10.11.2019

My Review of the Pentax HD-DFA 28-105mm f3.5-5.6 Zoom Lens.

Full frame. See 100% detail crop just below...

After looking over a fair number of images from the 28-105mm Pentax lens, when used in tandem with the K-1 body, I've come to the conclusion that it's really good lens and if you decide to embrace Pentax's vision of a full frame camera system this might be the lens to buy. It's not the fastest of the Pentax full frame zooms being offered but it does have the most usable focal length range and it doesn't mind being used wide open, at its maximum apertures. 

Let's start with a physical description of the lens: It's small for a lens that cover the 24-36mm film gate but it feels dense, and heavier than expected, when you pick it up. It does not have an external aperture ring so you'll always be using one of the camera controls to set your f-stop. The filter ring at the front of the lens is 62mm and the supplied cap is the pinch type and it's made of thick plastic; not thin or chintzy stuff. The lens is supplied with a cloth pouch and a petal-type lens hood  that can be reversed onto the front of the lens for transportation. Please don't be a dweeb and shoot with the lens hood reversed. It just doesn't make any sense at all. If you are too lazy to use the lens hood you should just throw it away. Anything else looks lame.

There is a small, almost vestigial focusing ring positioned closest to the the back end of the lens (the camera side) and I can't imagine wanting to use it instead of the AF in one of the K series cameras. The front ring is a very long (from front to back of the lens) zoom ring which has a nice rubber grip. Focal lengths are marked on the grip at 28,35, 50, 70, 90 and 105mm. 

In deciphering the lens description from the lens barrel markings the "HD" stands for high definition and means that the lens was constructed and coated to work with high resolution digital sensors. The D-FA means it's a digital lens that covers the full 24x36mm frame. ED connotes the use of extra low dispersion glass in the optical construction while "WR" means that the lens has been made weather resistant with the application of gasketing. Finally, the lens is "DC" which means it has built in motors and doesn't depend on noisy "screw-driver" mechanical connections to the camera in order to focus.

The lens features a nine bladed, rounded aperture which generally means better bokeh, and I have found this to be the case at nearly every focal length and focusing distance. The lens weighs in at 1.33 pounds and has an optical construction of 15 elements in 11 groups. Included are two precision aspherical elements, an ED element and an anomalous dispersion element. A bit more sophisticated than a typical "kit" lens, for sure. 

I've been shooting with it in low light situations and also in bright sunlight (trying to achieve maximum performance with the lowest ISOs) and have been able to rely on the maximum apertures to delivery good to great performance (best at the wider angles but still good at the long end). I've had very little flare even in flare prone shooting situations and when I stop down one stop the performance of the lens equals that of my 24-105mm f4.0 Panasonic Lumix lens at the same f-stops; and that lens is nearly three times the price of the Lumix. The only real advantage of the Lumix lens over the Pentax is the constant aperture and a closer minimum focusing distance. 

The Pentax 28-105mm trombones (extends) as you zoom but the focusing is internal. Even fully extended, at 105mm, the barrel and extensions are tight and not at all anxiety provoking. The lens inspires confidence because it feels "right" mechanically. 

I selected this lens over the available Pentax 24-70mm f2.8 because I value the focal length range of the 28-105 more than I do the extra stop at the middle of the range or the extra two stops at the longest end. If I need shallower depth of field at the 100-105mm range I have the Pentax 100mm macro lens which is an f f2.8 and which is nicely sharp and contrasty even when used wide open. The 28-105 is just a great walking around lens for 90% of the imaging most people would do. By adding the 50mm f1.4 FA and the longer 100mm macro along with the zoom I feel like there's not a lot of general photography I can't cover well. Additionally, the K-1, at 36 megapixels, gives me room to crop and fine tune. 

