29 April 2013

90 v 100 on a few subjects

The Quantaray/Sigma 28-90 arrived today, so I put it to a few tests against my well-liked Promaster 100mm macro.  Both do about 1:2 closeups in native mode; the Promaster includes a 49mm filter-type multiplier to achieve 1:1 but I seldom use it, so 1:2 seems sufficient for me.  The lenses don't compete on speed, since it's 100/3.5 vs 90/5.6, but what the heck we'll put them head to head anyway.

A few quick tests at 1:2 were not definitive so I shot the neighborhood to see the results.  In the climatis-and-mailbox shot the Q-ray image was decidedly better in exposure, avoiding the major blowout of highlights that the Promaster displayed.  Just a single shot but a clear difference.  Looks like a flower horse, but truly it's not!

Later I shot a closeup of our porch post with many things behind; both shots have rather nervous bokeh on display, so again no clear victor.  I shot these through a window, which helps neither lens show off to its best effect.

Let it be noted that the Q-ray focus is slower and feels more precise, and it covers its full range in about 1/4 turn.  The Promaster nearly goes full circle, meaning if it misses you'll be waiting a while for it to get close again.  Enough victories that maybe the 100mm will be sent packing.

In the wide department the same could happen with the Sigma 15mm fisheye.  It takes some excellent and fun images, but the 17-35 Tamron non-fisheye is clearly a winner and both are f/2.8 - still counting votes on the result there.
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18 April 2013

Kit update - yes, again

Enough tweaks have occurred since the last update a few short months ago - so here we go again!

APS-c and Compact Bodies:
  • K-5, still amazing after nearly 1½ years in my bag.  No real complaints, though it will need to go in soon for a solution to the full-battery mirror flop issue.
  • K-01 (white), great fun since 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.  I am sure glad it's here so the K-5 can visit the shop!
  • Q: his and hers black ones, with 02 zoom lenses.  Tiny, fun and as good as a 1/2.3" sensor can do.  Nice to have the 'standard' dSLR menu on a compact, that's for sure.  I've still not purchased an adapter  or the PK lenses, but I'm wavering... 
Lenses, in approximate FL order.  
Just for amusement I've added (ff) to those that are full-frame friendly, meaning all but ONE.  Even the Limited primes that I own are deemed FF-tolerant, much to my surprise.  I am not planning to grab a full-frame Pentax dSLR any time soon, but if a windfall were to strike I'm well protected.
  • (ff) 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.
  • (ff) Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4.0: part of what makes this nice is that it doesn't crowd any other lens.  Overlap can be a good thing most of the time, but a Limited lens deserves breathing room.  I owned this in my SonyAlpha days, it was my first really good lens.  If anything it could crowd the fisheye out of the lineup!
  • (ff) Quantaray (Sigma) 28-90mm f/3.5-5.6 macro: another SonyAlpha veteran lens that I liked four years ago.  Dirt cheap, feather light but decent imaging and 1:2 macro at 90mm when you want such things.  An excellent one to have on the camera when you have nothing planned or you want something you won't mourn over if damaged.
  • (ff±) 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 50-200 WR: the perennial underdog telephoto lens for Pentaxians, this featherweight and weather-resistant zoom only suffers by comparison to the 55-300 models.  For now I prefer the compactness of this one, and on the K-01 it is a very good copy - now that I know that the K-5 will either need to match or get its first lens ± adjustment.  This is a great zoom for the K-01 as it's small and light - nearly a clone of the macro that's a bit further down the list.
  • (ff±) 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.
  • (fF) 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!
  • (ff) 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 (49mm, so it fits the Limiteds and 50-200), and it's well under half the size and weight (and price!) 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!
  • (ff) 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.
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 compact, thrifty and comfortable kit.  Again.

This set leaves me with some excellent mix-and-match sets:
  1. 17-35 + 40 + 70 + 100m for best of the best, with 15f optional
  2. 17-35 + 40 + 50-200wr for most compact & fewest changes (probably the backpack kit)
  3. 28-90 + 50-200 for when wide angle isn't going to be a big deal
  4. 28 + 40 + 70 ultimate compact trio that covers many circumstances
Add the 15mm fisheye to any of these for ultimate width, or make other combos to address specific wishes (macro prime lens for example).

