Expanding My System -- Pentax (/etc.) Ultra-wideangle Lens Choices...
Hi (first post here, I believe):
I am looking for a Pentax ultra-wide angle single focal length lens
(to photograph people in environments, objects, etc.) in the 20-24mm
range to supplement my Pentax/camera lens system. I am leaning more towards the 20mm end as a "standard ultra-wide angle lens" but any _superb_ ultra wide in the 20-24mm range would do me provided its superb and not just optically excellent. I would like to blow up to at least 13x19" (on 16x20" paper) and in the past have printed up to 30x40" using Ektar 25 and Kodachrome 25 using Schneider Companaon Ss or better enlarging lenses so my standards are high (which is why just "good" or even what _some_ might consider "excellent" optical quality may not be good enough for me). Yes, before anyone says it, I am aware that medium format or even large format might/would solve my image quality needs but they don't fit my style of portable shooting on the go, my back nor do they have large enough depth of field when stopped down (I have no intention of saying "hold it" to my subject" as I attempt to Scheimpflug both them and the foreground and/or background). Rangefinders are not an option as I like to see exactly what I get - both bokeh effects and subject overlap without parallax induced problems.
I have tried some third party lenses and would prefer not to buy Tamron or Sigma lenses
no matter how good they are (unless, of course, they rival the Leica/
Zeiss/Schneider level of sharpness, saturation,and micro-contrast
which is highly doubtful ;-(). I would also prefer not to buy a screw
mount lens (with adapter) since I prefer wide open to stopped down
metering. My level of photography is advanced and I have been a 35mm (SLR and rangefinder) photographer for about a quarter of a century (yikes! :-)), if that helps, I have also used multiple systems in the past (Leica, Contax, Nikon, Olympus, Canon FD and EOS, Minolta MD, Minolta Maxxum, Konica, Rollei and "yadda yadda yadda" (back in the 80s I _was_ the camera store - "yadda yadda yadda" were the hardest to find filters for, LOL ;-)) so for me, it truly is the subtleties of the equipment I am concerned with since I am good enough to get the best out of whichever equipment I choose to use.
Currently I have a Pentax 35mm film SLR system that I am thinking of/
looking into expanding in the ultra-wide angle department _without_
breaking my bank (preferably under $500 US price tag used or new). I
own a 20-35/4 Fa and 50mm/1.4 SMC M lens (among other lenses). The
zoom is wonderfully sharp at the 35mm end and I'd rate (personally)
the ultra wide 20/24 end at good to very good, but after using my 50mm
Pentax (stopped down to about f/8 or so) I am spoiled for its contrast/
resolution (yes, I know it is please don't squeeze the Charmin soft
wide open but as you stop it down it not only gets sharper around f/
2.8-4 but at about f/8 with flash or direct sunlight people/objects
not only seem regularly super sharp like most 50mm lenses stopped down
but etched like a Leica, and it is this "etched" quality (resolution,
contrast, edge acutance, color rendition/saturation) beyond the norm
of just excellent sharpness that I am looking for and so I would like
to supplement my system with another fixed focal length Pentax ultra
wide in the 20-24mm range for that extra mile (or 20-24 miles) of
_superb_ etched sharpness quality, _beyond_ the average good to
excellent sharpness of some zooms and many xed focl length lenses.
Functionality (I would prefer at least a K mount up to the FA mount,
no screw mounts with adapters since I prefer wide open not stopped-
down meter/viewing) is less important to me than superb optical
quality, and although it would be nice for super resolution/contrast
form wide open to stopped down I would not mind if sharpness kicks in
a stop or two down from maximum aperture.
The 31mm Limited, though an excellent lens, is not wide enough for me
and the 21mm/3.2 DA lens though it sounds perfect is a digital lens
and will not cover the entire image field for the 35mm SLRs I own. I
tested, briefly, the 24mm f/2 wide open (not too sharp) about 15 years
ago but have no idea if I'd get equivlent sharpness to my 50mm/1.4
lens stopped down in the middleish apertures, I have heard some less than stellar comments about its color separation/subtleties (photo.net? elsewhere?.
