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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icecreamandbridge

drapedincold

02_27_tableforone

03_03_wisefriend

11_18_demonandangel

02_20_nomowing

01_15_holesandpoles

01_26_lockedin

03_06_rideaway

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

 

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

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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Sep 272011
 

The Pentax Q Digital Camera Review – A pocket full of pixels!

By Steve Huff

A while back I remember seeing that Pentax would be releasing a 12.4 megapixel camera called the Pentax Q  and I was excited at first because I thought WOW, Pentax is getting into the mirror less camera market! I love Pentax (see my K5 review here) so I knew it had to be good. But then when I read that it was a teeny tiny sensor camera with interchangeable lenses I thought “oh no, it’s going to suck with that small sensor” ! But in reality I kept an open mind because I wanted to love it. I mean, why would Pentax release a camera like this if the image quality sucked? Deep down I knew they wouldn’t so I waited for the release with my fingers crossed.

It appeared from the looks of it that Pentax was releasing an enthusiasts styled body with a consumer oriented sensor. Why not a larger sensor I asked? Well, after I received the Q I realized WHY they used the smaller sensor and also applaud them for taking this approach as there is NOTHING out there quite like this Pentax Q at this time.

Let me start off by showing you the features of the Q.

The Features of the Pentax Q – (From the B&H Photo Website)

Small and Light Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera

The Q represents an evolution in interchangeable lens digital camera design, featuring a small and light body. Experience the Pentax Q. The camera. Evolved.

Q-Mount Lens System

The Q features the newly designed Pentax Q-mount lens system for convenient interchangeability with a variety of specialty Q lenses. Choose from a selection of prime, zoom, fisheye lenses, and more to suit just about any photographic need. This Q System standard kit includes the 8.5mm lens (equivalent to 47mm)

12.4Mp

Enjoy exceptional image quality in 12.4Mp courtesy of the Q’s 1/2.3″ backlit CMOS image sensor. Capable of producing 12 bit DNG RAW and JPEG image, the backlit CMOS sensor is a highly efficient light-gathering instrument designed specifically to produce very low noise at high levels of sensitivity

Durable

Though extremely compact, the Q is also surprisingly durable, sporting lightweight, scratch resistant magnesium alloy covers

Traditional DSLR Shooting Modes

Experienced photographers will enjoy the power and flexibility of traditional DSLR shooting modes such as Program, Aperture/Shutter Priority, and Metered Manual exposure control. Yet casual shooters will appreciate the highly convenient automatic modes such as the set-it-and-forget-it Pentax Auto Picture and 21 scene modes

Customizable Quick Dial

Conveniently choose from a variety of creative modes, Smart Effect options, or camera settings to assign to the Q’s Quick Dial located on the front of the camera. Easily customize the setting or effect using the Quick Dial’s 4 positions, allowing you to concentrate on photography without having to explore the camera’s menu system

HDR Capture

In-camera HDR capture mode shoots 3 images of varying exposures, blending them to bring out the details in even the darkest shadows and brightest highlights of extreme contrast shots

1080p HD Video

Shoot high quality motion video with stunning full 1080p HD clarity at 30 frames per second. The Q efficiently processes the full HD video using high quality H.264 compression for superior color and detail. Explore creative video effects through the use of custom image modes, digital video filters, and interval shooting; or select from a variety of Q lenses to realize your perfect artistic vision

Sensor-Shift Shake Reduction

Capture stabilized, blur and dust free images even in low lighting courtesy of the Q’s sensor-shift Shake Reduction system with integrated DRII Dust Reduction. Body-based Shake Reduction operates independently of the Q’s lenses, allowing the same level of stabilization regardless of lens selection

3.0″ LCD Monitor

Easily capture or review images and video using the Q’s large 3.0 inch LCD monitor. The high quality LCD features HVGA resolution with 460,000 dots, as well as viewing angles up to 170 degrees horizontally and vertically

5 Frames Per Second

Capture even the fastest action with a 5 frames per second continuous shooting mode, ideal for sporting events, children at play, or any fast action situation

Bokeh Control Filter

Enjoy effortless bokeh control with the Q’s bokeh control filter. Traditionally controlled through a DSLR lens’s aperture, bokeh is the out of focus part of the background that helps to emphasize the subject, drawing the viewer’s eyes to the most important part of the photo. The Q assists the experienced and casual photographer alike by offering a fine degree of extra control over image bokeh via an in-camera filter operation

Smart Effects Mode

New Smart Effects modes enhance digital photography by applying a series of effects to images to achieve high quality finishing. Brilliant Color, Vintage Color, Warm Fade, Bold Monochrome, and Water Color are just some of the Smart Effects available, which can also be assigned to the Q’s Quick Dial

USER Modes for Creativity

Powerful USER modes allow the creative photographer to save a series of favorite camera settings, filters, and custom image modes for instant reuse

1/2000 to 30 Second Shutter Speeds

Shutter speeds range from 1/2000 to 30 seconds, perfect for freezing fast action or capturing long nighttime exposures. Bulb mode adds flexibility for low light photography and motion effects

Built-In Pop-Up Flash

The Q’s built-in popup flash adds the perfect amount of extra light to an image, while its high extension naturally reduces the redeye effect common to compact cameras. The Q’s flash is effective to 23 feet at 200 ISO, and covers a wide angle 28 degree field of view

HDMI Port

A built-in micro HDMI port is perfect for outputting high resolution images and video, with sound, to modern HDTVs

SD, SDHC, and SDXC Memory Cards

The Q is compatible with the latest generation SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards for ultra-high capacity storage as well as outstanding image file portability

RAW File Processing

The Q includes SILKYPIX Developer Studio 3 software for powerful and flexible RAW file processing. In-camera RAW image development is also supported

External Viewfinder Available Separately

Compose images and video either with the Q’s LCD monitor or using a shoe-mounted viewfinder attachment available as an optional accessory. The External Viewfinder O-VF1 makes an excellent -accessory to the Q, offering outstanding compositional framing, even in the brightest sunlight where viewing an LCD screen is traditionally a challenge

So here is my take on the camera with my real world use review!

The Pentax Q is what I will refer to as a consumer enthusiasts camera. What does this mean? Well, it means that it kind of seems targeted at BOTH the average consumer who is longing for something cool and exciting and doesn’t care about sensor size, as well as the Enthusiast (that would be me and you). The enthusiast side of this camera lies in its functional body design and control. I will say it right now…the Pentax Q has a BRILLIANT design and menu control system. It has a magnesium alloy body that feels solid but the camera is TINY! It looks like a spy toy camera in person and the size is very hard to convey in pictures. The image near the top of this page shows it sitting next to a roll of packing tape, a SMALL roll.

Here it is in my small hand…

But as I said, the camera feels pretty amazing in the hand. Solid and sturdy, which is always good. The control dials all click with a firm authority. The camera is very well made. On the top there is an on and off button, a solid feeling shutter button, a control dial that allows you to change modes like “AV, M, O, TV, Auto, SCN, Movie and even a mode called  “BC” which stands for “Blur Control”. There is also another control wheel for when you make your menu choices. The build and feel reminds me of the great Ricoh cameras, the GRD and GXR.

Using Blur Control: I had  the blur control setting at the 2 bar mark and snapped this one. If you click on it to see the larger version you can see how sharp this out of camera JPEG is. It was shot at f/1.9 and I converted to B&W with the new DXO film pack 3 Tri-X setting. 

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Below is another JPEG using blur control at “2″. The Q could not get the AWB correct inside the camera store but mostly all cameras fail this “camera store lighting test”.  My M9 did as well. Keep in mind this is a JPEG from the camera.

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But turn the Blur Control too high to “3″  and you get a funky fake looking image that is blurred in the wrong places. The “3″ setting is meant for smaller subjects but I wanted to see how it would do with a portrait. I think a level “1′ is good for portraits.

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Blur control allows you to control and add out of focus areas (shallow depth of field effect/Bokeh) to your image. Let me explain. For those who found this review in google and do not know what Bokeh is, it is the effect that you get much more easily with larger sensor and large aperture lenses – when the background of your photo is out of focus and your subject is in sharp focus.

