1.16.2017

another gathering

I believe this will be my third copy of the Olympus 17mm f/2.8 that is coming soon. It always seemed so tiny - yet its specs are now matched by the 12-32mm Lumix zoom!  That's pretty amazing. In any case it completes my prime setup (for now): 17, 35 macro, 50 and 100. This time the 17/2.8 will come in black, which is handy for differentiating it from the zoom.

Also returned from the past is the Lumix 45-150mm compact zoom. Another non-speedy zoom, it reviews very well and maintains the µ43 penchant for keeping the overall kit small. I had planned to keep the Sigma 55-200 working as my telephoto of choice despite issues with slow focusing, but my lone bid at auction brings me this telezoom at a silly-good price. In fact the $90 in filters that comes with the lens is about the price I paid for the lens and filters! Several of the 45-150s have been offered for under $100 - at that price any user of µ43 cameras should own one. This lens looks cool in silver, but those were not going for the right price - so black will do nicely.

Now that I have a Panasonic camera in hand, it reduces my interest somewhat in an Olympus body for weather sealing. The Lumix line of sealed bodies is thin and expensive right now though (gx8 or g85) so I'm suspecting that an em5 Classic would be the better choice for the rest of 2017, after which a weather-resistant successor to the gx85 might come along. No proof of such things, yet that sounds like a reasonable next step (gx85+ seals+20Mpix sensor?). While the EM1 would allow my 4Thirds lens to come out and play more, I'm thinking that small is what I seek most with the micro setup - so the 45-150mm will pair up really well with the 12-60. The system offers no budget-type sealed telezooms right now, which is a bummer. Well OK the II-series 45-200 is now out, but at $449 I'll just say no.

1.11.2017

switchback

Someone was selling their GM1 to make room for a GX85, so the GM1/12-32 is coming and ePL6 going. So much for plans to 'keep gear until next Christmas' - but Olympus menus are too much for me to bear. Hence the GM1 will hang out until a newer GX can be had, and my wife gets the GM1. Smart? Like a slug in a snowstorm, that's me! Wait that's rather uncomplimentary.. I think?

I really disliked having to let go of the last GM1, so that's a good sign that this one will stick with me.

12.26.2016

Class of 2017

A bit more clarity on the arriving gear for 2017 - hopefully it will still be around next Christmas!

  • The Lumix 12-60mm arrived in time to hide beneath the Christmas tree. The ePL6 arrived on the 27th despite its "3-day" shipping tag. The lens is quite short, slightly stout and overall looks very nice; initial plans were for it to join the Pentax 100/2.8 and Rikenon 70-150/4 as the trio to get things done.  However..
from www.wrotniak.net
  • I found a 4Thirds copy of the Σ 55-200mm zoom online last night. I had owned this DC lens with my K100d in 2010 and I liked it quite a bit, plus using it on a 4Thirds sensor will improve any vignetting or corner-softness issues. Since it goes to 200mm, or 400mme, it has some advantages over the xx-150 zooms available in the micro format. A nice option to have even if I choose to stop at 150mm. The penalty will be its being adapted to the micro mount, which will likely result in deathly slow AF. It has a true mechanical focus with distance scale though, which means manual focus will not be an absolute pain - and the Rikenon would be doing the same thing anyway (and weighs 100g more) - so why not this? Panasonic makes a 45-200 but it too is over 100g heavier (though the 4Thirds adapter covers much of that difference). All the Sigma reviews I found are positive even at 2-3x the price I'm paying, which is less than those µ43 lenses that stop at 150mm - so again, why not? 
  •  The occasional deal on used GX8 and GX85 bodies are out and about, so that's nice to see. No hurry on this - or so I keep telling myself. The GX8 could even close out if they update it with the latest shutter mechanism next spring. And if the focus speed is awful with ePL6 and the 55-200 then an EM1 body begins to make more sense at a similar price!
So the micro kit to take me into 2017 = Oly ePL6 + Lumix 12-60 + Sigma 55-200  plus Pentax 50/1.7 and 100/2.8, 10mm extension tube for closeups, and adapters for PK, 4Thirds, T-mount and 1¼ telescope eyepiece! 

Sigma 55-200 on 4Thirds adapter, M100/2.8, A50/1.7 on K adapter, and Lumix 12-60 on ePL6

 Coming at some point - probably 20mm Lumix, 60mm Sigma and a (hopefully) sealed (Lumix) body - though an EM5 or EM1 would serve quite well.

I feel like I'm off to a pretty good start.

12.17.2016

not again.. yes again

The Pentax gear is (again) nearly gone,  a victim of yet another budget crisis. The home refinance was deferred to January, though we'll see how long that promise holds. At least we're scheduled for the home appraisal visit next week - assuming the snow melts like forecasts have implied.. unlike the 4" that was forecast at 1" max last Thursday, which still awaits a gentle melt!

We've been wading through snow in the Fiat 500 while I attempted to fix the 4wd SporTrac in our garage. My fixes were insufficient so into the shop it went; it broke down on the way ($85 towing bill) and won't come out of the shop until its bail is posted. It seems a major timing-chain malfunction is causing the rattle, which means the engine must be pulled. Ouch.

So the K-5 and several lenses have left the building, leaving the two NX300 bodies and a few good NX lenses. The next plan is in place mentally but only part one is underway.

