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03-11-2008, 06:12 AM   #1
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K20D + Lenses: Please critique my game plan

Hi All:

I’m within a day or two of purchasing the K20D – my first DSLR. I am extremely excited, and I want to make sure that I make smart decisions about my lenses. I’m here to introduce myself, and also to ask for any input people might have on my game plan.

A few informative details that will hopefully help you guide me in the right direction:

• I usually try to buy the best technology that I can afford, and I’m willing to pay for quality here – especially considering the relative longevity of good glass.
• I prefer portability and ease of operation vs. lugging around a lot of gear to cover every imaginable need. Generally speaking, I’m more open to dealing with extra size/weight than I am to dealing with several extra lenses… unless said lenses are easily portable (e.g. pancakes), and wouldn’t be a hassle to have along with me.
• What I want to shoot:
--- Low-light “nightlife” situations. I am fortunate enough to have access to many of the world’s top DJs. I like to take pictures of them performing.
--- Urban and Landscape Scenery from my travels
--- Candid Portraits of people, though not typically “close-ups”
--- I have a healthy fascination with macro photography
• What I typically don’t shoot:
--- Sports or Wildlife
--- Studio anything
• I’m looking to spend ~$1,500 – 2,000 on glass in the near term


Here are the main lenses I’ve been considering/debating. Please let me know your thoughts…my head is spinning!

My Top Considerations:
• Pentax SMC DA* 16-50mm f/2.8 – $669
• Pentax SMC DA* 50-135mm f/2.8 – $757
• Pentax DA 18-250mm (or Tamron) – $449
• Pentax DA 12-24mm f/4 ED AL (IF) – $701
• Pentax SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 – $195


My thoughts:
• Quality control issues aside, it seems like the *16-50 is a very nice/fast/versatile lens, and that it would provide a solid foundation upon which to build out the rest of my kit. The versatility (i.e. less need to change lenses), quick shift focus, SDM, weather seals and the overall feeling that I’d have “the best” are all appealing to me. I imagine it would be a great workhorse.
• To fill out the longer focal range(s), I’m debating between the *50-135 and the 18-250. The latter option would provide good IQ, increased focal range and some Macro capabilities (right?) for a $300 savings. The flip-side is that I’m guessing I’d be less-than-pleased with the results of rhe 18-250 indoors or in lower-light situations. Any thoughts about this tradeoff?
• Assuming I do go with the *16-50, would adding the DA12-24mm be a waste of money? It seems like a great wide-angle, but perhaps my gains would be mostly negligible considering the level of investment.
• Along those same lines, would adding the FA 50mm 1.4 really provide much added benefit?
• If neither the 12-24 or 50mm make sense, then I may consider the Pentax DA 10-17mm Fish-Eye.
• If the Macro capabilities of the 18-250 aren’t great (or if I don’t go that route), I may look at the D FA 100mm f/2.8 Macro.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, and I look forward to participating in what seems to be a very cool community of talented Pentax enthusiasts!

-Jason

03-11-2008, 06:30 AM   #2
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If you want macro, get yourself a macro lens. None of the consumer zooms that carry "macro" in their designation really go very close, not nearly close enough to be worthy of the name. They allow what could be called close focus at most.
What kind of macro you are interested in should be the next question. If insects you should look at least at a 1:1 macro lens around 90/100mm or longer. There are a few options, the pentax one being the DFA100/2.8. If you prefer more static macro subjects, perhaps a wider lens would be more practical as this will allow a shorter working distance, the newly announced DA35/2.8 macro limited comes to mind as ideal for this.

Combine that macro lens with the DA*16-50/2.8 and DA*50-135/2.8 and you are nicely within budget. I cannot see your needing any longer than 135mm since you say you have no interest in wildlife and I don't see you mention sports either. The 16mm should cover landscape nicely and 135mm is long enough for any kind of portrait imho.

