22 May 2012

that was fun!

All that driving for a dumb picture?

Well not exactly.

The weekend of May 20th had several things going for it.  On a personal level it was the seventh anniversary of my first date with my future wife.  Yes the Republic fell and the Empire was established, and Darth Vader was encased in black plastic.. pretty sad overall, but we consider it a nice evening anyway.  We chose to travel on the 20th to commemorate that date and our 5th wedding anniversary; that happened in January but we were forced to delay our party.  To make it worth heading south there was the annular solar eclipse cruising past Oregon on its way to Texas.  These are not the stunners that total eclipses are, with the prominences and huge corona blazing in a starry sky, but they are worth seeing anyway (if you have filters to protect your vision!).

So off we went.  This event also came close to cancellation, as we intended to go Saturday for a far more leisurely ramble toward totality - but instead we dashed down Sunday, arriving at a suitable site with about 10 minutes to spare.  I brought three cameras - the Lumix G1 and 45-200mm lens got the tripod, the K-5 and various lenses was in hand for versatility, and a film camera was used for the occasional shot, the first film I've exposed in about a decade.  Overkill most likely, but if you own them why not use them?

We made a cheap pinhole camera to use when cameras had the filters attached, then popped the filters on the binocs for the big views - or just held the filters to our eyes and saw the action unfold in natural scale. Several groups of clouds threatened to intervene but they passed above the sun instead, so we had very little atmospheric interference with the show. The sky faded toward twilight yet visibility remained great; impressive how less than 10 percent of the sun can still provide that much light! The wind faded to nothing during the eclipse, where it had been brisk and gusty in the afternoon heat. Shadows looked decidedly weird, a feature I remember from 1979's total eclipse that a few of us viewed from near Mt. Hood. And then the moon caught the far edge of the sun, and the event was essentially over. We packed up slowly and drove back into thick mid-level clouds, which brought the solar show to an ignominious end.

It should be noted that my film experience was not great, and makes digital imaging feel so much more 'right' now.  I bought batteries for three film bodies, only to find that the 'best' of them (Pentax ME 'SE') had drained them overnight; apparently it was not set to Lock and that's bad.  The second ME body was not closing convincingly, so the film could fog at a very bad time - so I stole its batteries and put them in the SE body.  Since that had drained the other batteries I wasn't sure of that - so this left the Ricoh XR-10 as my safest bet.  That camera came through but it was an awkward fit since I did not get to read any instructions first!  The film took almost $10 to process and the drug store failed to print most of the eclipse shots.. guess the computer figured they were blank and decided not to print!  I will try that SE in the near future.. maybe it can catch the Venus transit?  p.s. it sure is weird not seeing the captured image on the back of old film cameras.. :^)
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19 May 2012

the updated kit - today's version :^)

A week after speculating on missing gear I have a 15mm. A month after seeking and finding a 35-70 lens for my manual-focus kit I have my favorite 28-105 again. When does it end? Obviously about two weeks after I'm dead, since I could go suddenly after placing a bid.

 So am I happy? Well, I'm a naturally happy guy so that doesn't quite fit - but I am satisfied, which is the equivalent in gear-lust terms.  The lenses in my possession only lacks a super-zoom and for now that's OK; the K-5 is a camera that still leaves too little missing to cause me any concern.

  •  Today's AF kit: Sigma EX15, Pentax DA18-55, EX/DG50 macro, DA55-300
  • The MF lightweight kit: Rikenon 28P, 35-70P, 70-150XR. 
  • The MF 2-lens (or video) kit: Vivitar(Kobori) 28-105 and 70-150XR. 
  • The alternate kit: Lumix G1, 14-42 and 45-200 OIS zooms.
  • The full-frame-sensor kit? 15, 28, 50 primes, 28-105 and 70-150 zooms!
Good stuff all, and plenty of time to learn it all (assuming  I do not go suddenly!).  And now the film bodies, which now consists of two Pentax MEs and two Ricohs (XR-10 and KR5 super).  The Vivitar 28-105 came with a leather-wrapped ME 'SE', a special edition with diagonal split-image focusing screen.  Pretty cool, and now my lead body for the rare use of film.  I really want to learn more about the XR-10 that came with the 35-70 Rikenon though, it shows some interesting features from the early days of electronic cameras.  I need to download a manual so I can brush up, and to figure out what the button near the lens-mount does!

more coming soon ..

13 May 2012

careful what you wish for..

Having recently decided a 15mm lens was in my future, I set about seeing what that future would cost me.. in order to decide how far in the future I'd need to shop. LBA forces a lot of such circular logic in order to justify more lenses, and it worked its dark magic again. Sitting on the auction site was the Sigma 15mm fisheye, gently used, for .. make offer?
I made offer. And now it's mine.
Regrets are pleasantly few. Yes I would have preferred the DA15 which is smaller and lighter, and has quick-shift focus override. On the other hand I will enjoy f/2.8 abilities and be full-frame capable if Pentax chooses to make a camera with a 36x24 sensor. Even if that's announced tomorrow I am not up for such a thing, as I really like the K-5 size and would not choose to carry a more massive camera. Still, others would definitely go for such a camera, and some of them will have DA15s - and they will covet my Sigma! And even if they don't, this is an excellent lens regardless of peers. In the 24x18-sensor world the fishiness is lessened but still there for entertaining shots. Outdoors, just keep the horizon near the center and trees away from the edge, and its fisheye characteristics are much minimized.

This should be fun!