Many times you will read in reviews  “that lens has great Bokeh” which means its out of focus areas are rendered beautifully. Bad bokeh would mean the out of focus areas are rendered not so beautifully. In the case of the Q, with its small sensor you really can not get shallow depth of field (though its possible by focusing up close with the kit lens at 1.9) so when using the “BC” mode the “Bokeh” is fake and added in camera after the picture is taken so what you get is hit or miss. It appears the Q judges what to put and where by where you focus your camera and levels 1, 2 and 3 add the least to most blur.

But there is much more to the Q than the BC mode. The Q is a hip and cool take anywhere camera meant for FUN which is why Pentax has released a series of “Toy” lenses along with a couple of normal lenses. So the BC control is just a “fun” feature that some may get a kick out of, and in some cases it CAN work well.

BTW, the kit lens that ships with the Q is superb and my favorite lens that I have used with the Q and though it does have distortion, the camera fixes this when shooting JPEG. The magic of this system seems to come out when using this lens, at least in my experience.

The kit lens is a 47mm equivalent lens with a fast 1.9 aperture. The image below was shot with that lens at 1.9 and ISO 320 – click for larger – this is an out of camera JPEG, just resized with some slight sharpening.

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The Q stuff that matters – Usability and overall Quality

You can have the coolest design and all of the cuteness in the world but if the usability is not there then it is just not fun to use a camera. When I find a camera that tugs at my heartstrings and makes me want to buy it then that means it usually has fast and accurate AF, is easy to control and use, feels good holding it, and has good image quality. One camera that comes to mind that fits all of these requirements is the twice as big Olympus E-P3. The E-P3 is fantastic and the new lenses like the 12mm and new 45 1.8 are SUPERB. The E-P3 is $899 and is worth the cost IMO if you want a fun and serious camera. The Q is $799 and has image quality that is a bit lower than the E-P3 in color, and high ISO use and detail…BUT the Q is so tiny it does fit in your coat pocket easily AND the Dynamic Range seems really good for a small sensor camera…better than most.

Still the AF speed is somewhat slow with the Q and that could be a concern for some of you with a $799 camera.

* USABILITY VERDICT –  Excellent!

I carried this camera with me EVERYWHERE and in my front coat pocket which was quite small. Anytime I saw a shot I wanted I pulled out the Q, framed the shot and snapped. As stated, the focus was not as fast as the E-P3 but nothing really is right now. I would say the AF is on par with the E-P2, GF1, GXR, etc. It’s quick but not blazing fast.

In the hand the Q feels really small but solid and it does have a small round cylindrical grip that sticks out and this does help the “feel” of the camera.

The dials on the camera are solid. There is even a solid dial on the front that allows you to switch to up to 4 presets so you can gave a variety of settings set up and easily switch to them with the front dial. Maybe have one set up to use a bleach bypass filter, one to use black and white, one for lower light shooting, etc. The controls are actually quite perfect. I wish all cameras had a control layout and easy menu system like the Q. The quick menu that you enable by pressing “info” on the back allows  you to scroll through the settings with the control dial and scroll through settings with the dial. It is very quick and easy to change settings.

So overall, the camera is fun to use. It is very “slick” looking and in operation. Basically this camera is meant for fun, maybe even as an upgrade to your phone camera as it is smaller than my iPhone is length and width and with the toy lenses more versatile! The usability is EXCELLENT but the focus is slower than most and the LCD is sort of hard to see in sunlight as it glares a bit.

* IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT – Very Good!

The overall image quality is very good and much better than previous smaller sensor cameras I have used. It seems sensor technology is evolving at a fast pace though you still do not get the rich colors and pop of a large APS-C or full frame sensor. The Q has a couple of cool color modes though and one of them that I like is “Bleach Bypass” which adds a dark dramatic bleach bypass tone to your images.

The next two shots were taken in the “Bleach Bypass” mode – JPEGS straight from the camera using the kit lens. 

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below is a FULL SIZE out of camera JPEG in standard mode shot at f/5.6 and ISO 125 – click it for the full size!

So the image quality is VERY good to excellent. In some cases I scratch my head and say “wow, this came from a small sensor”? That right there says a lot! There are other modes as well like “cross processed”, “toy camera”, etc but I really only enjoyed the Bleach Bypass and standard color modes. In comparison to something like a micro 4/3 camera, the Q comes close but can not match the detail and color quality of the larger sensor. But again, the Q is tiny with small lenses and that is the draw here I think.

* HIGH ISO SHOOTING VERDICT – Excellent for this sensor size!

One problem that plagues small sensor cameras is the high ISO capabilities. Even the lovely E-P3 has issues here once you get past 1600 so usually small sensors get REALLY noisy past 800. The Q is actually really good in this department though not as good as a large sensor camera. Still, I was shooting this little guy in all lighting situations. Below are some out of camera JPEG high ISO shots and IMO, ISO 1000 is about as high as you want to go. After that ugly NR and noise creeps in destroying the look of the image though if you shoot B&W, Id go  up to 3200 in some situations but beware! If you shoot RAW at 3200 and remove all Noise Reduction you will have an insanely noisy image.

ISO 3200 with the fisheye lens that I found VERY hard to focus. It is a manual focus lens but I could never get a sharp image, ever (UPDATE – I was NOT using the LCD Manual Focus Assist, and THIS makes all the difference in the world). Click image for larger and 100% crop.

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ISO 1000 straight from camera file – click image for the full size. Looks pretty damn good! This was taken indoors at lunch.

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ISO 3200, RAW conversion, NO Noise Reduction, Shot in LOW light and converted to B&W – It’s noisy but most cameras are when shooting in LOW light and high ISO.

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So the bottom line in the ISO dept? If I owned  this camera I would shoot it up to ISO 1000 when shooting color and up to 3200 if B&W and there was some light involved (I like some grain to my B&W). It is better than most small sensor cameras but still has that smaller sensor look at high ISO if you know what I mean. If not, then you wouldn’t notice anyway and it would be fine. :) It does get noisy but with a mix of in camera stabilization and the fast 1.9 lens, you can usually get away with lower ISO.

* HD Video Quality – 1080P – Average/Good

The Pentax Q even shoots HD video at 1080P resolution. YEP! This small fry guy even has built in image stabilization for a smoother video look (though it is not perfect) for this size of camera it is pretty freaking cool. The more I shot with the Q the more I appreciated what it is and is not. This camera is so small yet has so much capability and if size is important to you, as in SMALL size, then you really should look at the Q system.

With that said, the video does suffer from the “Jello” effect that so many cameras suffer from these days and the quality is very good but not SUPERB. Again, this all lies in the smaller sensor. BUT, you can’t expect the video quality of a Canon 5DII in something like this. But the fact that it has video is a huge plus and what is super cool is that it has time lapse built in. Also, the Jello effect is not present when using a tripod of course.

Below is a quick sloppy sample of video shot with the camera. If i had more time with the Q I could have done a better job in this area, so please be aware of this :)

So, is this a camera worth owning? Some thoughts…and comparisons.

Many people are asking me if the Q is worth the $799 asking price. The answer to that depends on you. How much value do you put on the small size? Do you travel often? If so, this camera can be a valuable tool as when I traveled it was always in my pocket and ready to rock and roll. In my opinion, I really wish this came in at $599 or even $699. Those two numbers sound better than $799 of course but let’s put this into perspective and look at other cameras in this price range and how they may compare.

The Leica D-Lux 5 – The D-Lux 5 is around the same price and also has fantastic image quality. You can see my review of the 5 HERE. The D-Lux 5 is actually bigger than the Q and does not allow you to change lenses so the Q has the advantage in this area. Both have good IQ, both have HD video, both are similar in AF speed but the Q feels better and more like an enthusiasts body with its great control system. Hmmm. Sorry Leica, Ill take the Q here.

Olympus E-P3 – The E-P3 is $100 more than the Q at $899 with a kit zoom that is actually very good. It is also a beautiful and serious camera for the enthusiast market. It has a larger sensor and overall better color and IQ and can even shoot with Leica glass via an adapter. In almost every area it beats the Q except for one. SIZE. The Q is just so tiny that this is it’s selling point. Again, for those who want a SMALL but high quality photographic tool, the Q wins. If you don’t mind bigger for better then the $100 more expensive E-P3 wins. Id take the E-P3.

