Successfully answering questions no one asked me: Pentax K-1 – Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 XR Macro DI LD

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Recently wrote about how the K-1 when combined with the old school 50mm f/1.4

Pentax Normal SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4

…took care of my aspirational digital medium format obsession.

But while we are talking about the K-1 there are a few questions that came to mind.

  • Would this be the lens I would buy if I had to choose just one for the K-1?

No. This led me to ponder couple more theoretical questions. This happens often. Perhaos a side effect of being an only child.

  • What lens would I buy if I could only have one for the K-1?
  • What camera/lens combo could meet 85-90% of my stills photography needs for less than $1,500 all in?

Why do I ask these questions?

A lot of new cameras are getting to be quite expensive. Sure there are exceptions on the camera side. Cameras like the Nikon Z5, Canon EOS RP, and various Sony cameras (A7II/A7III) come to mind. Some listed come in less than the going used rate for a Pentax K-1 (Around $1,300 at the time of this post. Oddly the price has risen significantly since the end of last year when I purchased my copy.). But the camera body is only part of the equation. For my purposes the most useful lens is a solid wide to short tele f/2.8 zoom. IBIS and/or lens based stabilization would be a must. Will not quibble about IQ since near any lens made in recent years will meet my purposes. Here are the least expensive prices for each camera mentioned above:

Nikon Z5 (No 3rd party options at this time.)

Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S: $2,296.95

Canon EOS RP (No 3rd party options at this time.)

Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS USM: $2,399.00

Sony A7II/A7III (Native and multiple 3rd party options.)

Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III VXD G2: $899.00

So combined these camera/lens kits all climb in price significantly when lenses come into the picture. All are fantastic, extremely capable solutions. The last, least expensive Sony camera combination on the list (G1 Tamron lens) performed exceptionally on a recent stranger portrait challenge on a photo walk in Harlem.


But, this is where the K-1’s elder mount pays dividends. Sure the new Pentax 24-70mm f/2.8 costs a lot less than the Nikon and Canon options above, but costs far more than the Sony FE mount Tamron. There is also the older film era Pentax 28-70mm f/2.8 that can be had for less than the Tamron at about $500. But I am not talking about either of those lenses. I am talking about the lens that first started my appreciation for Tamron lenses. My first Tamron zoom lens. The Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 XR Macro DI LD.

K-1 - Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8

I wrote about this lens years ago. Have had this DSLR lens in three different mounts. Became a no brainer purchase any time I changed mounts. First purchased for an APS-C Nikon D3300

Really liking this new lens. Tamron 28-75mm f2.8
Some shots...
Shots from the day.

Before there was a mirrorless Sony 28-75mm variant I used it with Sony A Mount version and an LA-EA4 adapter on Sony FE mirrorless.

SE Camera

When I had a K-3II a K Mount Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 came soon after and it just about stayed on that camera.

Pentax K-3ii and Tamron 28-75mm
UNC Healthcare Multicultural Festival
Thought it was plastic at first.

Loved it on the K-3II, but this lens really came into it’s own once I obtained a full frame K-1 to go along with this full frame lens. It performed so well on the K-1 that I was asked if I had used a prime for some quick portraits of my wife.

Pentax K-1
Pentax K-1

Like the K-3II the 28-75mm pretty much stayed on my K-1 the first go around with that camera.

Pentax K-1 at Duke Gardens
Pentax K-1
Pentax K-1
Small Town NC
Small Town NC
Small Town NC

There is a reason why this lens made both my KEH Spotlight blog contributor favorite Pentax lens list and my more recent system/brand agnostic top 10 lens list (Tied with the Sony mount variant.). So when I came back around to the ways of K-1 once again recently this was one of the first lenses I looked for again.

Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8
Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8
K-1 - Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8
K-1 - Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8
K-1 - Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8

But here is the kicker. With this consistently great performance across varying camera mounts this is also one of the least expensive lenses I have ever purchased. No longer available new this lens regularly sells for around $250 regardless of system. $250! Sure you have to give up something at that price, right? Not really. I will conceded exactly one thing compared to the lenses above:

  • It is not weather sealed.

That is it. Some might ding it for it’s 80s design aesthetic, but it is not a bad looking lens and that has nothing to do with image quality. Some may ding it for not having stabilization, but neither do a lot more expensive lenses. Plus on Pentax this is a non-issue since they all have IBIS. So what are the upshots? Well there are plenty. Some on display above in the samples, buy to put it into words (Cut and paste from my 2014 post with few modifications since nothing has changed.):

  • It costs far less than it’s competition.
    • Apologies for harping on that, but for a hobbyist with multiple college tuitions closing in and no spare buckets of cash laying around this is very important.
  • It is very sharp at the center.
  • Minimum focus distance is surprisingly close even at 75mm.
    • Would not have been as surprising had I noticed the all uppercase ‘MACRO’ emblazoned across the side of the lens before yesterday. Can’t get anything past me.
  • It is quite compact (3.62″ L as compared to 4.6″ and 5.2″ for the other Tamron and Nikon respectively) and light (508g as compared to 825g and 900g for the other Tamron and Nikon respectively). Better to fit in my bag and avoid fatigue.
  • Good build quality, with nicely sized zoom and focus rings.
  • It is a full frame lens. Astonishing at this price point.
  • 75mm as opposed to 70mm is an agreeable trade off for portraits. Every bit of compression helps.
  • Teamed with the recently acquired Neewer a Godox/Flashpoint flash you get TTL flash, remote Godox trigger access, as well as HSS.
  • More stuff, but I do not want to type any more bullets…

So back to the K-1. Combine this lens with the K-1 and you come up to a grand total of around or less than $1,500 all in used. That is significantly less than most of the lenses listed above alone. WIth that combination you get:

  • Fantastic image quality.
  • Great colors.
  • Sharp images.
  • Swift AF.
  • 36MP.
  • IBIS.
  • Melee weapon build quality, especially on the camera side.
  • A great all purpose set up.

Sidebar: $1,500 too steep? No problem. I would like to recommend either a Pentax K-70 or the K-3II. Both camera/lens combinations would ring in at less than $800 used. Nearly everything above still applies except lower MP count and a longer full frame equivalent focal length range (42-112.5mm).

Why Pentax specifically? Easy.

  • IBIS.

Why the K-1 specifically? Also easy.

  • IBIS
  • 36MP
  • Built in wireless
  • Articulating screen
  • Built in GPS w/ Astro trace function
  • Bootleg Foveon color shift multishot mode
  • Value considering all of the above.

I will now answer those questions no one asked me from above.

  • Would this be the lens I would buy if I had to choose just one for the K-1?/What lens would I buy if I could only have one for the K-1?
    • The Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 XR Macro DI LD.
K-1 - Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8
  • What camera/lens combo could meet 85-90% of my stills photography needs for around or less than $1,500 all in?
    • The Pentax K-1 Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 XR Macro DI LD.

You could spend considerably more and do no better stills image wise.


K-1 - Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8

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