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06-04-2008, 07:38 AM   #1
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Lens Help for Newbie!

Hi, everyone! I have been using SLR for a while now, but have never really mastered the difference between the lenses. With my old film camera, I bought it used with a kit lens, telephoto and wide angle. While I knew what each "type" of lens did, I didn't understand the specifications.

I now have a DSLR and only a kit lens. What recommendations would you have for someone on a budget (maybe $150 or less)? I generally like taking portraits, with some landscape.

Thanks!

Terri

06-04-2008, 07:50 AM   #2
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Terri,
What type of DSLR and kit lens do you have now?
06-04-2008, 08:12 AM   #3
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Sorry about that - it's a *ist DL. The lens is the one that came with the camera.

Terri
06-04-2008, 08:16 AM   #4
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If you haven't mastered the kit lens yet, I would stick with that. It is reasonable for portraits (a bit short), but I would save until you've mastered the lens and can afford something better. In the meantime, put your $150 towards some filters (ie. Cokin P-series & CPL for landscapes), or the battery grip or something (assuming you don't have these things already).


Cheers -
Joal

PS. I'm a beginner and I've been fighting LBA since I bought my camera 5 months ago. Picked up an A 50 f1.7 for $75 on Ebay, and a tammy 70-300mm LD for $65 on Ebay. It is a good beginners set up (along w/ the kit) for just about anything you want to do (except macro). Experiment with that and then invest in the focal lengths you tend to shoot most.

06-04-2008, 08:22 AM   #5
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At the risk of being picky - you need to tell us what lens you have. The reason is some sellers buy the bodies and stick another lens in with it. The 'standard' lens is 18-55mm.

If that's what you have, then I would recommend you start off by using it until you get familiar with the camera and it's capabilities. The lens isn't one of Pentax's best efforts, but it's still a good one to learn with. Once you are comfortable, then decide which direction in picture taking you would like to take. Buying lenses becomes an addiction, referred to LBA (Lens Buying Addicition) from which you, like many of us, may never recover.
06-04-2008, 09:01 AM   #6
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I'd second getting used to shooting with your kit lens with different settings. My suggested next lens purchase would be a fast fifty (FA 50 f/1.4 or f/1.7). Not so much for landscapes, but you'll find it a beauty to do portraits with. Price range is around US$180-200 but well worth it!
06-04-2008, 09:05 AM   #7
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Yes - I have the 18-55 mm lens. I don't know what I have to do to "master" the lens. I mean, the pictures I take are actually pretty good. I did a google search for lens basics and pretty much found nothing. I guess I'm not sure what the "mm" difference is (10-17 mm vs. 18-55, etc.), nor am I familiar with what the "f" is for (with the exception that it would be similar to the "f stop," but still not 100% on that one.

If anyone knows of a website that might be able to explain this info, I would be soooooo appreciative!

Thanks,

Terri
06-04-2008, 09:06 AM   #8
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Oh, and as for being a "newbie" - I guess I should have specified... I'm a newbie to lens purchasing (LBA, here I come!), but not to SLRs. I used a Film SLR for about 5 years and have had my *ist DL for almost two years.

Terri

06-04-2008, 09:48 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by stormdore Quote
Yes - I have the 18-55 mm lens. I don't know what I have to do to "master" the lens. I mean, the pictures I take are actually pretty good. I did a google search for lens basics and pretty much found nothing. I guess I'm not sure what the "mm" difference is (10-17 mm vs. 18-55, etc.), nor am I familiar with what the "f" is for (with the exception that it would be similar to the "f stop," but still not 100% on that one.

If anyone knows of a website that might be able to explain this info, I would be soooooo appreciative!

Thanks,

Terri
Hi Terri and welcome to the forum. I don't really know of a website that shows the same scene shot with different focal lengths but maybe someone else knows one. If not, I'd go to pbase and do a search for different mm lenses. That way you can see the different pictures taken with the different lenses. I'd stay with primes, since they have only the single focal length it's easier to see what that particular length is capapble of. To start off try looking for 14mm shots; 24mm shots; 35mm shots; 50mm shots; 70mm shots 105mm shots etc. as you get higher in the mm range you can take bigger jumps.
(I don't know how experienced you are, a "prime" is a non-zoom lens, if you knew that I didn't mean to offend)

The "f" does stand for f-stop. On a lens usually the fastest f-stop is listed. If it's a zoom and a range of f-stops is listed (for instance the DA 18-55/ F3.5-5.6) that means that the fastest aperture gets larger as the lens is zoomed out. In the above mentioned lens, that means that the fastest aperture at 18mm is f3.5 and the fastest aperture at 55mm is f5.6.

