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07-29-2011, 11:22 PM   #1
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Prime Lens Priorities?

Hey everyone. I bought a K-x maybe 6 months ago with the 18-55mm and 55-300mm kit. It's been working out great for me, allowing me to cover a wide range of focal lengths for a reasonable price.

But now, I'm interested in picking up some prime lenses to push my creativity and boost image quality. I'm thinking maybe picking up a lens in the 50mm range and another around 100mm. I'd love to have a macro lens, but I guess I could always opt for a Raynox instead.

I'd like to spend no more than $400 if at all possible. I've been thinking something like the A 50mm f1.7 and the Vivitar 105mm f2.5 macro? I'd love some input. The main questions I have are as follows:

Are those lenses good picks? Any suggestions?
Is it worth spending the extra $100 or so to upgrade a lens to its AF equivalent?

Thank you so much in advance!

07-30-2011, 02:05 AM   #2
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My suggestion: which focal length do you use the most? I have started to appreciate prime lenses only because I got one with a focal length I use a lot.
The two lenses you mention are great lenses. You should consider as well the DA 35 f2.4.
07-30-2011, 03:22 AM   #3
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Yes, those are good lenses. Whether to get AF versions of any primes is a matter between you and your banker, eh? But let me tell of my experiences. When I got my K20D over 3 years ago, my initial kit was: DA10-17 (the lens that drove me to Pentax); DA18-250; FA50/1.4. Since then I've acquired a couple hundred more lenses, mostly cheap old manual primes. (And I bought and sold over 100 more to help pay for the keepers.) This led me to write [ https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-lens-articles/59245-pawnshop-lense...ers-guide.html ].

I have this opinion on fast primes: The FA50/1.4 is just about indispensable. It's my only AF prime. You'll see arguments about its image quality vs the A50/1.7 and the much costlier DA*50/1.4 and others, but such differences are mostly minor. And the FA50/1.4 can just DO more than most other lenses in its range. I now have 50 Fifty's, from the superb ultrafast K50/1.2 to the cheap legendary Helios-44 58/2 and the supersharp Macro Takumar 50/4 -- and I love getting great Fifty's cheap! Each one has a different taste, a slightly different way to look at the world. But IMHO the FA50/1.4 is THE place to start.

NOTE: Of my currently ~215 lenses, just 10 are AF. Those cost an average of US$285 each. The other 205 lenses are all manual and cost an average of US$20 each. My AF price premium was US$265 per lens. Ouch.

To start with macro, I got a Raynox DCR-250, then a couple other manual macro lenses, and lots more cheap macro stuff; and recently I wrote [ https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-lens-articles/152336-cheap-macro-b...lose-work.html ]. My opinion on macros: What we call 'macro' lenses are often very sharp general-purpose lenses that focus close. Shooting macro, AF is not your friend. If you want a short tele for portraits and bug work, you don't need AF. If you want a general-purpose lens, then go for AF. But if you really want to shoot macro cheap, read the article. I favor cheap enlarger lenses on small bellows.

I looked for other faster primes at useful focal lengths, much faster than zooms there. So I've acquired 24/2 and 28/2 and 35/2 and 50/1.2 and 58/2 and 85/2 and 105/2.5 and 135/2.5. Now I'm hooked on cheaper slower primes with character (and often very good sharpness): 21/3.8, 25/3.5, 35/4.5, 50/4, 100/4.5, 200/5.6, etc. And more keep rolling in!

Back to your question: The Vivitar 105/2.5 macro, YES. The A50/1.7... I'd recommend the FA50/1.4 instead. Then look for something fast around 28-31mm, the ideal 'normal' focal length. And then you'll want to go wider... but we have many threads here on ultrawide lenses, so read those for ideas and suggestions. Have fun!
07-30-2011, 04:17 AM - 1 Like   #4
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Do prime lenses 'push creativity'? I'm not convinced. Any new photographic toy will have you trying it out, and you might have to try to work around the limits of a prime lens, but beyond that... It's the same finger on the shutter button with the same brain controlling it, apart from better IQ I'm not sure the images will be any better.

07-30-2011, 05:05 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by cats_five Quote
Do prime lenses 'push creativity'? I'm not convinced. Any new photographic toy will have you trying it out, and you might have to try to work around the limits of a prime lens, but beyond that... It's the same finger on the shutter button with the same brain controlling it, apart from better IQ I'm not sure the images will be any better.
My bogus oversimplified generalization is: AF zooms are for TAKING pictures; manual primes are for MAKING pictures. Yes, it's easier to be lazy with AF zooms. But they're also invaluable in dynamic situations where you can expect almost anything.

When I first go somewhere, the DA18-250 or Tamron 10-24 are likely on my camera. As I spend time there, I'll slip on a 16/2.8 or 24/2 or 28/2 or 35/4.5 or 50/1.2 or 55/2.8 or 100/4.5 or 300/5.6 or a bellows with some enlarger lenses, whatever, and live with just the one lens for hours or days.