11 May 2012

collecting bodies & camera-store memories

It seems that more people are letting their film bodies go when selling other gear, just to be rid of them. I recently picked up the SMC-M 40mm pancake with a Pentax ME attached, then a Rikenon 35-70 zoom with a KR-10 attached. Now another ME is coming to me, with a flash, M50mm f/2 and Vivitar 28-105 along for the ride.. well vice versa, as I was seeking the Vivitar. I was forced to sell a copy of this lens last year during a budget crunch, and this one could net out as a freebie depending on the condition of the other items. I picked up some LR-44 batteries to bring these bodies back to life, and found some print film at Walgreens to try out. Gosh, film is getting rare - only iso400 was available.

For the first time in forever Lloyd Center mall has no camera store; yes, Sears and Radio Shack are in there with a few items, but no true dedicated photo stop. Kodak at Sandy's was there from the beginning of Lloyd Center, and I worked at the Picture Mill in a corner of Newberrys (another mall store) in 1979-80. Several years later Sandy's camera store sold out and mutated into a Ritz - but even then a Kits Camera store was in another part of the mall. I bought my Casio P505 on closeout at the Kits store right before they merged with Ritz. And so the Kits was gone -- now Ritz has left the building as well. That particular Ritz is where I bought my Alpha A200 in 2008. Strange days, and many memories.

06 May 2012

daring to dream - camera gear 'needs'

The budget is tight around most of the globe, and our household is included. I have carefully assembled my gear, having backtracked and reworked it several times as our finances flexed. I have been indulging very few other hobbies, so I am content with what I have.
But if? If more funds dropped into my lap for photography, where would it go? Let me count the ways..

First off: inventory.
On the AF front I am covered from 18mm to 300mm with very good Pentax zooms.  For manual-focus fun I have things covered at 28mm and from 35-150mm with a prime and two zooms (all from what I'll call Ricoh's bronze age - hopefully the golden age begins soon!).  I have a macro lens, several decent filters, a good-enough tripod and bags to carry the gear.  Memory aplenty and two batteries.  Check.

Inventory problems?
I have to say my limitations are few, and thoroughly self-imposed.  I have no "fast glass", and I am very happy about that!  To spend twice as much cash to carry thrice the weight, so that I can shoot at f/2.8 instead of f/4.5?  With a K-5 that can shoot iso6400 or better with careful attention?   As Bilbo Baggins will soon be saying on screen, No thank you!
As to range, I feel only slightly cramped and only at the wide end.  I should like to pass beyond 18mm - though something like 10mm would more likely distract my concentration - why compose when you can take a picture with everything in it?  That's an awful thing to say but I can hear it even now; the lazy imager in me will not be silenced and my guard must stay up. To keep lenses small and scale under some semblance of control, I'd like a prime or two for going ultrawide.

My Mental Shopping List
If money frees up for a large purchase my most likely next lens will be 15mm, most likely the DA15.  Let's face it though, I also fancy Sigma's 15mm fisheye, which yields a bit more speed at the price of bent lines.  One of those would likely be followed by the DA21.  I really like the 28 that I have and it would probably have a comfortable place on my shelf if the 21 came about.  The Sigma EX DG 50mac that I own now is too good to waste my dreams on the Limiteds from 40 to 70mm, which is a great relief even to my dreams. I do not doubt I would really enjoy the DA 12-24 and hear nothing but good about it, but apparently in my dreams it's prime time.
On the tele end: nothing really.  The DA55-300 was made with me in mind - if I need more I shall crop, and if I stay below 250mm I shall be rewarded.
The only other item of some interest is a catch-all that is as good or better than the Sigma 18-200 that I have enjoyed more than once in my imaging career.  I hated to let that go last time but the budget makes demands that must be obeyed.  However, Pentax has mapped out a similar lens in their near future which has my interest.  Other than "DA High-Magnification Zoom" and a fuzzy blur that looks like ~18-200mm we know nothing of substance in May 2012.  Will it have quick-shift, weather seals, faster aperture settings?  Will it be an XS model for the K-01?  Will it be available in fuschia?  No strike that, not a priority :^) - but its final configuration will go a long way to determining if it lands in my bag.

Fun times ahead - as always, budget permitting.

Further ruminations on the 15mm selection
We Pentax users have two very good candidates with distinctive features: the DA15 Limited and Sigma's fisheye. It's hard to argue against two lenses with great reputations, but the differences are clear; each of us will put a 'price' on those differences and choose the right lens. Both have 7 aperture blades and neither are weather sealed. Superlatives abound on the internet for both.
  • On the DA side of things we have less field curvature, quick-shift, filter threads and those features that make Limiteds so beloved. It's a bit smaller and 100g lighter.
  • On the Sigma side we have full-frame coverage, f/2.8 and an aperture ring. It can get close enough for 1:4 life size closeups. The fisheye effect on aps-c is muted but still evident.
When the time comes it will be an interesting decision. Perhaps a used lens will appear just as funds can be found. We'll see!

and a week later, we did see - here's the update.

01 May 2012

checking the obvious

As long as I was sitting in front of a 3D topo map with my DA 18-55, I figured I would see its 'best' supercloseup shot. In this case 'best' is still hand-held and focused manually, so not exactly a fair test - but the same rules applied to the Sigma 50 Macro that I put on after that. No surprise, no contest, and especially at the edges. The 18-55 is a versatile lens, and going to 0.3x is very convenient, but so is this small Sigma. Whatever lens I expect to be shooting, this mini macro lens is going to come along on my travels - a lot.