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02-26-2013, 03:20 PM   #1
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First DSLR (K-30) - Legacy glass or no?

Hello guys, I've recently purchased a Pentax K-30 (stormtrooper colouring of course) that comes with a DA L 18-55mm lens. I plan on buying one WR lens, perhaps the 18-135mm. Most of the modern zoom/prime lenses I see are way out of my budget though. I've been eyeing up some legacy glass, and some of the photographs taken with these things are phenomenal. My main aims are to capture lots of landscape, nature, architecture and some portraits. What should I know before jumping into the world of legacy glass? Should I just wait? Should I not bother?

Two lenses that appealed to me (from examples) are;

SMC Pentax-M 50mm F1.7
KMZ Helios 44-2 58mm F/2

These lenses seem so full of character...great bokeh and pretty darn sharp too. Will manual focussing be too much of a pain?

Thanks for being patient!

Tobie

02-26-2013, 03:31 PM   #2
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Should be easy. I've done it on my K5 and the Kx I used to have.
02-26-2013, 03:38 PM   #3
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Can't go wrong with trying it. It looks like you already have got a pretty good idea of what you want to get. I guess you can't go wrong with either of these lenses. For landscapes you might want to look for something wider, though. Usually there are many different 28 mm lenses floating around, too. If you watch a few auctions on ebay and see what these lenses usually go for, you will get an idea of when you should buy what without paying too much. If you don't like it, chances are high that you will be able to sell it again for a comparable price.

If you have good eyes, then MF is something that you can get used to, but be prepared for some frustration when you are shooting close/moving objects with wide apertures (very shallow depth of field, hard to nail). Some people pimp their cameras with after market third party focusing split screens, but I guess that is a step that you should consider when you are totally sure that you want to use it and that you really need it. Not only cost these some money, but they also have some drawbacks, especially when you are using lets say the slower kit lens. Personally, I bought a magnifying eyepiece (the Pentax one, O EM 53 is the model name, I think) and it helps me a little. Some people don't like it, some say it wouldn't allow them to see the status LEDs in the viewfinder and others claim that it wouldn't make a difference at all. I like it and to me it doesn't have any drawbacks. I can see everything and it is bigger, what more do I want?

Keep in mind that for the Helios lens you will also need an M42 adapter, which is another small investment. Once you own such an adapter, it opens up a whole new world of lenses for you to play with, for a relatively low price, though. I think this bears a lot more entertainment value than saving up for the next latest Pentax AF prime lens.
02-26-2013, 04:04 PM   #4
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The K-30 has focus peaking, focusing shouldn't be any problem at all. Welcome to the world of Lens Buying Addiction

02-26-2013, 04:16 PM   #5
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It sure won't cost you much to have at least one fully manual lens. I think that is a secret criterion for membership on PF.

As the earlier poster mentioned, most optical viewfinder matte screens these days are not really optimized for manual focusing. So it's not the same experience as using an old film SLR. I use the focus peaking on the K-01 and it opens new doors, if you can get into the LCD thing.

So you can just focus and shoot the lens wide open. But if/when you want to stop the lens down, you have to remember to use the green button for stop-down metering. All current Pentax digital bodies have a "crippled" KAF2 lens mount, which does not read the aperture lever/feeler thingy on legacy lenses. Long story short, you have to set the aperture on the lens, then use the famous Pentax green button trick. The exceptions are A-series lenses which are not so old and have electronic contacts, and relatively old lenses that have a "manual/auto" switch near the flange. (And those are the easiest manual lenses to use because you stop them down manually). Your Helios might be one of those, not sure.

But for a couple bucks, everyone should give it a try.
02-26-2013, 04:17 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by boriscleto Quote
The K-30 has focus peaking, focusing shouldn't be any problem at all. Welcome to the world of Lens Buying Addiction
Haha, totally forgot about that! Yeah, go ahead and have some fun!
02-26-2013, 04:19 PM   #7
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I think it would be a mistake to pass up the fun of shooting with old glass but it can get out of control. I've tended to limit myself to A lenses because I like the auto aperture function and mostly shoot in TAv.
02-26-2013, 04:31 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by tobinobin Quote
Should I just wait? Should I not bother?
I'm tempted to say stay away from legacy glass -- because once you start using the old lenses, LBA (Lens Buying Addiction) is right around the corner.

Seriously, the M50/1.7 is a great value -- you can often find a good copy for US$50 or so, and if you find you don't care for manual lenses you should be able to re-sell it for little if any loss. Or spend a bit more for the A50/1.7, optically just about the same, and with the A function for automatic exposure on your K-30.

Two points about manual focusing. Modern focusing screens (what you see when you look through the viewfinder) are optimized for the fact that the autofocus system steals some of the light before it gets to the viewfinder. And as such, they aren't necessarily ideal for manual focusing when using fast lenses at their wider apertures. YMMV, but personally, having gone to a mainly MF kit, I have opted for a custom focusing screen that is better suited to such lenses. The tradeoff is that my screen becomes darker than the stock screen when using slower lenses.

