Aug 052014
 

The best camera in the world! Pentax full frame MZ-3

By Aivaras Sidla

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I decided to write, because of three main reasons:

A)    I really enjoy your site and would like to be a part of creating community rather than only visitor.
B)   I’m big fan of Pentax MZ-3 / MZ-5N cameras, and this article is my “thanks” to Pentax.
C)    As film shooter I want to promote film.

I’ll try to concentrate on user view of camera and lenses of the system and let readers know what could be achieved with it and with various film. Hope this will create more interest to use Pentax film cameras and push people to shoot more film. Sorry to inform, but report will be quite personal, contains too much photos and language will not be fluent.

I’m hobbyist photographer from Lithuania. My photography illness started in 2012. I started to shoot digital and by accident I stumbled into film photography – found unused film camera in my office and decided to try it. Then I hooked on film and I can’t let it down since then. Digital camera is used only about 30%, when there is not enough light for film, or when I’m in the mood for digital.

My history of film cameras started from Pentax MZ-30 (called ZX-30 in US) and after tests and changes of equipment, researches, purchases and sales I found which film camera is closest to perfect for me – Pentax MZ-3. MZ-3 is enthusiast camera close to top of the range in Pentax MZ line. Camera has very specific balance of simplicity and automation and this is main point in selecting it. Pentax tried to get back to traditional camera design but they put some modern features in it. In this article I do mention MZ-5n, part of shots are taken with it. This camera is very close to MZ-3. MZ-3 has higher top shutter speed – 4000 vs. 2000 in MZ-5n, but MZ-5n has 2s slowest shutter speed on dial vs. 1 s in MZ-3. There are none any more differences between those cameras that I know. To me they are the same, MZ-3 has advantage being faster;  I use both of them.

CONTROLS

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MZ-3 has to be used with lenses that have physical aperture rings, aperture is controlled with ring on the lens, and shutter speed is controlled by dial on top. Shutter dial has position “A” for Aperture priority, and with lenses that has “A” on aperture dial, camera can be used in shutter priority, or with both controls on “A” it is fully automatic. Simple as that. Below shutter speed dial is metering control switch – there are options of multi segment metering, center weighted and spot metering.Top left of camera contains exposure compensation dial. Below it is drive selector, with single frame, continuous shooting, timer and several options of bracketing.

Slanted panel, situated below top display contains exposure lock button. Main controls of camera are very intuitive, logically laid, fluent in use and everything could be controlled without taking camera from the eye. Controls of camera are very important issue for me, and MZ-3 has one of most confortable solutions. By the way – I think that creators of todays hot Fuji X-T1 had a good place to get some inspiration for controls.

VIEWFINDER

Viewfinder has 92% coverage with 0.8X magnification, has diopter correction and decent eye point – I wear glasses and that is important for me. There is display of main data in right side of finder with good visibility in good and poor light. Mate screen is suitable for manual focusing even without focus confirmation.

BODY AND DESIGN

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Body is made from plastic and has metal lens mount. I see that some call it flimsy and low quality, but for me it feels solid and reliable. It’s in line to fuji x100, X-E1 cameras that I owned, maybe it has even more solid feel. It weights 410 grams without battery. Body is compact, but with front integral grip and right curvatures in back cover it is very comfortable for my medium size hands.
Camera looks and feels in hand as proper camera should look and feel. Its great. Its traditional but not too old school.

AUTOFOCUS AND MANUAL FOCUS

Autofocus is screw drive, so it’s noisy. It’s quite fast with 43 mm and 50mm lenses and slow with 77mm. It’s quite accurate in normal light, usually confuses in backlight situation. I have no experience with fast AF cameras, so for me AF performance is decent and after using MF cameras, even existence of AF is very good thing.
For manual focusing mate screen is enough, after some practice. Additionally camera has visual (green dot in viewfinder) and sound confirmation.

METERING
As I mentioned previously, camera has 3 types of metering – multi segment, center weighted and spot metering.  I don’t use center weighted metering, so can’t comment on that.  Multi segment metering works good, I use it for less contrast scenes, and hadn’t any issues with it. According to manual it even senses and compensates metering for backlight scenes, but I haven’t tried. Spot metering is great function in this camera; I use it a lot. It’s great that I am able to switch between multi segment metering and spot metering with my eye on viewfinder.

OTHER / SPECIAL FEATURES
Panorama mode – there is a switch close to viewfinder that lets curtains on film in upper and lower sections of view. Then view and picture becomes wide. But is happened at the price of smaller frame – this function is similar to cropping. I use it rarely.
Multi area AF – autofocus can work with single center area (Spot focusing) or 3 points automatic focusing. I use only spot focusing.
DX coding – camera takes DX code from film canister and sets ISO automatically for each film. It prevent from stupid mistake to forget change ISO according to film used. There is option for setting ISO manually.
Auto rewind – camera prepares new film by winding several frames on spool, after loading of new film, winds film after each shot automatically and rewinds it automatically after film roll is finished (I receive strange looks when my camera begins whining when rewinding film).  I like auto film advancing, it lets concentrate on scene and prevent movement of camera which happens when manually advancing film.  Catch in focus feature – when using non AF lenses and dedicated remote cable, camera could be set to shoot automatically when subject comes into focus.  This is convenient in some cases. Build in flash  - used in once, so don’t have experience with it. Data back  - most MZ-3’s comes with data back. Date and time can be printed in each photo. Never used it.

CRITISISM 
There are several aspects that could be better in this camera, but issues are not big. Anyway I prefer to write about them:

Panorama mode – there are 2 problems. First – who needs it? :) Second – more important – if there is backlight in scene, then panorama “curtains” cause bad flare effects. AE lock button – its small, recessed and it hard to find without looking.
There is no mirror lock up feature. I haven’t experienced problems with that, as vibrations are well dampened, but still.

MAIN PROBLEMS
There are several common problems with MZ-3 and MZ-5n:

One is build-in flash spring holder. It breaks and flash doesn’t hold open, It has to be kept raised manually. One of my cameras is experiencing this problem, but for me its not big deal as I don’t use flash. It doesn’t matter when flash is retracted. This problem is easily solved by fixing spring holding pin (with glue).
Second is mirror motor drive gear. Its made from plastic and it breaks eventually. Pentax has solution for that – they produced motor with metal gear and put it MZ-3 limited models and some later models. This motor still can be bought new (approx. 30USD) and could be replaced.

LENS MOUNT
This is where we are coming close to interesting part. Body supports Kaf2, Kaf, Ka, K – mount lenses. Plenty of lenses are available as new or used options. It’s possible to get good quality lenses for reasonable prices or go for top of the range (and quite expensive) Limited’s. More on lenses – later. There is one limiting factor – lenses must have aperture rings, there is no option to control aperture from camera. Worth mentioning Pentax has wide array of legacy lens accessories, providing endless creative possibilities; there are macro add-on lenses for standard lens, macro helicoids, tele converters, even AF adapter that enables AF on some non AF lenses.  I don’t have lots experience here as trying to be as simple as possible. Use only Asahi close up filter Nr. 1 for closer focusing.

To sum all thoughts about camera, the essence not details above, I feel several great things about it:
-       It begs to be used. Starting from look of the camera, feel in the hands, continuing with feel and logic of controls to operational sounds and finishing with results. It inspires to go out (or stay in) and shoot.
-       It disappears when I’m using it. Looks like it’s me and the scene.

LENSES
I shoot with primes most often. My favorite focal length is around 50mm, sometimes I go for short tele range up to 100mm and I’m big fan of shallow depth of field. Pentax provides exiting options in this area and I will go trough those I own and love to use. I like fact, that Pentax managed to keep their prime lenses extremely light, compact and to keep small filter diameter (49mm in this case) – its important for me that all lenses I use has same filter diameter, It helps to save weight and expenditures for filters.

SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F1.4
Good, predictable, balanced standard lens. A little soft wide open (rarely use it at F1.4), reasonably sharp from F2. Smooth bokeh, nine aperture blades provide non distracting highlights. It gives pictures on warm side and has old lens character (and that’s good).
Lens is quite compact, light despite amount of glass used, its made from plastic. Aesthetically this lens sucks with its horrible design and flimsy aperture ring and small manual focus ring, but from compactness side, from picture quality side and from cost side it delivers with excess. Lens is quite cheep both new and used. I would recommend it to 50mm shooter as universal lens. It my first AF 50mm  lens and I use it till this day, but its least used from 50mm lens range as its too much “in the middle”, not too “perfect”, but character is not pronounced enough. Everything about pictures from this lens fits into word “smoth”, therefore I use it when I want same feel in my pictures.

 Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F1.4, Kodak Ektar 100

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 Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F1.4, Fujifilm Superia 200

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Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F1.4, Kodak Portra 400

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Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F1.4, Kodak Portra 160

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Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F1.4, Kodak BW400CN Professional

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 Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F1.4, Kodak Portra 400

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Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F1.4, Kodak BW400CN Professional

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 Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F1.4, Fujifilm Superia 200

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SMC Pentax-FA 43mm F1.9 Limited

This one is special. Special starting from odd focal length – 43mm. I adapted to it and like fact that could include a little bit more of context into pictures.  It’s very compact and light, build quality is top. It’s real pleasure to handle this lens. Lens is sharp from wide open, bokeh is quite smooth, but highlights could be strange and distracting in some cases. Pictures from this lens is more on “modern”, “perfect” side. It’s my most used lens today. No lens is perfect, but excess perfectness in pictures and rare distracting highlights are compensated by feel of quality, sharpness, focal range and compactness of lens.

Pentax MZ-3, SMC Pentax-FA 43mm F1.9, Fujifilm Superia 200

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Pentax MZ-3, SMC Pentax-FA 43mm F1.9, Fujifilm Superia 200

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Pentax MZ-3, SMC Pentax-FA 43mm F1.9, Kodak Portra 160

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Pentax MZ-3, SMC Pentax-FA 43mm F1.9, Fujifilm Superia 400

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Pentax MZ-3, SMC Pentax-FA 43mm F1.9, Fujifilm Superia 200

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 Pentax MZ-3, SMC Pentax-FA 43mm F1.9, Fujifilm Superia 200

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 SMC Pentax-FA 77mm F1.8 Limited

Again, typical to Pentax Limited’s odd focal range. Compact, high quality build, integrated lens hood, sharp, smooth bokeh, warm colors. Only good words for this lens.
It focuses slightly slower than 50mm or 43mm, but I suppose this is related to longer focal range.

Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-FA 77mm F1.8, Fujifilm Superia 200

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Pentax MZ-3, SMC Pentax-FA 77mm F1.8, Fujifilm Superia 200

77 superia naujas

SMC Pentax-F 50mm F1.7 Limited

Latest addition to my lens stable. It’s very special by way how it renders picture and what colors it gives. There are two words that describe pictures from this lens  - surreal and psychedelic. :) I suppose this could be seen in photos. Lens is compact, light, sharp from wide open. Bokeh is… I don’t know how to describe it… its painted maybe? I like handling and physical feel better than FA 50mm F1.4. And its way cheaper in used lens market too. But not everybody would be fond of this lens strongly pronounced character.  Pictures has this “old school” look.

 Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-F 50mm F1.7, Fujifilm Superia 200

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Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-F 50mm F1.7, Fujifilm Superia 200

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Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-F 50mm F1.7, Fujifilm Superia 200

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Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-F 50mm F1.7, Fujifilm Superia 200

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 Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-F 50mm F1.7 + Asahi close up filter Nr.1, Kodak Ektar 100

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Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-F 50mm F1.7, Fujifilm Superia 200

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And… that’s it.

Steve and Brandon – thanks for keeping awesome site and thanks for publishing this article, or even considering (in case it wont be published :)).
Readers – thank you for reading and looking.

More pictures could be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/aiwalit/

More about gear setup I use could be found here (only digital camera has changed): http://www.japancamerahunter.com/2014/02/bag-792-aivaras/

Best regards,

Aivaras

Jun 122014
 

Update on the Pentax K-3 “Mirror-Flop” from Amy Medina

PentaxK32

IMPORTANT UPDATE (as of June 11th, 2014)

Just wanted to come back and fill you all in on what has happened since writing this article.

First, reports have continued to come in on the Forum Post I started on PentaxForums.com… we are up to a total of 114 members of that forum who have encountered the problem, with three people possibly having other more severe problems occurring to their cameras as a result of the mirror-flapping. Reports and all the information are here:
http://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/172-pentax-k-3/254464-k3-crazy-mirror-sickness-mirror-flapping-lockup-report-yours-here.html

More importantly though, as of last week, Pentax is now responding differently to people who report the problem directly to them. This started with someone from Germany reporting that he was told he could send his camera in for repair, specifically for the mirror-flapping problem, and that it would be a software-fix that could only be done at a service center. He sent me copies of his paperwork, which seemed to confirm the issue being addressed was mirror-flapping.

I then contact the rep I’ve been dealing with at Pentax USA who replied and informed me that indeed they were offering a fix now for the crazy mirror-flapping. Though the email is a bit vague in its nature, at least progress. There is no indication as to what the cause is, or what exactly is being fixed/adjusted. The part of evaluation and testing is a bit concerning, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Another member also inquired about a fix for the problem received a similar reply.

Below are copies of the emalis:

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Thanks for the followup. I can confirm that U.S. customers who are experiencing the “mirror-flop” issue (evaluation and testing are still ongoing) with their K-3s will be advised to send their cameras into our main service center in Chandler, AZ for adjustment to help resolve the issue.

Thanks again,

Mark Davis
Product Specialist
RICOH IMAGING AMERICAS CORPORATION

Thank you for contacting RICOH.

We have been informed that there is now a shop adjustment that can be made to help resolve/reduce the reported K-3 “mirror-flop” issue. I recommend you return your camera directly to RICOH Imaging Company at the address listed below for examination.

RICOH Service Department
250 North 54th St.
Chandler, AZ 85226

Apr 152014
 

PentaxK32

Oh Pentax… I tried, I really did.

The Pentax K3 and the Crazy-Acting Mirror Sickness

by Amy Medina

What a frustrating few months it has been. I am going to preface this article by stating this: Pentax really did bend over backwards to try to make me happy, and in the end they did do the right thing for me individually, even if it doesn’t solve the issue (yet) for the many others who may come across it

So it all began back in July. Yes, July. I started having issues with my original K5 and took it to a local retailer for service, being under the silly impression they might be able to fix it there. Their salesman did not tell me otherwise, despite the fact I told him I needed the camera back in a week. Well, Mr. Salesman gave it to Mr. Repairman, not relaying my urgent need for the camera back, and off it went to Pentax without my knowledge.

To keep this long story as short as I can, I’ll spare you all the phone calls and back and forth trying to figure out what was going on with my camera and how much it was going to cost to fix, and who messed up by sending it in the first place (because I could have done that myself)… etc. etc. and fast forward to OCTOBER when I finally got the camera back, not fixed. It was then they finally agreed to fix it for free after all my trouble, and the local Pentax Rep got involved and gave me a K5-II loaner to use. My K5 went back to Pentax.

Then the K3 came out, so I decided to jump in. I was getting a lot more professional work and, though I was frustrated with my recent experience, gave Pentax and my local retailer another chance. The retailer knocked some money off the price of the camera for all my trouble, so I set out to shoot lots of timelapse for my client with my new K3 and my loaner K5-II.

And little did I know, the drama had barely begun.

Almost right away I started having issues with the K3 locking up. In Pentax-Land, we call this “runaway mirror syndrome” or as I like to call it, “Crazy-Acting (or Crazy-Ass) Mirror Sickness” (CAMS). What happens is this: You’re going about your business taking photos or shooting timelapse or whatever, and suddenly, without warning, the mirror goes nuts, starting to slap away rapidly, like a machine gun. The camera goes completely unresponsive when this happens and all you can typically do is pop out the battery to get it to stop. It takes no photos while it’s going nuts either, so whatever shot you were trying to take, well that moment is lost forever. Whatever timelapse you were trying to capture is now lost and interrupted until you stop the camera and get it set back up again to start reshooting.

At first, I obviously thought it was a fluke. Or then maybe it was caused by the weather (it was very cold here). But as time went on, with almost every timelapse shoot I went to, the camera would lock up and go mirror-crazy. I’ve been doing anywhere from one to three of these timelapse shoots per week, so me and the crazy flapping mirror became good friends. And there have been other “silent” lockups too, where the camera just stops shooting and responding.

Having had the contact with the Pentax Rep and Pentax Repair directly now (because of those original K5 problems), I used those contacts to report this problem. And for a long while, I was happy to do testing for them (and for me) to see if we could narrow the problem down. Here’s what I found out.

Crazy-Acting Mirror Sickness (CAMS) of the K3 – A Summary

  • It happens in any temperature, from 10º (F) to 50º (F). So it’s not just in cold weather.
  • It happens in humid (even drippy foggy) weather, as well as dry. Not likely static.
  • It happens indoors and outdoors. So that eliminates most environmental causes.
  • It happens with a multitude of SD cards… different brands and sizes.
  • It happens with a multitude of batteries, from old original K5 batteries to brand spanking new K3 batteries.
  • Pentax even sent me a shiny new NEW battery to try, and it happened with that too.
  • All batteries I’ve used and tried are genuine Pentax ones.
  • I’ve never used third-party batteries, but I’ve heard of others with the issue who have.
  • It happens whether the battery is fully charged, or much more depleted. Doesn’t matter.
  • It happens with all my lenses, not just one.
  • It happens whether you use live-view or not.
  • It happens with one SD card in the camera, or with two.
  • It happens with Shake Reduction on, or with it off.
  • It happens in M (Manual) mode, Av (Aperture Priority Mode) and User Mode.
  • It happened to me shooting timelapse, but reports indicate it happens in all drive modes, including single-shot and continuous shooting.

Another Pentaxian I met online set out to recreate the issue himself, and it happened to him the first day he tried to recreate it. He had the issue crop up with the battery grip. I have never used the battery grip. So it happens with and without.

One user had it happen with the AC Adaptor.

It has happened with all firmware versions, including the latest 1.03.

First part of the video shows a silent lockup. Second half shows the CAMS issue…

 

And worst of all… it happened to me across two K3 bodies.

After all this testing and writing to Pentax Repair about it, they finally told me to exchange the body for a new one. That happened in February. I went to my retailer and he gave me a new K3. That was a Saturday. The following Monday I went to a time-lapse shoot, got half way through the day without a problem (and was feeling optimistic)… and then, just after lunch, this out-of-the-box, new K3 body fell into Crazy-Ass Mirror Sickness.

You can imagine, I wasn’t happy.

Where does that leave me now? Well, very frustrated and disappointed.

Through all of this I’d been communicating with Pentax Repair, who liked to tell me they couldn’t reproduce the issue, which honestly, leaves me asking if they are trying hard enough. It happens to me at nearly every shoot. I know the tech is trying to be helpful when he asks me a lot of questions, but when they are the same questions over and over I get a little irritated. When I send him video of the problem and he tells me “it doesn’t show me anything but your settings” until I tell him to turn up his volume, well you can imagine more than frustration.

And now, my time with the K3 is over. It has been returned in favor of two K5-IIs bodies. So far, with 25,000 shutter actuations on one and 15,000 on the other, I haven’t had any issues. I’ve also bought the Fuji XT1, and since that is time lapse capable, I’ll be testing that out while researching and exploring other options out there as well.

And I will repeat, I am disappointed. Mostly, because I liked the K3 in every other way!

  • Image quality: Outstanding
  • Performance (other than CAMS and random silent lockups): Great
  • High ISO performance: Excellent
  • Autofocus: Much better (more accurate) than original K5
  • Feature-Set: Impressive
  • Size & Weight: Perfect for DSLR
  • Battery Life: Nothing short of amazing
  • Value vs. price: Excellent

but…

  • Service: Very slow.

and…

  • Reliability: Very poor.

… and the end bit, well that’s actually most important when you’re shooting stuff for a paying client.

 

In the end, Pentax is taking care of me. They have let me exchange the K3 out for something else. They fixed that original K5 for me for free because of the retailer’s debacle. They have tried to make me happy. They’ve heard my complaints for months (and to my own credit, have had the benefit of my patient testing for all that time too).

But it makes me sad they haven’t come to a conclusion as to what causes this problem on their flagship DSLR. If they don’t figure it out, it’s possible future bodies will suffer the same problem. If they won’t take the time to reproduce it so they can see what’s happening, it won’t be solved for the other people who run into the issue. I know my shooting is somewhat unique… and because of the weekly timelapse shoots, I run into the issue more regularly, by sheer law of averages. But I’ve heard stories from other Pentaxians who are just shooting regular, typical photography and run into the issue as well. Not good. Not good at all.

Matter of fact, I started a thread at the PentaxForums for people to report the issue, and in a month’s time, it’s accumulated 74 reports of this same issue. And most of those people weren’t shooting timelapse at all.

Other K3 Users Reporting the Issue

I’m not a kid having a tantrum here. My only hope is that Pentax sees this as the serious issue it truly is and decides it’s important enough to track down, address and fix. I’ve actually recommended Pentax cameras directly and indirectly (through reviews) over the years, and have converted several photographers into Pentaxians, amateurs and professionals alike. I want Pentax to be my go-to work camera. And they want me on their side… especially when I’m one of the few who actually likes the K-01. LOL

A great number of you may never run into this issue… and for that I’m glad.

If you don’t shoot time-lapse or weddings/events professionally, journalism or even birds/animals/nature, it’s probably not an issue to worry too much about… at least in the sense that it will cause you wide-spread problems. If you have to depend on it to get specific shots that you cannot “do over”, and if the camera is getting heavy use, then I’d rethink relying on the K3 until this issue is fixed.

The silver lining in all of this is that as much testing as I’ve done to the K3, I’ve also done to the K5-II… and the K5-II has been rock solid. Not a second of trouble in all the same conditions at all the same shoots. No lockups, no mirror gone cray-cray, no corrupt SD cards or files… not one issue at all. The K5-IIs bodies are proving just as reliable so far. At least we know it’s possible for Pentax/Ricoh to produce a dependable, well performing camera. What is frustrating is that their newest model, with all it’s wonderful new features appears not to be that camera.

