How I went prime

Unsurprisingly, my first lens was an 18-55mm f4-5.6 kit lens.  It’s fashionable to bash kit lenses, but I’ve been happy with mine.  However, I quickly learned what it would do well—snapshots in good light—and what it wouldn’t: everything else.

Indoors, my kits lens is pretty bad.

I began to research prime lenses.  At the time, the cheapest new prime lens Pentax sold was their SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 for about $150**.  That was too expensive for me.  Instead, I decided to buy a old SMC-M 50mm f/1.7.

I knew the lens would be manual focus, but I was too inexperienced to understand the difference between SMC-M and SMC-A lenses.  Because my new (well, new to me) lens had no “A” on the aperture ring, the camera couldn’t control the aperture.  The Program, Aperture Priority, and Shutter Priority modes didn’t work.  I had to shoot in Manual mode with “step down” metering.  There’s an explanation of what I’m talking about here.

My parent's dog, Honey, shot in low light with f/1.7

The 50mm took good pictures, but it was such a pain in the neck to use that I decided to keep looking for a more modern (and more expensive) autofocus prime lens, and eventually settled on the Pentax SMCP-FA 35mm f/2.0.

This was during the Hoya takeover of Pentax and production had fallen behind demand.  Nothing makes you willing to pay a higher price for something like not being able to find it at all.  By the time I’d tracked down a 35mm f/2.0 online, my sticker shock at prime lenses had worn off.

Ike, taken indoors with the 35mm f/2.0

Boy, am I glad I bought this lens when I had the chance.  Since then, Pentax has stopped manufacturing this lens all together.  They’re replaced it with the Pentax SMCP-DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro, which has gotten rave reviews, but is stop slower and a lot more expensive.

Rounding out the prime lens collection is a used Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Macro that I bought for macro photography, but mostly use for outdoor portrait photography.

Juno, taken with my 90mm f/2.8

**One financial crisis later, the dollar has fallen against the yen and the 50mm f/1.4 retails for $360.  I should have taken my savings out of the bank in the spring of 2008 and invested in Pentax lenses.

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About Rachel

I'm a grad student in the physical sciences at the University of Michigan and mother of one.
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