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Following up on my previous post, I have inherited a collection of Pentax gear from my dad but am not really sure exactly what I've got - I doubt any of it is very exciting but is it worth following through my plan of buying a digital body 2nd hand to get into the game for (relatively) low outlay?

The list is as follows:

Any pointers on how useful these bits are, compatibility with a modern-ish body etc. would be appreciated.


Edit to add:

OK guys, reading the answers & discussion around them here I understand what you're saying about this collection not being a compelling reason to go with a Pentax setup... but I'm looking at getting into the digital SLR thing for the bare minimum money & hassle, like £150 for a used K-something body, pull the SFXn out of the bag, put the K in and go snapping with a few usable lenses I know are OK.

Selling the collection is not on the cards, this gear was my dad's so has sentimental value, and aside from the 1.7x adapter none of it is even worth enough money to be worth worrying about compared to just keeping it & using it.

I don't see a lot of value in trying to sell it all for a few hundred dollars to then have to try and buy some almost-equivalent setup made by another manufacturer for very similar money.

It's likely this gear would only see action for occasional outings (hence not spending lots on it) - these days my phone takes better pictures than my point-and-shoot and is good enough for most stuff where I don't want to drag a big heavy SLR about.

I guess the main thrust was just to get an appraisal of how good/useful the lenses are, to which the answer seems to be "OK consumer grade", as long as they're not going to clobber the performance of whatever they're attached to I'm content to work with what I've got.


Further edit: Thanks all, I've been lent a K200D to have a play with so if I can get anything worthwhile out of that I'll have a proper look for bodies.


Further and probably final edit: Having spent the weekend with the K200D I have concluded:

  • The Tamron lens is rubbish, chromatic aberrations like a Chinese webcam
  • The 28-80 does some lovely macro shots
  • The 70-210 is reasonable, with the 1.7x adapter I got a few good shots in challenging conditions (moving subject, low light, rain, full zoom, minimal talent)
  • The K200D is showing its age against modern gear, even sharp & clear shots don't stand up to close scrutiny on an HD monitor.
  • My Samsung S7 phone is a better point + shoot than my Canon SX710 (which I have come to regret buying)
  • I didn't get too fed up carrying an SLR around

So the jury is out, I may well buy a body but it would have to be a generation or two newer than the K200


Almost definitely final edit: Sold my Powershot SX710HS, bought a K5 body, let's see if I can fly it with any degree of success...


Long term follow-up since someone commented...

Some time later and I'm getting on great with the K5, borrowed a Sigma 18-125 which was a great all-rounder so ended up buying a Pentax WR 18-135 as a properly sealed walk-around (my gear sees dirt & rain).

The 28-80 is lovely for macro, the 70-210 doesn't see much use TBH.

The old Tamron 100-300 is demonstrably terrible, I may sell it if it's worth anything.

The adapter is too useful/valuable to sell if that makes sense.

  • 1
    What markings are on the 50mm? – mattdm Jul 18 '17 at 22:56
  • It's a bog standard Pentacon that came with my old manual P30 (if memory serves). I'm not near the bag of gear right now so can't give more detail. – John U Jul 19 '17 at 8:05
  • @JohnU I've expanded my answer to take into account the added info in your question. – Michael C Jul 20 '17 at 3:59
  • Thanks for the additional info. I'm not exactly sure which camera you consider to be a used K-something, but I'm pretty sure that adapter is not something that is going to be useful to you - so I repeat, it's worth selling. – KeiferJ Jul 20 '17 at 20:08
  • The K-5 is a classic, you should be happy with it. The 70-210 lens doesn't get a lot of attention since it's older, but it holds up well even today. The 1.7x adapter is handy if you run across any good buys on manual focus prime lenses, since it turns them into semi-AF lenses. – Mark Ransom Sep 21 '17 at 21:33
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Small haul of Pentax gear, what have I got here?

