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07-13-2010, 07:48 AM   #1
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overhauling my setup: fewer lenses, new body?

After a few years of happy shooting and accumulation of gear, I feel I should stop, reflect, and see where I want to go with this. Here's what I have:

*ist DS (with split prism focus screen)
Zenitar 16/2.8 fisheye (doesn't get a lot of use since the DA21, but I like it)
DA 21/3.2 (love it)
M 28/2.8 (haven't used since I got the 35)
A 35/2 (good lens, but a bit bulky for a walk-around lens to my taste, always pick 21 and 50 instead)
A 50/1.7 (love the IQ, but longish as walk-around and shortish for portraits)
M 85/2 (not impressed with wide open performance, and that's why I got it)
M 100/2.8 (nice)
supertak 105/2.8 (never used as I couldn't find an adapter easily and I enjoyed the M100)
M 135/3.5 (haven't used since I got the 100, but I like it)
DA 18-55 (I know it's not a bad lens, I just never ever use it)

Here's what I don't like:
-low light performance: I could use another stop or two in theatre/music situations.
-I've got too many lenses. If I hardly use them, I see no reason in having them. would prefer 3 to 5 lenses that work for everything, rather than picking a specific tool for a specific job.

Here's what I do like:
-well built, small primes (surprise!), so I can throw my camera in a bag with only a little protection against scratches, but without bulky padding
-manual focus (although I don't mind the 21 to be autofocus)

Here's what I use:
-for travel I use a 21-50-100 kit, with the 100 being used the least because it's too long.
-for walking around, it's often 21 and 50
-for low light work, it's usually the 50, and on a recent cramped-location dark theatre thing I used the zen, 35, 50, and 85.

Here's the plan:
-sell the 28,35,85,105, and maybe 135 and kitlens if they yield anything, and get a K-x. SR and high ISO abilities give me around 3 stops extra, of which 1 is lost by using slower glass sometimes. Increased resolution allows me to crop from 21 to get 35 FOV and 50 for 85 FOV. For shallow DOF, the 100 works about as well as the 85.
-I then have a 21-50-100 kit which performs better in low light than the DS+16-35-50-85 kit, and I always have the right lenses: no more tough decisions before I go out...
-If I find some money somewhere, I could get a DA70 and voigtlander 40/2 (or FA43/1.9) instead of the 50, and maybe trade the 100 in for a 135 or longer again, making the basic kit 21-40-70, with wide (16) and tele (135) extentions.
-For the time being, I'd like to keep the DS as backup and risky shootings body, but I'd have to see how often that would happen in practice.

So it sounds like I have it all figured out, why do I post this still?
-Do y'all think the logic is sound? Anything I forgot that I would really miss if I let go of a bunch of these lenses? Better options?
-My computer is not that fast, does the double resolution of the K-x mean twice the waiting time during PP, or is it actually less than that?

07-13-2010, 07:58 AM   #2
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That sounds like a good plan. No use keeping what you don't really use. You should find a good home for that stuff.
07-13-2010, 08:05 AM   #3
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My computer's not fast either (G4 Mac) but the extra resolution of the Kx shouldn't hurt you that much. However, the Pentax Utility program is real sluggish, and I even had problems with it crashing on my PC at the office. So I just browse via Photoshop.
07-13-2010, 11:01 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by urje Quote
After a few years of happy shooting and accumulation of gear, I feel I should stop, reflect, and see where I want to go with this. Here's what I have:

*ist DS (with split prism focus screen)
Zenitar 16/2.8 fisheye (doesn't get a lot of use since the DA21, but I like it)
DA 21/3.2 (love it)
M 28/2.8 (haven't used since I got the 35)
A 35/2 (good lens, but a bit bulky for a walk-around lens to my taste, always pick 21 and 50 instead)
A 50/1.7 (love the IQ, but longish as walk-around and shortish for portraits)
M 85/2 (not impressed with wide open performance, and that's why I got it)
M 100/2.8 (nice)
supertak 105/2.8 (never used as I couldn't find an adapter easily and I enjoyed the M100)
M 135/3.5 (haven't used since I got the 100, but I like it)
DA 18-55 (I know it's not a bad lens, I just never ever use it)
huh???

