pentax and the best bokeh for the buck

Discussion in 'Pentax' started by niceparking, Oct 18, 2006.

  1. niceparking

    niceparking Guest

    Are you sick of looking at what you think might be a great picture,
    until you look at the background and start to see harsh circles of
    light, and the more you notice the obvious ones, the more you notice
    there's a whole bunch more that are less obvious? No? It's just me
    then. At any rate, I'm thinking of picking up a used Pentax system
    including 28, 35, 50, 85, 135, 200, 300. Not necessarily all at once!

    What's the most durable, best built pentax available, either auto or
    manual focus, which includes mirror lockup and preferably a spot meter?

    What lenses have the best bokeh and are considered sharp as well? I
    know there's at least two people here who shoot pentax for the
    glass--Bandicoot and TP. Hope to hear from them on this issue in
    particular, but anybody is welcome to chime in, of course.
    niceparking, Oct 18, 2006
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  2. Some of the focal lengths in that list are too close together or
    superfluous: IMHO you can drop the 135 and (arguably) the 50mm. I'd
    certainly go for a 24mm instead of a 28mm and also go for a 20mm
    (Pentax's is quite good).

    I've used the Pentax 35mm f/3.5 and found it excellent , the 200mm f/4.0
    and found it mediocre.

    If you happen to go for a screw mount system, you should also consider
    some Zeiss Jena, Meyer, Steinheil, Schacht and Schneider lenses.

    You'll probably get lots of tips for the K1000 - Why? I don't know (no
    DOF preview among others).
    The KM, K2, KX and others are cheaper *and* better.

    The LX is a camera I'd certainly get if I went Pentax, but I haven't
    actually used it, so others should comment here...
    Chris Loffredo, Oct 18, 2006
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  3. niceparking

    niceparking Guest

    I'll probably only end up with three or four, max. I like 28 better
    than 24.
    Thanks, I'll look at the LX then.
    niceparking, Oct 18, 2006
  4. niceparking

    Paul Mitchum Guest

    You might consider oggling through this web site:
    <> It has a ton of info on most
    Pentax-branded lenses, including a few best-of discussions.

    As far as bodies, you're limited when it comes to mirror lock-up. Most
    have DOF preview, and some have MLU. The standard reference:

    The Pentax 35mm film bodies most often spoken of in hushed tones are the
    aforementioned LX and the MZ-S. The new K10D looks to be another happy
    addition to that list, but it's digital, so maybe that's not what you're

    The secret to good bokeh is to prevent bad bokeh. Control the contrast
    in out-of-focus elements, or decide that you like it. :)
    Paul Mitchum, Oct 18, 2006
  5. niceparking

    Stan de SD Guest

    I have owned K1000's, K2s, and a MX. I found my K2 to be a bit buggy. I
    would definitely stick to the bayonet-mounts as the screw mounts are getting
    a bit long in the teeth, but in my experience, the most rugged (in terms of
    taking sheer abuse) are as follows:

    (1) Older K1000 with stamped metal (not plastic) top plate.
    (2) ME Super - a much better than average attempt for the early "automatic"
    market (aperture priority and manual), and the price was always right.
    (3) MX - body was fine, but the metering was always a bit buggy.

    Stan de SD, Oct 18, 2006
  6. niceparking

    AAvK Guest

    I have a K2 and love it very much. I think it is a bit oddly designed, it has aperture
    priority which renders perfect exposures, the rest is manual. It will not make use
    of the "A" setting on lenses that have them, such as the "A" series which was later
    made in the 80's, and still made these days. That takes a program body.

    The K2 does have mirror lock-up, is a large and tough body of brass and includes
    depth of field preview, as well as exposure compensation (which I never use).

    Three "bugs" that shouldn't be there, does not accept a motor unless it is a DMD
    model, and no lighting of the match needle meter scale inside the viewfinder at
    night, can't see it. And the design of the ISO(ASA) dial 'around the mount' is odd
    and hard to work, takes finger nails while depressing a lever. The exposure
    compensation is another ring around the mount but easy to work. The camera is
    worth having and using.

    The KX has mirror lock-up, is essentially the same as the K2 but no aperture
    priority. It's flash sync is 1/60 second, K2's is 1/125. KX is more of an 'artistic
    use' camera body, totally manual. The KM is that same as that, no mirror lock up.
    And the same as the KM is the MX, only smaller, and takes a motor.

