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Equipment

Pentax HD DA 55-300mm WR review.

Over the years i’ve owned several telephoto zoom lenses in that range from different brands: Canon 70-200mm/4L (2 times), Canon 70-300mm/3.5-5.6 IS (non L version), Fuji XF 55-200mm/3.5-4.8 OIS, Pentax DA* 50-135mm/2.8, Sony 70-300mm/3.5-5.6 G series and also many older manual focus lenses! Since i wanted to save weight and have a 2 lens kit when i want to travel light or as a general lens for landscape, tame wildlife and with good close-up ability for some bigger frogs like Green Frogs and Bullfrogs, so i decided to give a chance to that Pentax HD DA 55-300mm/4-5.8 WR. If the IQ is not good enough for me i can always sell it and buy a different lens. My expectations are that it will probably be more in the same league as the Canon 70-300mm IS (non L version) mentioned above.

When i first opened the box i was surprised by how small and lightweight it is, i’m used to bigger lenses in that range. It’s well balanced on my K50 and they will make a great lightweight kit, some will say that it feels big to them, go in a store and try a Canon 7D fitted with a “small”  Canon 70-200mm/4L and a TC 1 4x  !!!

WR is a big plus for my style of photography

I live in Canada and i encounter all type of bad weather, so it’s one of the reason i came back with Pentax, it’s a lot easier to continue shooting in the rain when you don’t have to protect your gear from it. From my past experience with Pentax DA* and WR lenses i know that i can shoot in very bad weather and be “ZEN”. My favorite subject is Frogs, i’m often shooting along the shore of ponds, so my gear gets muddy and wet most of the time. Up to now it copes with the climate very well.

My first shot with that lens in bad weather, it was falling big wet snowflakes. Taken at 190mm at f/11, ISO 500, tripod.

This time it was a real good test for the WR of my Pentax kit, we went to the ZOO and it snowed for over an hour of these big wet snowflakes, there was no problem at all for the Pentax weather sealing ! Taken at 150mm, ISO 640, 1/320 sec. at f/6.3, handheld.

 

IQ

Well, it’s always a big part of the decision when you consider buying a new lens. I was hoping that this lens would deliver good IQ at 300mm for occasional tame wildlife, showing wildlife in their habitat and at the ZOO (i like to go at different ZOO we have around here). The lens deliver good results in the field especially in the center, i prefer to use it between f/6.3 and f/8 at the longer settings (200mm to 300mm) but I wouldn’t call the IQ tack sharp at these focal lengths. For my general shooting i have no problem to stop it down to f/11-13 at closer range for more intimate landscape photos, especially at focal lengths below 200mm. Sure it’s not in the same league as the lenses i’ve used in the past in that range like the Canon 70-200mm/4 L, Fuji XF 55-200mm or Pentax DA*50-135mm/2.8, but it certainly can compete with the Canon 70-300mm IS (non-L). The corners at the longer focal length are not up to the center but it’s less important since most of the time I will shoot it at wider apertures for wildlife where the corners are not as important.

There is still some CA visible at 300mm at f/8 in high contrast situations but it’s easy to correct it in LR.

Here we go with some real life photos:

Taken at 135mm, 1/2 sec. at f/11, ISO 100, tripod.

 

This was a good situation to do a flare test with these Canada Geese, the sun was hitting the water surface with very bright light and no PP was done to the photo. The sun was just out of the frame, we can say that the new HD coating from Pentax do a very good job !

From the same morning as the shot above, the top was cropped to obtain the composition i wanted. Very good contrast in photos, not much PP is needed to obtain good color saturation.

Young Red Tail Hawk at a local ZOO during a spring Snowfall. Taken handheld, at 300mm, ISO 800, 1/640 sec. at f/6.3. I printed that photo to an 8×10 inches with my printer to see how it would look and it looks good.

Crop from the above photo with no PP and sharpening.

Same crop size but with PP and sharpening, details are quite good, sure it’s not tack sharp like a Pro 300mm prime lens but very usable.

I took this photo of a Cottontail Rabbit in my backyard, I crawled on my stomach to get close and to obtain an eye level POV. The WR was useful since a light rain was falling. Taken at 230mm, 1/320 sec. at f/7.1, ISO 800 (no SR, shutter speed was fast enough).

 

BTW, i tested my lens to see if the centering was good and it looks like i have a very good copy in that department.

