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02-21-2012, 12:20 AM   #1
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Lens Suggestions

Hi there, I have had my k-x for a bit and am slowly learning how to use my camera..I have been trying to capture northern lights/night photos. I am just wondering what would be the best lens for this. I realize I need a wide angle but which one is the best. Thanks!

02-21-2012, 12:28 AM   #2
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Well if you want to keep things affordable, take a look at the 35mm F2.4:

SMC Pentax-DA 35mm F2.4 AL Reviews - DA Prime Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

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02-21-2012, 01:27 AM   #3
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What is it that restrains/blocks you with the kit lens? Do you have a tripod?
02-21-2012, 02:56 AM   #4
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For wide, landscapes, etc the Sigma 10-20 always seems to be a popular choice.

02-21-2012, 03:03 AM   #5
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My response may sound a bit flippant, but - the one you have with you at the time. And here is my reasoning, but then - I have never been in a position to shoot the Northern Lights.

They are 3 dimensional, thus to capture this aspect, you need a good depth of field which does not need a really fast lens. F4 to f8 should be more than sufficient - and f8 may not provide you sufficient light without going to a really long shutter speed. Focal length wise, probably the wider the better, but the reverse of this is - the wider you get, the view in the center of the frame gets pushed back in order to make room to pull the view in from the edges. The kit lens goes from 18 to 55, which I would think is perfect for this application. Set the aperture at f4, set the ISO at the lowest you can go for the best quality (at least to start out and then adjust from there as needed), use the zoom to frame the picture and go to manual focus, setting it to infinity, and probably put the camera on a tripod, but lacking that - possibly adjust the ISO up in order to lower the bring down the shutter speed. Or you can just sit the camera on something solid (a bag of frozen peas or a bag of rice, or whatever).

One thing I would do is to put the camera in full auto - green mode, and see what it shoots at, in terms of aperture and shutter speed, and then adjust from there.

Shooting images is practically free, so I would go out and try a number of variations and see what turns out. Experiment - its not like you are just limited to a single frame. Since these are changing in real time, if you shoot 100 frames, to get one really really good one - it does not matter. It might take shooting 100 frames to figure out what works best. Since we are in a high activity period of time, shoot one night, review - take a look at the aperture and shutter speed that worked, and then go out the next night (or an hour later, or whatever), and give it another go with some additional adjustments. Its not like you need to wait a week for a roll of film to come back from processing.

Now, having said all of that - I would wonder what it would look like at the 50mm end? Rather than try to get the entire set of "lights" in a single frame (possibly a really wide view), possibly just concentrate on one part of it that gives the best view. It all depends on your view, position - what is in the foreground, etc. You just need to go out and give it a try and see what works.

Some other ideas. If you have a tripod, set everything up and depending on how fast the lights change, take a frame every minute and make a time lapsed series. Maybe take a 3 frame bracketed shot, and see how it turns out (using the free Microsoft ICE program to stack them all together). Just thinking out loud....


Last edited by interested_observer; 02-21-2012 at 06:50 PM.
02-21-2012, 07:55 AM   #6
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Thanks for the advice..will do some checking around.
02-22-2012, 07:25 AM   #7
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You should be able to get solid results with the kit at f8...

For long exposures of Northern Lights I'd be thinking ND filter (to REALLY slow things down), wireless shutter release (cheap on ebay) and a good tripod...
02-22-2012, 07:33 AM   #8
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Thanks Dave, yeah a good tripod is a must..I tried to shoot them last year with no tripod...couldn't do it..way to much shake

02-22-2012, 09:48 AM   #9
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IMO a tripod should be viewed as an essential part of your camera... Without one you absolubtly limit both it's capabilities as a camera and your own as a photographer...

I'm not suggesting you should spen $1000+ on legs and a head (my own tripod was less than 100) but spending enough that you have a stable base for long exposures should be calculated when saving for a DSLR type camera...
02-22-2012, 07:33 PM   #10
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I guess I should have clarified that I now own a decent tripod and yes I have invested in a good one that is quite stable. I just didn't have one the first time I went out to shoot the northern lights..I had only had my camera for about a week(which btw was a b-day present from hubby) when I had come home from curling to see the northern lights out, I tried steadying myself on our hot tub but the jets kept kicking in I have been slowly building what I own for equipment..camera first..kit lenses that came with the bundle...been given a couple of older lenses...purchased my tripod...and now looking at making a lens purchase besides my kit lens..my whole point of my post was to find out what people recommended for a wide angle lens for taking shots at night.
02-22-2012, 09:40 PM   #11
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Evening,

There are several ways you could proceed, either with primes or zooms.

Zooms -
  • 16-45 - could serve as a replacement for your kit lens. Its an excellent value, and at 16 much wider than the kit.
  • 12-24 - This is an excellent wide angle, wonderful for a lot of applications. It has a rather large front element - 77mm so filters, essentially the ND filter previously recommended could be somewhat expensive. You could bypass the filter by stopping down to f11-f16 and essentially have pretty much the same effect. Its a very sharp lens with a lot of image quality. It is somewhat large in size. Its been compared to having a pocket full of primes.
  • 10-17 - this is a fish eye, and is the widest of all. You are able to capture a very wide swatch of sky with this, as its 180 degrees from upper corner to lower corner on the diagonal.
  • Sigma 8-16 - this is really wide, and not a fish eye. Its a normal rectilinear lens.
  • Sigma/Tamron 10-20/12-24/10-24 - I am going to group these together. These are very similar to the Pentax version. I would place the Pentax version a bit higher on the IQ with lower distortion, however these do an excellent job. At the wider end, each single mm adds a larger amount to the field of view. Some folks are very hard over in getting the absolutely widest lens, while others want a wider range across the focal length.
Primes -
  • 21mm - An excellent lens
  • 15mm - One of the favorites on the forum
  • 14mm - Wide and faster than the other lenses at f2.8, however for the Northern Lights - I really don't think you need fast. Larger in size than the 15 or 21.
I have the 16-45, 12-24 and the 10-17 and they are all excellent. They all complement each other in terms of field of view. The 10-17 is 180 to 100 degrees, with the 12-24 going from 100 to 60 degrees wide. The 16-45 I believe (if I remember correctly) starts at around 80 degrees and go narrower from there.

There are lens clubs in the lens areas for each of these.

hope that helps....


Last edited by interested_observer; 02-23-2012 at 05:57 AM.
02-23-2012, 03:13 PM   #12
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I prefer to use the Sigma 10-20mm for northern lights shots. As hubby and I usually go out together to shoot them and we share lenses sometimes I have to use the Sigma 18-50mm. I have some attempts posted in the Post Your Photos section.

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/post-your-photos/163904-night-aurora-attempt.html

(I haven't tried linking to a post before so I hope you'll forgivve me if it didn't work!)
02-23-2012, 05:10 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by canajuneh Quote
aurora attempt
I really like that! Well done!!
02-23-2012, 05:37 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by DaveHolmes Quote
You should be able to get solid results with the kit at f8...

For long exposures of Northern Lights I'd be thinking ND filter (to REALLY slow things down), wireless shutter release (cheap on ebay) and a good tripod...
Bingo!
02-24-2012, 07:56 AM   #15
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very nice shot of the lights
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