Will the SMC DA* 50-135 mm f2.8 ED IF SDM suffice as an only lens?

Started Nov 19, 2012 | Questions
FabriceS New Member • Posts: 11
Will the SMC DA* 50-135 mm f2.8 ED IF SDM suffice as an only lens?

I am getting ready to upgrade to a DSLR from a Fuji Finepix S9100--scornfully described by the guy in the camera shop as "just a fancy point and shoot."

Based on the reviews I've read, I'm leaning toward buying a Pentax K-5 body and pairing it with an SMC DA* 50-135 mm f2.8 ED IF SDM zoom lens.

My question is, if this is the only lens I have for a while, will I be able to take pictures in most typical outdoor and indoor shooting situations? I realize that the lens won't provide macro or wide angle, but will I encounter other significant limitations?

Thanks--

FS

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Nikon Coolpix S9 Pentax K-5
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Pentaxer
Pentaxer Contributing Member • Posts: 893
Re: Will the SMC DA* 50-135 mm f2.8 ED IF SDM suffice as an only lens?

This is what I'm using right now.  It's a little long for indoor use depending on how big the room is.  Birding is also out with this lens.  Combine this with the 16-50mm and you're set otherwise.

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Zvonimir Tosic
Zvonimir Tosic Senior Member • Posts: 2,563
No it won't
1

Predicament is that as soon as you mount 50-135 on your K5, you'll want to shoot wider. That's the nature of things.

Pair your 50-135 with a 18-55 WR lens. It's a non-brainer. 18-55 WR is cheap yet good and will save your soul in 18-50mm range where your 50-135 cannot reach.

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Zvonimir Tosic
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Jumbuk Regular Member • Posts: 380
Re: Will the SMC DA* 50-135 mm f2.8 ED IF SDM suffice as an only lens?

You can probably get the K-5 with a kit lens (18-55mm) for not much more than the K-5 body only.  Depending on what you want to shoot, the kit lens is probably going to be more all round useful (and the Pentax kit lenses are usually pretty good quality).

That's not to bag the 50-135mm.  I don't have one, but I have been eyeing it for a while.

OP FabriceS New Member • Posts: 11
Re: Will the SMC DA* 50-135 mm f2.8 ED IF SDM suffice as an only lens?

Wow--Thank you for your quick and to-the-point answers.

It looks like I can buy the 18-55 WR for $150, which would be no strain. Is it really a good lens, though?

A main reason I want to move up to DSLR is that I've been unhappy with the lack of sharpness of my Fuji (another is that I can't really see much through the optical viewfinder). My reason for thinking of shelling out for the DA* 50-135 is that people seemed to be saying it is very sharp, and will let me blow pictures up to 20x30 and still have them pop. In contrast, the reviews of the 18-55 seem to be kind of dismissive.

Uloo
Uloo Senior Member • Posts: 2,563
Re: Will the SMC DA* 50-135 mm f2.8 ED IF SDM suffice as an only lens?

I used to have the old DA 18-55 kit lens with my former 6 megapixel K100d camera and with care I could blow up some prints to 20x30.

With the K5 and now the newer DA 18-55 WR it should be no problem at all. Its probably to most underrated lens in the Pentax line up. It will amaze you.

I'm using now the DA 16-45 because I needed something just a little wider but it too is a very sharp lens.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/uloo/

Ulrich

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Brooke Meyer Contributing Member • Posts: 652
Re: Will the SMC DA* 50-135 mm f2.8 ED IF SDM suffice as an only lens?

No, no one lens will do it all. .

While the 50-135 is my primary portrait lens, unless you're outdoors or shooting a large space, it will tend to be too long. Minimum focus distance on the 50-135 is about 3 ft.

My first lens, was and is a Tamron 28-75/2.8. It is very, very versatile. Good for portraits, good for events, indoors and landscape and a near macro with 12" minimum focus. The first 20x30 print I ever sold was made with it and a 10MP K-10D. Good glass and a good exposure and thoughtful processing will do the job.

If I could only have one lens, it would be the Tamron 28-75. The 50-135 is still my favorite and most used portrait lens but in situations where its too long, the Tamron does well. My other heavily used lens is a DA 12-24. You can never get too close.

