21 July 2015

the Home Team

Here is the shooting team as it stand today.. at 4:30PM.. Pacific Time!*
The starting five: DA 15/4 Limited, SMC 24/2.8, DFA 50/2.8 macro, M100/2.8 and DAL 55-300
Support crew: Vivitar 35-105, DAL18-55, Hanimar 400/6.3, JCPenney 80-200/3.5 (and 2x TC)
Not shown here: the K-r and SMC-A 50/2 that took the photo!

* Still valid as of early August - that might be a record :·p 
One more may be coming though -- stay tuned?

20 July 2015


  • Just like that: I decided, posted and sold the DA40 in about an hour 
  • Also one copy of the 18-55wr is leaving soon* 
  • and The K-s1 white body arrived while I was packing up the lenses!  

I'll be back in learning mode for a while with the new K-s1 - maybe I'll even read the manual!  It's a small and solid camera, with control dial and 4-way pad crowding each other but everything else looks good (buttons are not where I expect - yet).  After ten minutes the settings are where I like them, but no doubt a few new ones await my discovery.  A firmware update is already out so that's up next.

It's handy that my K-r battery fits, no waiting just plug & play!  Another nice update: the nearly-ubiquitous micro USB port instead of having a micro-D cable for cameras only.  Well done!  USB3 would have been nice but this will do fine.
  • Just like that II: 18-55 is sold, and
  • I picked up a 'used' FluCard for the K-s1!
The FluCard is Pentax' wireless-transfer mechanism for a few recent cameras, now endangered thanks to the K-s2 and its interal WiFi.  This card also allows for remove viewing/shooting via smartphone.  I barely touched that option on the NX300 but it could be fun for kittens and other critters.  And oh yeah, the FluCard is also a 'normal' 16GB memory card so it's not all wireless fun!

* Why sell the 18-55WR?  I already own a white 18-55 DAL that would almost match the K-s1 - but it has a broken mount.  I found a spare online for $19, not an awful price  but a black DAL lens cost $20! Easy choice = another kit zoom in the closet, a WR kit lens became available to sell and the price was right.

16 July 2015

the DFA 50mm makes its case

I've owned the DA40 Limited more than once; I used it, enjoyed it, and captured many excellent images.  It really has no need to sell itself to me - that part has been played.

Now along comes another 50mm lens to squeeze out some space that the DA40 so dominates.  I've owned many 50s also: Sears f1.4, Pentax M and A series, and Sigma's f2.8 Macro.  What I had not tried is the DFA 50mm f/2.8 Macro - so now its time has come.

up close with the DFA 50/2.8
After a dozen or so test images, I must say that I'm impressed.  The lens is larger than other 50mm lenses, but nothing like Sigma's 50 was.  This little wonder telescopes with two nested tubes, not a typical way of doing things now.  This isn't a "now" lens though; introduced at the beginning of the digital era (hence the D), still fully functional for film (the F) but at heart an A-series lens with aperture ring and A-aperture position.

My first afternoon was decidedly windy, which plays havoc with any flower shots.  I found a fine and intensely blue hydrangea with blooms low to the ground - however now it was I that swayed a bit!  Color contrast and sharpness are exquisite, which is no surprise.  The ability to quick-shift to a different focus is really handy.  And AF was quite fast for the full range of a macro lens, which also was not what I remember of the Sigma model (or any others like the Tamron 90, Cosina 100/3.5 and Sigma 105).

I'm not done with my tests, but two things are immediately clear:
  • The DA40 has some stiff competition here, and
  • whichever lens goes I'll be keeping an amazing lens!

15 July 2015

revenge of the primes

It's been a big 3 weeks of gear-trading!
 - and I did not see it coming.  I made my plans but the path meandered a bit..

It began with a great deal on a DA* 50-135 followed by an absurd deal on a DA17-70.  The DA* is a great lens, but the 55-300 was holding strong to its place in the lineup; slower yes and in more ways than one, but so much more convenient and less bulky.  While contemplating next steps I sent away a lot of gear the 50-135 rendered less relevant in hopes of grabbing a used DA14 or DA15; neither was available so instead I came away with a gently-used DA10-17 Fish-Eye.
 Then an trade offer hit the forum: Limited primes for DA* zooms!  With a minimal amount of negotiation I came away with the DA15 and DA40  - and the 55-300 retained its place.  In theory I gained value with both the great price on the 50-135 and again with the two primes; value was important but in practical terms I'll use the Limited primes more often than the bulky DA* zoom.
Speaking of value, the DA15 was a sure bet to crowd out the 10-17 since an ultrawide prime was my original goal - so the 10-17 became available to sell and recoup some expenses.  And after some hard thinking I decided the DA15 plus 24-40-50-100 primes was more userful and practical to me than the 17-70.. so that zoom also became expendable.