I didn’t WANT to give up the K3. In every other way I was truly impressed by the camera and the K5-IIs/K5-II is a step backwards. They have tried to help me, but the exchange isn’t a solution to the problem, only a solution to my predicament at the moment. If it is never fixed, does that mean we’ll all have to worry about the same issue coming up again in their next model? At this point, I’d say that is likely, and that is quite unfortunate.

Below I will share some of the photos I’ve taken for my own enjoyment in the time I’ve owned the K3, and timelapse videos for you to see. I hope you enjoy them. If you’re a Pentax user who has experienced CAMS, please report it to Pentax, even if it only happened to you once. Don’t be silent. If you haven’t had the issue, I hope you never do… and truly, just go forth and enjoy your Pentax K3. But for this issue, there’s a lot to enjoy there.

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Nov 062013
 

My Budget Strobist Shoot

by Will Db

His website is HERE

I’ve been playing with flashes for a while now, and have been buying bits and bobs from ebay. The kit I have so far includes three Minolta AF4000 flashes (costing about £15 each), generic radio controllers from China (brand name – ‘Nice’! – £15 for a three of them), and a flash stand (I ended up spending more than I would have liked on this as I needed one quickly for a proposed shoot – which ended up being cancelled). I also have a couple of white umbrellas and a honeycomb grid, again cheapies from ebay.

I had put out an advert for a model simply to help me get used to using this kit, and after a while with no response, I was contacted on Thursday night by a model/actor called Tomasz looking for a shoot the following day. He lives in Nottingham and I was struggling to think of a location, but he said he was interested in shooting in some sort of derelict industrial place.

As luck would have it, I had found just such a place a matter of hours before he contacted me! On Thursday evening I had gone for a walk in some woods where I used to spend a lot of time as a child, and found that the old abandoned factories I remembered there had not been demolished, and even better, were easy to get into.

I showed some pictures of the location to Tomasz and he loved tit, and agreed to meet me there the following day.

It turned out he needed to get underwear shots to send out to an agency. Luckily I was so involved in setting up the lights and shot set ups, that I didn’t have time to get embarrassed.

I shot with my K10D and Tamron 17-50, and Pentax F 35-105mm. Generally I used two stobes either side, one above and slightly to the front, one a tad lower and slightly to the back. I also used a Sony NEX and lens turbo adapter and Pentax K 135/2.5 for available light shots

The shoot went very well, and ended up helping Tomasz get signed up to the modelling agency. We actually returned the following week to take some more creative shots with a ‘paint spatter’ theme – something I had never really thought about trying but I loved the results!

Shoot 1.6 Pentax k10D Tamron 17-50

Shoot 2.3 Pentax K10 Tamron 17-50

Shoot 1.4 NEX Lensturbo SMC 135 f2.5

Shoot 2.2 Pentax k10D Tamron 17-50

 

Oct 072013
 

The new Pentax K3 – It means business

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So Today Pentax announced the new K3 DSLR camera and it looks mighty fine if I do say so myself. Back when the K5 was released I loved it as I did the K7. They were a SMALL DSLRs of high quality and felt really good to shoot. The results with the beautiful Pentax Limited primes were as good as anything from Canon or Nikon (in my mind, even better) and now with the K-3 Pentax appears to be back in action with a really serious little powerhouse.

It was just announced today but should start shipping on November 1st. I will be reviewing this one because I feel it offers what most people want in a high-end serious camera, and with those gorgeous new Limited lenses, that are SMALL yet high quality, this could be a serious contender.

What I like? Size, Pro Build, Weather Sealed, 23 MP, up to ISO 51,200, 8FPS, 1/8000 shutter and SELECTABLE AA filter that you can turn on or off. THIS IS AWESOME! Also has in body IS, which is GREAT to have. TWO SD cards can be used which is usually reserved for true PRO bodies. Yep, this K-3 means business.

The K-3 has weather sealing with 92 seals on the body alone.

Read more below in the official press release, and you can pre-order HERE at B&H Photo.

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The Pentax K-3

The Pentax K-3 DSLR Camera is an advanced DSLR featuring a 23.35MP APS-C CMOS sensor and PRIME III image processor to produce high-resolution still imagery and full HD 1080i/p video with high low-light sensitivity to ISO 51200. Full-resolution continuous shooting is supported up to 8.3 fps for 22 consecutive RAW frames, with a top shutter speed of 1/8000 sec., and the SAFOX11 autofocus system utilizes 27 focus points, with 25 cross-type points, to maintain sharp focus in a quick and accurate manner. Benefitting the image quality is a selectable anti-aliasing filter, which can be turned on or off to either garner the highest resolution and sharpness possible or provide enhanced protection against moiré. Additionally, in-camera Shake Reduction image stabilization renders any K-mount lens stabilized and helps to minimize the appearance of camera shake when working with greater shutter speeds or longer focal lengths.

The K-3′s body design incorporates 92 special seals to render it cold, dust, and weather-resistant and the magnesium alloy cover with stainless steel chassis contribute to overall durability and ruggedness. A 0.95x magnification optical pentaprism viewfinder is incorporated into the body as well as a 3.2″ 1,037k-dot LCD monitor for a choice of bright, clear viewing means. Dual SD card slots extend the recording versatility of the camera and FLU memory card support enables wireless image transferring and remote camera control possibilities when in use.

23.35MP APS-C CMOS Sensor and PRIME III Processor

A large 23.35MP APS-C CMOS sensor and PRIME III image processing engine work together to enable high-resolution imaging and full HD video recording with notable low-light sensitivity from ISO 80-51200. The image processor also contributes to a wealth of shooting speed for the camera, including a top full-resolution continuous shooting rate of 8.3 fps for up to 22 consecutive RAW images or 60 JPEGs and a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000 sec. This highly durable, advanced shutter is rated to 200,000 cycles and employs a range of innovative technologies that independently regulate the shutter, mirror, and diaphragm to minimize mirror shock for accurately-render images when shooting at higher frame rates.

Selectable Anti-Aliasing Filter

A unique and innovative mechanism allows you to toggle the anti-aliasing filter’s effect either on or off, providing support for both the high-resolution abilities of a filter-less design as well as advanced moiré protection. With the filter in the Off position, the K-3 is more prone to acquiring maximum sharpness, resolution, and detail from an image for the highest attainable image quality. When the filter position is set to On, an anti-aliasing simulator applies microscopic vibrations to the image sensor unit at a sub-pixel level during exposure; working to the same effect as an optical anti-aliasing filter. Having both options available extends the camera’s versatility and allows personalized selection of the benefits best-suited to individual applications.

SAFOX11 Autofocus Module

A redesigned SAFOX11 autofocus module has been integrated into the K-3 and employs 27 focus points in order to deliver a metering range of -3 to +20 EV. 25 of the 27 sensors are cross-type, in order to gain the highest precision while focusing, and three of the sensors are dedicated to low-light performance.

Real Time Scene Analysis Metering

The Real Time Scene Analysis System utilizes an 86,000 pixel RGB light-metering sensor with enhanced metering algorithms to increase the accuracy of exposure metering and white balancing as well as aiding the autofocus system.

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Full HD 1080i/p Video Recording

Full HD 1920 x 1080 video recording is supported in multiple frame rates, including 60i, 50i, 30p, 25p, and 24p, in the high-quality H.264 format. HD 1280 x 720 video is also supported in 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, and 24p frame rates. Audio can be recorded along with video using the built-in stereo microphone or, additionally, a 3.5mm microphone terminal is available for use of an external mic. A headphone port is also incorporated into the camera for real time audio monitoring for precise in-camera manipulation of the audio levels. A dedicated switch permits instant transition from still to movie shooting and an HDMI terminal is integrated into the body’s design for direct HD output to a television or monitor.

In-Camera Shake Reduction

In-camera sensor-shift type Shake Reduction (SR) works to minimize the appearance of camera shake when using any mounted lens. Ideal for working in low-light conditions or with longer lenses, since the image stabilization is located within the body, both past, legacy lenses as well as current Pentax lenses all receive the benefits of SR.

Body Design

Revolving around a durable magnesium alloy body with stainless steel chassis, the K-3 is fully weather and coldproof due to the inclusion of 92 independent seals. These seals protect the camera from water, fog, snow, sand, and dust for ensured performance in a wide range of conditions.

Two SD memory cards slots are incorporated into the body for greater flexibility and potential capacity when shooting and support both overflow and JPEG/RAW file separation. Support is also availed to dedicated 16GB FLU memory cards, which provides wireless connectivity to the camera for remote adjustment over camera settings, remote live view monitoring, and wireless sharing of files. Eye-Fi wireless cards are supported, too.

Also housed within the body is a bright, low-profile glass pentaprism viewfinder with 0.95x magnification and 100% frame coverage. The glass has been treated with an optimized coating to improve brightness and reflectance for clearer viewing. Additionally, optional interchangeable focusing screens can be used depending on personal preference for critical focusing and composing. A 3.2″ 1,037k-dot LCD monitor is available, too, for bright live view monitoring, image playback, and menu navigation and features an anti-reflective (AR) coating and gapless glass design for greater clarity when viewing.

Other Camera Features

When working in live view, an electronic level can be used to help ensure level horizons and plumb verticals.

Multi-pattern white balance recognizes and independently analyzes different lighting sources and types within an image and applies separate white balance adjustments to optimize the overall color reproduction.

Native support is offered for both Pentax PEF and Adobe DNG 14-bit RAW file types. It is also possible to retrieve RAW data from JPEG files if still present in the camera’s buffer memory.

In-camera HDR capture is possible for extending the dynamic range of an image; achieving greater details in the highlights and shadows with an extended range of mid-tones.

A customizable RAW/Fx button provides easy, direct access to some of the most oft-used camera settings.

A built-in pop-up flash is available, with a guide no. of 42.65′ at ISO 100, and supports P-TTL metering. A hot shoe and X-sync terminal are also available for external flash connection.

Multiple exposure shooting is possible in composite mode with additive, average, and bright settings for 2 to 2000 individual exposures.

Interval recording permits up to 2000 individual images to be recorded with 2 sec. to 24 hour delays in between frames.

Custom Image Modes: Bright; Natural; Portrait; Landscape; Vibrant; Radiant; Muted; Bleach Bypass; Reversal Film; Monochrome; Cross Processing; HDR: Auto, HDR1, HDR2, HDR3; Exposure Bracket Value adjustable; and Automatic composition correction function.

Digital Filters: Extract Color, Toy Camera, Retro, High Contrast, Shading, Invert Color, Unicolor Bold, and Bold Monochrome.

Language support: English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Turkish, Greek, Russian, Korean, Chinese (Simplified/Traditional), and Japanese.

Sep 022013
 

The Palouse in Monochrome

A journey into luminance and splendor….

By Ashwin Rao – See his Flickr HERE

Hi my fellow friends, I’m back with an article based on a series of pictures taken during Steve’s most recent workshop in the Palouse, which I assisted in coordinating. (Ashwin did more than assisting and it could not have been done without him! – Steve)

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As you all are discovering from personal experience or from browsing through images of this beautiful place, the Palouse is truly a land of incredible and austere beauty. Filled are vistas of visions of a place lost to time. The Palouse is also known as a land known for its beautiful swaths of color. In the spring, landscapes are painted in blue, gold, and green, while in the fall harvest, it’s amber waves of grain through and through, and gold and blue dominate. In the winter, vast swaths of land gently blanked in snow. Needless to stay, it’s poetic stuff to even the visitor wielding the humblest point and shoot. It’s hard to take a bad picture in the Palouse.

