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07-26-2012, 07:36 AM   #1
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Newbie lens recommendations for upcoming desert trip

Hi all,
I have a trip coming up to California wine country and Utah's deserts. At the moment, I have a K-x with just the standard 18-55mm lens.

I'd love some recommendations on what I should be looking for in my first lens purchase: I'm assuming that with landscapes, I should be looking for a decent telephoto and not worry too much about the f-stop?

Everyone "in the know" stresses that the lens quality really is key to taking great photos, but an expensive purchase I'd also to see something like side-by-side comparison photos taken with a budget DA L lens and something a bit more advanced - any pointers?

I will most likely be going second hand to keep costs down - by budget's up to 300, but ideally less!

Thank you!

07-26-2012, 07:55 AM   #2
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For landscapes, this is your lens: Pentax-DA 15mm F4 Limited Review - Introduction - PentaxForums.com

A longer lens like the 70 or 77mm would also complement it well:
DA 70mm vs FA 77mm Limited - Comparison: Introduction - PentaxForums.com

Cost might be a problem, but I'd say that for a trip like this, it's well worth getting a premium lens!
07-26-2012, 08:07 AM   #3
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Another approach is to stitch adjacent (and overlapped) shots together. The technique works well and is free. You can use Microsoft ICE utility to do the stitching.
07-26-2012, 08:14 AM   #4
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I live in the northern California wine country (north of San Francisco) and did a trip last October to the canyon lands of Utah. I have bunch of lenses and tend to use a lot of them for different situations. My favorites are the DA 12-24, the DA*16-50, DA*50-135, and the Tamron 70-200. None of those lenses are cheap but the point here is that all those lengths cover the range one needs for the subjects you may encounter on your trip. For example you could go with the DA 50-200 WR lens which would give you a nice tele range for the wine country. I've found that this length is very good for shooting fall winery color from a public road. For expansive landscapes you need wider than the 18mm of the kit lens. This is a hard one, Adams' suggestion of the DA15 is an excellent one but something like the DA 12-24 or Tamron 10-24 would give you excellent range at the wide end.

One other possibility would be to get a DA 17-70 lens. I really enjoyed mine on trips and those lengths are great for travel. Hope that helps.

07-26-2012, 11:39 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by gangleflops Quote
Hi all,
I'm assuming that with landscapes, I should be looking for a decent telephoto and not worry too much about the f-stop?
Thank you!
Generally, for landscapes, you would want a wider-angle lens. The human eye/brain tends to have no problem scanning the horizon and taking in in the wide vistas, but once you get out there with your camera and the kit lens, you will get frustrated by the inability to capture it all. Lots of good recommendations/approaches so far which I don't need to repeat.

Regarding f-stop range, for landscapes, you would normally stop it down to a smaller aperture for optimum sharpness. So, if it helps to bring it within your budget, it is okay to buy a slower lens. If you like zoom lenses, a cheaper variable aperture zoom would work fine.
07-26-2012, 12:38 PM   #6
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To tell the truth I would almost get the DA 55-300 to go along with your kit lens, or maybe get it and then get a Tamron 17-50 or DA 16-45 to go with it. That should cover loads of range and the IQ should still be decent since you will mostly be doing outside stuff.
07-26-2012, 12:41 PM   #7
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My go to lens for the desert would be my pentax 15/4. In the old film days I would shoot the desert with a 24mm and get great results. From what I have seen of my new 15/4 would be perfect for desert landscapes. With the 15/4 you will not have to wory too much about the depth of field. Great desert landscapes have some near (desert flower) to give depth to the landscape and the 15 has great depth of field.
07-27-2012, 01:50 AM   #8
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Great, thanks for all your suggestions!

Currently top of my list are the Pentax 15mm f/4 or Sigma 10-20mm.

Off to eBay I go...

07-27-2012, 03:30 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by gangleflops Quote
I'm assuming that with landscapes, I should be looking for a decent telephoto and not worry too much about the f-stop?
You can use either telephoto or wide angle for landscapes. Much easier to use telephoto.

If you are going to use a wide angle the easiest way to shoot is to look for the 3 elements- foreground, middle and background.

