Lens(es) advice/recommendations for Pentax 35mm body
Iíve been shooting for nearly 4 years, a bit of everything, but mainly macro/nature, landscape and family functions. Iíve also done a few weddings and would like to do more (to help pay for the hobby).
I started with an ist film body and consumer lens.
ist Ė rarely used, feels like a toy compared to -
MZ-S (with a BG-10 grip) Ė my main body, pretty happy with it, feels solid and good in the hand, a good size and not heavy.
MX (from the seventies) Ė used occasionally, simple, rugged and reliable.
Flash; Pentax AF360FGZ plus off camera cords etc.
Tokina 19-35mm f3.5-4.5. It would probably be used more if I was in a place where I could use foregrounds in my landscapes more.
Tamron SP 24-135mm f3.5-5.6. Most frequently used. A very handy focal length range for lots of subjects particularly weddings. 24mm inside the bridal car, formal shots one moment at 40mm then an unexpected candid shot at 135mm the next.
Tamron LD 70-300mm f4-5.6. Though not used a lot, the extra reach is often handy as well as the change in perspective.
Pentax A 50mm f1.7. A nice lens that I probably should use more often.
Pentax FA 100mm Macro f2.8. My favourite!
I was after some thoughts and advice please. I think I have reached a point where my progress in photography has stalled a little and Iím questioning whether increased quality in my prints and slides is restricted by my technique or by my lenses. I hope Iím not just suffering from LBA. Also a clearer viewfinder would be nice. The 70-300 is a bit soft particularly at 300 and I suspect that itís resolving power isnít great as stopping down in some situations doesnít seem to make a lot of difference Ė it is a consumer lens. Similar comments apply to the 24-135.
Iím happy with the 50mm and 100mm Pentax lenses (although a longer focal length for some macro shots would be an advantage sometimes).
Additionally, when using Ďaperture priorityí or Ďmanualí on the MZ-S, the aperture is set on the lens. This means that the aperture changes when I zoom (as the zoom lenses I have arenít constant aperture), which can be a real pain sometimes.
I have heard it said in the past and more recently by a few that are much more experienced than I, that you can skimp a bit on your bodies, but you should use the best lenses that you can afford. Also that upgrading to better lenses will improve my photography and push me to another level.
I have done a little research on the net regarding lenses like a 24-70mm f2.8 and 70/80-200mm f2.8 and am encouraged by some of the comments Particularly the Pentax FA 80-200mm f2.8, however the last one that sold on ebay went for US$2,750 (new).
To be honest, my most used focal lengths would probably range from around 24mm to around 200mm and occasionally around 300mm. (maybe 200mm with good quality converters/extenders would suffice?)
I am after advice on:
1) my current lenses, thinking and what Iíve been told in this regard
2) other lenses I should consider
a)with finances being a consideration
b)with cost not such a consideration
3) any other thoughts/comments
Thanks for taking the time to read this.
Better equipment will only help if the equipment is the issue. For most people the equipment won't hold them back.
If you are doing weddings you might want to consider a medium format kit. If for no other reason the leaf shutter lenses.
But don't get tied up worrying about equipment.
I shoot only the occasional wedding for friends, when I do so, I use Pentax gear (2 MZ-5n bodies). I choose these over my Nikon FM3a or F3 or my Leica R3 or R8 because of their very good TTL metering and TTL flash capability. I am surprised you find your viewfinder unclear, my MZ-5ns are are bright as any camera I have used. I don't think I'd be inclined to change anything about the MZ-S backed up by the ist.
The problem seems to be with the Tamron 24 -> 135. This is an SP lens and should be much better than a consumer lens, really up to the standard of the best Pentax primes. Did you buy it 2nd-hand? I personally would not trust a wide-range zoom for weddings, I use a Pentax 24 mm prime for groups and feel I can rely on the edge definition more. In fact, at weddings I find myself using the 24 mm an awful lot, on the 2nd body I usually have a 43 mm prime and also carry a Tamron SP f3.5 70-> 210, which I find excellent, although I use it only rarely. It sounds in your case as though a 24-70 mm f2.8 would fill the gap in your outfit - if you really want say a 200, why not look for a Pentax 200 mm f4 M lens, I have had two of these and they are great. I am surpised too that you use aperture priority or manual modes for weddings, shooting on color neg film I downrate 1/2 a stop and leave the camera on automatic all the time!
Hope some of this helps!
Just curious; are you mounting the flash on a bracket and using the contrast control function with the pop-up flash?
Nick, you are right, there is no substitute for being out there doing it. I suppose a I'm trying to get to a point where gear is not an issue and the only thing/one that is responsible for my results is ME! It doesn't help that I'm in a small, relatively isolated town (NSW, Australia) and don't get much of a chance to rub shoulders with others or see what other options (good or bad) there are regarding gear.
The 24-135 is second hand. So it's quality should be Good? Your SP 70-210 is as good as a Pentax Prime?
I generally use the "P" or "perhaps" mode for weddings (as Al Jacobs calls it. He gives some interesting comments at: http://www.aljacobs.com/NEW%20WEDDING.pdf )
The 24-70 f2.8 you mention, what brand?
Thanks for sharing your euipment/methods.
Have only used the flash on camera (and available light) so far at the weddings I've shot and assisted at, but have experimented with various set-ups including a Stroboframe RL(?) camera rotating bracket and contrast control with the pop-up, but it seems to tend towards 'red-eye' in some people.
I have also experimented a little with the LumiQuest Promax bouncer/diffusser (but not at a wedding yet). I am going to make my own 'flash flip' bracket to keep the flash format and film format right (not horizontal flash with vertical camera) and make it compact for transport and storage and plan to use the LumiQuest after testing. I made a rotatable foot for my AF360 flash which should make this easier.
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Just briefly - I did think Pentax did a 24-70 f2/8 zoom, but now they just seem to offer digital-only lenses. If no Pentax lens is available, I would think a good pro-spec Sigma should be nearly as good. As regards your 24-135 SP lens, I have no experience of it but do have experience of other SP lenses, which were very good - either your example is atypically poor, or maybe it has been damaged in some way. The big problem with film Pentaxes now is of course that the company has stopped selling them and as far as I can see only offers its 3 limited-edition lenses for film cameras!
If you are shooting in aperture priority mode, you could use screwmount lenses with an adapter. That would open up an even wider range of lenses above and beyond the currently available K-mount stuff. However, personally, I wouldn't want to be using a stopped down lens in those circumstances.
Thanks for the thoughts guys,
MY Tamron SP 24-135 has been a very good performer. I've also shot many weddings with it, with very nice results.
It's possible that the lack of sharpness you're experiencing with the long zoom is from camera movement/shake. As you increase the focal length/magnification, ANY movement becomes more apparent. Sometimes it can be minimized by using a higher shutter speed, monopod or tripod. If it doesn't go away with a tripod it's most likely the lens quality. If the images are sharper, it means you need less coffee or more practice holding the camera steady.