    The K2/KX meter is silicon photo diode which was advanced for it's time and still
    used these days, perfectly accurate so far. At that time more advanced than Canon's
    CDS meters which over-expose in lower light and use mercury batteries, not
    currently available.

    Good thing about the two cameras is that they use silver 1.5 volt batteries that are
    still commonly available, my local radio shack has them at $3.49 each.

    Or buy an LX, takes motors and winders, has mirror lock-up, and totally
    professional. There were early and later models of LX with differences. Same
    batteries. And I suggest, buy a film scanner.

    .... hope this helps,
    AAvK, Oct 19, 2006
  7. I have a KX I am very happy with. MLU, depth-of-field-preview but no
    spot metering (my another Pentax MZ5N has that). KX has a mechanical
    shutter, battery drives just the light meter. KX is very well built and
    intuitive to use( at the time (1975) it was built to be a professional
    body in the Pentax line-up). A used KX is a LOT cheaper than a used LX.
    MX would be another alternative but I find KX a lot better.
    As for lenses I would try 28 mm F3,5, (or 35 mm f2,8), 50 mm f1,4 and
    135 mm f3,5.

    Väinö Louekari
    Väinö Louekari, Oct 19, 2006
  8. niceparking

    jeremy Guest

    Your question is stated too broadly to allow a precise response. It is like
    "Which is the best camera?"

    Best for WHAT?

    If you are looking for the lowest PRICE, then the screwmount SMC Takumars,
    mounted on a Spotmatic F (assuming that you want full aperture metering) are
    probably the best overall for your purposes. But Spotmatics had no mirror
    lockup or spot metering. Mamiya made some M42 camera bodies with spot
    metering, but they did not have full aperture metering. No way you're going
    to have it both ways.

    There were a couple of Pentax models with MLU, but they were in the more
    recent K-mount, and they were expensive.

    You need to tell us which features you must have, and whether price or
    features are most important, before we can give you an appropriate
    jeremy, Oct 19, 2006
  9. niceparking

    Bandicoot Guest

    Hmmm, best bokeh and sharp for these FLs. Well, I haven't used all of the
    options/versions for all of these FLs, but from what I have used, here's my

    Perhaps before I go on I should make sure you know what the K, A, etc.
    appellations mean. These are all K-mount bayonet lenses that I'm
    describing, in chronological order. You could, alternatively, use the older
    screw-mount lenses and still get much of the benefit of the optics, but
    these days I think the price differential used is so small that I'd probably
    only consider the bayonet lenses and bodies (of course, if you get a really
    good price on a screw-mount lens, you can still use it on a K-mount body
    with an adapter, though you'll have to use stop-down metering.)

    K - earliest version, metal, manual focus

    M - optimised for compactness. Some use the same optical formula as their K
    predecessors, some don't. Not all the lenses that exist in K (or A)
    versions were also made as M versions. Metal bodied. Manual focus.

    A - first lenses that support shutter priority and programme operation (it's
    manual or aperture priority only with earlier lenses). Some of these are K
    or M designs with the 'A' feature added, others are new designs. Several K
    and M designs were 'tweaked' a little for the A versions. Metal bodied.
    Manual focus.

    F - first lenses with AF. A few changes from the A optical designs, but
    mostly the same designs. Some plastic, some metal.

    FA - later AF lenses, the main changes are that more information is
    exchanged between the body and the lens, on bodies that support it (KAF2
    mount bodies). Some changes from F optical designs in some lenses. Some
    plastic, some metal.

    FAJ - designed for bodies that can set the aperture, no aperture ring on the
    lens itself. An abomination. Plastic.

    Then there are some lenses for the reduced sensor size digital bodies, and
    some digitally optimised lenses that cover the full frame size.

    Also, there are the Limited lenses: these have AF and can be compared to
    luxury versions of the FA type: no holds barred optical designs and very
    nice mechanicals.

    And finally the * lenses - eg. A*, FA*, etc. Originally this was those that
    used ED glass types, and essentially now it is an indication of a somewhat
    higher quality level, though * lenses don't exist for all FLs, since this
    design isn't always necessary. They have nice metal barrels (usually) and
    for the AF ones there's a very nice AF/MF clutch mechanism that means that
    the focus feel in manual is much better than is usual for an AF lens.

    All these lenses have Pentax's SMC coating, but the coating has 'evolved'
    over time, and in particular the A and later lenses seem slightly more flare
    resistant than the earlier lenses - though the Ks are still more flare
    resistant than a brand new Canon lens, so who's complaining? >;-) The
    Limiteds have Pentax's "Ghostless" coating, which is a sort of
    super-super-multicoating (this and their very good coma is one of the
    reasons I find them particularly good for night shooting).