07-13-2010, 11:40 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by urje Quote

-If I find some money somewhere, I could get a DA70 and voigtlander 40/2 (or FA43/1.9) instead of the 50, and maybe trade the 100 in for a 135 or longer again, making the basic kit 21-40-70, with wide (16) and tele (135) extentions.
-For the time being, I'd like to keep the DS as backup and risky shootings body, but I'd have to see how often that would happen in practice.
IMO you're better off with the DA70 and DA40 as their AF capacity and "bounce" on digital will get you better IQ in questionable light than messing around with an expensive MF at a marginal stop faster. With DA21 you're set with a DA set at a more reasonable price than the FA's. Through in the DA 15 and what's to lose.

As an option, the DA 35 Macro over the DA40.

Your post pretty much sums up the thinking behind the DA series line.
07-14-2010, 01:51 AM   #6
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Thanks for all the replies

QuoteOriginally posted by yeatzee Quote
huh???
well yes, it could be my copy, but although it's twice as expensive, i don't think it's better than my 100/2.8. Or maybe I can't appreciate 'portrait softness'.

QuoteOriginally posted by Aristophanes Quote
IMO you're better off with the DA70 and DA40 as their AF capacity and "bounce" on digital will get you better IQ in questionable light than messing around with an expensive MF at a marginal stop faster.
Maybe you're right, it'll be some time before i get the lenses anyway, so I'll think about it. At the moment I feel I would miss the extra stop for low light and dof control at this FL, and I don't mind MF.
07-14-2010, 08:34 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by urje Quote
Thanks for all the replies

Maybe you're right, it'll be some time before i get the lenses anyway, so I'll think about it. At the moment I feel I would miss the extra stop for low light and dof control at this FL, and I don't mind MF.
At that FL the DOF difference is measured in inches, so the latitude would only be apparent on extreme close-ups. You'd be trading a soft f/2 for an AF sharp f/2.8. the difference in brightness in low-light would be more than offset by the better pairing of the DA and its AF advantages. You're shooting digital, so an easy EV change is more IQ resilient than anything else.
07-14-2010, 09:12 AM   #8
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Im not sure how you can be much sharper than this wideopen?







etc. etc...


Last edited by yeatzee; 07-14-2010 at 11:08 AM.
07-14-2010, 10:40 AM   #9
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@ aristophanes: that's the first time I hear someone call it a 'soft f/2', but I think I'll pay some attention to when I think I 'need' f/1.7 or f/2 with my 50 from now on, and make the decision when it's due.

@yeatzee: yes, I've seen those images before and they're great indeed. Maybe I don't give the 85 enough time to show what it's worth, but up to now I don't like the glowing effect it produces:

That's wide open, 100% crop on a DS (so around 50% on a modern body, to get an idea of the width of the effect?)
I know pixel peeping is not the way to appreciate a lens, and I'm not saying it's a bad lens at all, it's just that the 100/2.8 doesn't do it, so I find that one more useful wide open (also when I'm not shooting portraits). And although metering works when stopping down an 'M' lens, wide open in 'Av' mode is just a tad bit quicker and easier...
07-14-2010, 11:11 AM   #10
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Do you have any real world shots @ F/2 with the lens?

