Monday, May 25, 2009

Macro Spider Fun

Finally I got a chance to break out the camera and wander around the yard with my macro rig in place. I'm sure I look strange enough to the neighbors - an old fat guy with a big ass camera rooting in the weeds and flower bed taking pictures of stuff so small you can't see it. No matter, it was a fruitful day. I got three or four images I consider "keepers". Here's my favorite - a little spider having a snack in one of my wife's peonies. He was remarkably relaxed for a little while, letting me shoot five or six images of him before he went scuttling down into the flower to finish in peace. Here's another one.

I shot some pictures of some tiny flowers the wife keeps in the garden, and one of them revealed the legs of a white flower spider, so I had to go back and get pictures of her. By then the sky had darkened with clouds, so I had to go with straight flash (instead of the flash/daylight composite above). She's an interesting looking critter, anyway. That flower is less than an inch across; she's maybe half an inch from toetip to toetip. She was very shy, scuttling around to the other side of the flower every time I got too close with my lens. She was probably just upset that I was scaring off her buffet.

Finally, I got a floral image that I was very fond of. It's a close-up of the center of a rose that grows in the garden outside my daughter's room. It's done with daylight and my Vivitar 283, and is extremely sharp at 100% pixel-peeper enlargement. I like the way the shadows fell and the detail visible in the center of the rose. All in all, a day when I can find three or four images that I like is a pretty good day.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

It's Here! The Pentax K7

There are a lot of places you can read all about the K7 - not the least of which is Pentax's Website. I'm not going to do a rundown of the feature list - you can get that everywhere. There are a few things I am very interested in here, and I have some questions...

We got no bump in resolution here. The specs of the sensor seem the same as my 14.6Mpixel K20D. This isn't an extremely disappointing development, as the K20D enlarges just fine, to every size I've tried - 11x17 being the most recent large print. I'm pretty sure it would hold up well at 16x24, too. I am interested in the low light performance of the "redesigned" sensor, however. The K20D does all right, but there's no such thing as performing too well in low light. I might have liked to have seen 20mpixels for more crop-ability, but I'll be happy if they have reduced noise at ISO 3200 to match what the K20D does at 800 or 1600. (At 3200, you'll see some banding in large, dark areas).

The case is the next big story. No more polycarbonate shell - it's magnesium over stainless steel. Can you say rugged? Weather sealed, and noticeably smaller than the K20D, Pentax appears to be returning to the style of the LX - a tank built on a tiny scale. When the Canons and Nikons were growing bigger, the LX was setting the bar for rugged pro gear in a tiny package. Reports say the mirror slap has gotten much quieter. Like Pentax's Limited lenses, this all-metal construction puts the construction quality of the Pentax in a class by itself.

The next feature that I think is important is the speed - specs claim it will put down 40 full resolution jpgs at 5.2 fps - also 14-17 RAW images at the same speed. The K20D isn't anything like that fast. I can't wait to get my hands on that.

Video - can you say 1536x1024@30fps? Holy crap, man! That's some smokin' video. 1280x720, of course. I'm wondering how that would look and sound when combined with audio from my Zoom H2.

There are other things that seem very interesting - dedicated mirror-up mode, the new live-view mode, etc. As I am happy with the K20D, I'm going to sit on my hands a while - perhaps until the first pricedrop from $1299, which should take about three to six months - but I will have one of these things eventually.

Bean Blossoms

Originally uploaded by jstevewhite

I love spring. I love images of flowers - although, oddly enough, I'm less impressed with them in person than in image. In any case, the Daughter brought this green been plant home from school, planted in a small milk carton with the top cut off. It's growing very fast - I need to get it in the ground soon.

I like the colors and the sweeping curves created by the stems and the leaves. I like the lens - in 100% enlargement, you can see a *very tiny* bug inside the bean blossom! I hope it's a good bug, and not a pest.

Fly Away Home

Fly Away Home
Originally uploaded by jstevewhite

I took this picture some time ago in my back yard. The yellow background is my daughter's slide. I believe this was my Pentax-M 100mm f4 Macro lens, handheld. She kept turning her back to me, but this time I got her.