AF zooms let you do almost anything (within their ranges). Manual primes force you to work within constraints, force you to see as the lens does. My M42 300/5.6 (mounted via a no-infinity-focus adapter) has lived on my camera these last few days. AOV: about 6 degrees. Focus range: about 2.5-75m. It forces me to LOOK FOR and SEE subjects within those narrow limits, with enough light to shoot at f/5.6-11. Yeah, I could use my 60-300 or 100-300 or 170-500, locked at 300mm etc -- but I could cheat. With the prime, I can't cheat. Discipline is imposed. I've gotta think my way out of each problem. Yes, this promotes creativity.

Some folks find that a fixed-lens RF is exactly the tool they need. Some need a whole panoply of gear. I'm for both approaches, as needed|desired. That's why I have my lens-of-the-day strategy, to spend time seeing as each lens does -- but I also keep the 10-24 and 18-250 in my bag, Just In Case, eh?
07-30-2011, 05:35 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by cats_five Quote
Do prime lenses 'push creativity'? I'm not convinced. Any new photographic toy will have you trying it out, and you might have to try to work around the limits of a prime lens, but beyond that... It's the same finger on the shutter button with the same brain controlling it, apart from better IQ I'm not sure the images will be any better.
Primes force you to move, zooms allow you to stay comfortably in one position. By moving new perspectives open up. Yes, its the same eye and brain but what they see when they look at the focal point varies from one perspective to another and not always in the way that the brain anticipated.
07-30-2011, 06:50 AM   #7
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What I would do first is get myself a copy of Exposure Plot. This is a unique freeware program that will look at all the photos in a folder and sort them according to various different parameters, among them focal length. This way you can look at the results and see what focal lengths you really shoot at instead of what you think you shoot at. I've found it to be a really helpful tool. One of the things I think you will find using EP is that (if you are like most people) you tend to use the ends of your zooms. For instance if you are shooting with a 28-75 zoom many of your shots will be either at 28mm or 75mm. But if you find a cluster that is not at the ends, that is a very good indication that you really prefer that focal length, and I'd seek a prime that is close to that.
exposure plot

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07-30-2011, 07:40 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by NaClH2O Quote
What I would do first is get myself a copy of Exposure Plot. This is a unique freeware program that will look at all the photos in a folder and sort them according to various different parameters, among them focal length. This way you can look at the results and see what focal lengths you really shoot at instead of what you think you shoot at. I've found it to be a really helpful tool. One of the things I think you will find using EP is that (if you are like most people) you tend to use the ends of your zooms. For instance if you are shooting with a 28-75 zoom many of your shots will be either at 28mm or 75mm. But if you find a cluster that is not at the ends, that is a very good indication that you really prefer that focal length, and I'd seek a prime that is close to that.
exposure plot

NaCl(an informed decision is always better)H2O
That's a good suggestion. I used something similar to decide on my DA35/2.4. I thought I was shooting more 50ish but the cluster was VERY clearly at the 32-37 range, hence the DA35 purchase.

07-30-2011, 08:12 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Clambake Quote
Hey everyone. I bought a K-x maybe 6 months ago with the 18-55mm and 55-300mm kit. It's been working out great for me, allowing me to cover a wide range of focal lengths for a reasonable price.

But now, I'm interested in picking up some prime lenses to push my creativity and boost image quality. I'm thinking maybe picking up a lens in the 50mm range and another around 100mm. I'd love to have a macro lens, but I guess I could always opt for a Raynox instead.

I'd like to spend no more than $400 if at all possible. I've been thinking something like the A 50mm f1.7 and the Vivitar 105mm f2.5 macro? I'd love some input. The main questions I have are as follows:

Are those lenses good picks? Any suggestions?
Is it worth spending the extra $100 or so to upgrade a lens to its AF equivalent?

Thank you so much in advance!
Those lenses are great picks if you want to play with manual focus. Right now though I think the A50 f1.7 is way overpriced (I think the F/FA equivalents are simply ridiculous in price). With both lenses, you're really going to stretch the limit of that budget. In fact, these days, I would be surprised if you got the vivitar alone for that. For less, which may still leave you enough to get that nifty fifty, look into the Tamron 90 f2.8.

The question you really want to ask yourself is how will they be used. Will they be used. If you're careful about what you buy and how much you pay for it, you shouldn't have any trouble recovering your money if you should so desire.

