Friday, December 25, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

New lenses

Our lens collection has been extended recently. Yes, I do admit that I am writing "our" with pride and joy as it seems that Galia is further developing her interest in photography.

SMCP FA 50/1.4
- This is the lens that I thought would be Galia's standard lens. Somehow the process of obtaining one was long and laborious. At the end, Galia got a very good sample, made in Japan, properly serviced by Pentax Canada and joy to shoot with. On the technical side of things, it focuses very reliably on my K-7 and slightly less so on Galia's K10D. But the pictures that Galia manages to extract from it are making me proud.

SMCP FA 20/2.8 - As I wrote earlier this year, the SMCP DA 21/3.2 AL Limited was a little slow. As it turns out, I tend to shoot at distances closer than infinity with my wide lenses. Therefore a hunt has taken place that concluded with acquisition of this lens. My sample is pretty good, solid construction and all that. It is bigger than DA 21 but almost any lens will be bigger than these pancakes. On the other hand, it is similar in size to FA 50/1.4 only wider in diameter. My sample is wonderfully sharp wide open closer than infinity - exactly what I need. It is very good at infinity as well.

As planned, Galia inherits my DA 21 thereby completing her lens line up: DA 21/3.2, FA 50/1.4 and FA 100/3.5 macro. My line up is therefore FA 20/2.8, FA 31/1.8, FA 43/1.9, A 50/1.2 and FA 77/1.8.

Friday, December 11, 2009

PESO 2009 #039

PESO 2009 #038

After rather long period of inaction, I've bought a new lens - Pentax SMC FA 20/2.8. Mine seems a good sharp copy both at close and far distances and also fully open. In fact, I will be writing a gear entry soon enough. Meanwhile - two shots from yesterday's evening of the day when it arrived.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

PESO 2009 #37

Recently I seem to have a rather dry spell with my photography. On the other hand, Galia is doing pretty well. Not long ago she received her own FA 50/1.4 lens. Here is a set we compiled together from the morning walk we had in Tel Aviv.

Notice that full size version of this image is 1440 px across.

I must admit that sitting together with Galia in front of our computer and working on pictures is enormous joy.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mini PDML Haifa - Jaume

PDML stands for Pentax Discuss Mail List, which is arguably one of the best international communities, period :-). So, few weeks ago Jaume of Barcelona indicated that he will be coming to Israel on business trip and that we could meet. It goes without saying that this opportunity could not be missed.

The evening started with a quiet dinner in Chinese Restaurant on top of carmel mountain. Jaume requested that I bring FA 31/1.8 Limited and DA 21/3.2 Limited lenses which he studied in some length. I in turn got a chance to play with Sigma 17-70/2.8-4.5 DC lens, which turned out to be surprisingly good piece of kit.

And the fish that we were served was delicious. Nothing but the bones remained.

Then, given unfortunate time constraints all that we could was to take a stroll in Louis promenade just on top of Bahai temple.

The temple was under reconstruction so that instead of amazing Jaume with its illumination I was left wondering - what was happening there.

Among other things it seemed appropriate to try K-7's built in HDR function and this is how it worked with at ISO 800 with FA 31/1.8 Limited lens.

The evening was concluded with yet more shooting of Haifa bay from the height of Carmel mountain and of course a pleasant conversation...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Which camera to buy?

My friends very often ask me this question. In fact, just a week or so ago one of my friends bought Canon 500D and Canon EF-S 17-85/4-5.6 IS USM IF lens. Hopefully my memory did not fail me and I mixed the letters in the proper soup with that lens.

I've stumbled upon this blog entry, which I find sensible, reasonable and logical. Methinks I ought to put it here so that I can reference it later.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

PESO 2009 #032

I have come to realize that posting more than one picture per PESO posting is not exactly the right thing to do. This time, I think, it would be no shame at all to post a PESO made by my daughter Galia. Though the editing was done by yours truly.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

PESO 2009 #031

Just where you would expect a busy highway crossing, lies ancient Antipatris fortress.

