The IQ of the images using the teleconverter were slightly inferior to just cropping the images taken without it.

Interestingly, the macro photos I've taken using the same converter and the 50/1.2 lens have turned out beautifully.
11-03-2013, 04:22 PM   #6
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I chose the Pentax 18-135 because I live in Florida, and the 18-135 is WR. If I lived in the desert, I would have chosen the Sigma 17-70 (version 1 without SDM, because it has closer focuing). The IQ is better on the Sigma, the macro range is better, and the tele end that's missing is a reasonable price to pay. I'd say if you plan on taking pictures in an environment where your camera may get wet, get the 18-135 and be happy. If not, get the Sigma 17-70. If you go the Sigma route, get the newest one if you value quiet focusing, and get the version 1 if you want that little bit closer focus ability it offers.

However, from what I've seen, the Sigma 18-125 is not nearly as good at the Pentax 18-135..

If you have $800 to spend, either of the lenses I recommended will leave you change enough for a nice prime. A used Sigma 30/1.4 or an FA50/1.4 would fill out your ticket nicely. Or you could afford a couple of manual focus primes. Have fun deciding.

Last edited by Kozlok; 11-03-2013 at 04:28 PM.
11-03-2013, 04:49 PM   #7
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Hello Asahi72.
My advice to you is to buy any of the following: Tamron 17-50 f 2.8 (first non-stabilized version), Tamron 70-200 2.8 and Tamron 90 mm 2.8 Macro. They are terrific lenses for what they cost. Choosing 17-50 and 90mm prime would cost around 1000 bucks new, but if you buy them used can get lower prices (probably under 800). If you wait for Black Friday you might get them for your budget. I personally like Sigma lenses but they cost more.
Hope you find my advice useful.
Have a nice day!
11-03-2013, 05:23 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Asahi72 Quote
This morning I've been looking at the HD DA 55-300mm f/4-5.8ED, the SMCP-DA 17-70mm f/4, and the SMC DA 18-135 f/3.5 lenses. Any recommendations regarding those 3 or any other lens? I should say that at some point I will buy a dedicated macro lens, but not this year. My price range is up to $800. My thanks in advance for any help you can give me.
I have the old version of the 55-300 and it does a remarkable job with good light. And that new WR edition is what it always should have been, I have used mine many a times with a rain sleeve. The DA 18-135 is a remarkably versatile lens, and I have used it in some pretty good rains. Although not a macro it focuses pretty close. I can recommend both of those lenses, I have no experience with the 17-70.

11-03-2013, 05:43 PM   #9
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my thanks to for your responses. There is a lot of terminology that I am not familiar with, i.e, IQ, and iirc, but that is just a learning curve for me. I was also not aware there are macro teleconverters, so that opens up an entire new window. I purchased my first film SLR back in the '70s, and used my 50mm, a wide angle lens, a 135mm, and a 80-205 zoom for many years without much thought about true skills. Now that I have the K5 (and the fact that I recently retired) I want to utilize the full capabilities of my camera and me now that there is time to work on my skill set. Viewing your pictures makes me realize I have a lot of enjoyment coming my way. Thank you again (if this is a duplicate post, my apologies).
11-03-2013, 06:22 PM   #10
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IQ = image quality.

The macro teleconverter I am using I've had since my first film SLR days back in the 1980s. It does a good job, particularly with the fast 50.

I've recently bought some cheap macro extension rings (less than $10 on eBay) and intend to have a play with them over the next few days as well. No electrical or focus connections, but that isn't a problem when you are using old manual lenses.
11-05-2013, 06:57 AM   #11
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The combination of the 18-135 and 55-300 is a good starting point for flexibility and range.
11-05-2013, 08:35 AM   #12
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I will stray from popular opinion and advice the 17-70 over the 18-135. 18-135mm is a convenient range, but I believe it is already f/5.6 at 70mm. And from what I have seen, it gets kind of soft after 70mm. The 17-70 is a constant f/4 lens. I have taken portraits using it at 70mm and f/4 and it's perfectly usable for that (see my PPG).

If you don't absolutely need the range or WR, I would go with the 17-70. I took it on my trip to Thailand, together with the 55-300 and 35/2.4. The 17-70 was on my camera for over 90% of the time.
11-05-2013, 09:27 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by starbase218 Quote
I will stray from popular opinion and advice the 17-70 over the 18-135. 18-135mm is a convenient range, but I believe it is already f/5.6 at 70mm. And from what I have seen, it gets kind of soft after 70mm. The 17-70 is a constant f/4 lens. I have taken portraits using it at 70mm and f/4 and it's perfectly usable for that (see my PPG).

If you don't absolutely need the range or WR, I would go with the 17-70. I took it on my trip to Thailand, together with the 55-300 and 35/2.4. The 17-70 was on my camera for over 90% of the time.
Have you actually used an 18-135? At it's absolute worst setting, the 18-135 still has better center sharpness that a 17-70 according to photozone, and photozone seems to have based their tests on one copy of the lens, and probably a very bad copy.

The 17-70, is better at the wide end for edge sharpness in that it's centre isn't as sharp but it's edges are sharper, at 24mm the 18-135 leaves it in the dust in every category, after that it's a trade-off, the 17-70 has better edge to edge sharpness but not as good center sharpness. At least according to photozone.

As for actual images... look for yourself and see if there's some weakness in this lens you can't live with.

Range, IQ, and WR, I'm not seeing what's not to like.

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/newreply.php?do=newreply&p=2566644
11-05-2013, 10:32 AM   #14
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Welcome to PF and bonjour from France ... enjoy the forum and please post post us an image or two soon ... Salut, J
11-05-2013, 12:12 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by normhead Quote
Have you actually used an 18-135?
I love being able to shoot at f/4 at 70mm with a standard zoom, and the reviews I read didn't really encourage me to buy an 18-135. So, no, I haven't.

QuoteOriginally posted by normhead Quote
At it's absolute worst setting, the 18-135 still has better center sharpness that a 17-70 according to photozone, and photozone seems to have based their tests on one copy of the lens, and probably a very bad copy.

The 17-70, is better at the wide end for edge sharpness in that it's centre isn't as sharp but it's edges are sharper, at 24mm the 18-135 leaves it in the dust in every category, after that it's a trade-off, the 17-70 has better edge to edge sharpness but not as good center sharpness. At least according to photozone.
Except that the 17-70 was tested on a K10D, and the 18-135 was tested on a K-5. The difference in center sharpness and the performance at 24mm can easily be attributed by the reduced resolution of the K10D. So I don't subscribe to your statement that the 18-135 "leaves it in the dust in every category" at that FL. Quite the opposite: if the 18-135 really is about as good as the 17-70, it should beat it hands down, since it has the advantage of the increased resolution.

Besides, it is my experience that center resolution for such a lens is almost never something to worry about. It is the corner/edge resolution where the differences are most obvious.

Feel free to disagree, but let me speak my mind, ok?

QuoteOriginally posted by normhead Quote
As for actual images... look for yourself and see if there's some weakness in this lens you can't live with.
That's always good advice.

QuoteOriginally posted by normhead Quote
Range, IQ, and WR, I'm not seeing what's not to like.
Well, for me it's the variable aperture for one thing. Even forgetting the fact that it's far slower at 70mm, I like to shoot in M mode, and that's best done with a constant-aperture lens.
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