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Old Jun 15, 2011, 12:43 PM   #1
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Default Unsung lenses...the Pentax 50 mm

When I started my photographic passion...way back in the 1960's...pretty well every manufacturer supplied a 50 to 55 mm....mostly a 50 though...'normal' lens when you bought one of their SLR's.

They came with the camera and reflecting back...IMO.. they were not regarded too highly....maybe because they were regarded as free...sort of like the bun or the little bit of green leaf (can't recall the name) that would decorate your plate with each and every restaurant meal back in those far off days.

Then came DSLR's and the ubiquitous 18-55 zoom kit lens....or with more expensive camera models ...nothing,, just the body.

Over the past couple of years I have picked up two Pentax 50 mm lenses....a FA normal, F 1.4 and a Pentax D FA Macro, F 2.8.

Frankly I don't use them enough...something that I have been trying to rectify in the past while.

The Macro takes great portraits, close ups of everything from flowers, vintage cars, animals, insects...aberrations on old trees....you name it.

The Normal F 1.4 is great for indoor available light and outdoor portraits....portraits with my 360 flash...any and many subjects. I've also used it for photographing vintage cars in the fading light of evening....it seems to create a wonderful 'creamy' effect that I cannot get with my slower wide angle zooms.

Both can provide stupendous bokeh and the clarity of these fine prime lenses is something to behold.

The Macro in particular almost seems to create a bit of a 3 D effect....well not quite....but it does seem to add an additional dimension to some pictures.

But rarely do I see anyone talk about them ...or use them much.

The great thing is that they are also very reasonably priced and on a cropped Pentax DSLR sensor give you about a 35 mm equivalent of a 70-75 mm lens....some might say...perfect for portraiture.

Not to be overly dramatic ...but am I just a lone voice in the wilderness...or do others feel the same way I do about the lowly 50 mm lens ?

Les

Last edited by lesmore49; Jun 15, 2011 at 12:50 PM.
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Old Jun 15, 2011, 8:50 PM   #2
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I have two fast 50 lenses, f1.7 and f1.4, both M lenses. They are both lovely lenses, I prefer the f1.7 because the 1.4 is softer at f1.4 (they are the same when stopped down to smaller than f2). The f1.7 was my main lens when I shot film, occasionally using something longer and never using anything wider. However, since I switched to digital I never use them - they seem either too long or too short for my style. Well, I won't say "never" - the f1.4 gets reversed in front of another lens for macro shots on occasion. But I just don't use 50 mm much at all any more.
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Old Jun 15, 2011, 10:55 PM   #3
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I had a K1000 with a 50/2 on it, and it was my only lens. It was kinda liberating, in a way, as I didn't need more than the leather case and a pocket for some extra film. I didn't spend any time thinking about how many/which lenses I'd take with me, and it was plenty compact to take on my bicycle.
Alas, it was stolen out of my van on one of the *very* few times I actually drove to work.

I'm on the lookout for a simple prime for my XSi now, and I can use it on the other EOS film bodies too.
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Old Jun 15, 2011, 11:59 PM   #4
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I have two fast 50 lenses, f1.7 and f1.4, both M lenses. They are both lovely lenses, I prefer the f1.7 because the 1.4 is softer at f1.4 (they are the same when stopped down to smaller than f2). The f1.7 was my main lens when I shot film, occasionally using something longer and never using anything wider. However, since I switched to digital I never use them - they seem either too long or too short for my style. Well, I won't say "never" - the f1.4 gets reversed in front of another lens for macro shots on occasion. But I just don't use 50 mm much at all any more.
I've never reversed a lens for macro shots, although I understand that this is a very effective way of getting great close ups...I should try it someday.

When I started photography the 50 mm lenses were all that I had...back then it was a real novelty for me to get my first wide angle (35mm), first telephoto zoom (90-230mm) and first prime telephoto (135mm F 3.5). After I got these lenses...I rarely used my 50's.

However in the digital age I really like the mini telephoto (70-75mm) portrait style lens that the 50's have become. I think this is why the 50 primes have become more attractive for me.

You're quite right about F 1.4 being soft...I usually use F 2 or more.

Les
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Old Jun 16, 2011, 12:01 AM   #5
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I had a K1000 with a 50/2 on it, and it was my only lens. It was kinda liberating, in a way, as I didn't need more than the leather case and a pocket for some extra film. I didn't spend any time thinking about how many/which lenses I'd take with me, and it was plenty compact to take on my bicycle.
Alas, it was stolen out of my van on one of the *very* few times I actually drove to work.

