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11-05-2013, 09:06 PM   #1
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Trying to decide on my first lens(es)

Hello everyone!
I'm new to DSLRs and Pentax; my only experience with SLRs is with my father's film Minolta that broke some years back. After some research I decided that the Pentax K-30 has the perfect mix of what I want and what I can afford. I don't have my camera yet, as I'm waiting for Black Friday to see if it goes on sale. My only problem now is choosing my first lens(es). I spent several days researching Pentax lenses and discovered the "K" series. These, I believe, have what I want regarding focusing abiilty, image quality, and affordabiity. There are three lenses in particular I'm interested in.

- Pentax K 50mm f1.4
- Pentax K 55mm f1.8
- Pentax K 35mm f3.5

I love the pictures I've seen on this forum taken with these lenses and I like what the reviewers say about them. I would really like to have the 50mm f1.4 as I can use it in lower light and it's easier to find, but the pictures I saw taken with the 55mm were stunning! I tried comparing the two to see if I can buy the 50mm and skip on the 55mm, but all the reviews I read compared them at their lowest apertures, thus I don't know how the 50mm compares to the 55mm at f1.8. I know I want the 35mm as that has a "normal" view for the K-30, but I'm willing to wait on it and buy the two others if they fit what I want.

My style of photography is mostly with flowers and wildlife (well, bees, as I've never had a lens with enough reach to do birds and I love bees). I love, love, love taking pictures of flowers and I love filling the picture with them, so a slight telephoto lens (such as a 50mm) is my perfect starter lens. I am also interested in macro photography. I have no interest at all in sports or basically anything fast-motion. What I want most in a photo is honest color, image sharpness, and a nice bokeh. I didn't even know bokeh existed until recently, but I like pictures best if they have something out of focus in them so bokeh is extreamly important to me (I would sacrifice minimal sharpness for excellent bokeh).

One of the biggest reasons I decided to go for the "K" instead of the "M" series is the focusing ability. I hate nothing more than to have the perfect picture in sight and be one mm turn away from putting it in focus. I also read that the image quality and sharpness is slightly better. I'm not going for the "A" series as I read they tend to have loose aperture rings.

So to put it simply my questions are: How do the 50mm and 55mm lenses compare at equal apertures? Is it worth it to buy the 50mm for the extra aperture stops, or should I just buy the 55mm and skip buying the 50mm? If it would be better to buy both, should I buy first the 50mm and 35mm lenses, or the 50mm and 55mm? I don't have enough cash to buy all three (unless I can get the K-30 at a major discount).

Thanks a bunch!

11-06-2013, 08:47 AM   #2
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I have the M42 versions of the 50 1.4 and 55 1.8... love these lenses. But if bees are one of your targets make sure you check the Min focus distance of each of the lenses. You want as close as possible.

But you can also get nice flower/bee shots with a point and shoot...
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11-06-2013, 09:24 AM   #3
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I should also mention that for shooting bees / flowers a longer lens may be preferable. Any of the 90 / 100mm macro lenses would suffice.

But I have also got some nice shots with the 55mm and a raynox 150 macro adaptor.
11-06-2013, 09:28 AM   #4
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Here is a tiny spider with the 55mm and a raynox macro adaptor...


Last edited by Billy Joe; 11-30-2013 at 12:30 AM.
11-06-2013, 09:42 AM   #5
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What exactly are the M42 versions and how do they differ in quality with the "K" series? I haven't really done research on them as I'd need a converter and all the converter reviews I've found said they were less than quality and tended to make the lens wobble (or destroy the teeth that connect them to the camera). How does your 50mm compare with your 55mm at the same aperture? I know they aren't the "K" series, but all help is appreciated.

The minimum focal distance is 45cm on the 50 and 55mm and 30cm on the 35mm (I don't plan to use this one for bees, just large flowers and family photos). I figure as a slight telephoto, the 50 and/or 55mm will give me a good start.

I considered a point and shoot camera when I first started researching and found one I thought would be good for a starter at $145, but it didn't have a viewfinder and I like taking pictures in bright sunlight. All the others I found didn't have the control I wanted or a viewfinder (save one that was $500, and the viewfinder was digital). Then I stumbled across DSLRs and fell in love. Well, I guess I was already in love with them, as I love my father's Minolta SLR; I just didn't think I could afford one. I figured if I was considering a $500 point-and-shoot I might as well spend $200 more and get what I really want.
11-06-2013, 09:54 AM   #6
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Wow, I was a little slow in posting that! What's a macro adaptor? That picture is awesome! The spider is surprisingly pretty up close. I'm interested in the K 135mm f2.5 (LOVE the bokeh I've seen in pictures), but it's too expensive right now and I haven't done much research on the longer lenses (I haven't found one for under $200). Currently I can spend about $100 on each lens for a total of $200 ($240 if I really like them and they're in good condition). I don't want to be "stuck" with just a longer lens. You wouldn't happen to know of a good adaptor for Minolta lenses, would you? My father's 50mm lens is still in great condition for me to use, if only I can find a good adaptor.

Sorry if I sound like a novice, but I kind of am, haha. Thanks for your help!
11-06-2013, 10:06 AM   #7
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M42 are the screwmount versions pre-K lenses. I went with an original M42-K pentax adaptor and have never had issues. When I started the old m42 lenses were a lot cheaper and there were more varieties than their K counterparts.

I am a fan of the 55 1.8 and since you are shooting flowers you will probably not be wide open all the time because of the limited depth of field... but the bokeh on the 50 1.4 is nice wide open.

Here is one with a 100 mm macro lens of a tiny little wildflower...


