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Old Apr 30, 2010, 11:03 PM   #1
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Default What would you get in my shoes?

I'm looking for a replacement for the kit lens - recently I keep running into situations where I want something between 24 and 50.

Now imagine you are in my shoes. You are a person who has a nice line-up of lenses, and has developed a distinct fondness for top quality, sharp lenses. You have 4 * lenses and a Limited, and find yourself less and less willing to compromise on quality. You hike, you travel a lot, photography of all types fascinates you. You have a beloved 105mm macro lens that you use often. You are out in all types of weather.

Priority is first and always quality. Weather sealing is really high on your list of priorities.

In the past you bought a DA*50-135 and love it. However, you discover that the 77 Ltd has a quality that the zoom (as good as it is) just can't duplicate so you end up (after trying to talk yourself out of it for 18 months) buying it in addition to the DA*50-135.

You then buy a 12-24 and use it all the time. But you had tossed around the 10-17 fisheye at the same time, deciding that you'd get far more use out of the pentilinear lens (true). But the fisheye desire wouldn't go away, so after a year you add the 10-17.

The only weather sealed lens that is made between 24 and 50 is the DA*16-50. No problem, you say - a good copy is a highly regarded, sharp lens.

But there's the FA 31 Ltd. and it seems to have that special something the 77 Ltd. has, something that I haven't really seen with the pictures others have posted with the DA*16-50.

And then there's those who have sold their FA 31 lenses buying a DA 35 Macro Ltd. But you don't need a macro, while you do need a walk-about lens and would probably be more likely to use the larger aperture of the FA 31 for smaller dof shots. But the 35mm macro is a much cheaper lens, something desirable to you even if your spouse says "The difference is only $400 - don't sweat it."

And then you happen upon a thread that has a couple of pictures taken with the Zeiss 35mm f2 ZK Distagon T* lens and it's pretty much the same cost as the FA 31. It wouldn't be your only manual lens so you know how to use them, though you haven't used any of them recently.

Now you only really need one lens in the range. The weather sealed DA*16-50 is the lens that makes the most sense. But you really like shooting with primes, and the idea that the FA 31 is a bit better/will give you that extra quality you see in the 77 is irresistible. And the ZK is a Zeiss, what more can you say?

So now you are considering two lenses that cover the same range - the DA*16-50 and a prime.

But which prime? Do you save money and get the DA 35 macro? Many people say it's as good or better to have than the FA 31, and cheaper besides (and I know where there's one in a local camera store). Would you regret not going for broke and getting the FA 31? Is the Zeiss significantly better than the FA 31 to make it worth while giving up both auto exposure and auto focus? Or is it as good and just has the Zeiss name on it? I haven't found any direct comparison shots between the two.

Or have I completely lost my mind even thinking about getting two lenses? Especially two very expensive lenses? To cover a focal length I've done without for several years (ever since I got the K20 and had a camera that could out-resolve the kit lens)? Is this LBA out of control?

I strongly suspect that if I just get the DA*16-50 that one of those primes won't let me go and it'll drive me nuts trying to talk myself out of buying one of them. I keep thinking that the DA 35 should be fine, the pictures are excellent and I do lots of close-focusing so the macro capability would get used. But the comparison shots I've seen from several people show that for what I want (walk-about, infinity focus, bokeh) the FA 31 is better.

I'm hoping to have enough bucks put together by the end of the month to get one of the lenses, the other could be a Christmas present, maybe.

Any advice, suggestions, thoughts would be most helpful. Even the advice to run to the nearest psychiatrist for hospitalization, at least I'd know that I was crazy.
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Old Apr 30, 2010, 11:26 PM   #2
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I can't help, only sympathize. I'm in the same boat...sort of.

I bought the 10-17 after having the 16-45 with the idea that that would complete my wide angle needs. Both are sharp lens...great lens.

But then I thought maybe a wide angle prime...the 14 F2.8 or maybe the limited 15, F 4...but then I read so many good things about the 12-24 I got that.

But I still think the 14, f 2.8, maybe the 21 mm f 3.2...or the 31 mm primes would be perfect...or maybe the pancake 40 mm prime.

My problem is that I want them...all !

Sorry, no help. I think the only solution..as long as the money holds out...it to keep buying...each lens gives a different perspective.
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Old May 1, 2010, 4:13 AM   #3
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Hi Harriet,

I won't try to imagine myself in your shoes -- they've got to be too small
Sorry, I couldn't help myself. . .

