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07-09-2010, 11:55 PM   #1
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Which Lens for a Beginner?

Hey all, I'm somewhat experienced with film SLRs (having taken the course in my high school for the past 3 years; I'm comfortable with my K-x on manual), and not quite so when it comes to DSLRs and lenses; specifically, buying them. I'm mainly looking for a general purpose walk-about lens, and so my main contenders so far seem to be the Sigma 17-70mm, and (also from Sigma) the 18-125mm (interestingly, on photozone.de's review of both, the non-OS/HSM version of the 18-125 performed better on distortion/CA/resolution, beats out the 17-70 at wide angle/CA, and trades off wins with it at other resolutions). My main issue with my current 18-55 kit lens is that when shooting wildlife, they often tend to run or fly away before I can get close enough, even in full zoom. This is why I'm currently leaning heavily towards the 18-125mm right now, as going from a 55mm to 70mm max focal length doesn't seem like a huge deal compared to going from 55 to 125. The main reason I'm still looking at the 17-70 is because it's gotten rave reviews left, right, and centre, and I was wondering if, in your guys' opinion, would it be adequate for getting close enough to get the shots I'm missing? (currently, the pics I have of birds in flight and the like aren't that close to the bird at all. In my best one, it probably takes about a 50-75% crop at the least to get the picture to the point where the bird becomes a significant portion of the picture.)

Much thanks for your help! Oh, and if there're other lenses even better suited to my needs/criteria (I would like to keep the wide-angle capabilities of about 17/18mm that these have, or as much as possible), please let me know! (:

07-10-2010, 03:04 AM   #2
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If you want a lens for wildlife, I'd recommend a Sigma 70-200mm F2.8, as even 125mm is short for the purpose IMO.

For a general walkaround, I suggest getting something more like a 24-70mm or 24-75mm, also F2.8. There will be a large gain in IQ compared to your kit lens, and you'll also have the extra half to two stops

You could also go with the all-in-one route with the Pentax 18-250mm

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07-10-2010, 05:08 AM   #3
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I agree with Adam that the Tamron18-250mm/Pentax DA18-250mm is an excellent, general purpose walk-about lens that you should consider. It covers a wide range including over 200mm that is required for widllife shooting.

The Tamron 18-250mm and its brother Pentax DA18-250mm is one leading long-zoom all-around lens. For the range, it is regarded as a leading lens and used by many Pentaxians incl. professionals. Like any zoom, the 18-250mm is not flawless, but its versatility is a major, major asset. It can be highly recommended, especially as an all-around lens that you can take with your K-x: no need another lens and no need to swap lenses. This is a major advantage especially outdoor compared to a 2 lenses setup. The lens is always mounted on the camera, you can carry your body+lens in a small top-loader bag, you do not take any risk in swapping lenses (if wet, dirty, dusty), and you won't miss any action in between 2 lenses.

The only flaw: the Tamron/Pentax 18-250mm is hard to find. An alternative is the Sigma 18-250mm OS HSM. A bit dearer, and OS is not needed since your Pentax as in-camera IS. But some good reports were posted in this forum.

Recent relevant threads include:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/107005-sigma-1...-18-250-a.html
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-dslr-discussion/93367-k-7-steve-kr...gua-6962m.html (see the DA18-250mm on the Aconcagua (6962m))
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/89888-18-250-pentax-tamaron.html

Last edited by hcc; 07-10-2010 at 05:08 AM. Reason: Typos
07-10-2010, 05:19 AM   #4
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First, with three years of shooting you aren't really a beginner and from reading your comments you've made good progress. Bravo! For your question about moving up to a 17-70 zoom for additional telephoto reach over your 18-55, no, you won't see much improvement in your ability to photograph birds in flight. The comments above about needing a much longer focal length lens are spot on, in my opinion - I'd say a 200mm or 250mm lens would be ideal.

If you're a student with a limited budget the super zooms might be your best option but don't over look keeping your kit zoom (I find the 18-55 Pentax to be pretty nice) and buy an older 70-200 that's in your price range if you can live with the limitations of using two lenses. If money isn't tight I think the F2.8 lenses are the best way to go.

07-10-2010, 06:39 AM   #5
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For a walk around lens, 17-70 seems to be a popular choice. It is (barely) wide enough for street use, and (barely) long enough for picking out some smaller details at a little distance.

For wildlife you want to be out there at 300mm or more. The 70-200 is really nice, but too short for animals at a distance.

If you want to manually focus, there are occasionally some 300 f2.8 or f4s, and 500's in the marketplace from time to time. Some are quite expensive.