The 12-24 was the only way I could shoot a recent, paid newspaper assignment in the subjects small office. The 12 -24 saved me when a job shooting a prom photo got complicated when a heavy rain forced us inside and 8 of her friends and dates showed up. I ended up standing on a couch in a townhouse living room shooting at 12MM to get them all in. Did headshots with the Tamron, no room for longer. They were happy, Mom & Dad were happy, I got paid and a couple of referrals.

I get to use a very large studio for dancers, a trade deal I made with a local ballet conservatory. In these sessions and outdoors, the 50-135 is ideal and its a very, very good lens.

Mike Hiran
Mike Hiran Senior Member • Posts: 1,119
Re: Will the SMC DA* 50-135 mm f2.8 ED IF SDM suffice as an only lens?

Brooke Meyer wrote:

No, no one lens will do it all. .

While the 50-135 is my primary portrait lens, unless you're outdoors or shooting a large space, it will tend to be too long. Minimum focus distance on the 50-135 is about 3 ft.

My first lens, was and is a Tamron 28-75/2.8. It is very, very versatile. Good for portraits, good for events, indoors and landscape and a near macro with 12" minimum focus. The first 20x30 print I ever sold was made with it and a 10MP K-10D. Good glass and a good exposure and thoughtful processing will do the job.

If I could only have one lens, it would be the Tamron 28-75. The 50-135 is still my favorite and most used portrait lens but in situations where its too long, the Tamron does well. My other heavily used lens is a DA 12-24. You can never get too close.

The 12-24 was the only way I could shoot a recent, paid newspaper assignment in the subjects small office. The 12 -24 saved me when a job shooting a prom photo got complicated when a heavy rain forced us inside and 8 of her friends and dates showed up. I ended up standing on a couch in a townhouse living room shooting at 12MM to get them all in. Did headshots with the Tamron, no room for longer. They were happy, Mom & Dad were happy, I got paid and a couple of referrals.

I get to use a very large studio for dancers, a trade deal I made with a local ballet conservatory. In these sessions and outdoors, the 50-135 is ideal and its a very, very good lens.

I whole heartedly agree with everything Brooke Meyer points out here.  I have the exact same lenses and find the same applications for these lenses.  In big rooms, I can sometimes get away with using the 50-135, but I would much rather have the Tamron 28-75 on my camera.  Since the Tamron is a 2.8 lens throughout it's focus range, it is quite a bit more handy than the 18-55 which can be a couple stops slower on the long end (plus the kit lens really benefits from being stopped down a bit).

Most of the indoor homes that I shoot in are quite dark where shooting at iso 6400, f2 and 1/30th is not uncommon.  So if you're in a place lit like this, with the Tamron, you could either up your iso to 12800, which will give you a lot of grain, or drop your shutter to 1/15th, which will lower your keeper rate by a lot due to motion blur from either your subjects or your moving the camera.  In light of this, I'm not sure anything but a faster lens will work in all low light indoor social shooting scenario so you should know this to temper your expectations somewhat.

If I were to only have one lens, I'd either want a fast 17-50 (or the Sigma 18-50 2.8 which I have and like a lot) or the Tamron 28-75 (or sigma equivalent) depending on whether you like to so architecture and landscape (if yes, I'd lean toward the wide end).

No question, the Pentax DA* 50-135 is an awesome lens and I am very happy to own it.  But I don't think I'd use it as my primary lens.  Besides... if you compare the cost of the 50-135 to say getting an ultra wide (sigma 10-20 for around 400 used), the tamron 28-75 (around 400 used) and also getting the Pentax 55-300, you could have a lens line up that covers your bases nicely.  Or if you'd rather have a faster prime for indoor shooting instead of the 55-300, you could get a Sigma 28 f1.8 for around $350 used or a Pentax DA 50 1.8 for around $250 (or F50 1.7 used for around $200).  And this 3 lens kit (albeit used) would be around the same price as a new 50-135.  You give up some things though like weather sealing and quiet focusing, but I think this three lens kit would let you shoot in more situations.

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HozicEmir Contributing Member • Posts: 731
Re: Will the SMC DA* 50-135 mm f2.8 ED IF SDM suffice as an only lens?

50-135 is one of my favorite lens, for both sharpness and rendering, it's great lens.

most natural way to get wider one is to get k-5 with kit lens and that is maybe 80$ more than body only option, 18-55 is pretty good lens but don't even close to da* quality, but it will suffice until You get something more serious.

