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Thread: First DSLR - plus old Pentax/Tamron lenses

  1. #1

    First DSLR - plus old Pentax/Tamron lenses

    Hello, I'm new to CIC and new to digital photography, other than a little happy snapper. I'm interested in upgrading to a DSLR, and totally bewildered by the choice available both in cameras and lenses. I read Dizzy's journey and thought processes (a great idea and so helpful for other new users!), and am getting from that that there's not terribly much difference between good quality cameras, it's the lenses that make the difference. What I really want to do is to be able to take candid people shots from far off with shallow depth of field, and I don't need a camera that is way over and above what I need - I'm not sure if I'll take to photography in a big way, although it sounds very addictive! We already have an old Pentax Super A camera with a zoom lens (70 to 210mm), a Tamron 500 mm mirror lens that we bought for a safari, and a 24 to 50mm lens. All are about 25 years old! I understand that these lenses are back-compatible, but that unlike the lenses for DSLR cameras they would still be manual focus only. I was wondering about just buying a digital Pentax and using these lenses, but am worried about being able to focus as my sight isn't what it used to be! If I choose just to buy a new DSLR camera, is there much market for old Pentax lenses? Am open to a bridging camera if it will do the people shots, but I suspect not... Any ideas about a good camera for me, or about the Pentax/Tamron lenses would be greatly appreciated!

  2. #2
    Nass's Avatar
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    Re: First DSLR - plus old Pentax/Tamron lenses

    Hello,

    I use a Pentax digital DSLR with old Pentax lenses (and some new). Works pretty well, have a look at my stream. The upside is the availability of old lenses which saves you a lot of money. There is a market for old lenses but if you're thinking about selling then don't expect to get rich. 70-210 sounds like an old vivitar and if you have the right version you should be able to sell that. Try pentaxforums to sell your gear (I'm a moderator there).

    Moving forward, if you're looking at "take candid people shots from far off with shallow depth of field" you're probably looking at some fast AF zoom in the 100 to 300 mm range, which will cost you regardless of the brand you use. Just about all of the major brands have something in that range with not all that much between them so it's really a question of you and your budget.

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    Steaphany's Avatar
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    Re: First DSLR - plus old Pentax/Tamron lenses

    Adding to:

    Quote Originally Posted by Nass View Post
    you're probably looking at some fast AF zoom in the 100 to 300 mm range
    for

    Quote Originally Posted by Carolyn748 View Post
    take candid people shots from far off with shallow depth of field
    I recommend a dSLR / Lens system that includes stabilization so you can shoot hand held and not be required tp set up a monopod or tripod.

  4. #4
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: First DSLR - plus old Pentax/Tamron lenses

    I personally would not embark on any camera system with the anticipation of primarily using older manual focus lenses. Although, there are many photographers who successfully use these lenses, most DSLR cameras are not well set up to work with manual focus lenses.

    I skipped an entire generation of Canon 35mm film cameras, the auto-focus EOS cameras, because I thought that I could focus better and faster using manual focus than any auto focus camera/lens combination. I found, that (even when I was a bit younger and my eyesight a bit better) a good auto focus camera/lens combination could beat my manual focus in speed and sometimes in accuracy. And since I have been growing older at an alarming rate (one day at a time adds up); I have found that my manual focus capability is deteriorating at a consistantly fast rate.

    Your desire "What I really want to do is to be able to take candid people shots from far off with shallow depth of field" indicates to me that in addition to a mid-range zoom for "normal" shooting, you would benefit from a telephoto zoom lens, especially one with Image Stabilization. A relatively decently wide aperture would help you achieve a more narrow DOF and enable you to isolate your subjects.

    As far as the lens being more important for image quality than the camera, that is generally true but, some newer cameras have better capability that really older ones. As an example the Canon T3i would produce better mages than the Canon 300D Digi Rebel.

    I use a Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens for most of my pictures of people from a distance. This is an extremely sharp lens that has quite fast auto focus and its weight and Image Stanilization allow me to hand hold in many different venues. The f/4 aperture produces a relatively narrow DOF when it is shot in at its longer focal lengths. The draw-back of this lens is that it is very expensive. The Canon 55-250mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens, the various 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Canon lenses and the Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 VC are some other choices for longer focal length lenses which will fit Canon 1.6x cameras. Nikon, in addition to using the Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 VC lens, has its own selection of long zoom lenses.

