Pentax 16-45 f/4 vs 21 f/3.2

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by job, Jan 25, 2008.

  1. job macrumors 68040

    job

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2002
    Location:
    in transit
    #1
    So I've got a bit of a questions for the fellow photographers of MR.

    I'll be getting a Pentax dSLR body fairly soon and am planning on picking up either of the aforementioned lenses. I've been shooting with a Fujifilm F20 for the last year or so and have noticed several things:

    1. I never really used the zoom on the Fuji, as I wanted to keep it at f2.8, with most of my pictures being taken in the dim early morning and early evening light. I checked most of the pictures I took in Portugal recently, and about 70-75% were shot at 35mm f/2.8. With the crop factor, the 21mm becomes close to 35mm, sadly though, it's a little slower at f/3.2.

    2. I like small. A lot. I have this great idea that eventually I'm going to get all three DA pancakes and be able to carry them in my jacket/pockets without noticing. Light weight = good.

    However, f/4 isn't all that different than f/3.2, and the 16-45mm appears to be just as sharp as the 21mm at the same focal length at f/4. Would I miss f/3.2 if I went with the zoom? I've also noticed that out of all the pancakes, the 21mm appears to be the least sharp across the frame. Additionally, the combined weight of all the pancakes is equivalent to the weight of the 16-45, so the light-weight factor of the pancakes is negated, although the primes are still infinitely more transportable and compact. Finally, with the zoom I'd have the added bonus of getting ultra-wide at the 16mm end of the zoom, something (obviously) lacking with the set of primes. And then there's cost...there's about a $50-60 difference between the zoom and the 21mm.

    I would mainly be taking general snap-shots, low light/night urban and street shots, and landscapes.

    Any advice or recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

    :)

    If you guys want to see some examples of the pictures I'll be taking, see the Flickr link below.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/walker_ep/
     
  2. jpfisher macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2006
    Location:
    New Jersey
    #2
    Ok, from the perspective of a Pentax user who owns neither of these lenses.... so take this with a grain of salt. :)

    I've been consistently impressed with the shots I've seen from the DA 16-45mm. If you look at photos that have been selected to the Pentax Photo Gallery (http://www.pentaxphotogallery.com/home) and sort by lens, you will see that the 16-45mm can produce some excellent results in capable hands.

    The DA 21mm is a nice little lens too, from what I've seen. It gives you the equivalent field of view of a 31.5mm lens on film (equating to the fantastic FA 31mm from Pentax), but it is half a stop slower than the f/2.8 you are looking for. Whether or not that half a stop matters depends on what you're shooting...

    But keep in mind there's more to a lens than f/stop and MTF figures alone. Color reproduction, contrast, distortion, etc -- these all play a major role in the quality of your image.

    Photozone performs rather stringent, technical tests on lenses -- their Pentax results are here -- http://www.photozone.de/Reviews/Pentax Lens Tests

    Browsing Pbase and the PPG by lens are also a great way to see what the "real world" results are like. The MTF figures that Photozone presents show that the 16-45mm zoom at 24mm and the 21mm both peak, resolution wise, at f/5.6... so if you want to pixel peep for sharpness, they're about the same there. :)

    I've actually been struggling with the 16-45mm f/4 (price is great and I don't often use a zoom in that range -- the 31mm Limited basically lives on my camera most of the time, and I have the DA 14mm for that wide-angle goodness) versus the DA* 16-50mm f/2.8 (price is high, but it's weather-sealed and faster, but some folks are getting bad copies and have to go through exchanges to get a good one).

    Which Pentax body are you going for? If it's the K10D/K20D, the 16-45mm might make more sense... because you are already sacrificing that light-weight compactness... but if it's the K100D/K200D, then you are dealing with a smaller body where the pancakes will further help to keep things light.
     
  3. job thread starter macrumors 68040

    job

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2002
    Location:
    in transit
    #3
    Heh, thanks. :cool:

    I've noticed that too, and up until the recent trip to Portugal, I was set on getting the 16-45. I didn't really pay any attention to what focal length I had been shooting at until afterwards, when I realized I never used the zoom at all on the F20.

