Showing posts with label DA40 F2.8 Limited. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DA40 F2.8 Limited. Show all posts


It's In the Bag, Western States Edition

It's In the Bag, Western States Edition
Via Flickr:
Las Vegas NV - Escalante UT - Durango CO - Glenwood Springs CO - Fort Collins CO - Rapid City SD. With Victory Motorcycles.

This is turning into a bit of a tradition - packing the night before a motorcycle touring assignment for RoadRUNNER Magazine, fretting that I'm taking too much gear followed quickly by fretting that I'm not taking enough. Debating whether I should take the primes or the zooms this time; the primes won because I've got a good set of 49mm NDs and CPL. I do have the DA10-17 fisheye zoom, just in case. Putting all of it on my iPad2 and snapping a shot.

The big change from the last trip is the Pentax Q, of course. It gives me a three of a kind Pentax kit and now I'm just one body (645D) of a royal flush. The Q takes surprising nice images, particularly in good light with the 01 Prime. I'm less confident about the 03 Fish Eye, and I don't have the zoom. Had those two pieces been around, I would have felt ok leaving the K-01 at home and using the little Q as the backup. Alas, I'm not quite there with that camera, so the K-01 with the DA40 get the nod.

One change that's hard to see here is that I'm ditching the cool but fussy lens hood and caps of the DA21 and DA70, replacing them with screw-on metal hoods and caps. I'm tired of fussing with the fancy hoods while using NDs and CPLs. I'm also tired of losing them - they are expensive to replace.

Rounding out the kit is the Contour ROAM. So the K-5 and K-01 will be primarily for stills and the ROAM and Q primarily for video/time lapse. Wish me luck!


Fresh cut French Fries from a roadside fry shop in Ontario, Canada

Pentax K-01 makes me want to reach into the screen and eat this fries!


Travel by Numbers

Gave me wings when I needed it.
Just returned from a weeklong motorcycle trip to the Canadian province of Quebec. I'm now transferring photos, videos, and GPS tracks to the computer, doing laundry, and getting back to normal life. It will be a while before I actually sit down to write the story and choose the photos, but the K-01 and K-5 worked out great for this trip.

Here's the trip numbers:


This is How I Roll

It's in the Bag, Quebec Edition
This is How I Roll, originally uploaded by john m flores.

I’m getting ready to leave for my next RoadRUNNER Magazine assignment - a trip up to the Canadian province of Quebec with a 2012 BMW R1200RT. What cameras and lenses to bring is always part of the puzzle. The BMW’s got a pair of decent-sized panniers, but I don’t consider that an invitation to pack my big zoom lenses. After all, I still need to pack underwear. And my French to English translation book. Instead, I try to pack a small but high quality camera kit that can deliver magazine-quality images while enduring the rigors of the road. Here’s what I’ve got so far:


Clean ISO3200 + Image Stabilization + Manual Focus with Peaking + QuietShutter = Undisturbed Kitty

Via Flickr:
Pentax K-01 with DA40mm F2.8 Limited @ ISO3200, F2.8, 1/20s. Nate had no idea I was stalking him. Nor does he know how many photos of him are on the Interwebs.
While this works for sleeping cats and flowers, the K-01 needs two things in order to be a stealthy street camera:
  • SDM lenses. As much as I love the DA Limiteds - they are jewels - they are screw-driven and thus make noise. Most of the time it's not objectionable, but everyone once in a while the camera fails to snap to focus and runs the lens through it's whole range of focus before locking in. Depending upon the situation, people may or may not hear that, but I sure do, and it makes me worry that others do. SDM lenses, with internal motors are virtually silent, and neatly solve this problem. Currently, SDM motors are used in many of Pentax zooms and some of the longer primes. The shortest prime with SDM is the 55/1.4, which is unfortunately a focal length I don't really get along with. I'll be the first in line if Pentax releases a set of SDM primes in the focal lengths I like - like the DA Limited 15, 21, 35, 40, 70.
  • Greater than 1 FPS in RAW. This is a real buzz kill. I often shoot photojournalist projects of public figures. When with them, there are events that I like to capture - a handshake, a discussion, a tense moment, etc. This shot, for example, was taken in 2009 with the K-20d:
  • Jets Tailgate, Meadowlands

    Could I have taken this shot with the K-01?