To see more including more shots by Galia please click here.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

PESO 2009 #030

From a quiet evening walk in our town...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

PESO 2009 #029

Last weekend we spent yet another quiet morning in Tel Aviv. Yes, there is such a thing as a quiet morning there, you just have to know when and where to look for it. Couple of shots came our way.

All in all, I am gaining more and more confidence in my freshly acquired Pentax K-7...

PESO 2009 #028

Recently members of Russian Penta Club living in Israel including myself had a meeting. This time it was on the sea shore south of Ashkelon. K-7 with Tamron 28-75/2.8 acquitted themselves with grace.

I've posted these images elsewhere and received a comment that a sand had a bit of a pink/rose tint in it. I don't see it on my monitor, but if you see it, please let me know as it will help me to debug my workflow. Thanks in advance.

PESO 2009 #027

Though cliche, I still cannot produce an up-the-tree shot that I'd like. Here is an attempt at it which I made recently.

PESO 2009 #026

It is September already and it is very evident that three digit numbering of my PESOs was too ambitious. Nonetheless I do keep shooting...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Pentax K-7 review (part 3)

Having shot nearly 1,000 frames with K-7, I think it is time to conclude my review.

Image quality

In general image quality is excellent, however it deserves a few more words.

Good: white balance

My initial impression of K-7's white balance was less than favorable. In fact, it is probably due to a fact that I misoperated the camera. That dynamic range highlights extension was the culprit. Indeed, when lacking the light the AWB tends to be somewhat bluish-magentish. However it happens really seldom and is easily corrected in processing. Simply one has to be just a bit more particular about the white balance, that's all there is to it.

Demanding: resolution

K-7 has almost 1.5 times more pixels than K10D. It means that even a slight camera shake that cannot be handled by shake reduction system will be seen on the picture. Even so slight focusing mistake will be noticeable as well. The lens that is not sufficiently sharp can be easily spotted. This new 14.6 MP sensor is indeed quite demanding. But if you hit it, you hit it big.

Good: dynamic range

Compared to K10D, K-7 has noticeably wider dynamic range. I cannot give you numbers but I can tell you this:
  • I can pull more picture from the shades.
  • Under bright Mediterranean sun I can still shoot by the sea and get no saturated areas in either end of the histogram.
  • The bright areas also hold more useful information than in case of K10D.
The dynamic range of K-7 is very good compared to my previous cameras.

Very good: noise

Let us start with pointing out that ISO 800 is perfectly usable. My camera is set at auto ISO 100-800 with NR starting at ISO 1600. I have also shot in rather dim indoors at ISO 2000 and got good results. At ISO 800 the noise is present, but it has no ill effect on image detail.

Evidently I will have to work more with higher ISO to gain necessary experience .

Good: low light shooting

I have shot some 10-30 sec exposures and I am satisfied. I have also shot the night sky. Here is an interesting bit. Naturally, the night sky shot is almost completely black frame with some stars here and there. If I pull the exposure controls all the way to the bright side, I am starting to see a square pattern. It is as if the sensor is divided into small square zones. This is probably reminiscent of well known banding issues of older Pentax cameras. It seems that under similar conditions my K10D shows lots of vertical lines. Honestly, it does not bother me even ever so slightly. The night sky came out just right and I don't think that moving exposure slider in Lightroom all the way to the right (+4Ev) and brightness slider all the way to the right is something I am ever going to have to use. Thus, aside from brief mention, this square pattern is not an issue whatsoever.

Summary: yet another excellent camera body from Pentax

Pentax K-7 is indeed a very good camera. I still need to study it and to learn how to extract the best images from it. I am very much convinced that a choice to buy one was right.

If you have K10D or K20D and are satisfied with your camera, you don't really have to spend money on another body. However if you do spend your money, you will not be disappointed.

Sample pictures

From now on I intend to shoot exclusively with K-7. Galia gets complete control over K10D. Thus, be sure to watch this blog for real life examples of what K-7 is capable of in the hands of this photographer.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Long weekend at Vered haGalil, more on K-7

This year we've spent our vacation mostly at home. Just before Galia returned to school we went to Vered haGalil, which is a wonderful resort farm overlooking the sea of Galilee. As a matter of testing my new camera and according to "I shoot, I don't test" motto, K-7 came with us. It performed admirably whereas I am slowly starting to accept the fact that K-7 is just fine a camera which I am getting used to.