Today those two zooms left the building, victims of the DA15 and the primes in my bag.  The NX300 and 135mm lens left two days earlier, so cupboards are quite bare - but the remaining lenses are quite uniformly excellent and very well matched.  On a scale to 10, forum users review my lenses thusly:
DA15 / K24 / DA40 / M100 / 55-300 -> 9.2 / 8.6 / 9.6 / 9.3 / 8.8
While those are just opinions, experience shows these to be reasonable estimates - and my prices were seriously low which increases the value factor.  The low rating on my list is the smcA 50mm f/2, which is underrated by its proximity to the 50mm f/1.7 variants.

- But wait!   One last deal remains to be sorted, as a DFA 50/2.8 1:1 macro arrives tomorrow to contest with the DA40 Limited.  If the macro (user rating 9.4) wins out the DA40 will likely sell for a net gain of funds, as the DFA was priced lower than I'd have expected.

In the end I saved on several levels: weight, expense, aperture (all except the DA15 are f/2.8 or faster).  Add in the imminent arrival of the supercompact K-s1 dSLR and those primes will really be able to show their best: the faster AF motor and absence of a low-pass filter means my images will be as good as anything currently available.  Oh sure, 42 megapixels beats 20M every day   And when you can afford the camera with that sensor..- when you can store them.

Stay tuned! Another group photo will be coming soon !
In the meantime a bit of humour:
less than a month ago I posted
this as my "power team" lens set - 
now only the 55-300 (far left) remains!

11 July 2015

Goodbye Hello

A few 'last' changes to the gear just came about.  Reasons are complicated but sound, not merely an excuse to acquire .. not this time!

I broke down and bought a white K-s1 body after refusing the siren call a few times as the price drifted lower.  This is not the body or the color I would choose if all options were open, but financially this was an easy call.  It was the last one in stock so acquired an extra 20% discount which dropped the price below $280.  Memories of the white K-01 come to mind: it fell to about $235 when I picked it up a few years back. Today a similar price nabs a nice AA-free 20Mpx camera with full viewfinder in a baby body.  Sure it has a few compromises, but if the K-r is acceptable the K-s1 definitely will serve me well!

This camera brings me to the end of my Samsung days.  That's a shame as the NX300 is a great little camera and the 16+30 pancake primes are most excellent.  I now have the Pentax 15+40 Limited lenses though, so optically I lose very little and logistically I have just one mount to consider going forward.  The nx300 sold in about three hours, so the price must have been on the slightly low side of just right.. or the ideal person read my note at just the right time!

Never the same-  DA40 and 15, M135*, K24 A50* and M100 with zooms behind.  Shot with *NX300 (* =departing soon).

The M135 departs with the Samsung along with NX adapters.  That leaves 15-24-/40-55/-100 plus 55-300 zoom, along with a spare 18-55 & a few old zooms to play with.  The M100 f/2.8 just arrived from KEH (mounted on the K-r) and yet again their Ugly rating is vastly underrated; it's in great condition with only a few meaningless cleaning-marks on the front element.

The new small kit also earns a new small camera bag*, a sling type that can hold a small dSLR 4 primes and a zoom.  My days of needing a pack that can hold camera and bike gear plus laptop and spare work clothes are long gone, after all.
image from pentaxforums.com

Never last and surely not least: Adorama offered up a VG-grade DFA 50/2.8 1:1 macro,  a well-regarded macro lens that I have not tried.  If this works well the DA40 can go for more than the 50's cost, adding a smidge more money to the bank for future use.  Hope it's a keeper, as it has AF + quick shift; that will result in precise and fairly speedy focus yet still allow for precise touch-up.  The Tamron push-pull MF design really didn't fit my mind - so I'm thinking this will feel a lot better!
In any case the smc-A 50mm f/2 can depart; the DA40 or FA50 will do the job.

 - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -
* so much for camera bags from China.  I ordered the pack above in Gold only to hear back that the seller only had black, was that OK?  Hmm, the company has two separate listings for gold models but only have black - oh and a few red (but no listings show the red version).  No thanks - refunded.  I then found this blue one, identical to the other store and also in China.  Yay?  No they have no blue - just black, and a few red.  This group Also has no red one showing online, so I got another refund.  This time I saved $20 and just bought an insert that will pad the bottom parts of my hydration pack.
You guessed it: I bought it in red!  That will match my red/black pack but at least I know what this red pack looks like!!

06 July 2015

Fun with numbers III

Yes even with Roman numerals!

I feel like Portland's NBA franchise right now as I wheel and deal in search of the Right Fit.  They are doing this right now to fill behind the dearly-departed LaMarcus Aldridge .. so why not join them?

As noted previously, I allowed a DA* zoom to depart, traded for two Limited primes.  The DA15 is ideal for me (mind control, already?) and the DA40 is a great little lens.  It's clearly better than my humble A50mm f/2 - but are other needs more glaring, like maybe the big gap from 50 to 135mm?  While the DA70 pairs nicely with the 40 it's too near the 50mm for my tastes.  Perhaps find an excellent 85-100mm prime, keep the 50 and allow the 40 to go in another trade?  Like a base-salary bench warmer the 50 and 135mm lenses have no decent market value, unlike the DA 40.

Hmmm: right on cue: someone is selling their Tamron 90 macro in order to buy Limited primes.  That sounds like a fine trade opportunity that would fill my largest gap and bring 1:1 macro back into the bag, so I'd be picking up a two-position lens with great versatility.  *Update* - the trade negotiations did not pan out so instead I picked up an 'experienced' former star: a KEH "Ugly"-grade smc-M 100/2.8.  No macro but talented and small, which I always like!

The M100 and I have a history, in fact I traded another copy away last season.  This and the M85 f/2 compete for the mid-tele slot much like the DA55-300 and Sigma 100-300 have dueled in the past for the telephoto zoom position.  I'm convinced now that the 55-300 is superior despite its slower focusing, and that the 85 and 100 are sufficiently similar not to worry (or spend!) too much for 15mm and one-stop difference.  For now this is a fine fit for me, so my work here is done.

And so here, yet again, is my kit!
Pentax primes: DA15/4 - K24/2.8 - DA40/2.8 - M100/2.8 -  A50/2 and M135/3.5 in reserve
Pentax Zooms: DAs 18-55WR, 55-300L --  for sale: DAs 10-17, 17-70
off-brand zooms: Vivitar 35-105 f/3.2-4 one-touch, JCPenney 80-200 f/3.5

OK that's enough fake 'roundball' talk.  It isn't my favorite sport, not even top-3.. but for pro sports it's all Portland has. 

03 July 2015

Wide Angles & mind control

In the dSLR lens world I have tried many superwide variants.  Tamron's 14mm SP came first and showed me the possibilities with my SonyAlpha.  Once in the Pentax world the DA16-45 suited me well for wide views but felt a bit cramped at the long end.  I went in other directions but later picked up the SMC 17mm Fish-Eye for extra width - and liked it a lot.  Most recently it was the DA10-17 fish-eye, which has intrigued me for a while but 10mm is really wider than I'd ever need.  Yes that's a dangerous thing to say, but for now I believe it!

In the meantime, the Pentaxforum fanatics couldn't say enough about the DA15 for wide-view needs. Their "the DA15 controls my mind.. club" says plenty about general feelings about this lens!   I liked the idea but never found a copy at 'my' price.  I nearly acquired a DA14 recently; the price was right but it had some damage that restricted focusing.  Set to five feet and f/8 and who needs to focus? -- but it was taken before I could claim it.

image from pentaxforums.com
And now by a surprise trade the DA15 is coming my way.  It should set itself somewhat apart from the 16-45 in both width and talent.  Pentax makes smaller primes but this is still easy to carry pretty much anywhere.  I'm thinking it will find ways to come along despite the very wide field of view.  I suspect that's where the mind control kicks in - you find ways to make use of it even when logically it might not be deemed the typically ideal lens for a shot.

A copy of the DA40 Limited is coming too and that's great because I've missed it.  When it comes to size and great images the DA40 (Limited or XS) is tough to match.   The lens practically disappears on most bodies and takes excellent images from f/2.8 up.  Several 'wow' images came from my previous copy.  Welcome back!

These did cost my first and only DA* to acquire - but right now I'm quite all right with that.