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08-22-2014, 09:12 PM   #1
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Worth my time to get started with old lenses?

I learned the basics of manual focus and aperature back at a weekend Vo-Tech program in the 90's and my father has an old Sears/Ricoh SLR with an K-type bayonet mount and a few lenses. I've been wanting to take the next step in my food photography and start using a DLSR for more control over the shot. Considering the amount of rust on my knowledge of manual photography, would it be worthwhile to get a Pentax with a compatable mount and get a few hundred dollars worth of lenses free, or forget about them and get a newer kit and slowly work on building up my lenses?

08-22-2014, 09:17 PM   #2
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Old lenses on new DSLRs is habit forming and highly recommended. "C'mon, man, everybody's doin' it!"
08-22-2014, 09:20 PM   #3
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Depends on the lenses. Some from that era are real jewels, others not so much. But they should work on a modern Pentax so worth the try.
08-22-2014, 09:29 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by edwardra3 Quote
I learned the basics of manual focus and aperature back at a weekend Vo-Tech program in the 90's and my father has an old Sears/Ricoh SLR with an K-type bayonet mount and a few lenses. I've been wanting to take the next step in my food photography and start using a DLSR for more control over the shot. Considering the amount of rust on my knowledge of manual photography, would it be worthwhile to get a Pentax with a compatable mount and get a few hundred dollars worth of lenses free, or forget about them and get a newer kit and slowly work on building up my lenses?
Short answer, yes, long answer, yesssss...

Then again, I may be biased - I shoot almost exclusively with old manual lenses these days. The only exception being the Sigma 10-20, and you simply can't get 'old' in that focal length range.

One advantage is that the old lenses trend towards being inexpensive (or in your case, free). Once you gain a good working knowledge of manual shooting, it will actually help you out on the automated side of things as well ("Why did my modern lens overexpose... oh, it was hitting that shadowy spot..." *manual settings change, nail shot*)

That, and (at least for me) there is simply something tactilely satisfying about manual shooting. It tends to slow you down just a hair, which once you get the hang of things will up your keeper rate as well.

08-22-2014, 09:59 PM   #5
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I tend to stick with A series primes for old stuff on my APSC, because the lack of A setting makes adjustments and metering a bother (I love front and rear dials too much) and the manual focus zooms make shake reduction basically unusable because the camera doesn't know the focal length and its constantly changing as you zoom so the best you can do is set a compromise focal length or turn it off. I have found you can see any slight movement far more on digital than with film so I don't like doing that.
An old A series prime lens works exactly like a modern lens but with manual focus. You can still manually control the aperture with front and rear dials, which is nice because Pentax put a big ridiculous beak on the front of the pentaprism housing that blocks visibility and access to the aperture ring. You also get about 3 times the number of F stop options using the same A series lens and setting the aperture digitally with the dials as you do turning it manually.

I have no use for auto anything when I pull out the film camera gear however which is a regular occurrence so my old lenses get a ton of use and I enjoy it far more.
08-22-2014, 10:06 PM   #6
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Yes, but if those lenses are Ricoh ones, make sure they don't have a lens pin before you attach them! I have heard some horror stories involving hacksaws to remove them! (Some people just hacksaw off the lens pin if they have one).

Whilst old lens can be good, they can also be a touch soft (although they are usually a step up from a kit lens), and the colours/contrast may need some adjustment in Lightroom for best results. Old primes are usually pretty good, but older zooms can be a mixed bag. It may be worth checking the lens database here to see if there are any user reviews for the lenses you have.

For food photography, put the da35 macro on your wish list (my opinion, others may disagree). The sharpness and contrast will be in a different league.
08-22-2014, 10:14 PM - 1 Like   #7
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Asking on this forum about whether or not to buy a new lens is like asking a drunk if you should have another drink.

