On Boxing Day I picked up Pentax’s DA* 50-135mm F2.8 zoom; herewith a picture and some notes; plus a super-ultra-hardcore lens-otaku link.

Another G1 · Not my phone I mean, it’s Panasonic’s new-ish “Micro four-thirds” camera, that being a system alleged to deliver SLR functionality into a smaller lighter package. It’s a lovely-looking little camera and apparently takes good pictures; if I weren’t so bought into Pentax and were looking for a new primary camera, I’d be considering it seriously. Unfortunately, there are only a couple of specialized lenses available for the new system. Fortunately, there are adapters available that let you attach almost any lens conceivable to it And 中村文夫 has been doing that; check out his illustrated write-up 「LUMIX DMC-G1」で楽しむマウントアダプター(ライカMマウント編). In particular, search forward looking for “0.95”. Oh my goodness gracious.

Oh Yes, That New Lens · I’ve been living the ascetic prime-lens-only lifestyle for a few years now (see No Zoom, for example) and I’m still firmly attached to it, in particular for my favorite kind of photography, which is walking around an interesting place with a camera in my hand waiting for a picture to happen.

But lots of photos happen in set-piece situations, and what pushed me over the edge was the our son’s Christmas Concert last year; I just couldn’t get close enough for a good shot of the boy sawing angelically on his fiddle. A survey of the midrange-zoom market seemed to reveal a remarkable proportion of fannish gushing over this particular chunk of metal and glass. Also the “DA*” in the name means it’s got extra weather-sealing, which is a big deal up here in the Pacific Northwest. So I picked it up on Boxing Day at a camera store in Saskatchewan.

Pentax DA* 50-135mm F2.8 zoom lens

Wow, It’s Fun! · If you’re used to Pentax’s “pancake” primes, this lens seems just unreasonably big and heavy. Once you get past that, I’ve got no gripes at all. It’s smooth and fast to operate, really sharp, has elegant bokeh, and F2.8, with the K20’s image stabilization and decent ISO1600, makes it perfectly usable indoors except where really dim.

For samples that I think show its strengths, see Fogbound, the last photo in Cloud Interop Session, and The Difference Engine. By way of contrast, Fog, then Steam is the good ol’ 40mm pancake.

I can just barely stuff the camera, both pancake primes, and the new zoom in my cute little camera bag, at which point you’re walking slow and at a tilt.

But I don’t think I’ll work that way much. The decision procedure should be easy: For set-piece situations, the zoom will become the main lens I think. But for the woods or strange new cities or just walking around when the light’s good, I think I’ll stick to the pancakes.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Janne (Jan 31 2009, at 06:07)

The 50-135 is really, really good for flash product-style shots too. It's high quality and fast, and the zoom range is perfect for getting the framing right without having to move tripods and lightstands around. An example of mine here: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3146/3072769252_d60aa982ed_b.jpg

Oh, a tip: I mostly use primes, just like you (and for much the same reasons), but I do own one more zoom - the 10-17 fisheye. That is not an everyday lens by any stretch of the imagination, but it is almost indecently fun to take along from time to time. Very much a discretionary purchase of course, but you're missing out on some serious fun without it.


From: Bob Aman (Jan 31 2009, at 07:10)

What I want to know is, what's going on here:



From: daragh (Jan 31 2009, at 11:29)

You may (as I am) be incredibly excited about the prospect of new rangefinder-sized µ4/3 cameras at PMA in a month's time. Panasonic have announced that they expect to release a 20mm (40mm equiv.) f/1.7 pancake lens for the mount in Q1 2009. I love my DSLR, but a camera with a big sensor and a fast 40mm equivalent lens that fits in a jacket pocket is pretty much my dream setup. Add to that the interchangeable lenses and the ability (through adapters) to use existing 4/3, Canon rangefinder, Leica, Rokkor etc. lenses and things aren't looking good for my SLR.


From: Derek K. Miller (Jan 31 2009, at 19:31)

I find myself in a similar situation to you. Most of the time I run with a 50mm f/1.8 lens on my Nikon D50 or on my film Nikon F4; I also have an off-brand 24mm f/2.8 that isn't optically terrific, but which works fine on the D50 and very well on the F4 with black and white film.

But for tight situations, the 18-135mm crop-frame zoom I bought in 2007 is hard to beat; being able to back that far out in a small room, or to zoom in to pretty reasonable telephoto, makes it a great "do anything" lens when you're going to be out and about for awhile. Others prefer the 18-200mm with stabilization, but that was out of my budget. (My old 70-210mm zoom from the '90s still works great, but doesn't get much use.)

I also have a 55mm/f/2.8 macro (or Micro, as Nikon bizarrely calls it) that is an excellent secondary purchase. For the type of photographs you make, Tim, a good macro lens like the D FA Macro 50mm or 100mm f/2.8 might be fun. My Micro Nikkor is a superbly sharp general-purpose lens if I don't need wide apertures, and can focus so close that the subject is almost touching the lens housing. Some examples:



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