    IQ-wise? Yes. Most decidedly so.

    Decisive-moment-wise? Maybe. My chances would improve with JPG, and in a situation like this I'd likely be forced to. The excellent AWB helps, but I really would prefer RAW.

Ultimately, the K-01 is "that" close to being a great camera for that kind of photography...


Better half. More sleep.

Better half. More sleep., originally uploaded by john m flores.
Via Flickr:
Pentax K-01 with DA40mm F2.8 Limited. The afternoon light in the home office is quite nice as it bounces off the neighbor's house and filters through the blinds. It's always good to have the camera ready, batteries charged and with a memory card, so that when your better half walks in and is bathed in this nice diffuse light you can say, "wait a minute..."


Pentax K-01 at The Cloisters - Final Thoughts

That’s it. I’ve just about uploaded all of my photos from The Cloisters to Flickr. If you’d like to see the complete set, here they are:

At the end of the day, the Pentax K-01 acquitted itself quite well in this environment. The high ISO was great and the AF was solid. There was only one situation where I switched to manual focus - shooting a small statue behind glass in a dimly lit room:
The Cloisters, NYC
Here, focus peaking and magnification helped me get the shot.

Usability Notes

The camera’s shape and controls didn’t really get in the way either. I accidentally hit the flash release a couple of times, but that’s about it. As mentioned earlier, I’ve been spoiled by touch screens and really wish that I could set AF point faster, a la GH2. As it stands, selecting AF point is one click slower than the K-5 (but conversely, the K-5 is slower in setting Drive Mode and White Balance). I wish that I had tested facial recognition on the statues. I’ll just have to wait for real people.
Pentax K-01, as taken by it's bigger brother.

When photos were first released, the Mode Dial was soundly criticized for being on a “stovepipe”. I’m happy to report that there’s nothing wrong with its placement for me, as changing the mode is often accompanied by checking other settings anyway. While shooting in-camera HDR, I even switched back to Manual mode while the camera was still processing - no problem. I’ve even turned off the camera while in the middle of shooting video. Again, no problem.

How was the LCD?

Did I miss an EVF? Only in a couple of outdoor shots where the sun was at my back. I could see it being an issue in the summer but I’ll get by. After all, I really just need to frame the shot and check the meter reading. I’ve done it before with VF-less cameras and figure that I can do it again.

There’s a couple of things I’d like to see in the rear LCD though. One, the Panasonic GH2 has a couple of neat tricks up its sleeve. One is DOF Preview, a mode that is like constant DOF preview. It’s really neat to see DOF change with Aperture setting; on the K-01 it would be killer combined with Focus Peaking. This feature would also eliminate the K-01 constantly adjusting the Aperture based on lighting conditions. It does this as part of the process of showing a properly exposed rear LCD. If you have one, try look at the lens while alternating between pointing it at light and dark areas. As you point it at a light area, the Aperture closes. Dark area - opens. This is actually a known issue with the Olympus E-P3 when used with the Panasonic Leica 25mm F1.4. They call it the “Rattlesnake” because it sounds just like that. The K-01 rattlesnakes too. Even in M mode. Is it a big deal? If you shoot monks, maybe.

Which brings up my other point - the K-01 always tries to show you a well-exposed image on the LCD even if you exposure settings are way off. Need to overexpose by a stop or more due to backlighting? You’ll have to rely on the meter because the LCD is trying to do its own thing. Likewise, the Histogram doesn’t shift as you shift the exposure around to help you detect blown highlights or crushed shadows.

