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06-20-2011, 07:10 AM   #1
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Lens for indoor family photos- new Kx user

I just bought an almost new Kx this weekend and it should be arriving at my house in a day or two. The camera is coming with an older Pentax 50mm SMC f2.0 lens with A settings, a Sigma 50-200mm F4-5.6 DC OS HSM lens, and a Sigma 70-300 f4-5.6 DG Macro (Motorized) lens. I do not have a flash.

I am new to the entire DSLR scene. I have been doing a lot of reading and research into lenses and such, and am looking for a lens to do indoor low light family type photography that won't break the bank. I've been looking at the Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8-4.5 DC OS HSM zoom lens ($200), but am a bit unsure if the aperature is low enough and the focal length short enough to get decent indoor family group photos without a flash (if possible). We are going on vacation in a week, so I would like to have something to take along for the trip. As I said I've been doing a lot of reading around, and haven't come across a good answer to this. If a flash really is must, what are some suggestions? I realize this isn't a really powerful option, but Amazon has the Bell and Howell Z480AF-P P-TTL flash for only $34.92. Seems like a pretty good deal.


Last edited by voigts; 06-20-2011 at 08:11 AM.
06-20-2011, 08:09 AM   #2
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Ideally, you might want an autofocus prime around 24-28mm that is f/2.8 or faster, but you can't really get that for less than $200. Since you want to avoid using a flash, you might want to try a Pentax DA 35 mm f/2.4 lens (Amazon sells it for $183) for indoor use although it might be a bit tight for "family group photos" unless you have the room to step back a bit. Otherwise you could look at a Tamron 17-50 mm f/2.8 zoom lens for the flexible zoom range and 2.8 constant aperature-- but that might be a little beyond your price range (used prices are usually $350-ish, obviously costs more brand-new). The Sigma 18-50 f/2.8-4.5 you are considering (very cheap on Amazon right now at $128) may be okay (mixed reviews about its image quality) but you might still need to increase the ISO range a bit for low light shooting-- which is very do-able on a KX model. (And the lens is 2.8 only at the wide end) Depends on whether you really want a zoom lens or are willing to shoot with a prime. And if you want a zoom lens that costs less than $200, you may need to get a flash. Since you are new to DSLR and I assume you might not be that familiar with using an external flash, you could get a cheap and small Metz flash (24 AF-1) for $90 that can bounce light off the ceiling and would help with indoor family photography.

Good luck to you!

Last edited by seventysixersfan; 06-20-2011 at 08:16 AM.
06-20-2011, 08:23 AM - 1 Like   #3
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Your upcoming Kx excels at high-ISO shooting, so flash may be needed only in very dim scenes -- and the onboard flash may suffice. Hint: To soften the light, slip a very thin white infant sock or shaped tissue paper over the flash. But first, take some test shots at ISO 100-400-800-1600-3200, and decide on your comfort level with digital noise.

For group shots, a wide general zoom like the kit DA18-55, the Sigma 18-50, or anything in that vicinity like a 16-45 or 17-50, should work just fine. AoV (angle of view) at 18mm is about 80 degrees, at 16mm is almost 90 degrees. You can use a protractor (or use your fingers as a protractor!) to see just how much image that captures -- it's a LOT. Have fun!
06-20-2011, 08:23 AM   #4
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I'd recommend that you shoot what you have, get used to it, find its limits, and then decide what you want.

Many have their favorite lengths of lenses and you will get some VERY strong opinions about what you SHOULD have, but resist the urge to listen and decide based on the kit you are getting. You have a relatively fast A 50mm lens but it has no Autofocus.

As for flash, your K-x has a built in flash that should be good to start with indoors in the house. I just got the higher level Bell & Howell flash and its a great addition but I have had my camera nearly a year and am just getting a flash.

Invest in a bag and rechargeable Eneloop batteries first IMHO.

Welcome aboard!