Etweb New Member • Posts: 15
Re: Will the SMC DA* 50-135 mm f2.8 ED IF SDM suffice as an only lens?

FabriceS wrote:

Wow--Thank you for your quick and to-the-point answers.

It looks like I can buy the 18-55 WR for $150, which would be no strain. Is it really a good lens, though?

A main reason I want to move up to DSLR is that I've been unhappy with the lack of sharpness of my Fuji (another is that I can't really see much through the optical viewfinder). My reason for thinking of shelling out for the DA* 50-135 is that people seemed to be saying it is very sharp, and will let me blow pictures up to 20x30 and still have them pop. In contrast, the reviews of the 18-55 seem to be kind of dismissive.

if you buy the kit you can get the lens for around $75 (e.g beach camera plus a $25 coupon code -> $875)

Gerry Winterbourne Forum Pro • Posts: 13,175
Re: Will the SMC DA* 50-135 mm f2.8 ED IF SDM suffice as an only lens?

FabriceS wrote:

It looks like I can buy the 18-55 WR for $150, which would be no strain. Is it really a good lens, though?

A main reason I want to move up to DSLR is that I've been unhappy with the lack of sharpness of my Fuji (another is that I can't really see much through the optical viewfinder). My reason for thinking of shelling out for the DA* 50-135 is that people seemed to be saying it is very sharp, and will let me blow pictures up to 20x30 and still have them pop. In contrast, the reviews of the 18-55 seem to be kind of dismissive.

The reason that the most common kit lens from all DSLR makers is 18-55mm is because that range covers a huge proportion of all the shots ever taken.  You may be different from the general run of photographers but you'd need to be very different if you never want to shoot under 50mm (which has the FOV of 75mm on film, so it's really a tele length).

As to the quality of the 18-55WR, it's actually pretty good.  The only way it falls down is that it gets soft in the corners at 18mm: obviously you'd be happier if it was crisp all over throughout its range, but the question is whether you can afford two top-quality lenses.  The real problem with kit lenses isn't so much their IQ as the fact that they are quite slow (typically f/5.6) at their longer end: fine if all you want is working in good light but otherwise a bit restrictive.

If the equivalent range of 75 to 200 is really where you expect to do most of your shooting, then the minor loss of IQ for the few shots you'll take down at 27mm equivalent is a small price to pay.  If, however, you want to use a bigger range of FLs from wide to tele you could well do better to buy one of the standard zooms mentioned by others plus a cheaper tele-zoom.

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kriztian Contributing Member • Posts: 949
Re: Will the SMC DA* 50-135 mm f2.8 ED IF SDM suffice as an only lens?

I have the 50-135, and it is a real joy to work with, if you really want to discover the true nature of K5 you should have a top notch lens like 50-135. The colors, the contrast and sharpness is outstanding and if you also buy the kit 18-55 (wich is a god lens for that price ) you will notice the difference. Talking portraits and landcape, nature/sportshooting with 50-135 is brilliant the only flaw is that the focus is not very fast. And don´t forget to turn of the noisereduction at low iso when you start taiking pictures.

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kriztian

leopold Forum Pro • Posts: 14,083
Re: Will the SMC DA* 50-135 mm f2.8 ED IF SDM suffice as an only lens?

You can't go wrong with the DA*50-135, it's a great lens, i've made prints as large as 16x20" with that lens and my K20D.

I agree to get the kit 18-55 also because it's cheap and can be useful.

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punkrockemo Forum Member • Posts: 57
Re: Will the SMC DA* 50-135 mm f2.8 ED IF SDM suffice as an only lens?

Hello Fabrice

From your response below I can’t help but think from your getting a bit to bogged down in what the reviews say.

"A main reason I want to move up to DSLR is that I've been unhappy with the lack of sharpness of my Fuji"  "My reason for thinking of shelling out for the DA* 50-135 is that people seemed to be saying it is very sharp .... In contrast, the reviews of the 18-55 seem to be kind of dismissive."

I hope i am not misunderstanding you level of knowledge of photography here and being patronising. The sharpness of an image is not entirely down to the lens, it is in a big part down to what the photographer does, i.e what shutter speed they choose and how well they focus. The K5 and to be honest most DSLR's with the kit lens will increase your ability to get sharp shot over your current camera if used properly. One of the reasons for this is that you will be able to shoot at higher ISO and keep your shutter speed higher without significant loss in image quality. the other is your current camera does not seem to have shake reduction which can help a lot to.