The image is considerably off-color when viewed via Firefox without the color space extension. In Safari, it looks the same way it does in Lightroom - the shell is much more red than it looks in Firefox. I can't say what it looks like in IE, though.

I love shooting bugs - and macro!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pink on Green - More Floral

Pink on Green
Originally uploaded by jstevewhite

This is a photo from my new Pentax 50-135 f2.8 DA* lens. I love the lens already. It could be a little longer at the long end, I think, but the image quality is exceptional. I wandered around in the yard for a bit, shooting this and that. It's no macro lens - minimum focus is on the order of 3 feet or so - but it still does an admirable job of capturing anything from 1:4 on up.

The colors the lens produces are very contrasty and saturated. It focuses nearly silently, although it doesn't seem any faster than the screw drive lenses I have. The bokeh is usually smooth, although its character changes significantly depending on the type of background. Flare is very well controlled - I shot up through the tree limbs at the sun, got a small starburst and otherwise good contrast near the places the sun poked through.

All in all, I think it's well worth the money you spend on it. If you're shooting Pentax, get one!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pentax 50-135mm f2.8 DA*

So I finally broke down and went with the Pentax long zoom after spending months agonizing over the choices. In the forums I have read that many people have had focus problems with the Pentax cameras and both the Sigma and Tamron long/fast zooms (70-210 f2.8). I debated the merits of manual focus vs. autofocus. Finally, I found a very good deal on the 50-135, and the Pentax brand won out.

The win is very well deserved. After just a few tens of pictures, I can tell you without any reservation that the lens I have is ridiculously sharp and contrasty. It focuses much more quietly than the 'screw drive' lenses, but certainly not much faster. Its focus is, however, both more accurate and more sure than any other autofocus lens I own. It's also the sharpest zoom lens I own, even approaching the image quality of my Tamron 180 f2.5. It's definitely as sharp as my old Pentax-M 135 f2.8 (which I shall be selling on ebay soon, as a result).

The inset here should give you some idea of the resolution this thing exhibits. It's visually indistinguishable at 2.8, as well - wide open! The corners are slightly less sharp at 2.8, but by f4, I can't see any visible difference between the center and the corner. I'm sure there's a measurable difference, just not an obviously visible one.

The lens isn't very heavy as such lenses go - certainly nothing like its 70-210 brethren in size or weight. It handles well and fast, and on the APSC-sensor'ed Pentax K20D, it's comparable to the 70-210 type lens on a full-frame camera. It's also weather-sealed to match the K10D/K20D, so you can go out in the rain and shoot pix... I'm not that brave, but it brings me some solace in case I get caught out in the rain.

I like the lens so much, I'm thinking about selling off a bunch of other stuff so I can get the 16-50mm f2.8 sister lens to complete the pair.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Originally uploaded by jstevewhite

There's an ant in the very center of this peony. We've got a bunch of 'em (peonies, not ants) in a small, rock circle in the front yard.

Woot! Got my Sigma 18-50mm f2.8 back from repair. Took 'em a month, but they seem to have done a very good job. It's not quite as contrasty as the 24-60 I sold my cousin, but it's pretty sharp and contrasty enough. It's the first lens I've bought that was targeted specifically at APSC sized sensors - I sure hope that the DSLR Pentax is supposed to release soon isn't a full frame unit!

My lens lineup is nearly complete; I'm only missing a good long zoom and a really long telephoto. I'm considering a pair of old Tamron lenses - the 19AH 70-210 f3.5 is a great long zoom, being only half a stop slower than the 2.8, but a fraction of the price and weight. Macro on the 19AH goes down to something like 2.5:1, also.

The other Tamron lens I'm thinking about picking up is the 500 f8 cat. On my APSC sensor-ed K20D, that should behave like a 750mm! I had one for a while for my film cameras, and it was fun, but not flexible enough. I think on the K20D, with the autoISO feature, it can be much more flexible. I'm pretty sure it will work in AV on the K20D, too. I know those lenses are very sharp. I also have the 1.4x SP teleconverter from Tamron - that would make it behave like a ~1200mm f11... bright sun only, but wow, talk about a 'reach out and touch something' lens!