How does it perform in close-up range with an extension tube

I always try my lenses with extension tubes to see how they perform and if they can be useful for “close-up” shots, especially for Frog photos. The Pentax DA 55-300mm WR alone already focus at 1.40 meter which gives me a 0.28x repro ratio. After some test around my house it performs like my Fuji XF 55-200mm with extension tubes …. it’s not worth it. The corners suffers a lot, my guess is that the image circle that these lenses produce was really made for APS-C sensor and by putting an extension tube the corners IQ drops too much. Most of the lenses i’ve owned over the years were FF lenses or Medium Format lenses, so the corners were always very good when using extension tubes because of their bigger image circle.

Here is the full shot with an extension tube of 25mm. BTW the photo was taken at around 125mm and stopped down to f/11 on a solid tripod.

 

Lower right corner crop, the softness is very evident here.

 

Handling in the field

What i found is that you need to support the lens on a solid support or have a fast enough shutter speed when using it from around 200mm to 300mm settings to obtain sharp results and it’s probably why i read on the internet that it was soft at the long end. Because when zoomed in that range it is more prone to vibrations than the other telephoto zoom lenses that i’ve owned (the ones in the first paragraph). Even when using it on a solid tripod if there is some wind or you press the shutter button with your finger when it’s zoomed all the way to 300mm it will be enough to cause vibrations and resulting in a soft photo (even if using the MLU with the 2 second delay). So you have to be more careful in the field when using it at the longer end of the range and that’s the reason i just ordered a remote release. Compared to Pro lenses that doesn’t extend like the DA* 50-135 or the Canon 70-20mm lenses which are stiffer because of that and also they are made more out of metal, the weight helps in windy conditions. When using it handheld if you use a good telephoto shooting technique the lens will deliver good details.

Other than that i really like how it handles and it feels good with my K50. I really like the feeling of the focusing ring, it’s easy to obtain focus when using it in MF with the help of the LV. The only complaint i have is that the focusing ring turns when in AF, so watch your fingers ! I found that my copy needed a +1 adjustment for the AF, good to have that kind of adjustment available in the camera ! AF certainly needs good light to be fast and accurate at the same time, especially at the long end, this might be due to my K50, a K3 would certainly deliver better results.

After some use i can say that the lens will not suffer from Zoom creep, the zooming ring is stiff enough to prevent that, probably a bonus from the WR seals !

Gray Wolf at a ZOO, i converted it in B&W for more impact and to point the viewer to it’s sad expression. Taken at 150mm, f/6.3.

Here is the kind of photo that i will use it a lot, it’s a lot easier using a zoom lens than a prime lens while trying to photograph subjects in a river, especially when the rocks are covered with ice. Taken at 150mm, ISO 320, 1/10 sec. at f/13.

Canada Geese at sunrise, i like to photograph wildlife in their habitat because i can show more atmosphere in that kind of composition. The DA 55-300mm WR is a great lens for that since i can fine tune the composition by zooming and the WR ensure that i can shoot in any weather. Taken at around 75mm, ISO 500, 1/13 sec. at f/13, tripod.

Another photo of one of the Cottontail rabbit that live in my backyard. This one was taken in the late afternoon light, I was laying on my stomach and handholding my camera. Taken at 300mm, f/7.1.

Conclusion

It’s a good lens for what it is but if you’re looking for Pro grade IQ …. it’s not the lens to buy. It’s quite good up to about 200mm but after that there is a drop in IQ, you will have to stop it down to around f/6.3-8 to get good sharpness again in the center. If you’re looking for a lightweight telephoto zoom lens, WR and with good IQ in most of it’s range and are willing to stop it down a little …. then it’s a good choice. It will never deliver the same beautiful images that my DA*50-135mm was giving me but it does exactly what i was hoping for when i bought it. As a final point, I will buy another lens in the same range but with better IQ like a DA*60-250mm or the new DFA 70-200mm or even a Canon 70-300mm IS L (we never know) and this lens will be my lightweight telephoto lens.

For this photo of a Male Green Frog my tripod was nearly completely in the water which gave me that POV. The lens was set at 300mm and f/6.3, ISO 1250.

 


My gear for the 2015 Frog season.

I just switched back to Pentax just in time for the 2015 frog season, i carefully selected my lenses to be useful for photographing frogs. I bought lenses that have a good minimum focusing distance or repro ratio so that i can use them to take the portrait of my little friends.

