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07-15-2009, 11:59 AM   #1
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Please help me understand!

I am looking for a new lens and I am so confuzed by all the different things, so here are my 3 main questions.

-is there a difference between what prime means and limited means
-is da or fa better
- are limited/fixed lenses faster than a range lens

I do mainly portrait work, but would enjoy playing around with a macro. I have an ist ds and k20d. My lenses are a 28-70mm 2.8, 50mm 1.4, 80-320mm 4. I LOVE my 50mm, but it's a little too "zoomed" for working indoors. I've read about the 35mm macro and just heard of a 15mm? Any suggestions for a great sharp macro lens that would also be great for portraits? Thanks!

07-15-2009, 01:01 PM   #2
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I'm no lens expert, so hopefully someone who is will weigh in soon! Until then, here's the info as I understand it:


QuoteOriginally posted by mchud Quote
-is there a difference between what prime means and limited means
Yes, there's a difference. "Prime" just means any lens that doesn't zoom, so it's only one focal length, i.e. 15mm or 21mm or 31mm...etc. "Limited" generally just refers to the build quality and the assurance that you're getting top-quality optics.

QuoteQuote:
-is da or fa better
"DA" just refers to the lenses that are optimized for the cropped sensor on Pentax's digital SLRs. "FA" is from the old film days. So you can use a DA lens on a film camera, but there might be some vignetting because the lenses aren't meant for 35mm film (a cropped sensor is smaller).

As to which is better: I have both, and I wouldn't trade any of them.

QuoteQuote:
- are limited/fixed lenses faster than a range lens
In general: yes. There are exceptions. For instance, the DA 21/3.2 is, well, f/3.2 But the DA*16-50, a zoom, is f/2.8 throughout the range. So it's faster than the 21. But the 21 is a heck of a lot smaller, and arguably sharper and with better resolution. But the 31/1.8 IS faster than the DA* 16-50.

QuoteQuote:
Any suggestions for a great sharp macro lens that would also be great for portraits? Thanks!
If you're finding the 50 to be too long for your tastes, then you'll probably not like my suggestions. Out of curiosity, are you referring to portraiture work as photos of individuals or small groups from the shoulders up? Because that's the standard definition of portraits, and conventional wisdom has it that you should use from 70mm-135mm and put the camera 10-15 feet away, etc. etc.

But if you want something wider, then the DA 21 is a pretty fantastic little lens. But, you know, the FA 31/1.8 is generally considered one of the best lenses ever made, even for portrait work (although you have to be careful of exaggerating noses). The DA 35 Macro Limited seems like it would fit the bill for you, although I haven't seen many portraits taken with it. Also, the 35mm range for macros can be tough: you have to get REALLY close for something to look lifesize, and then you might block out your light or scare the bug away. Poke around on photozone.de and take a look at the lens tests, and then look at some photos taken with the lenses you're considering.
07-15-2009, 01:07 PM   #3
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Thank you! That helps a lot. I don't do just head shots, I do full body and whatnot. When I'm just doing stuff with my kids inside, the 50mm is too close and when I'm working with my baby, I can't get far enough away before she moves. I feel like I get caught in corners a lot which is why I was thinking the 35 might be good. So there isn't any quality difference between the da and fa then?
07-15-2009, 01:14 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by mchud Quote
I am looking for a new lens and I am so confuzed by all the different things, so here are my 3 main questions.

-is there a difference between what prime means and limited means
"Limited" is only a brand name, which Pentax choose for a handful of lenses. The Pentax Limited lenses are produced to very high standards and stand out in their quality from the majority of other autofocus lenses.

The Limiteds are "prime" lenses. Prime lenses are nothing else but lenses with a fixed focal length (like your 50mm or the famous 31mm Pentax FA Limited etc.). So currently all Pentax Limited lenses are prime lenses, but one never knows, whether Pentax might produce someday a zoom lens in the "Limited" product range.

QuoteOriginally posted by mchud Quote
-is da or fa better
The DAs are more current and produced especially for the current Pentax DSLR range, i.e. often optimized for the smaller sensor (in comparisson with old 35mm film). They surely have a more modern multi-coating, which helps prevent unwanted reflections on the lens and helps to increase contrast and image clarity.