Whilst the DA* 50-135 is a good lens, it may not be suited for some of the uses you mention such as shooting indoors due to the focal length, it is a lot of money and another lens combination for similar money may serve you better at this stage

miles green
miles green Veteran Member • Posts: 6,295
Nope: Focal length simulator

To answer your question quickly... No. The 50-135 would be too long, especially indoors. Check the focal length simulator below.

http://www.sigma-imaging-uk.com/support/angle_of_view/index.htm

For my taste, the 18-135 is a very complete "all-in-one" lens, being wide enough and long enough 95% of the time, compact and weather-sealed. I don't own the lens, but I do like the pictures I've seen here, and i think the reviews are too harsh.

If you are a quality addict and want a top-shelf zoom lens (and plan to get more later) I would start with the DA* 16-50 f/2.8, and wait a bit for the 50-135. A 3rd party 24-70 f/2.8 could be a good choice too if you're more of a portrait guy than a landscape guy (of course you can use any focal length with pretty much any subject).

Finally, I feel I should mention Pentax's trump card: small high-quality primes. You could fit a K5 with 3 limiteds in a very small bag. How about 15+35+70mm, or 21+40+70mm?

Anyway, as Sigma's focal length simulator (above) is a landscape, here are some family portraits at various focal lengths... Hope this is useful!

8mm fish-eye



21mm

31mm (too bad it's burnt...)

also 31mm, but cropped to about the fov of the 43.

43mm

77mm (seft portrait!  )

135mm

400mm

Note that 77mm on, all the pictures are taken outside!

Also there are no tight portraits with the 21 or wider (if you move too close, a face gets distorted)...

Some a slightly cropped, mainly to fit the 9:16 format.

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Miles Green
Pentaxian with chronic LBA
Corfu, Greece

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gooseta
gooseta Contributing Member • Posts: 707
Re: Nope: Focal length simulator
1

How bout a 17-70 and a tamron 70-200? The pair will cost you around the same as just the 50-135 and the 17-70 is a lot sharper than the 16-50 in the corners, the 16-50 is actually dissapointingly soft and the af is unreliable.

EDIT : the tamron 28-75 is also a very sharp lens and it will pair well with a 70-200 too.

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Angad S. aka gooseta
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BobORama
BobORama Senior Member • Posts: 2,375
Re: Will the SMC DA* 50-135 mm f2.8 ED IF SDM suffice as an only lens?

FabriceS wrote:

I am getting ready to upgrade to a DSLR from a Fuji Finepix S9100--scornfully described by the guy in the camera shop as "just a fancy point and shoot."

You can tell him that "Point and Shoot" is a behavior not a camera.

I have a bunch of Fuji's and I like all of them and still use them.   Fuji has always done a good job of pushing photographer friendly features into their F and S series.   But given that, you'll love the K-5.   Its a comparatively small camera compared to others in its class, and smaller even than my Fuji S100fs.

Based on the reviews I've read, I'm leaning toward buying a Pentax K-5 body and pairing it with an SMC DA* 50-135 mm f2.8 ED IF SDM zoom lens.

A lot depends on your typical subjects.   For me, I find that most of my stuff is done in that 18-50 range, or I need a ridiculously long 600mm tele, with little inbetween.   50mm on the K-5 is ~75mm on APS-C, so that's pretty long for indoor use.   If you were getting a K-5 kit with the 18-55 wr, that might give you wide when you need it.    Its a lens I've wanted, so sure, I vote "yes!" as this is a democracy, apparently. 

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OP FabriceS New Member • Posts: 11
Re: Will the SMC DA* 50-135 mm f2.8 ED IF SDM suffice as an only lens?

Thanks all for your generous and helpful responses. You've spared me some disappointment: I went back and looked at the properties of my pictures, and found that I do indeed shoot at 50 mm or less much or most of the time. And you've redoubled my enthusiasm about getting a DSLR and going out to make pictures.

punkrockermo:  No need for concern about patronization--you're dealing with a tyro here. I was over-worrying, and not taking into account the sharpness advantage of the camera itself. To the point, actually, where I was starting to get discouraged by all the choices and incommensurables.