In contrast, Panasonic has Constant Preview, showing you as closely as it can on the LCD (and EVF) what the photo will look like with your current Aperture and Shutter Speed. Need to overexpose by a stop because of backlighting? As you do so, the GH2 gives you 3 visual cues to help you determine how much compensation you need:
  1. The meter shifts
  2. The Histogram shifts to the right so you can see how much you are blowing out
  3. The LCD brightens
Not only that, but the Histogram is rendered in yellow until you get to the camera’s recommended exposure. And then it turns white. You can choose to ignore the camera’s advice or follow it; the point is that they’ve subtly shown you their recommendation. Pentax needs to look at Panasonic and copy some of their ideas.

It's The Lenses

The DA 21mm F3.2, 35mm F2.8 Macro, 40mm F2.8, and 70mm F2.4 feel like they were made for the K-01. They work so well with this camera. I find myself always throwing the K-01 and a couple of primes into the bag before I leave the house.

I've got good Micro Four-Thirds primes too - Panasonic 14mm F2.5, 20mm F1.7, and Olympus 45mm F1.8. Of those, I'd rate the 45/1.8 as the equal of the DA Limiteds and the 20/1.7 as maybe a hair behind. The 14/2.5 is just ok or solid though. Not stellar. This is tough company after all.

At the End of the Day

The Pentax K-01 was great for The Cloisters. Better than the Pentax K-5 would have been - smaller bag, quieter shutter, better Live View. Cameras with acrobatic rear screens (Panasonic GH2, G3, Olympus E-P3, NEX 5N, etc..) would have opened up even more composition options, but none of the Micro Four-Thirds cameras have as sweet a sensor and the Sony NEX lens lineup is still rather thin. I don’t have first hand experience - do they compete with Pentax Limited?

Truth told, all the above-mentioned cameras are very good, and I would have left The Cloisters with good shots from any of them. At this point, the differences mostly boil down to taste, and I’m so far happy with the K-01. I’ll share more of my photo adventures as they happen.

Thanks for reading.

Click here to read more posts about the Pentax K-01.


The Cloisters, NYC

The Cloisters, NYC, originally uploaded by john m flores.
Via Flickr:
with the Pentax K-01. There's something about this shot that I keep coming back to. I think it's the fact that there's a lot of detail in the shadows - that they haven't been pushed to black. I can do that in post if I want to - high contrast seems to be in style at the moment. But I won't. This ain't art by any means, yet there's something I can't put my finger on...


The Slowest Thing about the Pentax K-01

Pentax K-01, as taken by it's bigger brother.

I bought the K-01 for two things - the Sony sensor (same as the K-5), and the quiet shutter. I typically shoot candid photojournalist style, so I need cameras that work well in low light and don't make too much noise. I had been considering the Panasonic GX1 or Olympus E-P3 since I already have some good native glass for them (14mm F2.5, 20mm F1.7, and 45mm F1.8), but I knew that would mean a sensor not quite up to K-5 standards, and just as critically a loud shutter that would draw attention to the fact that I just took a picture. With the GH2 and GF2 for example, the cats would flinch each time I took a shot! I've since de-sensitized them (by taking hundreds of photos of them), but still...



Waiting, originally uploaded by john m flores.
Via Flickr:
At The Cloisters Museum, NYC, with the Pentax K-01. ISO1600

Inside Looking Out

Inside Looking Out, originally uploaded by john m flores.
Via Flickr:
The Cloisters Museum, NYC, with the Pentax K-01. This is straight out of the camera. Impressive dynamic range, especially considering that this is iSO1600.


Pentax K-01 at the Cloisters. In-camera HDR sample

Via Flickr:
This is my first time really using the K-01 "in anger" as they say, not just fiddling at home with the cats or taking random shots. We went to the Cloisters because we had not been there before, but I was going with the express purpose of seeing if the K-01 had the stuff. In the quietness of home I had noted the soft sound of the shutter, which made the screwdrive AF seem even louder and more obtrusive than before. But here is a quiet public space where people are walking around quietly and having hushed conversations. Did the K-01 draw attention to itself? In a word, no. With the DA21, DA40, and DA70 the AF always focused quickly, and I was able to take photos without drawing attention. The DA35 F2.8 Macro too longer, which bothered me more than anything. But that's the nature of that lens, not the camera.

