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Old Nov 20, 2010, 12:42 PM   #1
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Default Favoured focal lengths

I know this is a rehash but one that bears some discussion now and then. Which focal lengths do you favour? My kit includes everything from 10mm fish-eye to 300mm and I seem to go through phases with lenses sometimes based on focal length, sometimes DOF, sometimes sharpness.

Recently I have been stuck at the short telephoto range using the 50mm f1.4 and the 28-70mm f4 (remember that anything over 35mm is telephoto on our Pentaxes) and occasionally the old M-series 100mm macro. The 100-300mm is usually reserved for wildlife shots. I really like what the 50mm does in image quality because of the great control of DOF, separating your subject from the environment, and the soft but detailed look it gives to faces.

Lately however I have noticed the greater sense of drama possible by getting in close with a wide angle lens, the opposite to the 50mm in that it puts the subject into the environment rather than separating it from the environment. All I had here was the fish-eye zoom which gave too much distortion. I thought of getting the 14mm sent up but it is big, heavy and not very flexible, so instead I got a standard 18-55mm which gives a very nice wide angle effect since the noticeable vignetting and slight barrel distortion gives the images a warmth that "better" lenses sometimes lack (yes, I do believe that a lens can be too perfect, it then becomes clinical rather than artistic in its rendition of a scene. Think of music for a moment, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen are not exactly great singing voices but they stay with you while many great "voices" just fade from memory).

So, what do you prefer? Is there a focal length you always turn to, or are you like me and go through phases?
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Old Nov 20, 2010, 12:58 PM   #2
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I go through phases. Seems to matter what types of things I'm into taking photos of. Sometimes it's macros and I use the Viv 105 exclusively, or sometimes my Zenitar 16mm fisheye just to play. About the only lenses I don't use much are my Sigma 28-80 and Pentax 50-200. I had originally bought the Sigma for it's macro capability to see if I really liked macro work or not. And, I have the Tamron 70-300 so always go to it for a longer zoom.

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Old Nov 20, 2010, 4:40 PM   #3
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Depends on what I do at the time, I find.

In the summer, I take a lot of pictures of vintage vehicles. My favoured lens are wide angles and # 1 in my repertoire, is my Pentax 12-24mm..then my 16-45mm...then my 10-17mm fisheye.

That 12-24mm is pin point sharp...some say as a zoom it matches a top line prime W/A.

With the fisheye..I spend a lot of time positioning...in order to stretchhhh out long hoods, usually on 30's cars...or tailfins on '50's cars.

In the winter I do wildlife. I'm out and about in Winterpeg , NW Ontario and southern Manitoba.

I use my 55-300mm...great lens...very sharp. I bought one of the first in May 2008.
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Old Nov 20, 2010, 5:51 PM   #4
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This is actually a good question.

How I look at it: There's several types of photographers. Some people think in detail and are more comfortable with macros and a long lens. That's how I am by nature.

Then there are those who naturally think in vistas or small places. They tend to be more comfortable with wide angle lenses and don't see a reason to pull things in closer to them.

There are those who are impatient with changing lenses and want only zooms. Others are used to primes and love choosing the right one for the situation (or finding the right situation for the lens they happen to have).

Some people never go beyond their natural preference - sticking to either the wide angle or the long lens. They specialize and take marvelous pictures within their field.

Others like to experiment and are constantly pushing their personal limits. They like to try everything, getting a new lens and learning it's peculiarities and how to use it effectively, changing their shooting style to match. They are always learning new things and perhaps won't reach the level of perfection of someone more specialized, but they get great satisfaction with mastering different areas of photography.

I've been trying to be in the last category. Recently I've been limited by weight so I've been staying at the normal-mid telephoto range, keeping the DA 35 macro and FA 77 Ltd in the camera bag all the time. Other lenses go in and out of the bag, depending on where I'm going and what I want to do (started out this morning to go to the LA Auto Show with those two plus the 12-24, 50-135 and just because its fun, the 10-17. Weather was so horrible, CHP was reporting major accidents on the route we had to take, so we turned around when we got down the mountain). Last weekend I used the DA 55-300 and DA*300 when visiting Oceanside. So there's no one range I use constantly any more. I have a very good lens collection and will use whatever seems to be appropriate to whatever I'm going to be doing.