Please click here to see a short gallery of pics that were taken including some low light photography as well.

Few technical points:
  1. The meter problem seems to be resolved. It is mostly my mistake but at least part of the credit for that goes to Pentax programmers. You see, there is this extended dynamic range mode (separate options for bright and dark areas) where the camera is supposed to deal with high contrast situations. If you turn on the bright areas option, it seems to simply apply -1Ev compensation to the right portion of the histogram.

    The catch here is that if you're shooting a reasonable contrast scene or one which has no very bright areas all together, the picture comes out underexposed.
  2. Early shooting with K-7 showed some magenta cast issues. Indeed, this camera seems to be somewhat more sensitive and prone to going magenta. Yet, I cannot really fail the white balance sensor as most of the pictures came out with very good colors. Those few that had this magenta cast could be pretty easily corrected in LightRoom.
To summarize: meter is mostly fine, white balance is also mostly fine. More on image quality to follow.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pentax K-7 review (part 2)

Strange: ergonomics

I have small hands with rather long fingers, thus the hand grip of K-7 is comfortable to me. So, mechanically, so to say, K-7 is just fine. The user interface is totally different matter.
  1. Menu system. Pentax has decided to abandon its old and rather logical menu structure. All menu pages of K-7 fit on the screen, so that no scrolling is necessary. This is good. However, the sheer amount of options is such that the menu system has more than 10 screens. This is not good, as it takes lots of button clicks and wheel rotations to get around.
  2. Button location. Pentax changed the location of the green button, exposure compensation button and added dedicated ISO button. This is neither good nor bad, but it will take time to get used to this button placement.
  3. Button operation. With K10D to issue exposure compensation one had to press the respective button and while pressing it, the wheel had to be rotated to set the exposure compensation value. Not any longer. You don't have to keep the button pressed. Click the button. Camera enters the exposure compensation entry mode. Rotate the rear control wheel. Click the button again when you're done. This is actually good as it is convenient. The only problem is that while this invites using this interface without taking your eye off the viewfinder, the new placement of the buttons may lead you to unexpected results. Again, this is perfectly ok, but one has to accustom oneself to the new interface.
  4. Basic settings. Say, you want to turn on or off the shake reduction. K10D had a dedicated switch for this. In case of K-7 you have to click "Info" button, move the cursor to the SR square, click Ok, set the state of the shake reduction (on or off) and click Ok or whatever is necessary to confirm your choice and get out of the info screen. Though seemingly good with intent of having all basic options under the info screen umbrella, this is a little cumbersome. Not a big deal, just different concept of operation.
  5. Position sensor and other goodies. There are decidedly good things about the new interface too. If camera is rotated so do its display contents. The same is valid when you chimp. The viewfinder info has ISO settings visible at all times. The AF mode switch is placed more conveniently and is easier to operate.
To summarize - nothing is broken, but the changes from K10D are so significant that certain learning period is inevitable.

Excellent: electronic level

I always had a hard time aligning my verticals and horizontals. Now, it seems, I've been given a tool to ease my burden. Some people reported that the electronic level of their cameras was consistently off the mark by 1 degree or so. That's just fine by me. As long as I can get my straight lines aligned consistently, I will be a happy camper. Really useful add-on by Pentax.

Pretty useless: live view mode

Either my camera is defective or else, but AF in LV mode is awfully slow. It gets there eventually. Eventually being major key word here. What LV seems to be good for is manual focusing of my SMCP A 50/1.2 lens. It is because you can have middle of the frame enlarged for fine focusing. Until I get a Katz Eye focusing screen, it could be a reasonable stop gap solution.

Additionally, the LV button is placed in such a way that it is quite easy to click it when moving your finger so as to change AF mode. Certain additional care is in order.

Fascinating: video mode

I've shot a short video of my daughters playing. But I've done it in portrait orientation. It was hilarious.

However, shooting passing cars on Ayalon freeway in 720p mode resulted in some jerky motion of the cars, probably because they were moving too fast thanks to absence of traffic jams.

