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Old Nov 16, 2007, 12:11 AM   #1
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Okay, I just spent the last two hours looking at lenses on ebay. I'm overwhelmed to say the least!

Please don't kill me about this, but what am I looking for? Is there a "lenses for dummies" list somewhere that will explain the 1.2 or 1.5 or 1.7, which is better? What "codes" should I be looking for in the lens descriptions? Is there an easy way to identify if something is manual focus only? (Actually, I don't think I'd mind manual focus as that was what I had to use in my class.) I see a lot of non-Pentax made lenses. Any particular brand to stay away from? Takumar, Sears, Asahi, Penneys? Also, I may have asked this before and I know it's been discussed, but I can't find it anywhere. What's the deal with "prime" lenses? What are they?

I'm not even sure what I want to get. I currently have the K100D with kit 18-55 and the 50-200. I would like to get something for macro shots. I think. But, I also know I'd like something with more zoom. Although, know that the more zoom the more blur I'll probably have. At the same time I'm looking at small p&s that has viewfinder, substantial zoom and good video. So, may be okay waiting on the longer zoom for the time being. I'm no pro at any of this. Yet! Just practicing.:-)

I did finally purchase a sturdy tripod. My purchase was somewhat of a fiasco. Not what I had intended on buying, but it will be a good tripod. For having paid twice what I had started out at, it had better last a long time. And, since my husband wasn't upset about the price I paid for it, I'm just going to keep it.

Anyway, back to lenses. If I happen to be in the right place at the right time for a great potential lens I'd like to know beforehand that I I'm bidding on something worthwhile.

I see a lot of camera packages that seem to be an old K1000 with what I think might be a good lens with a very low starting point and noone is bidding. I'm assuming because they might be waiting until the last second. What's the deal here? People that don't know what they are selling? They have a high reserve set and aren't going to end up selling it anyway?

Thanks for any input. In case you want to kill me, I really don't live in NH. You can look for me in Australia.

Guess I should tell you what I like to photograph. I like landscapes,people, macro, don't do much high speed (sports or birds in flight), although have tried some. I'd also like to start experimenting with panoramics. I think, at least. They look so cool. But, I keep thinking about how much it must costto have those printed. Of course, if I limitit to no higher than 8 1/2" I can justprint on my home printer. Or, maybe not now that I think of it. I've never seen "panoramic" paper in the stores.:-)

Patty




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Old Nov 16, 2007, 12:21 AM   #2
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Hi Patty,

You have a lot of questions tied in there. I think you really need to decide on what type of lens you really want. With the 2 you have you already cover the basic range of 18-200.

A prime lens is a fixed focal length lens, no zoom. For example a 50mm is a prime. They are great for some as they usually have a larger aperture range and let in a lot more light.

If you are looking for a macro look for one that will at least do 1:2, obviously 1:1 is a true macro but those get a bit spendy.

If I were you I'd probably take some time to narrow down what you are looking for and then do some research from there. Hope this helps a little.
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Old Nov 16, 2007, 5:21 AM   #3
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For a subjective rating of most of the Pentax lenses: check this site: http://stans-photography.info/

I can definitely recommend one of the 50mm primes. Any of them are great. Which one you want depends on your wallet. The cheapest manual focus will go for 30$, where the newest FA autofocus version will go for 200$.

If you're unsure about aperture (the 1.4, 1.7 etc) and other technicalities, I'd advise to read these free lessons: http://www.morguefile.com/archive/classroom.php

Tom

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Old Nov 16, 2007, 7:42 AM   #4
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Thank you fisheye and Tom. Reading my message this morning I can see that I was all over the place. I started out just to see what kinds of things were on ebay and realized I didn't even know what I was looking at. There were so many and each had different specs and I had no idea what was good or junk or what.

I think I'd like to get some sort of macro lens. So, do you get a prime or zoom macro. I'm thinking prime macro is probably going to give me a better image or why would they exist.

So, if I want something closest to 1:1, a lens I think I saw on a camera of 50mm 1:2, if it had no defects would be a good lens? I remember the price seemed ridiculously low at the time thinking the lower the numbers the better. That's when I started getting confused as to what I should be looking for.

