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08-25-2009, 04:01 AM   #16
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Case for the fast 50

If you do a lot of shooting with manual focus lenses, as I do, there is one factor which has not been fully explored yet, The added brightness in the viewfinder from a f 1.4 or even better (I guess) f 1.2 lens makes it a whole lot easier to focus. To illustrate the point compare any of those f 3.5~5.6 zooms out there to a 50mm/1.4. The difference is staggering. It's literally like night and day.

I should note I have also added a KatzEye screen with a split prisim and microprisim collar to further enhance focusing. The Optibrite coating further increases the brightness in the finder. It is fairly expensive but as I use so many old manual focus lenses this made sense to me. There are several threads out there on this topic.

To my mind this ease of manual focus is one of the most important reasons for having a fast 50 in addition to: shallow DOF wide open, build quality, bokeh, sharpness, etc. Get the fastest 50mm you can afford. You won't be sorry as they are all pretty good. There is just no substitute for speed. Even if you don't use it very often it will always be there if you want it. This holds true for manual as well as autofocus lenses.

Tom G


Last edited by 8540tomg; 08-25-2009 at 07:46 AM. Reason: typo
08-25-2009, 06:49 AM   #17
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It's a poor man's Ferrari/Porsche/Lambourghini, in other words.

If money weren't an issue, I'd have one just for boasting rights!

QuoteOriginally posted by K-9 Quote
Sort of like "Yay, I own a lens I severely overpaid for with an aperture I'll probably never shoot at, and even if I do, I'll have the shallowest DOF known to man!"
08-25-2009, 07:49 AM   #18
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QuoteOriginally posted by legacyb4 Quote
It's a poor man's Ferrari/Porsche/Lambourghini, in other words.

If money weren't an issue, I'd have one just for boasting rights!
I see lot's of pretty fast glass in your signature already Jeff. You know what I'm talkin about.

Tom G
08-25-2009, 11:35 AM   #19
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QuoteOriginally posted by Andi Lo Quote
Shush, my 1.2 isn't even here yet and you're already ruining it
If you get sick of it, you can always sell it to me for half of what you paid and use the loss as a tax write off.

08-25-2009, 11:42 AM   #20
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I use my 50/1.2 sometimes, especially for nightly city scenes, wide open. The half f-stop difference to an 50/1.4 can make the difference between a sharp shot and a blurred one, due to camera shake. It is s speciality lens, but if you need it, there is no substitute.

Ben
08-25-2009, 12:18 PM   #21
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
1. Sharpness isn't everything. Just because a lens isn't as sharp wide open as stopped down a bit doesn't make it useless. There may be reasons to use it wide open when the situation calls for it. Eg, extremely low light, or if you want very shallow DOF. Or maybe even if - as for portraits - you actually *want* a little softness.
Very true.

The pictures out of my K 50/1.2 are very pleasing, but I mostly use it at other apertures than f/1.2. But the built quality is superb
08-25-2009, 01:49 PM   #22
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QuoteOriginally posted by 8540tomg Quote

...I should note I have also added a KatzEye screen with a split prisim and microprisim collar to further enhance focusing. The Optibrite coating further increases the brightness in the finder. It is fairly expensive but as I use so many old manual focus lenses this made sense to me. There are several threads out there on this topic...
Tom makes a very good point here. You can buy the fast glass, but be prepared for OOF shots wide open if you are using the stock LF-80 focus screen. The focus aids on the aftermarket screens (microprism and split image) help a lot, but they are not the whole story. The big problem is that the stock screen for the KxxD and KxxxD series cameras has more apparent depth of field than will be present on the final image. The result is that you can focus and it will look good in the viewfinder, but the photo will often be soft. Using the focus confirm helps, but even the AF sensor has inadequate precision when the DOF is measured in millimeters.

I own a couple of pieces of "fast" glass, but had often been disappointed with performance wide open. That is, until I replaced the focus screen. Now, I generally nail the focus and get consistently good results from my faster glass.

Steve
08-25-2009, 02:40 PM   #23
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QuoteOriginally posted by K-9 Quote
If you get sick of it, you can always sell it to me for half of what you paid and use the loss as a tax write off.
I'll sell it to myself first for triple the price... then we can talk about that.

Funny how 1.2 has turned to a "speciality lens" while it was probably designed to be a do-it-all

08-25-2009, 03:10 PM   #24
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QuoteOriginally posted by Andi Lo Quote
Funny how 1.2 has turned to a "speciality lens" while it was probably designed to be a do-it-all
I don't think the 1.2 lenses of this world were ever conceived of being in general use. They were always special lenses for particular applications. Just think about the simple fact, that the DOF at 1.2 on a 35mm camera was even thinner, than it is with APS-C. So all the pros and cons we discussed in this thread apply to 35mm film at least as pronounced, if not more so. On top the prices were always prohibitive. In my 1997 Pentax catalogue the A 50/1.2 was 1349 DM (must have been something like 999 USD or so, I guess). That was 12 years ago. Compared to that current prices (sometimes you can these new from Japanese ebay sellers) look inviting. (And the Nikon Nokt or the Leica Noctilux - okay a tad faster at 1.0 - were actually not any cheaper, quite to the contrary.)

