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07-18-2011, 04:49 AM   #1
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Best options for starter lens KR

Hi Guys,

So I'm about ready to buy a camera, I have decided on the K-r. So I thought that was the hard part.

I'm a complete novice, and lens options are beyond me. I have heard that the kit lens 18-55 is one of the best kit lens around and is pretty versatile.

I've seen bundles around where I can get the kit lens and a 55-300m lens for about $150 more. I like the idea of having a bit of versatility as I've no idea what I will ultimately take pictures of, but at the same time am reluctant to

I have also seen an option to have a sigma lens, I think it's 18-125mm. this seems to me to be a nice compromise between lugging two lens around and buying a lens that I may never use.

Any thoughts about the best path to take? the stock lens, stock plus zoom, or the stock/zoom combination in a single lens? A friend seemed to think that the stock lens is all that I'd really need at this stage.

If anybody could offer any advice on what the mm mean. I think it means focal length, but I don't understand what that means. Similarly, I've no idea what the letters mean. The stock lens and the -300mm are DAL and the sigma (18-125) is a HSM?

Any help would be appreciated
Cheers
Mark

07-18-2011, 05:36 AM   #2
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I'm not familiar with the Sigma 18-125. But the Pentax DA L 55-300 is a very good lens. If you get that with the 18-55 kit lens, you'll be covered pretty well. You can then get out and take photos and see what focal lengths appeal to you the most.

Once you get an idea of your favorite focal lengths and what type of photography interests you, you can then delve into prime (fixed focal length) lenses. And you'll have a good idea of which ones to focus on, based on your established habits.

Here's a good article that explains focal length and what 'mm' means.
http://www.digital-photo-secrets.com/tip/215/what-does-the-mm-mean-on-a-lens/

Good luck!
07-18-2011, 05:40 AM   #3
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The 55-300 is a "can't go wrong" lens and it is worth the weight and effort. When I am outside this is often the lens I leave on as outdoors I usually have a lot of distance (separation) from the subject.

It is a long zoom lens, taking over from where the kit lens leaves off.
07-18-2011, 05:47 AM   #4
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If you don't get the 55-300 now the chances are that you'll regret it later.

That is about the longest focal length it is easy to hand-hold and the images are great - especially considering the lens' price.

The choice is to get it now for $150 or later for $200+.

07-18-2011, 07:11 AM   #5
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Have to add my endorsement of the 55-300 as well. Its just a good solid performer and it provides a good bit of reach. I use mine for sports, outdoor activities with the children, birding, and a variety of activities where being able to reach out 25-100m is helpful. Its CHEAP when bundled with the camera and worth it. If you tire of it or find you do not use it you can recoup your investment if its in good shape too.
07-18-2011, 07:50 AM   #6
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A package deal with the 18-55 and 55-300 is a great place to start. Both are good lenses and you will have the ability to shoot just about anything you desire. You will most likely want to buy it later anyhow and you will end up spending more.
07-18-2011, 08:46 AM   #7
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Ever the contrarian, I must say that I don't like that two-lens kit. AFTER I put my first dSLR kit together (more on that in a moment), I bought a DA18-55 and a Tamron 60-300. And I just DO NOT use that combination! Much of my shooting is in the 30-80mm range. I hate having to swap lenses around 55mm. In many situations, my cheap old F35-70 is ideal. Yes, the 18-55 + 55-300 combination is very cost-effective, very little money for some very nice optics. But they're like having a motorcycle and a pickup truck, when what I need to *use* is a crossover SUV. Something like that.

My first dSLR kit? It resulted from asking myself, "What do I want to do that I can't do with what I have?" What I had was an advanced P&S. What I wanted to do involved ultrawide, ultralong, and low light. So along with the K20D and AF360, I got the DA10-17, DA18-250, and FA50/1.4. (They cost less 3 years ago!) Now the Tamron 10-24 has superseded the DA10-17 for regular use, but that's still my most-used kit, 200+ lenses later. The DA18-250 is my basic lens; all others are specialty tools. It and its Tamron twin are out of production but still widely available. I can't comment on the Sigma 18-250. IMHO that focal range is the most convenient.