    I won't be shooting anything that's moving...mainly just cityscapes and street scenes in the early morning and late evening hours. I figure with the SR and better high ISO with the Pentax, I won't (hopefully) miss f/2.8 that much.

    Good call, I'll have to keep browsing the PPG and Pbase for more real world results. I've actually been reading and re-reading the Photozone.de tests and it's just made the decision harder to make. ;) Both seem like great lenses.

    Hehe, LBA strikes again. Can you justify buying a zoom though, either the 16-45 or the 16-50, when you know that your most used lens is a fixed focal length?

    That's actually the million dollar question. My girlfriend is getting me the body for a college graduation gift, and it's either going to be the K10D or the K200D (mainly due to price constraints.) Haha, I guess that doesn't really help the decision making process at all.

    I certainly appreciate the help!

    :)
     
  4. jpfisher macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2006
    Location:
    New Jersey
    #4
    For evening walk-around shots in a city, a monopod can always help and be compact/light enough so that it won't bog you down. Granted, I have a monopod and never end up taking it with me, so also, grain of salt... I just generally find a ledge or brace myself up against a building and turn the SR on.... speaking of high ISO, I very rarely feel comfortable using the K10D over 800, but the shots I've seen from the K20D look very very good at 1600.

    Well, I haven't bought one yet, so I'm holding off. I was doing a walk-around town during our first snow storm a month or two back, and my only option (outside of the ziplock bag) was the DA* 50-135mm because it was weather sealed. I'm not used to using something that long for a walk-around, and it took some getting used to. I had one shot that I ended up loving, it was just perfect, but I didn't walk backwards enough and it's just a bit *too* tight on the framing for my liking.

    So that's why the DA* 16-50 appeals to me... the 16-45mm would be a fantastic daytime good-weather walk-around, though... but for the extra money I get the sealing and a stop, and word is that Pentax has corrected the issues with the early production runs (centering defect issues)... and I work for a retailer, so if I did get a bad copy, an exchange would be as easy as walking across the street to the store and getting a new one... but yeah, for the most part, I tend to be a prime shooter for anything from wide to normal -- I can see the 21mm being added to my kit at some point as an in-beween the 14mm and 31mm... but hey, you said it -- LBA. :)

    With the prices on the K10D the way they are now, I would not hesitate to recommend it. I'm very tempted to upgrade my body to the K20D, but I can't justify the extra cost. You'll probably end up with better high-ISO performance out of the K200D, based on early samples, but at the cost of on-body controls and a better viewfinder. I moved from a *ist DL to the K10D this past summer -- I found myself loving the better autofocus system, selectable points, easily adjustable metering (spot, center weighted, matrix), and dual control wheels.

    ... but the right answer to the body quandry is 'hold each in your hand, pick the one that feels better.'

    Jim
     
  5. Kendall015 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2006
    #5
    The 21mm is the single best photography purchase I have ever made...the difference in picture quality between it and the kit lens on my K10D was night and day. It may be expensive, but you cannot beat the sharpness of a fixed focal-length lens.

    The 21mm became my primary lens for the pictures I took on my semester in Washington DC (a couple pics were taken with the iPhone, but those are obviously much worse). I made a website from the photos, and you can see them here if you want:
    http://web.mac.com/kendall015/Wills_Homepage/My_Albums/My_Albums.html
     
  6. SLC Flyfishing Suspended

    SLC Flyfishing

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2007
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    #6
    I'd go with the Primes, they are sharp and light and small and limited edition too. I'm a sucker for prime lenses, perhaps that's why I stuck with Pentax when transitioning from film to digital, I just couldn't see going away from lenses like the limiteds. I know it doesn't help now, but if you do eventually get all those pancake lenses you will have most of them that are f/2.8 so you would have your wish as far as lens speed is concerned.

    What part of Portugal were you in? I lived there for a few months back in 2001 after I graduated High School. I mostly hung around in Belem, and the Praço do Comerçio. But my apartment was across the Tejo in Barreirro, right across from the Ferry Docks (If you passed through on your way south of Lisbon you'd know the area.

    I'd absolutely love to see some of your photos from there!