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As I embarked on my second trip to this wonderful place, I began to consider my recent foray into black and white photography and decided to challenge myself by taking in the scenery of the Palouse in black and white. Instead of being able to see in color, I decide to challenge myself to see in light and shadow, white and black….to take the journey in Monochrom…pardon….monochrome.

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Along with me on the trip came 2 very capable cameras: The Leica M Monochrom and Pentax 645D. It was my goal to use the M Monochrom to frame my perspective. This being a camera that literally can only see in black and white, I was immediately forced to see in this manner. The other camera, one that I have written about before on this site, is the marvelous Pentax 645D, the bargain in medium format imaging and a camera that is destined to live on as a cult classic. While the Leica M Monochrom would allow me to shoot in my comfort zone, the Pentax 645D requires a more measured way of shooting, forces one to slow down, and allows one to reach far into the scenery to capture photographic vignettes via the wonderful tool of compressed landscape imagery.

As hsas been my way, I brought along with me several vintage lenses to use with the M Monochrom: The Leitz Super Angulon 21 mm f/3.4, The Leitz 8-element 35 mm f/2, The Leitz 50 mm f/2 Rigid Summicron, the Canon 100 mm f/2 LTM m, and the diminutive yet powerful Canon 135 mm f/3.5 LTM. I will write an article soon on the magical Canon LTM lenses at another time, but needless to say, I was well covered to capture images with the MM. With the Pentax came lenses including the 35 mm A, 75 mm FA, 120 mm FA, 150 mm FA, 200 mm FA, and 400 mm FA lenses…

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I found the challenge of shooting this wonderful land in black and white to be an invigorating one. In general, focusing on black and white photography can recalibrate the photographer, and I really do feel that it has re-calibrated by way of seeing. While in the Palouse, I found that “seeing in black and white” really channeled a sense of nostalgia into my eyes that then seemed to invade my photography. In some ways, I found that the MM and 645D suddenly became a time machine, transporting my must into the 1930’s, allowing me to take in the vistas with a time worn eye…or so I felt as I photographed the region.

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As I have mentioned many times before, using older lenses on the M Monochrom can be a true pleasure. Not only are most of these lenses far more affordable than their modern counterparts, but they often imbue a sense of charm in the way that they “paint” the scene.

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In most instances, I shot the Palouse stopped down to f/5.6 to f/8 on the M Monochrom and even more so using the 645D, which was nearly always mounted to my tripod.

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While the M Monochrom and 645D are incredible tools for black and white imaging, one can really use the approach to seeing in monochrome with any camera. All it takes is a frame of mind, shooting the camera in BW-JPEG (I don’t recommend this, but it is an easy way to go about it), or coming home and immediately converting your files to BW. That being said, I found that having the Leica M Monochrom gave me no other choice than to see the area in black and white.

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I hope that you all enjoy the images. Steve and I plan to organize future trips to the Palouse, so if you find these images inspiring, please take a moment to consider visiting the Palouse in the future. It has a way of inspiring you, and I hope that these images bring you a piece of my own inspiration and spark that same inspiration in you.

All the best, and until next time….

Ashwin

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Apr 172013
 

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The new Ricoh GR Camera is ready for pre-order and ready to stomp on the Nikon Coolpix A!

A new GR digital and it looks FANTASTIC and mark my words: THIS IS A NIKON COOLPIX A KILLER! It may say Pentax but it looks, feels, smells and shoots like a Ricoh GR on steroids.

I have been asked by 20-30 to review the Nikon coolpix A so I tried it out in a shop and was not impressed. Why? The AF speed is just too slow for my tastes in this price bracket of $1100. The IQ is good it just seems to me like Nikon rushed it together to have something to compete with in the APS-C segment. If a camera does not have snappy AF these days I do not want to own it as it doesn’t excite me one bit. At $1100 the coolpix A is not the best buy IMO. At $700, yes. $1100, no. I’d go with the incredible Fuji X100s for $1299 before I would buy a Coolpix A for $1100. Don’t get me wrong, the Coolpix A has great imaging potential but so does the Sigma DP Merrill series, even more so actually. 

The new GR WILL be reviewed by me as it is a camera that excites me and makes me think of the possibilities. A pocket camera with an APS-C sensor, decent AF and a killer lens, all with the GR heritage. Amazing. The lens is a 28mm equivalent and has two aspheric elements and 7 elements total. The GR series has always been fantastic and I am thrilled that it has now stepped up to APS-C. The all black smooth design of the GR brings me back to the old film GR cameras. Sweet.

Take a look at the official video below on the new camera:

B&H Photo has the GR up for pre-order at $796.95, and that is a great price for a camera like this. My pre-order is in because I feel not only will this beat the Nikon Coolpix A but it probably will dethrone my fave pocket rocket, the Sony RX100! My crystal ball is showing me a price redux on the coolpix A soon… :)

Key Features of the new GR

16.2MP APS-C Format CMOS Sensor - I feel 16-18 Mp is perfect.

GR ENGINE V Image Processor

No Optical Low-pass Filter – YES!

18.3mm f/2.8 Lens (28mm Equivalent) - Nice wide FOV

3.0″ 1,230k-dot White Magic LCD Screen

Full HD 1080p Video Capture

ISO Range of 100-25600 – A GR digital with ISO up to 25,600 means 3200 will be great.

High Speed AF and 4 fps Burst Shooting

Image Effects and Macro Mode

Compact Magnesium Alloy Body – These bodies always feel great.

You can PRE-ORDER the GR at B&H Photo HERE!

You can Pre-Order the GR at PopFlash.com HERE

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You can PRE-ORDER the GR at B&H Photo HERE!

You can Pre-Order the GR at PopFlash.com HERE

To me, that is what it is all about. Excitement. If a camera can excite me just from looking at specs and a video, then I am in. More soon and you can see my old GRIII review HERE.

Steve

 

Mar 042013
 

My time with the Pentax K1000 & Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.4″ By Khunya Pan

Hello Steve & fellow followers,

This story will talk about my time with the Pentax K1000 & Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.4, and how I ditched nearly all my equipment for this simple and brilliant setup.

I started taking pictures seriously about 5 years ago when I was 19, when my father bought a Pentax K10D DSLR. He hardly used the thing and I started to get interested in it. Next thing I know I’m taking it everywhere with me, upgraded to a K20D and the SMC-31mm f/1.8 Limited lens. It was a great way to learn the basics and fundamentals of photography. I eventually had an exhibition of my work done exclusively with the K20D and the 31mm. It was a great experience, but it was time to move on.

One night I was watching TV and a film called “Blow-Up” came on. I was instantly intrigued by the movie due to its main subject being photography. But the thing that stuck with me was the camera the lead character was using. No, it wasn’t a Pentax, it was a Nikon F, but it was a classic film SLR. Even though the actor had no idea how to use a camera in the film, I was still very intrigued by 35mm and film, and I wanted to try it out. Sick and tired of the point-and-shooters all around me calling themselves “photographers” just because they took pictures of their vacation or family gatherings, I wanted to do something quite different for my age group and actually learn “real” photography (wink).

I eventually got the K1000, mainly because I could use my 31mm on it, thanks to Pentax making a series of lenses that can be used on digital and film. Instantly I was hooked on it, and eventually learned how to develop my own film and scan it myself.

This sparked me to start a weekly mailing list where I would send out a photo a week, and while it hasn’t grown to a huge number of followers, it has kept me motivated to continue taking pictures. The pictures I was taking were making me happy, but I still felt like they were missing some kind of magic. Then I discovered the Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.4…

There is not much in the way of reviews or web presence on this lens, and I seriously wonder why. The early versions of the lens were released in the mid 60s, and continued until 1971 where the SMC-Takumar’s were released. These did away with the radioactive coating. Some say they are better, some say they are worse. My version is one of the early ones, with the obvious yellow coating on the front element. In color, it doesn’t distract or cause any bizarre effects, and in B&W it’s absolutely stunning. My guess is Pentax was going for a Leica/Zeiss killer, and maybe on a technical standpoint they failed, but on an aesthetic and artistic point of view, they succeeded tenfold.

The setup has been my primary carry-around shooter. I have used many other cameras and lenses throughout the years. I’ve tried my hand at a Yashica & Rolleiflex TLR, a FED2 Russian camera, a Leica M3 and a Leica M9, and the Fuji X100 and X-Pro 1. Honestly, none of them are quite bonkers enough. I always go back to my K1000 and Takumar. Yes, sometimes the weight and bulkiness of an SLR are annoying, and it is far from an ideal street-shooter, but I really don’t shoot street photography, and the Takumar is not meant for that, nor is the K1000. This is a setup that makes you get in close. It is intimidating, as it should be. It is a $150 setup that produces $10,000 Leica results.

Sometimes I feel a bit amateurish walking around with what is essentially a “student” camera. But I think I’ve finally gotten passed the vain part of photography and trying to “look cool” while I take pictures. In the end, it’s the photograph that counts, not what the silly man behind the camera looks like.

I eventually sold my K20D and 31mm lens, and now I shoot exclusively film. From time to time I will borrow my girlfriend’s K-x and use an M42 adapter so I can shoot the Takumar on that, but it’s not very often. I am quite amazed though by the results of a nearly 50-year-old lens on a crisp and clean digital sensor. The lens has such a soul to it, it’s delicate and I worry if I accidentally whack it on a counter or something, it will fall apart with ease. But if you treat it well and with respect, it will be a lifelong companion and always give you outrageous and amazing results.

And so concludes my story, enough with the text and on with the photographs. The first three are from the K1000 and 31mm, the rest are the K1000 and Takumar. You can compare them for yourself and see if I’m talking total claptrap.

Thanks for reading and looking!

Yours friendly,

-Khunya

Additional images can be seen here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/khunya/

Quentin - SMC-31mm 1.8

Tokyo Drift - SMC-31mm 1.8

Ruta Maya - SMC-31mm 1.8

Bicycle - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

Ellar - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

French Hand - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

Hands - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

Naked Bed - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

Nikon - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

Smile - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

Rifle - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

Sep 102012
 

New Pentax K5II and K5IIs – They improved the K5? Looks to be so! 

To those asking me about new Sony products (over 340 e-mails flooded my inbox about this today) I will have a full write up and hands on report tomorrow night, so check back then for the lowdown. ;)

Today we have Pentax announcing a couple of new significant cameras that I will be keeping an eye on. I loved the Pentax K5 and found it to be one of my favorite DSLR’s ever so how will the brand spanking new K5II and IIs be? I found the K5 to be fantastic with the Pentax limited prime lenses and the K5II and IIs will offer even more bang for the buck in the small-sized DSLR market.

