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Old Dec 10, 2010, 3:28 PM   #1
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Default Some Thoughts Before Purchasing DA Limiteds

With Christmas just around the corner and my wife with no idea what to get me, I am about to ask for a DA Limited prime lens. I've been eyeing the DA Limiteds for some time for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that they are just beautiful works of art - something to be desired for their utility, quality and beauty.

The truth is, given the focal range covered by my zooms, I probably don't need any of the Limiteds. But my recent purchase of the high-value DA 35mm f/2.4 reminded me just how pleasant it is to work with smallish primes, as I did back in my film days. The camera almost isn't there - just an extension of the photographer. And, truth be told, primes tend to force one to work within their view of the world, requiring a more considered approach to composition - something that brings me back to what first brought me to photography in the 1970s.

If I proceed with getting into DA Limiteds, it is possible that I may move away from using most of my zooms (most but probably not all). But maybe not. This would be an experiment of sorts. But it could end up greatly simplifying my collection of photographic equipment. I may start with the DA 70 rather than the DA 15, since I haven't had my DA 12-24 all that long. If anyone has any thoughts on where to begin, I would love to hear (or read) them.

But... I truly believe we stand on the threshold of major changes - possibly upheaval - in the world of photography. Micro four-thirds seems to be reaching critical mass via Olympus and Panasonic, and there are rumors Olympus's new E-5 may be their last DSLR. Companies that include Sony and Samsung have introduced mirrorless APS-C cameras. There are strong rumors that Pentax and perhaps Nikon will follow in 2011. Mirrorless cameras already outsell DSLRs in Japan - by a wide margin.

This causes me to pause for a moment and wonder if I should hold off on purchasing (over time) an expensive set of lenses like the DA Limiteds until we see what going to happen in 2011, which could turn out to be a critical year for photography. Purists will scoff and say the mirrorless movement will never be as good as, or replace, DSLRs. Perhaps so. But, with recent advancements in sensors and electronic viewfinders, I still wonder about that. I have a small micro four-thirds kit. And while I don't use it for the same things as my Pentax kit, it is still a joy to use.

Of course, it would be just perfect if whatever mirrorless camera(s) Pentax introduces could use the DA Limiteds. A lot of pundits say that would be impossible (at least without adaptors) because of register differences. But I say that's conventional thinking and anything is possible.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. Thanks for indluging me and, if you've already read this far, for even paying attention. But I would love to hear what my fellow Pentaxians think - about the future of photography, the advisability of buying DA Limiteds now and where I might begin if I do proceed.

Happy Holidays!

Last edited by Biro; Dec 10, 2010 at 3:31 PM.
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Old Dec 10, 2010, 6:05 PM   #2
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well its a personal choice i think since i seriously doubt dslr's are about to lose the optical viewfinders just yet - they are just better, faster, clearer and many more good adjectives

in the event pentax release a mirrorless camera i would be surprised if it didn't support k mount fully one way or another - as for registration distances well old k mount slrs were smaller than many mirrorless cameras out now so dont see why they couldn't just use a super thin display on the back so camera is no bigger than old film cameras

failing that they would have to release an adaptor that allowed full automatic functionality since a new lens line up would push pentax resources

if you like primes i'd say go for it
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Old Dec 11, 2010, 10:43 AM   #3
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I went through a similar dilemma last year. I had my 18-55 (never used much) and my 16-45, which I used a lot, as almost a standard lens. I take pix of vintage vehicles and found the 16-45 to be an excellent lens ...glass wise and also in it's flexibility.

I do like the ability to move the lens's field of vision, rather than me moving back and forth, especially when I'm kneeling for a low shot.

But in the film days I used a Pentax 28 mm W/A and a Mamiya medium format, 55mm W/A, quite a bit and liked the prime lenses.

I was thinking quite seriously about either the Pentax 14 or 15 mm, but I started to read reviews about the Pentax 12-24mm, which as you know is a fine lens.

Some say that for a zoom lens it is as sharp as a prime lens. I don't know about that, but it certainly is an excellent lens.

I sometimes set my 12-24 @ either 14 or 15mm...keep it there to see how I would work with a fixed focal length.