Listen, everyone has their personal preferences and such.... if you don't like the lens by all means sell it, but when I hear someone say its soft I can't help but interject.
07-14-2010, 12:06 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by yeatzee Quote
Im not sure how you can be much sharper than this wideopen?


etc. etc...
No Photozone on the 85/2, but as with any lens, the MTF at f/2 is going to be compromised somewhat unless stopped down. It's unavoidable. Maybe he has a bad copy. the closest one comes is the FA 77:

Pentax SMC-FA 77mm f/1.8 Limited - Review / Test Report - Analysis

or you could compare to the Tamron 90 Macro:

Tamron AF 90mm f/2.8 Di SP macro (Pentax) - Review / Lab Test Report - Analysis

Your samples appear reasonably sharp, though the frontlit portrait may not be. Now, if you like OOF ears, noses, other body parts, then wide open may be acceptable. One of the probs I immediately see with these samples is that you've lost shadow detail as a result. This occurs across multiple shots, canine or people or baseball cap. That's not necessarily sharpness, I will caveat.

If that single look repeated is what you want, go for it.

What is notable between the MTF's on the FA 77 and the Tamron 90 is that even a Limited lens loses MTF until aperture gets to 2.8. Same for the FA 43, 31, FA 50, and so on. Same for Canon, Nikon, etc. Maybe not the Leica 0.95, if you have $10k.

If you want sharp wide open shooting with maximal resolution in the "excellent" range, you should aim at an f/2.8 lens. That will give you the sharpest resolution (and probably contrast, colour fidelity) bang for your buck. It also gives you much better AF as the system needs DOF to be more accurate. A lens designed for f/2.8 can be shot wide open with any loss of resolution between 2.8 and 5.6 almost negligible. A wide open sub/f2.8 will always lead to "soft" debates. It's right there in comparative MTF's.
07-14-2010, 12:06 PM   #12
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Well, the 'real world' shots I wouldn't mind sharing don't really show the quality of the lens, as they're made under really bad lighting conditions (high iso, slow shutter). But if your point is going to be that it doesn't look bad at web sizes, or when you don't have this sharp black/white contrast, you're right of course. But if I compare what I'm seeing here with the 100% crops of the eyes in your review of the lens, I think yours doesn't show this effect as much as mine does.

Then again, your perseverance does make me feel like I should give this one a proper chance, so I guess I'll go out shooting with it soon.
07-14-2010, 12:19 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by aristophanes Quote
no photozone on the 85/2, but as with any lens, the mtf at f/2 is going to be compromised somewhat unless stopped down. It's unavoidable. Maybe he has a bad copy.
what are you talking about? Of course its least sharp wideopen (well when not counting in diffraction at higher apertures).
the closest one comes is the fa 77:

pentax smc-fa 77mm f/1.8 limited - review / test report - analysis

or you could compare to the tamron 90 macro:

tamron af 90mm f/2.8 di sp macro (pentax) - review / lab test report - analysis
what do these have to do with the m 85mm?

your samples appear reasonably sharp, though the frontlit portrait may not be. it is....
now, if you like oof ears, noses, other body parts, then wide open may be acceptable. One of the probs i immediately see with these samples is that you've lost shadow detail as a result. This occurs across multiple shots, canine or people or baseball cap. That's not necessarily sharpness, i will caveat. im giving examples of the lens wideopen. Of course the ears and noses etc. Are out of focus. Shadow detail is lost because of my editing, and has nothing to do with the lens. It appears you know little of what your talking about if you would attribute loss of shadow detail to the lens in these instances.

if that single look repeated is what you want, go for it.
once again, im giving examples of real world snapshots of friends at f/2.

what is notable between the mtf's on the fa 77 and the tamron 90 is that even a limited lens loses mtf until aperture gets to 2.8. Same for the fa 43, 31, fa 50, and so on. Same for canon, nikon, etc. Maybe not the leica 0.95, if you have $10k. so what? I never said the lens was at its peak sharpness wideopen. Also, your comparing a macro lens to a normal portrait lens.... The macro was specially designed to be ridiculously sharp.

if you want sharp wide open shooting with maximal resolution in the "excellent" range, you should aim at an f/2.8 lens. That will give you the sharpest resolution (and probably contrast, colour fidelity) bang for your buck. It also gives you much better af as the system needs dof to be more accurate. A lens designed for f/2.8 can be shot wide open with any loss of resolution between 2.8 and 5.6 almost negligible. A wide open sub/f2.8 will always lead to "soft" debates. It's right there in comparative mtf's. why would you do that when you can just stop down the faster lens, which in most cases will be sharper than the f/2.8 lens.
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Last edited by yeatzee; 07-14-2010 at 12:26 PM.
07-14-2010, 04:00 PM   #14
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Not sure why you quoted the way you did...