I'm not interested inthe 15mm/3.5 (too wide) or any of the Pentax full
frame fisheyes (too wide and of course barrel distortion).
A consideration might be the 25mm? Zeiss lens but I think this might
be a screw mount, not a K mount lens, and if it follows the design of
the Contax 25mm lens then it is no great shakes optically (at least
wide open) from the results I've seen from this Contax lens vs. the
Contax 28mm Zeiss which I already own. A 28mm Zeiss, even if I didn't
own one for the Contax, is not a choice for me, I prefer 24/25mm and
wider for my photography.
To give you an idea of the "look"/shooting style I am going for I'll
mention the films I am using to get a sharp punchy/saturated effect.
My (about to be, just ordered bunch that I am trying out) current
main film(s) are the new versions Gold 200 v. 7 (quite sharp (at least
the previous version was), though grainy (though version 7 is
supposedly less so at a PGI of 44 vs. the older version 6's 47), over
exposed for extra saturation and possibly less grain) and some 160 VC
(VC-2) which I will be trying out shortly.
I prefer the Kodak (print film) color pallette both for the overall
rendition as well as for pleasing skin tones. I have looked at some of
Bill Tutthill's film tables and compared these two films to current
and old films and for saturation, resolution and low grain v. price I
think these two would meet my needs best (I already have extensive
experience shooting the previous version 6 of Gold 200 which had
everything I wanted except fine grain in blue skies) along with
possibly UC400. Kodak UC 100 or Agfa Ultra Color 100 are other
possiblities but I'd prefer not to go below a 200 box speed (160 in
the case of VC) in print film to have flexibility in lower light, if
need be, so I can stop down if need be without a tripod and get a
decent shutter speed and better optical sharpness than being forced to
use a lens wide open.
(P.S. - If anybody knows where I can get some Konica Minolta VX 200
Super (Konica Centuria Super 200) which was superb both for color
rendition, high saturation, high sharpness, low graininess and
pleasing skin tones) please let me know as Konica/Minolta are know
longer in the film biz and eBay is devoid of the stuff). The other
film I shoot (very occaisionally) is Fuji Velvia 100F which has
plasing enough skin tones, super fine grain and lusciously saturated
colors, I also shoot some 100VS on occaision but it is hardly a film
for good skin tones unless they are a very small part of the
In the past I have seen both the Stan Halpin (and Dmitrov, spelling?)
and the pdml websites and will also check out photo.net and google
other rec.photo groups for more insight into this choice (and I really
don't want to have to join a mailing list/group just to ask this
question on another forum) so any helpful/relevant suggestions/answers
would be appreciated.
Thanks in advance for your help to this "dilmna" :-).
I think Stan's site is probably the largest for Pentax lens recommendations. Be it as it may, I don't think that your going to find the Holy Grail of lenses on the short end. The smc PENTAX-FA* 24mm f/2 AL[IF] looks about as good as it's going to get according to Yoshihiko Takinami lens test site http://www.takinami.com/yoshihiko/ph...superwide.html. As it is, the 50mm's are better, but not what you want.
In the print film category I always did like Gold, but I usually shot Portra instead; NC or VC. I'm not particularly a big fan of 400 UC, but that comes from a test shooting under high contrast situations in the red rocks of Sedona; I've seen better abilities. You might try Fuji's 400H and see how it performs for you. The 400 version has always been quite popular. I have used Fuji's 800 series past and present and it's a good film but not for my subject matter. I think my overall favorite was Ultra Color 50 which was beautiful, just slow. I've since gone over to slide film and am shooting Provia till the new Velvia comes out. I use to shoot Astia at a 1 stop push with very good results so if you want to try something different, try that.
The Takinami lens test site was a great help.