    SLC
     
  7. SLC Flyfishing Suspended

    SLC Flyfishing

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2007
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    #7
    I'd have to say to also hold both in your hands, and try some high ISO shots on both and compare what you get. I'd have to say that anything above ISO 400 on the K10D isn't exactly stellar, it's comparable to the Nikon D80 and Canon XTi but I'd put it in 3rd (by a small margin). I'm just not a fan of noise at all so I try to keep my K10D in ISO 100 or 200, doing that the results are absolutely spectacular. If you think you will use high ISO a lot, you will probably want to think long and hard about the K200D. If not I think the control layout of the K10D can't be beat, basically everything you need is right at your fingertips. The K200D will be a lot more menu driven, and lacks a lot of external controls that the K10D has. The viewfinder isn't an issue anymore since the K200D has the same Pentaprism that the K10D has.

    Let us know what you choose and post those Portugal shots if you can!!!:D

    SLC
     
  8. job thread starter macrumors 68040

    job

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2002
    Location:
    in transit
    #8
    Coming from the Fuji, and judging by the real world samples of the K10D at ISO 800, I'm not too worried about noise. Haha, I've actually taken some of my night shots with the Fuji by placing it on a steady surface, the focusing and framing the shot, and then using the 10 sec self-timer to eliminate any camera shake that I can. I'm certainly looking forward to the SR in the Pentax bodies.

    Have you give the Sigma 18-50 f/2.8 any thought? My friend suggested I check it out after I asked him the same question about the 16-45 and the 21mm. Also, I'd really like to get your perspective on shooting with mostly primes if you don't mind. :) Is it annoying to have to change lenses a lot? Do you have to change lenses a lot? Are there any situations where you wished you just had a zoom?

    Definitely, I've already used the K10D briefly in a camera store. I tried the D80 and the 40D at the same time and actually found the K10D to be the most ergonomic as well as the most compact (although I'm not sure if that's true, I certainly remember the 40D as a huge, hulking piece of camera; that thing was massive! :D)

    Hmmmm...making it all the harder to decide! ;)

    Coming from the Fuji, I think even with the slightly noisy ISO 800/1600 from the Sony CCD, I'll still be pleased with the results...for now. And hey, if I have a K10D/K200D for a while, ISO noise can be a reason for a new body down the line. ;) :D

    I'd sure like to hear your opinion on shooting with mostly primes as well! Honestly, the Limiteds were one of the deciding factors for me in choosing Pentax over Nikon or Canon. I'm just slightly worried that if I go with the 21mm, that I won't find it useful in enough of my shots. In other words, I can't tell if I used the 35mm equivalent on the Fuji so often because it was 35mm or just because it was f/2.8.

    Wow, small world! My family and I decided to take a family vacation (we used to live in Europe, Germany and England for 6 years) and since we never got around to seeing Portugal...We flew into Lisbon and actually stayed in the Alfama district for about 4 days. We walked all over and we definitely checked out Belem and the Praço do Comerçio. Haha, that's crazy, since our Pensão was so close to some of the places you used to hang out at. I definitely know where your apartment was, although we didn't get to make it over the Tejo. The rest of the time we were in country, we rented a car and drove all over, making it to Porto, a bunch of little towns and villages out in the N/NW of the country. We also ended up visiting Evora, Tomar, Fatima, and Setubal.

    Most of my pictures are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/walker_ep/

    I haven't really organized them yet, so be warned! :)
     
  9. SLC Flyfishing Suspended

    SLC Flyfishing

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2007
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    #9
    I spent a lot of time in Setubal too! Loved the Castello de São George! You took some great shots there.

    I don't know, I just get a lot better image quality from my primes than I do my zooms. That being said, I got probably my favorite shot I've taken yet with the kit zoom of the K10D, but nothing touches the 50 mm f/1.4 for outright lifelike images and good color rendition. I'm also thinking to save up for the pancake limiteds, those are special lenses and won't be available forever. They will likely increase in value significantly after they are discontinued since they are so nice and they are manufactured with a few extra craftsmanship touches that aren't there on other lenses. The focusing distance markings etc are all engraved into the metal on the lens rather than silkscreened on etc.