I'm going µ4:3 again with a used Olympus EPL6 body.
I don't even know which color I'm getting, Adorama hadn't posted an image (Update: it's all black, with shiny red trim!). It has almost all I seek in a camera except weather protection:  a great Sony 16Mpx sensor, tipping touchscreen, small size and interval timing for stills and video. It also uses a spare battery I have around from earlier bodies, and with adapter it can take the 14-42 and 35macro from the E500 kit. I also have adapters for the remaining K-mount (Quantaray) lenses, and even a telescope adapter!  That will do for part one.

Next up: a Lumix 12-60mm lens. It's been tested out as a .. 'decent' lens. Very nice in some things, indifferent for edge sharpness and generally at the longer end. But it's splashproof (useful for part three!) and at 24-120mme it can do most everything I would tend to do. They are planning a faster Leica version of this lens, but the budget and I don't really care: small and splashproof wins over speed and brand-name cachet. Owners are quite happy with the current one, so no doubt I will be too.

Part three is a while off, and could be a sealed GX8 or a smaller but not-sealed GX85.. or an EM5 Classic can fill in as the foul-weather camera if funds stay tight. Hey I have a spare battery for that one too!

10.28.2016

fall classic comebacks

Yes it's game three of the World Series tonight - and yet I do not refer to fall-classic comebacks like the Cubs. I am referring to a pair of lenses that are heading this way.

When I first considered a move from Sony's α A200 to Pentax I recall seeing the DA 16-45mm f/4 and thinking it the ideal lens for my use. A wider 24mme zoom, f/4 throughout the range, and close focusing abilities are definitely superior to the typical kit lens.

I've bought and sold a few copies, each less expensive than before. Its main drawback is the lack of weather seals, though flash users will also be annoyed by its shadow intruding at short focal lengths. The DA* 16-50 f/2.8 was built to higher specs, but in reality its performance is not highly acclaimed - and in fact many reviews give the 16-45 a higher overall rating. Now the HD 16-85 has taken over the 16-45 domain, and while it's proving its excellence I don't have $500 to spend on it. I won a copy of the 16-45 with a bid below $150 - and this time I will be keeping my bargain 18-55WR, so when it's wet I am still able to play outside with no regrets. This suggests the 15mm fisheye is expendable; while undoubtedly wider than the 16mm I just don't venture that wide often enough to justify keeping both of them.


My favorite zoom of the many manual classics that I've tried was a Rikenon XR 70-150. Every now and then I look for a copy, and this week I found one for a nice price. Despite the manual entry for focal length I'm looking forward to having this again.

I've also been trying an smc-A 70-210 f/4 zoom and it works really well with nice sharpness and very smooth bokeh. It's pretty convenient with its auto-aperture setting.. yet the focal length still needs to be correctly entered for Pentax' internal IS to work properly. This lens is a beast though, so it wouldn't get as much use as the lighweight DAL 50-200WR. I'm not yet sure if I will keep the WR telephoto for backup, perhaps it will be sent off to get more use elsewhere.

 It will be interesting to compare these telephoto zooms as both are f/4 throughout the range for nice subject isolation and have a closeup setting (at 70mm!) and have built-in hoods to minimize stray light and flare.  Will the extra range on the Pentax justify that additional bulk?  We'll see soon..

 - - - - - - -  - - - - - - -  - - - - - - -  - - - - - - - update!

I am working on a deal to pick another 50-300mm HD/WR zoom. Doing this would really clean up my telephoto stockpile

This updated kit sounds familiar, and it should: that trio was my original K-mount kit!  I returned to Pentax SLRs after my film|digital makeover partly because of the 16-45 which was pretty unique at the time. I began with a K100d and a Sigma 50-200 but ultimately this 3-pack came about, and its simplicity was hugely convenient. My only change could be a macro 50 instead of a fast one.

One problem of course: once I picked up a weather-resistant K-7 body these unealed lenses were less ideal. Now six years (and a half-dozen WR bodies) later I have the K-5 and the newer HD/WR telephoto, plus an 18-55WR backing up the 16-45. Most likely the A50/1.7 is much better than my Rikenon 50/2 but between 50s the line is pretty thin.

I'd really like to have a prime group, but sadly Pentax doesn't play much with WR primes so: drat. They did seal up the 55-300 so hopes remain high for future products.

 - - - - - - -  - - - - - - -  - - - - - - -  - - - - - - - update!

A shopgoodwill bid came through and for $25* I have

  • another copy of the Quantaray 100-300mm f/4.5.6.7!
  • another Q-ray 28-80mm, this one not 1:2 macro - but swap mounts with my broken 28-90 1:2 and score!!
  • a Pentax ZX-30 camera from the Late 35mm Film Epoch, meaning it makes use of AF/AE lenses!
  • and another bag.



Here's an earlier review of the 100-300. Generally speaking it's a near match to the 55-300 except for a few items:
tighter range (the 55-100mm zone is quite handy!)
slightly slower (4.5-6.7 not 4.0-5.8)
no quick-shift manual focus
Faster to focus - or faster hunting in poor light. Quite a bit faster!
Full-frame friendly and aperture rings, so more versatile in the Early Digital Epoch
no weather seals compared to the HD 55-300
- but I believe that I mentioned the price difference right?

I have never owned a Late Epoch SLR, having stopped with the Program Plus in the late '80s. The ZX-30 sure does look like a digital, with AF/MF switch right where I'd expect it and a control dial just like the K-r or other sorts. It will be curious to try this out with AF, power winding, a Date Back(!) and digital controls.

 - - - - - - -  - - - - - - -  - - - - - - -  - - - - - - - update!

So much for the 50 macro: the DA50/1.8 went on sale for about $70...