The camera and lens work in concert with the camera applying lens corrections to Jpeg files and writing the corrections into the raw files. The camera is making some obvious corrects to lens geometry but once made they are largely unnoticeable and I'd rather have the camera correcting them than spend time doing it myself. Of course, I would prefer a lens that didn't require computational (my new buzz phrase) corrections but I'll gladly trade that compromise for a lens that is nicely sharp, contrasty, has great color and is fun and easy to carry around. And that's the 28-105. I'd buy it again as long as my intention was to use it with a Pentax K-1 or K-1 mk2 body. More samples below: 
100% crop from the image above the written review.











It's a smartphone world and we're now elitists photographers of the first order....



It's fun to get out of town, travel, and see how stuff gets done in public in other cities/countries. Since college students are back in school, and young families have finished with their vacations and are back at school and work, the travel scene in early October looks to be a bit.... gray. Almost geriatric. Especially in a city like Montreal which appeals to people who like to see old stuff. Which isn't all bad since the people around you at tourist sites aren't generally getting blind drunk, screaming at the top of their lungs, diving off rooftops or whining for juice boxes and attention. The crowds we encountered in Montreal; from museums to historic plazas, were mostly comprised of tourists over 50 years old and moving slowly.

In one way this seemed to tilt my usual nearly subconscious, but always running, "camera count" a bit further toward "many DSLRs" and away from "completely overrun by smartphone cameras." Up to a point the older the male person in the crowd was the more likely he was to sport at least one DSLR or mirrorless, interchangeable lens camera. Habit? Training? Taste? Or a discomfort with the operational feel of using a smartphone for a primary camera? I'm going to guess that it's a liberal helping of all four factors.

Women over 50 in the crowd seemed equally likely to be sporting either a phone or a traditional camera, and sometimes both. One with which to shoot for posterity and the other for immediate visual communication with family, via Facebook, et al.

I've got to say though that there were a few times when I tried to get a perfect shot with my traditional DSLR camera, got frustrated because of things like a contrast range wider than the Grand Canyon, and ended up pulling out my iPhone XR to see if it could do a better job. In cases like dark interiors with vaulted ceilings the phone won; hands down. Why? Its processor is making calculations so quickly that it seems to be pulling some exposure components for the shadows and some to control for highlight burnout. It's creating images that are almost like HDR without even being set to HDR. That, and the fact that the image stabilization in the phone is phenomenal. There is some computational magic going on in the newest phones that allows them to punch far beyond their weight and into "Wow!" territory.

With a big exterior shot with lots of detail, the full frame, 36 megapixel camera was a clear winner. And the look of the files was......visually sexier.

It's true that the iPhones and decent Android phones have more or less taken the place of point and shoot cameras (with the exception of Belinda and her G15) and they've done so for the same reason that mirrorless cameras are becoming more and more popular = the user can see exactly what they will be getting when they make the exposure by looking at the rear screen. It's an image that has all the settings baked in and set. All the user needs to do is like the image and actuate the "shutter." Chances are the final result will match their pre-chimped image very closely. And that's a comforting thing. Pre-shot-previewing is faster and more sure than the old way of praying you'd get a shot right, reviewing it after the fact and then hoping you'd get another chance to do better. Added to this is the fact that the screens on the newer phones are bigger, brighter and much more detailed than the cameras most user are transitioning from.

We'll keep shooting traditional gear for most stuff but...the writing on the wall is becoming clearer all the time. When sensors in phones get bigger it's armageddon for traditional camera makers.... At least for the use case of travel and tourism. I know, I know, you're the one guy out of a million who shoots sports and can't work without a 1200mm lens on a full frame body that shoots at least 10 (mechanical) frames per second. You'll have to wait for the next generation of phones....

The man in the center was both tour guide and the person who would quickly take each person's cell phone, line up a shot with the phone's owner in front of a cathedral and snap a few shots. 
He is doing it factory style, grabbing for a new "camera" with his right hand while handing back the "camera" just used. It's efficient; I'll give him that...

one of each.


And we complain that cameras are too big?


My favorite photography location in Montreal. Of course it would encompass food and (unrecorded) coffee.


