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11-23-2014, 02:37 PM   #1
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Help me with a Christmas Gift

Hi everyone,

I am looking to get a Christmas gift for my wife, but I have no idea what I'm looking for/talking about, so I've come here for help.

She has a Pentax K-x with 2 different lenses. I believe the only difference between the two is that one has a better zoom. She takes great pictures but has trouble getting clear crisp images during sporting events or when our kids are in the middle of wild play time. They have a tendency to blur even with her flash up (if that's even an option at the time).

Is this something that I could solve by purchasing a different kind of lense? If so, what am I looking for and do you have any suggestions?

Would like to keep it under $600 if at all possible.

Thanks in advance for you help!

11-23-2014, 03:37 PM   #2
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I would first advise watching her closely while shooting to see if it is her blurring the photos. I just might not be the lens or the camera. Having said that, if it is a problem with her technique, don't tell her. Have someone else tell her. As you probably know, a husband or wife usually can't correct their spouse.
11-23-2014, 03:42 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rimfiredude Quote
As you probably know, a husband or wife usually can't correct their spouse.
No I didn't but I'll "take it under advisement" from now on.
11-23-2014, 03:45 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rimfiredude Quote
I would first advise watching her closely while shooting to see if it is her blurring the photos. I just might not be the lens or the camera. Having said that, if it is a problem with her technique, don't tell her. Have someone else tell her. As you probably know, a husband or wife usually can't correct their spouse.
Why not? My parents did. I wouldn't think twice about offering some tips if I saw my SO was struggling with something and I could help. You do have to be nice about it, of course, but that goes for anyone you're teaching. Being superior or sarcastic is not the way to go about teaching anyone anything, but if you're a good teacher I don't think it should matter if you are related.

The only time I ever had a problem with a family member teaching me was when Dad started to teach me to drive. He was just not the person for that. There were lots of other things he taught me that he was a good teacher for but not that. Trying to teach anyone to drive brings out the absolute worst in him apparently and he was the first to admit it, that he just wasn't good at it. He finally sent me to driving school, which turned out to be a good thing for him as now he can't drive and I do all the time...

11-23-2014, 03:46 PM   #5
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first thought is what is the shutter speed no. sounds like its too slow for what she is doing. have here shoot in shutter priority mode and see if that correct the problem
11-23-2014, 04:38 PM   #6
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The usual zooms you get with the k-x tend to be a little slow at the long end, especially indoors or in low light (I'm going to take a guess she has the DAL 18-55mm, and DAL 50-200mm ?)

The problem here is probably f-stop. The f-number is a ratio that indicates how much light is let in - the smaller the number, the better! It's a non linear scale, so f2.8 lets in a hell of a lot more light than f3.5. The zooms have a variable aperture, f3.5 at the wide end (18 or 50), and f5.6 at the long end (55 or 200). If she's zooming in a lot, the camera will need a slower shutter speed to get the correct exposure. This can lead to blur due to slight movement when the shutter is open. Technique can help, as can a tripod, but the easiest option is to get a lens with a bigger aperture!

So in theory, you're basically looking for a high quality zoom lens at longer focal lengths (for sports at any rate). The problem is that they are extremely expensive, and very heavy. (Eg 50-250 DA* f2.8)

As a result, I think you're going to need to look at prime lenses (ie lenses that only have one fixed focal length).

If she puts her photos on Flickr, it may be worth having a look at the info on the images to get an idea of what focal length she uses most often. Alternatively, turn on her camera, press the play button to view the images, and if you can't see picture details (eg 35mm f4.5), then press the info button until that appears

The two plastic fantastic primes (DA 50mm f1.8 and DA 35mm f2.4) are great value, much sharper, faster, and much better in low light. 35mm is a 'normal' length (similar to the human eye). 50mm is a bit narrower - usually used for head and shoulders portraits. Just those two alone will be an absolute revelation to her! (I'd say the 35mm is a no brainier - it's the most general purpose focal length - and therefore the one that will see most use)

Those two are probably a bit too wide for sporting events though . Great all round lenses otherwise, and fairly cheap. Those are worth considering (she'll probably stop using the zooms altogether)

If she shoots a lot at zoomed in lengths (70+ mm), then maybe consider the DA 70mm f2.4 limited, or the DFA 100mm f2.8 WR Macro. The 70 is basically a fast-focussing portrait lens, and the macro will give her endless hour of fun taking pictures of insects and flowers. Macros aren't known for being the fastest focussing lenses, so that might not make it an ideal lens for sports, however the f2.8 f-stop will let in much more light than the zooms, allowing her to use faster shutter speeds. I'd prefer to shoot sports with that, compared to the 50-200.

All of those lenses are significantly sharper than her zooms, work better in lower light, and have good bokeh (the word used to describe the nice blurring you get in areas that are out of focus)

Whilst not really answering your exact question, I'd possibly go for the DA 35mm f2.4 (buy it second hand - they've recently been given away with cameras, so finding a more-or-less new one on eBay will be pretty easy). Everyone needs a good standard prime (it'll be perfect for general family photos). I'd pair that with either the 70 or the 100 (which are both metal with far higher build quality). The 100 adds macro capabilities, the 70 is faster focussing with a slightly bigger aperture - great for portraits.