Sony NEX-5n – The Sony NEX-5n and kit 18-55 comes in at $699, $100 LESS than the Q. It has a large APS-C sensor with better quality than the Q in color, dynamic range and high ISO. It has superb video as well. The Q wins in body design and control by far though, and again in size. The 5n may be tiny but its lenses are huge and therefore it is not pocketable like the Q. These two are so different, Id like to own both.

Fuji X100 – The Q beats the Fuji X100 in HD Video recording and AF speed but overall IQ goes to the X100 of course with its super color and high dynamic range APS-C sensor. The Q wins in versatility as well due to interchangeable lenses but overall IQ, Fuji wins of course but is also $400 more expensive. I love my X100 :)

Ricoh GRD III or IV – THIS is where the competition lies as this camera reminds me most of the Ricoh in its output  but the Ricoh has a fixed 28mm lens, which is also a 1.9 and the Q ships with the 47mm 1.9 (equivalent) and you can change lenses AND the lenses are pretty cheap! Hmmm. The Q also has the solid build like the Ricoh. I have to say I prefer the Q to the GRD III but have not yet tried the new GRD IV which is supposed to have better IQ over the III. The GRD IV is $200 less expensive as well so I guess it comes down to if  you want a fixed lens 28mm or a camera that allows you yo change lenses. The Q has the cool factor over the GRD and I would have to choose the Q here over the III. All personal preference.

The new Nikon J1 and V1 cameras – (info here) Now THESE are pretty similar in concept to the Pentax but they are brand new and not released yet. Going by what I see on paper and 1st looks, I would take  the Q over these new Nikon offerings. To me, they are ugly, lack in the control dept and are also on the more pricey side. I much prefer a camera with real controls and style and the Q has both as well as great IQ for its size. Unless these Nikons pull off an image quality miracle (UPDATE: They did pull of the IQ, which is fantastic) , my guess is that they were made for the average consumers and not the enthusiasts.

UPDATE – I ende dup LOVING the Nikon V1 and at $849 with lens, Id take the V1 over the Q no question. My review is here.

The Olympus Mini Pen – E-PM1 – I shot with an E-PM1 for a couple days and as much as I adore the Olympus E-P3, I can not say the same for the mini pen. I found the noise during video to be awful, I found the IQ not as good as I got from the E-P3 and the body was difficult to hold. WAY to small and thin. Controls were also lacking. The sensor is larger than the Q, the price is cheaper (with a slower kit zoom) but Id take the Q for its better body style, grip and control, and better kit lens over the E-PM1. Just my opinion!

So again, it all depends on YOU and your needs, wants, and tastes. The Q is a capable and fun camera but if you buy one, remember what I am saying… IT IS TINY but also extremely cool/odd. There is nothing like it out there right now.

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This is the Bokeh you can expect at f 1.9 with the kit lens when close to your subject…this was shot as a standard in camera JPEG

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The Lenses for the Q

Pentax has released a few lenses with the Q system. I was shipped the kit lens, the fisheye lens and the 100mm equivalent telephoto along with the OVF, which looks huge on the tiny Q but is nice, bright and clear. I will write my brief thoughts on the lenses I used/tried.

The Kit Lens – 47mm Equivilant, f/1.9 aperture – COMES WITH THE CAMERA KIT

This lens has a built in leaf shutter that is virtually silent. It sounds much like the GXR or Fuji X100 systems. The kit lens is the jewel in the lineup with a 47mm equivalent view and a fast 1.9 aperture. It’s light and plasticky and has barrel distortion but the camera processing fixes this when shooting JPEG. When shooting RAW you need software that is compatible with the Q or else you will see distortion. Lightroom and Aperture will support the Q soon enough though so it’s a non issue. All images here are JPEGS, and the JPEGS look great. This lens focuses very close as well and is super sharp. If i were buying the Q, it would be the kit only for now. 95% of the images in this review were shot with the kit lens.

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The Fisheye Toy Lens – manual focus fixed f/5.6 aperture – BUY HERE

 

The fisheye lens is cool and fun and super duper light and plasticky. Made in Taiwan this little $129 lens weighs practically nothing. BUT when using this lens I found it hard to get accurate focus and most of my shots with it were very soft until I realized I had the manual focus assist feature turned off. Once I turned it on it made all the difference in the world.  This is a manual focus fixed aperture f 5.6 lens and very easy to focus with the smooth focus ring in regards to turning the ring. It delivers a 17.5 equivalent. Here are three shots with the fisheye – converted to B&W with DXO film pack 3. This is cool, a fun fisheye for $129. Sweet!

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The 100mn Equivilant telephoto – manual focus fixed f/8 aperture

The Telephoto toy lens is actually the smallest lens of the bunch and is a nice addition to the lineup as it is a 100mm equivalent. The drawbacks though are that it is a manual focus lens and has a fixed f/8 aperture but again, it is easy to focus and I had no issues at all attaining sharp focus. Still the quality is pretty good and I am puzzled as to why it is called a “Toy Lens” as it does not give a toy lens effect as they advertise. This $80 lens is actually an 18mm but due to the small sensor behaves like a 100mm. Crazy, but worth the $80 easily if you are investing in the Q system.

Here is one more with the telephoto from my hotel room…just a test snap :)

The Pros and Cons of the Pentax Q

PROS

  1. IT IS TINY but well built and solid!
  2. The controls are close to perfect in my opinion.
  3. Menu and quick menu settings are easy to configure and browse
  4. Near Silent leaf shutter in kit lens
  5. Fisheye and Telephoto are DEAD silent!
  6. 1080P HD Video
  7. In body Image Stabilization
  8. External optical high quality VF available for kit lens
  9. Fits in your coat pocket for take anywhere action
  10. Pop out flash can be used as is or flipped up and out for better performance
  11. The card and battery doors are solid and feel great when you open and close them
CONS
  1. Small sensor is limited in the IQ and ISO dept
  2. Some may think it is a toy due to tiny size
  3. High ISO can get noisy after 1000
  4. No swivel LCD screen, this would have added to the experience
  5. Price seems a tad high for what it is
  6. Pentax has released a variety of lenses to start out
  7. External VF is too expensive
  8. The LCD is hard to see in sunlight
  9. Small but won’t fit in jeans pocket with lens on.

The Bottom Line Conclusion on the Pentax Q system.

The Pentax Q is cute. It’s also hip and I can even see the hipster crowd carrying around one of  these either in their pocket or strapped around  their body. The white one could be popular with the girls, the wives…the fashionable ones. This is the smallest interchangeable lens camera in the world as the time of this writing and  that right there says a lot. Pentax has created a new mount and new camera system in the ever growing and changing mirror less market and I have to give them a thumbs up for taking this on because the competition is FIERCE.

Nikon has just announced their new mirror less cameras, the J1 and V1. I was underwhelmed to say the least by that announcement. From the specs on paper and the looks, I’d take a Q over those new Nikons any day, unless Nikon has done some magic in the IQ department (but the samples I have seen so far have been just average). (UPDATE – I loved the V1, amazing camera for what it is)

The Q is really something else. A cross between a consumer camera and enthusiasts camera though it does lean towards the enthusiast side more with its lovely body design and build to its wonderful controls. Even has a built in flash that pops out to the side for better performance. The Q almost has it all in a teeny tiny package and I have to say that if this were a but larger with an APS-C sensor and built in EVF, Pentax would have had a game changer (hint hint). The Q design is that good and I LOVE the body design..it kind of makes you want to take it out and get the most out of it.

I had LOADS of fun with this camera while it was with me and it even was a conversation starter on 2 or 3 occasions as some thought it was a spy camera while others had no idea what it was! The image quality rocks for the size and if I were a wealthy man I would own one just for those days when I wanted to go super light or do some time lapse stuff. It’s brilliant. In all reality this camera is very good in all departments. All I can do is judge it from my use and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I wouldn’t replace my X100 with it though as the IQ is not up to par with the bigger guys but it has its place if you can afford it or want to be the james bond of photography  :)

So I give it a thumbs up all the way around really. I wish it was a bit less expensive but I guess there is a premium for owning the smallest in the world :) Go Pentax! Bring on a macro lens and we will be set :)

Where to buy the Q:

I would buy my Pentax Q from B&H Photo and they currently have the black and white in stock for anyone interested. The white is pretty cool looking in person but the black is more classic.