One more note... you mention quality issues with the DA* lenses. Even before the K20D some suggested that most problems with the DA* glass were encountered by K10D users (myself among them). And now the K20D seems to be spot on with the DA* lenses perhaps this confirms it was just the SDM implementation in the K10D which was not perfect? Since it was added through firmware, it couldn't be properly calibrated, which is possible in the K20D since SDM support comes as a factory setting. Whatever the reason, as far as we can tell after the short period the K20D is with us, using DA* glass on the K20D is not really a risk at all...

hth, Wim
03-11-2008, 06:31 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by jasonwarth Quote
• Assuming I do go with the *16-50, would adding the DA12-24mm be a waste of money? It seems like a great wide-angle, but perhaps my gains would be mostly negligible considering the level of investment.
• Along those same lines, would adding the FA 50mm 1.4 really provide much added benefit?
You might consider going the other route -- skip the 16-50 and get the above two instead. Maybe eventually get the FA 35mm f/2 to fill in the gap in the middle there.
03-11-2008, 06:36 AM   #4
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My two cents and opinion if you want a decent array of lenses for the situations you mentioned are:

Pentax SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 - because everyone should own this lens, why? It's simply one of the best values for quality and price. Wonderful low light and general focal length shots. It can be tack sharp and also offer very nice depth of field, depending on the aperture settings. It's small, it's pretty much unbeatable for this focal length.

Pentax SMC DA* 16-50mm f/2.8 - good range, good quality, nice and wide, wothout being fishy...great for landscapes.

Pentax DA 18-250mm (or Tamron) - Great all around lens. nice and wide when you want to be and nice reach when you need it. Not the sharpest at ultra wide or ultra close, but overall a very nice lens which you can carry on the camera (because it's not huge) at pretty much all times and not have to worry about switching lenses or carrying a large bag with you if on foot for a day. If you do have a tripod, no matter which size, can take some really nice low light shots as well.

These three lenses should cost around $1300 for the trio and will give a you an excellent range of focal lengths as well as for most light and speed situations.

Good luck.

Jas


Last edited by Jasvox; 03-11-2008 at 06:37 AM. Reason: because spelling matters
03-11-2008, 07:42 AM   #5
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Since low light is important, two lenses will do the job.
1. Focal range of about 16mm to 50 (or 70mm).
The Pentax SMC DA* 16-50mm f/2.8 would be perfect. Also consider the Tamron 17-50mm constant f/2.8 or the Sigma 17-70mm, but this may not be fast enough on the long end.

2. 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. This is sweet spot, "must have" focal range for photojournalists. It will allow you to get candid shots by standing in the distance, unobserved by the subject. Tamron and Sigma (will ship soon) offer high quality lenses in this range with constant f/2.8 aperture. Pentax will offer a 60-250mm constant f/4 * lens, but won't ship until the summer (?) and may be too slow for your needs.

200mm isn't just for wildlife photographers. It WILL come in handy for shooting people.

Other considerations - weather sealing, size/weight (the 70-200mm f/2.8's are BIG) and whether you need HSM or SDM.

If you want to get really wide, you'll need a third lens. IMHO 16 or 17mm is fine for landscapes. I find that folks just getting into DSLR photography want to capture "everything" in a shot - more than the human eye can take in, but that is a topic for a different thread!

The Pentax SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 is a poor choice base on your stated needs. It doesn't have macro capabilities, and that focal range will be redundant and will end up on the shelf.

Last edited by superfuzzy; 03-11-2008 at 07:48 AM. Reason: typo fixed
03-11-2008, 08:18 AM   #6
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For "nightlife" photos

The versatiltiy of the 16-50* would be appreciated, however, at f2.8 its a full stop slower than the FA limiteds.

Also, the limiteds are small and unobtrusive. So shooting in clubs etc... you might appreciat ethe smaller and faster lenses. To avoid switching lenses often (and carrying lenses in your pockets or a small bag, you would change your shooting style to shoot with a prime perspective. Moving to get in position for the shot, rather than zooming to frame.

Anyway. these are all good choices. I would suggest starting with the 16-50* and waiting to see if you feel you need to get something longer, faster, wider etc... but have the list of your options ready to order...

LBA (Lens Buying Addiction) strikes quick and hard.
03-11-2008, 08:28 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by kmccanta Quote
The versatiltiy of the 16-50* would be appreciated, however, at f2.8 its a full stop slower than the FA limiteds...
Good advice to start off with the 16-50*, especially since he's getting a k20d (great performance at high iso...). At f/2.8 the depth of field is already razor thin. I can't see the need to get anything faster.
03-11-2008, 08:29 AM   #8
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for shooting in a club or music hall, the 50mm 1.4 is a fantastic choice. If you want to do macro with it, look elsewhere, bit for a low light, fast lens, its perfect. I disagree with a previous poster about redundancy, it's a fantastic lens. If you learn to use it, it may be your number 1 lens eventually.

