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I'm looking to get a good, and reasonably fast lens for my K200d. I'm mostly looking at zooms because I only have the kit (which I find just too slow for most of my shooting) and a nice Sigma 70-300 telephoto (which I absolutely love). I want something decent for portrait, candid, and other common situations where the telephoto is inappropriate. I've considered Prime lenses but Sigma and Tamron do seem to have some good prices on a couple of their zooms.

I'm on a budget here (under $500cdn), which makes this harder as most of the recommended lenses I see out there kick my budget to the curb.

I just don't have enough experience to know one lens from another aside from focal length and aperture. I'm hoping someone here can help me fish out the best value in my price range considering that for some time I'll only have this lens plus the kit and 70-300mm to work with.

Here is what I'm looking at right now:

  • Sigma 28-70 2.8 which someone is offering used for $300(cdn)
  • Sigma 24-70 2.8 new (
  • Tamron 17-50 2.8 used ($340)

Alternatively I could go with a prime lens. The "limted" ones seem pretty pricey though but this one seems pretty inexpensive and as I understand it also hits that sweet spot for "normal" on my digital camera.

  • Pentax smc P-DA 35mm f2.4 AL ($176)

Update:

I'm leaning towards the Tamron, the reviews on the Pentax Forums are really quite good and it seems versatile. It can serve both as a somewhat wide-angle lens as well as a good portrait lens. It's used and I should have some room in my budget to also get the FA 50mm prime later if one comes available on Craigslist.

Thank you everyone for your advice. It was most helpful.

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If you're thinking of getting a fast prime (which I'd absolutely recommend), I'd suggest doing something like photo.stackexchange.com/questions/7268 against your favorite photos you've taken with your kit lens, and pick a prime that matches your most-used focal length. –  drewbenn Dec 29 '11 at 18:43
    
Thanks, that's a great idea. –  Chris Nicola Dec 29 '11 at 19:05
    
If you are interested in a prime, take a look at this overview of Pentax primes. –  mattdm Dec 19 '13 at 1:53
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4 Answers

I've been tempted to buy Pentax cameras just for their pancake lenses. :)

I'd get this for a nice portrait lens: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/366728-USA/Pentax_21550_SMCP_DA_40mm_f_2_8_Limited.html

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@Chris: The 40mm is very nice, and really, if you've got a Pentax camera, I highly recommend taking advantage of their strengths in lenses. (I wrote a long answer to another question about Pentax primes which I modestly suggest as useful reading if you're interested.) –  mattdm Dec 30 '11 at 3:27
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You said portrait, so I am curious why you are simply not considering the FA 50mm 1.4 which is has the right focal-length for a K200D and a bright aperture which is ideal for portraits? It goes for about $350 CDN.

If you find more budget, I would highly recommend the DA* 55mm F/1.4 instead which is weather-sealed which will open up possibilities for you considering you have a K200D. Mine cost about $850 CDN and it is amazingly sharp.

While the other ones you mention are bright, they are rarely usable full open, so you would use them from F/4 down at least and you lose your ability to blur the background like an F/1.4 lens would offer.

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My understanding was that "normal" was about 35mm for a pentax digital camera? I did consider the FA 50mm though. Could you elaborate a bit more on why these are not usable when fully open? What is the key difference here? –  Chris Nicola Dec 29 '11 at 19:14
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Yes, 35mm is normal but you said portrait. Usually taken between 70 and 120mm on full-frame because it gives a more flattering perspective. A 50mm would equate to a 75mm which is good in that range. Most lenses are softer wide open, how much softer depends on the quality of the lens. That is one way Sigma and Tamron undercuts the price of brand-name F/2.8 zooms. If you need a sharp bright aperture, it is much cheaper to get a prime lens. –  Itai Dec 29 '11 at 19:22
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What are your feelings on manual focus? For about $100, you could get a good used Pentax-A 28mm f/2.8. The "A" mount gives you the same exposure automation as modern lenses, just not autofocus. It's almost exactly a normal lens for your camera (the sensor diagonal is 28.26 mm).

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Probably worth considering, I'll look into that a bit more if I can find something good locally I'll consider that. –  Chris Nicola Dec 29 '11 at 21:05
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My favourite value lenses for Pentax are:

  • The Pentax-A 50mm f1.7 (got mine a few years ago for about 50$). In APSC 50mm is an appropriate focal length for wide portraits, although having to do manual focusing without live view and focus peaking can be tricky.
  • The Pentax-K 135mm f2.5 (got mine last year for 175€). Maybe a little bit too long in APSC, but its bokeh is stunning. Same thing about MF applies, plus not having the A setting on my version makes everything slower (the newer K-A mount is advisable, although it is more expensive).

working with primes might be less versatile, but it is very rewarding in the end.

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