NaCl(hope that helps)H2O
06-04-2008, 10:08 AM   #10
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The standard kit lens isn't too bad. It is actually quite decent and is useful in a variety of situations. If I were on a very strict budget, and could only afford one more lens...I'd get the DA50-200/4-5.6 lens. It is sometimes referred to as the "kit lens twin". They go together pretty well. It is a tad over your budget, but not by much.

Between the two, you will have a good general purpose lens and the other for when you need a telephoto. Probably the most popular next lens people purchase is a fast 50, usually the FA50/1.4 lens. That is the "best" for low-light photography, but has a short telephoto field-of-view on a digital.

These lenses are within the Pentax family, and new lenses. There are also many decent lenses on the used market. Many here rave about the Tamron and Sigma 70-300 lens. I'm sure they are all right, but I tend to look to Pentax first to see if they have something that would fulfill my needs. The Tamron and Sigma are within your budget.
06-04-2008, 10:17 AM   #11
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In your place, I'd stay with the DA18-55 for a while. It's not the best, but not bad at all. After while, you will see yourself which focal range you are using most, and then you can concentrate on gettin lens which you want, do your shooting, and your research, and you'll find yourself what works best for you...
The advices here are great, but don't forget all of us are individuals and we all have lenses we like more and some we like less (though sometimes we tend to like the same lenseses).
BR
06-04-2008, 10:30 AM   #12
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.

If you can bump your lens budget up a bit, you can get the FA 50 1.4. That one lens will teach you more about both the fun and technical aspects of photography than any other. Not sure what f-stop really means to your images? Try shooting the FA 50 at f/1.4, f/3.5, and f/8 to see the dramatic differences.

It's the third lens I bought after the two kits that came n the box, and it's the reason I started to really like photography.

There's only one problem with the FA 50 1.4 - look at my sig. That's what using a really good lens does to you


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06-04-2008, 10:51 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by stormdore Quote
Yes - I have the 18-55 mm lens. I don't know what I have to do to "master" the lens. I mean, the pictures I take are actually pretty good. I did a google search for lens basics and pretty much found nothing. I guess I'm not sure what the "mm" difference is (10-17 mm vs. 18-55, etc.), nor am I familiar with what the "f" is for (with the exception that it would be similar to the "f stop," but still not 100% on that one.

If anyone knows of a website that might be able to explain this info, I would be soooooo appreciative!

Thanks,

Terri

Here is a site that actually shows the difference between lens focal lengths:
Focal length comparison tool, Tamron USA

The "f" listed on the lens is the maximum aperture. The smaller number on the lens, the better, since you can use it in lower light, and have a wider depth of field options. Lower max aperture on a lens though typically makes it more expensive (especially in zooms.) You get what you pay for though.

I would strongly recommend you learn as much as you can about exposure. It will help you with your lens choices and everything else in photography. Heck, photography is all about exposure and focus. Everything else is secondary. (I'm just talking about the mechanics of photography here, not the art)

Here is a nice simple primer on exposure:
http://www.setzler.net/wp-content/uploads/2007/07/exposure111.pdf

Last edited by PentaxPoke; 06-04-2008 at 11:08 AM.
06-04-2008, 12:10 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by stormdore Quote
I generally like taking portraits, with some landscape.

Thanks!

Terri
Terri,
The kit lens is already wide enough for "some landscape", I think. I would suggest getting a fast 50mm for your portrait shots. I got my FA 50mm f/1.4 brand new for about $200, but you can get used 50mm lenses for much less. I usually shoot portraits at about f/2.8, because at larger apertures (smaller numbers) I often don't have the subject's entire head in focus.

If you get a manual focus lens, make sure it is the "A" type (so the camera can handle the metering for you). A used 50mm f/1.7 or f/1.8 lens would be great and much cheaper than the f/1.4 and would probably suit you just as well.
06-04-2008, 12:31 PM   #15
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Here are some Tamron sites that give lens overviews.

First is some general information about picking a lens.
Choosing the Right Lens, Tamron USA

Next is a page that shows the difference between focal lengths.
Focal length comparison tool, Tamron USA

(BTW - I'm not pushing Tamron lenses, though I think they're fine. These websites have good general information.)

Finally, I'd pick up a general book about photography and read through it. It will explain the basics of focal length, aperture, depth of field, etc.
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