Jas

03-11-2008, 08:30 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by jasonwarth Quote
My Top Considerations:
• Pentax SMC DA* 16-50mm f/2.8 – $669
• Pentax SMC DA* 50-135mm f/2.8 – $757
• Pentax DA 18-250mm (or Tamron) – $449
• Pentax DA 12-24mm f/4 ED AL (IF) – $701
• Pentax SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 – $195
Don't forget the Pentax DA 16-45 f/4--one of the best buys available.



QuoteQuote:
To fill out the longer focal range(s), I’m debating between the *50-135 and the 18-250. The latter option would provide good IQ, increased focal range and some Macro capabilities (right?) for a $300 savings. The flip-side is that I’m guessing I’d be less-than-pleased with the results of rhe 18-250 indoors or in lower-light situations. Any thoughts about this tradeoff?
The Tamron is pretty decent, but the Pentax 50-135 is definitely a superior lens. The Tamron is mainly a walking-around outdoors lens.


QuoteQuote:
Assuming I do go with the *16-50, would adding the DA12-24mm be a waste of money? It seems like a great wide-angle, but perhaps my gains would be mostly negligible considering the level of investment.
NO. There's a pretty noticeable difference between 12 and 16--even between 16 and 18! Don't forget the Sigma 10-20. I have it and like it very much.

QuoteQuote:
Along those same lines, would adding the FA 50mm 1.4 really provide much added benefit?
Great question. I have the 50 f/1.4 and I keep it for situations in which I really really need that f/1.4. But there aren't very many of those situations and in fact I don't use the 50 f/1.4 as much as I use the Pentax 35 f/2.

QuoteQuote:
If the Macro capabilities of the 18-250 aren’t great (or if I don’t go that route), I may look at the D FA 100mm f/2.8 Macro.
Of course I can't begin to say what YOU will end up liking. But I've owned the 18-250 (Tamron) and sold it. I won't buy it again, not because it's not a good lens, but because I just didn't use it. I would really like to hat the 100 f/2.8 however (or its Sigma or Tamron counterparts).

Good luck!

Will
03-11-2008, 08:45 AM   #10
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public forum advice from me:

get the 16-50 2.8 and the 50-135 2.8
you said you arent going to do sports or wildlife.....but keep in mind that you could consider a 70-200 2.8 because that reach is sometimes invaluable. I shoot weddings and I would love to get a 300-500mm.

I was shooting clubs for a magazine for a while. The 50 1.4 may be a very fast lens...great. However, in a club/dj situation, I learned that when it's crowded, you may not have the room to move to compose.
Consider this assignment I had. Sarah Jean Underwood, playmate of the year 2007 was my main vip to cover once. The club was elbow to elbow and knee to knee.....everybody wants to see her, everyone is excited and wants to dance. You dont get to move around in a situation like that.
Club photography means you will probably stay on your wide, in my experience.

...done rambling.

8)
03-11-2008, 09:00 AM   #11
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First let me say that I don't want to sound patronizing,
But as excited as you are about the new K20D You need to remember that a lot of people are not satisfied with thier first camera (It can be for a lot of reasons) and move on to a different brand. I expect you will be happy with the K20D. But here is what I think you should do: before investing in a lot of expensive glass I would recommend that you spend some time (maybe 2 weeks)shooting with a "plain" prime lens. I'd recomend the pentax 50 2.0 A.
It's dirt cheap, but can produce excellent images. You will learn alot about the camera, and it will give you a point of perspective from which to judge your future lens purchases.
I'm in the waiting mode to see if the new DA35mm macro is going to hit the shelves anytime soon, and went out sunday afternoon with just the 50mm and below is an example of what it can do:
Attached Images
 

Last edited by Levi; 03-11-2008 at 09:08 AM.
03-11-2008, 11:16 AM   #12
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.


I think you should consider the 77mm limited, also. More telephoto than the 50, razor sharp stopped down a couple, and still very sharp wide open at f/1.8. It's an excellent short telephoto low light lens, and judging by the amount of research you appear to have done, you know it's reputation well already.

My lineup would be:

DA* 16-50 2.8
DA* 50-135 2.8
FA 50 1.4
77 1.8

That's a tad over your $2000 mark, but you could leave out the FA 50 if you'd like, the 77ltd covers low light almost as well, and the focal length is fairly close.

16mm is actually pretty wide - the 12-24 is nice, but slower, and I'd bet that you'll end up needing the extra speed more often than the extra width.

