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Old Jan 31, 2009, 6:03 PM   #1
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Here's my background: I'm learning more about digital photography as I go (although I never did film photography except for just a p&S 110 camera and basic 35 mm Kodak, never SLR previous to this) and I currently have a Canon S3 IS and love it for the most part. Here are my current uses (and what I would want to use the future K200D for):

1) Occasional macro photography (close ups on roses, hibiscus, honeysuckle, etc)
2) Outdoor scenery (beaches on the gulf, boats in the water--e.g., like around Destin, FL; landscapes with houses/trees or small lakes/ponds with background/houses in the country)
3) Some late evening/night photography, e.g., the moon as it's coming up or the moon after it's completely dark; in addition, I've been attempting to get the sun setting, but usually once it stops or is close to not 'shining' or just the orange disk with no rays radiating from it.
4) Indoor photography, like trying to catch people in normal conversations like at church, so I'd need something equivalent to the 12x optical zoom on my S3 IS. Usually this is also done in "natural light" or limited fluorescent lighting. I also occasionally try to do some museum shooting (for my own enjoyment) of art pieces, but no flash is allowed and the lighting is very dim.

Here's the two big things that have made me think (after still and currently reading "The Joy of Digital Photography by Jeff Wignall) I need to get the K200D (to step up to the DSLR):

1) My S3 IS had real trouble AF'ing on a dragonfly on the tip of a maguey plant and I could only get it to focus by zooming in and out a few times before it finally locked on it.

2) I tried capturing a shot of the full moon shining one night and my Canon would NOT AF on it. I read the manual and the only manual focusing available on it is setting the approximate focal distance (I think that's what it's called) since it does not have a manual focus ring--no true manual focusing. The shots of the moon I took still ended up as this big white blob with no focus/detail. So although the only thing with manual focus I've ever used before is a microscope in biology class in high school, I don't see that a good camera with true manual focus would be hard to understand and get right.

With those things in mind, which lens(es) would you all recommend I get to use for these situations? I've tried to do some forum reading and someone suggested a 28-80 mm lens for night/low-light photography. I've also gone to Adorama and seen there are Tamron, Sigma and Pentax-made lenses that include 18-200 mm (Tamron/Sigma) and others. What I want to have would be a lens (or lenses) that fit my needs (or as close to them as possible) yet not get a lens that might not do so great in performance compared to another brand (in other words, I'd rather make sure to get a Pentax-made lens of the same type if the Sigma, Tamron or other 3rd-party compatible wouldn't be truly equivalent or be seriously short on performance otherwise).

So...what does everyone recommend? If anyone wishes to suggest only 1 or more than that, I'm not opposed to having multiple lens choices ranked from best to worst. While I have read the reviews @ Adorama on these lenses, there's not a lot of detail and I frankly need input from experienced users to fill in the gaps those reviews don't cover. Of course, it's also obvious that I'm hoping to get lenses that are less expensive yet still give the same performance as a more expensive offering. That's kind of the whole point of me deciding on a K200D, since I already have many SDHC cards + standard NiMH rechargables + advanced Sanyo Eneloops.

Since it's also obvious I'm not up to the same 'level' as probably most users are here, if a fellow user wants to point out some things I need to learn, so that I make the transition to the K200D well...please feel free to suggest them. I do currently use Aperture priority on most of S3 IS shots and I'm comfortable setting the white balance manually as well as using full manual control to adjust aperture and shutter speeds in order to balance the histogram closer to the shot my eyes see at the time. So, I think I can say I'm not a total novice.
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Old Jan 31, 2009, 7:16 PM   #2
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Ah, you want to know everything there is to know about photography! :-):-)

Actually, it's not that bad, but I'm sure it seems that way to you at the moment. It's just that photography is a lifelong pursuit and it seems the more I learn, the more I discover there is still to learn!

Now, looking at your list of subjects:

1. Close-ups/macro (slightly different things, more on that later)
2. Landscape
3. Sunsets and night photography
4. Indoor, natural light photography

Sounds much like my list of favorite subjects, though I don't do people. So here's my thoughts, so take them that way - just my opinion and experience.

1. There's a difference between close-ups and macros. You can get pretty close to a flower with the kit lens, or something like the DA 55-300. But neither lens will do insects all that well. When you talk about macro, you talk ratios. A true macro lens is 1:1 - i.e., a 1 mm subject will take up 1 mm on the sensor. The DA 55-300 and the 18-250mm (the Tamron and the Pentax are the same lens, the Pentax has their coatings on it) does 1:3.5, which isn't too bad for a zoom, and would be fine for flowers and such.