I love when the smaller guys release products that are giant killers in many ways and that is just what the K5 was. Now for $1299 and $1399 you will get a small-sized DSLR that is full featured, weatherproof and sealed, has a great LCD, great HD video, great control and customization, and this time even better IQ with the all new SAFOX X sensor which will offer better DR, better high ISO and overall better IQ than the previous K5. Basically this is an update to the sensor and AF more than anything and we now get to choose a version without an AA filter (this is GOOD) for an extra $100. Not bad.

This release is sort of NOT a big deal but then again it sort of is…the ability to buy a K5 without an AA filter..wow. Get ready for extra detail and crispness. Id have all cameras without an AA filter if it were up to me because I shot with an AA filterless M9 forever and ever and had maybe 3 shots with a moire problem. I’ll take extra detail and crispness any day of the week and I look forward to reviewing the new K5IIs (wanna send me one to test Pentax)?

I love Pentax and while I think they made a blunder with the K-01 a few months back I think they are on the right track even with an improved K5 because the K5 was beautiful as is..now it is even better.

You can pre-order the K5II below (DID NOT SEE A IIS OPTION YET):

Order the Pentax K5II Body only at B&H for $1299

Pre-Order the Pentax K5II with 18-135 zoom for $1599

 

The Pentax K5II – what it is all about:

  • 16.3 MP CMOS Sensor
  • 11 Point SAFOX X Autofocus System
  • 3.0″ Air-Gap-Free LCD w/ 921k Dots
  • 1080p HD Video w/ External Mic Jack
  • High Sensitivity 80-51200 ISO Range
  • Body-based Shake Reduction (SR) System
  • Steel Chassis with Magnesium Alloy Cover
  • Fully Weather Sealed and Coldproof
  • 7 FPS and 1/8000 Maximum Shutter Speed
  • HDMI Output for Stills, Video and Sound

The Pentax Q10!

I loved the Q even though it was small! About half the size of my iPhone 4s length and height wise. The thing was and is tiny but the IQ and usability was super! I remember shooting with it at my Chicago workshop  and the video and images were so good that at that time I was secretly thinking “wow..I am buying one”! Ultimately I found it to be a but too small but for some this is the whole reason to own a Q. Small body and teeny lenses that still deliver the IQ. Almost spy like. Actually, very spy like.

Pentax upgraded the Q to the Q10 with a new sensor, new anti shake technology inside and a newer and better defocus control. They also announced some new lenses like the 83-249 zoom lens at f/2.8. This lens comes in at $299. They are also releasing a K mount adapter so Pentax users can shoot with their old and trusty K mount glass. Wow. What a sight on a Q body :) The Q10 will come in at about $599 USA with a kit lens.

The Pentax Q10 will be pretty cool. The build of the original Q was excellent and I can not wait to give the 10 a spin :)

YOU CAN PRE-ORDER IT HERE:

Q10 in Silver

Q10 in Red

 

PENTAX Q10  - what it is all about:

  • back-illuminated CMOS sensors with12.4 million pixel
  • high sensitivity noise reduction
  • ISO100-6400
  • Burst (JPEG) five consecutive 5 fps
  • telephoto lenses and dark Faster AF speed when Face Detection AF (can recognize up to 12 people)
  • Custom Image, digital filter function, Smart Effect function
  • Auto Picture mode, Scene mode
  • full movie HD (1920×1080), 30fps, H. 264, smart effect
  • Bokekontoru feature image stabilization in the body
  • features HDR
  • Exposure modes P-Av-Tv-M
  • DR II dust removal function of ultrasonic vibration formula
  • built-in flash guide number 7
  • the battery life – improvement
  • body colors: black, silver, red,
Jul 022012
 


Chasing Light in The Palouse with the Pentax 645D

(& A Brief Review of the Pentax 645D system)

By Ashwin Rao – Visit his blog HERE

The Palouse… Eastern Washington’s pastoral land of rolling hills, has long been a source of photographic inspiration and pilgrimage.  It’s a land replete with broad swaths of color, vistas with horizons that stretch into an endless distance, gently undulating fields of grain, crumbling barns, and giant machines processing the land’s primary industry of grain harvest. Type the word “Palouse” into your browser, and you yourself may be inspired to travel to this beautiful land, situated along the far sound and east of Washington’s boundaries, crossing into Idaho and Oregon. It’s but a five-hour car ride from Seattle, and yet, in a decade spent living in the Emerald City, I had never made the trip to the Palouse until recently. And now, the call of the glorious land reaches back to me.

The inspiration for my trip, of all things, was a change in gear. For many years, I have been a rangefinder shooter, but prior to this time, the DSLR and landscape photography had been my principal passions. As the rangefinder ethos grabbed a firm hold of my soul, my photography drifted towards a more photojournalistic approach, with attempts to capture tiny slices of life in meaningful ways. I had kept a Pentax K5 in my kit for over a year for the rare times where an SLR would see more practical use for a particular assignment of photographic task. And one day, while at my local camera store, Glazer’s Camera in Seattle, WA, I stumbled upon a “find” that jogged my sensibilities…a lightly used, nearly pristine Pentax 645D, priced to sell….and suddenly the gearhead’s dilemma and GAS confronted me. Until this time, I had considered medium format digital photography to be out of my reach financially, lest I up and sell my M9 kit, something I’d not be willing to do. So I was content to view others’ fabulous medium format images and hope that one day, such a camera would fall to my price point. Turns out that this was my lucky day. I quickly travelled home, gathered my K5 kit, and promptly traded it towards the 645D, Pentax’s clever entry into medium format.

For those of you who aren’t aware of the Pentax 645D, here’s a quick overview. It costs $10,000 new as of this writing, and can be had on the used market for around $7,000-$8000, possibly less. The sensor is a lovely 40 megapixel 44 x 33 mm CCD sensor produced by Kodak, which thankfully lacks any anti-aliasing filter., thus preserving the native detail of this conventional Bayer-arrayed sensor. Thus, the images that the camera is capable of producing can rival that of the Leica S2, which has a similar sensor (quality of lens notwithstanding). In fact, there are reports out there that the Leica S2 and Pentax 645D share a nearly identical sensor. Added charms of the 645D include weather sealing (with the appropriate lens) and compatibility with the full lineup of prior Pentax 645 lenses. When compared to the film Pentax 645, one must account for a 1.3x crop factor when using the same lenses, as the sensor in the 645D is 1.3x smaller in surface area than its film counterpart. In contrast, the sensor is 1.25x larger than a full frame 35 mm sensor, providing that much more real estate over which to spread its 40 megapixels. The 645D is capable of ISO’s ranging from 200 to 1600, and it does remarkably well in suppressing noise over this entire range of ISO, without introducing processing/smearing artifacts. The Pentax 645D was initially made available only to the Japanese market for nearly a year after its initial introduction, but it has been available in the U.S. since the early spring of 2011. Other features include a high-resolution 921K dot, 3 inch LCD and a menu layout that is the same as found in the Pentax K5. To boot, it takes the same batteries as the K5 and uses dual SD cards, accepting SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards without issue. It’s not the fastest camera in the world, with regards to buffer or shot to shot performance, churning out 1.1 Frames per second. However, given its intuitive, SLR-like layout, ergonomic design, weather sealing, and “fast” (for medium format) performance, it’s gained a bit of a cult following in the medium format world for being a workhorse camera capable of excellent results. Additionally, Pentax 645 lenses have long been regarded as price-performance champs in the medium format world, coming in at prices far lower than comparable lenses in the Hasselblad, Leica and Mamiya lineups.

Some of you who inhabit popular gear forums have no doubt heard of the stir that the Nikon D800 and D800E have provided to landscape and commercial photographers, many whom use medium format for their work. For pro work, commercial fashion, print, and landscape work has long necessitated the use of medium format (and large format) sensors to optimize capture of detail, tonal rendition, dynamic range, and image size necessary for commercial and print work.  With the Nikon D800 and its “sans AA filter” version, the D800E, the commercial and landscape world has been suddenly challenged by a new option, far cheaper  (in terms of body cost), with a wider array of lenses capable of producing remarkable pixel-level detail required for this type of work, and some say, rivaling medium format.  In fact, many individuals are jumping ship from medium format to join the Nikon fray, to provide them with the flexibility of that system, along with better high ISO capacity. Why then, did I disregard this exodus and jump onto a purportedly sinking medium format ship?

Well, actually, the answer boiled down to price and a desire to try something new. SLR’s have been a “been there-done that” thing for me for some time now, and while the D800E would offer the benefit of superior image quality and clarity coupled with 36 plus megapixels of imaging goodness, it still possesses a sensor with far less real estate (by a factor of 1.5) than the sensor provided in the Pentax 645D. Second: Lens prices. After contemplating the price of the 645D, I naturally began an assessment as to how much it would cost to assemble a kit worthy of this sensor. Would lenses be pricey and add dramatically to the cost of my kit? In fact, many excellent Pentax lenses can be found used for between $150 and $650 dollars. I was able to gather a lens kit that included a 35 mm f/3.5 (28 mm 35 mm equivocal focal length), 75 mm f/2.8, 45 mm -85 mm f/4.5 zoon, 120 mm f/4 Macro (one of the best lenses ever made for medium format by many accounts), 150 mm f/2.8, and 400 mm f/5.6 lenses, for less that $3,000 USD.  If I had elected to purchase only manual focus glass, I could have saved at least half of that price and spent $1,500 to assemble a high quality kit for my camera. It’s kind of mind-blowing, actually, how well priced heritage Pentax 645 glass is.

In order to purchase a Nikon D800E along with lenses of comparable focal length capable of resolving on its sensor (i.e. high end Nikon glass with nano crystal coatings, or Zeiss ZF glass), I would have had to spend more on lenses..well, truth be told far more…here’s a run down, just for fun (keeping in mind that medium format lenses are not nearly as fast/wide aperture as 35 mm equiv lenses, yet allow shallower DOF for any given focal length. Thus the comparison below is admittedly artificial, but would likely give you perspective on price differential for the “best” option for each system at each 35 mm focal length equivalent. This was the process that I went through, essentially trying to compare the best lens option at each focal length for each system, looking at typical lens prices on the open market

 

35 mm equiv focal length Pentax A or FA lens (MF/AF) Pentax price Nikon/Zeiss  high end lens Nikon price
28 mm 35 mm f/3.5 A $ 600-$ 800 24 mm or 28 mm f/1.4 $2000-2500
35 mm 45-85 mm f/4.5 FA (considered the best option at this focal length, better than the 45 mm f/2.8 FA prime $ 600 35 mm f/1.5 $1,650
50 mm 75 mm f/2.8 FA $ 400 Nikon 50 mm f/1.4 $400-500
90 mm/macro 120 mm f/4 macro A $ 300-400 Zeiss 100 mm f/2 Makro Planar $1800
135 mm 150 mm f/2.8 FA $ 500 Nikon 135 mm f/2 DC $1,300
300 mm 400 mm f/5.6 FA $1200 Nikon 300 mm f/4 $1200

If you do the math, you can imagine that for an equivalent kit, the price of the Nikon body ($3,300 as of this writing) plus lenses is at least comparable to the price of a used 645D with the lenses assembled above. The issue for gearheads like me would be that the Nikon system offers many other tantalizing options, including lovely zooms, tilt-shift lenses, and other options, for which the cost would continue to mount. The Pentax 645D is a far more limited system, in terms of lens diversity, and most lenses are cheaper or of equivalent price to their FX Nikon lens counterparts…what is lost is Nikon’s high ISO capabilities, size benefit, and lens flexibility. What is gained is a larger sensor and the medium format look….I decided to jump onto the Pentax 645D kit, for better or for worse.

