21 December 2012

the gear list, part XVII, give or take X

As 2013 approaches (and the Mayan calendar panic recedes!) the gear list has earned another entry in the 'blog.  Much gear has been sacrificed for Limited primes and the K-01 bargain, but what remains is truly good stuff.  I can look back and miss a few items that have left the list, but overall regrets are few. For example, the K-01 and its focus peaking would have rendered the 50mm f/1.4 Sears lens much more usable - but the DA40 Limited that has taken its range is far too good for any regrets!

  • K-5, still amazing after a year in my bag.  No real complaints, especially now that I have the next item with its focus peaking ability (yes more versatile video too, and some day I'll learn how to use it!).
  • K-01 (white), great fun since early November.  It's definitely a different way to achieve similar goals, some better and some worse.  I find I can manage a few things I didn't think I'd ever be willing to try, which is seldom a bad thing.
Lenses, in approximate FL order:
  • Sigma 15/2.8 fisheye: yes the DA15 would be smaller, but this has so many good things going for it that I have no complaints.  It's not all that large in any case, and it's faster, focuses closer and works with full-frame (film) cameras. Oh yes, often a bit cheaper too on the used market!  Great fun and very talented, and really not all that fishy for landscapes on an 16×24mm sensor.
  • Pentax 18-55WR: when the weather outside is frightful, this will do nicely.  Yes the 18-135 has its place and I enjoyed some time with a good copy - but the price difference was enough for this lens and a DA40 Limited (oops, that came up out of order).
  • SMC-A 24/2.8: I had once owned a Vivitar 24/2.0 but it was larger heavier and for some reason didn't resonate with me.  This one does just great, and colors are more correct than the Rikenon 28mm that I've enjoyed so much.  The 24mm also focuses closer and images are equally sharp by my my casual inspection.
  • Pentax DA40/2.8 Limited - yes it's true what others say: absurdly small, absurdly talented and worth owning.  For many it's the first Limited because of its price; I got such a good deal that I cannot repeat it, and it's a real keeper even had I paid $100 more like most other owners.  Sharp in focus and smooth elsewhere, thanks to great optics and nine-blade aperture, and too small to justify leaving behind.
  • Pentax DA 55-300: the perennial favorite telephoto lens for Pentaxians on a budget, whether financially or by weight.  Most owners and testers say it outperforms the many 70-300 zooms on the market, and other than some vignetting and not being f/2.8 it's hard to find much fault.  For 420 grams I'll take the speed penalty, especially with the sweet-16Mpxl sensors that I have in the K-5 and K-01.  When I need telephoto it's hard to need more than this.
  • Pentax DA70/2.4 Limited - ditto at least, except that this one was not to be found cheaply.  It's still worth the price.  Something about this feels illegal, to be a bit telephoto yet tiny and fast - and let's not forget the nine aperture blades to make the images really snap.  Live and learn: Limiteds are worth having.
  • Rikenon XR 70-150/4: when I put down my bid at auction I barely knew this lens existed.  It's been with me quite a while, relatively speaking, and other than its old-school lens coating it's a real marvel.  I don't recall seeing many 2-ring internal-zoom lenses in my 1980s film days but clearly a few were out there, and this one is smooth and sharp.  It's a bit dense and at 440 grams it's heavier than all but the 400mm - but fixed f/4 through the range, 52mm filter threads and a built-in shade are nice to have.  Optically it's of prime caliber and can sorta do close focusing in its 'macro' mode.  O What Fun!
  • Promaster 100mm f/3.5 macro (AF): I had tried two other macros, and felt like Goldilocks.  The Tamron 90 was excellent but too bulky, the Sigma 50 excellent but I had to get sooo close for real macro images.  The Promaster only goes 1:2 on its own - but I have the original 'matched' multiplier to achieve 1:1 shots (which works fine with the Limiteds by the way), and it's well under half the size and weight of the Tamron.  This does very well for my mid-tele and macro work, and is another small wonder.  I've made it pretty clear that I like that in lenses!
  • Hanimar 400/6.3: and then there's this thing.  A preset T-mount lens (with 16 aperture blades!) it's a curiosity that was handed to me by my father-in-law; for the price of a K-mount adapter any 400mm lens is hard to beat.  I need to use it more but it's done quite well on my few test outings.
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A few additional items have not yet left the building.
The Rikenon-P 28/2.8 has been a real gem, and I've enjoyed its time on the camera.  While the 24mm has crowded it a bit I still find occasional use for it; perhaps one day it will leave me, which I did not think I'd ever say aloud.  That's saying something about the SMC-A 24!  The SMC-M 50mm f/2 is very good but the DA40 takes its spot for nearly everything, and the Vivitar (Kobori) 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 is a fun one-touch zoom that the 24-40-70-100 primes have supplanted.

Compared to earlier times, that's not many lenses - but it's more than I can use at any one event that's certain.  Most events can go with perhaps two primes and a zoom, and seldom would more than four go anywhere with me.  A very comfortable kit.

Micro four-thirds:
On the non-Pentax side, we own two Lumix G1 cameras, two 14-42 OIS kit lenses and a 45-200 OIS zoom to share.  My wife really wants to learn about imaging, and having identically-spec'd cameras was how she wanted to learn.  These are decently talented micro/43 cameras with electronic viewfinders and flip screens, so very versatile.  I also have a basic adapter to allow the K-mount lenses with aperture rings to work as well, though no stabilization in that case.  I must try the 400mm Hanimar on the G1 soon!!

 I now own Elements 10 and Premiere 10, having upgraded from 9.  Not usually worth taking a single step up, but I didn't have Premiere before this, and the package price was very good - and since I now have the K-01 I might do some video work.  Some day.
Plugins for the above include NeatImage for noise reduction, SmartCurve for lighting adjustments and ReDynamix for gentle redistribution of dynamic lighting without all the HDR effort. I also use Picasa software for the easy changes and quick text additions.  That'll do for now.

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Update March '13
Add a Pentax Q to the list with its standard 02 zoom, and yet another SMC-A 50mm f/1.7 - I had one just a few months ago, but that was before the K-01 made faster lenses practical thanks to focus peaking.  This one cost about half the other's price too - bargains get to me like that!  It will get used when light is really scarce, otherwise the DA40/70 team will crowd it.  
The Q does not have a PK adapter... yet... so expect another update when I break down at last.

April update - subtract a G-1, add a DA 50-200WR to the mix.

01 December 2012

Duncan with K-01 and DA70

This was processed from DNG in Elements 9.  ISO6400, 1/6s at f/3.5, manually focused until whiskers glowed with focus peaking.  The camera was set to -0.7EV so I boosted the light a bit, but not too much!  Also removed color noise but luminance NR is set to zero; also removed a slight magenta color cast.  Given 1/6 second exposure this is mighty good, and the small amount of processing at iso6400 speaks volumes about the sensor & internal circuitry in the K-01.  The lens cannot help but impress too; wish I'd gone to f/2.8 for this.

Oh yeah: I'm happy with this!