07-30-2011, 08:16 AM   #10
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Went for an all day outing yesterday that slightly changed my idea or manual vs auto focus.Have been using Pentax slr's for over forty years so I am not new to manual focus but with my K_X it is much harder than with the older film cameras with much better viewfinders.I was trying to take close up pictures of a bunch of geese who were moving but not fast and it was hard for me to keep up with focus,was using a Pentax 135 f3.5.From now on will use auto focus lens when shooting movement.I haven't found many old primes that won't take good pictures regardless of the reviews or price.
Jake
07-30-2011, 08:28 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by cats_five Quote
Do prime lenses 'push creativity'? I'm not convinced. Any new photographic toy will have you trying it out, and you might have to try to work around the limits of a prime lens, but beyond that... It's the same finger on the shutter button with the same brain controlling it, apart from better IQ I'm not sure the images will be any better.
Well, most primes offer larger apertures than most zooms, giving you the possibility of shallower DOF. That's the main new creative element. Also, by removing the possibility to change FOV - which many photographers use a way of getting kind of sort the composition they want without having to change position - you are forced to think about compositions that do involve a change of position. Of course, it would be better still if you went ahead and changed position first, then still had the ability to change FOV. So really, it can be the case that primes teach you how to use zooms more creatively.

Primes also encourage you to look at the world differently - through a set of "blinders" locked into a given FOV - and perhaps noticing photographic possibilities you otherwise would have missed.

Not saying any of these are compelling enough reasons in themselves, but they are quite real.

But the answer to the OP's question is simple: the primes to get are the ones in the focal lengths where, for whatever reason, your zooms aren't cutting it. if you take so many pictures at 50mm and think that a faster/sharper/smallerwhateverer lens would make those better, then by all means, get a 50mm prime. Personally, that's one of my *least* used focal lengths on APS-C, though.
07-30-2011, 09:51 AM   #12
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Great replies here. I probably can't cover any new ground...

I have a SMC Pentax 28mm f2.8, several Pentax M 50mm lenses in f1.4, f1.7 and f2, one SMC Pentax A 50mm f1.4 (my favorite) a Lentar 135mm f2.8 M42, Vivitar 200 f3.5 M42 and don't think I could live without any of them, I shoot almost all manual primes. I use the 18-55 kit lens maybe once every 6 months, the only Auto Focus lens I have and really don't think I'll get any more.

My opinion, a 50mm prime is a must. I don't use mine often, usually I shoot either the 135mm or 200mm, it's the one always on the camera when I leave the house, but when I need it, the 50mm is indispensable. Picture quality is great, and all the 50mm lenses do quite well. I usually only carry the A series 50mm f1.4 and the M series 50mm f1.7. I pulled out the 1.7 a few days ago and got some great shots with my binocular lens macro rig, but usually it's the A lens that I grab. I got all of mine on used film cameras, usually ME Super, around 20 years ago, never paid more than $30 for camera and lens. Nowadays it's not easy to find just the lens for that price, but they can be found if you shop around.

The 135mm is also highly useful, I had a Makinon 135 before but never liked it, now that I have the Lentar I use it almost every day. Excellent for butterflies when they don't want to let me too close.
07-30-2011, 10:21 AM   #13
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QuoteQuote:
DA10-17 (the lens that drove me to Pentax);
I thought this was a tokina lens... why would it drive anyone to Pentax?

Paul
07-30-2011, 10:38 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by tibbitts Quote
QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico:
DA10-17 (the lens that drove me to Pentax)
I thought this was a tokina lens... why would it drive anyone to Pentax?
Apparently it was a co-production by Pentax with Tamron. It drove me to Pentax because 3+ years ago, when I had the money to move on from an advanced P&S, one of my main WANTS was fisheye, and nobody else offered an affordable fisheye zoom (FEZ). CaNikon FEZ offerings were WAY too expensive and their affordable bodies got many bitches-whines-moans-groans in user reviews. My camera history had me leaning towards Olympus or Sony; Olympus's FEZ was affordable but only for 4/3 bodies which I didn't want, and Sony had no FEZ. So the affordable DA10-17 plus the fewer-whines-per-buck K20D are why I'm here. Logical, eh?

EDIT: Make that Tokina, not Tamron. Right? I'm so confused... [/me been out in sun too long]

Last edited by RioRico; 07-30-2011 at 01:37 PM.
07-30-2011, 12:19 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
Apparently it was a co-production by Pentax with Tamron. It drove me to Pentax because 3+ years ago, when I had the money to move on from an advanced P&S, one of my main WANTS was fisheye, and nobody else offered an affordable fisheye zoom (FEZ). CaNikon FEZ offerings were WAY too expensive and their affordable bodies got many bitches-whines-moans-groans in user reviews. My camera history had me leaning towards Olympus or Sony; Olympus's FEZ was affordable but only for 4/3 bodies which I didn't want, and Sony had no FEZ. So the affordable DA10-17 plus the fewer-whines-per-buck K20D are why I'm here. Logical, eh?
I can relate because when I migrated from film (Canon FD) to digital, the 16-45mm helped sell me on going back to Pentax - it was the most affordable way to get wider coverage than 18mm at that time.

Paul
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