A Bit About the Palouse

So, with that quick review of my decision to invest in this system aside, it was off to the Palouse to see if the Pentax 645D was capable of delivering excellent results with the lenses that I had purchased for the system. For those of you who have never been or heard of this region, the Palouse encompasses parts of Souteastern Washington, northwestern Idaho, and northeastern Oregon. It is a major agricultural region producing wheat and various other crops.  The region is also crossed by the Snake River and crosses over with Walla Walla, a region known for it’s lovely wines.  It’s through that the regions dune-like geographic formations were formed during the ice ages, cast from the glacial outwash plains. For years, the Palouse has served as a scenic pilgrimage for landscape photographers for its dramatic and unique geography, and it has long been a beck and call for me, as I mentioned above. Thus, I assembled a crew of like-minded photographers, all whom had previously attended one of Steve’s workshops here in Seattle,.All are now friends within Seattle’s Leica users community. From Seattle, it is a 4.5 journey by car to the western edge of the region. Once there, we were met by a talented local photographer, Ryan McGinty, a friend of mine from Flickr (who also came to know of me through Steve’s site), who has lived in the region for many years and magnificently photographs this region through a well-trained and creative set of eyes. For any of you who haven’t had a chance, please check out Ryan’s images on flickr. You are in for a treat, and you will see the possibilities that this wonderful land has to offer through his images:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ryanmcginty/

Our journey to the Palouse began along Washington State Route 26, which is the primary byway that brings people into the heart of the Palouse region from the West. From there, we stopped for breakfast in Colfax, and began a lovely loupe through the scenic byways of the Palouse. During our brief, 24 hour stay in the region, we visited many sites along state routes 27,272, 95, and 195. We passed through the towns of Palouse, Garfield, Colfax, Farmington, Pullman, La Cross, and others. We climbed Steptoe Butte to gather in views of the entire region. Along the way, there were old, abandoned barns, farmhouses left behind, windmills, grain silos, winding roads and paths, statuesque trees, horses and lifestock, and endless fields of grain. At the time of year (June), the color palette was principally made up fo blue, green, gold, with hints of brown, and occasional reds. The chance of the occasional thunder/lightning storm will bring darker swaths of blue, maroon, and magenta into the color mix of the Palouse palette, and evening light can add warm yellows, pinks, and pastels. Wildflowers would sprinkle in occasional batches of vivid color now and again, but by and large, this is a land to be taken in macroscopically at first glance (microscopic will come later)….

The wonderful thing about the region that we saw is that there is usually a remarkable vista over every hill, expanding out towards most horizons. In front of us were endless rolling hills, sunbreaks and cloud shadows spotting and colorizing the views in front of us to add drama.  Further, unlike many regions here, the cloud patterns are truly dramatic, with cloud formations ranging from statuesque cumulonimbus and cumulus clouds to wispy cirrus & stratus clouds, providing ever-shifting perspectives of the scenes in front of us. In a very tangible way. We were busy chasing the right types of light as the day passed, sometimes as the contrast, clarity, color, and luminance changed from moment to moment. It was an exhilarating experience for me, a suddenly eager landscape photographer.

The 645D in the Palouse- A New User Experience

I was very excited to use the Pentax 645D in ths majestic landscape. Along with me came a range of lenses from a 35 mm f/3.5 A (28 mm equivalent in full frame) to a 400 mm f/5.6 (320 mm equiv in full frame). I was excited to use the wider lenses to get close and capture scope, while using my telephoto lenses to compress landscapes, while reaching out to grab far away details. Along the way, I did a bit of chimping on the 645D’s wonderful LCD screen, but my and large, I let fate do the talking hoping that the images that I acquired would be in focus, thus allowing all 40 million pixels to shine. Would these older, heritage lenses hold up? After all, Pentax has only unleashed 2 new lenses, a 55 mm FA and 25 mm FA lens, since the Pentax 645D was released. All other glass available to the camera has been present long since the advent of digital photography. IF there’s one lesson to be learned, it’s that digital photography can bring out all of the flaws and softness inherent to imprecise or imperfect lens design or compatibility with the digital sensor. Did my kit of assembled heritage glass work out okay? The answer is…..

A RESOUNDING YES!

I’m psyched. I came home and began to edit my photos on my NEC 27 inch high gamut dual displays, and wham, there it was…detail….lots and lots of detail. The heritage glass did marvelously on the digital sensor, and I must say that I have been more than satisfied the Pentax 645D’s output.

Most images were shot at lower ISO’s, from 200-400, as I had the benefit of a nice tripod (Gitzo 3541L) and ballhead (Arcatech) to stabilize my kit. It should be noted that the 645D incorporates 2 tripod mounts, so that if you add 2 really right stuff brackets to the body, you can rapidly change the camera from portrait to landscape orientation.

The 645D is capable of resolving tiny details at near and far distances. Tiny blades of grass come to life just as much as enormous silos. The Kodak CCD’s sensor (No AA filter) produces remarkable detail, and to my eyes, there’s adequate dynamic range to rescue highlights and shadows in post-processing. White balance is a bit challenged on this camera, however, and thus it would make the most sense to shoot in RAW and post process afterwards.

Speaking of RAW files, they are huge, providing 7264 x 5540 pixels of real estate and file sizes of 80 mb or more. Thus, if you are shooting RAW, make sure to bring adequate memory. I used 16 GB SDHC cards for this trip, but on returning home, I promptly purchased two 32 GB SDHC cards (SanDisk Extreme 45 mb/s) to use and not worry about space.

For the most part, I tried to operate in the wheelhouse apertures of these lenses, stopped down to between f/5.6 and f/11, though I found that Pentax 645 lenses perform admirably even wide open.

Many of you may ask if I am happy with my decision to purchase into this system. Does the medium format experience bond well with a Leica M street photographer? Are the file qualities up to snuff, once one has tasted the M9’s sans-AA filter experience? All that I can say is that I am profoundly satisfied, enough to disregard the Nikon D800, as I am unsure what more image quality that camera can offer, especially given that my trip to the Palouse proved to me that 645 lenses are up to the task of critical digital workflow. Further, I hope that the images provided in this user-experience review communicate how I feel about the camera, and to some degree, what type of image quality the camera is capable of.

 

Concluding thoughts and comments

The Palouse is a beautiful region to visit. It should be on your bucket list, if you are a serious landscape photographer or lover of pastoral scenery. Shooting the region with a Pentax 645D in hand (and on tripod) was a pleasure, and I look forward to returning during another season, when the colors offer a different palate and perspective.Along the way, I found that I was very much impressed by the output of the 645D and its heritage lenses, and I look forward to planning future trips for which the 645D will be taken. I found that the medium format experience is one that can be embraced by someone used to hand holding a discrete kit, when the right opportunity presents itself.

Is the Pentax 645D right for you? Only you can make that decision. For those of you considering a Nikon D800/E for landscape or portrait needs, you may want to consider buying into the Pentax 645D system for a similar cost (depending on your lens selections), as you will be duly rewarded by outstanding image quality, pixel clarity and sharpness, and enormous sensor real-estate.

(From Steve: Anyone interested in a Palouse workshop? A couple of days shooting, learning and getting some amazing images in this beautiful and breathtaking location? If yes, let me know in the comments! If there is enough interest we can set something up!)

645D pro’s

  • Medium format – lots of sensor real estate for BIG prints and BIG crops
  • 40 MP sensor without an anti-aliasing (blur) filter
  • Useable ISO’s ranging from 200-1600
  • Dual tripod mounts
  • Excellent user interface & menu layout (best in class for medium format), making it an easy transition to those familiar with SLR’s and looking to make the jump
  • Dual SD card slots
  • Weather sealing (with an appropriate lens)
  • Outstanding ergonomics (for a medium format camera), including a deeply recessed hand grip
  • Cheap (relatively speaking) selection of Manual and Autofocus lenses, which perform admirably.

 

645D cons

  • Limited ISO range compared to 35 mm
  • Bulky (for a M9 user)
  • Slow image preview times and buffer
  • Slow FPS (1.1 frames/se) make sports or rapid street work difficult
  • Care required to optimize sharpness (every tremble and shake can be easily seen at the pixel level). A stable is a must for critical work
  • Limited number of vendors for Pentax, compared to Canon, Nikon, NEX, or m4/3
  • No AA filter can mean “moire” artifacts are possible (less likely in landscape photography)

 

Mar 162012
 

The Pentax K-01 Camera Review – Design Masterpiece or Design Disaster?

Before I start writing my thoughts down on this camera I want to remind all of you who are reading this about how I review cameras. Most of you already know because I have been writing the same style of reviews for 3 years now, but at the same time there are always new readers with every review and they do not know my style of writing or how I review. Basically, when I get a new camera in for review or testing I look it over, read the manual (if I need to) and mess with the settings, controls, features, etc. I then take it out and shoot it in real world scenarios because I feel the TRUE test of a camera is going out and using it! Sure, i could whip out review after review by sitting in my house and setting up a small studio to take shots of flower vases and color charts but I feel those days of camera reviews are starting to get old, fade out, and get way too technical. Well, at least that is how I feel about it. That is also exactly why I started this site 3 years ago!

When I take out a camera like the K-01 and shoot it for a couple of weeks I make mental notes of issues I had as well as positives. I start writing and add to it daily and when I am all done, I post it for all of you to enjoy.  If I really love a camera then it inspires me to go out and shoot. Cameras like the Leica M9 inspire me because when you slap a great lens on that camera you KNOW what you are going to get..I see it in my head and it is all natural. The Fuji X100, even with its limitations and quirks is, IMO, a beautiful design and size with amazing IQ. Cameras like the Nikon V1 – I love that one because it JUST WORKS and provides superb color and metering along with AF speed and a build, size and quality that is plenty good enough for the masses. The Sony NEX-7 for it’s breakthrough design and being the 1st to put everything us enthusiasts have asked for in one body. EVF, the try-navi controls, the high res sensor, the swivel LCD…the list goes on.

Click image for larger size to see the beautiful quality of the K-01 and 40 2.8 lens

With new cameras like the Fuji X-Pro 1 and Olympus OM-D arriving any day now I am excited that the camera companies are FINALLY getting it when it comes to digital. With film, we had it easy. All we needed was a light box, a viewfinder and a lens to create our images. That’s it! With digital it gets complicated and these days when everyone and their brother is a photographer, it has become a whole new industry. These days, new cameras arrive every few months. Better models are always right around the corner. Depreciation sets in and we buy cameras and sell them for a loss 5-6 months down the road to get the latest and greatest. It is what it is folks, and it seems to be getting more and more crazy as time goes on. But it is OUR passion and OUR hobby and I know of many MUCH more expensive hobbies than photography.