    IMO, the Image Stabilization or some other camera shake prevention is a really great addition to a longer lens. I use my 70-200mm f/4L IS lens 4-5x more often than I was ever able to use my non-IS model of that lens. The IS has freed me from being a slave to brighter kight and enables me to shoot down to 1/60 and even, at times, 1/30 second with good results.

    See my images of China, shot with the 70-200mm f/4L IS and the 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lenses on a pair of older Canon 30D and 40D cameras. There are quite a few examples of the type of image you have described such as this one...

    First DSLR - plus old Pentax/Tamron lenses

    http://rpcrowe.smugmug.com/
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 12th September 2011 at 04:21 PM.

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: First DSLR - plus old Pentax/Tamron lenses

    Hi Carolyn,

    Spending other people's money is such fun

    I don't disagree with any advice given above, although it is possible with a bridge camera, as here, there's really a bit too much DoF;
    First DSLR - plus old Pentax/Tamron lenses
    Fuji FinePix S6500 (6MP with 28-300mm equiv. lens): 1/250s f/6.4 at 54.9mm (= 250mm) iso100
    Shot just a week before I spent a fortune on a DSLR
    In fact if I remember, I may have 'helped' the shallow DoF look here in PP

    I would add that a camera with Live View and a flip out LCD can be useful, it allows you to sit down with camera on your lap, aim, focus and shoot while looking quite 'non-threatening'.

    Welcome to the CiC forums from ....

  6. #6

    Re: First DSLR - plus old Pentax/Tamron lenses

    Many thanks, everyone, for your input, some really good points and lots to bear in mind. Johan, was wondering what you think about the Pentax KX? We're going to have a look at one tomorrow - it seems to work well with older lenses (although we'll try that out when we see it given the comment about not choosing a camera on the basis of old lenses) and although the reviewers were puzzled about the autofocus system, it seems to get a good write-up as being a great entry-level DSLR.

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    Nass's Avatar
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    Re: First DSLR - plus old Pentax/Tamron lenses

    Carolyn, the K-x is a terrific entry-level DSLR, lauded in particular for its high ISO ability. In terms of autofocus, reviewers are easily confused - the k-x does not have focus point indicators but does have focus point confirmation. Indicators show you which focus point you're using (red squares), confirmation confirms once you're focused at that focus point (a green hexagon). Many reviewers don't properly understand the new camera they've just started using, so think the indicators are the confirmers, which of course they're not. But! If it annoys or confuses you, and don't want to have to to remember which focus point you've chosen, just ask the salesman to show you the K-r, which is the current successor to the K-x. This has both the indicators and the confirmation. Don't confuse it with the KX (no dash) though, which is a much older model (1970s).

    Nice thing about both of these is that you'll be able to use all your old lenses, but also have inbuilt stabilization for them. (Pentax stabilization is in-camera rather than per-lens). There's also a kit 50-200 which has AF that you might want to ask the salesman about. In terms of the brand/make, Pentax isn't the largest make so some esoteric accessories are hard to find, nor does it have the widest range of lenses. On the flipside, I've saved about 10-20k in three years by buying old and using manual. Ie I have an amazing 50 year old f/1.2 lens which cost me 50 but costs 2k to buy the equivalent new nowadays. 90% of the performance at 2% of the price is something I can personally live with .
    Last edited by Nass; 14th September 2011 at 03:59 PM.

  8. #8

    Re: First DSLR - plus old Pentax/Tamron lenses

    Hi Richard, many thanks for the info, and the link to your photos - I really enjoyed them, and they made me want to go back to China to see the Terracotta Army! You're right, you've done a lot of the sorts of shots I want to take - we're travelling in Laos next month and will be visiting, hopefully, some Hill Tribes, so I hope I can do the sort of photography I want. Even if I buy a DSLR camera this week, it won't be long to learn how to use it properly!

  9. #9

    Re: First DSLR - plus old Pentax/Tamron lenses

    Hi Dave, my husband has a bridge camera, and at a distance it doesn't achieve what I want, although close up with full zoom I can - but of course I don't want to be in people's faces! It's a really good point about Live View and a flip out LCD, sounds like a great facility!

