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11-24-2010, 03:07 AM   #1
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Noob/Thrifty Lenses For Gigs @ Small Venues

I just got my K-X this week and so far so good. I have 2 kit lenses that I got with it 18-55 and the 50-200 DAL's I'm not sure how well either of these lenses would do in poorly lit venues that squeezes 200-500 people max that I go to, but judging from the pics they take in regular situations im assuming not so good. I mainly take photos at shows with occasional here and there shooting. I got the Pentax to step my game up and after some research it seemed better than the Nikons/Canons in my price range. I've been using a Kodak Z712IS for a few years, and needless to say the differences are great.

I'm on a very tight budget, at this point I'd describe it a being a cheapskate. After spending $600 on this bad boy I cant afford anything spectacular but I assume anything is better than the old Kodak. Now when i say noob I mean I don't know a thing about SLR's (this is my 1st one.) I sure as heck don't know a thing about lenses or the lingo that goes along with it. Everything is Greek to me right now, but I want to learn the language if you catch my drift.

My price range at this point is max'd at $100. I doubt this will get me anything good and I know the name of the game is SAVE SAVE SAVE for something quality, but right now im just hungry to get out there and learn. I figure if you can successfully shine with sh** , when you get your hands on Brasso, then you'll be able to make things sparkle.

Oh just to add another thing, I'm also interested in Macro photography if you could suggest a cheap lens in this department it would be helpful as well, I was looking at a Sigma 28-80mm Mini Zoom Macro brand new in the box for 30 bucks, figured this might be a good cheap place to start but if they're better options for the same range or slightly more expensive then I can be swayed.

Thanks for reading and I hope to become a regular boarder here. To contribute, this is the 1st photo I took with the K-X my dog, Knuckles.

Last edited by vega; 11-24-2010 at 03:16 AM.
11-24-2010, 04:20 AM   #2

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Try an A50/1.7 - very good in low light and the best image quality you're going to get for under $100. There may be a few even older lenses that could roughly match it or slightly exceed it in image quality for the price, but they require manual exposure in addition to manual focus. Perhaps the Takumar (K-mount) 135/2.5 would be the other good choice in this cheapskate range. The image quality is not quite as high as the A50, but fast 135mm lenses give great subject isolation by their nature.

If you decide to go with $200, then just get the new DA35/2.4 - it's a great lens from what I've seen, and it has auto focus.
11-24-2010, 04:23 AM   #3
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Welcome aboard, Vega!

To your questions.. For right now, I would stick with the lenses you have and save the pennies for something better. For $100, unless you want to go full manual focus, you aren't going to find much better. Do a couple of your events with your current lenses and then see what type of focal length you typically use. Then use that information to choose a best choice lens for your purposes. For instance, in a small room setting, I tend to settle in between 20 and 30 mm (I mean family gathering type things here).

As for Macro, the 28-80 may be an interesting lens to play around with but I will caution you not to confuse a lens with a closeup ability (as are most of the zooms that say they do macro) with a true macro lens. You can pick up a manual Pentax 50 or 100 mm 1:2 macro lens in your $100 price range. There are probably other options available as well but I've never really thought that a zoom with closeup ability to be a macro lens. That isn't to say they aren't usable. A lens I would recommend (because I have one) is the Pentax F 35-70mm. Easily one of the best Pentax cheapo zooms I've ever used and it can be had relatively cheap ($40-$60). If you really want to touch on the subject and see what your options are, look here..

Macro Photography -

Again, welcome aboard. Knuckles looks like a cool dog. Nice first shot!