So for me all of this is good as I can write about all of these cool cameras and have never ending content for the site :) I guess what I am trying to say here is that we have many GREAT options coming out today in regards to digital cameras and photography. This site always focuses on the enthusiast models and cameras that I think are good buys or of great quality but today I am writing about the new Pentax K-01 and after shooting it for a little while my feelings are somewhat mixed. I will say right now that ME…I am not a fan of the design at all. In use it is very boxy, not ergonomic, and feels like I am shooting with one of those toy cameras you see in the little kid isle at a toy store. Not sure how much Marc Newson was paid for this design but I feel Pentax could have done much better in this area. Not knocking Marc here because he obviously is not a camera designer. Now, some of you may LOVE this design. It IS INDEED different, and I am usually a huge fan of different but not this time. It just was not pleasant to shoot, and I hate to say that about a Pentax, a company whose products I normally adore.

The K-01 Meets the stilt girl :)

The good news is that while shooting this camera I realized that the image quality was fantastic, the new 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens is superb and TINY! I believe that this K-01 may have the best IQ of any digital Pentax to date. If this is all that matters to you and you have a load of Pentax glass, go buy one now and skip the rest of this review. :) If usability, design and IQ matter, then keep reading to see why I was not inspired to want to own this camera. ALL images shown here were shot with the Pentax K-01 and 40mm 2.8 lens.

Here is what I will go over in a simple, easy to read,  and fairly quick review (as it is basically a K5 in a different shell minus a VF)

  1. The Design
  2. The problem of no viewfinder
  3. The Specs
  4. High ISO
  5. Picture Quality
  6. The GOOD things about the K-01
  7. Autofocus Speed and Manual focus features
  8. Movie Mode
  9. Bottom Line Conclusion

 

The Design of the K-01 – what I like and do not like about it

It seems the biggest feature of this camera is the design, and that is a shame really. The camera innards are fantastic but when you see this box in photos and in person the very first thing that strikes you is the design, and this can take away from the camera itself I think. To some it looks cool and modern, and to others it looks like a toy. I feel it resembles the Leica Digilux 1 in many ways and if you go hold that camera now you will feel how boxy and dated it really is. I guess that is what I feel when I hold the K-01. It feels dated. The classic Leica Digilux 1 is seen in the image below.

The Leica Digilux 1 – an oldie and not even a goodie :) If you see this for sale, avoid it, unless you want it for a display case.

When I showed the K-01 to my Son Brandon the 1st words from his mouth were “wow, you bought an old school camera”? I said “no, it is the new Pentax” and his reply was “it looks 80′s”.

To a 16 year old, I guess this is what a 1980′s camera looks like.

The camera is very boxy, very square, and has a rubber coating/grip on the body. There is an LCD on the back with a few nice big buttons, which I DO like. There is NO EVF or VF at all and the top houses a pop up flash which comes in handy when you want fill flash. The rubber door you pull out to gain access to your memory cards is flimsy and I can see it breaking over time. When shooting this rubber flap never really fits back in correctly so its always kind of hanging out a bit. I would have preferred a solid door. The big buttons are cool and bright but they look toy like as if they were designed for a baby or small tike who is learning colors.

The dials move with a nice solid click feel and I do like the way they feel and where they were placed, so I do like the dials.

Like I said, some will enjoy this unique design but I feel it was not a great choice. It’s gimmicky and certainly not classic. It is also not really comfortable to hold nor that functional mainly due to one reason I will get into below.

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The Problem of NOT having a viewfinder

When I took the camera out to a fair to shoot on a sunny Saturday I was so disappointed. The camera was almost useless as with the bright sun I could not compose my shots AT ALL because the LCD was washed out about 90%. The images I did get were all shot blind really, like the one below of the kid climbing the “Jacob’s ladder”. I saw a slight faded image but could not even make out what was on the screen.

This kid made it to the top but cheated. Still, he won his $2 back :) I had to shoot blind here by aiming and pressing the shutter. I could not see anything on the LCD due to the sunlight washing it out. 

So if you live in a sunny environment and want to shoot the K-01, forget it. The LCD will be washed out horribly. If Pentax would have put in an EVF it would have made this camera MUCH more fun and useful. To be without one, for me, is a deal breaker and I would take a K-5 over the K-01 if at all possible. It is only a little bigger but has a better feel, an optical VF and takes the same exact lenses (same lens mount). It costs a bit more but would be worth it IMO. Again, the K-01 has superb IQ but for me, it loses some ground in design and usability and I am a big fan of usability.

Without even an optical ViewFinder, it makes it hard to see what you are composing in bright sunlight and to me, this is a bummer. 

The K-01 and 40 next to the Sony NEX-7 and Zeiss 24. Look how slim and trim the NEX is, and it has a GREAT EVF.

The Specs of the K-01

The specs of the K-01 are fantastic and have the best specs of any Pentax to date. Take a look at what you get packed into this little brick of a camera…

Large 16 megapixel APS-C sized CMOS image sensor with low noise image capture and multiple aspect ratios.

Yes, this camera has a great CMOS sensor and even with the 40 2.8 pancake the IQ is superb.

Bright, high resolution 3 inch LCD with 920,000 dots.

It is a nice LCD but forget about bright sunlight use!

Full HD 1080p video capture at 30 FPS with h.264 compression (60 FPS at 720p) features outstanding video capture flexibility.

Video seems fantastic from what I have seen so far.

Flexible ISO range of 100-25600 ensures gorgeous noise-free imaging in any lighting condition.

Low light and high ISO are in line with what we see today from other cameras.

Mirrorless body design is compatible with 25+ million PENTAX K-mount lenses spanning decades.

THIS IS THE GOOD THING about the K-01. Use Pentax LIMITEDs without an adapter and for many, this makes it worth it. Period.

Sensor-shift PENTAX Shake and Dust Reduction system is compatible with every mounted PENTAX lens.

Seems to work great.

Fast 6 FPS burst mode is ideal for fast-action photography.

Well, I wouldn’t shoot fast action with this camera and the 40 2.8 as the AF is not the speediest.

Shooting modes include P, Av, Tv, and M, as well as powerful automatic modes, creative filters, and finishing options.

Focus peaking mode provides fast and accurate manual focusing for critical focus applications.

YES! I am glad to say that Focus peaking has been implemented. It is more like the way that Ricoh uses it with the GXR.

Captures JPG still images as well as open standard DNG RAW.

In-camera HDR mode combines bracketed user-specified exposures into a single, perfectly blended still image.

Built-in popup flash and external hotshoe compatible with modern PENTAX digital flash units.

Durable machined aluminum frame.

Contemporary styling by world renowned designer Marc Newson.

As for the features and menu system, it is almost exactly like the Pentax K-5 so be sure to read that review to see more. 

The Palm Reader spotted me :)

High ISO shooting with the K-01

I was impressed with the low light/high ISO shooting of the Pentax K-01. Noise was minimal as I cranked it up and color stayed good. I turned OFF the in camera NR for JPEGS because  I am not a fan of smearing, and most cameras will smear the images to reduce the noise. Still, no complaints at all in the high ISO department. Below are a few examples of high ISO. One 12,800 shot taken at night with a 100% crop and 3 full size samples taken in my living room at 11PM at night with no flash or light source besides my living room ceiling light.

Click image for larger size with 100% crop – ISO 12,800 at night just to test high ISO.

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The following images are full size from RAW without any added NR. I used ACR defaults here. Click images for full size. They were snapped in my living room at 11pm

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Overall Picture Quality of the Pentax K-01

I really can not judge on total and overall IQ from this camera because I have only shot it with the 40 2.8 lens, which is excellent but still no match for the limited primes. So every image you see on this page was taken blindly with the 40 2.8. I say blindly because as I already mentioned, the LCD was not even usable in bright sunlight so all images were basically an aim and fire kind of shot. Not necessarily the best basis to judge the detailed picture quality :) I can say that the IQ seems VERY similar to what I saw come out of the K-5. I did as much testing as I could with the limited time I had the camera.

Click image below for a large version with 100% crop shot at 2.8 with the 40 2.8 lens. This was straight from camera and just to show detail wide open. 

From what I have seen, I have ZERO complaints on the image quality of the K-01 as this is its BEST feature. I can only imagine that with the Limited primes one can get some beautiful images from the K-01 and I wish I had some on hand to test with it because I do know I would be thrilled with the results.

Shot out of my car window, through my tint an all. Shot using the 40 2.8 at 2.8. 

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The K-01 and 40 2.8 are a great little combo due to the fact that the lens is so tiny and thin!

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The bokeh from this lens is a little busy though…

The GOOD things about the Pentax K-01

The Lenses: I know I have said quite a few negative things about the K-01′s design and usability BUT there are a few really great things going for it. For one, Pentax DID NOT create an all new mount for this camera which means those who buy a K-01 will not have to play the waiting game while Pentax designs new lenses. The K-01 uses K mount glass and there is some delicious K mount glass out there! You can attach those gorgeous limited primes and you will be in business without an adapter or issues.

The Features: Let’s face it, the K-01 is packed with features and really leaves nothing to be desired (except the design and lack of EVF/VF). If shooting JPEG you can customize the look and color using the settings or the presents. I love the cross processing filter of this camera AND the K-5. Pentax gives you crazy customization of color, contrast, white balance and all of the other settings for those who are detailed oriented. Me, I just shot in RAW and converted and then resized for this review. But the features are here. Image stabilization, dust shaker, filters, etc.

Focus Peaking – Using old manual glass is a breeze with the Pentax K-01 due to the Focus peaking feature that has been added. I was sad to see that the Fuji X-Pro 1 does NOT have peaking but this Pentax DOES, which is great. I feel ALL mirror less cameras should have this feature which makes manually focusing without magnification a breeze. If you are unaware how focus peaking works, you can see an example of it in the video below even though I used an NEX-7 to demonstrate. The Pentax works just about the same way. 

High ISO – High ISO with this camera is superb. ISO 12,800 is about on par with the Leica M9 at ISO 2500.

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If you like the body style and can live without a VF or EVF AND you have Pentax glass, then it is a no brainer. You will love the K-01. If you do NOT own Pentax glass and prefer a VF/EVF, then you may not be a big fan of this camera. Either way, it has a huge lens selection to choose from and has fantastic IQ. 

Autofocus Speed 

The Pentax has decent AF speed but uses contrast detect (slower) instead of Phase Detect (faster). The only mirror less camera to date that uses BOTH is the little Nikon V1 which allows it to be screaming fast in daylight and very fast at night. The Pentax with the 40 2.8 is fast but it is no speed demon. For example, when shooting video with this combo the lens makes the grinding noise when you focus/re-focus and it is not the fastest focusing lens. BUT when focusing in lower light this camera locks on quickly and accurately but if it gets too low it hunts and hunts like most other cameras do. I have had NO mis focused shots with this combo though so that is a plus.

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Movie Mode Samples

The Pentax K-01 has various movie modes but instead of writing them all down I figured I would show them to you in a video along with some quick video samples shot with the K-01 (nothing exciting but hey, it’s something) Enjoy!

The Bottom Line Conclusion

I can see it now, Pentax fans are going to be giving me heat for talking bad about the camera design. I will hear about how just because it doesn’t look like a rangefinder that I do not like it. Well, that is not true at all. I like many cameras that are not designed like a rangefinder but in my opinion, and again, this is only MY opinion, the design is a fail. It’s too bulky, too fat, looks like a toy and is not comfortable to shoot. It doesn’t feel like a camera I can “connect” with. Design IS indeed important to ME and I feel a camera has to have all of the elements that bring it together to form one mean, lean, shooting machine.

