28 October 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/!
  • 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...

16 October 2016


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.

13 October 2016


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!

11 October 2016

a long, strange trip

My K-5 history will resume shortly with an EX copy coming from KEH. I owned my original copy of the Classic model from January 2012 to December 2014* and later tried the II and IIs versions. All did marvelous work.

I had hoped to grab another II - but current finances dictate that saving $70ish is worth doing.. so I did it. I nearly went for a K30 in white, but several factors steered me back to the K-5: familiar control set, iso80, quiet shutter, incredible battery life  - and I already own a 2nd battery + usb charger that's charging in advance! Such extras as a grip don't interest me much, but it's available. The K30's better video specs do not compensate for the positives noted above, especially since the nx300 is available when video beckons.

*Ouch - here's an insightful quote from January 2012, when the K-5 arrived.
Several packages arrived at our house today, heralding a new era in my imaging 'career'.  Lately, 'career' has been more like 'careen' as I hopped from one K-mount camera to another in the past twenty months, attempting to have the best possible camera while paying medical bills.

It's tough to admit, but it stuns me that I owned a Pentax camera for nearly three years, as three months feels about right lately. I'm hoping that my previous experience with the K-5's staying power will keep my wanderings in check for a while!

08 October 2016

Wet weather blues

So now the GM1 and NX300 stand alone to face the wet season. That isn't ideal in the least, as my only "safe" wet-weather gear is the Pentax 50-200mm wr lens! Our budget is tight for a few months so it will have to do.

What are my options for future foul weather? Let us see:
  •  Samsung has nothing for me under $1500 with the NX1 & S-class glass. No thank you.
  •  Pentax has a few choices for $500 or less, best options being a K5 variant, a K7 or another K50. A wide wr lens would need to come along though, as the current 50-200 is not a full purpose option.
  •  For micro4:3, Panasonic has a couple of weather-protected choices now, the GX8 and G85 being the sub-$1ooo choices while Olympus checks in with EM5 and EM1 options. My preferred choice would be a GX8 and Lumix 12-60, with the GM1 and 14-42 becoming our spousal cam. 
  •  The bargain of the bunch would be an older Olympus EM5 and 12-50 for $500ish, since my 14-42 lens for the E500 is not weather sealed. 
So this decision will wait for Christmas and its potential bargains. I think.