Finally, the best news is that there's no right answer as far as focal lengths. It's all about what you, personally, want to show/say.
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Old Nov 20, 2010, 7:32 PM   #5
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well general rule my 18-50mm is what is mostly on my camera - why i am going to upgrade that lens to the da* 16-50mm

at first i was abit disalusioned with my da 12-24mm as it was supposed to be amazingly sharp and i found it anything but - but think it was some issue with front back focus - and while i didn't have the patience to fix it by simply using live view contrast detection autofocus the problem is solved - and its not really a problem since i basically always use this lens on a tripod for landscapes so slow focusing is not a problem and at some angles its much easier to use live view anyway - so i am pleased with this specially as i picked it up brand new and for about half of what its worth

from there i kinda jump to other end of the scale and upto 500mm - love long lenses and getting wildlfe/airplanes etc

then my 60-250mm relatively new purchase and finding this focal length ideal for most zoo type shots - need to get back to the highland wildlife park sometime soon and give it a real workout

then got tamron 90mm got to admit not been using this that much recently - funny since been finding it hard to get inspiration lately and macro is the one that gives the most opertunities without even having to leave home - really should get it out and go on a mission to find some photo's
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Old Nov 20, 2010, 7:43 PM   #6
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85mm on FF or film, 50mm on APS-c
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Old Nov 21, 2010, 8:39 AM   #7
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For wildlife I use my Tokina 80-400mm mostly in the 300-400mm range.

For most architecture and landscapes the Sigma 10-20mm.

For travel and as a general walk around lens my Tamron 18-250 and set it whatever length I need to suite the shot I am taking.

Lou
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Old Nov 21, 2010, 12:56 PM   #8
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Harriett's post hit the nail on the head.

Personally :

Buildings / Real Estate / World Expo etc . - the 10-20 has been used more than any other and is probably my most used lens in the true meaning of the phrase.

Macro / some portraiture - Tamron 90, absolutely tack-sharp and a lovely bokeh.

On my camera for general use - 55-300 / 43 Ltd / FA50/1.4.

I have a gap from 20 to 43 (well I have an FA28-80 but that doesn't count ) so the 16-50 or 17-70 are on my short list unless when I get the 18-135 I find the quality is good enough that I won't need either of them. The 60-250 will replace the 55-300 once I find a nice used copy.
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Nikon : D800, D600, Sigma 500/4.5, Sigma 120-300/2.8, Zeiss Distagon ZF2 - 21/2.8, Zeiss Distagon ZF2 - 35/2.0, Nikkor 85/1.8G, Sigma 50/1.4. Nikon x1.4 TC, Sigma x2.0 TC

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Old Nov 21, 2010, 1:07 PM   #9
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I often regret having passed up on the DA 12-24mm when it was afford-ably priced, now it is quite pricey. I would really like a DA 16-45mm f4 since it is still reasonably compact but is considerably better than the 18-55 kit lens. In spite of my interest in wide angles right now my next lens will probably be a DA 50-200mm WR since I have a K10D body but no weather resistant lenses. I wonder if the DA 18-55mm WR has any optical improvements over the first version kit lens I have now?
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http://aicphotography.blogspot.com/
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Current equipment
Pentax K5, K3:
FA 35mm f2, FA 50 f1.4, FA 28-70mm f4, FA 28-80mm f3.5-5.6, F 50mm f1.7, Tamron SP 70-200mm f2.8 Di, DA 10-17 f3.5-4.5, DA 14 f2.8, DA 16-45mm f4, DA 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 WR, DA 50-200mm f4-5.6 WR, AF-540FGZ

Olympus E-P2, E-P5, OM-D E-M1: 9mm to 150mm lenses

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Old Nov 21, 2010, 4:26 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Keltech View Post
For wildlife I use my Tokina 80-400mm mostly in the 300-400mm range.

For most architecture and landscapes the Sigma 10-20mm.

For travel and as a general walk around lens my Tamron 18-250 and set it whatever length I need to suite the shot I am taking.

Lou
No Pentax lenses ?

I considered the Sigma 10-20...but got the Pentax 12-24mm....but Sigma now has brought out a 8-16 ..that lens has piqued my curiosity.
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