I'm not the one to advise on normal to wide lenses. I'm too satisfied with zooms since I shoot these FLs so seldom -- but I'll offer my 2 anyway

My first choice (for you) would be the DA 35 Macro Ltd. I'm convinced from what I've seen that this can be a great lens for your flower shots. I'm getting to appreciate really close focusing, and being able to do this and still get some real significant DOF, even wide open, would make these shots almost too easy. For me, that's really getting to be the saving point of LBA. I like having the right tool for the job. Good photography is difficult, making it easier is good. . . shooting medium macros at wider apertures with available light would be a treat.

It doesn't hurt that it's an Ltd. I don't have any of these, and they're not really high on my LBA drool list since they don't fall into my high priority FL range, but I've always wanted at least one, just to have it. There are some things that are expensive enough to just be impractical for just such occasional use, but they still call out to me. All the FA Ltds fall into that category as well as the DA 35. The difference is that you'd use it. . .

After that, I'd go with the DA* 16-50 for the WR. This would give you a very comprehensive premium WR kit mated with your other DA*s -- you could shoot just about anything in any weather (but this might spark a Jones for a D FA 100/2.8 Macro WR -- so take this step carefully!) -- just mentioning this will probably put me into the doghouse with Dan. . . again. . .that's okay I'm getting used to seeing flea collars as a fashion accent. . ..

As to the 31 Ltd -- it's hard to resist a lens that's considered by many a contemporary legend, but I really think that the 35 would be more useful. I'm finding that "settling" for the Sigma 180 as opposed to continuing to Jones for one of the Pentax 200 Macros was the right move for me. There are so many advantages to this comparatively inexpensive, but great performing lens that the 200s have moved way down on my list -- I'd only really consider one if it was offered too cheap to pass, and my price limit has fallen dramatically. There's no doubt that one of the 200s would give me better IQ, but I just don't "need" one any more. I have a feeling that you might think of the 31 Ltd in the same way if you already had the 35 Macro. If you still feel the need, you can wait for that rare super deal, but still have something that serves very well. Avoiding redundancy in FLs is overrated -- remember that this is coming from a guy who owns 3 300/2.8s, has 8 lenses that cover 300mm, and if you count TC combos, the count goes into the teens.

I'll end my rambling here. But I'm always available to help someone else spend their money. . . -- LBA by proxy is always the most fun. . .


Last edited by snostorm; May 1, 2010 at 4:22 AM.
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Old May 1, 2010, 8:11 AM   #4
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Mtngal, sounds like youve compiled a fine list for your LBA. In the end, no matter which you go for I am sure you will be happy as the pics ive seen taken with all of these lenses show their quality!

Snostorm does have some good points regarding the 35mm macro, but regardless of its macro capabilities... once you find that "perfect" macro lens (your vivitar 105) you will probably spend quite some time comparing the two, and any shortcommings of the 35mm macro is really going to drive you batty and make you think twice whether you shoulda just went ahead and bought the 31 LTD. (well I would anyways) While the 35mm has more than a macro use, I could see you not liking the macro as much as your vivitar 105 (I tend to become partial to lenses like this as I now have 8 prime lenses and 4 of them are 200mm's, a 2.8,,4 (all very good but not as good as my favorite one, which is the Zeiss.

I did want to say that I wouldnt throw out the Carl Zeiss if it can be had at a great price. I recently got my Zeiss 200mm, (really need to post some up from it) and I absolutely love it. Aside from it being heavy, this thing is my new goto lens.

The Zeiss is an extremely sharp lens, it really took my birding shots to the next level. BIF's are no problem with the 2.8 and come out very clear and unblurred even in mediocre lighting. Aside from the Carl Zeiss being the sharpest lens I have, the bokeh is absolutely goregous. I've never seen bokeh like this before in a lens, it really has an ethereal quality to the light it captures. Im at work now, but in the next 9 hours, I will be able to post some up of the Zeiss if you please. I know my next lens is definitely a wide angle (tokina or pentax 11-17 or 12-24 most likely) but I also may check out to see what CZ offers in the WA lineup.

regardless your decision, please let us know what you pick! Im excited for you, a nice new lens purchase is a great feeling.
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Old May 1, 2010, 11:49 AM   #5
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Get the 31mm....you'll not regret it! JMO
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Old May 1, 2010, 12:02 PM   #6
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i have a feeling you will end up with both.

