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02-29-2012, 02:51 PM   #1
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Building a lens kit from scratch with $1000

I'm eventually getting a lens kit together that I'm happy with, but I could have saved myself some money if I knew then what I know now. So, here's the exercise. Build a lens kit from scratch with $1000. If you go over $1000, you have to put it in a priority list.
As you can tell, this is going to be a lower end list when you only have $1000. For me, it's built for my K-x. WR is not going to be a necessity. I'm trying to cover a variety of photo situations. I'm willing to buy used if I think I can trust the dealer. I like autofocus, but I'll take manual (and just use catch-in-focus) to save some money. I can be patient watching the PF marketplace or $bay.

  • Pentax DA 18-135 - $425: This has become my main lens, and I am very pleased with its versatility and quality. WR is just a bonus.
    I just never liked the DA-L 18-55 that came with the K-x. Tried the DA 16-45 ($240): great lens but I found I often wanted something longer. Tried a Vivitar 28-105mm ($30). A nice enough lens, but a little big, and I wanted AF. So, tried a Pentax FA 28-105mm (bought/sold for $50). I wanted to like it, but it must have been a bad copy... So, tried a Tamron 24-135 ($140): a really nice lens but I missed the wide end, and it's just a tad big for the K-x. >> So, not counting the 18-55 kit lens, that's $410. I should have gone straight to the 18-135.
  • Pentax DA-L 55-300 - $225 (though mine came with K-x): I love this lens. I'm satisfied with the DA-L version.
So far I'm in for $650, and I have 18-300 covered with some very nice lenses. What I'm missing is something fast, but there are lots of options here. I'd start with one of the following and then fill in with others in the list as time goes on. These cover quite a few different situations, so as money permits...

  • For fast and semi-wide, something like the DA 35 f2.4 - $175 (on my list for someday...) I found a cheap 28mm f2.8, but I don't use it much.
  • One of the fast 50s for general purpose (and also with extension tubes for macro work): M or A or F or FA or DFA... f1.4 or f1.7 (and even the A 50 f2 is great for the price) - Prices here could be as low as $50-100 but that could easily go up to $150-350 to get the F or FA or DFA. I first got a A50 f2 for very cheap and then found a quite cheap M50 1.7. (The F or FA 50 f1.7 are on my budget list for an AF lens, but we'll have to see what the proposed DA 50 f1.8 costs.)
  • Some prime in the 85-135mm range that was fast and could be used for macro, theater, and portrait work - Prices here could be as low as $25 (like the Takumar 135mm f2.5 I got) or around $300 (e.g. the Rokinon/Samyang/Bower 85mm f1.4 manuals) or as high as $500 (like the Tamron 90 f2.8). I ended up with a used Sigma 90mm f2.8 Macro for $130.
So, that was about $200 for the M50 1.7, the Sigma 90mm 2.8, and the Tak 135 2.5.
That means my total is $850, and that leaves some money to buy hoods and CPLs as needed.

Just because it's so fun, maybe I'd add in the F35-70 for another $50.


The one thing I'm missing is a super-wide. I've been stitching shots together for now, but on the long-term list I've put the Tamron 10-24 (usually around $450).


As I noted at the outset, you certainly can buy better lens, but I think this is a good 'budget' (if $1000 can still be called budget these days) kit. I have bought a number of other lenses (most of them quite cheap) before I settled on this. They helped me figure out what I would use or not, but I wish I would have saved my money. (Note to self: get organized to sell those lenses...)



That's my story. What have you got?!


Last edited by mgvh; 02-29-2012 at 03:16 PM.
02-29-2012, 03:07 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by mgvh Quote
That's my story. What have you got?!
A zillion lenses. The few AFs cost an average of US$300 each; the many MFs cost an average of about US$16 each. That's almost 20:1 difference. That's why I like manual lenses, among other reasons. A basic AF kit that almost slides in under the budget line (if a couple are bought used) are the Tamron 10-24, DA18-250, and FA50/1.4. I don't leave home without them.

Those who are competent enough to eschew AF can build a helluva kit for US$1k -- except at the ultrawide end. Zenitar 16/2.8, Vivitar-Kiron 24/2, Vivitar-Komine 28/2, SuperTak 35/3.5, K50/1.2, M50/1.7, SuperTak or Petri CC or Mamiya 55/1.8, Jupiter-9 85/2, M135/3.5, SuperTak 200/4, those should about do it. But leave a few quid for the Tamron 10-24.

