11.22.2016

stop, thief!

What a deal presented itself - and what interesting math came with it.

I paid $x for a Pentax ZX-30 film SLR, with both Quantarays 28-80 and 100-300 (and a decent Case Logic bag). I doubled that original amount to have it shipped from the midwest. I then doubled that amount to add batteries, and a bit more for film! Therefore 4x paid in total, and that amount was about $50. Not bad!


This means I own three 28-80ish lenses. Clearly the silver one looks best with the ZX-30 but the black one has no 1:2 closeup skills. My third copy is the 28-90 Quantaray but with a broken mount - so swapping mounts is the next order of business.

11.13.2016

the Eternal Question

As soon as a photographer buys a second lens the question arises: where should the focal-length gap appear between lenses? If you use primes alone the budget decides your spacing, plus the lens makers who decide on their own where to leave spaces. Pentax and Fuji don't mind offering odd values but most companies stick to traditional values.

With zooms it's another story. Most 35mm gear split around 70mm, so you could have xx-70 and 70-zz as two zooms to cover a lot of ground. That "tradition" was carried forward into the Digital Epoch with the common break at 50mm (75mme) for APSc cameras.

For myself, forcing a lens swap at ~70mme is not comfortable. I personally don't like wide-angle shots to be part of a walkaround lens since it forces larger design compromises, so slightly wide to somwhat telephoto is more my style. While I'd prefer a 24-70 I own and like a film-era 28-80mm lens (42-120mme) and a 100-300 zoom will arrive soon. Modern "FF" dSLR cameras like the K-1 now come with a more versatile length of 28-105mm as their kit lenses and 16-85mm for APSc bodies, or 24-158mme.

So right now I am at the crossroads. On one side I have the weather-resistant 18-55 and 55-300; on the other is 16-45, 28-80 & 100-300 with no seals. The two choices for weather protection with a higher-FL breakpoint are the 16-85 and 28-105. Both are well regarded, and both cost around $500. The 28-105 is built for 36×24 imaging so it would be even sweeter with the K5's smaller sensor; also it's 40 grams lighter and more often on sale! It also takes 62mm filters not 72mm (expensive) ones. Tough call.

The 28-105 does not really replace the 16-85 though, since at least one more lens would be needed for shots below 42mme. I could just keep the 18-55wr and call it good..or seek out either two primes (e.g. da15+21) or the smc-F 17-28 Pentax fisheye! That was a fun lens that I owned only briefly - it is not weather sealed but having the 28-105 would cover most needs.

So now to mull it over for a few months!


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...

10.16.2016

Reunions

A new K5 team is coming together. First up is the 50-200 WR - in DAL form now, unlike the DA-only during the K-5's heyday. A copy of the DA not-L 18-55wr makes the team even more familiar, and wet-weather shooting is available again! Toss in the throwback Pentax 50 & 100mm primes, sigma 15/2.8 fisheye & the Q•ray 300/5.6 mirror-lens and we'll call things decently covered for K mount, at least for a while. Perhaps at some point the 18-55 will mutate to a *16-50 or HD16-85, but no hurry. Even more appealing would be to catch a DA21 and a 35 or 40!



The K-5 looks very good (was listed in E condition) but shows over 22k actuations! That makes its appearance even more impressive with that much use. I look forward to re-gaining experience with what has been my most-used (or longest-in-hand at least) Pentax body. Change may be a good thing, but going through a half-dozen bodies in two years is not.

__________________________________

Another reunion came this week when I became reacquainted with a photo I took seven years ago. It was a dark and stormy afternoon, but the setting sun caught a line of storms as I walked across our local park. I took my Sony A200 home, broke out an early copy of PS Elements and removed some green tint and a few power lines. 



It's a nice memory- especially considering my wife was quite healthy in November 2009 when this was taken. Seven months later her health took an odd and frightening turn which even now has not been fully diagnosed or treated.  I've taken a few other good images since then, but seven years of our life together has passed that cannot be returned, and what comes definitely will never be the same as what could have been.



10.13.2016

y2sys?

Why two systems, is that what you asked? What a coincidence, I was just about to speak on that.

I'm down to two systems again, with the NX300 and Pentax K-5 Classic. I can't say enough good things about the GM1, but having two mirrorless systems makes minimal sense. The GM1 has nearly everything the K-5 has in a far smaller package - but no Weather Resistance.  The NX300 has great features the others don't have, like sweep panorama - plus I already own 24-300mme in stabilized lenses - plus a 18mme fisheye!

Owning two systems makes sense when neither one covers the full user needs. Adding a third system can add to that coverage but generally duplicates (or triplicates!) so many features. That's what the GM1 was doing to me, and I had to Make It Stop!




So how does this all work in my circumstance? Let me count the ways -
  • Pentax for WR, familiar handling, silly-good battery life and excellent post-capture features
  • Samsung for video with AF, sweep panorama, tilt+touch screen, focus peaking, compactness
  • either system for excellent image quality, old-lens capability and stabilized images
Other features exist but those are the ones I seek and find truly useful. Wet weather is abundant west of the Cascade Range for much of the year so that's a clear need. Pentax is great at simple fixes like crop to 1:1, filter to pseudo-infrared or change nearly every exposure parameter, process raw in-cam, save as raw after the jpeg-only shot,  shoot DNG format for near-universal software use.. many others. Samsung trims the overall size of the kit (though the 50-200 is pretty bulky), allows the touchscreen or zoom to set up a crop in play mode, and has some great little lenses like the 16/2.4 and 30/2 for bonus compactness and great image quality. The sensor is not quite up to the K-5 level to my eye, but something about its tonal range (even in monochrome!) sets it apart from other cameras I have used.

As of right now the Pentax kit is least filled out, especially in WR lenses.
15/2.8 fisheye, 50/1.7 and 100/2.8 all manual
18-250 superzoom, 50-200WR all auto

Samsung kit can use any of those with a proper adapter but includes its own native set.
16/2.4, 16-50pz OIS, 20-50, and 50-200 OIS

dXo sensor scores, for what those might be worth. Man that K-5 dynamic range (at ISO80)!
Some day a Pentax WR will cover the wide end, and the NX 30mm f/2 will return!