This was shot with the DA40, ISO400, AutoWB. This is a sample of in-camera HDR. I've tweaked the contrast a bit in LR, but otherwise this is pretty close to what came out of the camera. Focus is off a bit here in the 100% crop, on the back wall instead of the couple on the bench. Hard to say whether this is camera or user error as I was working quickly to capture the moment before it fleeted away. The slight blur could be from the fact that this is a handheld HDR. That and the fact that I've been drinking a lot of coffee lately.


Corning Glass Museum, Corning NY

Winter is...bringing long-forgotten photos into the light...


Bragging Rights - Who's Got the Smallest Pancake?

Until the release of Panasonic's diminutive 14mm F2.5, Pentax's DA40mm F2.8 was the undisputed Mini-me of the camera world. I've got both and finally got round to showing how they stack up...

Bragging rights - who's got the smallest pancake? Bragging rights - who's got the smallest pancake? Bragging rights - who's got the smallest pancake?

My findings:

  • They are nearly the same depth. The Panasonic lens extends farther from the lens mount while the Pentax lens extends farther into the camera body
  • The Panasonic is smaller in diameter
  • The Panasonic is lighter. It's a well-built plastic lens. No distance scale and electronic AF.
  • The Pentax is better built. It's an all-metal jewel befitting the "Limited" title. It has a distance scale (no DOF markings) and mechanical AF, but the AF ring is ridiculously narrow.
  • The Panasonic IQ is nice but the Pentax IQ is nicer.

This isn't really an apples-to-apples comparison, as the Panasonic is 28mm equivalent focal length while the Pentax is 60mm equivalent focal length. But as I said from the start, this is pancake-to-pancake!


Panasonic GH2 vs Pentax K20d vs. Pentax K-x

Panasonic GH2 vs Pentax K20d vs. Pentax K-x
GH2 with 20 F1.7 @ ISO800, F1.7, 1/60
K20d with DA40 F2.8 Limited @ ISO800, F2.8, 1/20
K-x with DA35 F2.8 Macro Limited @ ISO800, F2.8, 1/25

A new M43 vs an old APS-C vs an entry-level APS-C. Can you tell which is which?


Old school. New school.

A little throwback today. To the right is the camera that was basically my photography high school and college, the venerable Pentax MX mated to an equally venerable M50/F1.7. Fully manual. I made plenty of mistakes with this little bugger and learned a lot because of it. I also took a lot of shots that I now cherish.

To the left, the Panasonic GH2 fitted with a Pentax DA40 F2.8 Limited via a Fotodiox adapter. No mirror, but a lot more electronics and much bigger battery to boot. Interesting that they are roughly the same size, the GH2 a bit chunkier in feel and the MX a solid lump of metal.

Haptically speaking, the MX has this wonderful mechanical feel and elegant simplicity. I don't have the owner's manual but I can imagine it being less than 10 pages with one page per movable part!

The GH2 confounded me at first with the surfeit of buttons and controls. But I'm getting the hang of it, tapping into 10% of its capabilities with a twitch of my right thumb. I can't see myself ever using many of the automated features though. At the end of the day there are just a handful of variables - the size of the hole, the speed of the curtain, the racking of the glass, and the amp of the sensor. I could live with a camera that gave me nothing more than direct control of those four things. Come to think of it, that's the camera on the right!

Panasonic GH2 with Pentax DA40 F2.8 Limited (via Fotodiox adapter) vs. Pentax MX with M50/F1.7


Panasonic GH2 20mm F1.7 vs. Pentax K-x 40mm F2.8 Limited

Another view of these two cameras to illustrate their relative size. The GH2 is definitely smaller than the K-x, but I'm waffling on whether or not the size difference is a big deal. Yes, I can stuff the GH2 into an oversized winter coat pocket, but you then have a giant lump in your pocket that feels awkward and may make you look disfigured. You know, "Is that a GH2 in your pocket or are you happy to see me?"... At the end of the day, they both are best borne in a bag.

