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03-23-2010, 05:02 AM   #1
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85mm vs. 135mm prime

Why is it that the 85mm primes I see are so much more expensive on eBay than the 135mm? Is it just supply and demand? There doesn't seem to be too many 85mms.

And of the 85mm and 135mm old primes, which ones have auto aperture? Thanks!

- Sung

03-23-2010, 05:19 AM   #2
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"A" series lenses have auto aperture.
135mm lenses are a dime a dozen, as they were cheap to manufacture, easy to use and people liked the reach they gave.
85mm lenses were always more of a specialty optic, and they just aren't that common.
03-23-2010, 06:30 AM   #3
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In 35/FF (full-frame 35mm film) days, there seemed to be some "sweet spots" for lens makers. Lenses of 135mm, 50-55mm, 35mm, and to a lesser extent 28mm, were common and fairly inexpensive. Those are outright cheap now. The 28's and 35's were popular as wide- and moderately wide-angles; the 135's were popular as moderate telephotos. (Cheap long teles around 400mm were also made, but weren't necessarily very good.)

Lenses around 50-55mm were sold as the 'normal' focal length, even though a true normal would have been 43mm, the diagonal of a 35/FF frame. For some reason, and I'm not familiar enough with optics to say why, it wasn't hard to make good fast (and not so fast) 50-55mm primes. Many point-and-shoot and rangefinder cameras had non-interchangeable lenses around 43-45mm, but 50-55 was the standard for SLRs.

As Wheatfield said, 85's were more of a specialty niche, as were 90-105mm lenses. 85mm was considered to be a good focal length for portraits, but they had to be fast, with wider apertures, to give the desired softness. Fast often means expensive. The 90-105mm range was common for macro lenses, a good focal length for field shooting, and their demands included extreme sharpness, just the opposite of 85mm glass.

I'm not sure if 85-90-100-105mm lenses with the desired qualities were more difficult (and thus more expensive) to make than the more common focal lengths, but demand for them was more limited. An amateur could shoot decent enough portraits with a 50 or 135, and could add macro tubes for extreme closeups at a fraction of the cost of a macro lens. So fewer lenses in the 85-105 range were made.

Now we use APS-C sensors that are half the area and 2/3 the diagonal of 35/FF frames, and we typically have kit zooms that cover a range equivalent to 28-83mm, the whole wide-to-portrait region. But zooms are still a bit slower than primes. Those old 28's and 35's are now fast wide-normal and long-normal primes. The old fast Nifty Fifty's are great portrait lenses. A 90mm sees the same size image (FOV, field of view) as a 135mm did on 35/FF film, and that's still a good FOV -- but we don't have a legacy of cheap 90's to draw upon. Bother.
03-23-2010, 10:47 AM   #4
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135's were the most common telephoto most people bought for their film cameras along with 200's. I think the large numbers manufacturered are the reason there such good prices on them today. The IQ is pretty darn good though. I think I paid $40 for my M 135/3.5 but it is one of the sharpest lenses in my bag.

03-23-2010, 11:21 AM   #5
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aside from the points mentioned above, it is important to note that 85mm lenses were all FAST.

while there were a lot of F3.5 or F4 135mm lenses, there are far less F2.5 and only a hand full of F1.8's out there.

for 85mm lenses, they were F1.8 to F2 (along with some F1.4 lenses later) and gave very shallow DOF wide open for portraits and isolation of the background.

Still however, an SMC 85F1.8 is about double the price of an SMC 135F2,5, and I think this is simply a function of quantity.

they made more 135's even at F2.5
03-23-2010, 11:45 AM   #6
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Tainted minds want to know!

I still think the question is open as to why the specific sweet spots? 35's and 50's and 55's and the not-so-rare 58's; then 85's, 90's, 100's, 105's; then 135's; then a few (expensive) 180's; then 200's. Why no 44's, no 75's, no 120's, no 155's? Tradition? Demand? Optics? It's not like these are impossible to make. P&S rangefinders often had 45's. MF folders had 65's, 75's, 115's. Why? WHY?!?!? Tainted minds want to know...
03-23-2010, 12:16 PM   #7
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BTW, I believe the new and "relatively" inexpensive ($300-ish) manual 85/1.4's sold on Ebay under various names (Bower, Vivitar, Rokinon etc) are all auto-aperture - that is, they have the "A" position on the aperture ring. The only Pentax 85's I know of with auto-aperture (they have an "A" and/or "F" in their names) are quite a bit more expensive when you can find them. I don't know of any third party 135's with auto aperture (which isn't to say there aren't any), but the Pentax A135/2.8 does and isn't *too* expensive - but not necessarily cheaper than the cheapest 85's.