06-20-2011, 08:24 AM   #5
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Welcome aboard.

f2.8 should be fine for most applications as you'll probably be stopping down a bit anyway. I didn't see the 18-55 kit lens listed in what you are getting. Even still, unless you have large space to work with or a small family, even 18mm sometimes isn't wide enough. I would actually suggest sticking with Pentax and look at the DA16-45 f4. Used ones can be had for the $220 range if you look around and they are constant aperture (the exposure requirements do not change as you change the focal length). The 50mm f2.0 will get you decent single portrait shots.

While the Kx is a pretty good low light camera, you Will want a flash. MANY options are available and will get you the basics you will want. I personally think all built in flashes suck but even that one may get you there in a pinch. I don't know much about the one you are talking about or the others mentioned. One I think would be worth looking into is the Metz 48 (or the Metz 50). This will buy you two things above some other units for not too much more money. First, Swivel head. Can be very useful if you want to rotate the camera orientation. Second, AF assist light. In darker situations, you will notice your camera has a hard time focusing. The AF Assist (which is not built into the Kx as far as I know), will flash a beam of light to help the AF system work.

These items cost a little more than what you are looking at, I realize that but, in the long run, I think you would be much better off increasing the initial investment a bit. Far better than realizing what you have doesn't work and having to upgrade anyway.

Good luck and enjoy your new camera!

06-20-2011, 09:00 AM   #6
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I don't know how much experience you have, but since you didn't declare that you're a newbie, some of this might be pretty familiar.

How wide you have to be depends on the size of your group and the size of the space.
At a distance of say 5m with a 50mm lens you will end up with a view of about 2.5mx1.5m which is too tight for a group photo of more than a few people from waist up, so unless your space is bigger you need to go wider.
(forget the 70-300 & maybe the 50-200)



If you go for an 18-50 then at the same 5m distance you can 4m x 2.5m at 31mm (Fa31 ltd) . Which might suit better. I use a 35m lens indoors for family shots. A 35mm lens field of view is about the same as the standard 50mm lens on a film camera.

If you go wider still fits more in but there wider and closer make for a less flattering image of the subjects. At 18mm the lens might have some distortion also.


I don't know about that Sigma lens but I might guess that it would be f/2.8 at 18mm then maybe be about f4 by 30mm which means slow shutter speed in low light of course.
Fortunately the K-x sensor is very good at higher ISO so to compensate for the low light K-x user often go 1600, 2000 even 3200. (I have a K-7 and i dare not take it past 800 or 1600 if desperate).

Decent Indoor lighting might typically be EV 6. This will be 1/60 at f4, ISO1600. An f2.8 lens will give you 1/125 at the same ISO.
A bit of natural light coming in will usually increase light level making it easier.


At f4 The depth of field at 30mm and 5m away is about 5metres so everything from 3.5metres away back to 8.5m will be in focus. This might be desirable if you have a large family group so noone will end up OOF.


A lens with a faster apeture say an FA31 ltd f/1.8 or a FA50 f/1.4 are good for lower light indoor photography, allowing a faster shutter speed when not using flash.
The thing is you will have a shallow depth field if you have to use it wide open and for a group shot this might result in some of the group being out of focus depending on how they are postioned relative to the camera.
Say again at 5m and using 31mm at f/1.8 the dof will be less than 2m, so unless the group is small or tight then someone at the front or back might be blurry.

As you get closer the dof decreases so at 2metres a 31mm @ f/1.8 gives about only 30cm in focus so this might be nice for a head/shoulders shot of a couple.
Using your MF 50mm at f2.8 standing a bit further back would achieve technically a similar thing.

With low light there are some comprimises which tend to force you to using your equipment to the edges of its capabilities. A flash you know (or can quickly learn) how to use it makes the it so much easier. The built in flash in the K-x has a GN of (not much) but flash is much more effective at higher ISO however if the light it provides is not to your liking then you could consider a real flash that allows you to bounce the light to soften and diffuse it.