You've got an old film body, two fairly mediocre older zoom lenses, and a pretty good 70-210mm f/4-5.6. The two telephoto zooms have quite a bit of overlap. You've got one of several different 50mm prime lenses offered by Pentax over the years. You've also got an old 1.7X AF adapter that is worth a bit on the used market. It wouldn't be very useful with a modern Pentax digital body or with your three 'slow' (narrow maximum aperture) zoom lenses, but it is a coveted item by those who use early Pentax screw-AF cameras with old manual prime lenses or fast (lenses with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or wider) zooms.

Is that enough to choose a Pentax digital body over other systems for the sole reason of being able to use those old lenses? Probably not.

That's not to say Pentax wouldn't be a good choice for some people. But if Pentax is a good choice for you, it isn't because you've got a headstart with those old zoom lenses. The same would be true for someone who has a few old consumer grade zoom lenses in Nikon or Canon or Minolta/Sony mount from 30 years ago. If Pentax, or any other brand for that matter, is the right choice for someone with a collection of older zoom lenses it is because of the merits of the newer camera bodies and newer zoom lenses.

As the additional information added to the question since this answer was originally written indicates, you've also got something that has a lot of personal sentimental value to you. We'll get back to that a bit later in the answer. We first need to address this from a point of view of someone else that might read this in the future who has a similar collection of older camera gear and does not have any sentimental attachment to that gear.

Prime lenses (lenses with a single focal length that don't zoom) from that era are, for the most part, very close in optical quality to more recent consumer grade prime lenses offered by most camera manufacturers. Prime lens optical design has been very mature for several decades. Because they can often be had very cheaply, older manual focus prime lenses can be some of the best values around for lenses if you don't need AF lenses.

The same is not true of most cheap zoom lenses from several decades ago compared to the current crop of kit zoom lenses from most camera makers. Today's 'kit' zoom lenses are better than their counterparts from 30 years ago. The increased expectations from using high megapixel digital cameras and 'pixel peeping' the results at 100% on large monitors have forced lens makers to improve the quality of their zoom lenses. There are a few dogs still around. (EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6, anyone? But Canon does also offer the newer EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 that is a much better lens for not much more money.) But for the most part today's 'kit' zooms and other consumer level zooms are much better than those of the past.

From a standpoint based solely on the photographic merits of the gear listed in the question, my advice would be to leverage the value of the 1.7X AF adapter and apply it to the cost of a digital body regardless of whether you stay with Pentax or choose to go with another digital system. You can then look at the rest of what you have as either: 1) Additional sources of revenue on the used market or 2) Additional time to build a Pentax digital system from the ground up. If you wind up buying a digital Pentax body and stick with learning how to use it properly you'll eventually want to upgrade at least some of your existing lenses.

Keep in mind that other than the new Pentax K-1, all Pentax DSLRs are APS-C sensor format cameras with a crop factor of 1.5X. This means that the field of view when using a Pentax APS-C camera will be the same as using a lens on a 35mm film camera (or the FF K-1) with 1.5X the focal length of the lens you are using. Your widest lens at 28mm will give you a field of view that looks like what you are used to at 42mm on your film SLR, so you'll probably want to also buy an 18-55mm or similar kit lens to give you the same wide angle capability with a digital body that you have now with your SFXn film body.

Since this answer was written quite a bit has been added to the question that places it in a different light that as originally asked. The two most significant revelations are:

  • The gear holds significant sentimental value to the person who asked the question that far exceeds the market value of the items.
  • The person who asked the question indicates they would only use any DSLR they might purchase occasionally and aren't necessarily interested in spending much money on photography or looking at another system than Pentax.

With those two caveats, as long as one is willing to work within their limitations (manual focus for the 50mm, image quality limitations of older zoom lenses, etc.), the lenses listed will be usable on a Pentax digital camera body. The 1.7X AF Adapter will have very limited value due to the narrow maximum apertures of the three zoom lenses listed. Some things to keep in mind:

  • APS-C digital cameras tend to have smaller, dimmer viewfinders than their older film counterparts. They also lack the focusing aids that most film SLRs have. This makes manually focusing a lot more difficult than is the case when using older film SLRs. Some of the APS-C Pentax models have better, brighter viewfinders than others. Be prepared to be frustrated regarding the difficulty of manually focusing without resorting to magnified Live View, particularly if you wind up with one of the early entry level models with a dimmer viewfinder. I would strongly suggest getting one with a pentaprism rather than one of the few with a dimmer pentamirror. Even the models with a pentaprism, though, lack the manual focusing aids that most film SLRs have.

