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01-21-2010, 10:47 PM   #1
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50mm lens pricing

Hi all, my first post here-- be gentle! This place is an amazing resource. I picked up a K20D on Woot last week and have been having fun learning to use it and working on filling out my kit with some more lenses. Which leads me to my question:

I'd like a 50mm prime lens. Since much of my SLR experience dates back to the 80's and 90's, I'm used to the 50mm being the "standard" lens, and reading the article here convinced me I still need one even though I have the kit zoom that covers that range.

But why are they so expensive? I can pick up a 70-300mm lens for a little over $100 that gets great reviews in the lens database. But the 50mm primes with autofocus capability start at around $250 for a lens that's 20+ years old, and go WAY up. What is it about this particular lens (or maybe it's all prime lenses) that causes this? Again, I come from the time when 50mm was the 'kit' lens and rather inexpensive...

Thanks,
-Tim

01-21-2010, 11:03 PM   #2
Damn Brit
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Welcome to the forum.
I'm moving this thread to Beginners Corner because 'NICE' is virtually guaranteed there and also because it will be of benefit to more people.

There have been lots of discussions about the price of the FA 50 which is the most current of the fast fifties. Yes it's an old design but it's one that works. Yes it's over priced but that seems to be what the market can stand. There is also a school of thought that this lens is no longer being made (or at least it's production is being run down) so there is a question of supply and demand

The reviews you have seen are relative to the lens or focal range so a high rating for a 70-300 and a 50mm does not make them equal.

A fixed focal length almost always is a superior lens to a zoom.
The 50mm has a wider maximum aperture than the zoom so that you can take pictures in lower light (ie it is faster) the larger aperture also allows for a smaller depth of field allowing more creativity.
01-21-2010, 11:09 PM   #3
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Hi Tim & welcome. I suspect the $250, 50mm lenses to which you refer are not the "standard" lenses of years past. You are probably talking about the Fa 50 1.4, hardly a standard lens of years past. I think standard 50 of years past is more in line with manual focus, f2 land. You can still buy some great 50mm manual focus lenses for well under a $100, and faster than f2. Prices have recently escalated, true, but if you are from that era, then stop down metering and manual focus should be a cinch.

For example, I bought a never-been-used M 50mm f1.7 off Ebay for under $30--new in box. Sure, this is not an everyday thing, but look and you too will be successful snagging some great old glass--if you choose to. BTW, great choice of camera there, that K20d!
01-21-2010, 11:22 PM   #4
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Thanks for the welcome and comments.

Probably about a decade ago I picked up a 50mm f1.7, autofocus prime for my Minolta Maxxum film SLR for around $35 on eBay in great condition. So I had quite a bit of sticker shock when I saw the prices they're going for today.

If I pick up an 'A' lens, can everything besides focus be done automatically if desired? I'm assuming I still get the focus hints as well?

01-21-2010, 11:32 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by tfischer Quote
Thanks for the welcome and comments.

Probably about a decade ago I picked up a 50mm f1.7, autofocus prime for my Minolta Maxxum film SLR for around $35 on eBay in great condition. So I had quite a bit of sticker shock when I saw the prices they're going for today.

If I pick up an 'A' lens, can everything besides focus be done automatically if desired? I'm assuming I still get the focus hints as well?
'A' means the camera can control aperture and yes focus points and confirmation will be the same.
01-22-2010, 12:43 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by tfischer Quote
If I pick up an 'A' lens, can everything besides focus be done automatically if desired? I'm assuming I still get the focus hints as well?
Yes, with the A-lens, set in A-mode, everything can be done automatically but the focus. The AF light may help you for the manual focus although you may have already some experience.

You can off course put your camera in Manual mode and control manually each relevant parameter of your choice

Welcome to the Pentax forum... and good shooting.

Last edited by hcc; 01-22-2010 at 12:44 AM. Reason: typos
01-22-2010, 04:43 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Damn Brit Quote
Welcome to the forum.
I'm moving this thread to Beginners Corner because 'NICE' is virtually guaranteed there
I just found my signature!
01-22-2010, 05:06 AM   #8
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The price of lenses has been much discussed. You can still get pretty good deals if you are willing to deal with manual focusing, but otherwise, all of the camera companies are selling 50mm f1.4 lenses for about 370. Unfortunately, Pentax doesn't offer a cheap, plastic fantastic version, say a 50mm f2. Probably with the numbers they sell, it wouldn't make much sense, but it certainly would give people a taste of primes who wouldn't get it otherwise.

01-22-2010, 06:39 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by tfischer Quote
I'd like a 50mm prime lens. Since much of my SLR experience dates back to the 80's and 90's, I'm used to the 50mm being the "standard" lens, and reading the article here convinced me I still need one even though I have the kit zoom that covers that range.
It should be noted that if you're used to the field of view of a 50mm lens on your 80s and 90s film cameras, the equivalent on today's APS-C dSLRs is (approximately) a 35mm lens.
01-22-2010, 09:17 AM   #10
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for an A lens I set the aperture ring on the lens to "A"....it selects the aperture automatically that way, but the mode you have to use is "P". in this mode, the camera does everything else except the focus.
01-22-2010, 09:54 AM   #11
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I would suggest getting a fast MF 50mm prime lens to complement your kit lens when you do need that extra stops in situations where the lighting condition is not ideal.

As many forum members have suggested, there are several types of MF used lens available, the A version, the M version (K mount or M42 mount). These lens are inexpensive, and with proper technique, you can get good results and have fun with it.
01-22-2010, 01:11 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by tfischer Quote
Probably about a decade ago I picked up a 50mm f1.7, autofocus prime for my Minolta Maxxum film SLR for around $35 on eBay in great condition.
Supply and demand. A decade ago no one owned a DSLR and everyone already who had a film camera already had a 50mm lens. So there was essentially no market for used 50's. Now, everyone has a DSLR, and many of them want to buy lenses, including 50's. Hence, prices have gone way up. No big surprise there. But manual focus 50's are still quite cheap (supply and demand again).

QuoteQuote:
If I pick up an 'A' lens, can everything besides focus be done automatically if desired? I'm assuming I still get the focus hints as well?
Yes and yes. The A50/1.7 tends to go for between $50 and $100. It's enough better (in IQ - the speed difference is less significant) than the f/2 version to be worth the extra money. The f/1.4 version is probably *not* worth the extra money.

But do note what others have said: if you're accustomed to a 50mm lens on a film camera, unless that was an APS-C film camera, you'll want something closer to 35mm to duplicate that experience on your K20D.
01-22-2010, 06:12 PM   #13
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As Marc said, supply and demand.
If you think that it is far too expensive then don't buy it.
I have had that attitude towards the fast 50mm since it would seem that over eager users are driving the price off the roof!
If we buy them to the price that they should stay, then I would bet we can dictate the market.
If however, we keep on buying even if the prices become ridiculous, then the prices would just keep on going up!
I guess, I will never have a fast 50.
01-22-2010, 11:36 PM   #14
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Why not pick up a cheap KA or K on eBay and go all manual?
01-23-2010, 02:09 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by MikesChevelle Quote
Why not pick up a cheap KA or K on eBay and go all manual?
Yes, you can get a 'M' lens (could be of PENTAX or any other brand), but as you said - then you go all manual. I have both 50mm A f1.7 f2 and found it more easy to control when setting the lens on the 'A' possition (I've also had 50mm M f2, but I'm not a full manual guy, so sold it...).
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