I'm on the lookout for a simple prime for my XSi now, and I can use it on the other EOS film bodies too.
I think Canon has a fairly reasonably priced F 1.8, 50mm lens....might be the ticket for you.
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Old Jun 17, 2011, 7:22 AM   #6
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Hi Les,

I have quite a collection of 50mm lenses, none of which gets regular use ...

I have the SMC - M 50/1.4 and M 50/1.7 as already stated great for portraiture, but I only do that occasionally. the 50/1.7 is permanently fitted to a Vivitar 2X macrofocussing teleconverter, and serves as an excellent macro lens up to 1:1

I also have the SMC-A 50/1.7 my sample has lovely contrast and warm colour rendition, and this is the one I prefer for portraits, and probably the one used most often.

There are 2 relics of my film days ...
A pentacon 50/1.8 M42 ... I have tried this fitted to my bellows unit the combination does excellent macro work.

Also a M42 Russian Industar 61A LZ-MC a lens with macro features ie. deep set object lens and a long throw focus ring, a delight to use for flower close ups etc., but being an M42 screwfit it's use is fully manual, and much less convenient. So all are very good lenses, and most are sadly neglected. ... Jack
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Old Jun 17, 2011, 1:47 PM   #7
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Hi Les,

I have quite a collection of 50mm lenses, none of which gets regular use ...

I have the SMC - M 50/1.4 and M 50/1.7 as already stated great for portraiture, but I only do that occasionally. the 50/1.7 is permanently fitted to a Vivitar 2X macrofocussing teleconverter, and serves as an excellent macro lens up to 1:1

I never thought of that. I have a Takumar (Pentax mfg.) 2X teleconvertor...and I also have my mint condition 1975, F 1.8 50mm (came with my Pentax ES 11)....something to think about.

I also have the SMC-A 50/1.7 my sample has lovely contrast and warm colour rendition, and this is the one I prefer for portraits, and probably the one used most often.

There are 2 relics of my film days ...
A pentacon 50/1.8 M42 ... I have tried this fitted to my bellows unit the combination does excellent macro work.

Also a M42 Russian Industar 61A LZ-MC a lens with macro features ie. deep set object lens and a long throw focus ring, a delight to use for flower close ups etc., but being an M42 screwfit it's use is fully manual, and much less convenient. So all are very good lenses, and most are sadly neglected. ... Jack
Good post....lot's of good ideas to use 50mm lenses in somewhat unorthodox...but very effective ways.

Les
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Old Jun 17, 2011, 2:35 PM   #8
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Good post....lot's of good ideas to use 50mm lenses in somewhat unorthodox...but very effective ways.

Les
Hi Les,

Not sure if you're familiar with the vivitar TC ... it is fully adjustable between 1:1 and 1:20, so the combination makes a very versatile lens.
There 2 versions of the TC one is manual, and th second has contacts, and is able to read lens perameters. There's good information in the link below. ... Jack

http://www.jr-worldwi.de/photo/macro3_shootout.html
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Old Jun 17, 2011, 6:05 PM   #9
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Hi Les,

Not sure if you're familiar with the vivitar TC ... it is fully adjustable between 1:1 and 1:20, so the combination makes a very versatile lens.
There 2 versions of the TC one is manual, and th second has contacts, and is able to read lens perameters. There's good information in the link below. ... Jack

http://www.jr-worldwi.de/photo/macro3_shootout.html
Thank you for the info. I wasn't aware what this TC could do. I've only had one piece of Vivitar equipment, my Vivitar 285 HV flashgun, but based on that one Vivitar I have been impressed.
This flash is excellent, powerful, reliable, durable...used on my 35mm slr's, 35mm RF and medium format film cameras....but not my digital stuff.
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Old Jun 19, 2011, 10:56 PM   #10
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I have the FA 50 f/1.4, and it certainly is a fine lens. I also am guilty of not using it enough. I have become so accustomed to using a zoom, I don't think about the 50mm prime lens very much -- and that's a mistake. I also had a film SLR and a 50mm prime lens for many years, and I was very happy. I simply composed photos with the field of view my one lens provided, and made it work. In some ways, zoom lensesd have made me a lazy photographer.
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