I just adore the "first impressions" reviews on the big gear site. They tell me almost as much about a new camera or lens as the public relations press release that the camera maker sends out to everyone in the industry. In a "first impressions" review I can read a synopsis of all the specifications listed in the release and I can look at photographs taken of the gear by people who are clearly advanced amateur photographers! If I am lucky the "first impressions" reviewer will also include images of various scenes that were taken at a press event hosted by the manufacturer. Mostly, the images are exciting examples of set up, quasi-fashion shoots with (mostly) women in silly outfits who pout and stand around with their chins down, but occasionally there will be a fake sports scene; especially if the camera maker is intent on sending the message that, "Now! For the first time ever!! Our cameras!!! Can focus.... on quickly moving objects!!!! Better!!!!!"
I know that these kinds of photographs must be very good and very well done because I see (basically) the same kinds of photographs on nearly every equipment review blog in the photo-blog-universe. I still smile with fond memories of the jet ski demonstration photos that graced every review at the launch of the Sony A6400..... Amazing work. Amazing camera. And all it really takes to get that kind of promotional coverage is a bit of swag, a few plane tickets and an open bar. Drink up guys. Drink up Kitty.
I know that my reviews are small potatoes by comparison but I thought I'd try something a bit different, maybe lead the pack, and do a "pre-acquisition" review. That's a review of a product that I am either thinking about buying but have not summoned up the energy to actually order, or it's a review of a product that I did order but which has yet to arrive here. In a way, it's more fun than reviewing a product that I've already paid for and have in hand because I can imbue the review with magical thinking about all the ways the product will improve my photography! And it allows me to use more exclamation marks!!!!
I thought I'd start out with an easy one and do a pre-acquisition review for a new lens that I have actually ordered but which will not be here until Friday (at the earliest, if my mailman has anything to do with the delivery....).
The lens is the current 100mm f2.8 Macro WR lens for the Pentax system. I wanted something that was in the portrait focal length but also something that uses autofocus and is reputed to be sharp (but I'll conjecture about that in a few sentences... First some hopeful predictions and impressions of a lens I've never seen or touched in person.
I'm thinking the lens will come with a hood and I'll be neutral about the hood's build quality and fit. Oh, I will have friends who will let me know that they think the hood is a cheaply done piece of shit but I really don't care enough about lens hood, per se, to get all agitated about the quality of this one. I think I can see from various photographs on the web that the front element of this macro lens is recessed enough to make the hood largely vestigial in nature.
We're pretty sure that the lens, having been made exclusively for Pentax cameras, will fit on the front and lock on without any real issues. I do have a can of WD40 standing by in case the fit is a bit problematic. A few sprays of the "miracle lubricant" should ensure that I can get the lens mounted to the body --- I just hope nothing gets sprayed into the open throat of the camera as I do my spraying. If needed.
One thing I am certain of is that the lens will have plenty of bokeh. Probably even an excess of bokeh. I'll test it at every aperture and focal length and try only to shoot in the "sweet spot." And, if the bokeh is less bokeh-ish than I'd like then I can do this trick I like to do and turn the focusing ring on the lens until the background is totally out of focus. Of course, this is a compromise as the foreground generally gets a bit out of focus as well. Such is the nature of making aesthetic choices.
I am already certain that I'll like the color of the lens as it is black and most lenses are, indeed, black. I would have ordered a different color but, sadly, there were very few choices. I'm presuming that this one is very much a neutral black and I think that will work for my purposes.
So, let's talk "performance." Based on 40 years of experience with macro lenses I believe that this one will focus pretty close to the subjects I'll be photographing. I'll go out on a limb and say that it will probably focus closer than my regular 50mm lenses and that a cup of hot, medium roast coffee will probably fill the frame with no problem. I also think, again, based on 40 years of experience, that the lens in question, being an autofocus model, will focus anywhere from life-size to infinity in ten seconds or less.
After using it for a few days I'll probably say something like, "This is one of the sharpest 100mm lenses we've tested." And then I'll search for a caveat or two (also called a "con") to toss in to prove to the rubes that I am not on the take from the camera company and that I am a legitimate reviewer. Something like, "What we were not so fond of was the tendency of this lens to make some of the subjects we chose to photograph look vapid or boring. Even our closet full of cats was less charming than when photographed with some of the 1200mm lenses from Canon and Nikon."
Finally, when I do move from my "pre-acquisition" review of the 100mm f2.8 WR Macro lens from Pentax to my "first impressions" review and then to my "hands-on" review, and then to my full review I can assure you that there will be many advertising links for you to click ,and many small ads peppering the blog in order to try to manipulate you and attempt to drive you to spend lots of money you'd rather not part with to buy a lens that doesn't even fit on the system with which you are currently shooting.
You will respond with a "measured silence" which I will interpret as apathy and I will whine about not getting any comments on my lens reviews. Oh boy, something to look forward on Saturday or Sunday. Yippee. Well, here's hoping Friday is a banner day for deliveries and the the lens delivers all the joy a used, $350 lens can deliver.