11-24-2010, 04:43 AM   #4
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A cheap macro lens worth having might be the Cosina 100mm 1:3.5:

Cosina 100mm F1:3,5 MC Makro Lens Reviews - Pentax Third-Party Lens Review Database
Cosina AF 100mm f/3.5 macro (Pentax) - Review / Lab Test Report

This has also been sold as Phoenix, Promaster and Vivitar (at least). I found one on Ebay for US$ 82, and for the price it is pretty good :-)

In general, for getting something decent for < US$100 the old MF primes (as mentioned) would be worth looking into, especially the Pentax K/M/A series, some select 3rd party lenses would seem to be great for the price as well. For these the lens review database on this site is an invaluable resource:

Comprehensive Pentax Lens Listings - Pentax Lens Review Database
Third-Party Lenses for Pentax - Pentax Third-Party Lens Review Database

11-24-2010, 04:54 AM   #5

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I'd agree with the macro comments made here - especially the Cosina macro (I still have mine) - and the F35-70/3.5-4.5 is a nice lens I like too (with pseudo-macro) but I don't think it's as fast as you want for the events. Try for f/2.8 or faster here, if possible.
11-24-2010, 05:53 AM   #6
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Welcome Vega and Knuckles .-) Nice shot btw!

I'd second DSims in getting something f/2.8 or faster. Ideally you'd be done with a 90/2.8 macro lens which should do both stage and macro well.

A manual 50 is a good starting point and I would recommend one of Pentax' 55/1.8 designs, because they are noticeably better full open than Pentax' 50/1.7 designs. Another good manual k-mount standard lens found often is the Cosina/Cosinon 50/1.8. All these lenses should set you back no more than around 30,-US-$. Same goes for various manual 135mm lenses. One of Pentax' 135/3.5 designs is probably a good starting point. I mentioned all these manual lenses because I have found stage photography to be easier in M-mode and manual focus.

Here's some more stage photos and I see no reason why you shouldn't contribute there.

All the best, Georg
11-24-2010, 06:43 AM   #7
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Before selecting an alternative lens you should do some evaluation of your actual focal length and speed needs. Go to a venue of interest & do some experiments with your kit lenses.

1) Turn the ISO up to 3200 & take photos to see what focal lengths you can live with.
2) Turn the ISO down to 1600 & 800 to see what noise quality you can live with (ignore out-of-focus.)

You may find one of the kit lenses to be ok - others have with the K-x. If not, the difficulty will almost surely be the lens isn't fast enough at the focal length and maximum ISO you find acceptable so you'll need to get a faster lens at that focal length.

For your macro needs consider a $50 (new-delivered) Raynox DCR 150 for your long zoom. It'll give you superb results up to 1.43X at a good working distance (8"). Your automatic camera functions will continue to work, including flash, and the lens is small, easy to carry, and quick to clip-on.


PS For a tripod mounted image of a stationary subject here's roughly how physics says the parameters play off from an image noise standpoint:

- Doubling the lens speed (ie, f5.6 -> f2.8) is equivalent to decreasing the ISO or exposure time by a factor of 4 (from 3200 to 800 or 1/25 sec to 1/100 sec).

- Getting a short, fast lens then enlarging the image to approximate a long lens doesn't help much because
enlarging the image by 2X is equivalent to increasing the ISO by a factor of 4.

If the subject or camera is moving, low enlargement, low f-stop, and/or high ISO are even more important.

Last edited by newarts; 11-24-2010 at 07:41 AM.
11-24-2010, 07:05 AM   #8
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I took my *istD and a bag of takumar's to a band that a friend of my wifes had.

this was their first gig

check out the link in the attached thread, I posted this a while ago

Note that the lenses used were 105mmF2.8 Vernon Edonar Preset, 85mmF1.9 Super tak and a 50mmF1.4 Super tak (version 1)

The specific photos were the Hollywood Queensway

11-24-2010, 07:17 AM   #9
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I shoot a fir number of shows, my most used lens is a Sigma 24-70 ex dg f2.8 but it's out of your price range. I've been using manuals more lately and though the 50 1.7 is nice it's very tough to nail the focus at 1.7 due to shallow DOF
I find I use My 100 f2.8 a lot lately (and for cheap macro on it I have some close up filter that do the trick in a pinch)
That being said the K-X is pretty good in low light where my K10 is not, you should be able to get away with the kit lenses for a while and save for a faster AF lens rather than trying to learn MF along with everything else.
Tamron and Sigma both make 17-50 f2.8 lenses that you should be able to find at a decent price and will be great in small venues.
11-24-2010, 09:07 AM   #10
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thanks for the suggestions and the humble welcoming everyone. You guys are incredibly informative and helpful and it looks like I have my research/work cut out for me, thankfully it'll be a fun process. Keep the suggestions coming if you guys have any more, I appreciate all the help.
11-24-2010, 10:19 AM   #11
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I've done a few gigs since I started (nothing professional, just was allowed to bring my camera).
One of the things that people appreciated was that I refuse to use a flash. In smaller gigs a lot of people bring compact cameras so there's already a lot of flashing going on.

