Tag Archives: camera lens

Four lenses you will end up owning

3 Feb

If you’re looking at what to buy to complete you photography kit, here’s a shortcut. In addition to the kit zoom they started with because it came with the camera, most people will end up owning:

  • A tele zoom
  • A macro
  • A wide angle or fish-eye
  • A large aperture prime

I’m thinking I might do a series, covering each of these in a separate post. Let me know in the comments if this is something you would like to see.


Sigma brings price war to Samyang over 24mm f/1.4

12 Feb


Sigma this week announced its new 24mm lens with f/1.4 as its widest aperture setting. It is part of the Art line, which suggests it will be of a very high optical quality – very sharp, negligible chromatic aberration, possibly low distortion. It was announced to be available in Canon, Nikon and Sigma mounts.

Samyang is the current holder of that spot in the third-party lens landscape, with a manual focus lens that can be found for 514 Euros (it might be cheaper still, I didn’t spend long). Sigma has just confirmed pricing at 849 USD. This is serious pressure on Samyang, as not only does it have less of a reputation with respect to build quality, but its lens also lacks autofocus, which Sigma can offer. The Sigma also looks a little more compact, which is generally desirable, not to mention in a moderate to full wide angle lens (depending on crop factor). On the other hand, the Samyang allows f/22, the Sigma stops at f/16.

It’s clear nonetheless that a few months down the river, with Sigma’s price having dropped to a “street price”, Samyang will have to offer some more serious discounts if it wants to keep selling that lens, since one thing we can be sure of: optically, the Sigma will be competitive.

More details on Pentax’ retractable kit zoom lens

10 Feb

With the release of the Pentax K-S2, Pentax is also releasing a new kit zoom lens, the retractable HD Pentax DA 18-50mm f/4-5.6 DC WR RE. It’s a retractable lens that needs to be manually zoomed forward to its operating distance before you can use it. I suspect in actual operation, this will feel seamless to the user. In exchange, you get the world’s shortest DSLR zoom lens (when it’s stowed away in your bag):


It starts at a sensible f/4, collapses to 1.5 inches (41mm), is weather-sealed, and claimed by Ricoh to be optically superior to its predecessor, the 18-55mm (AL II design) kit zoom. The filter thread is 58mm rather than the 52mm previously used by Pentax. This could be an indication that they are adjusting filter thread sizes on APS-C to be more in line with future full frame lenses. (Previously, 52mm was used on both the 18-55mm and 50-200mm lenses, which were sold together in a dual lens kit with some cameras; the 55-300mm which also exists in a DA-L plastic variant that is exclusive to such bundles (but only available in some localities), always used a 58mm thread.) The front element does not rotate when zooming or focusing. Also, contrary to some rumour, this is not a power zoom lens.

It has a “silent” DC focus motor and HD and SP coatings. Ricoh US customer service told me that the lens must be moved to its extended position manually using the zoom ring, no second motor involved, which presumably helps with both the shortness and longevity of the lens. So everything about this lens is “silent” to the extent that manual operation and DC motors are.

Pentax’ new full-frame lenses

5 Feb

In along with announcing a new full frame camera, Pentax has given details of the two lenses first shown at Photokina that will also support full frame photography.

D-FA* 70-200mm f/2.8

HD Pentax D-FA* 70-200mm f/2.8

The 70-200/2.8 lens is constructed with Aero Bright Coating II in addition to HD coating. According to the press release, this is “a lens-coating nanotechnology that employs a super-low refractive film fabrication process to assure light reflectance lower than that of the conventional Aero Bright Coating”. In addition, it includes a number of sophisticated glass types to minimise aberrations, according to the press release, including “Super ED glass” with properties similar to fluorite.

Wikipedia has this to say about fluorite:

Optical elements made of calcium fluoride, namely of fluorite crystals, are used in some telephoto lenses, to correct color aberration. They are however being replaced with various low dispersion glasses, which have higher refraction index, better dimensional stability, and lower fragility.