Please note a couple of things. One, the camera and lens combination on the right are just about the smallest APS-C dSLR package available right now. Two, the camera body on the left is just about the largest M43 body available right now. So we are in effect talking about the two extremes of either class.

Also, I can't really comment on the zoom sizes because I don't have comparable lenses for each camera. For the Panasonic I have the 14-140 variable aperture 10x zoom. It's marginally smaller than the Pentax DA* 16-50 F2.8, but it's much slower. And the Pentax is much faster but less zoomier. So it's apples to oranges. What would be more fair is an APS-C 28-200 super zoom, which I don't have right now.

Finally, take a look at how far the viewfinder on the GH2 extends beyond the back of the camera. It's an interesting design decision - to help prevent schnozes from gooping up the back of the camera. It clearly inhibits pocketability, but helps usability. It's also an indication of how important Panasonic's designers thought the EVF was to the usability of the camera. From discussion that I've read on message boards, the use of an EVF vs and OVF is one of those divisive issues - people either love it or hate it. Maybe they've read the message boards as well and doing all that they can to make EVF acceptable to those enamored with OVF. I'll continue to share my thoughts on this key part of the GH2 in future posts.


Mirror, mirror, on the wall...

I've been shooting with the Panasonic Lumix GH2 for the last week or so. It's been an interesting experience to say the least, and has started me thinking about the future of mirrorless cameras. Can they eventually usurp the dSLR?

Watch this space. Over the next few weeks I'll be sharing my thoughts on the camera. But this won't be a brick wall and test charts kind of evaluation. This is about taking photos and finding the right tool to do so.

Pictured here is the Panasonic GH2 20mm F1.7 and Pentax K-x 40mm F2.8 Limited. The Pentax is currently one of the smallest dSLRs, made smaller still with the DA40 F2.8 Limited lens, the smallest pancake in Pentax's arsenal. Together they make a potent street and available light package - focus is fast, the shutter equally responsive (4.7 FPS), and you can take good clear images at 3200ISO, 6400ISO in a pinch. Built-in Image Stabilization adds a stop or two to boot.

Smaller still is the Panasonic GH2 when paired with the 20m F1.7 lens. Is it a lot smaller? No? Is the difference big enough to make a difference? Yes. I can, for example, stuff the GH2 in an oversized coat pocket or the slash pocket of a messenger bag. The K-x is just a hair too big for either. The Panasonic is shaping up to be a potent street and available light package as well. The contrast AF feels just as fast as the K-x, as does the FPS. ISO1600 seems to be at the camera's limits; ISO3200 is only for desperation, ISO6400 more or less unusable, and ISO12,800 is purely for Panasonic's marketing department to put in brochures.

So when you look at the numbers, it ends up pretty close. The K-x gains a stop with higher ISO. The GH2 gets it back with the faster lens (ignore for now the difference between effective focal lengths - they're both normals, even if they are at opposite ends of the range). The K-x gains a stop or two with built-in image stabilization. But the GH2 has a focus assist lamp to help with low light AF and what is the best MF assist that I've tried. A press of the rear wheel give you a magnified view in either the rear screen or electronic viewfinder. You can then MF perfectly. Another press gets you back to normal magnification. Simple. Brilliant.

The Panasonic is a much more expensive camera of course - Google Shopping puts the GH2 with the 20 F1.7 at around $1300 while the K-x plus DA40 F2.8 Limited is about $900. That extra cost does get you extra features, including a nice flip-twist rear screen and benchmark 1080p dSLR video. The K-x on the other hand has a poor implementation of Live View and ok but not great 720p 25fps video. One step up is the K-r, which improves on the K-x's AF and some other features but has a similarly-performing sensor.

But enough about price. The knock against M43 cameras up to now has been that they simply can't perform as well as a dSLR - APS-C or Full Frame. I'll be looking at that closely in the next weeks, and hope to answer the question - is M43 ready for prime time?