Muir Zoom

Discussion in 'Pentax' started by dan_spiess, Jan 19, 2009.

  1. The information on this forum is valuable and I respect the exchange of information. So please help me.
    There have been a number of “zoom” lens questions but here’s one that’s very specific. The big hike is this summer – the Muir Trail – some of the most spectacular scenery in the US. Space and weight are at a premium. I’ve got a great set up with the camera suspended from the backpack straps – not hanging from my neck and not packed away. This allows me to get a shot while on the trail, in a matter of seconds. I expect to take close ups of flowers, the animals that wander by and landscapes throughout the day.
    So here’s my objective – I only want to take one lens for the k20. Here are the choices that are already in the camera bag: Promaster 18-200 (great range, no lens creep, relatively small in size, not as sharp as other choices), Pentax 16-50 (great sharpness, good low light lens, not a great zoom range), Pentax 50-135 (great sharpness, good zoom range, good low light lens, a little big in physical size to be hanging from the backpack), Pentax 50 1.4 (great lens, excellent low light lens, no zoom). If there is another choice out there, please let me know what it is. I do have time to save pennies and go through the seat cushions between now and the end of the summer if that other great option exsists. This may be a one time chance and I want to make it right. Oh yea – I have plenty of cards and four batteries. Your thoughtful responses will be greatly appreciated.
  2. If you're really going to bring only one lens, I would imagine that the superzoom (I assume that's a rebadged Sigma?) might be the way to go. The range will be hard to beat for convenience. I suspect the Tamron/Pentax 18-250 might be slightly better but perhaps not so much better that you'd want to try to trade in your Promaster. I assume that most of your shots you're talking about are going to be in daylight. You might want to bring an ultrapod II or other support for lower-light shots. I'd guess you could also consider packing that 50mm and only bringing it out at night.
  3. Dan,
    I would suggest one of two lenses: the Tamron/Pentax 18-250 that Andrew called out would give you a full range, but it is on the bigger side of things, or, the Pentax DA limited 35mm macro f 2.8; I own this and think it is one of the best lenses I've ever used. it is relatively small, provides very sharp landscapes and wonderful macros. Being that it is wide, you will have to physically get closer to the flowers you are shooting with macro in mind, but for the weight savings and optical quality, it is worth it.
    Sounds like a splendid backpacking trip. How many days are you going out for?
  4. Hi Dan,
    I could not do it with one lens, but I could squeak by with two. From what is in my bag it would be the Pentax 18-250, reasonably sharp for the range it offers and very compact. Then I would pack the DA 35mm limited macro or the DFA 50mm macro, both light weight and compact lenses. You said flowers I usually want very close focus for that and a macro would be fun for little critters along the way. And yes the DA21mm limited would probably sneak into my bag too; it's so small it always does. I think all three would weigh less than your DA* 50-135. I have the two DA* zooms but would not want to hike with them, due to their bulk and weight.
    From what I remember from a couple of days in the Muir Woods you're not going to have many open vistas so perhaps a high quality wide / ultra wide landscape lens would not be so important. You can also pan an stitch multiple shots together if you need it. But there is no such option for zoom and macro, (post cropping just won't get it done). Yep, one lens with long zoom versality and a second very high IQ prime. That would bring back a satisfactory mix for me. The last hiking trip I took a (new for me) FA 24-90 and the 21mm. I was happy with the shots from that trip. I needed to try out the 24-90 and my 18-250 was in for repair from a prior trip. The FA 24-90 is a very light weight reasonably fast versatile lens, but they are a bit hard to find now, people don't part with them often.
  5. If it were me, I'd opt for the DA 21 - but that's because I'm infatuated with it right now!
    I am currently putting together a kit for very light weight travel (I am planning to do a lot of walking this year), and I have decided to opt for a three prime kit. I have the The DA21, the FA50/1.4, and the DA70. I am looking at swapping out the FA50 for a 30mm f/1.4, with the Pentax one never coming out, It may have to be the Sigma. (otherwhise it's two portrait lenses and one normal wide, wich isn't that efficient to my mind).