Personally, I'd save the hundreds of dollars and not worry about auto-aperture. Using M mode is not rocket science.
03-23-2010, 12:47 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
I don't know of any third party 135's with auto aperture (which isn't to say there aren't any), but the Pentax A135/2.8 does and isn't *too* expensive - but not necessarily cheaper than the cheapest 85's.
I obtained a manual Focal MC 135/2.8 for US$26 on eBay last year. Actually, the aperture ring's f-stop sequence has AP at one end and KR at the other. I'm not sure what the KR means. K-mount+Ricoh, maybe? Anyway, it's a decent performer. I also have an Tak bayonet 135/2.5 which cost ALMOST 3X AS MUCH! and requires that pesky M-mode stuff, as well as not shooting into lights. My M42 135's are so much easier. I haven't been hunting for more 135's lately so I don't know (nor care) about availability. There must be some out there somewhere. Seek and find, etc.

QuoteQuote:
Personally, I'd save the hundreds of dollars and not worry about auto-aperture. Using M mode is not rocket science.
Saving lotsa $$$ is good. I do it daily. I must, until the next inheritance rolls in.

03-23-2010, 07:07 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
Why no 44's, no 75's, no 120's, no 155's? Tradition? Demand? Optics?
Tradition mostly.

Plus there is rebranding, which often made one lens design look like a dozen.

But also, once you have the optics for a given focal length it's easier to clone it than to come up with something new. Though this is one reason I love Pentax: 31, 43, 77... ha!
03-24-2010, 09:50 AM   #10
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If you look at the specs on some lenses, the size designation is ofter rounded off. A lot of 50's are actually 49 or maybe 52. Pentax seems to label more of their lenses with the actual size, another thing to set them apart from the crowd besides the high quality. Mention a 43 or 77 to any photographer and they know right off you're talking about Pentax.
03-24-2010, 12:56 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by rparmar Quote
Though this is one reason I love Pentax: 31, 43, 77... ha!
You mean three reasons.....
03-24-2010, 01:47 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
I still think the question is open as to why the specific sweet spots? 35's and 50's and 55's and the not-so-rare 58's; then 85's, 90's, 100's, 105's; then 135's; then a few (expensive) 180's; then 200's. Why no 44's, no 75's, no 120's, no 155's? Tradition? Demand? Optics? It's not like these are impossible to make. P&S rangefinders often had 45's. MF folders had 65's, 75's, 115's. Why? WHY?!?!? Tainted minds want to know...
Originally, lenses were designed without the aid of computers, which made lens design a fairly onerous task. Consequently, the number of focal lengths that were feasible to make was pretty limited.
About the same time that computer design became common, zoom lenses also became common, which to a great extent again limited the need to design new prime focal lengths.
03-24-2010, 03:35 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
Originally, lenses were designed without the aid of computers, which made lens design a fairly onerous task. Consequently, the number of focal lengths that were feasible to make was pretty limited.
About the same time that computer design became common, zoom lenses also became common, which to a great extent again limited the need to design new prime focal lengths.
[shrug] I find pre-computer-era lenses in these 'odd' focal lengths for other formats, just not as interchangeable 35/FF offerings. The mystery remains. Maybe I need to look for a book or other documentation on the history of lens design. Oh boy, another project...
03-24-2010, 04:57 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
[shrug] I find pre-computer-era lenses in these 'odd' focal lengths for other formats, just not as interchangeable 35/FF offerings. The mystery remains. Maybe I need to look for a book or other documentation on the history of lens design. Oh boy, another project...
[shrug] yourself.
Medium and large format have their standards as well, that they are not the same standards as 35mm isn't really important.
You might also notice that things like field of view is similar across formats.
03-24-2010, 05:30 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
I still think the question is open as to why the specific sweet spots? 35's and 50's and 55's and the not-so-rare 58's; then 85's, 90's, 100's, 105's; then 135's; then a few (expensive) 180's; then 200's. Why no 44's, no 75's, no 120's, no 155's? Tradition? Demand? Optics? It's not like these are impossible to make. P&S rangefinders often had 45's. MF folders had 65's, 75's, 115's. Why? WHY?!?!? Tainted minds want to know...
OK lets look at some pentax past and current offerings.

they made takumar (M42) and SMC (K mount) 120mm, and 150mm lenses

they still offer the 77mmF1.8 (close enough to 75mm for you?) as well as the DA70

I think if you look at the full range of focal lengths, you might be surprised that they seem to offer lenses in steps that typically add 30-50% to the focal length,

What you are suggesting is that every maker make lenses in 1mm focal length increments so you have infinite selection. well they do, it's called a zoom. for thosw who prefer to zoom with their feet, and have an acceptable working distance or FOV or Magnification selection offered by the differing focal lenghts offered, in a lens line up you dont need to have one lens at every mm increment.
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