Typically once you see a scene that catches your eye you want to walk around looking for an interesting foreground before you take the picture. Of course, you wont always get these elements and you dont always need them. But the wider the lens the more likely you need them...
See article below for some tips:
The Importance of Foreground

You can also use longer lenses for landscapes. In fact, it is better to have both options.See article below for a different way to shoot landscapes:
Article: Telephoto Landscapes by Andy Mumford | NEUTRAL DENSITY MAGAZINE - Fine Art Photography, Interviews with Photographers, Black & White, Long Exposure

Although I have the DA 15mm lens and love it, I would not take a lens like that for a vacation trip. Its limiting. Especially for a beginner. Especially if you are unlikely to visit the place again. I would get a used tamron 17-50 and a telephoto lens like the pentax 55-300.

Re: " not worry too much about f-stop"
Not sure what you mean.
07-27-2012, 06:41 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by interested_observer Quote
Another approach is to stitch adjacent (and overlapped) shots together. The technique works well and is free. You can use Microsoft ICE utility to do the stitching.
I like to do this, and the current software for it is very good at stitching. Still, follow some steps to get good results.

Decide what's in the frame. Choose an aperture that gives you enough depth of field, a shutter speed that freezes movement, and an exposure that covers enough of the light variation. It may be handy to take one shot of the brightest part of the composition, to make sure it's not overexposed, focused correctly, etc.

Then I like to turn off all the auto features. Turn off autofocus so the camera doesn't choose a new focus point for every shot. Use M mode to keep the exposure set to one value, or the AE-L button. If I were shooting JPGs I would set the white balance to one value, instead of using auto white balance. I shoot in RAW and set all the photos to the same white balance in processing.

Then all you have to do is overlap your shots. You can hold the camera vertically too, if the software is intelligent. Too many shots are way better than missing a spot. A fast computer is good for combining the shots.
07-28-2012, 08:58 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by psychdoc Quote
Although I have the DA 15mm lens and love it, I would not take a lens like that for a vacation trip. Its limiting. Especially for a beginner. Especially if you are unlikely to visit the place again. I would get a used tamron 17-50 and a telephoto lens like the pentax 55-300.
I agree that the DA 15 is not the best choice for this trip. It's too wide for at least 95% of what you'll be dealing with. Most of the desert is pretty broad and flat, with bright, blue skies. When I was in Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef last autumn, I found myself relying mostly on a 28mm prime. I think a sharp, contrasty zoom that's a bit wider than the 18-55, like the DA 16-45, would be far more useful. There's not much difference between 16mm and 15mm, and 16mm should be wide enough for 98% of what you'll be facing; for the other 2%, you can stitch. And I suspect you'll get far more compelling shots out of a telephoto zoom like the DA 55-300 than with an ultra-wide angle like the Sigma 10-20.
07-29-2012, 01:48 PM   #12
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You mention 'just the 18-55'.

I live in a desert and enjoy the landscapes and photography. I have been using the kit 18-55 on my K20 and K5 for quite a while and it is actually a very good lens for what I need. I agree with the 55-300 recommendation since some photos will need a telephoto, if not for getting closer, for the perspective part.

I am looking at a 18-135 because of the WR factor and less lens changes, but to go wider is for me not necessary. Things just become too small! And if you need wider, stitch!

Best of luck and enjoy!
08-02-2012, 02:12 AM   #13
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I think you'll be just fine with the 18-55. It's a good lens as long as you are stopping down to f8 and in the desert you will have a lot of light. It's biggest weaknesses are the distortion on the wide end and the basic fact that it has a small aperture at all focal lengths. What you can't do with it is get the nice out of focus areas that you can with something like a 50mm f1.4 or f1.7 lens. The 55-300 is a good suggestion since you might like to be able to zoom from 18mm to 300mm (albeit with a lens change).

The DA15 is a great lens and I own it but it's kind of a specialist lens that takes a very good understanding of composition or intense curiosity to make stunning photographs. You could easily find yourself with a lot of boring photographs since everything ends up in the photo.
08-02-2012, 09:53 AM   #14
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Now that I think back on it I've gotten some good desert pictures with the 18-55 kit lens. Here's a few examples with the lowly 18-55 DA L that was bundled with the Kx. Here's a few examples below, so don't laugh at the kit lens. Now that I think back I would have almost been best served by getting my Tamron 10-24 and a longer lens before replacing the kit lesn if I were only doign stuff outside.

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08-02-2012, 02:46 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by interested_observer Quote
Another approach is to stitch adjacent (and overlapped) shots together. The technique works well and is free. You can use Microsoft ICE utility to do the stitching.
Is this a freeware?

EDIT: I guess it is XD

Last edited by kaiserz; 08-02-2012 at 03:04 PM.
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