Tom, I'll check out the websites you gave me this weekend. The Stan's site was the one I was looking for last night having seen it recommended a while back, but hadn't bookmarked it and couldn't find the post with it. I will bookmark it now. The other one I've never seen. But, it looks promising for people like me.:-)

Thanks again and have a great day. Oh, and thanks for sparing my life asking some probably stupid questions.

Patty
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Old Nov 16, 2007, 7:53 AM   #5
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Hi Patty, welcome to the forum.

I don't have any cut-and-dried guidelines for you to use in selecting lenses, but of course, I've seen much of what you shoot very well. The best advice I can give you is to carefully read many of the postings in these forums because there are some very knowledgable people in here who have consistently given me good advice.

You ask about "specific brands" of third party lenses to avoid. The bottom line is that many of the third party lens names are made on contract by very good lensmakers. The trick sometimes becomes, then, finding out who actually made the lens. A good example is the Vivitar Series 1 line of 70-210 macro zooms. There are five, perhaps six, different models of the lens, made by four different manufacturers. Versions 1-3 are generally regarded as truly outstanding while 4-6 areregarded as farweaker. (Versions and makers are identifiable by serial number.) Even with this lens, however, versions 4-6 are made by Cosina, which someimes turns out very nice glass, and other times has shown some quality control problems.

One of the nice things about this forum is that there are people here who have tried just about any lens that's out there for the Pentax line. They won't always agree on a lens, and for that matter, lens makers sometimes have "lemons," even in the lines of the very best lenses. The Takumar 135mm, f2.5 prime lens by Pentax with a 52mm front element has been described by many as a "wonderful paperweight," while there's another Pentax version of the f2.5, 135mm that is highly sought. I mistakenly "overpaid" for the inferior version of the lens, though, and I wouldn't sell it for anything less than a very handsome profit because it is one of my most frequently-used and highest quality lenses. Others have reported similar experiences with this lens....either it's great, or it's a total dud. (BTW, I also have the "inferior" version of the Series 1 70-210 macro and have taken some wonderful shots with it.)

You certainly can't go wrong with a good 50mm lens as a starting point, and one of the nice things about them is that a MF can bought so cheaply. I have the FA-50 f1.4 version that I bought for indoor sports and portrait work, but if you don't need the fast AF capbility, the MF versions of the Pentax 50's are a wonderful alternative.

You ask about a "Lenses for Dummies" book. First, you're far from a dummy when it comes to being behind a camera, but this forum is a wonderful place to get into the world of len technology, and no one here is ever hesitant to give advice or voice an opinion.

Paul

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Old Nov 16, 2007, 3:54 PM   #6
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If your looking for a true macro, it must be a fixed/prime lens not a zoom. Although many zooms say "Macro" they are not true macro's.

I have a sigma 70-300 zoom lens which I like a lot, though not a true macro it will do 1:2 which is fine by me. I also have a cheap phoenix 100mm macro, it will do 1:1 but only with the included adapter, so I guess it's kinda cheating but I didn't want to spend a whole bunch and this one gets the job done.

Pentax and Sigma make a 50mm and 100mm macro, but with a price tag. Older vivitars, phoenix and a like will be much cheaper but are manual focus.... which I happen to like for macro work anyway.

Dan
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Old Nov 16, 2007, 4:06 PM   #7
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Good heavens, I didn't realize you were in Australia or that you were only using the kit lens and the DA 50-200 - your photos are a testament to the quality a good photographer can get out of these lenses.

Another good source of information (in addition to Stan's page)is http://kmp.bdimitrov.de/lenses/index.html- the site will give you the specification for any Pentax lens made, I think, and when it was in production etc.