    Just goes to show, we're all different here. I just like the feel of the primes. Go with a lens you like the feel of for your photography and you'll take more and better photos than if you try to get all the angles sewn up. At least that's how it works for me!
  6. For flowers and landscape I'd take the 16-50, 'cuz it's your widest and focuses closer than the others in your bag. Now, animals -- well, it doesn't sound like you're packing to hunt with a camera, so I'd still take the 16-50, simply because animals, the charismatic mega-fauna type, rarely wander near people just hiking, and far from them they kinda blend seamlessly into the landscape. Mind, I've never been to Muir, it might be as bad as a zoo for all I know. Otherwise, at least in my experience of nondescript and unprotected wooded areas, you could hike for days without seeing an animal. I guess I'm saying that if I could take only one lens, animals wouldn't decide which one.
  7. This being my lifestyle, and what I did long before I seriously picked up a camera, what I did when I've on occasion not bothered with photography for some time, I know the feeling.
    However, if your familar with the terrain/topography you should be able to make a choice based on what you expect to photograph. If your goal is to shoot sheep on the mountain side, you need to take different lenses than if your photographing the landscape, your partners, your trip from a hikers POV.
    I'd largely forget about wildlife photography, not entirely, just as something to be planned around. Wildlife is hard to photograph with the right gear, on dedicated wildlife shoots. And nothing you listed looks like a good wildlife lens anyway. Here is why: Wildlife tend to be most active early in morning and late at night so the longest lens you listed, the super zoom, is useless. The other lenses are all too short. And if the animals are tame enough to get close to, I'd rather have a higher quality lens with a wider aperture anyway.
    Personally, the 16-50 would be my choice out of what you listed. It's sealed, fast, a fine zoom range. Consider the 16-50 is a 24-75 on film. That's prime landscape/adventure photo range. If the 16-50 was the only lens I owned I'd be just fine with it.
    Actually, my typical mountain kit for the eastern US is not even that big of a range. I use the 21mm DA (or essentially 35mm FOV), and a 24-50 or 28-70. Yep, 2 lenses can cover most of your needs, if I was going to canyon country or big mountain country, I'd take the 10-20mm and the 24-50/28-70 as a 2 lens kit with a 70-300 as my 3rd lens if I decided to go long.
    One thing I would recommend is some sort of tripod, either an ultrapod, or an ultrapod and something bigger. Trust me, you will be kicking yourself after the trip if you missed all the opportunities that a tripod offers, including macro shots, star trails, sunrises/sets, moving water, etc. IMO, if a light carbon or aluminum pod is too much to carry you should reconsider the K20D and just take a point and shoot. At the very least the Ultrapod can yield some great results. My friends often neglect to bring a tripod, and sure enough the Ultrapod is always "borrowed".
    What I'm saying Dan, is every trip comes down to prioritizing your goals. The K20D in itself without the right accessories isn't going to give you a whole lot more than say a Canon G9 other than the headache of dealing with a bigger camera system. However, if you have the time, and desire to dedicate a portion of your thru hike to photography than the K20D + a good accessory kit (tripod included) will be something you won't mind toting, and you'll come home with more than a bunch of pretty snapshots.
    Since everyone else figured out a way to spend your money, I'll throw in my 2 cents.

    The 16-50 is plenty decent for your needs, if you added a 55-300 or equiv you could cover a lot of ground including wildlife to some degree. Since there isn't much on the wide end that is wider than your 16mm I'd only look at the long end. Plus, if you have a tripod, you can artificially widen your 16mm by taking 3 shot portrait panoramas giving you a 3:2 perspective and a much wider FOV. I would not replicate ANY FL in the 16-50 range, it's just stupid in my opinion, when I'm sure you are counting ounces and measuring out food at 100 cal per ounce. The other option not mentioned is a 90/100mm Macro. This would give you a nice 150mm tele (still to short for wildlife) but also a real macro lens if you needed/wanted one.
    So 16-50 and 90/100mm Macro or 16-50 and 55-300, or just the 16-50 and a light tripod!