Failing that, you can't go wrong with the two plastic fantastics (maybe upgrade the 50mm f1.8 to a DFA 50mm 2.8 macro? It's the cheapest of the macro lenses, and will give her hours of endless fun chasing insects)

Obligatory link to lens databases.

DA Zoom lenses:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/lensreviews/SMC-Pentax-DA-Zoom-Lenses-c43.html

DA primes:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/lensreviews/SMC-Pentax-DA-Lenses-c34.html

DFA primes:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/lensreviews/SMC-Pentax-DFA-Lenses-c33.html

Last edited by robthebloke; 11-23-2014 at 07:58 PM.
11-23-2014, 06:11 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by magkelly Quote
Why not? My parents did. I wouldn't think twice about offering some tips if I saw my SO was struggling with something and I could help. You do have to be nice about it, of course, but that goes for anyone you're teaching. Being superior or sarcastic is not the way to go about teaching anyone anything, but if you're a good teacher I don't think it should matter if you are related.

The only time I ever had a problem with a family member teaching me was when Dad started to teach me to drive. He was just not the person for that. There were lots of other things he taught me that he was a good teacher for but not that. Trying to teach anyone to drive brings out the absolute worst in him apparently and he was the first to admit it, that he just wasn't good at it. He finally sent me to driving school, which turned out to be a good thing for him as now he can't drive and I do all the time...
Good luck.
11-23-2014, 06:51 PM   #8
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Robthebloke,

Thanks for your very thoughtful post. I'll take a look some of the lens you mentioned. I'll also get into her camera and see if I can figure out what focal length she uses.

Thanks a ton. I'll update in the next 24 hours!

Also, I'm confident the blurring isn't due to her technique. She actually takes some great pictures. It's just with our son recently starting basketball that she has become frustrated at not getting crisper images.

11-23-2014, 06:53 PM   #9
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This sort of question comes up often, on every board and forum for every camera company. The short, simple, bitter truth is, there isn't a reasonably priced lens (like your budget amount or a bit higher) that will turn you or your wife or anyone else into a Sports Illustrated shooter. That's the truth.

So what?

What we want are reasonably clear images of our sons and daughters engaged in competition. That you can do by boosting the ISO. To the max. Keep whatever zoom lens you have wide open, and crank up the ISO. Will there be noise? Sure. Lots of it. Will you be able to individually distinguish each eyelash on your kid's visage? No. Is that really important? Again, no. Today's cameras are marvels at getting decent images. Just as our wives aren't supermodels (nor are us husbands sexiest man alive contenders) we need to set our expectations a good bit lower if our income is in the lower realm.

What might help, and this is a stretch, is to grab one of the K-5II bodies that are going for under $600 now. They may have slightly better high ISO performance. There simply isn't a really good Pentax mount zoom lens for that price, assuming you have one of the common 70-300mm'ish ones. The 55-200 is a nice enough lens if you don't have it, and is well under your budget. Sigma is soon to sell a new 18-300mm lens that falls just under $600 but no idea when it will ship, or if it'll be worth spending $600 on. Their 18-250mm lens is pretty well thought of, for a good bit less.
11-23-2014, 07:25 PM   #10
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You haven't indicated your wife's technical expertise. It might be worth pointing out that the KX mode dial has a sports mode (running figure symbol) which will preference high shutter speeds automatically. It'll also set up continuous shooting and follow focus (camera will continue to focus on subject of shot even while moving). The KX can do 4.7 frames per second which is still pretty good for an older camera. It would be hard not to get keepers doing this.
11-23-2014, 07:39 PM   #11
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A couple things can help, newer cameras have much better low light capability, and as mentioned before, faster lenses. You could actually buy a new K-50 for $400 and a new DA50/1.8 lens for $117 (at Adorama and B&H). That's a fantastic deal on new equipment that would let you get some decent basketball photos. It's not as ideal as a fast zoom, but those are pretty much out of your price range. Better yet those deals are coming with some other nice freebies too, and for $20 you can add two years warranty to the camera.
11-23-2014, 08:13 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by MLJ Quote
Also, I'm confident the blurring isn't due to her technique. She actually takes some great pictures. It's just with our son recently starting basketball that she has become frustrated at not getting crisper images.
If she takes some great pictures, it's most likely her technique. If she started action shooting just recently, she may face the same trouble I have with that: lack of experience with action shots. I practice on birds, and miss more than half of focus. It's hard to blame my cameras, since I have newer Canon, and still pretty good old Pentax, shoot with af and manual lenses. The ratio of out of focus pictures is pretty much the same. Birds are too fast, and my reaction often is quite slow.

I don't know how your wife can react to surprise camera without making decision on her own, but I would be really upset. Because it should be my choice.
Perhaps she mentioned any way what camera she would like to have?
11-23-2014, 08:22 PM   #13
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It would be very helpful if we knew what lenses your wife has now.

Whatever you decide, you would be well advised to wait until Black Friday before purchasing. There are no guarantees that there will be any lens deals whatsoever, but in all likelihood there will be. Here is a link to some Pentax Black Friday deals from 2013, FWIW:

Black Friday Pentax Lens Deals - Deals and Savings | PentaxForums.com
12-02-2014, 11:01 PM   #14
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You can also get great ideas online. Just visit some online gift websites, and will get a huge variety of gifts.
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