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09-15-2010, 11:51 AM   #1
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AF vs manual lens

First of all I am a complete newbee with SLR, all along had a point & shoot. I am getting a k-x and I have a question of zoom lens (I did not buy the bundle).

I know I can get the AF lens for 300mm but I saw ebay has many manual lens in that range for much lower price, especially second hand.

My question is, how easy will it be for a newbee like me to use a manual zoom lens. I know the camera supports it, but I really want to know the difficulty level in using it.

Will I get discouraged (I have good attitude to learn) ? What pitfalls should I expect ?

Or is this advisable to just make investment in an AF lens ?

Thanks !!!

09-15-2010, 12:06 PM   #2
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MF zooms are no problem, but if it's an M or K lens (not an A lens, which is manual focus but has auto metering), then they get a bit tedious.

Check these resources for reference:
Pentax K-Mount Lenses Explained: The differences between various Pentax lens series
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-lens-articles/110657-how-use-manua...7-k-x-etc.html

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09-15-2010, 12:42 PM   #3
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If your subjects are not moving, like a building or landscape, then manually focusing is not so bad. However, once your subject starts moving, catching the proper focus becomes more difficult.

Many people on this forum only have manual lenses.
09-15-2010, 12:50 PM   #4
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My suggestion is to buy yourself an MF lens (perhaps something like a Pentax A 50 f/1.7 or similar for a cheap price) and practice shooting with it. Adam's comment is an important one - M lenses (without the electrical contacts on the mount) make things more of a chore to shoot with, whereas the A lenses are simpler - compose, focus and shoot.

09-15-2010, 01:45 PM   #5
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I would say that a full manual lens (K or M models for Pentax lenses) might discourage you especially if you are trying to shoot moving objects (as Special K has pointed out) and I think you should do what Ash suggested. Buy a cheap M or A Pentax lens and see for yourself because some people have no problem with manual and others do.

I personally have a 28-80mm and 50mm full manual lens and both are used for only stationary objects (flowers, buildings, landscape etc...). Try reading the thread below and try to decide whether you will be frustrated by manually focusing or not.

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-beginners-corner-q/110658-using-ma...x-dslrs-f.html
09-15-2010, 01:55 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by kxblaze Quote
i would say that a full manual lens (k or m models for pentax lenses) might discourage you especially if you are trying to shoot moving objects (as special k has pointed out) and i think you should do what ash suggested. Buy a cheap m or a pentax lens and see for yourself because some people have no problem with manual and others do.

I personally have a 28-80mm and 50mm full manual lens and both are used for only stationary objects (flowers, buildings, landscape etc...). Try reading the thread below and try to decide whether you will be frustrated by manually focusing or not.

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-beginners-corner-q/110658-using-ma...x-dslrs-f.html
earth
09-15-2010, 02:02 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by kryss Quote
earth
Correct!!
09-15-2010, 03:27 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ash Quote
My suggestion is to buy yourself an MF lens (perhaps something like a Pentax A 50 f/1.7 or similar for a cheap price) and practice shooting with it. Adam's comment is an important one - M lenses (without the electrical contacts on the mount) make things more of a chore to shoot with, whereas the A lenses are simpler - compose, focus and shoot.
I should mention my only manual lenses are a 500mm and an 800mm, so they are at the upper end of "difficult".

If you have an AF lens, you should be able to switch it and/or the body to MF mode. You do not need to buy another lens just to try MF.

09-15-2010, 04:32 PM   #9
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I'm a beginner and just bought a Pentax-M 50mm 1.7. It's a lot of fun, and takes amazing pictures, but as others have pointed out, it's really difficult to shoot a moving object.

After playing with it a bunch, I've come to the conclusion, I'm better off buying AF when it comes to zoom lenses. But for primes I'll strongly consider a MF lens if the price is good.
09-15-2010, 05:06 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
MF zooms are no problem, but if it's an M or K lens (not an A lens, which is manual focus but has auto metering), then they get a bit tedious.