Pentax Q – Black with kit lens – BUY HERE

Pentax Q – White with kit lens – BUY HERE

More Images:

Here are a few more photos from the Pentax Q, all JPEGS! As always, thanks for reading this real world review!

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Apr 242011
 
From Steve: Received am e-mail from Amy Medina who just purchased my favorite DSLR of 2010/2011, a Pentax K5. She bought it in the Silver Special Edition of which only so many have been made. (Does anyone know the number?) This is a fantastic little camera and capable of superb results in such a compact but well built size. You can read my full review of the standard K5 HERE. Amy’s first impressions are below. Enjoy!

Pentax K-5 Silver Edition
First Impressions on a Rainy Day…
By Amy Medina

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It’s sort of fun for me that Saturday was the first day I had the K-5 out and about, and it was pouring rain. This was my #1 intended purpose for this camera, as I love to shoot in adverse weather. Of course, I don’t have a weather-sealed lens yet (just the FA 43), but I’d typically have no weather-sealing at all and be out there, so I call it a step in the right direction ;)
First… Friday night I did a test shot of my cat (of course) and it came out great…
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… one thing to note though was that It was indoors under tungsten light and the focus was spot-on… HOWEVER, that was before I updated the firmware to 1.0.3… and interestingly enough, after doing the update, I’ve had to do a fine adjustment of +10 to get it back to where it should be. Someone else told me they had a similar experience, so I wasn’t surprised. I will say that before getting the camera I was a little daunted by the idea of doing “fine adjustments” to lenses if they needed them… but it was both quick and easy to do. I actually did it out in the field in the rain on Saturday!

In one day of shooting, this camera has amazed me. It is the complete opposite of the experience I had when I bought the GH2 (which I’ve already since sold). I struggled to be happy with my GH2 images, but am simply blown away by the file quality of the K-5 images… and do not feel the same “battle” in the slightest. Of course, that’s ME… I know others will have different experiences with the GH2; I personally just had a really hard time loving it for a number of reasons… but mostly because of the noise in the blue channel at base ISO, and lack of “pop” in the files (harder to quantify and maybe more personal?…)

Back to the K-5… The amazing dynamic range was immediately obvious to me and the sharpness with the 43mm lens boggles the mind. I am not typically a pixel-peeper in general, but even in ACR at the “fit to window” size these things jumped right out at me. I called my husband and brother over to the computer to see, and they were both “wowed”… my brother even said it made him a little jealous (LOL)! Based on one day with the FA 43, all I can say is I can’t wait to get the FA 31!

I love all the buttons and dials on the K-5… all the tactile controls are right up my ally. The placement of the ISO button is PERFECT and use of the camera is very intuitive. Build quality is outstanding… solid but not heavy at all (which is a big thing to me). It’s physical size is bigger than I expected (or remembered from handling it a few months back in a local store), but not too big for me. The grip is wonderful (and it’s slightly different on the silver version from what I hear).

As a comparison… one of my favorite shooting kits for a while has been the M8 + Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Nokton. That combo weighs in at 1.76 pounds. The K-5 + FA 43mm f/1.9 (with an almost identical FOV to the M8 + Nokton) comes in at only a teeny-tiny bit heavier: 1.8 pounds.

The absolute only complaint I have up to this point is that I wish Pentax made more of their great primes with weather-sealing!

Now some photos…

This one was my favorites of the day, and part of the picture-a-day series. I shot it at ISO 1600 because I wanted a large depth of field (shot at f/11)…

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I had to walk out onto a slim dock to get this shot. Along the walk there were these smaller, very narrow walkways and one was going to get me even closer to the steps, but the whole thing started to wobble back and forth and I didn’t want to take a dip with my brand new camera on a rainy day! LOL! I slowly back out and remained on the wider, steadier dock…

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This one is a bit of a “typical” shot for me… seascape stuff is one of my favorite subjects to shoots… especially in gloomy weather. My family all think I’m nuts and sit in the car watching me snap away in the rain.
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The last one I shot before getting back in the car to head home…
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So overall, I’m very pleased and am really looking forward to enjoying this camera. Being an M8 and m4/3 (EP1, then EP2) shooter for quite a while, this is the first dSLR in a long time to really get me excited. As a very capable entry-level dSLR, I liked the Kx… but really only used it for my daughter’s theater shows (mostly). That isn’t going to be the case at all with the K5… I have a feeling I’ll be using it a lot!

Website: www.DangRabbit.com/Photography

Picture-A-Day Series: www.DangRabbit.com/Photography/pad

on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/DangRabbitPhotography

on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DangRabbit

 

Jan 102011
 

The Pentax K5 Real World Use Review

By Steve Huff

** ATTENTION ALL PHOTOGRAPHERS! – Don’t forget to enter the Leica M9 giveaway that is going on NOW! – Details HERE **

So here it is 2011 and I have been shooting with the lovely Pentax K5 for a few weeks now. I have not been able to get out every day with it but on the days I have been able to, I have really enjoyed shooting this camera. The Pentax K5 is essentially an upgrade to the Pentax K7 which I ABSOLUTELY LOVED. You can see my full review of the K7 HERE in case you missed it. That K7 gave me plenty of superb photos when I shot it with the Kit Zoom AND a couple of Pentax Limited prime lenses.

My K7 review also sparked lots of comments and interest. Even the president of Pentax, Ned Bunnel, posted about it on his personal blog. If you google “Pentax K7 Review” my review comes up as the #1 result. I have received lots of e-mails about that review and many thanks from those who bought one due to the info in that review.

When the K5 was announced it didn’t take long for the e-mails to start pouring in asking me when I was going to post a review for it! The pressure was on so I knew I had to try it out but seeing that I almost bought a K7 for myself, I was a bit scared to review the K5! Why? Because I really can’t afford another camera after my Ricoh GXR purchase! Anyway, I decided I HAD TO review it, and I am glad  I did because this is one of the finest (if not THE finest) APS-C sensor DSLR’s I have shot with to date!

This time around, B&H Photo sent me the K5 to try out along with the 43 1.8 limited lens. This lens, while not as tasty as the 77 limited I shot with last time is still a GREAT lens. With a fast 1.8 aperture, it will give you great performance in low light as well as allow you to get a shallow depth of field. Most of you know I love shooting like this because I love the looks I get with a fast prime lens :)

“Bella” – Pentax K5 with 43 Limited at 1.9 – Click image for larger and better version!

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“Evening Bokeh Drive” – The Pentax K5 in one of the cool cross process modes – JPEG – 43 limited at 1.9 – ISO 200

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When I first opened the Pentax K5 two things struck me. First, I was like “WHOA” this thing is huge!

BUT IT IS NOT! It actually is VERY small for a DSLR but because I was so used to shooting cameras like the Sony NEX-5, Olympus E-P2 and Ricoh GXR over the past 3 months, I was spoiled by those small cameras. After handling it for a few minutes I realized just how small this camera is for a DSLR and I was instantly taken back to my days with the K7. Yea, this is a SOLID, SMALL and amazingly well made DSLR. It makes the Sony A33 and A55 feel like toys. It really does.

As for the look, feel, and operation, there is not much more I can say that I already didnt say in the K7 review. Yea, the K5 keeps the awesome K7 features but adds some like having a better sensor with higher resolution (16.3 vs 14.6), better high ISO capability (up to 51,200 ISO) and performance, 1080P HD video (better video than K7), 7 FPS vs 5FPS on the K7, faster AF speed, better HDR recording, and it still has the 77 weather seals on the body alone. This is ONE HELL of a DSLR on paper, no doubt. Man, I loved the K7 so it should be a no brainer that I also love the K5 right? THAT WOULD BE A BIG YES!