  • Manually focusing with the 50mm lens will be difficult enough. Adding the 1.7X Adapter will reduce the maximum aperture f-number of the lens by an additional 1.5 stops. That means the viewfinder will be even dimmer. On the flip side, if you focus it close enough manually, the 1.7X AF convertor will finish the job using the camera's AF system.

  • Your zoom lenses with the 1.7X AF adapter will become 48-136mm f/5.8-7.7, 119-357mm f/6.7-9.5, and 170-510mm f/8.2-10.5 respectively. This is in addition to the 1.5X crop factor when using an APS-C body. Given that you'll have all of these focal lengths below 300mm covered without the 1.7X converter, you probably wouldn't consider using it with anything other than the 100-300mm zoom (and, as mentioned above, possibly the 50mm prime as an 85mm in the f/2.8 to f/3.3 range depending on your exact 50mm model).

  • None of your lenses will AF on their own with the 1.7X AF adapter attached. Although the camera can use the screw drive AF motor to alter the focus distance using the AF adapter, the total range of the AF adapter is limited. You'll probably have to manually focus the lenses to near the correct position before letting the AF take over. That's also assuming the camera you buy will AF at all when using a lens/converter combo with a maximum aperture of over f/8. Most digital cameras won't. Most of the few that do are full frame cameras that have a wider baseline for the PDAF system. Even the ones that will AF at f/8 or narrower will be less accurate and slower than when they have a faster lens mounted. So while you'll gain AF with the manual 50mm lens, you'll most likely lose it with the AF telephoto lenses when using the 1.7X AF converter.

  • With the possible exception of your 50mm lens, all of the existing lenses listed in the question are K-AF mount and will be capable of stop-down metering, but older K mount lenses you might later consider will not. From Wikipedia's Pentax K-mount entry.

All digital K-mount Pentax SLR bodies lack the ability to read the position of the aperture simulator. This means that lenses that lack the lens information contacts introduced with the KA-mount (Pentax K- and M-series lenses as well as some third-party products) do not support open-aperture metering on these bodies. Instead, stop-down metering must be carried out by pushing the “green button” on the camera before taking a shot. This variation of the mount is commonly referred to as the “crippled“ K-mount.

I think you'll find over time that the most usable lens of the ones you now have will be the 70-210mm f/4-5.6. In daylight it's not a bad lens at all. But the narrow maximum aperture limits it's use with a teleconverter or in low light action situations. The 50mm manual lens will give you very good optical quality (pretty much all of Pentax's various 50mm do that) if you can master focusing it with a digital DSLR and its limited manual focusing aids. On the other hand, 50mm AF lenses are dirt cheap, even when new. The 28-80mm and the Tamron 100-300mm are mediocre zoom lenses that may or may not meet your expectations and requirements.

You'll probably find the need for a wider lens to use with an APS-C camera so my advice would be to try and find a body that includes the kit lens it was probably originally sold with. That would give you an 18-55mm, a fast 50mm, and a good 70-210mm. That's a pretty decent starter kit with the right body. The K-7 or K-5 seem to be at the sweetspot regarding price/performance ratio on the used market right now. I'd probably stay away from anything introduced before 2009 unless someone practically gives it to you. The other, more capable cameras, are a lot better for not a lot of money.

Here's an excellent run-down of the evolution of the Pentax K-mount through its various iterations. Anyone considering using older K-mount lenses on a Pentax DSLR would do well to read it.