    OK, so to specifics:

    28mm - the f3.5K is, I think, the sharpest, and has nice bokeh. The f2.8s
    may be just behind the 3.5s for sharpness, but are at least their equal for
    bokeh - and from f4 or 5.6 are indistinguishable on sharpness anyway. Of
    the f2.8s, I think the A is the best version I've used, but the FA is said
    to be its equal or perhaps slightly better.

    The 30mm f2.8K is probably sharper and with (even) better bokeh than any of
    these 28s, but hard to find (no, mine isn't for sale!) The 31mm f1.8 FA AL
    Limited is sharper still, with nice bokeh and excellent coma, though for
    bokeh per se, the 30mm is at least as good and probably my preference - I
    need to do more testing really to tell apart these two lenses both of which
    I like a lot.

    35mm - the f2 supposedly has the best bokeh. I have an f2M and it is nice,
    but I wouldn't say it's necessarily any better than the f3.5K I have, which
    I think is the sharpest. The f2A may be better, but I've never used one.

    50mm - well, of course here you are spoilt for choice. None of the Pentax
    50s is anything less than excellent, and even the ludicrously cheap f2 will
    blow the doors off the much touted f1.8s of some other makers we won't
    mention. However, everyone seems to agree that the best is the f1.4A, and I
    must agree that mine is indeed a very special lens. The f1.2A possibly has
    even better bokeh, and wide open a rather special look, but it is not as
    sharp as the f1.4 until about f5.6, at which point I can't tell them apart
    (though some people claim that they can). The f1.7M is very nearly the
    equal of the 1.4A, and will cost you a lot less. The f2.8 A and FA macros
    are also incredibly sharp - maybe the sharpest 50s you'll ever find - and
    their bokeh is not all that different to the other 50s.

    85mm - the f1.4s are said to have the best bokeh, with the A* being the best
    for distance work (landscapes) and the FA* more optimised for portraits. I
    don't have either of those however. The f2 has a bad reputation in some
    parts, though I know people who have it and like it - maybe it's good, just
    not as good as the other 85s. The one I have is the f1.8K, and it is an
    excellent lens, very compact and with attractive bokeh, good for people and
    for landscape. The f2.8F Soft-Focus is also really nice, and if you enjoy
    portraits may be worth a look. Don't overlook the 77mm f1.8 FA Limited
    either, which may be the sharpest of all of these.

    You've skipped the 105mm f2.8K which is a real cracker, and the 120mm f2.8M
    which I think is a very undervalued lens these days. Also the 100mm
    macros - all are good but the absolute star is the 100mm f2.8 FA Macro: you
    won't find a sharper lens, and its bokeh is very good indeed: better than
    other macros I've known (some have awful bokeh) and certainly as good as the
    much touted 90mm Tamron.

    135mm - the 'star' has to be the f1.8A* ED, which is one of my favourites
    and a great people lens. But it is very heavy and has become expensive.
    Nearly as good, very nearly as sharp and with similar bokeh, but lighter and
    cheaper is the f2.5K (not the much cheaper Takumar which is a different
    design, cheaper, and not SMC coated). The f2.8 FA IF is very nearly as nice
    as the f2.5K if you want AF (though it is a very ugly lens to look at, looks
    like the army designed it.) The f3.5 in all its versions is very cheap to
    buy, very small and compact, and a good lens by anyone's standards, just not
    quite up there with its f1.8 and f2.5 cousins. The 150mm f3.5K is good
    too - I like it more than the f3.5 135mm, and it is actually lighter than
    the 135mm f2.5K.

    200mm - the f4 macros have good reputations but I've never used one. The
    other f4s tend not be well thought of: they are not really bad lenses, but
    they don't quite reach the standard compared to other Pentax mid-long
    primes. The 200mm that I prefer is the f2.8 FA* ED IF - this is remarkably
    sharp and contrasty for a 200, and the bokeh is good. Once you get beyond
    about 135mm, bokeh often tends to become harsher with anyone's lenses, and
    this 200 has bokeh _at least_ as good as anything else I've seen of this

    300mm - the f4K/M/A is a good lens, but I prefer a little more contrast.
    This you get, along with sharpness and, for a 300, good bokeh, with the f4A*
    and f4M*. This (mine is the A* version) is my preferred 300 for
    hand-holding and/or if bokeh is a key concern. The f4.5F* ED IF is probably
    a tiny bit sharper and is the lens I prefer for tripod use (or if I want AF,
    of course) but I think the A* has slightly nicer bokeh. The FA* is the same
    optical design as the F*, but lacks the F*'s tripod mount, for some reason.