  10. #10

    Re: First DSLR - plus old Pentax/Tamron lenses

    Hi Nass, thanks for explaining the autofocus system, you did it much better than the reviewer, and I now feel more confident about considering this camera! It doesn't sound like it would be too hard to cope with, but I'll have a look this afternoon and see then. The retailer (he's a very helpful man operating as Pentax's authorised dealer/servicer out of home) is offering a choice of two lenses with it, a Sigma 18-50mm or a Pentax 18-55mm, and he says that he far prefers the the Sigma because he's not so impressed with the build-quality of the Pentax because it's got some plastic parts whereas the Sigma is all metal. I wonder if you agree with him, but I'm in Australia and you're in the UK and I'm sure you're probably in bed as it's 1.15 in the morning over there! I had a play around with our old Pentax lenses yesterday, and it was so good! Am pleased that Pentax has IS in-camera, that will help.

  11. #11
    Nass's Avatar
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    Re: First DSLR - plus old Pentax/Tamron lenses

    Can't say about those two lenses Carolyn, as I only own one of them so have no personal experience of the other. Sigma lenses are fab lenses, well built - I have 2 of them with absolutely no complaints on either. The Pentax kit lens is very good, better than most if not all other kit lenses in that focal range. I have the Pentax kit, works fine, yes it's a bit plasticky because it's the kit lens but that's made absolutely no difference in 3 years. Maybe this will help you - reviews of both these lenses from Pentax users.


    Each has their plus points - Sigma more solid metal build, faster, Pentax cheaper, lighter, weatherproof and wider range. To be honest, since there's so little in it and you're really after a longer focal length (hence pointing to the 50-200 kit), it might be worth you getting the Pentax one (because it's cheaper) and to have some pennies leftover for the longer focal length kit lens? Also, since you're relatively new to digital, you may want to get a bit of experience using a digital SLR under your belt before splashing out on anything. Must say, surprised your man is operating as an authorised dealer out of home, usually authorised dealers are businesses with a location etc.
    Last edited by Nass; 15th September 2011 at 11:29 AM.

  12. #12

    Re: First DSLR - plus old Pentax/Tamron lenses

    You'd be even more surprised if you saw his premises, Nass - literally a shed at the back of quite a run down house (in a very old, expensive suburb)! But we were directed there by the Pentax wholesaler, and it's full of photography paraphernalia and high-end computer equipment, so I assume he's kosher. I did, though, say to my husband on the way home that I wonder if Pentax has actually seen his "office"! Anyway, he was as helpful face-to-face as he has been on the phone, so all good I think. We did buy the K-x in the end, I'm so excited! The body comes with the choice of the two lenses, so we went for the Sigma. Apparently we have some expensive and good quality lenses in the old ones we showed him, he said that the 200mm would have cost $700 twenty years ago. My husband bought the camera and lenses 27 years ago, and he's delighted that we can use the lenses again, just wishes that he'd known this was possible years ago. They do seem to work well with the camera, and if you use them on the A setting it beeps once you're in focus. You can also adjust the viewfinder to your own vision prescription so that you don't need to wear specs which is pleasing....but of course you know all this already! So, we seem to have ended up with a really good set-up for significantly less than we might otherwise have paid. Would love a lens with a really wide aperture at some point, your f1.2 sounds great, but as you say, best to get a bit of experience before buying anything else. So, just waiting for our Pentax man to service our old lenses, and then lots of cramming and experimenting before we go on vacation! Thank you so much for all your help, Nass!

  13. #13

    Re: First DSLR - plus old Pentax/Tamron lenses

    So, picked up the newly-serviced old lenses today, plus exchanged the Sigma for the Pentax 18-55mm which wasn't a problem at all. The Pentax man really is lovely and so helpful. He bent over backwards to clean the lenses quickly so that we can practise before we go away, and generously provided some odds and ends that we needed at no cost. I was hoping to have a play this afternoon, but now I have another question - how do I wrest this camera out of the hands of my husband and daughter?!! Maybe I'll get a go tomorrow.....sigh!

  14. #14
    Steaphany's Avatar
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    Re: First DSLR - plus old Pentax/Tamron lenses

    Quote Originally Posted by Carolyn748 View Post
    but now I have another question - how do I wrest this camera out of the hands of my husband and daughter?!!
    Tell them "To use the camera, they'll need to join CiC" and get help as you did. While they are off confused by the tutorials and asking questions for hours, they will either conclude that photography is too much work or realize that they want a camera of their own. Either way, you will have a brief period to use your camera while they are occupied.

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