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08-18-2012, 02:40 AM   #1
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Tabletop photography

Hi All

I'm new to Pentax and DSLR, and relatively new to photography in general. I have just bought a K-r with 18-55mm & 50-200mm kit lenses. I have been using a FUJI HS20EXR for about 8 months and have really got into tabletop/still life photography. I have done a general search of the forums and found little specific information on this type of photography.

My question is this, What is a good lens to get for this type of photography? My budget is VERY limited, don't even think about lenses over 200 and think a lot about those under 100

Also, am I missing a tabletop/still life group on the forums? I'm getting the impression that it isn't a popular style here. Am I wrong?

Here's a link to my Flickr page with some of my tabletop stuff CLICK I am interested in other styles but would love to be able to produce the same type of tabletop photos with my K-r as I have with my FUJI.

Thanks in advance and I look forward to hearing any advice.
Ray

08-18-2012, 02:56 AM   #2
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The vast majority of my photos are tabletop stuff in my mini "studio". I mostly use primes; tamron 90mm, Pentax 35mm 2.4, Pentax 50mm A 1.7, and my newly acquired D-FA 50 2.8 Macro.

The 35mm is within your budget, but is probably a little wide for tabletop stuff depending what it is you're doing. The new 50mm 1.8 should be affordable to you, and will likely make an excellent choice. It depends on your working room, really. My 90mm requires me to be several meters away from a ~25cm tall object to fit it all in frame. I find 50 a great "all-round" focal distance, and the new one is $250 brand new, with older A's, Fs and FA's anywhere from $50 upward depending which models and their speeds, here in the marketplace.

Regardless, a prime will be best for this kind of work, zooms are more useful when you can't physically move yourself or your subject. When you have full control in a studio-like environment, just use a prime and you can move yourself/camera further/closer as needed, and recompose the subject if necessary.
08-18-2012, 03:00 AM   #3
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I have just looked at your pics and I feel I am in no position to give you advice.

I think they are stunning and have given me inspiration.

Jeff
08-18-2012, 03:10 AM   #4
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Thanks Kona I'll have a look at your recommendations. It's appreciated.

Jeff, it's lens tech advice I'm after most of those photos were taken with the Fuji. If you know anything about lenses then you know more than me :-)
Looks like you're not far from me seeing those Dartmoor photos of yours, I'm in Torbay.

08-18-2012, 03:17 AM   #5
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Is this lens any good? Pentax, Pentax-A 50mm f1.7 lens PK-A mount, ideal for digital, 6 months G'TEE 0027075023062 | eBay

Thanks
08-18-2012, 03:20 AM   #6
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One other thing (may be obvious); if you can get macro lenses, they allow you to focus much closer to the subject, which is definitely handy in this sort of photography. Not saying it actually is macro photography, but being able to focus much closer is definitely useful. It's why most of my shooting was with the Tamron 90mm, as I can focus on an object the hood is touching, practically.

I haven't used my new D-FA 50mm much yet, but it can also focus a few cm away from the front element. Very very nice for tabletop/still life work.

Biggest problem being they tend to cost quite a bit more. I was really lucky and got this mint D-FA 50 from the marketplace last week for a "mere" $350, when the retail price in Australia is over twice that. I'm not sure about UK/EU pricing, though. But if you can be patient stalking the marketplace can yield great results; I've bought all of my lenses from here, aside from the kit 18-55, and the Tamron 90 I bought with my K-r originally.

You could try setting your kit lens to 50mm, and seeing how the focal length works for you with your kind of work, before you commit to a prime, though (same for 35mm). The thing is the 18-55 IQ is really quite rubbish compared to a good prime. I was spoiled from the beginning due to getting the Tamron with my camera, and it was the first lens I ever used. So when I put the 18-55 on to try shorter/wider shots, I was really disappointed in the quality of the images. Not that it's a bad lens, strictly speaking. (the best of all brand kit lenses, reportedly) it's just that my macro prime was -that- much better than the kit zoom.
08-18-2012, 03:47 AM   #7
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I'd have thought that your existing lenses would be fine for this purpose, although they might not have the IQ you want, but could well be equal to anything you buy sub 100, so perhaps you'd be better off saving?
08-18-2012, 03:59 AM   #8
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It's a manual focus lens, but if you're fine with that, it is a good one. I have one and it is a brilliant lens, I just replaced the FL with the D-FA for autofocus and closer focusing ability.

However, the price seems a bit steep. They regularly go for the $40-70 USD realm on the marketplace here.

