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Old Jan 27, 2010, 2:19 PM   #1
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Default Lenses for Pentax K-x

I'm a dSLR newbie and about to purchase the Pentax K-x (tomorrow if all goes well). I plan on purchasing the camera with the standard 18-55mm lens to use for general purpose, travel, family events, etc.

My plan is to purchase a wide apeture lens a few months down the road once I feel more comfortable with the camera. It's mostly personal preference, I love the "wide open" look in photos, especially for casual portraits. I'd love to get a 1.4 or 1.8 lens. Does anyone have any specific recommendations for an affordable lens that would suit these needs with the Pentax K-x?

Like I said, I don't want to purchase the lens immediately but I would like to have an idea of what I'm looking for and how much I might expect to spend.

Thanks!
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Old Jan 27, 2010, 3:00 PM   #2
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Hey Jill, welcome to the forum.
I think that lens choice is dependent on a lot of variables.
Probably the best thing to do is go to this link and do lots of research before making any kind of decision. http://www.pentaxforums.com/lensreviews/ It has lots of info you will find interesting. Good luck and don't be afraid to ask questions.
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Old Jan 27, 2010, 3:43 PM   #3
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What's your budget?

My favorite portrait lens, though it is a bit long for casual use is the FA 77 f1.8 Limited. It has a special quality that's wonderful and it's not real big. I fell in love with it when I tried a rep's sample, then fought the urge to buy one for over a year because I already owned the DA*50-135 and two SMC M 50 mm - an f1.7 and an f1.4 and didn't need it. And it's expensive. But is it ever nice, one of my best lenses and I have no regrets buying it.

The DA*50-135 might be an alternative for you. It's not as fast a lens but it's quality is just a bit behind the 77 and it's a zoom (and weather sealed but since you are talking about the K-x it wouldn't matter now). It usually sells for a bit less than the 77. While you can find them for sale used, check out B&H's website for decent current pricing.

If your budget is limited, and you don't mind working a bit harder and using a manual lens, you can pick up an SMC M 50mm f1.7 for between $50-100. It's an manual lens that's no longer in production so you'd have to manually focus, set the aperture on the lens itself and push a button for the camera to meter, but it's not all that difficult (though manual focusing takes some practice, the camera beeps at you and has a green hexagon that lights up when it thinks it's in focus, a big help).

Get the kit lens and play with it for a while, just to see where it's limitations are, setting aside money for your fast lens. If you want that fast lens right away, but don't want to spend much on it, look at keh or another place that sells used lenses and look for one of the manual 50 mm lenses. Or keep an eye on Craigs List or local classifieds for someone selling an old film Pentax camera for peanuts (under $50 since that's about what you'd spend for one at keh/B&H used equipment etc.) - they often come with one of the 50mm lenses on them.

Another lens to consider that's cheaper than the 77 Ltd is the FA 50 mm f1.4. It's around $350 or so (last time I looked, I think). There's also a DA 70 f2.4 Limited that's well liked by those who own it, is less expensive and smaller than the 77, but more than the FA 50 mm f1.4.

You'd have lots of choices, depends on what you want to spend on it.
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Old Jan 27, 2010, 3:55 PM   #4
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Portrait lenses for APS-C sized sensors range from 50mm to 80mm (equivalent to the 75mm to 120mm range of most film era portrait lenses).

The FA 50mm f1.4 is a good choice if limited depth of field is important and you will be working fairly close to your subject. It also has the added advantage of very nearly 1:1 viewfinder image so it can be used with both eyes open very easily. The price is a bargain for the optical quality you get but it doesn't have the quality mechanical feel of a Limited lens.

The FA Limited 77mm f1.8 that Harriet mentioned is a much better built lens with the best optical quality Pentax has to offer. This is a very impressive lens but far more expensive than the 50mm. It is at the longer end of the portrait range so it requires a lot more distance than the 50mm (good for perspective, bad if you like to shoot indoors and the room is small). Definitely the winner here but very expensive.

Both of these lenses are very compact so they will fit well on the K-x, a larger zoom would handle very differently (this is a personal preference item).

Good luck and enjoy your new camera.
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Old Jan 27, 2010, 4:14 PM   #5
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If you want wide angle shots you will want to look for a lens with a wider zoom. 50mm will not be wide.

You will want to look at something like the sigma 10-20mm zoom or the tamron 10-24mm zoom.