I am sure some of the veterans can come on and give you a clearer picture of the K mount lenses... congrats on the new camera. you cant go wrong with any of the lenses mentioned but I would probably chose the 55 1.8
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11-06-2013, 11:02 AM   #8
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Would the 50mm f1.4 give me more DOF then the 55mm f1.8 at the same aperture, since it has a wider aperture option? Also, you convinced me to look into "K" macro lenses and I might be able to afford the 100mm f4 Macro. Do you have an opinion on this one? Do you think I should buy the 50 or 55 lens and the macro lens instead of two of the lenses I was first considering? Figuring out the camera was easy compared to the lenses!

11-06-2013, 11:31 AM - 1 Like   #9
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If I were you, I'd go for the K55/1.8 to start with. It's basically a k-mount version of the SMC Takumar 55/1.8. Great lens - well built, very sharp with nice bokeh. It's fairly easy to find, and not too expensive. From there you can decide if manual-focus & green button metering works for you or not. These fast lenses, be they K or M, will be difficult to focus at wide apertures on a DSLR, especially compared to the film SLRs with their huge viewfinders. Focus-peaking will be a great help.

Last edited by paulh; 11-06-2013 at 11:37 AM.
11-06-2013, 12:01 PM - 1 Like   #10
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When you are really close to a flower or bee, the depth of field is really small at f1.8, so you have less reason to get the 50mm f1.4. Also bright sunlight is often too bright for those very wide apertures. Of course, an f1.4 lens might be handy in other conditions.

The most noticeable image difference between the K50/1.4 and the K55/1.8 is when there is a bright, out of focus highlight in the shot. These highlights show the aperture shape. If the lens is wide open, when the shape is a circle, but at other apertures the 50mm produces octagons, the 55mm makes hexagons. After that, I think it's splitting hairs. The remaining differences are really small. There have been some comparisons in the Lens section that show it, maybe if you're lucky with search they'll show up. They will both produce satisfying images.

I think the K55/1.8 is a really good value and might fit better into your budget. I like it for portraits.

The A series has a broader range of build quality. The cheap stuff is really cheap but some of them are built as well as the older lenses. The whole point of getting an A series lens is to leave the ring on A so the camera body can set an aperture, so the cheap aperture rings aren't a problem. The focus rings usually don't feel cheap even when Pentax uses plastic instead of solid brass internally. When the aperture is set on the body, the lens is easier to use in changing light conditions, which allows you to pay more attention to focusing. The A lenses also make using a flash easier. A flash will stop the bee's motion in flight or a flower on a windy day.

Focusing these lenses takes at least some practice. Many people will recommend that you buy a special focus screen for the camera, to make it easier. I have used the stock screen for a while and it's possible to focus that way, but more difficult.
11-06-2013, 12:28 PM   #11
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Inspired by this thread I just ordered an A-50 2.8 macro… you guys are a really bad influence on me. I know he doesn't like A lenses. I already have my A-400 and I don't like the extra work you have to do with M lenses. Plus M lenses in the case of the-400 and possibly others got a redesign and better optics when they went from M to A. M400 =6 elements, A-400 =7 elements and better IQ.
11-06-2013, 12:35 PM   #12
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Although I credit the OP for researching the different lenses , he has missed a significant point. The A series lenses have the ability if full automated exposure if he wants it, as well as full flash support, which may be important for macro. I don't have many a lenses to compare with my K lenses but they do have a cheaper feel, and perhaps a less consistent feel than the k series lenses. .

Fr the question of M42, although some K lenses evolved from M42 lenses, the coatings are superior, you have open aperture focusing and automatic stop down for exposure, and many K lenses are optically better or substantially different than M42 lenses. A generalization is difficult. Having said that m42 lenses are fun to use and produce shots with different looks to k lenses
11-06-2013, 12:46 PM   #13
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It seems everyone prefers the f1.8 over the f1.4, so I will try to buy that one first (and, apparently, the aperture will suite me better at a higher number anyway [f3 etc]). I'm not concerned about manual focus, as that's the number one thing I love doing with a camera. I hate the point-and-shoots that we've owned because there was no manual focusing. My father's old Minolta was totally manual and that's what I'm looking for again (I didn't even understand aperture -I thought it was just another focusing tool). I took great pictures with it and I'm looking forward to taking great pictures with my own camera.

What's "green-button metering"? Is it when there's a green dot showing how much light the camera is receiving? I had that with Dad's Minolta and it was nice for getting the proper lighting in the pictures.
11-06-2013, 12:55 PM   #14
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With an M series lens there is no auto-stop down metering, so you set the Aperture using the Aperture Ring, and then press the green button, and that sets the speed for you. If you get an A -lens, you set the lens to A and just use Aperture priority just like you would with a modern lens. With an M lens on a day with partial cloud where the light is changing constantly, you push the green button before each exposure. WIth an A lens, it performs just like a modern lens in AV mode (accept for the part where you manually focus.). The camera checks exposure as you shoot.

M is manual everything, manual aperture control, exposure with the green button.
A is auto-exposure.
FA, DA etc are auto exposure and focus.
11-06-2013, 08:18 PM   #15
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I'm a she, not a he

So the green light metering is what ISO the camera chooses, as in if the aperture isn't what moves then the camera needs to keep deciding the ISO again and again? That doesn't sound like too much trouble for me and it might be what I did with the Minolta. Actually, I'd like to try my hand at full manual control on the camera -shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. The fun of taking a picture, for me, is the work put into making it perfect; the more manual it is the more the picture is "mine" and not the camera's.

I forgot to ask what flash support is. Will the flash not turn on if I use an all manual lens, or does it have to do with timing?

Billy Joe, I LOVE that wildflower pic! What macro lens did you use?

Thanks everyone, you're help is very appreciated!
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