Check these resources for reference:
Pentax K-Mount Lenses Explained: The differences between various Pentax lens series
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-lens-articles/110657-how-use-manua...7-k-x-etc.html
Thanks for the links
09-15-2010, 07:25 PM - 1 Like   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Cinders Quote
I'm a beginner and just bought a Pentax-M 50mm 1.7. It's a lot of fun, and takes amazing pictures, but as others have pointed out, it's really difficult to shoot a moving object.
Back in the day, were no AF lenses at all, and no zooms even; and yet, people managed to shoot moving objects. (The first AF cameras date from the late 1970's.) There are various tricks:

* Focus on a place where you expect something to be, and wait for it to get there. Pioneering photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt famously shot an ice-skating waiter at a Swiss resort in 1930 with a 9x12cm press camera: he placed a chair along the waiter's serving trajectory, focused on the chair, and waited for the waiter to come alongside it again. SNAP!

* Use a narrow aperture and pre-focus to gain great depth-of-field (DOF). The old photojournalist's rule was: f/8 and be there. Which means, pre-set the camera for most conditions, and stay alert. For instance, I can set an old Tokina 21/3.8 manual screwmount lens to f/11, pre-focus to 2m, and be sure that everything from 1m to infinity will be (pretty much) in focus. Something looks good: SNAP!

* Yell. People and some animals stop when you yell at them. Besides growing up in my dad's small darkroom, my siblings and I were trained from an early age to freeze when dad pointed the camera (a 6x6cm twin-lens reflex / TLR with ASA / ISO 100 film) and spoke loudly. But almost anyone and anything will hesitate and look at you if you shout. Try it: go into an action-packed venue, yell "HEY YOU F*CKHEADS!", then SNAP the shutter and run. Something like that...

* Pan and machine-gun. Panning means following a subject as it moves across your field of view. Machine-gunning means switching to Continuous or Burst shooting mode and firing away. Some purists deride this technique, but it works. Pros do it all the time. Sometimes ya gotta kiss a lotta frogs, etc.

* Use Catch-In-Focus aka Trap-Focus. This works with many lenses. Search these forums for details on how it's done. Basically you can either 1) aim at something, hold the shutter down, and slowly change focus -- when you attain focus, the shutter SNAPs; or 2) pre-focus on a place you expect something to get to, and hold the shutter down -- when the subject moves into focus, the shutter SNAPs. And there's a trick for using CIF with an AF lens. Just ask.

* Get really really really familiar with your camera and its manual lenses. With experience, judging and utilizing light and distance becomes automatic in your head and eyes and fingers. Like JS Bach told an admirer, "Look, you play organ for 50 years, even YOU can sound good!"

So, what MF lenses should you start with? Yes, a Fast Fifty is good. (That means a 50-55-58mm lens that's faster than f/2.8.) Wider is good too, especially for motion shots. Cheap 21mm's aren't real easy to find, but good reasonable 24mm's are rather plentiful. Stopped-down to f/8-11-16, you can get huge DOF. Longer lenses like 85-100-135mm are trickier (for motion) but still do-able. Just stop-down, pre-focus, and be ready. It's like the Tom Lehrer song: "You just stand there looking cute / And when something moves, you shoot."

Have fun!

Last edited by RioRico; 09-15-2010 at 07:37 PM.
09-15-2010, 08:12 PM   #12
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Am I allowed to state auto focus (AF) zooms are much better than manual focus (MF) primes (non-zoom = single focal length)?

After surfing and getting a lot of feedback on this and other forums I came to the conclussion that everybody develops its own path in photography.
  • Only if you know you will be spoiled by the ease-of-use of an AF Zoom and instead want to challenge yourself from the beginning and am dedicated enough to make it work then go for the "ultimate" (manual focus) single focal length round directly.
  • On the other "extreme" you have people that want an all-in-one lens (18 mm to > 135 mm), with the potential risk you hardly utilize the capability to put other lenses on your DSLR.
To my understanding IQ of (cheap) old MF zoom lenses are worse than modern AF kit zoom lenses, which you typically can already get used < 50 USD, so I don't see the need to make it so difficult for yourself...
  • For a prime to play with next to the kit lens(es), your budget should be leading
    • Most common focal lengths are 28 mm, 50 mm, 135 mm
      • 28 mm = closest to normal way you see world with your own eyes (might be something to use next to (or even instead of) 18-55 mm AF kit zoom)
      • 50 mm = portrait (because of larger aperture to get more glamor out of focus look on background - so next to AF kit zoom lens(es))
      • 135 mm = tele (can be good start icw 18-55 mm AF kit zoom)
    • What is difference between A and M/K MF prime lenses?
      • Aperture of A lenses can be controlled by camera to determine correct exposure (shutter time --> not too dark / nor too light) like all modern lenses.
      • M/K lenses are even more challenging, but by pushing a button the modern camera's can still determine the direct exposure for you, so not too big a deal
      • The A lenses tend to be significantly more expensive, but still cheap compared to modern auto focus lenses
  • Before you do a significant investment (good AF prime/zoom lenses can easily be more expense than new K-x camera) you should find out which focal length you want to add / enhance to your collection
I am going for cheap MF prime collection i.c.w. AF kit zoom lenses.