There's two ways you can go with the macro lens. You could get the Sigma 70-300 f4-5.6 APO DG Macro lens. It's main limitation is that it only does 1:2 (1:1 means that the image on the sensor is exactly the same size as the subject - a bug that is 1/4 inch long will project a 1/4 inch image on the sensor. With a 1:2 lens that 1/4 inch long bug will project an image of only 1/8 inch, half the size of the object). It would do two things for you - it gives you a longer telephoto (300 vs. the 200 you have) as well as the macro aspects, and it seems to be a pretty capable lens, judging from the examples here. It's probably the cheapest way to get both the tele and some macro capabilities.

I'm not sure that's the best way for you to go (this is something you'll have to decide based on what capabilities you want, and how much you want to spend). You already have very capable zoom lenses. A prime lens (defined above) is normally sharper than a zoom because it doesn't have to do more than one thing (simpler design). Therefore, you would get better quality if you were to get a dedicated prime macro lens and then a prime 300mm lens for telephoto (that's what I did, buying the A*300 used). The quality gain might or might not be significant to you, and depending on what type of macros you plan on taking, the 1:2 limitation might not be significant, either (you can do most flowers easily with a lens capable of 1:2, bugs are another matter).

If you decide to get a dedicated prime macro lens, your first decision is how close do you want to get to your subject. The 100mm (there-about, macro lenses in this class vary from 90-135) lenses allow you to stand off your subject more than a 50mm lens would. They all seem to be very sharp, even the modestly pricedPhoenix I had (which is also sold under several different names and has excellent optics, usually priced somewhere not much over $100 new). I am now using the Vivitar Series One 105mm lens, which I think was made by Kino (who marketed their own line under the Kiron name but is no longer in business) and love it.

Another thought for macro is to buy one of the manual 50mm lenses (designated "M" or "K" lenses and very common) and buy a set of extension tubes. I prefer my M 1.7 lens to the faster M 1.4 lens (smallernumber has a larger opening and is a faster lens, and I happen to have both). The f2 lenses have the reputation for being softer (reason why they are cheaper)so it wouldn't be as capable for macro work.

All of the various lens manufacturers have made outstanding lenses, as well as dogs. So you can't exactly say "stay away from brand Z" - only "stay away from the Pentax SMC M 24-50 zoom lens - it's a dog."
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Old Nov 16, 2007, 7:30 PM   #8
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A couple of comments:

I have NO experience with this lens, but the Tamron equivalent to the Sigma, the 70-300 LD DI has 1:2, gets good reviews, and is significantly cheaper ($125 on the Pentax Forum).

I have SOME experience with the Pentax smc M 50 f/2 as a macro, using a reverse ring ($30 together). It may be soft in some cases, I don't use it for anything else, but as a reversed macro, it goes pretty sharp (only problem with 50mm is you have to get darn close):



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Old Nov 16, 2007, 8:00 PM   #9
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Hi Patty from Australia and not from NH,

I'll take a stab, and I am sure that there are better explainations out there.

Quote:
Please don't kill me about this, but what am I looking for? Is there a "lenses for dummies" list somewhere that will explain the 1.2 or 1.5 or 1.7, which is better?
The numbers are f stops - You would notice that on any camera lens, f-stops are labeled as 1, 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16. This describes to what degree the aperature is open or how much light is getting in the camera. On the lens, say a 50mm 1.4, specifies the largest size of opening for that particular lens. The lower the number, the more light getting through the lens into the camera, thus the better the lens is for taking pictures in dark areas with low amounts of light. The lower the f stop number the more expensive the lens.

http://www.dummies.com/WileyCDA/Dumm...ULTIMEDIA.html

On a lens using a low f stop number the smaller the depth of field, - which means that the item you focus on will be in focus, while everything in front of it and behind it will be out of focus. The larger the fstop value say 16 or 22 then the deeper the depth of focus and the more items both in front and behind the subject you are focusing on will be in focus too.

http://www.dofmaster.com/dofjs.html

Just because a lens has a f stop of 2 or 1.7 or 1.4 does not necessarly make it better, its what you need for the type of photography you are doing, and what you are able to afford. A 50 mm f 1.7 is very good and just how much indoor phtotgraphy do you do with out a flash? Also this is a pretty affordable lens. On the other hand a 1.7 300mm (if it exists) would be very expensive - and after you get over the sticker shock, the weight of it will send you to the hospital.