Thanks for the Fuji 400H suggestion too (is this the successor to Fuji's NPH 400 color neg film?). I might try some on a lark but I'm more partial to Kodak skin tones and color pallette currently (used to be the other way around a few years back when Fuji was my favorite) but I am definitely partial to the longer dark keeping stability of the Kodak color neg films vs. the Fujis. The old (1990?) Pop Photo article intimated this and I have seen Kodacolor 100 (could have been the 200 but I think it was the 100 A.S.A.) printed on color photographic paper with nary a color shift nor any apparent dye fading after 30-35 years (shot in the early '70s and printed in the late '90s) which is even more mazing considering back then the (less stable?) C-22 process was used , not our current C-41. The only current Fuji film, if memory serves, with claimed long dark storage life is the 160 NPS (would its successor be 160S or something?) so I'd probably prefer it because of that feature over any 1 1/3 stop speed jump in the I.S.O. for the 400H. Archival "long lastingness" is important to me even though I don't shoot Kodachrome anymore because of its slowish 64 speed and processing hassles (they closed down the Kodak lab in NJ and it now has to be shipped to Maryland I believe so there is a distinct possibility of it being lost in the mails).
Does Zeiss make a 21mm f/2.8 lens in K mount as opposed to crew mount - I've been to the Zeiss site but maybe I haven't looked there hard enough/in depth enough.
My judgments of NPH vs NC were regarding the older films since super seceded by the current 400h and 160S versions, but I found that I much preferred the Kodak variety. The skin tones were simply more neutral.
I did not know of the life expectancy of either film but if you can update us please do so.
Here's links to some discussion of the Zeiss M42 mount lenses. The second from Robert White with prices. 25mm seems a little wide for you tho?
This is just an off the cuff suggestion, but if I had the money to do so, you might consider finding the best wide angle that you could regardless of brand and dedicating a used body to it. My recent acquisition of a clean 19mm Vivitar in a Nikon mount (my price range) led me to buy an older Nikkormat camera all for a rather low price. That lens will live on the body, and I'll shoot it along side my normal carry of another brand system.
Thanks for the two links, Wayne. :-)
There are no updates on film longevity I could give you (besides what I've already mentioned) other than a brief Pop Photo article in 1998? and I'm not sure it was much of an update for Kodacolor films only some Fuji films (slide films and Reala?) of that "era". The big Pop Photo/Henry Wilhelm test was in 1990. Since processing variables (temperature, repleneishment, etc.) and storage conditions may/will vary, the best thing to do is to keep developed film under propper storage conditions (consult manufacturer info on temp, humidity, away from mothballs and other things that can outgas, etc.) and stored in archival media (for ideas sift through a Light Impressions catalogue).
Your idea of a specially dedicated lens/body of another brand is a good one but I'd prefer to keep my equipment "All In The Family" of one brand (in this case, Pentax).
Whether as ZS, ZM or ZF or even the older Contax system(s) the Zeiss lenses (for me) are wickedly expensive and so I'll probably focus (pardon the pun) on one of the more doable 20 f/2.8 FA, the 24 f/2.8 A or the 24 f/2 FA* AL (which someone commented on the pdml as having a "3D look" (because of selective focus effect, saturated color/coating and/or optical design?) lenses - even if it ain't a Zeiss or a Sxhneider or a Leica because at least I wont have to work around stopped down metering and be able to use my current equipment without having to rethink either the lens and/or camera operation/layout (if another brand camera were to hold the lens) every time I wanted to take a shot.
I wonder if Schneider will make any more full frame 35mm film camera lenses again (they have some for the Samsung APS-C sensor camera but it wouldn't work for full 35mm coverage. Possibly perhaps wider Zeiss full frame 35mm format lenses will be released that will fit on the digital Alpha SLRs as well as the A mount Maxxum film cameras (this is not knowledge, merely a whinsome wish on my part). Time will tell...
Thanks for your help again, Wayne.
Anybody else out there with Pentax/other Ultra-wideanle experience(s)/insights they could share?...
Thanks in advance.
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I do own the SMC "K" 18/3.5, and it is in my opinion head and shoulder over the SMC-A / SMC-FA 20/2.8 or any other Pentax lens in the superwide range. Stopped down to 5.6 or 8 it is bitingly sharp, with fantastic contrast, and amazing flare resistance for such a wide lens. Unfortunately it is also quite rare, and consequently it can be a bit pricey when (if) you find one in good condition.