That is the theory. In practice you'll probably hard pressed to find a VISIBLE difference between some FA lenses (like the FA 200/2.8) and their DA counterparts.

But as their have been much more FA lenses in production formerly, there are also mediocre ones. So you cannot generalize that all FA lenses stand up to their modern DA equivalents...

QuoteOriginally posted by mchud Quote
- are limited/fixed lenses faster than a range lens
What is a "range lens"? Do you mean a "zoom lens" (variable focal length, i.e. from wide angle to tele)? If this is so, then yes and no, would be the answer. Many "prime" lenses are "faster" (Have a max. open aperture) than zoom lenses of a comparable focal range. I.e. you may find a 50/1.4 fixed focal length lens, but a zoom would be something like a DA 16-50/2.8, which is two full f-stops slower.

But of course, there are some extraordinarily fast zoom lenses, too. Compare for example the Sigma 120-300/2.8 with the prime lens DA 300/4, which is a full f-stop slower than the zoom.

QuoteOriginally posted by mchud Quote
I do mainly portrait work, but would enjoy playing around with a macro. I have an ist ds and k20d. My lenses are a 28-70mm 2.8, 50mm 1.4, 80-320mm 4. I LOVE my 50mm, but it's a little too "zoomed" for working indoors. I've read about the 35mm macro and just heard of a 15mm? Any suggestions for a great sharp macro lens that would also be great for portraits? Thanks!
A typical portrait lens would be around 50mm focal length for a Pentax APS-C camera, as it enforces a certain shooting distance to your subject, which prevents unfortunate perspectival disfiguration (use your 28-70 at the shortest setting and make a tight protrait, you will see immediately, what that means...) So you are equipped for that.

Many photographers would prefer (and that's my personal preference, too) a even longer focal length between 80mm and 135mm. But that affords even more distance and is a poor choice, when there is not enough space.

Not quite by coincidence, you would also find typical macro lenses of the same focal length as typical portrait lenses, namely 50mm, 70mm and 90/100mm (longer macros are rarer).

A new kind of shorter focal length macro lenses is the DA 35/2.8, which gives about the same field of view as a traditional 50mm macro lens on a film camera. This could serve as a indoor portrait lens, but would be too short in focal lengtth for my taste, when it comes to head/ or head and shoulder portraits. For a half, 3/4 or full body portrait it may work. For real macro work, I personally would consider it to be on the very short side (I rarely used my 50mm macro in film days, the 90mm or 180mm macro lenses, suite me much better).

So, only going from my own, personal experience and my individual preferences, I would say, that you are well equipped for portraits already with the 50mm and (if space is really tight) the 28-70. For macros I would add a lens of around 70mm - 100mm (Pentax, Sigma or Tamron), which would double as a long portrait lens.

Ben

EDIT: My apologies to Keitha, as I repeat a lot of what she wrote - but it took me quite long to type my reply and Yours wasn't there, when I started....

07-15-2009, 01:16 PM   #5
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Some people think that the DA limited lenses are better because they're optimized for digital; some think that the FA limited lenses are better because they've been tested and proven to be some of the best lenses ever made by any company.

If you're shooting kids, then you might be disappointed by how (relatively) slowly the DA 35 Macro focuses. The reason why is that it's macro, so it can focus from a couple of inches away to infinity - and that's a LONG way. In reality the DA 35 is incredibly quick to focus (for a macro) but that still isn't fast compared to non-macro lenses.