Think about what and where and when you'll be photographing. My 200+ other lenses are mostly cheap old manual-focus primes, with a few gems. When I travel somewhere, I start with the 18-250 on my camera. After I've acquainted myself with the locale and thought about what I want to concentrate on, I switch to a 28/2 (US$18) or 50/2.8 ($7) or 55/1.4 ($25) or 85/2 ($9 but I got lucky!) or 100/2.8 ($27) or 135/2.5 ($60) or whatever seems right. Remember that we don't photograph subjects; we capture light. I need the right lens for the right light.

A lens kit should be more than just coverage of a focal range. I can 'cover' 10-500mm with just three zooms. But having faster primes at 28-50-85-135mm is MIGHTY helpful. I can shoot in light that won't support the slower zooms. I can get great DOF control, shoot faster action, concentrate on what each lens does best -- exploit the 'character' of each lens. IMHO character trumps coverage.

If budget is tight now, then sure, get the 18-55 + 55-300 kit. (But I still think an 18-250 is a better option.) Better get a Fast Fifty also, even a dirt-cheap M50/2. You'll be amazed at what a fairly fast lens can do. But like I said, think about the kinds of pictures you want to take and make -- about where you want to go and what it will take to get you there. Have fun!
07-18-2011, 09:21 AM   #8
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I believe the standard kit lenses come without lens hoods, if so pony up for those. 'lookalikes' are readily available on Ebay etc. for a lot less than the Pentax price.

Also remember to make sure you have a couple of decent-size memory cards (4GB or more), and a spare battery or AA battery solution. Also a bag big enough for the body, both lenses and the paper manual. I find putting post-its in essential pages helps me find what I need, when I need it.

Some people swear by using UV filters on their lenses (I am one of them) to protect them, others swear at them. If you decide to do that then the Hoya HMC ones (not the Pro or Super ones) were the best buy in the Lenstip tests.

UV filters test - Description of the results and summary - Lenstip.com

07-18-2011, 09:39 AM   #9
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Just an idea ... I would suggest that you look at the DA 35mm f2.4 AL.

It's a great lens for the value and this fixed focal length is almost equivalant to a 50mm. (= 52,5mm if memory serves me correctly). I have it and I really like this lens despite its minor drawbacks ... check out the lens review section of this forum about this lens and others that you are considering.

The DA 18-55mm "II" or WR (I have a WR and a "I") is good, but do not bother for a DA L 18-55mm since there's no Quickshift and the reviews are "not good", even on this forum. I have the 55-300mm and it is very good, if you really need the top end range. Plus, the older "manual" Pentax lens are great, too. Maybe too much choice here!?

Last edited by Jean Poitiers; 07-18-2011 at 10:15 AM.
07-18-2011, 01:06 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by monarcmarc Quote
...Any thoughts about the best path to take? the stock lens, stock plus zoom, or the stock/zoom combination in a single lens? A friend seemed to think that the stock lens is all that I'd really need at this stage.

If anybody could offer any advice on what the mm mean. I think it means focal length, but I don't understand what that means. Similarly, I've no idea what the letters mean. The stock lens and the -300mm are DAL and the sigma (18-125) is a HSM?
You aren't going to know exactly what you need until you shoot for a while, probably at least a few months. So you should rely on the camera maker's research. They all offer an 18-55mm zoom with the camera, because it makes most people happy at first. The other reason to get it is money; it's cheap with the camera.

The manufacturers also have learned that the next thing that people want from a lens is to magnify something that's pretty far away. So they offer a lens that starts where the first one ends, and magnifies a subject more. These are also cheap with the camera.

The other possibility is chucking all the features into one lens so the user doesn't have to buy, carry and change many lenses. The result is like a car that tries to do everything. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. The ones worth having aren't that cheap.

I would definitely buy something that covers the 18-55mm range. I prefer Pentax and don't know a lot about the Sigma you mention, so I'd lean towards the Pentax option. I would not spend a lot on lenses until you have a clear idea of what one lens can or can't do. The other Pentax, the 55-300, should be useful or easy to sell, so it's not that risky to buy now if you can afford it.

The lenses have a lot of specifications which describe them roughly. The focal length is in millimeters and corresponds to how much you see in the photo. The left image here was taken at 18mm, and the right one was from the exact same spot, at 55mm:



I was pretty close to my truck here. Something around 33mm is considered a "normal" focal length; smaller numbers like 18mm is considered wide angle and 55mm is on the telephoto end. One thing you'll learn in the first months is what you consider "normal", and what focal length is needed to get your favorite types of photos.