The second choice for me would be the A or FA 20/2.8.
My caveat is that I have not tested the 24 f/2 FA* AL.
Men, said the Devil, are good to their brothers: they don’t want to mend their own ways, but each others.
-- Piet Hein
Have you checked out Russian-made lenses in Pentax K mount? My experience has shown some Russian/Ukrainian made lenses to be very good.
Anscojohn, Mount Vernon, Virginia USA
Unfortunately, Russian lens choices in K-mount are pretty limited. I'm only aware of one Russian-made K-mount lens in the 20-24mm range: the Mir-47K 20mm. I've got one of these, and although it's sharp in the center, edge sharpness falls off rapidly as you get close to an open aperture -- much more so than for most other lenses I own. Given the OP's stated very high standards, I doubt if this lens would satisfy him. The Mir-20 (another 20mm Russian lens) seems better, but it's not available in K-mount. I suppose you could buy one in M42 and use an adapter, but then you lose open-aperture metering.
Originally Posted by Anscojohn
Last edited by srs5694; 06-21-2007 at 12:45 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Thanks for the suggestion, Magnus. I am not sure if you have a better sample than Steve Tomioko (Name? spelling?) but his lens tests (as quoted below) show the 20/2.8 A lens as having better resolution (I have no idea about contrast differences). It might be possible due to sample variation that you got a cherry of a lens and he got more of an orange (lesser quality but still good/not a lemon). The 18K/3.5 is better wide open at 3.5 vs. the 20A/2.8 wide open at f/2.8 (no surprise there). At f/5.6 the 20A/2.8 is markedly better than the 18K at the same aperture - the 20A's edge resolution seems equal to the 18K's central resolution. At f/8 central resolution is tied for both lenses at 78 while the 20A's edge resolution outpaces the 18K's at 69 vs. 55 respectively. Whether these differences would show up in real life as practical/markedly visually identifiable is another matter and as I've said above (in a way) sample variation and contrast differences also play an unkown factor (though one might think that the A lens design and/or multi-coating might be more contrastier than the K's... At f/11 the situation reverses again and the 18K seems to resolves more center and edge vs. the 20A, so other than sample variation/lens coating/contrast differences it may boild down to which apertures I might find myself shooting at more often in choosing one lens over the other.
Its a pity that Zeiss doesn't make an 18 or 21mm in K mount - that would solve all my problems except for the amount of time it would take me to save up for it ;-). Their 25mm f/2.8 Zeiss is only available in ZF (Nikon F) and about to be available in ZS (M42 screw mount) in August 2007, if memory serves but it still would require an adapter and stopped down metering :-(. That's why I would be leaning towards either the 20/2.8 FA or the 24/2 FA* (though heavyish) as I'd get full meter integration and AF to boot and not break my bank with either one ;-) :-). I am assuming that the 20/2.8 A lens is the same lens optical design as the 20/2.8 FA - can anyone confirm or deny this? Thanks.
All things being optically equal I have some to the diametrically opposed conclusion that I prefer the wider angle of the 20/2.8 and the wider aperture (for selective focus effects and for faster shutter speeds when used wide open) of the 24/2 - that's in my mind, in shooting reality it may be the same or different and/or unforseen needs/preferences. Does anybody own both these focal lengths and use them for shoting people/events? When/why do you prefer/need one over the other? Just looking for a little further insight here...
Anyway these are (some of) his lens resolution tests:
SMC PENTAX 18mm f/3.5 (K18/3.5, #5287***)
smc PENTAX-A 20mm f/2.8 (A20/2.8, #5863***)
P.S. - Thanks also to srs5694 and Ascojohn (and of course Wayne too) - whether I decide to act upon them or not, all comments/insights are/will be appreciated :-).
Sorry for the typos - that's "Anscojohn" and ..."I have come to the diametrically opposed conclusion" :-)