A camera like the Sony NEX-7 comes to mind for it’s design. Sleek, full controls and customizations, try-navi controls, great tillable LCD that even works in daylight, superb OLED EVF built in, a nice grip that protrudes. It looks like a camera even though it operates more like a computer :) The K-01 is very “Tonka” toy like. Big, fat, clunky and odd. But, both will deliver superb IQ. The Sony costs more but it has more going for it as a body but the K-01 has more going for it when it comes to lenses.

The K-01 costs $899 with the 40 f/2.8 lens. The NEX-7 comes in at $1,349 with the 18-55 Kit Zoom in black so $449 more but you get an EVF, better overall camera for HD video, slimmer build and more of a camera feel, swivel LCD, 24 megapixels and even more customization that the already super customizable K-01. But with the Sony you only have access to the Sony lenses and others via adapters. Me? Id take the NEX-7 in a heartbeat over a K-01 but I do not own a stash of Pentax glass. If I did I would buy the K-5 :)

To some it will be ugly. To others it will be cute. One thing is for sure though, it does do what it was built to do and IT DOES IT WELL. I have no complaints with its output, just its design and lack of VF. Pentax should be applauded for trying something different. Wether or not it succeeds I do not know but with so much competition out there it will be tough. In the price range of the K-01 (or less) we have the following:

The Nikon V1 – I love the V1, that is no secret but it has become one of the most controversial camera releases in years. Many HATE it due to its small sensor but many love it due to it’s fantastic color palette, amazing speed, metering and accuracy. It has its weaknesses of course but it is a solid little system that is in need of new fast glass. The K-01 beats the V1 in IQ and High ISO easily but in usability the V1 wins hands down. My V1 review is HERE. 

The Sony NEX-5n – The 5n is $699 so still $200 less than the Pentax even with a kit zoom. I really liked the 5n and found it really did nothing wrong. Again, for someone without a collection of Pentax glass I feel the NEX-5n is a better buy. The 5n also shoots video effortlessly with the kit zoom with silent AF. My 5n review can be seen HERE.

The Fuji X10 – The Fuji X10 has that classic RF design but is includes a decent zoom lens and a really good tiny sensor. I really liked the X10 BUT if it were between the K-01 and X10 I would go for the K-01 due to sensor size and video capabilities. The X10 has  great color and output for the size of its sensor but it lacks in the video department and in giving shallow depth of field. Still, great little camera at a not so bad price. See my X10 review HERE.

The Olympus E-P3 – This is now old news with the OM-D coming out with the much improved body, sensor, and features but the E-P3 is $899 WITH A KIT LENS so it is in the same exact range as the K-01. Now, the K-01 will slaughter the E-P3 in Image Quality due to the larger APS-C sensor compared to the Micro 4/3 sensor BUT again, USABILITY! The E-P3 is one hell of a camera to shoot. It’s fun, has a great style and shape and the LCD can be seen in bright light. Still, NO built in EVF though. Also, the E-P3 can use some amazing Micro 4/3 glass like the 12mm, 45mm, and 25mm. This would be tough for me because the K-01 beats it in IQ and Video Quality but loses to it in body style and usability. I LOVE the E-P3 and being such a fan of it would probably go for that over the K-01. But your opinion may vary. You can see my E-P3 review HERE. 

Would I buy a Pentax K-01?

For me, NO. For you, ? The IQ is great, the high ISO is fantastic but for me, the body design and lack of a VF stops it from becoming a camera I would own. Besides, I can’t buy them all!

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Where to buy the K-01

You can buy the K-01 in all of the fabulous colors below at B&H Photo which is my recommended place to shop for mirror less cameras and just about anything photographic. I also like Amazon

Buy the Pentax K-01 in BLACK with the 40mm 2.8 lens at B&H Photoor Body Only

Buy the Pentax K-01 in Yellow with the 40 2.8 lens at B&H Photoor Body Only

Buy the Pentax K-01 in WHITE with the 40 2.8 lens at B&H Photoor Body Only

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ALL I ASK! HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :)

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Mar 072012
 

The Pentax K-01 1st Look Video

OK guys, my review will be up in about a week but here is a 1st look video to show you just how the Pentax K-01 looks in my hands. Enjoy! The K-01 is in stock at B&H Photo in Black with the new 40mm pancake. The yellow and white are now out of stock. Oh, I mention in the video it is their 1st mirrorless camera but as you may know, the Q was really their 1st mirrorless.

Mar 062012
 

Pentax K-01 in stock now, review in about a week

You know, I was not going to really review this one..this little funky looking Marc Newson designed Pentax …and why? Well, I wanted to concentrate on the new Fuji, the new Olympus and other things that I thought would be more relevant to the readers here. Then I remembered my Nikon V1 experience, where I was not going to even touch the V1 or J1, then ended up reviewing it and buying one for myself. Then I realized…THIS IS WHAT I DO! So yes, I will be reviewing the K-01.

This Pentax may look funky, but maybe in use it is a great, fun, sweet little camera? I was not expecting to be blown away but you never know right? In any case, my review of the Pentax K-01 will be up after the weekend. I guessing about one week from today. The review will be with the camera and the new super slim 40mm 2.8, the new tiny pancake that is shipping with the K-01 body.

Oh, and also, check this out. Pentax is re-releasing the limited edition Silver K-5. How do you re-release a “limited edition”? Easy! By simply changing the lens that ships with it! Seriously though, The K-5 is awesome and I missed out on the silver edition last time around but maybe I will grab one this time if I can.

But for now it is all about the new mirrrorless from those crazy people over at Pentax…yea, the same ones that brought us the lovely little Q.  The new K-01 doesn’t seem to be everyone’s cup of tea but for some it could be! You can visit the Pentax K-01 Website HERE.

You can buy it now in BLACK, YELLOW or WHITE – ALL are IN STOCK now for immediate shipping through B&H Photo.

Feb 242012
 

What is it about new cameras that make us crazy? It’s called G.A.S.

by Steve Huff

2012 – It’s madness, it’s mayhem, it’s one of the most exciting years in digital camera releases EVER and I can see it…we are all going crazy and are filled with excitement for all of these new camera releases..yes my friends, G.A.S. is alive and well and damn, we don’t even know what Leica is announcing this year yet! All I know is that when I get a hold of all of these new cameras (and yes, I am buying them all to test) I will be like a junkie getting his fix. But why is that? Why do we get excited about new cameras, new lenses, new equipment? One thing to know is that this “disease” is NOT just in our hobby. I see it in EVERY hobby.

G.A.S. or otherwise known as “Gear Acquisition Syndrome” is real and it is alive and well, more so than ever. From the mirrorless craze to the Leica love, we all want a camera that we can depend on, grow with and love but when we find it something new arrives and the cycle starts all over again. I guess websites such as this one do not help the situation but what can I say? I ‘m just as much a gear head as many of you.

The manufacturers of these cameras know all about G.A.S. and they are not helping to cure us with the latest round of new cameras coming out in the next 30-60 days. Cameras appear  to be popping out of the woodwork and it is driving many of us MAD, including ME! The new Sony NEX-7 is JUST NOW starting to ship to the masses after a several month delay due to the flooding and just today I received my Zeiss 24 1.8 but still no body, but I expect that to arrive SOON. The Fuji X-Pro 1 is now moved up to a March 7th expected ship date by B&H Photo, which is coming QUICK. I had mine pre-ordered on day 1 so I hope to get it soon.

The Olympus OM-D is set for April but may come out a little sooner and with their new lenses including the new 75 1.8 with all metal construction, it appears the Olympus may be the hottest ticket yet for someone wanting a complete and mature system.

The new Olympus 75 1.8 all metal construction lens – WOW. Imagine this with the 12 and 45. Perfect trio! A fast 24mm,  90mm, and 150mm! 

I am already starting to see the Olympus 45 1.8 selling out again from those who have pre-ordered the new E-M5. With a camera such as this and these new lenses, there will be little left to be desired in the M4/3 world. Add in lenses like the all metal “Leica-Like” Voigtlander 17 0.95 and 25 0.95 and wow. I have a feeling that this OM-D will be amazing as an overall system. As for those few who are comparing it to the Panasonic G3, don’t. The only thing they have in common is the megapixel count and swivel screen. The Olympus adds weather seal, better design, more solid build, better controls, 5 Axis IS, faster almost double FPS, the fantastic Olympus JPEG colors, art filters, and the ability to add the optional grip. I’d take the Olympus in a nano second but this is where the G.A.S. is setting in. See, the G3 is a perfectly good, perfectly capable camera but the OM-D has that something…that one thing that is tugging at my heart that says “NO, YOU WANT ME!!!”, and YES I DO.

Let us not forget then we have the black sheep of the new camera releases…the Pentax K01. In my opinion, I feel the Fuji will sell EXTREMELY well but may be buggy (just a guess), the Olympus will be their best M4/3 seller yet and the NEX-7 will of course do great as it has been doing (if Sony can get them out the door). The Pentax will most likely sell the least but maybe it will be the best of all in regards to image quality! We can never know until we get a hold of them, and get a hold of them ALL I will! My excuse is that I HAVE TO so I can let YOU GUYS know all about it! Besides, I write my reviews and sell what I do not need or can not keep at a minimal loss, all in the name of keeping all of you guys informed of my findings.

Oh, I almost DID forget – we also have the upcoming Nikon D800E, which I know will be a spectacular DSLR, if a DSLR is what you desire. B&H Photo is still taking pre-orders for the D800E and they say it should ship April 12th.

So hang in there everyone! New cameras, lenses, and reviews are coming soon! Lot’s of exciting things heading our way and just think, we have not even heard Leica’s announcement yet :)

As for whats coming up immediately for me and the site, I plan on re-visiting the NEX-7 as soon as mine arrives, soon. My review for the camera was ALL JPEGS because when I reviewed it months ago there was no real RAW support, and the Sony software was awful taking forever just to process one image. I am hoping to compare the RAW of the NEX-7 against all current comparable cameras, even the M9.

I also am adding to my SLR Magic T0.95 review by doing a head to head against the $1100 Voigtlander Nokton 1.1. This should be interesting! Also have a new bag review on the way and much more so keep checking back here every day!

So see how I started this article out talking about G.A.S. and it has now ended up probably giving all of you guys even MORE OF IT. Sorry!

Feb 192012
 

Estimated ship dates for the OM-D, Fuji X-Pro 1 and Pentax K-01!

Was browsing B&H photo and noticed the estimated ship dates for the Olympus OM-D, Pentax K-01 and Fuji X-Pro 1 have been listed! Here you go!

 

Olympus OM-D – ESTIMATED SHIP DATE – APRIL 10TH 2012 - Pre-Order Here

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Fuji X-Pro 1 – ESTIMATED SHIP DATE – March 20th 2012 – Pre-Order Here

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PENTAX K-01 – ESTIMATED SHIP DATE – MARCH 29TH 2012 – Pre-Order Here

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