Both lenses are weather-sealed to the AW specification (Pentax also maintains the WR label to indicate a lower degree of weather resistance).

Both lenses also have a new kind of focus motor that among other things offers improved quick shift control. Quick shift is Pentax’ name for seamless transitioning from automatic to manual focussing, which is a feature of all ultra/hyper/supersonic drive lenses of any manufacturer (to the best of my knowledge), but in more affordable screwdrive lenses is exclusive to Pentax.

Both of these new lenses are direct current motor driven, and Quick Shift can be set either to ensure autofocus completion, or to allow the user intervention at any point in the autofocus process, leading (if I understand correctly) the autofocus to fade out and relinquish control. Manual focus can also be set as a third alternative – apparently both on the camera body and lens (so MF would have to be disabled both places for any AF to take place).

HD Pentax D-FA 150-450mm f/4.5-5.6

HD Pentax D-FA 150-450mm f/4.5-5.6

Lens prices at launch will be:

  • D-FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 €1999 / $2299.95
  • D-FA 150-450mm f/4.5-5.6 €2199 / $2499.95


It’s rumoured that three to four lenses for full frame will be released in 2015 (so perhaps one or two other than the above), then another “six or eight” in 2016.

16mm is the new 18mm

1 Feb

Over the course of 2014, the kit lens landscape has changed significantly, with Samsung announcing not one but two new standard zooms, the 16-50mm f/3.5 to f/5.6 and its weightier sibling, the f/2 to f/2.8 with the same focal length range, both stabilised. Fujifilm also followed up its 16-50mm f/3.5 to f/5.6 from mid-2013 with a new f/2.8 variant at the same focal range just recently. Also during 2014, Tamron announced a 16-300mm superzoom lens for APS-C, at f/3.5 to f/6.3. Pentax has had a 16-50mm standard zoom at f/2.8 for many years, and in 2014 announced a new 16-85mm f/3.5 to f/5.6.

Man and Camel, Morrocco. Taken with Tamron 16-300mm at 16mm. Promotional image by Tamron.

Man and Camel, Morocco. Taken with Tamron 16-300mm at 16mm.

The most active on the 16mm front is probably Sony – they’ve carried a 16-80mm f/3.5 to f/4.5 since 2006, 16-105mm f/3.5 to f/5.6 from 2007 and 16-35mm f/2.8 from 2009 as well as the 2014-introduced 16-35mm f/4 in collaboration with Zeiss – all in A mount. In E mount, there’s the 16-50mm f/3.5 to f/5.6, and again in A mount the much weightier and stabilised 16-50mm f/2.8. But with four major manufacturers fully embracing 16mm as the new wide angle limit standard, 18mm zooms may become a hard sell.

Woman pauses near vendor display. Fes, Morocco. Taken with Tamron 16-300mm at 16mm. Promotional image by Tamron.

Woman pauses near vendor display. Fes, Morocco. Taken with Tamron 16-300mm at 16mm.

Meanwhile, Nikon’s 16-35mm and 16-85mm are a few years old now, and while Canon released a 16-35mm f/4 in 2014 (and has an f/2.8 variant from 2007), it feels like Nikon is not really on top of this story (seemingly betting most of its money on growth in full frame cameras), and Canon does not see going wider as a priority – perhaps sensible given its 7% narrower field of view in the APS-C segment (Canon’s APS-C crop factor, due to a smaller sensor size, is 1.6 vs. most other cameras’ 1.5).

One wonders whether 2013’s star new lens, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8, feels a bit left out – undoubtedly a compromise in design the lens to achieve the f/1.8 constant aperture, but a similar compromise will now have to be made by the buyer where wide angle shots are concerned. Ultimately, you’ll never escape the desire, in some situations, to zoom with your feet.

Best Sigma APS-C normal lens?

19 Aug

In this post, I’ll look at the different options to get an affordable APS-C lens in the 28-35mm range from Sigma. This translates as the equivalent of 42-52mm focal length on a full frame/small format/”35mm film” camera.