I love my Tamron 18-250, but it's just not in any way a low light lens, and the 50-135 with a 1.7 TC gets you out to 220 with maybe a bit better IQ and one stop advantage still over the 18-250 - if you do need that 200mm+ reach.

EDIT: I forgot macro. OK, drop the FA 50 for sure, and find a SMC-M 50mm f/4 macro. I found one for $125 shipped, and it's very, very good. You don't really need AF for macro anyway.


.
03-11-2008, 11:30 AM   #13
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Superfuzzy,

I used this DoF calculator... Online Depth of Field Calculator
then I cut the circle of confusion in half from what it uses if you select a K20 (from 0.02mm to 0.01 mm)

at 10 ft subject distance using the 31mm focal length as an example...
f1.8 has 1.12 ft of DoF
f2.0 has 1.26 ft of DoF
f2.8 has 1.79 ft of DoF

So I disagree that at f2.8 the DoF is already razor thin. The cropped sensor is helping out here because the DoF is so much deeper at ~28mm-35mm focal length compared to the 50mm "normal" focal length of 35mm film days.

At 50mm f2.8 compared to f1.8 gets you .68ft v.s .43ft Still usable, but a lot closer to the "razor" thin you are expecting.

In my experience, stopping motion in low light is much harder and more important than DoF.
03-11-2008, 04:05 PM   #14
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Original Poster
I want to thank all of you for your thoughtful input. I was going to try to do a multi-quote reply to all this, but it just seems easier to do it this way.


- Happy to see that most of you support the idea of the *16-50. I feel like I need that lens, and I've decided to pick it up.

- I think I'll skip the *50-135 in favor of the Tamron 18-250. That just seems to make more sense to me right now... and frees up some cash to fuel my new-found LBA -- which has kicked into full gear before I own a single one!!! :-D

- I think I will go ahead and pick up the Pentax SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4. It sounds like there are lots of reasons to love this lens, and since it's so affordable, I'm inclined to pick it up even if it's partly redundant. Since I have pretty good range of motion in the club environment, I could possibly alter my shooting style to use primes. I think the 50mm 1.4 will be a good "testing" lens for that, and if I like it, I may go for some other primes in the future.

- I'm still really want the 12-24 (and the 10-17 fisheye)

- I appreciate Ishpuini and jsherman's Macro advice

If I had to guess, I'll eventually buy ALL these lenses. Haha! In the short term, here's how I think I'll net out based upon my own feelings and research + all the input here:

• Pentax DA 12-24mm f/4 ED AL (IF) – $701
• Pentax SMC DA* 16-50mm f/2.8 – $669
• Pentax SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 – $195
• Pentax DA 18-250mm (or Tamron) – $449

Grand Total: $2,014

All I have to do now is sell the K100D/18-55 kit that my dad decided he didn't want, so I can raise a little cash.

Thanks again to all of you for your help on these important decisions. Feel free to keep it comin'...

-J
03-11-2008, 06:59 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by jasonwarth Quote
I want to thank all of you for your thoughtful input. I was going to try to do a multi-quote reply to all this, but it just seems easier to do it this way.


- Happy to see that most of you support the idea of the *16-50. I feel like I need that lens, and I've decided to pick it up.

- I think I'll skip the *50-135 in favor of the Tamron 18-250. That just seems to make more sense to me right now... and frees up some cash to fuel my new-found LBA -- which has kicked into full gear before I own a single one!!! :-D
...
...

If I had to guess, I'll eventually buy ALL these lenses. Haha! In the short term, here's how I think I'll net out based upon my own feelings and research + all the input here:

• Pentax DA 12-24mm f/4 ED AL (IF) – $701
• Pentax SMC DA* 16-50mm f/2.8 – $669
• Pentax SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 – $195
• Pentax DA 18-250mm (or Tamron) – $449

Grand Total: $2,014

All I have to do now is sell the K100D/18-55 kit that my dad decided he didn't want, so I can raise a little cash.

Thanks again to all of you for your help on these important decisions. Feel free to keep it comin'...

-J


That would be an excellent group, IMO, and you'd be very happy with it.

I think you're leaving out what may be the best lens, though - the 50-135. I prefer it to my 16-50 - it's just very nice to have super sharpness, incredible IQ, and f/2.8 at 70mm, 90mm, 135mm... If I had the 12-24, I probably wouldn't have bought my 16-50.

Just MO, the lenses you list are just fine.


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