There is a food market in Montreal that I found to be very much fun to visit, look at, photograph and play in. We took the Metro to the Jean-Talon stop on Tuesday morning, then walked a few blocks more to find the outdoor market. As the weather was still in the 50's and the day was sunny and nice, there were no winter walls up, no space heaters, no big coats to lug around. The whole market was wide open, breezy and top lit by hard daylight diffused through the white tent tops. As I understand it, the market at Jean-Talon is the biggest (and nicest) open air market in the city. Regular people flock here to buy the freshest produce, specialty foods, and things like maple syrup candies. The place is spotless, welcoming and a wonderful riot of color. 

We got to the market around 9:30 in the morning and started walking slowly through row after row of produce, flowers, and cheeses. I was hesitant at first to just snap away with my camera so I slid into my picture taking slowly to gauge how welcome or unwelcome it would be. In the markets in San Antonio there are even signs at vendor stalls attempting to forbid photography. It was definitely not the case in Montreal, at Jean Talon. I felt welcome everywhere. Especially so if I took the time to greet the vendor and smile. We struck up conversations with a young man who grew up in Calgary and suggested a car trip from Calgary through the mountains to Vancouver (sounds great). Belinda chatted for a while in Spanish with a vendor who moved to Canada from Guatemala about 20 years ago. He gave us hot peppers to take home (coals to Newcastle?). We spoke to a women who came from the south of France to follow her fiancé. They're moving back to France after he gets his degree... We spoke to the shopkeeper who made me one of the finest cappuccinos I've ever had. The conversation was universal; all about how friends change and vanish after they get married and have kids.

Each person we engaged with gave us samples, told us stories and suggested interesting places to see. I should have taken notes so I'd be prepared on our next trip back.

My camera and lens choice of the day was predictable: the only camera I brought was a Pentax K-1 (no back-up!!!!!) and I had a choice of only two lenses. I brought the 28-105mm for the day and it was beyond perfect. I'm just getting a handle on how sharp and snappy that zoom lens is. It's one of the best performing standard zooms I've used. I can see that the camera is making some big corrections for distortion and vignetting but with a 36 megapixel sensor there's a lot of information available to manipulate and I haven't seen a downside to the "computational" correction of the lens's few faults. 

Everything in this post was done with that lens. From close ups to more distant shots, it just flat out works. After spending the two previous days with this particular camera in my hands I find I've gotten used to it much more quickly than I anticipated. Pentax offers some weird controls and weird features but you don't have to use them. You can use the camera in the most straightforward fashion and never get bogged down with menus.

I actually gave up being a control freak for a while and used a mode setting that's marked, "TAV." It's essentially the same as having Auto-ISO in manual mode. You set the aperture you want and the shutter speed you think is best and the camera attempts to change the ISO to provide correct exposures. It's fun and mostly accurate but I often find myself wanting images that are darker than normal so I can mess with them without them breaking down in post production.

So, without further ado, here is my small gallery of initial takes from the Jean-Talon market. 











Belinda achieves mastery of the Canon G15. I tried to get her to 
take along the Fuji X-E3 and the 18-55mm but she says, 

It's too big.

10.10.2019

Photograph of a happy person standing on St. Paul St. in Montreal. Soaking up some cool weather before returning to the Texas Heat Wave. Yes, we love the 50mm lenses.

B.Y.

We're back from vacation and too relaxed. But my camera and lens choices were right on the money and perfect for the kind of casual photography we were both doing....

I went "old school" and took only a Pentax K-1 and two lenses. 
The lenses were the 50mm f1.4 and the 28-105mm.
I brought 4 batteries. I used one.... (but recharged it one evening).

It was time to take a vacation. You know it's time when your friends and even some of your creative partners start hinting that you need to take a break. Belinda and I had always wanted to see Montreal and we were getting tired of the endless heat wave here in Austin so we made that our destination for this last week's vacation. It wasn't a long one like those crafty Europeans are able to take but it wasn't one of those American Executive vacations spent checking work e-mails, texts and phone messages around the clock either. We took our phones but mostly used mine to check out restaurant reviews and to see what time museums opened or closed. We did not bring along iPads or laptops. Our whole plan was to leave work behind for a while and just learn about some place new. 