I would say get your K-x and test out the 50mm f/2 and the 50-200 f/4 indoors and pretty quickly you will see if it is or isnt wide enough for what you want.
Also you will see what kind of shutter speed you will get in low indoor lighting. Check the look of the shots at higher ISO to see if you are happy with the noise level.
Then you sholud be able to decide on a wider or faster lens or a flash (or indeed all 3!)

I dont have any of the Sigma lenses you mention or the 50mm f/2.
It has been said that the 50mm f2 is not very sharp at wider apetures so check at different apetures to see if you are happy with it.



some handy links
Ultimate Exposure Computer
EV values , exposure

Hyperfocal Distance and Depth of Field Calculator - DOFMaster
depth of field

http://neilvn.com/tangents/index/camera-settings/
exposure settings, dof, and a lot of tips for unsing flash


The K-x is a great camera for indoor light so (except theres no AF assist for very poor light) but nevertheless I think you made the right choice. Good luck.


EDIT: Wow it took me 45min to write that lot! so now i'm down at #6 repeating some of the info above
06-20-2011, 12:02 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by voigts Quote
I just bought an almost new Kx this weekend and it should be arriving at my house in a day or two. The camera is coming with an older Pentax 50mm SMC f2.0 lens with A settings, a Sigma 50-200mm F4-5.6 DC OS HSM lens, and a Sigma 70-300 f4-5.6 DG Macro (Motorized) lens. I do not have a flash.
QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
Your upcoming Kx excels at high-ISO shooting, so flash may be needed only in very dim scenes -- and the onboard flash may suffice. Hint: To soften the light, slip a very thin white infant sock or shaped tissue paper over the flash. But first, take some test shots at ISO 100-400-800-1600-3200, and decide on your comfort level with digital noise.

For group shots, a wide general zoom like the kit DA18-55, the Sigma 18-50, or anything in that vicinity like a 16-45 or 17-50, should work just fine. AoV (angle of view) at 18mm is about 80 degrees, at 16mm is almost 90 degrees. You can use a protractor (or use your fingers as a protractor!) to see just how much image that captures -- it's a LOT. Have fun!
Would have to agree with RioRico 110%....

Your current 50 and 50+ zooms will not allow you much room for family shots. Your best bet would be the 18-55 kit lens... I would be surprised if you did not find 18mm end more than wide enough to accommodate your photo needs. And as far as lens speed, your K-x is known for super high ISO performance, this IS the reason the K-x is so highly regarded, learn to take advantage of this and almost any lens will be plenty fast enough in most lighting conditions...

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/lens-clubs/45425-kit-lens-club-53.html#post1533123
06-20-2011, 12:23 PM   #8
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Thank you everyone for the great info and detailed answers. I am new to DSLRs, having used P&S cameras for a number of years. I used a 35mm Fuji years ago, so I'm not completely foreign to this all, but I am very novice. I bought the Kx used, and its not coming with the standard kit 18-55mm lens. The camera is only 6mo old, and 50-200mm and the 70-300mm lenses are less than 2 weeks old (I got it all for $600 shipped). This is why I jumped on it and figured I would sort out the indoor lens issue. I may end up selling the 70-300mm as I don't think I'll use that much of a zoom, but I will play with it and see.

I didn't see that the Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8-4.5 is currently so cheap on Amazon. For my purposes, it probably will be fine as I won't print anything over an 8"x10" anyway, and most of my photography is for everyday use and for pics of my computer modding projects which are online. I was thinking about just picking up a standard 18-55mm lens for now, but they run around $100 new and about $60 used. For $120, I may just go ahead and get the Sigma 18-50mm.

06-20-2011, 01:34 PM   #9
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A good flash (as per reviews so far) that I am looking into getting is the fairly new Metz 44-1. I believe you should get a good flash instead a cheaper one at first and than realizing that you'd want something better (such as wireless slave for macros, etc)). Welcome to the DSLR world!
06-21-2011, 05:03 AM   #10
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Ideally, this would be the case for any equipment in that you would want to get good stuff the first time around. This however is not always possible, and having just spent $600 on the camera, I really can't afford $200 more on a flash seeing as my first priority is going to be getting a decent indoor lens.