As you already found out, auto focus can be a liability for macro, no matter what camera you have. I am perfectly happy using a manual focus lens for macro (I use a Vivitar Series One 105mm macro that's an auto-exposure/manual focus lens - bought it on ebay as that particular lens is no longer made). Manual focus does take practice! The camera will indicate when it thinks it is in focus, which helps.

You can get around these limitations by adding on things (extension tubes, dioper filters and lenses, macro TCs etc.) but each adds some sort of compromise. Or you can buy a dedicated macro lens. My recommendation would be to leave the macro part alone at first since you say "occasional" and concentrate on the rest of your list at first. Buy what makes sense for the rest of it and then see if you feel like you need/want additional capability.

As far as the rest of your list - you'd really need at least two, possibly 3 lenses to do it all well. And depending on which lenses you get, also plan on buying a tripod for your outdoor night photography.

I'm not a fan of the all-in-one lenses. They are usually very slow (a very big disadvantage for your inside church gatherings and museums). It seems that the Tamron/Pentax 18-250 is the best of that group. I'd probably recommend going with the kit lens and something like the DA 55-300 or Sigma APO or Tamron 70-300 if you want the extra reach to 300. Any of these lenses would work very well outside, but none of them would be very good indoors without flash. They would be fine for your outdoor shots if you get a tripod.

You need a fast lens for indoors/no flash. If you aren't afraid of a manual exposure/manual focus, you can usually pick up an M 50mm 1.7 lens for around $50. It's a lens that's very sharp, so you could also use it with an extension tube or a dioper lens for macro, too. Otherwise, the FA 50mm 1.4 is very well thought of. 50mm is a bit long for church gatherings, though. Fast lenses (f2.8 -1.4) get very expensive, very quickly, and you'll have to deal with a much smaller DOF.

My recommendation would be to buy:

1. Multiple lens set-up: Camera with kit lens (18-55) and then buy the DA 55-300. Then look around keh or ebay etc. for either the A or M 50mm 1.7 (assuming you can't afford to buy one of the Limited lenses, which would be the best quality but most expensive solution for low light). If you want to buy new, get the FA 50mm 1.4.

2. Camera with either the Tamron or Pentax 18-250 lens and a tripod. Then buy the FA 50mm 1.4 or one of the used 50mm 1.7.

By the way, sunsets are easy to do. Like the moon, it helps to use spot metering - matrix metering does a horrible job of either subject.
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Old Jan 31, 2009, 11:43 PM   #3
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Ok, I've found the Pentax DA 55-300 mm lens at Amazon for $285.03 w/free s/h. However, do you or anyone have any experience or input about the Sigma equivalent? The specs on it appear very close to the Pentax one and it's $249 at Adorama (although it's a 28-300 mm). There's also the Sigma 70-300m Macro Tele Zoom Lens @ Adorama for $124. I know both of these are slightly different from what was suggested, but could anyone say if the performance with these two lenses would be just as good and allow me to save some money as well? Now if someone can say for sure either or both of these lenses wouldn't be worth the trade-off in performance I would get from the Pentax DA 55-300 (or some other good reasons to get this one specifically), please feel free to weigh in with all the good/bad. I'm certainly not trying to make it appear that I'm ignoring any suggestions, but just want to get more input from experienced members. The last reply certainly helped loads.

One thing I almost forgot (but it appears mtngal guessed part of what I meant to include on landscape): I would certainly need the 300mm end of either the 55-300 mm lens or 70-300m lens to 'reach' the same range of my S3 IS, as I can just get cardinals (that tend to be quite skittish) with my 36-432mm 35 mm equivalent range in that Canon 12x optical zoom.