  8. What Leo P said...the 16-50...but I would also find room for the 50-135...just in case.
  9. Tough one...
    Maybe a cheaper yet decent Tamron 70-300 Di LD Macro with a SMC 28mm chucked in the bag. The 28 will give you good close-up and landscape as well as group shot range while the 70-300 would be the trekking lens. Good for spotting wildlife and landscape shots while offering macro shooting capabilities. I use this combo and it works well. The 28 is just plain tiny so it takes up no space and the 70-300 isn't too large or too heavy but the versatility of macro really makes it. Not to mention, when hiking, '$hit happens' and I don't think both lenses cost more than $160 combined..
  10. See what I mean? Great insight on lens selection plus importance of the tripod, ideas on macro and even other camera options. I am taking a point and shoot - just in case - the Pentax Optio. More ideas are welcomed, after all, I don't know what I don't know. Thanks to each of you.
  11. The 50-135mm, in my opinion, is WAY to big for this sort of thing. Owning one, I'd NEVER carry it on a backpack or day hike unless I had something specific in mind. I've only taken it on one hike to date.
    135 isn't that long, and my old Cosina 135mm 2.8mm PKA was half the size. That 50-135mm is big enough for a tripod collar IMO, and any lens big enough for a tripod collar is too big to carry backpacking.
    If you were shooting film, Tom's kit would be my kit (although a 24mm prime might replace the 28mm). On digital if you went his route, a 15mm or 21mm would probably be a better fit.
    The optio is a good idea, having a backup camera is almost essential for a long trip.
  12. Size and bulk are the only reason I would not carry my DA* 16-50. It's not a small lens and the bulk with the hood reversed would bug me. Weight wise the super zoom and one or two of the small limiteds would work out pretty close to the same. That said I can see pretty much covering a few days hiking with the 16-50 alone; owning one it would not be my first choice, but would would do a great job.
    One other suggestion to consider in place of the ultrapod: I bought one about 18 months ago actually after reading Justin's appreciation for the ultrapod. It's nice, but I didn't care for it as much as I hoped. I bought a Joby Gorillapod before my last dive tripI like it a lot better than the ultrapod. It's easier to adapt to uneven surfaces like a big rock / bolder or wrap around a tree / pole or something for a shot. Though I do think the ultrapod wortks better with a heavier lens.
    check it out here -
  13. The 16-45 is a good alternative to the 16-50 - smaller and lighter and less expensive.
  14. Thanks team, for the great advice.
    Andrew – I’ll check out the ultrapod II
    Michael – will definitely explore the 35 limited. 14 days – that’s moving right along
    Roger – another vote for limiteds for me to check out, thanks
    John-Paul – good advice for what feels comfortable
    Leo – thanks, I’m leaning toward the 16-50
    Justin – I appreciate your well thought out suggestions – the ultrapod, perspective on animals, and the thought of coming home with more than a bunch of pretty snapshots. I will definitely have a backup. Ouch, I’ve been looking at the 90 macro.
    Les – another vote for the 16-50
    Tom – don’t know much about the 70-300 but will investigate. Thanks
    Roger – thanks for the vote for the ultrapod again
  15. I'm a greenhorn, what do I know...?
    But I've got a thought, others can support or refute it at their will, I'm willing to learn by my mistakes!
    The +/- 16-50 range would be a good idea because if nothing else, if you are shooting that K20D at the top of its capabilites (14+mp, highest resolution, etc), cropping your photos to force a long shot to look more up close is a realistic option, especially if something other than you is holding the camera (tripod, beanbag, or other already mentioned). I've taken to using cropping as a "poor-man's zoom" on occasion. And with the very good capabilities of the camera and a good computer program, heavy cropping still makes for a fantastic photo. Just a thought.
    I read in a book that a homemade beanbag can be filled with lighter items than beans, such as styrofoam beads. Hit an office supply store and buy a money bag (about 6x10 inches or so, with a zippered edge, like you see used in retail establishments and banks) and fill it with whatever works for the need.