Last edited by RioRico; 02-29-2012 at 03:19 PM.
02-29-2012, 03:09 PM   #3
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Since your K-x isn't WR, one suggestion I would have is to swap the 18-135mm for a Tamron 17-50mm and then buy the DA 35mm F2.4, A 50mm F1.7 and M 100mm F4 macro for the rest. Looks like a pretty sound lineup either way!

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02-29-2012, 03:22 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
Since your K-x isn't WR, one suggestion I would have is to swap the 18-135mm for a Tamron 17-50mm and then buy the DA 35mm F2.4, A 50mm F1.7 and M 100mm F4 macro for the rest. Looks like a pretty sound lineup either way!
Actually, I was thinking of the Pentax or Sigma 17-70mm. I found that I was taking a lot of pics in that 50-70mm range. (Hence the F 35-70mm) I do really like the 18-135 range (though it is a bit soft at the long end), and I'd like to think someday I'd be able to get a WR body. Always tradeoffs... Thanks!

02-29-2012, 03:25 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
A zillion lenses. The few AFs cost an average of US$300 each; the many MFs cost an average of about US$16 each. That's almost 20:1 difference. That's why I like manual lenses, among other reasons. A basic AF kit that almost slides in under the budget line (if a couple are bought used) are the Tamron 10-24, DA18-250, and FA50/1.4. I don't leave home without them.

Those who are competent enough to eschew AF can build a helluva kit for US$1k -- except at the ultrawide end. Zenitar 16/2.8, Vivitar-Kiron 24/2, Vivitar-Komine 28/2, SuperTak 35/3.5, K50/1.2, M50/1.7, SuperTak or Petri CC or Mamiya 55/1.8, Jupiter-9 85/2, M135/3.5, SuperTak 200/4, those should about do it. But leave a few quid for the Tamron 10-24.
You are my hero! It's because of you that I have the F 35-70 and why the Tamron 10-24 is on my list.
02-29-2012, 04:14 PM   #6
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My tendency is to have only a few lenses that I like, rather than a laundry list (though definitely not knocking that approach, just not my style) so my goal here isn't to get as many lenses as I can for the money, it's to get 3 that I know I'll really like and will be useful. (Note I haven't delved much into MF lenses yet, but would like to...maybe my tune will change after that). I'm also a prime shooter. Not sure what focal length range you're looking to cover, but if I had $1k to build a basic prime kit I'd buy the following (all used watching for good prices on PF/$bay): F 28/2.8, Fa 50/1.7, Sigma 70/2.8 macro or Tamron 90/2.8 macro or Viv 105/2.8 macro. That'd cover normal to short telephoto, all excellent IQ, and would give you macro capability. Only thing you'd be missing is ultra-wide, for which the Da 15/4 would be my choice, but that would blow nearly half the budget, even used.

-Brandon
02-29-2012, 06:28 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by bpv_UW Quote
My tendency is to have only a few lenses that I like, rather than a laundry list (though definitely not knocking that approach, just not my style) so my goal here isn't to get as many lenses as I can for the money, it's to get 3 that I know I'll really like and will be useful. (Note I haven't delved much into MF lenses yet, but would like to...maybe my tune will change after that). I'm also a prime shooter. Not sure what focal length range you're looking to cover, but if I had $1k to build a basic prime kit I'd buy the following (all used watching for good prices on PF/$bay): F 28/2.8, Fa 50/1.7, Sigma 70/2.8 macro or Tamron 90/2.8 macro or Viv 105/2.8 macro. That'd cover normal to short telephoto, all excellent IQ, and would give you macro capability. Only thing you'd be missing is ultra-wide, for which the Da 15/4 would be my choice, but that would blow nearly half the budget, even used.

-Brandon
Why the Fa 50 1.7 why not a 1.4? I'm just very curious cause I'm looking to get an AF 50 on my bag in the future.
02-29-2012, 06:52 PM   #8
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The thing about building a kit from scratch is that unless you are an experienced shooter and know exactly what you need, there's pretty much no chance of getting it right straight off. Some variation of the basic two-lens kit really does serve the vast majority of new owners well.