I find I like the flexibility of the zoom, also the wider angle available (12,13 mm) too much to consider a fixed focal length at this point.

It maybe because I'm not as young as I once was and although I'm still in good shape, I would rather move the focal length through zooming, than me....'zooming'...

But on the other hand.....I am very impressed with the picture quality afforded by my two fixed focal lengths...50mm F1.4, 50mm Macro F 2.8...both modern Pentax lenses.

The F1.4 produces (late evening, outdoor) an almost 'creamy' but sharp picture...I don't know if this is the nature of the 50mm 1.4 or a prime lens.

I still may get a prime 14 or 15.

When I read my post I see I've been absolutely no help.

Les

Last edited by lesmore49; Dec 11, 2010 at 10:12 PM.
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Old Dec 11, 2010, 6:45 PM   #4
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I just returned from back east this week on business. On the plane, I read an article that phones with cameras have replaced point and shoot units since folks do not have to carry both. So, P&S sales are down, however dSLR unit sales were up, due to the increased image quality. How this is going to play out with the mirrorless units, EVIL who knows, however the micro 4:3 bodies do look nice and their lenses are indeed smaller.

Having said all of that - I had my zooms that covered everything I was interested in too. It took me 4 years of saving and acquiring. So a bit over a year ago, I was looking at picking up a 21 Ltd so that I would have something smaller than the 12-24 or 16-45. Found one used. However a 31 Ltd came instead (the advertised serial number and picture). This was something that I would not have bought myself due to the expense and the focal length was longer that what I though I would really use. I do have to say, the sharpness and image quality is wonderful, and I can't tell you how much I have enjoyed it. So, much that I found an old mint condition Zeiss 28mm prime lens that I am converting the mount on (and after that expense - the total cost will be about 1/3 the cost of a new Zeiss ZK lens). I only took the opportunity to get the Zeiss because of the color and 3D rendering folks have said it has, along with the wonderful glass. Its very close to the 31, and I think that between the two lenses, I would like to see what difference they both have. I figured that if I did not do it while I had the opportunity - I would never do it. So hopefully this week I will get the lens sent off for conversion. Will it make me a better photographer - no, but I can grow in to it hopefully with enough practice.

On the 12-24, I too like the versatility and freedom it provides in framing with the zoom. I like what it produces, and its physical size is just a byproduct that you have to just live with.

The one saving grace of Pentax's lens is that the Pentax registration distance is longer than the others, thus Pentax lenses will fit essentially everywhere (micro 4:3, Canon, etc.) with an adapter. So, the lens costs are not loss, if indeed you want to move in the future. Now the 12-24 will still be the same size mounted on a micro 4:3 body. Also, in terms of image stabilization - the lenses are not stabilized and thus much simpler and sharper. Nikon and Canon with optical stabilization actually introduces some "noise" while moving the lenses around internally in the stabilization process. So in body stabilization is in my opinion cleaner.

So the bottom line in my view is that superior glass, will always be superior glass, and keeping it simple optics is the best approach. With the longer registration distance, using adapters you can move your superior glass to just about any body - as a manual lens.

One more thought. Electronics are great - however, I doubt that in 20 years from now, my K20 will still be working like my 40 year old Spotmatic. Having an optical viewfinder, is again simpler that replacing it with essentially a TV set. Its a SWaP (Size Weight and Power) trade off. I have not moved to SDM lenses, and doubt if I ever will. The DAs and older serve my needs and other than the screw drive and the electronic chips for focal length, lens ID and aperture, I would just as soon keep it that way, so that in 20 years they will still be taking great pictures on anything they are mounted on.

Maybe that helped - maybe it just added to the confusion....


Last edited by interested_observer; Dec 11, 2010 at 9:12 PM.
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Old Dec 11, 2010, 9:53 PM   #5
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Some people prefer zooms while others prefer primes. There are times I want a zoom, but often I prefer to shoot with primes. Can't tell you why, I just do. For most of my film days I only had a couple of primes and didn't mind it at all, so perhaps it's because I'm used to it.