I'm reading a lot of good things about Metz flashes though. I may just have to live with the built in flash for the time being.
06-21-2011, 06:48 AM   #11
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Given your budget and the fact that you lack a 18-50-range kit lens, I think you should go ahead and buy the sigma 18-50 f/2.8-4.5. I just noticed that Amazon has dropped the price even further to $124.77 (sometimes amazon prices fluctuate almost daily), so it would be a cheap kit lens and a bit faster than the pentax one. Plus it has a silent auto focusing motor and fairly good build quality. Boost the ISO of your KX if you need to, and just enjoy shooting!
06-21-2011, 08:43 AM   #12
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although, for what it's worth, keep in mind the following comment made by an Amazon purchaser of the Sigma lens. If this is true, you may just want to buy the cheaper Pentax kit lens and pocket the difference in cost -- save towards another lens or flash:


I bought this lens hoping that the F/2.8 and optical stabilization would provide better indoor shots than the Pentax kit lens 18-55mm F/3.5-5.4. Unfortunately it provides no improvement for low-light shots. I am using this on a Pentax K-x.

The first problem is that despite being F/2.8, it's not a bright lens. At the widest aperture F/2.8 at 18mm, this lens has the same light input as the Pentax kit lens at F/3.5. So the F/2.8 does not provide any shutter speed advantage over the kits lens. At F/3.5, this lens is about 2/3 EV darker than the kit lens at F/3.5. I verified this by taking the same picture with both lenses. This is confirmed by the camera when using aperture priority mode. Setting both lenses to wide open causes the camera to choose the same shutter speed. I was hoping for a 2/3 EV advantage with this lens.

The second problem is that the optical stabilization is only marginally better than the in-camera shake reduction on the K-x. You cannot use both OS and SR at the same time. You have to disable SR to use OS properly.

The 3rd problem is that this lens is quite a bit bigger and heavier than the kit lens. It makes it harder to hold steady for hand-held, indoor shots. These 3 issues lead to the indoor shots being no better then the kit lens.

On the plus side, this lens has better corner sharpness than the kits lens at wide angle and largest aperture. Center sharpness is the same as kit lens. Also, the HSM seems to work well and is slightly quieter than kits lens.

To recap, kit lens is lighter and performs just as well except for corner sharpness. Save your money for something better or stick with the kits lens.
06-21-2011, 08:48 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by seventysixersfan Quote
Given your budget and the fact that you lack a 18-50-range kit lens, I think you should go ahead and buy the sigma 18-50 f/2.8-4.5. I just noticed that Amazon has dropped the price even further to $124.77 (sometimes amazon prices fluctuate almost daily), so it would be a cheap kit lens and a bit faster than the pentax one. Plus it has a silent auto focusing motor and fairly good build quality. Boost the ISO of your KX if you need to, and just enjoy shooting!
That's quite a deal - make sure you go to this link at Amazon:
Amazon.com: Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8-4.5 SLD Aspherical DC Optical Stabilized (OS) Lens with Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) for Pentax Digital SLR Cameras: Camera & Photo

Unfortunately, both Adorama and B&H have it at list for $199. That's what the other models sell for but our lens does not require all the image stablization in the lens so it ought to be significantly cheaper - like it is on Amazon now.
06-21-2011, 08:50 AM   #14
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That's some useful feedback. I read some of the reviews on Amazon, but didn't see that one. I'm looking around trying to find a decent price on the kit lens, but so far all I'm seeing used is about $60, and new, $100.
06-21-2011, 09:00 AM   #15
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IF you're going to go with the Kit lens, then you'll want the version 2 (DAL II) or the WR version (which optically, I believe is the same as the version 2). Here is an example..

SMC PENTAX DA 18-55MM F/3.5-5.6 Lens AL WR W/HOOD CAP | eBay

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