I’ve populated the field with three of Sigma’s new “Art” lenses – two primes and one zoom, as well as an older 30mm Sigma prime lens that was the predecessor of the new “Art” version with the same focal length. All four lenses are HSM (hypersonic motor) lenses.

As a bonus, I threw in the 28mm f/1.8 Macro, which is not an HSM lens. Test results are from DxOMark, technical information from Sigma.

Five APS-C normal lenses from Sigma compared.

Five APS-C normal lenses from Sigma compared.

I’ll mostly let the table speak for itself – as per convention, green is good, red is bad.

What you should notice is that while the 35mm f/1.4 Art is clearly an amazing lens, the 18-35mm f/1.8 zoom trails it only slightly in distortion and chromatic aberration, while being equally sharp. At the relatively slightly lower price, this looks like an amazing deal (but yes, it’s very long for a supposedly 35mm maximum zoom lens).

Pentax: That thing with the pin

14 Aug

Sigma currently is discontinuing some of its lenses, and seems to be targeting K-mount as the first mount to do so. It was always clear that Sigma would update its long zoom range to its new Sports line, which, if nothing else, is distinguished by granting access to Sigma’s Mount Conversion Service, which gives users the option to keep the lenses they buy when they change to a different supported camera system. The idea is that you could buy a Canon lens and take it with you when you move to Pentax, Sony, Nikon, or Sigma, at a fee and a few weeks’ waiting time (during which, if you were a professional, you could rent a replacement lens from somewhere, or buy for the interim and sell the worse copy when your first one gets back from Sigma).

So far, Sigma has updated or released a number of lenses for its Art line, which is also eligible for the programme, but not much was heard for Sports or Contemporary, its remaining two categories (Sports is for long lenses, Art for high quality lenses from moderate wide to portrait focal lengths, and Contemporary is presumably for everything else).

So when it comes to Pentax mount, people see that the K-mount bodies are selling like hotcakes, at least in some regions, but feet still get chilly whenever there’s a possibility that fewer lenses will be available in the near future. As a result of discontinuations, people then overpurchase lenses that they think they might need in the future, such that remaining stock can disappear quickly. This apparently happened with the 70-200mm f/2.8, 100-300mm EX, and 120-400mm lenses. In addition, some people called their Sigma representatives and were told different things. One speculation apparently was that the 70-200 was discontinued because only two to three of them were sold, per month, for K-mount in the US. Another person was able to place a “back-order” for one, suggesting it isn’t really discontinued.

Sigma have, in a recent interview, stated that supporting Pentax is more difficult than other brands because Pentax still controls aperture through a mechanical lever. This increases research and development as well as machining costs. In spite of this, Sigma have in the past kept the same price point for lenses in various mounts. From Pentax/Ricoh’s point of view, this circumstance may be seen as a competitive advantage, since at least historically, camera makers have sought to sell their own lenses rather than allowing third party lenses to be bought. On the other hand, having a smaller lens collection available for purchase may cut off sales entirely if people take it as a reason to stop buying into bodies.

It’s also true to say that the contact point between the camera’s and the lens’ aperture mechanisms is an additional source of “shutter” noise when shooting at less than widest aperture. Lenses on any TTL system – Olympus, Sony, Canon or other – ultimately need to move their aperture blades into position. (Btw, that’s one reason why cameras with an optical or hybrid viewfinder, such as the Leica M series or Fujifilm X100, are better at street photography.) However, its clear that Pentax’ additional aperture lever is a source of significant noise.

Not knowing what else may happen at Photokina, and whether something special is happening at either Pentax or Sigma to create these perturbations in Sigma’s lens supply chain, I would still like to ask the question why Pentax doesn’t include an additional aperture-control electrical contact on its next generation of bodies to allow third party lenses to be more easily made or mount-converted, leading to a larger available lens selection that could benefit the wider adoption of a set of bodies that for many applications are still the best available.