Reading the responses at first I felt a little like I had signed up for a course that was over my head. After thinking about them for a few days, though, I have concluded that there are plenty of good options, and I don't need to worry about finding just the right one.

Right now my plan is to dither a little longer between the options you've all made me aware of. On the one hand, the kit lens plus the 50-135 is very appealing, because several of you recommend it and because everyone who talks about the 50-135 seems to love it. On the other hand, since I probably take most of my pictures under 50 mm, as Brooke Meyer and Mike Hiran suggest, it might make sense to put my "best lens" money into something at that range and get a cheaper zoom for the longer end. On the third hand, I'm intrigued by the possibilty of an array of prime lenses, or combination of a zoom and a prime/primes. That would mean changing the way I take pictures--I'm now very reliant on the zoom--which might be a lot of fun.

Thanks again. I'm attaching a few pics, just in the spirit of sharing. All taken with my Fuji S9100. Hope you like them!

Fabrice

Jaws in Vermont

Pennsylvania aerial--sharpness not an isssue here

Lawnmower Shooter
Lawnmower Shooter Regular Member • Posts: 124
Re: Will the SMC DA* 50-135 mm f2.8 ED IF SDM suffice as an only lens?

FabriceS wrote:

I am getting ready to upgrade to a DSLR from a Fuji Finepix S9100--scornfully described by the guy in the camera shop as "just a fancy point and shoot."

Based on the reviews I've read, I'm leaning toward buying a Pentax K-5 body and pairing it with an SMC DA* 50-135 mm f2.8 ED IF SDM zoom lens.

My question is, if this is the only lens I have for a while, will I be able to take pictures in most typical outdoor and indoor shooting situations? I realize that the lens won't provide macro or wide angle, but will I encounter other significant limitations?

Thanks--

FS

Lots of good points here. Assuming we are basing this topic on the normal lens prices, the 50-135 is almost $1600. This would work fine for a lot of people, closer birding, nearly all portraiture, some sports. Missing is the WA and longer tele. I looked hard at the 50-135 and decided that I would rather have more range. I am going with the sigma 17-50 + tamron 70-200. According to MTF charts, both of these are as sharp as the 50-135 (which is supposed to have CA issues in comparison), and together they cost about $200 less. This plus I get my WA and an extra 65mm or reach.

I can only speak from reviews, user info, and charts, but I really think the 50-135 is overrated. It does have weather sealing which the above two do not, and it's likely built like a tank, but for IQ it is not the only option. I think with any of the top end lenses you will find good results, but this is just my opinion. Good luck.

Gerry Winterbourne Forum Pro • Posts: 13,175
Re: Will the SMC DA* 50-135 mm f2.8 ED IF SDM suffice as an only lens?

FabriceS wrote:

Right now my plan is to dither a little longer between the options you've all made me aware of. On the one hand, the kit lens plus the 50-135 is very appealing, because several of you recommend it and because everyone who talks about the 50-135 seems to love it. On the other hand, since I probably take most of my pictures under 50 mm, as Brooke Meyer and Mike Hiran suggest, it might make sense to put my "best lens" money into something at that range and get a cheaper zoom for the longer end. On the third hand, I'm intrigued by the possibilty of an array of prime lenses, or combination of a zoom and a prime/primes. That would mean changing the way I take pictures--I'm now very reliant on the zoom--which might be a lot of fun.

A common piece of advice for people who are newcomers to DSLRs is to start out with only the 18-55 kit lens and use it for a few months before buying any other lenses.  This has several advantages: it lets you get acquainted with the new techniques that DSLRs offer; it lets you explore the kinds of FL that most suit you - if they are within the 18-55 range or whether you find you want to go wider or longer - and it's cheap.  Then when you do start buying more expensive lenses you are less likely yo make expensive mistakes.

As you say that most of your shots are under 50mm I offer that advice to you.  But as you are intrigued by the idea of using primes I'll add another thing: you could break the "kit lens only" restriction by also buying the DA35/2.4, which is optically pretty good but cheap.  There is indeed a whole new way of working when you use primes and this a an inexpensive way of finding out if you like that.

If you do you may decide that a few primes will be all that you want.  But you might not.  That's why I suggest holding off any big expense to begin with.

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Gerry
_______________________________________
First camera 1953, first Pentax 1985, first DSLR 2006
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