Pentax K5 with the 43 Limited lens at F4, ISO 100

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The Pentax K5 with the 43 Limited at f/5

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The Features Of The Pentax K5

I already mentioned some of the upgrades of the K5 over the K7 but let’s see ALL of the features of this great camera:

• High resolution 16.3 megapixel CMOS sensor w integrated AD conversion circuitry

• High sensitivity 80-51200 ISO range with improved noise performance

• Speedy 7 FPS captures fast action shots

• Highly responsive and accurate 11 point SAFOX IX+ autofocus system with dedicated AF assist lamp and light wavelength sensor

• Widescreen 1080p HD video at 25 FPS, with sound via built-in or external 3.5mm stereo microphone jack

• Large 3″ LCD with 921,000 dots of resolution

• Fully weather sealed and coldproof design

• Durable magnesium alloy covers surround a rugged stainless steel chassis

• Highly accurate 77 segment metering system

• Pentaprism viewfinder with 100% field of view and 0.92X magnification

• Pentax body-based Shake Reduction (SR) stabilization system

• A maximum 1/8000 second shutter speed

• HDMI port outputs high definition images and video (and sound)

• Native support for both PENTAX PEF and Adobe DNG 14-bit RAW files

• Improved in-camera HDR image capture

• A wide range of in-camera image processing and special effects filters

• Customizable RAW/Fx button

• Built-in electronic level with tilt scale display

• SDXC memory card compatibility (via firmware update)

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The K5 In Use. How Did I Like It After Not Using A DSLR For Months?

So here I was with a DSLR after not using one for months. It was kind of weird for me because as most of you know who come here on a regular basis, I love my Leica cameras and I love my small cameras. I just DO NOT get into big bulky DSLR’s anymore. As good as some of them are (Nikon D700, Canon 5DII) they are just too damn big for me to carry around on a daily basis. I am one of those guys who bring a camera with me EVERYWHERE I go. If I run to the store for milk I have a camera on me. I do this because with todays small cameras that also pump out high quality, it is not an issue bringing them along.

The K5 is just at that point to where I would question if I should leave it at home or automatically strap it around my shoulder. Cameras like the Olympus E-P2 and Sony NEX-5 could go everywhere and provide good quality. The K5 would provide even better quality but it’s a but larger and heavier BUT it is also built like a tank and weather sealed! When it was all said and done I found that I had no problem taking the K5 along with me when I went out. The K5 paired with some of the awesome Limited prime lenses give you a kit that is on the smaller side (for a DSLR) but also gives you pro results. I was noticing better image quality with the K5 and 43 Limited than I was getting out of the Micro 4/3 cameras and the NEX-5 as well.

Pentax K5 with the 18-200 Kit Zoom at 3.5 – ISO 400 – 1/50th s

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Pentax K5 with the 18-200 Kit Zoom at 18mm – ISO 1600

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One really nice thing about the K5 is how quiet it is. When I fired the shutter it was REALLY smooth and quiet. I LOVED the sound and it made my NEX-5 sound like a shotgun. Everything about the K5 was just…well…SMOOTH. I felt like I was still shooting the K7 as it felt exactly the same but I was getting faster AF and better high ISO performance. One thing to note is that almost every image you see here was shot as a JPEG and they are pretty much straight from camera images. If I did anything to them it was just level adjustments or maybe a contrast bump.

The Pentax K5, like the K7 has very good out of camera JPEGS. They can be a little on the soft side but they sharpen up well.

Bokeh Test – Pentax K5 with the 43 Limited wide open at 1.9 – ISO 200

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Pretty sharp wide open at 1.9…love these little Pentax limited lenses!

Again, if you did not read my K7 review please do so HERE as quite a bit of it (like the video showing the features and menu) IS the same as the K5. Basically, this K5 is a KILLER DSLR with amazing *EVERYTHING!* Being a fan of the unique I would buy this camera over the Nikon D7000 as I feel it’s just as good if not better. It’s smaller and the Limited lenses ROCK. The Pentax K5 along with a 31, 43 and 77 limited lens set would be amazing! Add in a nice wide angle limited like the 15 f/4 or 21 3.2 and you can have a pro quality kit for less than an equivilant Nikon or Canon setup. Besides…EVERYONE shoots Nikon and Canon these days! Why not support a company that made a kick ass camera for those with a photographic mind. If I were in the market for a DSLR (and this one just might push me over the edge) the K5 would be mine.

This camera is built for the photographer. I really can’t see an area that is lacking with it. It’s build is top notch, its image quality is up there with the best APS-C cameras available, its out of camera JPEGS have great color and quality, its HD video rocks, it has all of the bells and whistles and then some, and it is very customizable. The K5 seems to do everything right.

So did I like it as much as  the K7? NO, I liked it even better :)

Pentax K5 with the 18-200 Kit Zoom at 18mm, f/3.5, ISO 100

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Same settings as above…

High ISO Testing

My one complaint about the Pentax K7 was it had limited high ISO performance. After ISO 1600 it started to get grainy. Though I said I would use it up to 2500 (which is damn good) I was curious to see if the K5 was living up to the hype of having better high ISO performance. Here are the results of my high ISO test.

I have to say, even ISO 12,800 looks pretty decent. I would use it if I needed to really get the shot. It appears the ISO 12800 shot is sharper but that was most likely due to the shutter speed/focus. The K5 is improved over the K7 with high ISO and these are some of the best results I have seen, right up there with the Sony A33/A55/NEX cameras and honestly…possibly better.

Here is one more at ISO 6400 along with a 100% crop…

To my eyes, this little K5 is giving me the best high ISO performance I have seen to date with an APS-X sensor.

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In Camera Filters

The K5 has in camera filters like the K7 did. The two I liked the most were the Toy Camera and High Contrast filters. Here are a couple of quick out of camera samples.

The Toy Camera Filter…

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and the high contrast filter…

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Full Size Out Of Camera JPEGS and crops

Here is a quick snap I shot wide open at 1.9 so you can see the quality of an untouched out of camera JPEG. Click the image below for the full size file..

Pentax K5 with the 43 Limited lens wide open at 1.9 – Has that creamy/dreamy feel going on

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and this next one was shot a little stopped down at f/2.5 – click for full size

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Here is a test shot to show how sharp this lens is, even when shot as a JPEG and untouched…

and the 100% crop below…I do see some CA/Purple Fringing but again, this is an out of camera JPEG shot wide open at 1.9

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HD 1080P Video Quality – Random Video Samples

I am very impressed with the HD video of the Pentax K5. Even in lower light it keeps its rich color and with a nice lens like the 43 Limited mounted the K5 delivers awesome video. The built in IS works well as you can see in my video samples below which is ALL handheld to test the IS. I also found the video implementation much better on the K5 and yea it does 1080P. You can watch the video below in your browser or right click on it and choose “watch on youtube” if you want to see the 1080P version.

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The 43 1.9 Limited Lens – It’s awesome!

The 43 Limited 1.9 lens! What a great lens this is for this camera. The 43mm focal length will give you an equivalent of a 64mm lens so it is a but long but I loved this lens. While not up to Leica quality, the Pentax Limited lenses do have a unique signature look to them and I really enjoy this look. The lenses are also very small. When compared to a NIkon or Canon prime these small Pentax lenses are an absolute joy to look at and use. To be honest, even the Pentax kit zoom is good. One of the better kit lenses I have tried out. Pentax knows how to make a great lens, no doubt.

Here are a few more images with the 43 limited to wet your appetite and if you are a Pentax shooter you can buy this lens at B&H Photo HERE, my preferred camera dealer for Pentax. BTW, the in camera stabilization works AWESOME with this lens with photo and video. Yea, the K5 has IN BODY IS (image stabilization).

MORE FROM THE 43 LIMITED LENS ON THE PENTAX K5

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The Kit Zoom – It’s great!

I also enjoyed the kit zoom just like I did when I shot it with the K7. I found it was plenty sharp and the image stabilization works VERY well with this lens. It’s construction is on the cheaper side but better than some of the Nikon, Canon and Olympus kit zooms I have shot with. The IQ is there though and with the K5s great IQ and high ISO performance, even a slower lens like this can yield great results.

My reviews are always based on real use and the image quality. If I enjoy using a camera…if it inspires me to go out and shoot…if it has character and feels good in the hand then I will most likely enjoy it. I always try to get out there and get real photos with whatever I am reviewing and sometimes it takes me a while due to me always shooting with so many cameras! While my photos here may not be amazing, I do feel they show that the K5 is a highly capable camera, even with the kit zoom which will only set you back another $100 or so when buying the kit. Well worth it over just buying the body.

The next 7 images were all shot with the Pentax K5 and the 18-55 Kit Zoom

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So, you have $1500 to spend…which camera to buy? The K5 vs ?