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Just because you have old Pentax consumer grade zoom lenses isn't the best reason to decide to go with a new Pentax digital body. That 28-80 and 80-210 and 100-300 are mediocre consumer level lenses that you should not get excited about. They are worth a little used - but not a lot. The current kit lenses sold with new Pentax digital bodies are better lenses.

The good news is there are Pentax enthusiasts out there who like to shoot with older Pentax bodies, and some of the stuff you have is worth a bit to them. That 1.7x AF adapter is going for about $350 used on eBay. That's the best thing to do with it, because it's not something you're going to use. It's purpose is to allow someone to add newer lense to focus on older (screw drive focus) cameras. Take the money!

There are also people out there that might be interested in the 50mm for mirrorless cameras. I'm not sure if Pentax primes have a following, but have a look yourself.

  • Go to eBay
  • Search for the item
  • Ignore what you see, and click "Sold Items" as a filter, then you see on average what things really sell for.

So you probably have between $500 and $600 worth of stuff there which is a decent starting budget for something more mainstream. Even if that something turns out to be a newer Pentax digital camera with current kit lenses.

  • I have the 70-210 (twice, broke the first one) and it's lovely. You're talking about an 80-210 which is a different animal altogether. Although you're right that it isn't worth much on the market. – Mark Ransom Sep 21 '17 at 21:40
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Is it a good way to cheaply get into photography? It depends what kind of photography you want to do and whether you want to buy into the Pentax system. The gear you have is: two "normal" focal length lenses (the 28-80mm and the 50mm) and two tele-zooms (one of them being additionally a macro lens).

Normal focal length lenses are used in when photographing events (a lot of wedding photographers and some photojournalists use normal zooms) and what can be termed general photography (photographing pets, friends and family from a reasonable distance etc.), while tele-zooms are used, for example, to photograph wildlife and sporting events. The macro lens can let you additionally photograph things up close (think photographing bugs or product photography) which makes it a very versatile lens.

On the flip side, other then the manual lens, they are all rather slow (have a small maximum f-stop), are big and heavy. For this reason they are not very comfortable to travel with or take with you just in case you want to spontaneously take a photo, and this setup will probably not be the best for taking photos with low light (for example indoor). Additionally you will not have any wide-angle lenses, so some types of photography (for example traditional landscapes, interior photography and some types of group portraits) will require you to buy a wider lens.

Should you buy into the Pentax system? I honestly cannot give a good answer as I never owned one, but the Pentax system has a couple of great advantages that I would consider: it has great bang-for the buck value equipment (pretty cheap used bodies and great cheap legacy lenses) and has in-body stabilization. Additionally it has a couple of amazing lenses if you ever have the cash (for example the FA trio introduced in 2011: 77mm f1.8 SMC, 43mm f1.8 SMC, 31mm f1.8 SMC).

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    I really want to upvote your answer, but I can't due to your opening sentence. Pretty much everyone's current kit zoom lenses are better than anyone's consumer grade zoom lenses from 30 years ago. In the last decade or so the optical image quality of kit lenses has improved dramatically. If they were all primes from 30 years ago you'd be correct, but 3 of 4 of them are not. – Michael C Jul 18 '17 at 23:01
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    @MichaelClark Hmm, you may be right, the photos form both Pentax zooms and the Tamron are quite fuzzy until f8 when you zoom in, though the contrast and colors seem OK. I'll change that. Yes, some old Pentax primes are really great, thats what I personally go for over the zooms. – Chris Novak Jul 18 '17 at 23:27
  • The 'macro' of the Tamron 100-300 is only 1:4 (0.25X), rather than a true 1:1 (1.00X) macro or even a 1:2 'crop macro'. – Michael C Jul 19 '17 at 21:01
  • @MichaelClark that really is quite poor, modern kit lenses can do as well or better (0.25 to 0.33x). Do you know why they call it macro? – Chris Novak Jul 19 '17 at 22:03
  • At the time a lot of telephoto zoom lenses in that focal length range topped out at 0.15-0.20X. Lenses in the telephoto range that got to 0.25X were marketed by pretty much everyone as Macro teles. – Michael C Jul 20 '17 at 5:11
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Generally, all of the lenses should be compatible with the current lineup of Pentax APS and full frame DSLR's (but not the current Pentax medium format which you won't be buying anyway). They will also be compatible with older Pentax APS DSLR's.