On the primes you will want to look at a smcp-da 15mm f4, pricey, or sigma 24 f1.8 if you want a bright lens in the mid 400's
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Old Jan 27, 2010, 10:49 PM   #6
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shoturtle - The OP asked about "wide aperture" lenses, not wide angle. The Sigma 10-20 has way too big of a depth of field and isn't particularly fast, it wouldn't make a very good portrait lens since you'd have to be so close to your subject to get an out of focus background.
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Old Jan 27, 2010, 11:04 PM   #7
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I miss read it, and realize it afterwards.
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Old Jan 28, 2010, 11:16 PM   #8
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There's not a whole lot I can add, except to say that my wife and I both like the FA 50 f/1.4 very much. She has a K200D, and prefers a telephoto lens; I have a K20D and shoot more often with wide angle lenses. When we're out shooting together we rarely argue over who gets to use a certain lens. But if we both want to use the FA 50, the arguments start.

I've heard people say good things about Sigma's 50 mm f/1.4 EX lens. I have no first hand knowledge of that lens, but it's even more expensive than the Pentax FA 50, and I can't imagine it's optically superior to the Pentax lens.
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Old Jan 29, 2010, 12:15 AM   #9
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I would love to have the 77mm f/1.8, but the FA 50's tough to beat, for a lot less money. It's definitely one of my favorites for portrait work, although I've begun using the Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 quite a bit as well. It's bokeh isn't quite as stunning, but it is extremely versatile.

Congratulations on the K-x. One of my nephews just bought one and absolutely loves it. From everything I've heard, it's a whole lot of camera for the money. Welcome to the forum. We look forward to seeing your photos.

Paul
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Old Jan 29, 2010, 12:19 AM   #10
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Jill... the fact that you are buying a K-x is a great advantage. The camera's excellent performance at high ISO (you can use up to ISO 6400 with confidence) means you can stick with Pentax glass if you want and still get good low-light performance without necessarily requiring f/1.4 or f/1.8. You start out with low ISO and when you can't get enough light even at your lens's widest aperture, you start dialing up the ISO.

The lenses others have described are all very good options - and they're also at focal lengths particularly suited for portraits.

But on digital cameras with APS-C sized sensors (like the K-x and other Pentax DSLRs), a focal length in the 28-35mm range is closer to what would be called "normal" (the same way that 50mm is called normal on 35mm film cameras and full-frame DSLRs). If you're thinking about fast lenses for all-around use, you might want to also consider some of the following:

If you don't need lightning-quick auto-focusing, the DA 35mm f/2.8 macro Limited is an excellent lens. Because this lens is a macro and has no focus limiter, it tends to focus a bit slower than some other lenses. This is by design. But this lens is sharp and renders images wonderfully. $539 at B&H.

If you require faster auto-focus, then the less-expensive DA 40mm f/2.8 Limited pancake lens is a great option. Light, very compact... and less money than the DA 35 Limited. $339 at B&H.

But if you really want a lens with a very wide aperture, there is the FA 35mm f/2.0. This is a very good lens that originally came out during the film era. It's a bit plasticky but no one has ever reported this being a problem. Some people complain about the slightly "harsh" bokeh (the lens has six blades versus 8 or 9 for the others). Again, I don't think this is a deal-breaker in the real world. It's also sharp even when wide open. But because this lens is no longer in production, you either buy one used - or pay Pentax $475 for a new leftover with warranty. This lens wasn't intended to be all that expensive when it was introduced. But supply and demand will do things like that.

Of course, there's the very expensive FA 31mm f/1.8 Limited. If you absolutely, positively must have the best and are willing to pay for it, this is your lens. But be forewarned, the legendary narrow depth of field this lens offers can also make it a lot of work when focusing. The FA 43mm f/1.9 Limited is also a wonderful lens - just a bit less sharp than the 31 when wide open (but still very good) and features a longer focal length and a lower price tag. $964 for the 31mm at B&H... $749 for the 43mm.

And then there are some third-party lenses from Sigma: a 28mm f/1.8 and a 30mm f/1.4. The 28mm works well enough but is very big and heavy for a prime lens. $348 at B&H. Then there's the the 30mm. The general consensus is this: This Sigma is a very good lens - fast and well-built. It is noted for having excellent sharpness in the center and being soft at the edges - particularly when wide open. But, depending on what you're shooting, this may not be an issue - and might even be an advantage for portraits. B&H offers this lens for $439 - less than half the cost of the FA 31 Limited.

Any of these lenses will do a solid job for you at the very least. Others will do even more - but for more money. Oh - I almost forgot - the K-x includes a feature (which you can turn on and off) that corrects for lens distortion. But it only really works with Pentax DA and D FA lenses. But I don't think this focal length should be much of a problem in terms of distortion.

I hope this helps! But I think you're doing the right thing in starting out with the kit lens. There's no need to rush and spend money before you know what you really want and need. Let us know how it goes.
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