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08-26-2009, 05:16 AM   #25
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Right, I forgot about the price being really high. Although with the size not being all that big I would think it would be something to actually replace the common 1.4 completely if you can afford it, which was the general purpose lens at that time.
08-26-2009, 05:36 PM   #26
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I had the K50/1.4 & K55/1.8 and I thought the same thing, who needs the K50/1.2 for what it costs, as these two standards are really great lenses. I finally ended up getting a K50/1.2 for a good price, about a year ago. In the start I didn’t really use it that much, especially when I travel. (Mostly due to its size difference compared to the other two 50s.)

I decided to only use the K50/1.2 as my standard lens in the spring and boy what a difference between the other two. Yes the K50/1.2 is more of a specialty standard lens, but the differences noted in the previous posts (speed, brighter viewfinder, bokeh, DOF & 3D images) make it worth the extra cost.

Every time I get a roll of slides back from processing, I’m blown away by the images from the 50/1.2.

I guess the moral of the story is you have to try a 50/1.2 and then you’ll see the light!!

Phil.

PS I have a Pentax price list from Jan/78 and the K50/1.2 was $287.50, the M50/1.4 was $199.50 and the M50/1.7 was $119.00. These are MSRP prices in USD.
08-26-2009, 05:53 PM   #27
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QuoteOriginally posted by gofour3 Quote
PS I have a Pentax price list from Jan/78 and the K50/1.2 was $287.50, the M50/1.4 was $199.50 and the M50/1.7 was $119.00. These are MSRP prices in USD.
I know it was probably worth way more back then due to inflation, but it's interesting that these lenses haven't changed all that much in dollar value in the used market while some zooms have plummeted
08-26-2009, 08:13 PM   #28
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It's true, by the way, that the fast glass is only a focusing advantage if the camera is set up for it: on an old body, the brightness of the lens translates directly: the screens made for slower AF kit lenses acheive their brightness by biasing toward light coming from certain less-oblique angles: the result being they can make the most of a slow lens, but they aren't actually offering you focusing precision or advantage when you put a faster lens on there. On my K20d, I can't actually see the difference in finder brightness much past f 3.5, which also means there's an artificial DOF effect that means you aren't getting much snappier focus, cause the screen's gathering most of the light from the middle of the lens anyway.

There's a tradeoff there: at least you don't *need* a 1.2 lens, but you don't get the full benefit of one, either.

On the old Canons, really, the 1.4 is just as good an overall lens as the 1.2 (at least the non-L version) but with the 1.2 you get the viewing brightness and snappier focus. (Actually shooting that 1.2 means you're going to be a little soft, but sometimes you do get a better image out of that than pushing your handholding past the limit. So, it's not to say 'You'll never use 1.2,' but that's not why I spent the extra money.) On a digital, you might be better off pumping the ISO to get the same shot, anyway.

I still would like Pentax to make a factory screen for fast lenses.

Anyway, one thing about the faster 50mm lenses is that different brands have different scales of quality for each. For instance, Pentax's 50mm f2s are the cheapies. Canon's old cheapies are faster, being 1.8's. So they don't have the reputation. Meanwhile, Pentax's 1.7s are the upgrade, you don't get impressive speed, but you get the serious sharpness, (for old Canon, the 1.4 doesn't just mean you get the extra speed, it means you get the really good lens.)

1.2s in any brand have generally been what's starting to get kind of exotic: with most brands, experienced photogs in the know don't usually bother with em without specific cause. (A good rule of thumb would be: if you don't know exactly why you want a 1.2, you don't want it.)

With a lot of brands, a 1.7 or 1.8 lens is no great shakes. This is not the case with Pentax and old Minolta, and there are other exceptions. Some of these brands' 1.7s are actually arguably sharper. But there's still a culture out there of assuming the 1.4 is better overall.
08-26-2009, 08:39 PM   #29
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QuoteOriginally posted by Andi Lo Quote
I know it was probably worth way more back then due to inflation, but it's interesting that these lenses haven't changed all that much in dollar value in the used market while some zooms have plummeted
Part of the issue there is that quality primes remain much the same, whereas zooms had a lot of fad factor: right about the time when they started getting em more or less *right,* all the R&D went into making em cheaper, smaller, lighter, slower and/or variable aperture, rather than improving them as lenses. By the time Pentax came out with the A series specs we now kinda need, this window was almost closed, actually. But you can still get the glass if you can hack the metering. with the ol' Mk 1 eyeball.

The rationale was that with people presumably using auto exposure all the time, who cared if they were a little slower or variable aperture, which seems a trend that's only gotten worse. In the 80's you couldn't have *paid* me to use an F4-5.6 lens. Now you can have one that does an OK job and doesn't make you suffer too much in the finder.

What this means is that a lot of the zooms from the days of the best build quality were primitive, and a lot of the zooms of more advanced optical design were built for consumer convenience and are no longer anything snazzy. There's this window in there, though, where they made a lot of good stuff. The fact that they were made by the metric s-load means they're still pretty cheap. But there's a lot of stuff out there that isn't impressing anyone and few know the difference anymore. May as well ask what ordinary 80's motorcycle you should buy.
08-26-2009, 09:38 PM   #30
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QuoteOriginally posted by Andi Lo Quote
I know it was probably worth way more back then due to inflation, but it's interesting that these lenses haven't changed all that much in dollar value in the used market while some zooms have plummeted
It's funny the most expensive 35mm Pentax lens in Jan/78 was the K135-600/6.7 zoom at $2,193.90.
The K1000/8 was second at a cost of $1,919.70.

Phil.
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