[edit: added] oops...found a Tamron (as mtngal suggested) 70-300 mm lens for $159 @ Adorama with a 6-yr Tamron warranty included. Not buying yet, but that's nice to see for the extended warranty...the 70-300 mm Tamrons in the reviews say there is something about chromatic aberration/purple fringing and soft focus beyond 220 mm by a few reviewers (detailed review talking about part of what I read here: http://reviews.pricegrabber.com/slr-lenses/m/20103634/st=product_page/sv=review/). So how should I take that? If someone's had experience with these lenses also relative to the Pentax 55-300mm (and the Pentax is far and away better, with sharp focus and far less CA/PF to the full 300 mm), then weigh in. Although I'm looking to save money without sacrificing quality, I'll save up for the 55-300 mm if it's the better performing lens hands down relative to the Tamron. There is a Sigma APO 70-300 mm equivalent for $188 at pricegrabber, with a reviewer there saying the color is better than the Tamron and even better than the Pentax with less CA?? See here (http://reviews.pricegrabber.com/slr-lenses/m/11262637/st=product_tab/). Can anyone elaborate more on that, perhaps? One reviewer says the Tamron is sharper than the Sigma, so this 'back and forth' with these reviewers is confusing and perhaps someone can straighten it out to where a decision's more clear cut on which one to get?

And I almost forgot to say that I have a really good tripod already--a Manfrotto Bogen 055xb with a 322RC ball head, so I've got those covered. :-)

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Old Feb 1, 2009, 1:02 AM   #4
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The Tamron 70-300 is a well thought of lens. From comparison posts I've seen it has more purple fringing than the DA 55-300 but it's quite sharp and has good color. From what I've seen it's not quite as good as the DA 55-300, but might be a good alternate.

Sigma makes two 70-300 lenses. From what I've seen posted, the more expensive APO version is definitely preferable, you lose a fair amount of quality with the non-APO version. As I recall, most people who have had the Sigma 28-300 get rid of it quickly - its got a poor reputation. I think the Tamron 75-300 does too, but am not sure I've actually seen any comparison shots with it.
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Old Feb 1, 2009, 1:10 AM   #5
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Thanks again for that follow-up input on both the Tamron and Sigma APO 70-300mm offerings in comparison. I'll keep that in mind and the one review I pointed to with the Tamron, the reviewer said there were tricks (keeping the aperture in a certain ranges depending on the focal length used?) to minimize that. It's just confusing when it appears there are two equally good reviewers yet both while seemingly making a clear case for the lens they use end up muddying the issue for someone like me who's trying to see if there's exactly a clear-cut decision (aside from price and warranty, which the Tamron has both covered easily).
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Old Feb 1, 2009, 1:10 AM   #6
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[for some reason it posted twice] :roll:
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Old Feb 1, 2009, 8:46 AM   #7
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fotographo, I've read your dialogue with mtngal, and there are few people from whom you'll get better advice than her.

When I got my K10d and started in the DSLR world, I bought it in a package with the standard kit lens (18-55) and the Tamron 70-300. I've had good performance from this lens, although I have had instances of chromatic aberration. Most of the time that I've seen this problem is when I've tried to stretch the lens too far and use extreme crops to salvage a photo of a bird that was really too far away for a decemt shot, and was usually on a lone branch with a sky background. This is an example of what I'm talking about



This is an extreme example of the problem and is not a shot I normally would have marked as a "keeper" at all except that it's the only photo I've ever caught of a sharp-shinned hawk. I have taken hundreds of bird photos with the 70-300 and find it very servicable. I don't use it now for birds because I have a longer lens, but it is very solid as long as you don't try to make it do more than it is capable of.

One of the real strengths of the lens is work with floral close-ups. I hesitate to call them "macros" because the "macro" setting on the lens doesn't yield the type of ratios you'd expect from a true macro. However, I've used it effectively for shooting insects and I really like its tone on floral work.



I am a huge fan of the FA 50mm f/1.4 for indoor work, and it's a very reasonably priced lens at just under $ 200. To see some examples of shots I took using available light with this lens Friday night, go to the thread entitled "Owl Education Program" in the Pentax DSLR forum. I also find myself using this lens for most of my portrait work.

Good luck and welcome to the Pentax community; be sure to post some of your photos when you get your gear set up.

Paul


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Old Feb 1, 2009, 11:17 AM   #8
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There are two things you probably should keep in mind when you are learning about photography - everything is a compromise and everyone has opinions and they might not be the same. A third thing - there are some variations between individual lenses, and all manufacturers put out the occasional problem lens (hint - if you think there's something wrong, return/exchange the lens immediately).

Thanks, Paul, for posting that example showing the Tamron's purple fringing in your extreme example along with what it can do under better conditions. I tried to find a thread I once read about the differences between the Tamron, Sigma APO and the DA lenses but decided it's on another forum, probably on dpreview since I couldn't find it elsewhere. The comparison shots were very informative, and gave you a good idea of what you would give up/gain with each lens. They threw in the DA*300 into the mix, which wasn't exactly fair since it's in a totally different class, but did show why it would be worth saving up for.