Quote:
What "codes" should I be looking for in the lens descriptions? Is there an easy way to identify if something is manual focus only? (Actually, I don't think I'd mind manual focus as that was what I had to use in my class.)
Usually the letter M in the name indicates a manual focus lens like "M 50mm 1:1.7". There are websites that list all the various combinations and what they mean.

http://pentaxdigital.tdn9.be/?page_id=4

Quote:
I see a lot of non-Pentax made lenses. Any particular brand to stay away from? Takumar, Sears, Asahi, Penneys?
Pentax at one time or another made or makes Asahi, Takumara, Super Takumara, etc. There are several threads on this subject here on the Pentax lens forum. Here is one of them....

http://www.stevesforums.com/forums/v...mp;forum_id=94

Quote:
What's the deal with "prime" lenses? What are they?
Making it simple there are two types of lens - Prime lens and Zoom lens. Prime lens do not zoom, and are fixed focal length. Since the optics are easier to design and make, they are usually better lens. Zoom lens are more complex and with more lens inside, thus smaller amounts of light actually pass through the lens into the camera. Therefore its easier to make zoom lens with higher f stops (and they cost less). Zoom lens with lower f stops (which lets more light into the camera) are very expensive, and usually very heavy due to the amount of glass lens inside.

Here is a thread on lens with links and references...
http://forums.steves-digicams.com/fo...mp;forum_id=94

Quote:
I currently have the K100D with kit 18-55 and the 50-200. <snip> Guess I should tell you what I like to photograph. I like landscapes, people, macro, don't do much high speed (sports or birds in flight), although have tried some. I'd also like to start experimenting with panoramics. I think, at least. They look so cool. But, I keep thinking about how much it must cost to have those printed. Of course, if I limit it to no higher than 8 1/2" I can just print on my home printer. Or, maybe not now that I think of it. I've never seen "panoramic" paper in the stores.
Others are better at answering a lot of these, however on landscapes your 18-55 should be VERY good. If you want something wider, expirement with "stitching". Stitching is where you start say on your left and shoot a frame, move the camera level over say 2/3 of a frame with a 1/3 overlap and shoot a second. There is software the will let you stitch the two images together. You can do any number of frames - even a 360 degree image.

http://forums.steves-digicams.com/fo...orum.php?id=69

The main "sweet" lens for cameras is in the 18 to 200mm range. Out side of this range the optics get very expensive and the lenses complex, thus more expensive. So the "stitching" is used as a work around - remember the old scotch tape 2 photos together - same idea.
_____________________________

You can also use google to search the topics like "macro photography" and get quite a lot of information.

Thinking back - the old Spotmatic camera was great teaching tool. With manual exposure, you would twist the aperature ring on the lens until the light meter indicated an acceptable setting. Not enough light, lower the exposure speed and re-select the f stop. The lower the f stop the brighter the picture. That closed loop action with the user making a change and instantly seeing a brighter picture and the change of the light meter needle was a real learning experience. Now the microprocessor in the camera body does all of that in a blink of an eye, and the user is really detached from this operation - its can become just selecting numbers.....

Well anyway - hope this helps....
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Old Nov 16, 2007, 10:47 PM   #10
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Well, looks like I have a lot of reading to do. Thanks for all the input everyone. It is greatly appreciated. I will read through it over the next few days and probably be back with more questions. I know I had immediate comments/questions as I was reading the replies, but I stayed up so late last night looking around that I really need to get some sleep. I'll be back.

Oh, and just to set the record straight, my comment on my living in Australia was a joke. I really do live in NH. I was only saying that kidding that if you were trying to find me because of all my stupid questions, you'd be looking in the wrong hemisphere. Didn't mean to mislead anyone.

Thank you for the comments on my photos. That is also appreciated. I sometimes wonder if my family is just telling me they like my stuff so I'll leave them alone. :-) I haven't posted that many here on the Pentax board. I mostly post on the BiWeekly Challenge that I know some of you also participate in. It really helps me to challenge myself to new things.

Patty
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