  16. I read in a book that a homemade beanbag can be filled with lighter items than beans, such as styrofoam beads. Hit an office supply store and buy a money bag (about 6x10 inches or so, with a zippered edge, like you see used in retail establishments and banks) and fill it with whatever works for the need.​
    Steve, good point..I use my stuff sacks filled with clothing for ground level macros, I'm sure it's one Dan can use. And the weight penalty is zero ounces.
    @ Tom, I've thought about the gorilla pod, but my recollection is it weights about 2 times what the Ultrapod II does. The flexibility of that might offset it, but I never found the UPII to be that difficult to get level. The other thing is the profile of the UPII makes it easy to store and rack on/in my TLZ. The smooth profile snags on less too. But the GP is intriguing as well, it just comes down to having too much stuff, and not needing more for me!
  17. Justin - your @ Tom must not have been meant for me. I think you meant it for Roger R.
  18. I have a mini-gorillapod for my P&S. This is OK as the P&S (Optio A30) is very small & light, and the mini-gorillapod remains pretty small when straightened. As the Optio A30 is so light, I can actually make occaisional use of its gripping capability. Looking at the full-size gorillapod though even though it seemed interesting it appears that it's still kind of bulky when straightened (bulky 'pelvis'), and D-SLRs are just a bit too heavy and expensive for me to trust using that thing in any sort of precarious situation.
    Complaints about the Ultrapod II--no quick-release mount (YET. I believe this is coming at some point as they have it on their smaller models). Ball head is kind of crude so it tends to 'settle' after tightening when you let go of the camera--forces you to sort of aim high, tighten, and it will sort of settle into position when you let go.
    Also, I view the velcro features on the UltraPod II sort of like the big gorillapod. Nice idea but better suited to much smaller & lighter cameras. I just don't think it is strong or stable enough to support a D-SLR. Part of the problem is not just the overall weight but the weight distribution--with a little camera, its weight is well centered but D-SLRs weight is all over the place, especially with zoom lenses, flashes, etc.
  19. I've used the UPII attached to my ice axe or trekking poles with the velcro with few problems. I don't however trust the velcro much either for too many things, and I actually use several velcroe ties to attach it to stuff.
    What camera/lens combo are you using the UP on Andrew? With a K10D and a 21mm or 35mm DA or something of that size I've never noticed the creeping when I crank it down. The heaviest combo I used was the Sigma 10-20 and K10D with grip. Frankly I was surprised it held as well as it did for a series of bracketed 10-30 second exposures that merged perfectly.
    That said, there are obviously limitations with a couple of oz plastic tripod and equally plastic ball head which is why I recommend a 2-3lb carbon or aluminum pod. Something like the Bogen 3001, or the Adorama flashpoint, or something similar.
    Personal recommendation based on 6 months of abuse:
    And Tom, sorry, I did mean Roger!!
  20. Most of my lenses are of small to moderate size & weight. One of the heavier ones is the 12-24 which isn't so different than your 10-20. I think its a combination of flex, maybe a little slippage in the ball head until it 'bites', combined with frequent difficulty in looking through the viewfinder when it is put in the awkward places you're likely to place a 5" tall tripod that makes framing and level horizons tricky. I've recently picked up a compact & lightweight slik sprint mini tripod and plan to use my Manfrotto 482RC2 on it as soon as I get a 3/8" to 1/4"-20 r educer bushing. I consider it my mid-size alternative as it will fit in a bag while the big manfrotto represents a real commitment. Even thought its pretty small & light I still don't know if I'd take it backpacking.
  21. Taking a tripod is a commitment, if I know I'll have the time to use one and the weight isn't an issue (leisurely overnights), then it comes, if not I do my best with the UP or a stuff sack, or a pile of rocks!
    On an overnight 3lbs usually isn't the difference between fun and a slog, but sometimes I know I might not use it at all, so managing an extra piece of gear is not worthwhile.
    Long trips get tougher, afterall, you'll certainly see a few things worth taking a tripod for...but then it's a battle of weight. In winter the tripod loses most of the time, in summer 3lbs of tripod is still less than the 12+lbs of winter gear I'm not carrying :).

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