I wrote too much before leaving about my deliberations over which camera (or camera system) to bring along. I shouldn't have bothered to think about it since any of the cameras I own would have done absolutely fine. But I will say that going "old school" with the Pentax K1, a traditional 50mm f1.4 and a flexible, but not fancy, variable aperture, standard zoom felt just right. I was really happy with the way it worked and the way it felt as I walked around. Funny thing I was thinking about while watching other tourists shooting in the squares, churches and museums; there were some people using mirrorless cameras of various brands the bodies of which were much smaller and lighter than my K-1, BUT the folks attached to these cameras were many times dragging bags around with a whole selection of professional quality lenses, which added easily five times the weight of my "one camera/one lens" approach. 

I hewed to a simple plan; if we were going to be outdoors all day long I'd grab the zoom lens and use it for everything, leaving the 50mm in the room. Without a second lens there was no need for a camera bag and no attachment to the idea of just bringing along a few accessories. If we were heading out to see museums, churches, or evening stuff I'd take the 50mm and leave the zoom in the room. If stuff didn't fit in the pockets of my jacket it didn't go out with us. The benefit, at least to me, is that my brain adapts to the limitations at hand and starts looking for equipment appropriate subject matter. 

Belinda tends to be camera resistant, personally, but I thought she might want to take some photographs along the way so I did think long and hard about the best camera for her. She is smaller and has small hands. She hates to carry stuff around. She's a professional art director who works with photograph on a continual basis at work but has less interest in doing photography as her primary mode of creative expression. I finally offered up a Canon G15 point and shoot which she decided was a really good travel camera. She shot around 150 images with the Canon and was still working on the first battery when we headed back home. The one thing that was a bit disconcerting for her was the realization that the G15's finder showed only about 80% of the image instead of the 100% she could see on the back screen. Being a picky art director that realization marked the last time she used the finder, depending instead on the dirty baby diaper hold for the rest of the trip (that's the method of holding in which the camera operator holds the camera out in front of themselves with both hands. Far from the face. Like you might hold a really smelly baby diaper).... I did not offer criticism or commentary of her technique (and this may be why I have been successfully married for 34 years and counting). 

So, all this talk of cameras aside, how did we like Montreal, Canada? OMG. The first thing that stood out to both Belinda and me was how wonderfully kind, patient and helpful the Canadians we encountered were. We come from Austin, Texas which, in the USA at any rate, is considered to have some of the nicest and warmest people in the country. No comparison to the people we interfaced with in Montreal. They have us beat by about 50% when it comes to calm, quiet, niceness. And, NO, being nice or kind is not a weakness.

My favorite interaction was in the Metro. We decided it would be most efficient and cost effective to buy three day Metro passes so we found a Metro stop and went looking for them. We asked at a staffed kiosk and the man inside pointed out a machine over to one side of the station. We could get Metro passes there with our credit cards but the kiosks only took cash. We decided to use the machine. We were tentative. It's new to us. Seeing our momentary hesitation the Metro employee left his enclosure and came over to walk us through the process. He answered all our questions and then showed us exactly how to use the cards. After which he welcomed us to Montreal warmly and sped us on our way. He could not have been nicer. I've bought subway passes in NYC, London, Paris, Rome and several other big cities and in many of these location the goal of the people manning the subterranean booths seems to be to provide maximum discomfort to their victims/customers. Not so in Canada. Five more minutes and I felt like our Metro guy might invite us to his house for lunch. But in a nice way. Not a creepy way....

We stayed in a wonderful hotel in the old town. It's a great and very touristic neighborhood. If you fear using your camera to take street photographs you might want to head here to practice since the people in the crowds are all taking photographs of each other, of all the fabulous, old building facades, the other tourists and much more. In some crowded squares, such as in front of the cathedral in the old town, it's a veritable sea of Canon and Nikon DSLRs; many with pricy, professional lenses. While there were many more standard  DSLR-style cameras than I've seen recently in Austin or San Antonio there was the usual mass of cellphones working overtime as cameras, as well as iPads of all sizes being held up in the air, perpendicular to the ground, taking photographs and video. If you have any hesitation about using your camera to photograph strangers just know that the old town in Montreal is the perfect, non-confrontational, starter zone for nascent street photographer aspirants.