while you will most likely keep wanting the prime if you get the zoom, for that "special quality" you enjoy with the 77.

i think when/if you get the prime, you will start to realize the limitations of a prime as a walkabout lens, and then you will end up purchasing the 16-50, which covers a very useful focal range.

so in reality. i would plan your budgeting around getting both. the desire to get the prime will drive u nuts if you get the zoom, and if you get the prime you will shortly realize how much you want a nice-normal zoom for a 1 lens carry.

my suspicion is the zoom would get more use and would get you more shots, but the prime would find a place in your heart quicker. your choice on which you get first.
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Old May 1, 2010, 6:17 PM   #7
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We have a very similar lens set, however I stopped along the way - about a year ago. For the range you are asking about, I have the 16-45 but use it in frequently - now. Its mostly the 12-24 and 31. If its longer, its the 55-300 and if I want a big wide view - its the 10-17 or stitch it. This covers just about all of the situations that I am interested in.

Otherwise, what ever LBA I have has gone into remission. I will say that the 31 Ltd on a cropped sensor is the equivalent of the 50 on a full frame sensor, so I tend to use it for everything between 24 and 55. It is a spectacular lens in IQ, color, AF, handling, build and its a fast lens - I think the perfect lens.

I ran across several Pentax lenses - a 600/5.6 with a 1.4x TC; a 1000/f11 Reflex; and a 28/f3.5 shift here in the last week or so. I thought about them, they would be fun, I have nothing that they would duplicate, they are somewhat difficult to find, and then I considered them again and nothing really moved me to do anything about them.

So, if my two left feet were in your shoes - I would get the 31, forget about everything else and just go out and take pictures (as you do so well - already).

Last edited by interested_observer; May 1, 2010 at 6:22 PM.
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Old May 1, 2010, 6:24 PM   #8
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Shooting prime you will need couple of them in your walk around bag as I do when I decided to shoot shallow dof or low light. Unless you are planning to live with just the one range, prime shooting is going to be 3x as much as you intended. As you will end up getting say a 50mm then a 85mm and a 100mm. It is very hard to live with just one prime lens.
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Old May 1, 2010, 6:55 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by mtngal View Post
Is this LBA out of control?
In short:yes!

Not so short: the only way to avoid your dilemma is to never taste that expensive brandy, never take a test ride in that Ferrari, and absolutely never never try that Pentax *-lens. So now you're stuck. The only solution is to give in.

My way of handling this problem (I do know it all too well) is to make it a principle to get my lenses cheaper than what's really possible. It's not the fastest way, but it's been very successful so far. I don't miss much, right now my radar is up for an A* 200mm Macro, and I know that some day it will be there, just under my nose. And I would love to get my hands on an FA 20mm f2.8. Nearly won one in an auction recently, but unfortunately enough someone else was prepared to pay the current market price.
Of course it would have been nice to call Bill Gates "dad" and buy it all at once, but my way works well as a "plan B".

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Old May 1, 2010, 7:05 PM   #10
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After reading all of that I'm not sure what the question is. Or what you have currently. Though I do not have any definitive wisdom I can make a few remarks, nonetheless.

The reasons to get the DA* zoom are convenience and weather-sealing. Otherwise there are faster, more reliable, smaller, lighter and sharper lenses. In fact I bought the DA16-45 instead of the DA* because I didn't want to tote the weight. But now I never use that zoom either.

I notice you have not mentioned the FA43. I own that and the FA77 since I saw the magic in shots others took. Now I have them I see the magic in my own. While the FA31 is no doubt excellent it does not tempt me the same way. (And now I cannot afford it, but at one point I could.)

So add the FA43 to your list and get even more confused.

I bought the DA35 even though I too own a famous 105mm macro that rocks the socks off most other lenses. The DA35 is nothing like it in size, weight and focal length. But it is as sharp and lovely; you will not be let down by the IQ. Nonetheless I got rid of mine; I would have kept it but I needed the DA12-24mm even more. The DA35 is a perfect single prime to keep on a camera but since I am not that sort of a shooter it didn't have a distinct role for me.

I have seen nothing to convince me the Zeiss are better lenses. Very very nice, yes, but better than the Limiteds? (And this from someone who shot them on Contax some years ago.)

I could live perfectly well with these lenses, giving up all others. In fact I may soon have to!
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