Evidently, the video mode of K-7 can be used (and will be used by me) with great success, but it is not a fully fledged video camera. Though, it has never proclaimed to be one.

Nonetheless, I should admit that video mode of K-7 is truly a new toy for me. I still wonder what kind of results can be achieved by shooting with SMCP A 50/1.2 at f1.2 or f1.4 after fall of darkness...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pentax K-7 review (part 1)

I think it is time I wrote a review of my own on my new camera, so here goes. Be warned that I am a wordy person...


Perhaps it would be a good idea to write few words about me. Especially so, if it is your first visit to this blog and you arrived here by googling "Pentax K-7 review" or some such.

I am an amateur photographer, meaning that I do it or fun, not for profit. Occasionally and may be even accidentally a photo or two of mine would be published in local camera club calendar or somewhere on the net. I have tried myself in a small number of competitions, but that yielded nothing.

I have shot Pentax since 2002. I have shot Pentax digital since late 2004. All together I shot just a whisker less than 10K frames with *istD, a tad more than 20K frames with K10D (bought just before 2006 ended) and now I have K-7. My main lenses are three FA limiteds and DA 21 limited, which probably says more about my income than about my abilities as a photographer, but who knows - perhaps you wanted to know which lenses get mounted on my camera bodies.

I should say that I don't do brick wall/resolution target/etc testing. For a number of reasons. First, it makes little sense as I don't have more than one sample of either camera of lens, so it has no statistical merit. Second - I just dislike it. Thus, what I am going to say below it based on my usual shooting, not anything special.

By the way, don't expect a formal review. There are going to be a number of so called official reviews of K-7 on the net. Instead here I am going to try to write down my own opinion of this camera based solely and only on my shooting experience and habits or style.

Bottom line

Just in case if you like it straight to the point. Pentax K-7 is an excellent camera but it may require quite a learning curve. Also, though really good, the hype and all the rumors that preceded it are much much more than it really deserves. No, Pentax K-7 is not bigger than life, it is just yet another camera from a second tier (Canon and Nikon being the first) major manufacturer.

Good: viewfinder

The best thing is that now it has 100% coverage. So you get what you see, literally. No more guessing what else is going to be in the frame. The not so good thing is that glass wearer such as myself (-6 diopters in each eye) still cannot easily or reliably perform manual focusing with the stock focusing screen.

I will have to buy Katz Eye split focusing screen like I did for my K10D.

Excellent: shutter

Finally Pentax came up with the camera that is quiet. Likely releasing the shutter now is going to attract far less attention than it did with K10D.

When I get a chance to try 1/8000 sec shutter speed, I'd probably just post a picture.

So-so: matrix metering

In my view it does not really matter how the shutter speed and aperture values were determined. So I use matrix metering for 99.9% of my shots.

My specific K-7 sample has quirky or worse yet unreliable metering. Outdoors it is just fine. Indoors it tends to underexpose by 0.7-1.0 Ev. No big deal as it offers -5.0 through +5.0 Ev exposure compensation range. However it means that I am going to keep chimping just like I did with good old K10D. My K10D however has more consistent metering. And if it errs, it is usually by 0.3 Ev, far less often by 0.7 Ev and I cannot recall full 1.0 Ev mistakes.

The fact that K-7 underexposes indoors is even more annoying as the shadow noise is more likely to be more prominent in this case.

So-so: autofocus

Yes, new Safox VIII+ system is not all that good as it is said to be. At least not on my camera.

Again, outdoors and at far distances - no problems whatsoever. It is also quite faster than K10D's AF outdoors as well as indoors. But, indoors it is still imprecise. It seems more sensitive too. E.g. if I set it to use only center sensor, focus, move the camera ever so slightly and focus again, it feels it and refocuses. Yet, I had to dial in some focus correction for my FA 31 limited and with FA 77 limited its focus precision is inconsistent - sometimes it focuses wrong.

Again, buying Katz Eye screen would resolve this issue, but sans focusing speed, which is improved, it gives me no advantages over K10D.