We loved the weather. It was in the mid- 40's to upper 50's each day and we only had rain (sporadically) on one day. That counts as perfect weather for two Texans coming from a hundred day run of hundred degree temperatures. 

I'll have a lot more to say in the days to come but I wanted to end by mentioning that we had a most auspicious start to our stay in Montreal when we checked into our suite at L Hotel Montreal. The hotel was started by Georges Marciano (fashion designer) and every room in the hotel is filled with beautiful, mostly modern, art. Actual art. Not reproductions but real Andy Warhols, real Robert Indianas and so much more. 

On the wardrobe in our bedroom there was a photograph of Audrey Hepburn. It was so welcoming and lovely. I just had to photograph it. 

Downsides to the trip? Problems to overcome? Obstacles? None. Just none. Ready for a break from the local madness? Head to Montreal. If it's cold go to my favorite new coffee shop. I'll start with that tomorrow.
We're back!

10.04.2019

Point taken. No more politics on the blog (unless someone declares martial law...). More MTF and less WTF.


I hear you. I'll keep the politics off the blog.

All packed up and ready to head off on vacation. When I return we should have some information for you about the Sigma 45mm f2.8 lens used on the Panasonic Lumix S1, a first look at the Log upgrade to the same camera (4:2:2 10 bit 60p) and a review about two small tripods.

I'm leaving all my computer stuff at home so Studio Dog can keep in touch with me while I'm gone. She'll have her paws full supervising young Ben Tuck for the week. Since I'm only taking an iPhone for comms I won't be torturing myself trying to write anything for the blog on the tiny, tiny keyboard. Any brilliant ideas I come up with will have to wait.

This will be the first trip I've taken in a long time during which I'll be able to travel with only carry-on luggage. All the flights I took last year for clients required checking in lighting equipment and other support equipment in a large Manfrotto case (or two). How deliciously purging...

Belinda is warming up to the idea of actually carrying a camera along with her to Montreal but it's not one that will be very exciting to most readers here; she's taking a Canon G15. Fits in her small bag.

I'm taking one camera and two lenses. The camera is a Pentax K-1 and the two lenses are the 50mm f1.4 and the 28-105mm zoom. Oh, yeah. And some extra batteries.

We'll argue about my camera choice when I get back.

Finally, I want to thank the VSL reader who volunteered to drive up from central New York state to Montreal in order to pick us up at the airport and drive us to our hotel. I think he was kidding but I'm not 100% sure. I do appreciate the thought...

Hope everyone in Austin has fun (and stays safe) at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, and everyone else has a great week making photographs and video someplace quieter. I'm pretty sure I can hear Guns and Roses from the park right now....

Adios Mi Amigos.

I know all of you probably want a Pentax K1 so here's a link to one at Amazon:



10.03.2019

Another black and white comparison. I just had to see which one I liked better.

In this case I prefer the color. I like the skin tone. It's got just the right amount of "eeriness" 


From our photographic coverage of the "Dracula" play at Zach Theatre. 

I was tooling around with a Lumix S1 this morning. I wanted to see how it "felt" with a Sigma 45mm lens on the front of it.

Sweaty and hot as Austin continues to set new weather records with temperatures 
nudging 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the first week of October...

I've had a Panasonic Lumix S1 sitting around the studio since the last week of September. It makes really nice photographs but the camera body is really heavy compared to just about every other mirrorless, full frame camera out on the market right now. Maybe not as heavy as something like a Nikon D5 or a Canon 1DX, or even a Nikon 850 but.... heavy enough. I compounded the size and weight issues by adding the  Lumix 24-105mm f4.0 lens to the mix when I acquired the camera, which follows the current full frame lens trend of being... bigger. And heavier. 