    Phew - hope that's some use. I didn't mention zooms since none really has
    bokeh quite as nice as a fixed FL, and I'm writing enough as it is!
    Most durable and best built body: I'd say the LX, or if you want AF, the
    MZ-S. I accidentally knocked the MZ-S against the corner of my house once,
    knocked a bit of brick off the house, didn't even scratch the camera.

    No spot-meter on the LX, but the best meter there is for long exposure work,
    and the interchangeable finders are good. Only the meter and shutter speeds
    below 1/90 need the battery, so it's also good if power is a concern. I
    have five (including my trademark pink snakeskin one) and a spares body, and
    think they are magnificent.

    The MX is lovely if you want something compact and light though still
    solidly built, but it doesn't have MLU so may not suit you. There is a
    fudge for mirror pre-release if you want to try it. Does have a much
    quieter shutter than the LX (silk versus titanium must make a difference,
    the LX has a real 'twang' to it).

    The MZ-S is a joy to handle, compared to most AF cameras I've ever used, but
    is definitely nicer with the battery grip than without. No gimmicks that
    you don't need, everything that you do need is easy to access - only gripes
    are minor: it can be a little too easy to switch metering modes by accident,
    and that changing the functions/set-up - like whether you want to set the
    delayed release to work as a self-timer of a mirror pre-fire, for example -
    is not always intuitive, but then you seldom need to change these things.
    Hope all that helps - feel free to post asking any more specific questions
    and I'll reply if I know the answers. Be interesting to hear how what
    choices you make, and how you feel about them once you've used them for a

    Bandicoot, Oct 20, 2006
  10. niceparking

    AAvK Guest

    Peter that was an awesome answer, I know I'm someone else but thanks!
    Saved your text in a notepad in my "photography" folder.

    Let me ask if it's OK, I was given a SMC M 100mm 2.8 by an uncle, no
    scratches on the glass and no "acid eat" in the coatings, all clean with it's
    own case and caps. Have you used the same, and what is your breakdown
    on it's qualities?
    AAvK, Oct 20, 2006
  11. niceparking

    Bandicoot Guest


    I have one of these (100mm f2.8M) and it is a good lens. I only didn't
    mention it because the 105mm K is a little bit sharper, and the f2.8 100mm
    that I use mostly is the macro (the A or the FA). That said, the 100 M is
    definitely a lens worth using: it's plenty sharp enough and has a nice
    bokeh, though not _quite_ as nice as the 85s that I mentioned.

    Best of all, it is _tiny_ and very light. You could use this for
    people/street photography and a lot of the time everyone would assume you
    only had a standard lens fitted. Although I use the 85mm more often, I kept
    my 100 M because it's a nice travelling-light lens - it makes a very nicely
    balanced package with an MX. Mine has a nice colour balance too, maybe just
    a touch warmer than some of my other glass.

    Bandicoot, Oct 20, 2006
  12. niceparking

    niceparking Guest

    Portrait, landscape, maybe macro. No screwmount, please, unless it's a
    must have lens.
    niceparking, Oct 21, 2006
  13. niceparking

    AAvK Guest

    Well, to interupt, as I am not Jeremy, I suggest onto the *bay or your local shop
    and buy a nice condition K2. It is more of a camera than the KX, but they both
    have mirror lock-up and use current silver batteries.

    For autofocus I think both MZ-S and PZ1P have mirror lock-up and that's it.

    Others, the Minolta SRT 102 (some do some don't), and two others are the old
    type of Canon F1 (old pro tank with interchangeable prisms and focusing screens)
    and FTb. But all three of those latter mentioned bodies use mercury batteries
    that are no longer made. K2 is "where it's at" for 35mm manual, I suggest. And
    pretty much, your best lenses for it will be original Pentax, Tamron SP (adaptall-2
    mounts for any camera), and Kiron. Not experienced with Kiron myself, but have
    read about that in this news group.

    However, if you go with medium format using 120 roll film, you get sharper
    clearer images at 11 x 14 inch prints, more worth it for artistic quality. 6x7 cm.
    Pentax 67, 67II (tanks), Bronica GS-1 (light tank, does three frame sizes on the
    same film), Mamiya 7 II light* rangefinder ($$), RB67 (cheap$), RZ67 (both:
    heavy tanks). At some of those prices you may as well go for a digital SLR.