That said, when I used the kit lens, I had a lot of trouble with movement and low light.
Since I'm better at photography now, I could probably manage to get a few acceptable shots in an evening, but it would still be very few.

This helped, created by one of the PF members here:
Marc Sabatella: Concert Photography - Equipment

This is the portion on equipment, there is also one on technique and post-processing.

So after the first few I dropped the kit lens and went with manual lenses.
My first good results were with manual lenses (all three Super Taks, the 135 f2.5, 50 f1.4 and 35 f3.5) but my ability to manually focus is still crappy. Everything else was good except focus.
One of my friends, while knowing nothing of photography, had a much better eye and took about half of my best focussed ones of the night in the three minutes he was playing with the camera.
I need to practice more.

Now I have two fast auto-focus lenses (FA 100 f2.8 Macro and FA 50 1.4)
I don't know if anyone else uses the FA 100 Macro for gigs but it works very well. Of course I don't have anything else to compare it to.
But I'd still want wider, because it's difficult to get the whole band if you're in a small venue.

I suggest you try with a manual lens or two, see if you can focus better than I do, then wait to get something that's f2.8 or faster. It'll be worth it.
Something like 28-70 f2.8 would be ideal.

Luckilly, you have the K-x. It gives you very good high ISO results. If you can practice and manually focus with accuracy, you can take amazing photos using equipment well within your budget.
11-24-2010, 10:39 AM   #12
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if you want to focus better with a manual lens get a new split prism for your camera, focussing on Matte screens with no aid is a bugger. you will lose the ability to spot meter though
there are numerous threads here about the various ones on the market
11-24-2010, 10:59 AM   #13
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i just looked at marks site, funnily enough we have pretty much the same MF lenses though we shoot different music styles
His favourite lens is the M 100 f2.8, I just got mine but so far I think I tend to agree it's a perfect size for isolating a performer. and an M28 f2.8 helps at the wider end. My outlay for these 2 lenses amounted to about $100 (most on the 100 2.8) and an M50 1.7 is the third i'd grab unless the venue is bigger. I use most of the same processing tricks he does, but when red is predominate I tend to go b/w and add a film grain (It's suitable to the music I shoot)
It's a great cheap way to great faster glass but do get a proper focus screen you'll get way more keepers (even with Pentax's focus confirmation)

Super tak 55 f 1.8 Standard Focus Screen spot Metered ridiculously low light small venue (my office has more lumens)

11-24-2010, 11:55 AM   #14
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In my earlier "do some experiments" recommendation, I neglected to give a couple of important reasons why:

- some of us prefer tight framing, others long - there's no way for us to tell what you prefer hence what that implies RE lens selection for your favored venues.

- many comments you'll receive presume a desired image quality level, but only you can decide what's sufficient for your display mode - what's sufficient for high quality 8x10" on-line display is poor for 8x10" or more prints - common wisdom is that about 9 times more data per area (ie. ISO 9 times lower) is required for critically viewed prints.

Learn how to use the green hexagon or catch-in-focus in manual modes; they may be as good as or better than auto-focus for your purpose - if so, then don't fear a manual lens. Split prism finders are good too, I got one for my K100D but didn't bother for my K-x.

Finally, f2.8 is great* if you can afford it, but a f2.8 lens that's the wrong focal length for your style by a factor of two might as well be f11.


PS learn to use your elbows on the table as a tripod or use an extendable Derby Handled cane/walking stick as a stealth monopod (just rest the camera lens on the handle's yoke):

* some might say that faster than 2.0 is too fast to focus reliably for your needs; at f2.0 a 5' wide scene has a depth of field of around 1'.

Last edited by newarts; 11-24-2010 at 01:53 PM.

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