After using the camera in tandem with several other brands of cameras I'd pretty much decided that while it's a great "work" camera it might not be my first choice (or even my second choice) as a travel camera. With the zoom lens attached it would make walking around shooting in urban settings more of a burden than a blessing. Not quite as bad as spending the day with a Fuji GFX 100 + lens over one shoulder but close, very close. 

Belinda and I are leaving for Montreal on Saturday to have a little vacation, get ourselves out of the relentless heat, and to avoid the additional 100,000+ people who are coming into Austin for the Austin City Limits Music Festival, which starts this Friday (Good Lord, what is wrong with people that they'll spend hundreds of dollars for a ticket to sit on the hard dirt and open sun in 100+ degree heat, inside a chain link fence, to hear bands play their music over giant speakers in the least acoustically pleasant environment one could think of? And to pay outrageous prices for water and food into the bargain? Just stream the music on your phone and get a decent pair of headphones --- cheaper, more comfortable and better sounding).  Sorry, a person prejudice against large, outdoor concerts...

Back on the subject: 
On trips where I don't have to come home with salable images I actually have more of an issue deciding which cameras and lenses to drag along with me. "It's a vacation." I tell myself, and then I get into an argument with myself over why I need to take along something more than an iPhone. It's crazy to feel like I have to nail every shot, especially when we're mostly just going to do touristy stuff. 

When we first discussed going on a trip I immediately thought I'd be happy taking along a Fuji X-Pro2 and maybe the 23mm f1.4 and the 56mm f1.2. After thinking about it for a while it evolved into the two lenses and an X-H1 (for the image stabilization). Then I went on a little shooting spree with the Pentax K1 and bounced around the idea of the K-1 plus the 28-105 zoom lens. The body has great I.S. and the lens is more than decent. I still like the idea but that shutter is a bit loud and I might really miss the EVF-ism of the other cameras. Then I found myself messing around with the Lumix S1 and got all excited about the (absolutely killer) EVF and the amazing image stabilization and started thinking about taking it and the zoom. But the bulk of the zoom and the body together dissuaded me...

In passing, one of my photographer friends mentioned to me that Sigma (a signatory to the L-mount consortium) was putting out interesting, and quite good, lenses for the L-mount cameras. In particular he suggested I check out the small, light and gorgeously designed 45mm f2.8 L mount lens. It's certainly not the fastest option but it sure is an interesting one.

It's a  near normal focal length lens that's designed to have great character when it comes to the rendering of out-of-focus areas when used wide open and, when stopped down just one stop from wide open, it's supposed to have high sharpness and otherwise desirable imaging characteristics. The lens is built mostly from metal, has its own external aperture ring(!) and comes with a metal lens hood. The current price is $550 and I should mention that it's also available in the Sony E mount.

The lens is designed with eight elements in seven groups and includes two aspherical elements in its design. It's nicely light and compact and dramatically reduces the overall profile of the Lumix camera package.

I need to shoot some more images with the combination of the S1 + the 45mm this afternoon in order to convince myself but the camera and this one lens are my current leading contenders to make it onto the Montreal trip with me and Belinda. I'll stick a 128 GB V90 card in the #2 slot, set the camera to large, fine Jpegs and try to disconnect from being too technically involved.

In other news I'm finding that the Fuji X-H1 is highly competitive with the Lumix camera when it comes to shooting video. A quick test shows me that I'm happier with the Eterna profile in the Fuji than either the Flat or Cine-D profiles in the Lumix. When I get back from Montreal I'll load up the Log functionality in the S1 and do a direct comparison against the Fuji F-Log (that comes free in the X-H1) and we'll see who is really the boss of 4K video.

Currently packing for the trip. The goal is to get everything I'm taking into one smallish, lightweight carry-on. I'm going back and forth about which shoes to take. Hopefully the cameras will get sorted out after a bit more experimentation with the S1+45mm. I may give up entirely and just take my new-ish iPhone....

A final note for today: If the political environment gets any more crazy here, with a full-on dictatorship blossoming as we speak, we may just stay in Montreal and send for Studio Dog. Just sayin.