The Pentax 55-300 is a relatively inexpensive autofocus alternative. Beyond 300 and new, you will be looking at other brands such as Sigma. They make the 120-400, 150-500, and the classic 50-500 Bigma from $900 to $1600.
07-10-2010, 06:41 AM   #6
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I caught up with an osprey while carrying around my 17-70 'classic' - not much fun, and disappointing when my 18-200 was sitting about two blocks away. A bit of processing and a lot of cropping, this was the best my Sony A200 could produce:


The Sigma 18-200 was very good to me, and beat out my Tamron 18-250 for my kind of shooting. IQ was similar enough, and smaller size & lack of creep was nice (yes they have zoom locks, which I find clumsy in the field). The 18-250s seem to be less uneven copy to copy, but good 18-200s can be had - look for Sigma and a good return policy.

I plan to be very happy with the 55-300 on nature walks (it hasn't arrived yet).

Last edited by jimr-pdx; 07-10-2010 at 06:44 AM. Reason: unclarity resolution
07-10-2010, 07:05 AM   #7
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My nature lens is the Tamron 70-300 Di.
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07-10-2010, 09:04 AM   #8
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When you post questions like this, it's very important to give some kind of financial guidelines. If money is tight and you have an 18-55, many people would probably suggest adding a 70-300, or (more money) the highly regarded 55-300. If money is only a minor consideration, you'll get different answers, and if it's no consideration at all, you'll get still different answers.

Paul

07-10-2010, 09:46 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by tibbitts Quote
When you post questions like this, it's very important to give some kind of financial guidelines. If money is tight and you have an 18-55, many people would probably suggest adding a 70-300, or (more money) the highly regarded 55-300. If money is only a minor consideration, you'll get different answers, and if it's no consideration at all, you'll get still different answers.

Paul
Ooh sorry, forgot to mention that. I think my spending limit on a lens is probably about $500, for a hard limit. I'd prefer something in the 3-400 range, but knowing how expensive lenses are, that may be getting a bit low in quality. Thanks alot so far for your suggestions! (I've read some reveiws of the sigma 18-200 that make it seem less than stellar though. Is this something I should worry about?)
07-10-2010, 10:30 AM   #10
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I don't do wildlife (it's too wild for me), but for most of what I see done, it's all about FL reach.

So if you can get a manual 200 F4 m42 coated Tak or similar for a hundred bucks or so, that covers a lot of need with a lot of beer money left over from a $500 budget.
07-10-2010, 05:36 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by jaieger Quote
Ooh sorry, forgot to mention that. I think my spending limit on a lens is probably about $500, for a hard limit. I'd prefer something in the 3-400 range, but knowing how expensive lenses are, that may be getting a bit low in quality. Thanks alot so far for your suggestions! (I've read some reveiws of the sigma 18-200 that make it seem less than stellar though. Is this something I should worry about?)
There are 2 Sigma 18-200mm lenses: the older model and the newer OS HSM model.

The old Sigma 18-200mm, like the Tamron 18-200mm, is an older model and not well regarded nowadays:eg, see lens review in this forum {https://www.pentaxforums.com/userreviews/showproduct.php?product=335&cat=74}.

The Pentax DA18-250mm/Tamron 18-250mm is a marked improvement from both Sigma 18-200mm, Sigma 28-200mm and Tamron 18-200mm. See for exaples the reviews in www.slrgear.com, www.photozone.de and the lens review in this forum {https://www.pentaxforums.com/lensreviews/SMC-Pentax-DA-18-250mm-F3.5-6.3-Zoom-Lens.html} & {https://www.pentaxforums.com/userreviews/showproduct.php?product=344&cat=76}.)

The newer Sigma 18-200mm OS HSM is somehow superseeded by the Sigma 18-250mm OS HSM. www.slrgear.com gave a poor review of the 18-200mm OS HSM lens, but www.dpreview.com wrote some better comments. The Sigma 18-250mm OS HSM received some good comments from a number of forum users, but the lens is more expensive, and OS is not needed because your Pentax as IS.

Within your price range you should have no pb to find a good quality Tamron/Pentax 18-250mm. See for example https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/107005-sigma-1...-18-250-a.html (3rd post).
07-10-2010, 05:54 PM   #12
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also, if you are really looking for some reach, you might want to check out the Vivitar Series 1 100-500mm lens. I picked one up a few months ago and it is now my distance lens. It's manual focus, fairly slow, but also can be found for about $125. That's a pretty good price for a lens with that reach and something of the Series 1's reputation.

I'd suggest a good quality medium tele (up to 200mm) then something like this for when you really need to reach out and touch something.

Below is a shot from the first day I had the lens. While I'm far from mastering it, I think it shows the quality the lens can provide. The shot was from about 50 yards and the only support was a fence I rested the lens on.


Last edited by opiet70; 07-10-2010 at 06:16 PM.
07-10-2010, 06:12 PM   #13
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Since you already have the 18-55, I would not duplicate the range with an 18-200 or whatever. It would be more convenient, but would probably sacrifice some quality. Maybe if it was critical to not change lenses for some application, such as if you were always in dusty environment, then one lens would be ok, but for normal applications I'd just add a 70-300 (maybe Tamron - possibly available used, but not that expensive used) or (for more money) the 55-300mm Pentax. With the lower cost lens you would have money left over for other things.

Paul
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