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Old Dec 29, 2011, 6:26 PM   #21
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If you'll be doing a lot of shooting at night or in low light, you might want to reconsider one of Sony's SLTs (A35, A55, A65 & A77.) The electronic viewfinder will give you an edge in low light that an optical viewfinder won't have. Stars might be tough to make out, but foreground objects will be easier to see.
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Old Dec 29, 2011, 7:19 PM   #22
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Another lens to consider with the Pentax K-5 is the Pentax DA 12-24. Great color and clarity across a very useful focal range... There are also some very fine Pentax Limited prime lenses (eg DA 15) that work well for landscape photography.
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Old Dec 29, 2011, 9:08 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by hoffam19 View Post
Hey guys, I'm well aware of the the focal lengths and the conversion to full frame on the two lenses and my olympus lens. How wide is wide enough is the question, I know. Currently with my olympus, I rarely shoot with anything more than 14mm on my kit lens. I have the 40-150 as well and it is hardly ever on the camera. Sometimes I wish I had a wider lens yet, but I'm not sure how wide I really need. I also understand that a 16mm or 17mm on the APS-C sensor would already be wider than what I have. The reason I was thinking the 11-16 is because I really want to get into the night photography seriously, and I would think, the wider the better to get a good foreground and lots of sky. Also people seem to be getting good starry sky results with the tonika. Also I just moved to the city an eventually might want to expand my horizons to architectural photog, also needing the wide angle. Most of my daytime landscape shots are wide open mountain scenery and such, and the 16mm or 17mm would be wide enough, but I'm not sure going wider would hurt anything as long as there isnt too much distortion. All that being said, I basically was just wondering what you think about the image quality of the tonika at it's widest compared to the tamron at its widest. I'm open to other lenses as well, but they seem like the most bang for the buck in f2.8 range. Also any opinions of one camera over the other. And lastly, the $1500 is just a starting budget. I can live with out a zoom for a while and pick something up later in the year.
Well since you asked about the performance of the Tokina 11-16mm 2.8, I can share with you that for landscape photography it is a marvelous lens. Very sharp, good contrast, and yes while there is distortion that's true of any wide angle lens out there today. The distortion issue can be resolved in post processing.

I find myself at both extremes of the focal range as I spend a great deal of time photographing early morning and late evening landscapes here in my part of the world. When I used the Olympus E-30 + 12-60mm SWD lens it was very rare when I had it set for anything but 12mm. For me , the Tokina 11-16mm is a great lens for the type of photography that I like to do. I typically use a tripod so stabilized lenses or bodies are not a factor. I also stitch multiple images for panoramas. The 11-16mm makes it easier as I usually only stitch 2 or 3 frames as opposed to 3 or 4 or 5.

One point I didn't mention earlier is that a wide angle lens offers the ability of standing very close to the subject and still allow you to capture the entire subject which tends to emphasize the "depth" of the photograph giving it much greater effect than one created with a medium focal length.

When I'm not shooting landscapes, I've got the 70-200mm f2.8VR set at 200mm to shoot birds and wildlife. I have a Nikkor 18-70 mm lens for a medium zoom. But, frankly it never sees the light of day.

Can't help you with the Tamron 17-50mm 2.8 as I don't have one nor have I tested one out.

Hope this helps.


So you want to be a better photographer? Open your eyes and take a look at what is all around you.

Last edited by zig-123; Dec 29, 2011 at 9:33 PM.
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Old Dec 29, 2011, 9:12 PM   #24
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Well I shoot landscapes, cityscapes and when I get over to California seascapes. I also shoot Pentax. I too would say look at glass and plan for it, such that it will guide you in to the body.

With that said, here is my views, opinions and maybe some suggestions.

To get the best night landscapes you are going to....
  • ISO 100 - In order to get the best quality (low noise). You are not going to be using ISO 1600, 3200, 12800, etc to get these sharp, high image quality shots.
  • Apertures of f5.6 to f8 or f11 - In order to get a good depth of field coupled with hyperfocusing.
  • Shutter times of 20 seconds to a couple of minutes - In order to gather sufficient light.
  • A good tripod and head - to hold the camera body still while it records sufficient light for the shot.
  • Bracketing - You might go to 3 to 5 shot bracketing in order to enhance shadowing and the various lighting effects.
You really have not indicated what about your current camera prevents you from shooting at night. It does ISO 100, your lenses do f5.6 to f8, and the shutter goes up to 30 seconds, manual mode and you have the Bulb setting. Thoes are going to be the basics on any camera - along with a good tripod and external shutter release. Have you tried this at all?