I bought the DA 55-300 a few weeks ago. I wanted something around 200 mm - I didn't have anything that worked that went between 135 and 300. Now if I wanted the best quality, I would have saved up and bought the DA*200 f2.8 - it seems to be a really awesome lens. Quality is always highest on my list of priorities now, more so than cost (I can be patient up to a point). However, the DA*200 is a fast lens and heavy - the last thing I need is to add ANOTHER heavy lens to my bag. So I opted for the DA 55-300 as the best quality for the weight my poor back could carry. I didn't consider the Tamron as I knew about the purple fringing and I wasn't willing to compromise on that.

In your case, the limiting factor is your budget, not weight. So your priorities are different and you'll make other choices than I did based on them. In your case, you'll compromise to a certain extent on quality to get a lower price, but not to the point of getting a lens that's no better (and could be worse) than a point and shoot. Given that as a criteria, the Tamron 70-300 would be acceptable quality for the lower cost. The Sigma 70-300 APO might be acceptable also (though if you check out dpreview's forum section you'll find a number of people who have "upgraded" their APO lenses to Tamron because of softness). The Tamron, while not perfect, seems to be a solid performer and well worth its low cost. In a few years you might decide to replace it with a couple of primes, or maybe not. Just like some day I may buy a DA*200 f2.8, or maybe not.
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Old Feb 1, 2009, 6:51 PM   #9
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Thanks for all your input Paul and big thanks for that hawk photo which illustrates the purple fringing mtngal + other reviews have mentioned is a problem with that lens. As I will take the occasional photo of a cardinal, red-tailed hawk (well, I've tried several times and those things are super skittish with their wonderful eyesight), mockingbird, blue jay, black-capped chickadee and goldfinches (if they stop hopping and dancing around the branches long enough to stop for a shot), I'd rather not have to fight that problem, so although it might put things a little out of my budget, if the DA 55-300 will largely eliminate that problem (as with the tress around here, I'll have a sky background with those birds on branches and I won't be able to move around quickly enough with my tripod and camera to reset because they'll be gone), I'll go the extra distance and buy it. I'd rather pay more initially and have a lens that will do what I need than have a lens I have to remember to always not push to its full range and get stuck with a photo even I could tell has trouble.

I'm already a fan of the 50 mm 1.4 prime and it's on my list exactly for the indoor shots I'd need it for. When mtngal described it, that's the best description I've gotten of its capabilities despite of the few detail-specific reviews I've found on it. I tried finding a manual 50 mm 1.7 on Ebay and while there was one, I was leery of the positive/non-specific reviews there. I've never had great luck with Ebay and while I've never been ripped off there, I've recently had experiences where 3rd-party merchants have clearly stacked their reviews possibly with friends that didn't buy anything and I had I not charged it on my AMEX and been able to dispute the charge, I'd have been stuck with something that's complete junk. Anyway, going DA 55-300 and FA 50mm 1.4 prime will put me over my budget slightly so I probably won't get the extended warranties (Mack) as I usually do on the lenses or at least camera + kit lens...but I'd rather have something that costs a little more than get stuck having to shell out at least the difference or even more later because the lens I got (thinking I'd save money) really wasn't as good of a performer as I would have liked.
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Old Feb 1, 2009, 7:23 PM   #10
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mtngal, while I didn't necessarily find a ton of picture comparisons, I did find some here and there + many that were going for the FA 55-300 mm Pentax in image quality over the Sigma 70-300 mm APO or Tamron 70-300 mm Di LD (see here: http://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/26845-da-55-300-happy-happy-joy-joy-3.html). So that kind of seals the deal for me.

Dumb question, but I realized I'll need a bag for all of this so I'd assume it would have to be a bag to handle the Pentax body + 18-55 mm kit lens attached or I guess be a bag for just a body + 3 lenses. Anything right off the top of anyone's head they use that won't break the bank? I sometimes get ads from Cameratown showing a Canon bag for $39.99 that I think would hold 2-3 lenses, but have no idea on the quality. I also know Tamrac tends to have great camera bags with 5-yr warranties, although I've only researched those previously in the size range of a Fuji S5200 and Canon S3 IS, so I don't know beyond that right now. I know I've also seen kind of sling bags for cameras as well and at this point I wouldn't care if it were a sling bag or bag with a shoulder harness.
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