You might also want to consider older, used lenses. Then you have TONS of options. But if you have your heart set on the best lens under 50mm for portraits, then the pricey 31/1.8 is your best bet, in my opinion.
07-15-2009, 01:17 PM   #6
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FA & DA lenses belong to 2 different series. FA lenses was introduced in early 90's along with the Z/PZ series film cameras. All FA lenses are full frame. DA series were introduced along with DSLRs which are APS-C. Almost all DA lenses aren't FF. There are good and not-so-good lenses from both FA & DA series.
07-15-2009, 01:17 PM   #7
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try the pancake DA 40. it's shorter and I'm pretty sure that you would like it very much.
07-15-2009, 01:27 PM   #8
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Keitha has given you a very good background. You say you have a 28-70mm f2.8? Is that the Pentax FA* lens?If so then you should be using that for your portrait work. Fast and excellent optics. It will give you the flexiblity to zoom in from a distance or go wide and close. Not much better than that. The 35mm macro is also f2.8 so it's no faster and the 28-70mm is so good that you might not see any differences in real world shooting. It only lacks the macro function and IMO a 90mm or longer dedicated macro lens is the better way to go to give you some shooting distance to the subject.

As for the FA vs DA there are all levels to consider. The FA28-80mm zoom for example is a poor quaily lens (but one of the few that are). Where as the FA43mm Limited is about as good as it gets. So you can't make a generalization. We have a complete review data base here you should look over and it will give you users impressions of every lens made by Pentax.

The only real difference with FA's and Da's is that FA's are made for the film era and the 24x36 size of film. The image circle on a DA is cropped to varying degrees for the smaller digital sensor (/1.5). Also the DA's will have differnt SMC coatings added to the rear elements to reduce ghosting and reflections inside the mirror bucket. Digital sensors are more reflective (they have glass filters on the surface) than film and can cause ghosting in certain situations. But in real world use, I've never found this to be an issue. I've seen it a dozen times or so in 10's of thousands of shots. last the FA's will almost always have an aperture ring to manuall adjust the aperture and a DA will not. This isn't much of an issue as you will shot in "A" mode almost all the time. But if you were to use extension tubes for macro, an FA will allow the control needed and a DA can not. The aperture will stay wide open all the time.

Finally there are different DA's and FA's. The top end versions from both lines are designated with a *. So it would say DA*16-50mm f2.8 and FA*300mm f4.5. Those with the star are almost always a lens that is at or near professional grade.

07-15-2009, 01:31 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by K McCall Quote
..........you referring to portraiture work as photos of individuals or small groups from the shoulders up? Because that's the standard definition of portraits, and conventional wisdom has it that you should use from 70mm-135mm and put the camera 10-15 feet away, etc. etc.
..........
BTW, that conventional wisdom applies to 35mm film cameras. So with FA50 on an APS-C digital, it has an equivalent FOV of 50 x 1.5 = 75mm. If you want a full body shot you might look into the DA35, DA40 or even an old MF 28mm. FA31 is also an excellent option but is an expensive option compared to the other 3 options I've mentioned.
07-15-2009, 02:11 PM   #10
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Thank you to all of you for your replies. You were very helpful. I appreciate you taking the time to explain this all to me. Now I feel more up to speed!
07-15-2009, 02:20 PM   #11
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I do have the Tamron 28-70 2.8 which is supposedly really good, but I feel like I get a lot of soft pictures. Anyone had experience with this? I definately get sharper ones with my 50mm 1.4, but I guess that's been explained why.
07-15-2009, 02:28 PM   #12
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Other options, btw, include the FA 35/2, if you need the speed, great lens, particularly for the money (looks just like your 50/1.4) No macro that I know of, though.
07-15-2009, 03:08 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ratmagiclady Quote
Other options, btw, include the FA 35/2, if you need the speed, great lens, particularly for the money (looks just like your 50/1.4) No macro that I know of, though.
the FA 35 is an excellent choice. it can shoot close enough to make things appear in macro. I took some strawberry shots some days ago trying out the FA 35 for close focusing. though it may not be a real macro lens and have less magnification, I believe the results were acceptable or good for macro shooting considering it's real lens purpose for wide-angled shots. for wide-angled shots, this is where this particular lens really shine. It razor thin sharp and one of the best Pentax lenses coming from the FA series and possibly among the top 5 Pentax lenses as a whole. that's how great the reputation of this lens is. I still rate the A 50 1.2 as the best in the Pentax arsenal due to speed and artistic value. unmatched bokeh IMO.
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