So if its new gear, then here are some thoughts...
  • Acquire over time - If you don't, the bill can be very high.
  • Landscapes - If you look around, just about all the professional landscape imagery use focal lengths in the mid 20's to mid 30's. Essentially 24 to 28mm appears to be the sweet spot. This is not wide angle. The reason for this is the way the optics are designed. At these focal lengths, distortion is able to be controlled extraordinarily well, to the extent that there really is not any. As you go wider, the distortion increases as the lens designs needs to pull more view in along the edges. This in and of itself creates a pulling (stretching) effect you tend to see in the wider angles along the edges and corners.
  • Composition - As you use wider lenses, the angle of view naturally increases. This increase is not only along the sides, but along the top and bottom. The sides and top of the view is not the problem - however the bottom edge of the frame becomes very important. In order to effectively use a wide angle lens, you really need some interest in the foreground or the image becomes pretty uninteresting. To get around this you usually crop - but you are cropping the image that you paid a premium for in acquiring the wide angle lens. Also, the wider you get, the more the center is pushed back in order to accommodate the additional view being added to the sides. To mitigate this you need to use a slightly longer focal length and stitch. This also works for you in several ways, 1) you are adding pixels and 2) maintaining the sharpness provided by the longer focal length lens.
  • Expensive Lenses - Lenses tend to get expensive for a number of reasons, 1) wide angle; 2) telephoto; 3) large aperture or fast lenses. Landscapes usually don't move, so you can go with slower glass. f4 is just fine and it holds down the cost of the glass.
  • Kit Lenses - Kit lenses usually go from 18-55mm, and are wide enough to do a lot of work. Contrary to popular belief, at say 20mm and at f8 using ISO 100 for the best quality, you can do a lot at night with the kit lens - AND a good tripod & shutter release.
So now that I just confused everything - here are some suggestions that may possibly help.
  • Tokina 11-16/2.8 - From what I have read its a tremendous lens. Extremely sharp and low distortion, however it is fairly expensive and you really do not need f2.8 - even for low ambient light or night shooting. Toking has a 12-24/f4 that should suffice just fine. Tokina makes this in the Nikon, Canon and Sony mounts. Pentax has the equivalent lens (same design - Tokina and Pentax co-designed the lens).
  • Extraordinary fine glass - Ok - if you want extremely fine glass, a lot of it is old (thus manual focus) - or you can go broke trying to buy new. Carl Zeiss had a line of professional grade film cameras - Contax, that they made a complete line of glass for. This glass is extremely fine, especially in the lower focal lengths (18, 21, 25, 28, 35, 50, 60 and 85mm). It is also reasonably fast - most of it is f2.8. Carl Zeiss is marketing a current line of glass - and they are expensive. The Contax lenses can be affordable (~$300 for the 28/2.8 and the 35/2.8), however the 21 is also expensive ($1,200+). Manual focus for landscapes should not be a problem - infinity and f5.6 to f8 is the sweet spot for the lenses - and you shoot with longer shutter times (plus, at night you will NOT be able to autofocus anyway). However, these older lenses are able to be used on current camera bodies with a $30 adapter (Canon and 4/3) or Pentax with a mount change ($100 - Leitax.com). Notice Nikon is not supported. The reason is the registration distance (distance between the sensor and the lens mount on the body). Canon has the shortest registration distance, Nikon the longest. Contax's registration distance essentially equaled Pentax's which was in the middle (also Zeiss designed the Pentax K mount, which is VERY close to the Contax mount in its mechanical design) (another aside - the Contax Carl Zeiss 28mm f2 is the same lens as the Pentax K 28mm f2 lens).
Bodies - Essentially, you are going to need a lens to start off with, and that will probably be a kit lens - since they are relatively inexpensive when combined in a kit.
  • Canon - A good choice. Can use older lenses with adapters (Contax C/Y lenses and M42 lenses like the Pentax M42 SMC Takumar).
  • Pentax - The K5 (now at $1,000) is one of the best APS-C sensors around for low light - ISO 80 especially in shadows. However the Pentax DA 12-24 is $700. [Same sensor as Sony and Nikon, but Pentax processes the output a bit differently for better shadow and night sensitivity - see the DxO sensor results.] Sigma and Tamron both have 10-20's and 12-24's. However the Tokina 11-16 or 12-24 is not available (Tokina does not make lenses in the Pentax K mount any longer).
  • Sony - A good choice - especially with the live view capability.
  • Nikon - A good choice - but not with older lenses (registration distance), but Nikon has wonderful lenses of their own - but expensive.