    I just think you'll get much sharper, realistic, and technically pleasing photos with the primes than the zoom, I don't find myself changing lenses too often, I like the feel and can do most of what I do with one focal length. But that zoom is supposed to be special, I've never used one myself so I don't know first hand. Thing is, it's basically the same thing as the kit zoom with a little more wide angle and a little less long end and a constant aperture.

    Those primes will cost you a fair bit of money, but I really do think you'll be more satisfied in the long run with them. Shooting Pentax is all about shooting Primes, that's what they're famous for, their prime lenses take a back seat to nobody. Seeing that you shoot at 35 mm a lot, you should take a look at the new 35 mm f 2.8 macro lens that was announced this week, it can go to 1:1 when shooting macro shots and 35 mm is an ideal focal length for street photography (you'd want the 21 mm if you take a lot of landscape type shots like your Portugal ones though.).

    SLC
     
  10. jpfisher macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2006
    Location:
    New Jersey
    #10
    I've not really considered the Sigma as an option. The weather sealing is the main draw to the Pentax DA*... the f/2.8 is nice, but I'd rather have the 16-45mm f/4 than the Sigma zoom.

    As for changing lenses. it's not so bad. I tend to overpack, so my normal walk-around bag (Crumpler 6 Million Dollar Home -- with the K10D + grip, DA 14, FA 31, DA 50-135, K 50 and FA 77) can be a wee bit heavy.... but it's right at my hip, and I have the changing lenses on the go thing down to a science. For the most part though, the 31mm is on the camera. If I ended up with either of the 16-xx zooms in my bag, the 14mm would stay at home more often than not.

    I also have a smaller bag (5 Mil Dollar Home) that can squeeze the K10D and two lenses.... but I've been using that for my Hasselblad as of late.

    I like having a zoom at sporting events, would have loved to have had one at the Bronx Zoo the last time I went (as it was I was changing between a 300mm prime for animals and a wider lens for my companions and it was a pain -- that 60-250mm f/4 that is on the roadmap would have been perfect).

    Other than that, I've pretty much gotten used to looking through the viewfinder and knowing what the 31mm is going to see... it's pretty much a normal lens on the APS-C sensor, so I guess that isn't too much of a stretch.

    Some of my (well, in my eyes) better images are posted on my journal -- http://2bq.livejournal.com -- the EXIF data should be available to read in the JPG files; anything that is between 50 and 135 that is not 77mm is with the DA*, and everything else is via primes.

    For the type of shooting I do, I am more inclined to have a zoom on the longer end of the range. There just seems to be less compromise on the image quality there... and if I'm using a wider lens, and I need to back up a bit to get my framing right -- not a huge deal in most cases... but if I'm using the 200mm or 300mm, and then I want to get a wider shot, well, I'm changing lenses.

    BTW, just a note to SLC -- according to DPreview's K200D preview, it's still a Penta-Mirror viewfinder.
     
  11. SLC Flyfishing Suspended

    SLC Flyfishing

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2007
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    #11
    Yeah, just realized that! I think I was confused by the way they called it a penta-mirror type prism in their specifications list.

    SLC
     
  12. Macerture macrumors member

    Macerture

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2008
    Location:
    Dirty Jersey
    #12
    16-45 - it rocks.

    Look here, http://web.mac.com/tmaher3

    90% of all the images are taken with the 16-45.. It's sharp, has great color rendition and a joy to use.

    The 21mm is not a replacement for it though, the 14mm would be better and then the 21, 40, 50, 70..

    You'll find that you'll always use it at 16mm or 45mm, very rarely will you be inbetween. A good start would be either the 16-45 or the 14 and 40 or FA 50 f1.4

    see here for all your choices.. http://www.pentaxslr.com/lenses left hand colum has all the current lenses.
     
  13. loafer macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2007
    #13
    Definately go for the 16-45, it made me love zoom lenses again!


    I have used both lenses (I own the 16-45), and I feel the 21 limited - althought it is an excellent performer - is not versatile enough. Since I have owned the 16-45, it has rarely come off my camera. Although it hasnt replaced my FA 35 f/2 or FA 43 f/1.9 limited, its VERY sharp, and as others have reported, reproduces colours very well!


    So, the 16-45 is more versatile - dont limit yourself to one focal length! I guarantee you'll find more use out of it than the DA 21 limited.
     

Share This Page