Since I get to shoot with so many cameras and lenses I get asked on a daily basis “what camera should I buy”? While I usually try to avoid giving this advice I decided to write down my opinions on a few other cameras vs this Pentax K5. Maybe this will help you decide which one is right for you…

The K5 vs the Nikon D7000 or D300s

If starting from scratch..if you do not own or are not invested in any lenses from a certain manufacturer then this could be a tough call. Nikon is legendary and will always be around. Their glass is phenomenal (but expensive for the good stuff) and the body that would go up against the K5 would be the D7000 or D300s though the D7000 is a little cheaper. If given the choice between the two I would take the K5. If given the choice between the D300s or the K5 that one is a bit tougher but due to size alone I would go with the Pentax K5. I like the video better on the K5 as well. If size is not a concern then the D7000 and the D300s are great DSLR’s but the K5 is better built and smaller than the D7000. Yea, I would go with a K5. But that is just me, and this is just my opinion.

The K5 vs the Ricoh GXR

Hmmm. I love the GXR along with the 28 and 50mm modules. The image quality is stellar and they have their own unique look that is not far off from a Leica look. The Ricoh is also made VERY well but it is much smaller. The only con with the GXR over the K5 is the GXR is not a DSLR so their is no optical viewfinder. The K5 will give you better AF, better higher ISO capabilities, and a slew of other features that the GXR does not but for overall IQ at lower ISO, I personally (slightly) prefer the GXR with the 28 and 50. Plus you can buy the GXR with both modules for about the same price as the K5 with its kit zoom. There is just something about that GXR for B&W and people photography. Still, it is not a DSLR so if you want a non full frame DSLR the K5 is the one I would get. What you lose in size and weight over a GXR you gain in functionality, speed, ISO and HD video features and I love the K5 as a complete package. It all depends on your needs and wants.

The K5 vs ?

I’d rather but the K5 than the competing Canon DSLR. The bottom line is that the Pentax K5 is an improvement over the already superb K7. It’s features are professional grade and there really isn’t much you couldn’t do with one. Would I trade a Leica M9 for one? NO WAY! But for a DSLR, again, it is the one I would buy if I were in the market for one under $1500. In fact, the only DSLR I would prefer over the K5 is probably the Nikon D700 but that comes in at quite a bit more money and it is much larger.

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My Final Word On The Pentax K5

If you want a DSLR on the small side that will give you pro build, pro weather sealing, pro image quality and great HD video with the availability of some GREAT prime lenses then look no further. Pentax may not be as big of a name as Nikon or Canon but I have always been a fan of the “little guys” who do things right. Pentax has done almost everything right with this camera. I sat here for 2 hours wondering what I could say that was NEGATIVE about this camera and I really came away with NOTHING! So no pro/con section this time because to be honest, I love this camera and have no negative things to really sat. It’s AF is fast, it’s IS is superb, its IQ is fantastic and it just has so much going for it.

UPDATE: After posting this review a couple of readers did point out one negative that would make this a perfect DSLR if Pentax implemented it. FULL MANUAL CONTROL during video. Maybe Pentax can do this via a firmware update? Either way, I still love this little guy and found its ease of use, customization, dynamic range, high ISO performance and build to be up there with the best pro DSLR’s.

If you are not afraid of shooting with a DSLR that doesn’t say Nikon or Canon on it then JUMP on this one. I can not imagine anyone being disappointed in it. If I had to complain about anything it would be that the menus look kind of generic. Not as polished as the other brands but it’s the menu, not a big deal. The K5 is quiet, customizable, and delivers the goods. Even its shutter is rated at 100,000 click and goes to 1/8000s which means we can use those fast lenses during the day. WIll I buy one? I WOULD IF I COULD but I can’t afford to right now! The Pentax K5 is amazing and with those sweet Pentax Limited lenses, even better. Way to go Pentax, you managed to improve upon the K7 and delivered and all terrain, all weather DSLR that is small, built like a tank and gives outstanding quality in good light and low light. Video is SUPERB as well. An all around fantastic camera.

In closing, I know this review has been VERY positive and for those who know me and my style…when I really like a camera or a lens I tend to get excited about it and yes, this comes out in my real world use reviews. The K5 got me pretty excited and I just wish I had more time with it so I could do it justice. The photos in this review were just what I was able to shoot over the past 2-3 weeks, snapshots really but I most of us shoot this way anyway. If you really want to see some amazing images with this camera and the limited lenses, click here. Inspiring stuff!

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You can buy the Pentax K5 at B&H Photo who I HIGHLY recommend for all of your photo gear.

Click here to go direct to their Pentax K5 BODY ONLY page.

Click here to go direct to their Pentax K5 with Kit Zoom page.

Some great lens choices for the K5 – The Pentax 31 LIMITED F/1.8, The Pentax 77 Limited f/1.8, The 43 1.9 limited, The 15 Limited.

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Sep 202010
 

I have been watching evey few hours to see what is being announced PRE Photokina and most if it gives me a bIg fat yawn. Here is a page listing what I have seen SO FAR that I like. Leica has yet to “officially” announce so that will come in a later post. I did not put the cool Fuji X100 here as it has its own dedicated post HERE.

What I know so far: I have heard from a very reliable source that there will be NO Nikon D700X or D700s released right now. From what I understand, the D700 will remain in the lineup so for those waiting for the D700 replacement, it may be a while. I could be wrong of course, but my source is usually spot on. Never been wrong. The big thing for Leica will be the Titanium M9 and the D-Lux 5. Of course the Fuji I already spoke of yesterday (which is on my MUST try list) is the #1 hot item for me so far.

But so far, here is a listing of what is coming soon to the camera world that looks interesting, and most of it I will review as soon as I can get my hands on it all…more to come in the following days…

The Pentax K5


Yep, Pentax is replacing the K7 with the K5 which promises lower noice and a better sensor. I loved t he K7 so if this is better than it will be a fantastic camera. I was hoping for full frame though. Here is the press release

September 21, 2010: PENTAX Imaging Systems is pleased to announce the launch of the PENTAX K-5 interchangeable lens digital SLR camera.

Encased in a compact but solid, functional body, this new model comes equipped with a host of advanced photographic tools for the easy creation of great pictures, while delivering high standards of image quality, data processing speed and operability.

Developed using the highly acclaimed PENTAX K-7 (introduced to the market in June 2009) as its base, the K-5 inherits the exceptional reliability, user-friendly operation, array of advanced features and compact, lightweight body of its predecessor.

However, it is more resourceful and flexible in photographic expression. Combining a new high-speed, low-noise CMOS image sensor with the high-performance PRIME II imaging engine, it produces super-high-resolution, rich-gradation digital images with approximately 16.28 effective megapixels, even when shooting in the continuous shooting mode at a maximum speed of approximately seven images per second.

It also offers an extra-wide sensitivity range between ISO 80 and ISO 51200 (when expanded via a custom function) and full HD-proportion movie recording at 1920 x 1080 pixels to expand the boundaries of high-quality visual presentation.

Adding other improvements and refinements — such as a faster autofocusing speed, an upgraded HDR (High Dynamic Range) function now usable in handheld shooting, and better operability through an overall review of the design and shape of all components — the K-5 is designed to be more functional and manoeuverable in every detail, and in its response to the demands of the photographer.

What are its key features?

High-resolution, low-noise, true-to-life image reproduction

The K-5 incorporates a newly designed CMOS image sensor with a wide image-sensitive area measuring 23.7mm by 15.7mm. It assures high-speed image data readout much faster than that of previous sensors. By coupling this image sensor — equivalent in performance and data processing speed to the image sensor incorporated in the PENTAX 645D medium-format digital camera — with the reliable PRIME (PENTAX Real Image Engine) II imaging engine, the K-5 produces super-high-resolution, rich-gradation digital images with 16.28 effective megapixels, while suppressing annoying digital noise to a minimum.

High-speed continuous shooting at approximately seven images per second

The K-5’s high-speed continuous shooting mode records as many as 22 images in a single sequence at a maximum speed of seven images per second.

Responsive, high-precision AF system

The K-5 features a new-generation, wide-frame SAFOX IX+ autofocus system with 11 sensor points (with nine cross-type sensors positioned in the middle). This sophisticated AF system has completely redesigned optics, and factors the light source at the time of shooting into its calculations to improve the accuracy of autofocus operation. It also offers a choice of shutter-release options — between focus priority and release priority in the AF.S (single) advance mode, or between focus priority and speed priority in the AF.C (continuous) advance mode. The K-5 is also equipped with a spotbeam projector to assist the AF system in poorly lit locations.