Canon and Nikon have image stabilization in the lens, while Pentax and Sony has IS in the body. For this type of night shooting on tripods, you will be turning it off. Why I bring this up is, that Pentax now has a GPS (~$200) unit that attaches to the K5, that does astrotracking. What this does is it determines your location on earth and how the stars will be moving, then micro adjusts the in body sensor to move in the opposite direction thereby keeping the stars apparently motionless for up to 5 minutes - depending on the focal length of the lens. This is suppose to remove the need for an motorized star tracking equatorial telescope mount to mount the camera body to.

I hope I did not confuse you too much....

What would I do - get a tripod and head, practice with what I currently have and see how well it works for me. The cost would not be lost, since it could be used with any new body/lens combination. Then based on that experience, and doing some research in parallel, start to make some decisions on the direction to go in the future. Also, you have more time to save.....

Last edited by interested_observer; Dec 29, 2011 at 9:24 PM.
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Old Dec 29, 2011, 9:25 PM   #25
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Great analysis, Interested Observer.
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Old Dec 29, 2011, 10:42 PM   #26
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Hey observer, thanks for all the insight. The problem with the E-420 in low light situations is lots of noise even at ISO 100 and long exposures with the lenses I have. At this point, rather than buy a new lenses to accommodate, I'd rather move to a better camera with an APS-C size sensor rather than the micro 4/3, image stabilization for non-tripod shots, and also the extra features of a more advanced camera would be nice. Also I have already been using a manfrotto tripod and remote shutter release for any long exposure shots.

Also I have read up on astrotracking equipment but was unaware pentax makes a GPS unit. I wonder how well it works. Down the road, I may be interested trying it out, but personally I think I would want external equipment so it could be used with other cameras if need be.

Overall I am leaning toward the A580 with the Tonkina 11-16 for now then adding a more rounded lens later in the year.
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Old Dec 29, 2011, 11:14 PM   #27
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If you are leaning towards Sony, then as was touched on earlier, there is a large amount of Minolta glass that is available in the used market (see craigslist - alot of the best glass comes with a film camera attached to it).

There is also a website just dedicated to Sony/Minolta glass....
... as I tried to convey, you can quickly go broke just buying new. There is usually equal quality glass available that is old, and available at pretty reasonable prices. For landscapes at night - autofocus does not work - so manual lenses tend to be just as good.

You can also convert the Contax lenses to the Sony mount with a new physical mount replacement from Leitax.com
On the GPS equipment, it is unique to Pentax, since it communicates through the hotshoe to the camera body in terms of transmitting the information. Furthermore, the star or astrotracking is very unique to Pentax, since the sensor needs to be micro adjusted in a X and Y coordinates as well as in a rotational movement. As to how good it is, it appears to be dependent upon where you are and how well the electronic compass (built in to the unit) is aligned in the calibration process. One downside is that if you move the sensor to track the stars, if you have any landscape items within the frame, they then become a bit blurred since they are NOT moving. So in its use, you want all sky within the frame.

Last edited by interested_observer; Dec 30, 2011 at 7:30 AM.
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Old Dec 30, 2011, 10:48 AM   #28
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I'd suggest a different approach.

Firstly - for landscape shooting use a tripod. Image stabilization is completely irrelevant.

If you own a good tripod then...

A Sony A65 + Zeiss 16-80 or Sony 16-50 f2.8. I think you might be able to get reasonably close to $1500.

If you do not own a good tripod then just get the 18-55 kit lens with the A65 and stop down a bit.

I can't see anything obviously as good for your budget.

The next real step up is to the $4,000 mark.
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Old Jan 11, 2012, 1:06 AM   #29
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Hey guys, thanks for all the info. I ended up getting the Sony a580 with a Tokina 11-16 and was also able to find a cheap sony 55-200. I haven't had a lot of camera time yet, but so far I really like what I see and it blows the doors off my old Olympus. I haven't had the time or weather to get out at night yet, but it will be an adventure to come. Here are a few samples.
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