Focal length is directly proportional to field or angle of view, again, what fits in the picture. This is a nice easy concept and works great until someone starts talking about film or sensors that are not the same size as in your DSLR. That might be interesting to you, but completely unnecessary to learn. On your K-r, all 18mm lenses have the same field of view, all 55mm lenses have the same field of view, etc.

There is a lot more to lenses, of course. It's probably better to get the camera and use it a bit, then get into how aperture, shutter speed and ISO combine. That way it's not just words.
07-18-2011, 01:17 PM - 1 Like   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by monarcmarc Quote
If anybody could offer any advice on what the mm mean. I think it means focal length, but I don't understand what that means. Similarly, I've no idea what the letters mean. The stock lens and the -300mm are DAL and the sigma (18-125) is a HSM?
Any basic book or web site on photography will explain focal length and other common photographic concepts; I'd start with a bit of of Googling and/or a visit to your local library or bookstore. There's way too much to try to explain in a forum posting, and way too much good information ready out there for it to be worth writing up yet another explanation.

As for the letters on lenses, you can pretty much ignore most of them. They refer to specifics about the lens design, but they don't really mean anything in terms of what they can do or how you use them. They are for optics geeks to care about.

What does matter are the one two letters at the start of the name of any Pentax lens - either DA, FA, F, A, M, or none of the above (sometimes informally called "K" lenses). These tell you whether the lens was designed for digital, whether it supports auto focus, auto exposure, etc. And again, there are plenty of web sites out there that will explain which is which. All you really need to know is that any lens sold brand new by Pentax, Sigma, Tamron will do everything it is supposed to on your camera. Only a couple of very obscure smaller companies make manual lenses any more.
07-20-2011, 09:13 PM   #12
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Personally...

I'd just get the basic kit 18-55 and save the $150 toward the DA 35mm 2.8 macro ltd... That would be really good fun to play with!
You can get an older longer manual lens on ebay for cheap anytime...
Might just be me though...
07-23-2011, 01:34 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by John Poitiers Quote
Just an idea ... I would suggest that you look at the DA 35mm f2.4 AL.
Actually that's a pretty good idea; it's what I would recommend. There was a time when all kit lenses were primes, and I think photography was better for it. The kit lens is fine if you're just looking to take better snapshots than what you'd get with a P&S. If that's your goal, just get the kit lens. But if you want to improve your skills as a photographer, a prime lens is probably the way to go. A prime lens will give you considerably more control over depth of field, which is an important tool in portrait and still life photography and critical to mastering if you want to become a first-rate photographer. Being stuck at a single focal length will force you to pay more attention to composition, which is beneficial for developing photographic skills. A lens like the DA 35/2.4 will also give you a taste of higher end glass. The DA 18-55, even if it is the best "kit lens" (which is sort of like saying "best last place team"), is outclassed by nearly ever current Pentax lens in its focal range.
07-23-2011, 02:06 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by northcoastgreg Quote
Actually that's a pretty good idea; it's what I would recommend. There was a time when all kit lenses were primes, and I think photography was better for it. The kit lens is fine if you're just looking to take better snapshots than what you'd get with a P&S. If that's your goal, just get the kit lens. But if you want to improve your skills as a photographer, a prime lens is probably the way to go. A prime lens will give you considerably more control over depth of field, which is an important tool in portrait and still life photography and critical to mastering if you want to become a first-rate photographer. Being stuck at a single focal length will force you to pay more attention to composition, which is beneficial for developing photographic skills. A lens like the DA 35/2.4 will also give you a taste of higher end glass. The DA 18-55, even if it is the best "kit lens" (which is sort of like saying "best last place team"), is outclassed by nearly ever current Pentax lens in its focal range.
Harsh. Simply harsh. The idea that there is somehow something superior in a single focal length gets old after a while. Versatility is a very welcome addition to introductory photography in my opinion. Most people are coming to dSLRs from P&S's that have wide ranges. Its incredibly frustrating for people who have grown up taking photos with cell phones and P&S's to be lectured about Primes. I own plenty, but then I started with SLRs back in the 70s.

Pentax has some amazing zooms, and always has in their lineup IMHO. The K45-125 that I have is like a bag of primes.
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