What is your budget and what do you want to take photo's of (small bugs, flowers, landscape, running kids, portraits)?
09-15-2010, 09:40 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
So, what MF lenses should you start with? Yes, a Fast Fifty is good. (That means a 50-55-58mm lens that's faster than f/2.8.) Wider is good too, especially for motion shots. Cheap 21mm's aren't real easy to find, but good reasonable 24mm's are rather plentiful. Stopped-down to f/8-11-16, you can get huge DOF. Longer lenses like 85-100-135mm are trickier (for motion) but still do-able. Just stop-down, pre-focus, and be ready. It's like the Tom Lehrer song: "You just stand there looking cute / And when something moves, you shoot."
Nice summary!!!

Typically you can also find cheap auto focus full frame lenses on the used market, like a 28-80 and 28-200 or even 28-105.
- Combine that with fast 50 manual focus and you are ready to go!!!

Oh, if you want to make indoor group or landscape pictures then 28 mm will probably not be wide enough and you should either way go for the 18-55 mm kit lens.
09-16-2010, 03:27 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by JoepLX3 Quote
Oh, if you want to make indoor group or landscape pictures then 28 mm will probably not be wide enough and you should either way go for the 18-55 mm kit lens.
The DA18-55 is a good general lens (as attested by many fine images posted here). What it lacks is speed. At 24-28mm its fattest aperture is f/4; at 35-44mm it's f/4.5; at 50-55mm it's f/5.6. For landscapes and set pieces and full-body shots, that's fine. Stop-down as desired. Indoors shots may require lighting ie flash. A good goal for prime purchases is, get lenses that are 1 or more stops faster at those focal lengths. At 24-28-35mm, f/2 glass is fairly expensive, and f/2.8 manual primes are pretty cheap and common. And good Fast Fifty's are still dirt cheap.

QuoteOriginally posted by JoepLX3 Quote
Am I allowed to state auto focus (AF) zooms are much better than manual focus (MF) primes (non-zoom = single focal length)?
You can state whatever you want, but you may encounter serious disagreement. I'd say that the two complement each other (which you further suggest). Use the AF zoom when you're in a hurry or in dynamic environments; use MF primes for the good of your soul. Meanwhile, I'll agree with the rest of your post.

QuoteQuote:
To my understanding IQ of (cheap) old MF zoom lenses are worse than modern AF kit zoom lenses, which you typically can already get used < 50 USD, so I don't see the need to make it so difficult for yourself...
Indeed. Yes, MOST modern AF zooms are better than MOST old manual zooms, with a few glaring exceptions like Vivitar Series 1 and Tokina RMC and ATX lines. A bunch of AF zooms in the 70-200/4 neighborhood by Samyang, badged as Sears and Albinar etc, are still available (sometimes in KA mount) for under US$20 and have quite decent optics. (Most Sears-badged lenses are pretty damn good.)

QuoteQuote:
Before you do a significant investment (good AF prime/zoom lenses can easily be more expense than new K-x camera) you should find out which focal length you want to add / enhance to your collection
I put it as a question: What do I want to do that I can't do with what I have? Sometimes the answer is, I WANT IT ALL!!! (Is that why I have 25 Fifty's now?) Sometimes the answer is, there's a hole in my kit there. (Do I really need/desire something around 70mm?) Sometimes I want a lens for its specific qualities. And now I'm accumulating medium- and large-format and enlarger lenses, because they seem to render differently that many SLR lenses. It's all a matter of I WANT!
09-16-2010, 03:36 AM   #15
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I own one auto zoom (the 18-55 kit lens), and I used it for the first time in 6 months last week, because I was shooting an indoor, fast moving party.

But for 99.9999% of what I shoot, full manual is just fine.

Does my focus suck at times? Yeah. Does auto focus suck at times? YEAH!

And as a matter of fact, for metering, I don't think it's any contest--I way prefer manual. Even in an auto mode, you have to use buttons and do "stuff" to get the right exposure, so I don't see doing this manually from the very start makes it any more difficult at all.
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