I was doing great with a couple of consumer zooms when I got my first digital camera. That all changed when I decided I really wanted something longer than 200 and bought an A*300. That really spoiled me and all of a sudden the kit lens and 50-200 didn't cut it. So I started collecting * and Limited lenses. I don't regret it at all, love the limiteds and don't miss a zoom much of the time. Now I find myself using a zoom as though it were a prime - whatever focal length it happens to be set at when it reaches my eye is what I shoot with, I often forget that I'm using a zoom.
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Old Dec 13, 2010, 9:34 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mtngal View Post
Some people prefer zooms while others prefer primes. There are times I want a zoom, but often I prefer to shoot with primes. Can't tell you why, I just do. For most of my film days I only had a couple of primes and didn't mind it at all, so perhaps it's because I'm used to it.

I was doing great with a couple of consumer zooms when I got my first digital camera. That all changed when I decided I really wanted something longer than 200 and bought an A*300. That really spoiled me and all of a sudden the kit lens and 50-200 didn't cut it. So I started collecting * and Limited lenses. I don't regret it at all, love the limiteds and don't miss a zoom much of the time. Now I find myself using a zoom as though it were a prime - whatever focal length it happens to be set at when it reaches my eye is what I shoot with, I often forget that I'm using a zoom.
I have often thought about getting a a new Pentax 300 MM. I've hesitated for a couple of reasons:

  • My Pentax 55-300mm , although I know it isn't in the same class as a new 300, is very sharp .
  • I've never tried a new 300mm...I think it would be a special order....
  • I'm hoping that Pentax brings out a new 400mm...a F 5.6 like the Canon L would be great. A Canon buddy (Canonite ?) has one and it's a heckuva a lens.
You have both zoom and prime in telephotos and find the 300 prime much sharper than the zooms, by the sounds of it.

I know the new 300 (not sure of the model nomenclature) is very robustly built and I think will last a lifetime and than some.
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Old Dec 14, 2010, 8:55 AM   #7
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I have the DA 55-300, A*300 (manual focus) and the DA*300 (currently produced). Each lens offers something different and while I should probably sell the A*300, I just can't quite do it. It keeps finding its way onto my camera every so often.

The 55-300 is a very good light-weight consumer zoom. It does not compare with either prime, not in sharpness or in contrast/color. I learned to take the 55-300 for what it is, and my other half loves it. I, on the other hand, made the mistake of taking comparison shots with all three lenses. After that the 55-300 sat on the shelf for a long time, until I wanted something that was really light and long. And I don't use it all that much, even though I've come to grips with the fact that even though it does not match the quality of the two primes, it can be quite useful. But if I want the best quality I can manage (and I usually do) I'll grab the DA*300. The A*300 is very slightly behind the DA*300 in quality (my opinion). The pictures from the DA are a bit crisper, but it's a small difference and isn't that noticable until you start pixel-peeping. The A is lighter, which means I don't have much trouble hand-holding it (though the weight is all at the front element so it's somewhat awkward). I do better using a tripod with the DA, though I have hand-held it quite often (all of the surfing pictures I posted from September were taken hand-held). In my opinion, the DA is a brilliant lens and while it was an impulsive, indulgent purchase considering the fact I own the other two lenses, it's not one I regret for a minute.

The DA*300 is readily available. While many camera stores might not keep stock of such an expensive lens on-hand, places like B&H etc. always seem to have them in-stock.

The question will ultimately end up being personal preference. The DA*300 is definitely a lot better lens, but also more expensive. Is that extra quality going to be worth it to you, personally, for you to fork over all that extra money? Some people will answer yes (I did) and others will answer no, the right answer for them.

I agree that having something that's 400mm and not too expensive would be a hot item. Or if Pentax would release a good 1.4 or 1.7 TC, either the AFA or one that will AF with the DA*300, that's what I would prefer right now.
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Old Dec 14, 2010, 12:43 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by mtngal View Post
I have the DA 55-300, A*300 (manual focus) and the DA*300 (currently produced). Each lens offers something different and while I should probably sell the A*300, I just can't quite do it. It keeps finding its way onto my camera every so often.