I still think you'd be best with the new DA 50mm 1.8, in your price range. Though as I said, play with different focal lengths on your kit lens and see if you like 35, 40, 50 etc. You could save for a while, and get a nicer lens (not saying the DA 1.8 is bad; supposedly identical optics to the one you linked, just a new AF body). But a macro lens (available in 35, 50 and 100mm from Pentax, a few others like Tamron's 90mm, and Sigma has a couple macros too I believe) is definitely better for the kind of shooting you seem to be doing.

08-18-2012, 04:36 AM   #9
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That is a well regarded and sharp manual focus 50mm, which I personally use as my carry around fifty. I have found the Pentax-M 50mm f1.7 to be slightly sharper in my own testing (linked here) 50mm wide open test - a set on Flickr and normally cheaper, due to the -M lacking the ability to control aperture with the camera, unlike the -A which allows the use of the camera's Aperture Priority setting and pTTL flash. In your tabletop style that may not matter unless you typically use pTTL flash (and the reason why I carry the -A over my -M). Looking at your Flickr examples I don't see where a creamy bokka is a big factor, nor thin depth of field so the slight differences in sharpness at f1.7 is less of a factor.

Potentially manual focusing could be a challenge with the K-r unless you have good eyesight, or a focusing screen installed. Due to my older eyes, on my K200d I used a Katzeye split screen and a magnifying hood, now with the K5 I am able to use live view's magnification zoom to aid in manual focusing. I personally use manual focusing even with my auto focus lenses very often to ensure what is in focus.

You might try looking into light-box photography as I think it would cover your style of photography just under a different terminology than "tabletop". I mostly take landscapes but do like to dabble in the occasional tabletop type of minimalism or still life style. I followed plans found online and built a light-box out of foam board and rice paper. The lighting setups on your Flickr page leads me to suspect you are a bit of a DYIYr and a light-box would add to your control of light and shadow on the table.
08-18-2012, 05:27 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kona Quote
Regardless, a prime will be best for this kind of work, zooms are more useful when you can't physically move yourself or your subject. When you have full control in a studio-like environment, just use a prime and you can move yourself/camera further/closer as needed, and recompose the subject if necessary.
You can also take as much time as needed to focus, so you can save a lot of money by buying a manual focus lens for this. You should be able to find a Pentax-M 50/4 macro for around USD100. Or if you don't need macro, as Schmidlapper suggests a Pentax-M 50/1.7 is very sharp and can be had for around USD50.
08-18-2012, 05:49 AM   #11
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Thank you all for your help and suggestions, a lot to be thinking about.

I'll set my current lenses to 35 or 50 and see how I get on with them. A macro lens would be great, again if it's not too expensive, as I do like to do some macro photography as well.

Kona: I've come across some of your Manga/Anime? model photos, great colour and lighting mate.

Last edited by Ray Hines; 08-18-2012 at 07:25 AM.
08-18-2012, 08:13 AM   #12
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the pentax-a 50mm f1.7 is a very good macro lens if you add a ka mount extension tube or teleconverter with the glass removed.
08-18-2012, 08:45 AM   #13
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I think the 50mm you're looking at should be a good one too, I have the M version, and like it very well. I also have a f1.4 A series that is great. The 50mm should work well for what you're doing, I only looked at a few but they look very good. I've done very little tabletop shooting, but what I did was with the 50mm A series lens. It worked quite well, closest focusing distance is about a foot. That makes it usable on a tabletop, you don't have to be across the room. I'm sure the 135mm on a tripod would work too though...

As mentioned above you can remove the glass from a teleconvertor and make a good extension tube for it, I did mine from a Soligor TC and I like it quite well. I also use a M42 135mm lens and extension tubes for macros, depending on how many tubes I attach it focuses from a foot to 2 feet away. (I'm not good with metric, but 2 feet would be around 2/3 of a metre) My TC makes a 26mm extension tube, plenty for what I usually do. And it allows correct functioning of the aperture. With M42 or extension tubes without an aperture blade i have to open it up, focus, stop it back down, then shoot...quite the nuisance...the reason being when you close the aperture down it also reduces the light going through so you can see. At f16 it gets too dark to see.
08-18-2012, 08:59 AM   #14
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usually we do not need fast apeture lens for still life photography. we shoot at least at f8. we want to capture all the detail. If you want shallow depth of field. we can always do lens blur in photoshop or some third party filter that works even better. This apporach is a better way. you have both option in one pic. if you just shallow depth of field at first, then no way to go back.
also we usually do not use wide angle lens. usually start from 90mm (full frame) to 200mm. the product will look better with telephoto lens.
a Macro lens is very necessary.

Last edited by liukaitc; 08-18-2012 at 09:35 AM.
08-18-2012, 09:02 AM   #15
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F35-70mm can be had for a little as 30 here in the UK... Though no a 'macro' lens as such it does have a 'close-focusing' ability and is pretty damn sharp. It could be just the ticket.
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