    ....hope this helps,
    AAvK, Oct 21, 2006
  14. niceparking

    AAvK Guest

    Thanks Peter, you have quite an intimacy with the qualities of your lenses! Just
    like Richard Knoppow in the LF group.
    AAvK, Oct 22, 2006
  15. niceparking

    Bandicoot Guest

    If I was half as knowledgeable as Richard I'd be very happy - but thanks for
    the compliment!

    Bandicoot, Oct 22, 2006
  16. niceparking

    niceparking Guest

    Thanks, but I'm specifically after Pentax for the glass. I have a
    nikon F3 and lot of lenses for it, but have come to hate the oof
    effects (oof=out of focus). I also have an RB67 and a couple lenses.
    niceparking, Oct 22, 2006
  17. niceparking

    jeremy Guest

    You might find this link to be of interest:

    The lens that Mike Johnston lists as his "favorite" is not one of my
    favorites, because the Thorium in the optical glass has caused virtually all
    of those lenses to dark yellow over the years. I am much happier with the
    55mm f/1.8, which remains water clear and is sharper than the f/1.4.

    My only complaint about the f/1.8 is the focal length--55mm rather than
    50mm. It begins to approach short telephoto.

    I have been using the 50mm f/1.7 SMP "A" lens and it does appear a tad
    sharper than the SMC Takumars, but for bokeh I believe that the SMC Takumar
    screwmounts have a bit of an edge.

    But it is only important if you scan your own negs. The major problem with
    having the lab make the prints is that most of them botch up the fine detail
    and the color saturation--especially those "one hour" places.

    And bokeh can now be simulated in one's editing software. PSP XI just came
    out with a nearly-automatic defocusing effect. True, it is not as good as
    the real thing, but I believe that we will be seeing more and more of these
    artificial defocus effects produced by editing software, to the point that
    defocus effects will become so common that people will not take as much
    notice of it.

    It is much the same as soft focus lenses or filters. With Gaussian Blur,
    one can get the exact degree of soft focus desired, and most of us no longer
    see the need to use special filters to achieve that effect.

    Even though I still shoot film (on Pentax lenses) I have found that
    post-shoot digital editing has given me the kind of control over the final
    print that I could only dream about back in the wet darkroom days. A lot of
    the signature characteristics of certain lenses can now be approximated in
    digital editing. One's choice of lens is not as critical as it once was.

    Ken Rockwell did some comparison shots of the Carl Zeiss 50mm lens versus
    several old and new Nikon equivalents, and he concluded that the differences
    were not great at all. The much-touted Zeiss image quality and reputation
    for great bokeh certainly were not confirmed in his comparison shots. I had
    never actually seen side-by-side images before, and I came away from it with
    a new respect for Nikon lenses. There have been plenty of photographers
    that staked their reputations on Nikon lenses, and I am really starting to
    wonder whether all this bokeh stuff is as critical as I once thought it to

    If you already have a lot of Nikon gear, the question is whether you will
    see an appreciable improvement by dumping it for another brand. At one time
    I would have encouraged anyone to switch, but now I'm not so certain. We
    agonize too much over technical details, and often not enough about
    jeremy, Oct 23, 2006
  18. niceparking

    AAvK Guest

    I never knew why those old Asahi lenses did that, I had only seen one like that.
    I assumed it was a bad recipe of the coatings. probably great for B/W and color
    artistic uses. And which 50mm 1.4 are you talking about? I have the "M" f/1.4
    and an "A" f/2.0 ...?
    I had read once that actual focal length of the human eye is something like 43.8mm
    or so... aside from angle. But "angle" is the result of focal length and maybe the
    angle of the normal EYE is what the 50mm does.
    [snip] sorry...

    I think "niceparking" is after auto focus, which [they] never did mention to begin with
    because [they] mention "OOF" with the use of Nikon manual equipement.

    WHICH would have been very polite to all of us that have done a ton of typing to help
    him out... so far for nothing.
    AAvK, Oct 23, 2006
  19. ... > the Thorium in the optical glass [of the Pentax 50mm 1.4 lens] ... >
    Easy to fix:
    Nicholas O. Lindan, Oct 23, 2006
  20. niceparking

    AAvK Guest

    AAvK, Oct 23, 2006
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