The 55-300 is a very good light-weight consumer zoom. It does not compare with either prime, not in sharpness or in contrast/color. I learned to take the 55-300 for what it is, and my other half loves it. I, on the other hand, made the mistake of taking comparison shots with all three lenses. After that the 55-300 sat on the shelf for a long time, until I wanted something that was really light and long. And I don't use it all that much, even though I've come to grips with the fact that even though it does not match the quality of the two primes, it can be quite useful. But if I want the best quality I can manage (and I usually do) I'll grab the DA*300. The A*300 is very slightly behind the DA*300 in quality (my opinion). The pictures from the DA are a bit crisper, but it's a small difference and isn't that noticable until you start pixel-peeping. The A is lighter, which means I don't have much trouble hand-holding it (though the weight is all at the front element so it's somewhat awkward). I do better using a tripod with the DA, though I have hand-held it quite often (all of the surfing pictures I posted from September were taken hand-held). In my opinion, the DA is a brilliant lens and while it was an impulsive, indulgent purchase considering the fact I own the other two lenses, it's not one I regret for a minute.

The DA*300 is readily available. While many camera stores might not keep stock of such an expensive lens on-hand, places like B&H etc. always seem to have them in-stock.

The question will ultimately end up being personal preference. The DA*300 is definitely a lot better lens, but also more expensive. Is that extra quality going to be worth it to you, personally, for you to fork over all that extra money? Some people will answer yes (I did) and others will answer no, the right answer for them.

I agree that having something that's 400mm and not too expensive would be a hot item. Or if Pentax would release a good 1.4 or 1.7 TC, either the AFA or one that will AF with the DA*300, that's what I would prefer right now.
Thank you for the detailed response. You've focused on the issues I was interested in...the picture taking ability difference between the DA 300 and the 55-300.

I have looked at both the Sigma 120-400 and the Sigma 150-500...both of course offer significantly more (esp. the 150-500) focal length. But they are heavy.

I also have some qualms about whether they are as sharp as the DA 300 (ie: zooms as opposed to primes). I do want sharpness.

I know many use tele converters and I have an old Pentax 2 X TC.....but I'm not sure if I would be sacrificing picture quality, with the extra glass inserted between lens and camera.

I also don't have any Sigma lenses...so have no personal experience with their level of quality, where I've had many Pentax / Takumar lenses and have always been impressed with Pentax / Tak.

In Canada, the Sigma 120-400 is expensive, but still cheaper than the DA 300, while the 150-500 is about the same price as the DA 300.

I'm just rambling now, but I tend to do a lot of that while mulling around decisions.

Thank you again for your excellent analysis of Pentax options ...around the 300 mm possibilities.

It's very useful.

Les
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Old Dec 14, 2010, 8:32 PM   #9
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I have the DA 15 for a few weeks now and really like this lens (told my wife is came with the K-5). I wanted a wide prime and this lens does not disappoint. I have to agree with Mtngal. I love shooting with prime lenses. I have a different mind set when using them. The 15 is the only DA limited I have. I have the FA 43mm and FA 77 and don't leave home without them. Right now I am debating between the DA 35 limited macro or the FA 31. Regardless of what you pick. None of the limiteds will let you down. Stevie
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Old Dec 14, 2010, 9:34 PM   #10
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I got a chance to handle the Sigma 50-500 and 150-500 at a photo expo recently (I had never seen them before). They weren't Pentax mount so I didn't actually try them with the K7, but I could get an idea of what they were like by their size and weight. I don't think I could ever shoot the 50-500 handheld - it would be strictly a tripod lens if I were to get one. The 150-500 might be hand-holdable for short periods of time, and at fast shutter speeds. At the moment I'm not in the long lens market.

Stevie - I have the DA 35 macro, it's an excellent lens and I use it often. I like the close-focusing ability, it comes in handy as I like close-ups and flowers. However, it hasn't cured me from wanting the FA 31 unfortunately. Like most macro lenses, it's very sharp but the bokeh can be harsh/jittery on occasion. I'm not likely to sell it, even if some day I get the FA 31 - different horses for different courses. If you want the ultimate, creamy bokeh spend the extra money and get the FA 31. If you are going to be taking close-ups along with street scenes, perhaps using smaller apertures for greater dof, then the DA 35 macro would work very well. The focal length is much like the old 50 was on a film camera, just what I was looking for when I bought mine.
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