On the other hand, plenty of users do fine using the stock focusing screen, and bear in mind that photographers somehow managed in the days before autofocus, not really all that long ago.

02-26-2013, 04:50 PM   #9
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Go ahead and enjoy but be warned - your first manual prime lens is only the tip of the iceberg!
Either you have amazing self control or be prepared to sacrifice everything to LBA! I have somehow managed a balance between the two - at least thats what I'm telling myself.

Agree with comments regarding A lenses. Most of my manual lenses are not A but using A lenses is much easier / quicker if you can find a copy that fit your budget. On the other hand I think there are some things that can be learnt with totally manual lenses so not a bad place to start.
02-26-2013, 05:10 PM   #10
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Thanks everyone, I'm still a little uncertain. Why are lenses that produce images only comparable to modern lenses in the $500+ price range so cheap? Is it just that it's dated technology?
02-26-2013, 05:13 PM   #11
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I've got the A 50/1.7, which I used to great effect on the K-x and also on the K-5. But I found that I have been using the Helios more, for the very reason you mentioned--its character. The bokeh and sharpness can be unbelievable sometimes for such a cheap lens, and it feels very... Soviet in hand.

I can recommend either. The M/A 50/1.7 will be less of a pain, though, as you get to keep infinity focus; with the adaptor on the Helios, anything past 20-25 feet away won't be able to get in focus.
02-26-2013, 05:19 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by dmeadows85 Quote
I've got the A 50/1.7, which I used to great effect on the K-x and also on the K-5. But I found that I have been using the Helios more, for the very reason you mentioned--its character. The bokeh and sharpness can be unbelievable sometimes for such a cheap lens, and it feels very... Soviet in hand.

I can recommend either. The M/A 50/1.7 will be less of a pain, though, as you get to keep infinity focus; with the adaptor on the Helios, anything past 20-25 feet away won't be able to get in focus.
As I understood it, this is just a question of the right adapter. Looks like you've got the wrong kind.
02-26-2013, 05:22 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by tobinobin Quote
Why are lenses that produce images only comparable to modern lenses in the $500+ price range so cheap? Is it just that it's dated technology?
The vast majority of photographers put a high value on convenience: auto exposure, autofocus, zoom lenses. And more recent lenses do have the benefit of advances in lens design (especially when it comes to zooms) and superior coatings. Believe me, some of the old lenses command high prices. Part of the fun is finding the values -- lenses that perform well despite the low price. The Pentax-M and -A 50/1.7 are two of those values.
02-26-2013, 05:24 PM   #14
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First, you do not need the 8-55 and the 18-135. Pick one, be happy. If you are going to get the -135, just do it and skip the -55. If -55 is enough, get the kit with the WR 18-55 and enjoy. The 18-135 is the better lens, but not by a huge margin. I'd opt for the 18-55 and spend the extra on a nice prime. If you really need the WR of the 135, get it later, get a prime first. If you want an auto focus prime, the DA40 is a cheap(ish) way into the Limited cult. They really are much more fantastic to own than what everyone says. If my wife would let me, I'd sell our children to finish my DA Ltd. collection. Or you could start with the DA35 f2.4. Cheap, and the images from it are stunning.

Another tip for you is to go into the menu and enable the aperture ring. It's off by default, and you will think your camera is broken. Also, some old lenses have paint on the mount, and that won't short out the contacts on the mount, and it won't register correctly.

Manual focusing: My first prime was a cheap A50 f2. Not the sharpest lens in the world, but good enough and cheap. Still an entire universe sharper than either of the zooms you are considering. Taught me that I love primes, and that manual focusing isn't so hard as long as your subject isn't moving around quickly and you are patient. If you use a K, M or A lens, you can use catch-in-focusing. Some love it, I don't get much use from it. The thing about digital is you can shoot 20 frames and only keep the 1 or 2 in focus. You get focus confirmation with the little hexagon anyway, so you can use that as a poor man's auto focus, just your hand is the motor.

I bet you can find a forum member in the UK that would sell you a 50 f2 for practically nothing, if you were on this side of the pond, I'd let you borrow mine for the cost of shipping. Gets your feet wet anyway. 50 is too long indoors, but don't let that slow you down from trying it out. Just don't be surprised when you're smashed up against the back wall and everyone still looks 2 feet too close.

The Helios is magnificent, and it will render differently than any other lens you have. It's nice to have a different flavor once in awhile. One thing about the Helios I love is the preset aperture. It really makes me slow down and think about exposure. Another serious bargain lens is the Super Takumar 55 f2. Much cheaper than the f1.8: but it's the same exact lens with a stopper to keep the aperture slower. I just picked one up and so far I like it more than my Helios 44-2. One thing to realize is that i ADORE my Helios, so that's really saying something!

Here's my favorite shot so far with the Super Tak:


02-26-2013, 05:52 PM   #15
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The reason I bought the 18-55 is due to the fact that it came with the camera for cheaper than simply a body only k-30. I guess I can resell the lens, and buy a WR 18-55 as you say. It still astounds me that more people aren't using these lenses for photography outside of portraits/sports/wildlife...truly a great pic there Koz.
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