Yes, I tried K-7's AF in some rather dark situations and it focused where K10D would probably give up. However, even with FA 43 limited which so far has been most consistent precision wise, when there is not enough light, it would simply misfocus.

Admittedly I haven't figured out when the green focus assist light is supposed to come for the rescue, as I saw it few times, but I don't yet understand what are the exact conditions for it to kick in.

PESO 2009 #025

Another reason for my silence here is that right after I returned from the (business) trip to USA, my new camera arrived. Naturally, it is Pentax K-7, probably the most hyped, rumored and discussed camera of the few recent months. Mine seems to be a good copy, within reasonable tolerances though admittedly it did not click with me right away like K10D did some 2.5+ years ago. I should be writing more about K-7 later on, as I familiarize myself with the plenitude of its abilities, options, features, etc.

Meanwhile, Galia inherited (as per early agreement) my K10D. Here is she doing something her father does all too often.

PESO 2009 #024

There's been a period of silence on this blog. It is partly because I had a business trip to Maryland/DC area. There I was given an opportunity to spend a weekend with my friends.

You can find more photos from that wonderful weekend after this link.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

PESO 2009 #023

More DA lenses on film, new web site

From now on my old web site is going to sustain a process of slow deprecation. Instead please update your bookmarks (should you have one) to point here.

But more importantly, thanks for Derby Chang's effort and generosity several more DA lenses were tested on film and the results can be seen under this link. If you notice any mistake or inconsistency, I would appreciate if you could post a comment under this blog entry so that I can fix the problem.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

PESO 2009 #022

From our most recent trip to Mini Israel park.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Friendly sites

In order to rectify the delay between posting Peso #019 and the follow up entry and due to additional reasons ;-), the "Friendly sites" section has been added. It would list the sites that are connected to my photography in some way.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Cheap macro solution

Earlier in this blog I mentioned having SMCP FA 100/3.5 Macro lens which goes only to half lifesize as it is. This lens is said to be designed by Cosina and it is sold under a number of different brand names. Vivitar, Cosina, Phoenix are some of them. All but Pentax include an additional piece - the "matched macro adaptor (1:1)" (the spelling is original, though word 'adaptor' is marked by red underline on my screen, supposedly indicating that it is misspelled). With the help of my friends I recently got this adapter (I'd rather not upset my spell checker ;-) ). I should say that I am impressed. It is very solid two element (?) multi-coated filter that can be used on any lens with 49 mm filter thread In fact, I tried it on DA 21, FA 43 and FA 77 lenses and found it perfectly useful. Optically it seems to have no visible negative impact on image quality, including corner sharpness, though I admit I did not inspect my images in pixel peeping mode. It seems to bring some chromatic aberrations (if shooting a printed or written text from an angle), but its merits far outweigh any possible disadvantages.

Highly recommended especially if you have several lenses with 49 mm filter thread.

PESO 2009 #021

Just recently I received Matched Macro Adaptor (1:1) for my SMCP FA 100/3.5 lens. Thus I have finally completed my hunt for a cheap (but still very good otherwise) macro lens. Here are some examples:

The shot below was made by Galia and without the adapter.

PESO 2009 #019 follow up

With considerable delay and thus sincere apologies I'd like to post a link to the web site of my friend's wife. The site is in Hebrew but an English page is under construction which hopefully will soon finish. Also you can read her blog under this link (also in Hebrew).

Saturday, May 30, 2009

PESO 2009 #020

We've just returned from a wonderful weekend in Haifa. It is not easy to choose which images to post here so that I decided I'd choose just one picture from every day of the trip.

We started with visiting Binyamina Winery in town of, well, yes, Binyamina.

On the next day an opportunity to photograph Haifa Sail Tower (if you come across more interesting link, I'd be glad to know) presented itself.

On our way back we passed through city of Zikhron Yakov. There we came across the Wine Cellar restaurant which is pretty amazing. Notably, one can order there some seriously expensive and probably just as seriously rare wines. And the meal we had was excellent as well.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

PESO 2009 #019

My former co-worker's wife (it is quite simple relation, really ;-) ) makes something truly amazing. It looks alive and at least theoretically you can actually eat it. Have a look...