Since the linked question suggests that the lenses came from your father, that may or may not play a role in your decision. Buying a new or used Pentax body is probably among the least expensive options for taking up photography and several of the lenses appear to enjoy a reasonably good reputation based on the linked reviews.

Anyway, for a person taking up photography, the lens and camera are rarely the significant limiting factors regarding quality and the cost of a new or used entry level camera is rounding error on the price of objectively better equipment. The main limiting factor on quality for beginners is more usually the amount of experience and effort and enthusiasm rather than cost.

Having a diverse set of lenses offers an opportunity to experiment and learn and see what works and what is or isn't fun before spending more money. In a year or two or ten, photography may play a different role in your life than today.

Perhaps one of the advantages of keeping the old lenses and going with Pentax is that it can remove a big chunk of photography as shopping and let you focus on taking pictures. And maybe keeping a connection with your father is a bonus as well.

0

In my opinion my guess here is that your father choosed those lenses from the F series to be compatible with the F teleconverter. I have had the 70-200mm but haven't used it much, and have read about the 28-80mm. Yet I think the 35-70mm (i had it and sold it after a while) is more rated and a great addition to the lenses you already have would be the F 50mm f1.7 smc Pentax F 50mm f1.7, I do have a copy for several years now and the colours this lens bring are just great. Also is nice to use, produces a great bokeh and overall is a must have lens.

My experience with F serie lenses is that they hold well aging, and they work pretty well no matter how old they are.

I do also own the F 1.7x teleconverter but I've never tried it with the F 50mm f1.7 and I am very curious now about trying them together.

This TC is, as many say, a bit comfussing. For instance works fine with my Sigma 100-300mm F4 Sigma 100-300mm F4 pentaxforumseven tho many say this is only working with lenses f2.8 or faster. But sometimes there are exceptions, and this might be a case of that.

I have had previously the Sigma 1.4x TC to combine with my Sigma 100-300mm F4 but just found that its AF is very erratic, at least for motorsport. Any light reflection on the object you try to picture and you loose focus. Yet the F 1.7x does not suffer that and this is an great improvement over the Sigma.

About your doubts on what to do next, many say you don't need to stay with Pentax and it is true but... would you rather convert the lenses into any other brand? Why would you like to do that while there are a bunch of great Pentax bodies specially in the 2nd hand market that will be great to introduce you to Digital Photography for low budget?

I don't know your budget but I'd say that the Pentax K5 classic is a wonderful camera. I have a copy and i do love how well does it work with shadows.(link to a comparison with the Canon 7D). It is not a particularly expensive camera and I found it does help the photographer in the way that is quite simple to use and let you made some mistakes. I don't know how to let you know. Is easier to use and results are way better than, for example, a Kr.

If you have a bigger budget then maybe you can go for a K3 or K3-II, or even for a KP or K70. Notice that if you use glasses Pentax KP's buttons disposal aren't the best to operate because the shutter button is in a position that your hand will always will be touching your glasses glass. It happened to me while trying it out with some friends at a trip. Other than that it is a great camera and has a great Auto Focus.

Again it all depends on your needs and your wishes, the kind of photos you'd like to take and so on, but there are many options out there from low budget to bigger budgets.

I'd say that having those lenses the most logical to me, to give it a first try, is to get a Pentax DSLR body and try them out. You'll not spend a lot, and you'll understand if you like to stick to the brand or move to another brand.

UPDATE: So i see you bought a K5 as I was about to suggest. I believe this is the best option you could choose from because overall is a great camera and nowadays if you are on a budget you can grab one easily. They also hold very well time and clicks (my own one has more than 80.000 obturations and i bought it with only 8.000, and bought it in 2014 and nowadays is still holding on in one piece and pretty much same as the first day i bought it).

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