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 I now own Elements 10 and Premiere 10.  Plugins include NeatImage for noise reduction, SmartCurve for lighting adjustments and ReDynamix for redistribution of dynamic lighting with easy controls to temper the  HDR-like effects. I also use Picasa software for the easy changes and quick text additions.  No Lightroom or other powerhouse software will appear until my computer is massively updated, which I don't foresee any time soon.

15 April 2013

Everything changes II - going retro

Well, I sought a deal on the DA16-45 and failed several times on auction copies.  As the going rate climbed toward $250 I revisited a few sites for the off-brand options like the Tamron 17-50 (add $100) or a similar-spec Sigma (very few on the used market at any price).

Now stop me if you've heard this before (too late!) but there's the ideal lens for my kit sitting lonely on a virtual shelf: the Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4.  I had this on my Sony A200, my first really great lens - yes range is thin for 440g and it takes 77mm filters.  On the other hand it doesn't prevent the DA40 from playing, it's fast and decently wide, and I liked its images a great deal four years ago.

And hey guess what: it's full-frame capable.  That may not interest me now, but it may interest others in a year or so.  If money comes at me and I cannot duck, even I might care - but it will serve well on the 18×24 sensor in the meantime.

Retro part II

After adding it to my cart and then deleting it, I re-added a Sigma 28-90 with 1:2 macro.  The label says Quantaray but it's the Sigma 28-80 by any other name, and was another of my A200-veteran lenses .  Yes it has a plastic mount, yes just f/3.5-5.6 - but also yes close-focus ability at almost 1:2, yes 8 aperture blades, and oh yes 220 grams and a low price of $35.  When I don't need to go wide this lens can do most of what I do on not-really-out-for-imaging days; when I want to be serious the Limited primes will do the job best.  It will be fun comparing the Promaster 100 to this at 90mm, as both can do about 1:2 closeups.

And hey guess what II: it's also full-frame capable.

08 April 2013

Everything Changes.

That title about covers it.  Whether it's the ideal set of lenses in your bag, the camera they fit on, or saying farewell to a 33-year career with no real plans in sight, life just keeps moving along, and forcing decisions.

Re: imaging: I seem to be turning a bit of the kit upside down.  The DA18-55 WR has been my foul-weather standby, but I'd really prefer a DA16-45 for hiking, a bit of extra light grasp and wide-angle fun, and generally better image quality.  If that happens though, a different WR lens would be a good idea - and looky here: a grade-9 used DA50-200WR for comfortably below the going rate at B&H. Done! - but what will the 55-300 think?  For that matter, what will the 15 fisheye think of a 16mm zoom?  Good thing lenses don't think out loud... but sometimes owners do!

The DA21 Limited calls my name, but I continue to resist - and the 16-45 can help with that.  For half the price of a DA21/3.2, the DA16-45 is a smidge slower but a lot more versatile, and very very good.  I've owned it before but only with non-WR cameras like the k-100d and k-x... so why not the K-01?  If I don't find a very good deal though, I'm fine with the 18-55 WR.

On the tele side, the K-01 is quite awkward for me with the 55-300, so the 50-200 will be a better fit with that camera - and WR gives it high value on the K-5.  I owned the 50-200WR before too, and I found it acceptably sharp and liked its consistently good bokeh.  And how often do I find 300mm useful really, is it worth having the range if it's seldom used - or worse yet used badly in lesser light, replacing lens sharpness with image shake?  Hmmm...

As to the DA70 and the 100mm macro, they are safely tucked in the bag come what may!  While I know of prettier lens in the 90-105mm macro range, Promaster's results speak for themselves, and they say very good things.

Any kit shifts will need to be balanced with sales, but I'm OK with that; in fact the SMC-A 24 and 50mm lenses will depart soon.  The DA55-300 is an impressive lens, but I can grab another easily - and letting go could allow more chances for the Hanimar 400mm to play.

This realignment would make the kit appear thus:
  • zooms: 18-55wr (possibly DA16-45), 50-200wr, manual Rikenon 70-150/4 
  • primes: 15/2.8 fisheye, Rikenon 28, DA Limiteds 40 & 70, 100/3.5 macro, 400/6.3
  • on the fence: DA 55-300, Vivitar 28-105, SMC-As 24 and 50
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As to the adventure of retirement - well that's true too, and coming soon.  My pension will be decent but the LBA needs to end!  At some point I will likely add a part-time job but it's not guaranteed to be awaiting me, so it's a leap of faith.  My wife is very happy about this upcoming change, so it's a leap of love too.