If, heaven forfend, all my lenses were to vanish and I had to build a new K-mount kit on that budget, I'd be in Brandon's camp and pick a few good lenses I know I'd use the most. It would certainly include a macro prime, probably the Sigma 70/2.8. I love primes but on that budget I'd want coverage with zooms, so add the 18-55 WR and 55-300. That should leave enough for an A 50/1.4 plus a bit left over.

02-29-2012, 06:57 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by kaiserz Quote
Why the Fa 50 1.7 why not a 1.4? I'm just very curious cause I'm looking to get an AF 50 on my bag in the future.
The standard rationale is that f/1.7s are sharper wide-open than f/1.4s. Sure, and my MacTak 50/4 is sharper wide-open too. But the faster lenses are about equal by f/2, and an f/1.4 can just get shots that slower lenses can't. I don't use my K50/1.2 or the Yashica ML or SuperTak or FA 50/1.4s for edge-to-edge flatfield sharpness; that's the MacTak's bailiwick. I use the faster lenses to grab otherwise-impossible shots.

Yes, I love my M50/1.7 and Meyer Oreston 50/1.8 and SuperTak 55/1.8 and others of their ilk. But it's the FA50/1.4 that is ALWAYS in my carry bag. I also always carry a tiny CZJ Tessar 50/2.8 (12 iris blades) for its incredible sharpness and bokeh -- but it's not a low-light action lens, and its DOF is rather thicker than any 50/1.4's. On a mountaintop in daylight, I use the Tessar 50/2.8. Inside a mine shaft in that mountain, it's a 50/1.4. And for moody portraits on that mountain, it's the K50/1.2. Different tools, different uses.
________________________________________________

As for kit-building: I have mentioned in similar threads that my original K20D kit contained the DA10-17 (the lens that drove me to Pentax), FA50/1.4 (for action and low light and DOF control), and DA18-250 (for almost everything else). Supplement the DA10-17 with the Tamron 10-24, and throw in a Raynox DCR-250, and there's my most minimal kit.

I specifically did NOT want an 18-55 plus 50-200 or 55-300 kit because I shoot a lot in the 35-70 range and I hate swapping lenses at 50mm. Missed shots have zero IQ. I have both the DA18-55 and a Tamron 60-300 and I just don't use them as a pair for that exact reason. If the voices in my head tell me to use those, I also carry the little old F35-70 to bridge their gap. Otherwise, I'm quite happy with the DA18-250, my basic lens.

Last edited by RioRico; 02-29-2012 at 07:07 PM.
02-29-2012, 06:58 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by baro-nite Quote
The thing about building a kit from scratch is that unless you are an experienced shooter and know exactly what you need, there's pretty much no chance of getting it right straight off. Some variation of the basic two-lens kit really does serve the vast majority of new owners well.
Agreed. My first lens kit (which went with a K10D) was the 18-55, 50-200, FA35/2 and FA50/1.4. Those four lenses cost me about $800 and where the only lenses I owned for the first three years I shot. It served me pretty well as a kit and there really weren't many times where I felt I needed anything else. Then in year four I discovered Pentax Forums (and LBA) and let's just say that 4 lenses turned into 40 and my $800 budget turned into a much higher number
02-29-2012, 08:29 PM   #11
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I went strictly primes as my wife as the zoom range well covered. I already had the 50 F and the 17-28 fisheye from film days and a friend gave me a 28 2.8M so the only lens I have bought for the K-r was the DA 35 at the same time. I have from work a D200 and the 18-200 lens which is great for convenience but too large for what I wanted to carry around with a small camera. We ordered a 2X TC for the Sigma 70-200 so now we are covered from 10 to 400 mm except for the 46-49 and 51 to 70 ranges.

