Have you ever really gotten to know a Pentax lens? Which one?

Started Nov 21, 2013 | Discussions thread
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KL Matt Veteran Member • Posts: 5,885
Have you ever really gotten to know a Pentax lens? Which one?

It takes about a year. For one fixed-focal length lens.

What exactly do I mean by that?

Knowing what your bokeh looks like in all light conditions, at all f-stops, at all focal distances. It will usually be different for every f-stop, every focal distance. So those are considerations you will learn to take into account when painting with light. They can even become more important than framing for some shots. Or how does your lens react to flare? What kind of sunbursts does it make? At which apertures? How bad is the field curvature, and how much do I need to adjust focus or aperture to compensate for subjects on the edge of the frame if I want optimal results? How small can the aperture get before distortion takes its toll on resolution? Do I need to stop this lens down for close subjects, or for distant landscapes, or both? What is the sharpest aperture in general? How does the lens handle specular highlights in the center of the frame vs. in the corners? At what focal distance do bokeh donuts lose their bright rings and turn into smooth even spheres? How far can I stop down before I start to see the blades of the aperture in bokeh balls? I suppose you could do experiments and write down your results, memorizing them like you were studying for a test. But no one does that. It's better to simply be able to see it in your mind's eye.

So you go out and make thousands upon thousands of images and look at your settings and your focal distance when you review your shots, and slowly you get a feel for that lens, until it's part of you and you instinctively know what that lens will do with the light even before you point it at your subject. That's when you start to really know your lens. Now try to add to all those variables above the fact that zooming a lens can mean they change for each different focal length you select. The task of really getting to know your optic has now become nearly impossible. Because with a zoom, you may not even be aware what focal length you're shooting at all the time. You can't tell through the viewfinder.

So instead of using your lens's unique characteristics to achieve exactly what you envision, you will be condemned to guessing and hoping for the best. It takes forever to really get a handle on a zoom. Unless you use it almost exclusively at one setting. At which point you may as well get a prime -- it will be smaller and better quality.

Full disclosure: I have way too many lenses that I don't know nearly well enough or have mostly forgotten. But they are mostly primes, so when I pick one up I haven't used in a while, it all comes back pretty quickly. The primes are like old cherished friends that never lose their character. The zooms feel like people you never really had a chance to properly get to know, even though they were always right there in front of you.

At least, that's how it's been for me. What are your experiences with your Pentax lenses? Am I wrong about the zooms for you? Looking forward to your perspective.


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