Compact, solid, functional camera body

Despite its compact dimensions, the K-5 is built to be exceptionally solid and durable, with a body of sturdy yet lightweight magnesium alloy, and a chassis of high-rigid stainless steel. Thanks to the inclusion of 77 special seals in the body, it also boasts a dustproof, weather-resistant and cold-resistant construction, assuring reliable operation even under harsh environment and at temperatures as low as -10°C. It also features a reliable shutter unit that provides a top shutter speed of 1/8000 second and tested to 100,000 shutter releases.

Bright, clear optical viewfinder with 100% field of view

The K-5 features a pentaprism finder with a nearly 100% field of view and at 0.92-times magnification (with a 50mm F1.4 lens at infinity) to provide a better view of the image field and improve the accuracy and speed of focusing and image composition. It also comes with the renowned Natural-Bright-Matte focusing screen to assist the photographer with manual-focus operation.

Effortless Live View shooting

Thanks to a new image sensor and a more sophisticated algorithm, the K-5’s Contrast AF mode assures better performance and greater focusing speed than before during Live View shooting. With the addition of a Golden Section display, the K-5 offers a choice of three different grid patterns to facilitate image composition.

PENTAX-original SR mechanism with user-assisting options

The K-5 features the PENTAX-developed SR (Shake Reduction) mechanism, which effectively compensates the adverse effect of camera shake by 2.5 to 4 shutter steps, to produce sharp, blur-free images.

Recording of Full HD-proportion movies (1920 x 1080 pixels, 25 frames per second)

The K-5 captures beautiful, true-to-life movie clips in 16:9 full HD proportions (1920 x 1080 pixels) at a frame rate of 25 frames per second. The K-5 also provides greater possibilities in visual presentation in movies, especially through the application of custom images and digital filters.

Innovative image-processing functions to produce distinctive photographic expressions

Custom image function for distinctive finishing touches: letting users easily select the desired finishing touch for a particular image.

Versatile digital filter function: The K-5’s digital filter function allows the user to process recorded images in a variety of creative ways and produce highly individualized visual expressions without requiring a computer.

Cross process mode with three options: The K-5 features the unique cross process mode, in which the camera automatically shifts photographic parameters for each exposure to create eye-catching images with unique, dramatic colours.

HDR (High Dynamic Range) function: The K-5 features the HDR (high dynamic range) function to create one composite image with an extra-wide gradation range from three images with different exposures, without requiring a computer.

In addition it has…

Electronic level function, with a newly added tilt confirmation tool

Extended-exposure NR (Noise Reduction) function, with a choice of Auto, On and Off modes

High-sensitivity NR (Noise Reduction) function, with a camera-dependent Auto mode and a user-adjustable reduction level control for different sensitivity settings

RAW/Fx button, for single-action switching of image file format

Large, easy-to-view 3.0-inch wide-view colour LCD monitor with 921,000 dots

77-segment multi-pattern metering system for extra-accurate light measurement

DR II (Dust Removal II) mechanism

Long battery life, for recording of 1,100 images with full recharge

User-friendly Hyper control system, to flexibly and accurately respond to the photographer’s creative intentions

Dynamic-range expansion function, to compensate for both whitewashed (overexposed) and black-out (underexposed) areas

Automatic compensation of distortion and lateral chromatic aberration (available only with DA-,DFA- and FA Limited-series lenses)

CTE mode, to automatically adjust the white-balance level to emphasize primary colours of sunset scenes

Attachment of copyright credits on recorded images

D-BG4 Battery Grip (optional) for extra power supply with an exclusive rechargeable lithium-ion battery or six AA-size batteries

Colour-specific control buttons/dials for easy recognition and quick access, based on the universal colour design

PENTAX Digital Camera Utility 4 software package

The K-5 will be available from mid-late October 2010.


The Nikon D7000

The replacement to the Nikon D90 is here and looks good, I must say! This will be a popular camera just as the D90 was though I still feel there is a shift going on here where the smaller cameras with larger sensors may start to become more popular for everyday non pros. You can already PRE-ORDER this camera at B&H Photo. Here is the press release on the Nikon D7000:

Nikon launches the D7000, a D-SLR that offers exceptional image quality, reliability and performance packed into a durable and portable body.

Exceptional image quality

The D7000 includes a range of new features to ensure superior image quality including 16.2 effective megapixels with the newly developed Nikon DX format CMOS image sensor. The camera boasts a new image-processing engine, EXPEED 2, which delivers higher image quality, higher speed processing and multiple functions with more power. And the D7000’s increased ISO sensitivity (100-6400, extendable up to 25600) ensures exceptional detail with minimal noise when capturing fast moving subjects or in poor light situations, even without the flash.

Outstanding reliability

The D7000’s bright Glass Pentaprism Viewfinder with approximate 100% frame coverage and 0.94x magnification gives you the most precise view and focus of any scene, and it is always ready when you are with a shutter speed of 1/8000s, tested to 150,000 cycles. What is more, the camera is protected by magnesium alloy top and rear covers and has durable sealing against dust and moisture so it is prepared for even the most testing of situations.

When it comes to storage, the D7000 again provides you with maximum reliability. The twin SD memory card slots allow for added storage capacity and give you the freedom to manage your images and video in the way you want to either by saving more of them, keeping different formats separate or always having backup space when you need it.

Enhanced performance

The D7000’s newly developed AF system featuring 39 focus points, including 9 cross-type sensors in the centre, gives you the sharpest focus, no matter where your subject is in the frame. And with Nikon’s new 2,016 pixel RGB metering sensor to enhance the effectiveness of the Scene Recognition System, plus High Speed Continuous shooting capability at 6FPS, you can be sure to capture incredibly accurate, high-quality images every time.

Full-HD D-Movie with AF-F mode

The D7000 has direct access to a movie record button so you can capture footage in full HD (1080p) with greater ease. The AF-F gives continuous focus during movie recording, which is captured using MPEG4 AVC/H.264 compression, and has a stereo microphone jack for quality sound recording. This means superior image quality and operability when using the D-Movie function.

The D7000s built-in movie editing functions also give you the freedom to chose the start and end points of your footage and switch to selected frames for capturing still images without relying on a computer – letting you edit and share your films quickly and easily.

Optional accessories

Nikon is also launching the new Speedlight SB-700, a feature-packed yet easy-to-use flash unit. The SB-700 offers lighting benefits that greatly surpass the camera onboard flash, allowing total control over scene or subject lighting to create beautiful, professional looking results.

To guarantee great performance for longer, the D7000 also has a dedicated Multi-Power Battery Pack MB-D11 (optional) that enables seamless switching of power supply with the in-camera battery, vertical shooting and further stabilizes the body when using a long telephoto lens.

The D7000 is compatible with the GP-1 GPS (Global Positioning System) unit which records location information in the image file and of course, the camera supports a wide variety of NIKKOR lenses.


The Sony NEX 10 Video Camera – IN STOCK AT B&H PHOTO NOW!

FINALLY! A camcorder made with a larger sensor APS sensor! Sony has taken their NEX series to the next level in the form of a video camera which can take all of the NEX lenses. Specs look sweet and a buddy of mine has one already so cant wait to get his feedback. I would love to review this as well so maybe soon. Only concern is the price on this one. $1999 seems a little steep but we will have to wait and see how it does in the real world compared to say, a NEX 5.  There is one review already over at Luminous Landscape.

From Sonys Site:

Presenting a creative breakthrough: the first Handycam® camcorder to accept interchangeable lenses. The ergonomically designed NEX-VG10 camcorder has a large Sony Exmor™ APS HD CMOS sensor that boasts 19.5 times the surface area of conventional8 camcorders resulting in gorgeous, cinematic, depth of field. Shoot AVCHD™ video at up to 24Mbps at full 1920×1080/60i HD resolution and still photography up to 14 megapixels. Pursue your creative vision with the supplied 11x zoom 18-200mm Optical SteadyShot™ image-stabilized lens. You can also add your favorite A-mount lenses5 including award-winning G lens and Carl Zeiss® lenses, via an adaptor (sold separately). A Quad Capsule Spatial Array stereo microphone records spectacular audio to complete your creative vision.

