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09-04-2011, 05:23 PM   #1
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Digital Body for Old Lenses

Hello all;

I have an SF1 body (film) and lenses that I bought some 20 years ago BF (before kids).

I use photography for both personal expression and semi-professionally (mostly documentation).

Over the years, I have been using digital point and shoot cameras because of ease of use ("C'mon dad, hurry up!"). I have not used my SF1 for many, many years. (Surprisingly, the battery is still working!)

Now I'm considering getting back into more serious photography. So, what are the pros and cons of using my old lenses with a new digital body? Though I want something decent, money is still tight (helping kids through college).

My current lenses are: a 50mm, a 35-70 macro zoom, and a 70-210 zoom; all Pentax. I also have an AF400FTZ flash

Thanks in advance for your comments.

09-04-2011, 06:40 PM   #2
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There are no cons with F and FA lenses- they work just like modern lenses do For course, the focal lengths may not be tailored to the digital APS-C format, but the lenses will still work great!

If you're seriously looking into going digital, I'd recommend a K5. It's been reduced to $1199 ($400 off) until nov 30!
Pentax K-5 Digital SLR Camera (Body Only) (Black) 14748 B&H

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09-04-2011, 07:30 PM   #3
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Bad news first, the flash is probably not that useful. With the newer Pentax DSLRs, it only fires at full power. You'd have to buy a used *ist D, *ist DS or *ist DS2 to use it as a TTL flash , the same way it worked on an SF1.

The digital sensor is smaller so it only uses the center portion of your older lenses. This means they have a different field of view, more telephoto than they would on film. But if they were terrible in corner sharpness, that part of the frame is cropped out now. The actual focal length of your old lenses is measured exactly the same as on a new lens, so 50mm is still 50mm. But on film, it was considered a normal lens, and on digital it acts like a short telephoto. A normal lens on the digital sensor is something around 30-35mm. The subject can get more complicated but a lot of that information is confusing and not necessary. Research "crop factor" for volumes of information if you really want to.

The SF1 was a top-line camera for its day and the equivalent model today is the K-5. The cheaper model, the K-r, has all the features you need and most of the features you want. Both cameras have a lot of features compared to the SF1. I suggest getting either camera with at least a version of the basic lens sold today, the DA 18-55mm f3.5-5.6. Typically the K-r comes with a cheaper version of this lens and the K-5 comes with a weather-resistant version. The optics are the same in either case. The reason I suggest that lens is because it's a very cheap way to cover the wide angle end. Most of us have one so it's a good basis to make comparisons.

The other lenses you have will almost certainly be plenty for now. If they are SMC Pentax-F series, they should work perfectly on the camera and have no limitations. The SMC Pentax-F 70-210mm f4-5.6 is probably better than the DA 50-200mm f4-5.6, so there's not much reason to get the new lens. If it's the Takumar-F lens, it might not be quite as good but worth trying out. A lot of people like the SMC Pentax-F 35-70mm f3.5-4.5 macro for size and close focus. If the 50mm is an autofocus lens like the SMC Pentax-F 50mm f1.7, it makes a great portrait or low-light lens. Since they all are still useful, they all still have value on the used market. You can try them out on digital, and if you don't like them, sell them to get something else. (Unfortunately, digital has destroyed the resale value of an SF1.)
09-04-2011, 07:57 PM   #4
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While I agree with everything said by Adam and Just1MoreDave, I also have two sons in college. A brand-new, top-of-the-line K5 would be lovely, but there are excellent deals on used digital cameras. About a year ago, I upgraded from a 3.1 Mpixel P&S to a 10 Mpixel K10D. I don't regret it. It's a wonderful camera and the Pentax optics are so much better than the (supposedly good) optics on the point & shoot, that I don't feel any limits regarding resolution. And while some may point out that the sensitivity of the older cameras is limited, as a former film user, I don't feel any limit there, either.
And heck, you're already got automatic lenses - most of mine are manual.
Of course, your mileage may vary.

09-04-2011, 09:42 PM   #5
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Thank you all for your contributions.

I understand that Pentax is one of the manufacturers that provide image stabilization in the camera body rather than making it a feature of lenses. The system automatically detects the focal length of the attached lens and optimizes for it. For the K-r, this does not work for some older lenses in which case the focal length can be entered manually. This may or may not be an issue with the K-5.

Can anyone she any light on this?

Thx
09-04-2011, 10:30 PM   #6
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One advantage of shooting Pentax DSLRs with old manual lenses is the green button. Read the sticky post on this forum about it. The short of it is that you can use your camera as a light meter, so manual exposures are easy. I often use a 50mm 1.7 manual lens for night photography, which is best done manually anyway. To the best of my knowledge, all Pentax manual 50s are incredibly sharp and well built. It's amazing that I have a 30 something year old lens that still gets used and is better than a lot of new glass. I often use manual focus and exposure for macros, too, so that lens would still be very useful.
09-04-2011, 10:52 PM   #7
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I prefer the F and FA lens to the newer DA's.Have to keep in mind that a 35 is about a 50 and a 50 is about a 70 on the smaller sensor.If you hav either a F or FA 50mm you will find it as useful as ever.
Jake
09-05-2011, 04:33 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by ChrisDx Quote
Thank you all for your contributions.

I understand that Pentax is one of the manufacturers that provide image stabilization in the camera body rather than making it a feature of lenses. The system automatically detects the focal length of the attached lens and optimizes for it. For the K-r, this does not work for some older lenses in which case the focal length can be entered manually. This may or may not be an issue with the K-5.

Can anyone she any light on this?

Thx
The auto focus lenses all provide focal length data to the camera. Manual focus lenses do not provide this data to the camera so the focal length has to be entered manually. Lenses with an A setting provide aperture data to the camera and can be used with all modes. Lenses that do not have an A setting (M, K, Screwmount) do not send any data to the camera. In this case the camera needs to be used in M mode with stop down metering.

09-05-2011, 09:12 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by ChrisDx Quote
Thank you all for your contributions.

I understand that Pentax is one of the manufacturers that provide image stabilization in the camera body rather than making it a feature of lenses. The system automatically detects the focal length of the attached lens and optimizes for it. For the K-r, this does not work for some older lenses in which case the focal length can be entered manually. This may or may not be an issue with the K-5.

Can anyone she any light on this?

Thx
Pentax calls their stabilization "SR". They started using it in the K10D and K100D cameras, at the same time they dropped the "*ist" name. All cameras after that except for the K110D have it. The system is great. The only "problem" is that there is no standard test to quantify how well it works. That means many opinions. The system makes it easier to handhold the camera at low shutter speeds. If you are already decent at this, you can get some astonishing results, like sharp shots at 200mm and 1/15 sec.

All the SR-equipped cameras work the same way with each lens series, so the K-5 has no advantage there. Autofocus lenses can tell the camera what their focal length is and manual focus lenses can't. In practice, that makes manual-focus zooms a little more difficult to use, because the focal length changes.
09-05-2011, 09:19 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by boriscleto Quote
The auto focus lenses all provide focal length data to the camera. Manual focus lenses do not provide this data to the camera so the focal length has to be entered manually. Lenses with an A setting provide aperture data to the camera and can be used with all modes. Lenses that do not have an A setting (M, K, Screwmount) do not send any data to the camera. In this case the camera needs to be used in M mode with stop down metering.
The manual input is for mf lenses is actually for the shake reduction. The addition of the fl to the exif is just a bonus. IF SR is turned off, it has to be entered into the exif on the software. At least that is how I have to do it with the K20d and K200d. If you are using a mf zoom, well that is a whole different thing.
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