Your earlier post appeared to dispute the sharpness issue:

"... if you don't like the lens by all means sell it, but when I hear someone say its soft I can't help but interject....

"Least sharp" was your rebuttal about the 85 at f/2, which can equal "soft" to many observers.

The MTF on almost all sub-f/2.8 lenses back that up as that drop usually, including in FA Limited lenses, leads to a decrease in resolution, both centre and corner. This is visible softness.

That is what the OP noticed and is backed up by empirical data. Granted, the 85/s is so old it's got no MTF using modern techniques, but there are equivalents. My Rokkor 85/2 shows exactly the same pattern of "least sharp" or "soft" at its sub/f.28 aperture:

Minolta MC and MD Lens Tests

As does the Canon from Photozone:

Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 USM L II - Full Format Review / Test - Analysis

Please note the final comment about "relatively soft borders/corners..."

That's what you get from a larger aperture lens. Only at a very limited centre spot is it able to match the sharpness in the centre.

What is noticeable about all these lenses is they are about equally sharp by f/4. In fact, the Luminous Landscapes review of the Leica f0.95 stated unequivocally that:

"Nowhere is this better illustrated that with Leica’s lens lineup. Their 50mm f 0.95 Noctilux maybe one of the greatest optical achievements in film photography, delivering millimeters of razor sharpness even wide open. But stopped down, it is, at most, an equal to the spectacular 50mm F/1.4 ASPH, which readily overtakes its performance at ordinary working apertures."

50mm f1.1 Nokton

Generally, most lenses in a higher-end price range (and more moderately priced macros), will perform almost identically well with resolution stopped down a little, which generally buries your argument that a faster lens stopped down outperforms an f/2.8. They don't, not on the MTF's.

What you pay for with a faster lens is the DOF and bokeh (arguable...it's not always better), and perhaps some low light advantage, but not always, especially as AF struggles with shallow DOF.

So there are trade-offs, one of which being price. Certainly the high-ISO capabilities and easy EV access, plus the rise of FF in digital, makes super-fast lenses more rare because they are simply not needed for the effects they produce. That's why manufacturer consensus is to not make them Too expensive and the pros that might buy them to warranty the investment are more likely to get those effects in PP. Super-fast glass competes with Photoshop.

With regards to your photos, they have considerable softness where one would expect. Reasonably sharp around the eyes, OOF elsewhere, and lost shadow detail. Could be the lens, the light, or the PP, hard to know. We do know universally that if you lose resolution, you lose detail. The frontlit one is not as sharp as the others and is less sharp than many a stopped down lens I have used in film and digital. But then again, we know that. We know that because at f/2 the 85mm is going to have a lesser MTF value regardless of your opinion because that's what the empirical evidence says. Just because you says so using a "real world" example, doesn't mean its' true.

Finally, this thread is the mirror image and goes to the exact heart of the point I am making:

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/107358-fa-31-soft.html

This whole "fast glass' issue has been full of the exact same myths since the 1970's when I first started shooting. It's the never-ending meme.


QuoteOriginally posted by yeatzee Quote
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Last edited by Aristophanes; 07-14-2010 at 04:57 PM. Reason: Added other PF reference
07-14-2010, 04:58 PM   #15
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I'll gladly trade some advise or the A 35F2 also the super tak 105

seriously though, I see you keeping the M85F2 when you don;t like it, I have to question that?

otherwise, the 100 is of less use in my opinion than the 135 but I would try for the F2.5 not the F3.5

I would think for digital, the 16, 21, 28, 50, a better 85 (perhaps the samyang F1.4) and 135 would be the kit to go for.
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