There are so many routes one can take and all of them can work. Some times I think that only the 18-135 would have been fine but then other times I am glad that walking about with a single prime on the little camera is just what I needed. Most likely get a 77 Ltd get because but in the meantime I am carrying around the 90 macro just to see if that is around the focal length I do want or do I need something longer. When we changed over from Spotmatic Fs to autofocus film cameras we each got a 28-80 and 70-200/70-210 so we did not have to switch lenses as often. Lesson learnt was not to duplicate each other's lenses.
03-01-2012, 01:12 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by redrockcoulee Quote
Most likely get a 77 Ltd get because...
I took a picture recently with my 77 Ltd and it is one of my favorites. I didn't do much of anything other than be in a beautiful place at the right time with my gear. I think the 77 and the lake were a wonderful combination, especially since my 77 stayed out of the lake.

I'm getting out of zooms and into primes but I'll still haul around my 18-135 (love that WR) and Sigma 10-20. On my last trip, those are the only two I took. Of course, I didn't have the limited at the time... My next trip, I'm still taking those zooms. I think those two lenses and my Tammy 90 macro would be my $1000 kit, well, just slightly over. If I switched out anything, it would be the Sigma for a zoom in the longer end that the 18-135 doesn't cover.
03-01-2012, 03:54 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by dgaies Quote
Agreed. My first lens kit (which went with a K10D) was the 18-55, 50-200, FA35/2 and FA50/1.4. Those four lenses cost me about $800 and where the only lenses I owned for the first three years I shot. It served me pretty well as a kit and there really weren't many times where I felt I needed anything else. Then in year four I discovered Pentax Forums (and LBA) and let's just say that 4 lenses turned into 40 and my $800 budget turned into a much higher number
My first kit was somewhat similar: 18-55, 50-200, A 50/1.7 and A 28/2.8 . And I still have those lenses, except for replacing the 50-200 with a Sigma 18-200 (because when I want a long zoom I may also want to take a wide shot without having time to change lenses; I am mostly a prime shooter, and the zoom is special purpose/backup). But those are not the lenses I would recommend for someone starting out knowing what I know. :-) These days, if I were building a $1000 kit from scratch, I would take just one zoom and some autofocus primes. Just because.

For the zooms, I would choose to spend $250-$500 on an all-purpose zoom -- either an 18-135, 18-200, or 18-250. Selection would depend on whether the body was WR, how important the shooter feels the long end of the range to be, whether size matters, etc.

For the primes, I would spend $500-$750 on two of the following:
15mm Limited ($500)
21mm Limited ($500)
24mm Sigma ($500 if /1.8 or $200 for used /2.8)
28mm/2.8 ($250 used)
35mm/2.4 ($200)
40mm Limited ($400)
and then something for Macro:
100/2.8 AF ($500)
or an old 100mm MF Macro, if autofocus is not that important ($100).

So in this case the money runs out after about three lenses, e.g.:
18-135 + 15mm Limited + 35/2.4 ($1200)
18-200 + 28/2.8 + 100/2.8 AF ($1000)
18-250 + 24mm Sigma/1.8 + 100mm MF ($1100)

I don't think there is a "right answer" to this, except to spend a little more on lenses. I have an easier time coming up with a "best" $1750:
18 -135 + 15mm Limited + 35mm/2.4 + 100/2.8.
That, or a variant on it for individual preferences, should please any mostly-prime AF Pentax shooter.

And yes, I am leaving the 50mm focal length empty on this list, because I just don't find it that useful. You could add an A/1.7 to one of these lists for $75 if you like, and call it covered . . .
03-01-2012, 04:33 PM   #14
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My $1,000 kit: FA31.

Seriously, if I had to sell lenses until I was down to $1,000 worth this is what I'd do, the FA31 would remain, all else would go. I'd then use a P&S for any other needs.

Preference #2 would be FA*24 and FA50.
03-01-2012, 07:29 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by kaiserz Quote
Why the Fa 50 1.7 why not a 1.4? I'm just very curious cause I'm looking to get an AF 50 on my bag in the future.
I've only owned the 1.7, never the 1.4. Looked at lots of images/reviews, though. While 1.4 is slightly faster, I tend to prefer overall rendering of 1.7 (that's admittedly a totally subjective answer). Definitely sharper across the frame, as well. And I personally love the way 1.7 renders OOF areas, though I think many would argue the 1.4 bokeh is better (I disagree). In terms of being able to get narrow DOF shots with the 1.4 that the 1.7 can't...fair enough. But I think the difference in DOF is small and wouldn't result in a high absolute number of missed shots with the 1.7.

-Brandon
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