Pentax cameras are wonderful, and it's a nice system to use. I love the colors I get from my RAW files on my K-30, how well the camera handles, and the comparably small amount of modern lenses available doesn't really bother me. The extra backwards compatibility with old lenses is a double edged sword... on one hand it temps you in to buying all the old forgotten lenses that are out there, and on the other there is some truly stunning glass out there that works almost natively on newer Pentax DSLR's. In-body shake reduction is awesome compared to having to spend a couple extra grand on VR or IS lenses on Canikon.
08-23-2014, 01:07 AM   #8
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It's absolutely worth your time to get started with older lenses. I'm actually moving more towards manuals, so far as to try and hock my AFs. I don't seem to be nearly as well-stocked in the kit department as some other people here but I use an Auto Chinon 50mm/f1.9 a lot, just acquired a Hanimex 28mm/f2.8 (I have to get home from sea to see if it's an OK Hanimex or a bad Hanimex, as my *ist's LCD is pretty awful =P), and I'm picking up the Adaptall 60-300 next Friday, which I'm pretty excited about. I just got the Adaptall mount a couple weeks ago and I have a feeling I'm going to turn into some freakish Adaptall junkie.

There's a huge flea-market type deal where I live every Sunday and I like going there and trawling for old lenses. =) That's a lot of the fun too.

08-23-2014, 01:56 AM   #9
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In my opinion, it is definitely worth it! Focus peaking (focused part of the picture is highlighted in live view) and catch-in focus (camera won't release until selected AF is in focus) are very useful features when focusing manually. I am not sure which cameras have those, but I would guess that they are pretty common features right now.

For food photography, I recommend you an good old 50mm lens. If you don't have one yet, there are plenty around, and they are cheap. My SMC Pentax-A 1:1.7 50mm makes every dish almost automatically look good...
08-23-2014, 02:19 AM   #10
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Today's Pentax DSLR's are so good that, IMO, anyone will do well, it's the lenses that matter more, so give it a try, even if you spent US$ 900 or so on a K-3, if those used lenses you mentioned all work, you've saved many time that price not buying glass. Another positive for using manual glass is it males me pay attention to the settings, just like I had to with the K1000 I used for nearly 30 years. When I upgraded to a camera with auto-features, my pictures became more like snapshots, I got lazy.

I second Dieterson's lens recommendation. I bought the same lens for may US $50, and is so versatile and clear that it's become my most used lens. Also have a Pentax-A Macro Zoom 28-135 f4-5.6, purchased used for US $ 135. You can't find any thing comparable new for that price. I post a lot of phjotos in the Monthly Challenge section if you'd like to see some results.

Since you have the lenses, yes, get any recent Pentax DSLR and try them all out. The Pentax-A series does make life a little bit easier for making settings and using the camera's metering.

Read the manual and experiment with any non-A series lens you have, because good glass is worth the effort to master. Since you are doing food photos, inanimate objects, you can experiment on the same object with various settings until you get it right.

Right now I'm saving for a used 17mm, I'm totally sold on used lenses.
08-23-2014, 06:26 AM   #11
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I would recommend yes also, and get the kit lens with the camera, because none of your film lenses will likely be as wide as the kit lens, and due to the "crop factor" or reduced field of view of a DSLR you will want a wider lens
08-23-2014, 08:59 AM   #12
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The Ricoh pin:


08-23-2014, 09:33 AM   #13
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I think using old lenses helps me stay interested in photography. My siblings all have recent DSLRs and some skills, but they don't use the cameras regularly. When they see the full moon rising or a deer in the yard or a photo by candlelight, they struggle. I figured all the details out a while ago by using the camera, so I don't expect to autofocus on the moon or get a proper meter reading. The lenses make it interesting and fun.
08-23-2014, 09:34 AM   #14
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Excising the Ricoh pin is simple. Unscrew the mount, pick out the pin, reattach the mount, hakuna matata.

You just need to be careful not to dislodge anything *other* than the pin while you're in there.

In regards to focus peaking, I tend to use mine in tandem with having light/dark highlighting enabled in live view. Unless you're aiming for an insanely thin depth of view, it'll help in that it causes the peaking sparkles to glow and flash as a highlight, helping ensure you have your focus where you want it.
08-23-2014, 10:02 AM   #15
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Some better examples of the Ricoh pin

This is a type that is likely to get stuck. It is a Ricoh 50mm F/2 P

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This is a type that is well known to get stuck. Don't let this one anywhere near a Pentax AF camera until it is removed. From a Sears 60-300mm F/4.0-5.6

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Notice the vertical edges. Most Ricoh pins are a wide rounded nub. They pose no danger.
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