Jun 282010
 

The Pentax Kx DSLR  - First thoughts…

Many of you have read my Pentax K7 review where I praised the camera for its build, its feel, and mainly for being a massive bang for the buck camera. I still say today that if I were in the market for a DSLR body under $1500 I would most likely buy the Pentax K7 with a couple of the Pentax prime “limited” lenses like this one, or even this one. I really enjoyed the camera and for the $1000 it costs (with the kit lens) it’s one of those cameras that can be considered a deal, and even a future classic for Pentax shooters. Since reviewing the K7 many have asked me to check out the Pentax Kx, the smaller, cheaper, and not as well built little cousin the the K7.

The Pentax Kx Features

12.4-megapixel APS-C Format CMOS Sensor

The K-x incorporates a newly developed CMOS image sensor to assure high-speed image data readout and more flexibility with varying ISO sensitivity levels. With approximately 12.4 effective megapixels, this image sensor accurately reproduces true-to-life images with fine detail and rich color depth. The K-x offers a wide sensitivity range between ISO 200 and ISO 6400 and allows users to expand the sensitivity range between ISO 100 and ISO 12800 via a custom function to offer greater creative freedom to photographers.

Wide Screen HD 1280x720p Video Recording @ 24 Frames-per-Second

The Pentax K-x movie recording function* captures true-to-life movie clips in 16:9 high-definition TV proportions (1280 x 720 pixels) at a frame rate of 24 frames per second. Compatible with every Pentax interchangeable lens ever made, the Video Capture mode opens a new world of creativity for Pentax K-x owners.

High-Speed Continuous Shooting at approximately 4.7 Images-per-Second

The K-x’s high-speed continuous shooting mode records as many as 17 images (in JPEG recording format) at a maximum speed of approximately 4.7 images per second. This is the fastest of all entry-class models. The K-x also features a more reliable shutter unit, which passed a demanding action test of more than 100,000 shutter releases. The top shutter speed of 1/6000 second allows the photographer to preserve sharp, crisp images of fast-moving subjects.

High-Performance, High-Speed PRIME II Imaging Processor

The K-x features the newly developed PRIME (Pentax Real Image Engine) II, that is an upgrade of the original PRIME imaging engine. This new imaging engine offers greater data processing speed and enhanced capability to produce higher-quality images with richer, more accurate color rendition, as well as faster transmission speed of movie data.

Live View Function with Face Detection of up to 16 Faces

In addition to the camera’s viewfinder, the K-x features a Live View function that allows users to view subjects on the LCD monitor during shooting. The K-x also offers a choice of three different focusing modes in Live View: Contrast Auto Focus, Face Detection Auto Focus, and Phase Difference Auto Focus.

Digital Filters

The K-x’s digital filter function allows users to process recorded images in a variety of creative ways within the camera and produce highly creative visual expressions. With a choice of 16 different filters including Color Extract, Retro, Soft, Starburst, Toy Camera, and more (including a custom filter for building multiple effects), photographers may apply multiple filters to a single image for customized effects.

Cross Process Mode

The K-x features a new Cross Process mode that automatically and randomly adds finishing touches to exposures to create eye-catching images with unique, intriguing colors (just like images treated with Cross Process* in film photography). This mode adds a whimsical element to digital photography since photographers don’t know the results until the captured image is actually displayed on the camera’s LCD monitor.

High-Precision 11-Point AF Sensor

The high-precision, wide-frame SAFOX VIII autofocus system of the K-x features 11 sensor points (with nine cross-type sensors positioned in the middle) to automatically capture even off-centered subjects in sharp, crisp focus. Photographers also may select one of the sensors as a focusing point to accommodate specialized applications.

Additional Features Include:

Custom Image modes offer high quality processing for images, a 2.7″ (230,000-dot) high-resolution color LCD, Auto Picture mode for effortless, automatic selection of the most appropriate shooting mode, even during Live View shooting , a Status screen for easy, at-a-glance confirmation of various settings on the LCD, 10 scene modes, including Night Scene, Surf & Snow, Sunset, Kids, and Museum available via simple icon selection, and Pentax Digital Camera Utility 4 software package, with RAW-data processing and image browser functions.

My First Thoughts on the Kx

I finally was able to get a hold of one and I have shot with it for a few days now. My first impressions are that it’s definitely not as nice as the K7 when it comes to build, feel, and overall use. I really enjoyed the brick-solid K7, the weather sealing and knowing that it could take some abuse if I had to dish some out. I also prefer camera bodies with as many external controls as possible as I hate menu digging.

The Kx is smaller, feels a little more plasticky, and takes AA batteries, which to some are a positive and after thinking about it, I sort of agree. The K7 does require some menu digging but it’s not as bad as my sons Nikon D3000.

I will go over all of the details in my full review coming soon but even while my first impressions are not as enthusiastic as they were with the K7, I can not complain about the image quality of this little guy, or the price. With an 18-55 lens, this camera comes in at $529, which is another great deal for Pentax shooters. This is about the same price as the Olympus E-Pl1 but it has a larger sensor, which should mean better quality pictures. I do know that you have access to MUCH nicer lenses with Pentax, and that is VERY important when it comes to getting great IQ from ANY camera. The lenses are the heart of ANY camera system which is probably why I love Leica so much!

As for Pentax, I have their 200 f/2.8 here and it’s damn good.

So look for my review soon! Until then, here are some shots I took of my Nephew while he was visiting from Chicago. These were converted to B&W and were shot with the kit zoom AND the 200.

In my review I will go over everything with the Kx including ISO testing, RAW vs JPEG, speed (operation and AF), color, and video. It’s so cool that today we have so many options for enjoying photography, and even the lower priced cameras can do a great job it seems. The K7 is double the cost, and I have to admit, worth it but for $500, the Kx seems pretty damn good. I’ll be shooting it for a few more weeks to see how it goes over the long run.

Jun 212010
 

New reviews on the way!

Hey guys! Been out all day with my Leica M9 and a new lens that just arrived this morning. Well, TWO lenses that just arrived. One is the Leica 50 Summilux ASPH which I will be re-reviewing on the M9 very soon. Seeing that I just reviewed the new 35 Summilux ASPH I wanted to shoot with the 50 Lux ASPH again to see which lens I would prefer as my main M9 lens. So look for a new 50 Summilux ASPH review for the M9 soon.

Another lens review that I have been meaning to finish is the Leica 90 Elmarit lens review, so be on the lookout for this one as well! Leica dealer Ken Hansen was kind enough to send me a 90 Elmarit which is perfect on my M9. It is the latest version with the slide out hood and I prefer this lens in every way to the newer 90 Summarit. Ken gets these in every now and then (they have been discontinued, and can only be found used) and you can e-mail him here if you are looking for one, or any Leica lens for that matter!

B&H Photo just sent me a Pentax Kx along with the kit zoom and the Pentax 200 f/2.8 lens. I will be shooting with that one for a couple of weeks and then will write my full review. I am curious to see how it compares to the Pentax K7 that I loved. I hear it has better high ISO capabilities but it doesn’t have the pro build of the K7. So this review will also be coming really soon.

A buddy of mine sent me his Bronica 645 film camera to test out and I will be shooting with that one this week. I hope to get a few rolls through it and see how it goes. The Bronica 645 is a medium format camera that takes 120 film. It is a rangefinder and built like a tank. It’s semi compact for this type of camera so I look forward to trying it out with some slide film and some more Delta 3200! Look for this soon, sometime in July.

I also have a new guest article or two to post and plenty of images for the Daily Inspirations so check back daily! Tomorrow I plan on posting my 90 Elmarit lens review so if all goes as planned, it will be up by noon!

I will leave you with a few quick test shots that I snapped today with the M9 and 50 Summilux ASPH. The last time I shot this lens was with the M8 so this is my first time trying it out on the M9. My first thing was to test it for focus and then get some around the house shots. When a new lens arrives you HAVE To try it out on whatever is around, so today it was my son and my pets. I promise there will be no dogs or cats in the final review :) After taking just a few test snaps I remember very well why this lens is considered the best 50mm on the planet.

Steve

Leica M9 and 50 Summilux ASPH at 1.4 – COnverted to B&W with Silver Efex Pro.

Leica M9 and 50 Summilux ASPH at 1.4

Again, wide open at 1.4 – Why? Because I like it :) I also am in a punchy color mood so I turned up the color a bit here.

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