Here is my Pentax lenses which will be useful on my tripod but also handheld with the help of the SR:

– DA 16-85mm WR for bigger frogs that will let me close enough to use that lens to show them in their habitat kind of shot.

– DA 55-300mm WR that i will use mostly from 100mm to 300mm.

– Tamron 90mm Macro will be my main working lens especially for the Gray Tree frog and Spring peeper frog but also to take close-up shots of the bigger ones.

– Takumar (6×7) 135mm/4 Macro, this lens have a 1:3 ratio on a 6×7 camera and will give me more rech than my Tamron 90mm Macro.

I still have my Canon 7D and will be able to use my 400mm/5.6L with and without extension tubes when frogs will be out of reach of my Pentax DA 55-300mm WR. Also i have a Sigma 180mm/5.6 APO Macro that have a 1:2 repro ratio that i will use on my 7D for more reach but still can do Macro shots.

I’m excited at the coming season that should start in a few days, i will be trying to vary my POV and came-up with different perspective and atmosphere. I will also explore new ponds this summer so that will help vary the environment in my photos.

Here are teaser photos from last year to give you an idea of the coming season 🙂

Young Spring peeper frog.

Green Frog.

Young Gray Tree frog with part of it’s tail still present.

 


Wide angle lenses for close-up photography !

Usually when we talk about close-up photography we think of using a Macro lens but a WA lens can give you a different perspective. Unfortunately there isn’t that many WA lenses that can focus very close. Sigma is making or have made a 24mm and a 28mm “Macro” lenses but i’ve never tried them, they can focus down to 0.18 Meter and 0.20 Meter respectively and giving a reproduction ration of 1:2.7 and 1:2.9.

The lenses that i have more experience with are two 14mm lenses that focus closer than other manufacturers 14mm lenses … the Pentax DA14mm and Fuji XF 14mm. The Pentax can focus down to 0.17 Meter (repro ratio of 1:5) and the Fuji to 0.18 Meter (repro ratio of 1:8), both are APS-C lenses only. From the official numbers the Fuji doesn’t have a magnification as high as the Pentax, that 1 cm closer focusing of the Pentax makes a big difference or it’s something in the lens design that results in a big loss of magnification. If someone know the answer don’t hesitate to post it below.

A last point, the Pentax have the advantage of  having SR (Shake Reduction) in the cameras, i think that any kind of image stabilisation is useful even with a WA lens. Sometimes you’re shooting handheld at arms length and every help you can get is welcome. Sure you can boost the ISO but there is a limit when you want to maintain IQ.

Here is how close the Pentax DA14 is to the subject at it’s minimum focusing distance.

Enough of the technical talking, now in the field with those 2 WA lenses. They are both great lenses at their minimum focusing distance, i used them especially for photographing close-ups of frogs but also for flowers and mushrooms. When i’m using a 14mm lens for taking close-ups of frogs i don’t put the hood on the lens because it almost touches my subject and can scare it away. With some practice you get to know which frog will let you close enough to have a good shot.

This Green Frog was taken near the minimum focusing distance of the Fuji XF 14mm at f/8 on an X-E1.

One from the Pentax DA 14mm at f/7.1, sorry about the dead Red Squirrel but i like that photo because it shows that wild animals are always in danger even in our towns.

Mushroom in it’s habitat taken with the Pentax DA 14mm.

 

The photo of this Male Bullfrog was taken from a Canoe with the help of my wife and kids to get close enough. (Fuji XF14mm at f/6.4)

Mushrooms growing in a mossy forest close to a big river, taken handheld but braced on my camera bag at a shutter speed of  1/8 sec. at f/6.4. (Fuji XF 14mm)

This photo was taken at my parent’s summer cabin, they are wild young Black Ducks but peoples around the Lake gave them foods since they were very young when they came with their parents. I was able to get really close to them by getting down on my belly. Taken with my Fuji XF14mm at f/9.0, some even tried to eat my fingers or X-E1!

I prefer to use MF at close distances, especially with the Pentax K-01 and Fuji X-E1 because of the Focus Peaking which makes it easy to get perfect focus.  It takes some practice to get good composition and don’t forget to get very close to the subject so your shot will have more impact. With a WA lenses you get a lot of things into the frame so you have to pay attention to the background and the corners, because you will see things in your photo later that you didn’t saw when you took your photo, so look carefully in the field to be sure you can remove or recompose to get the distracting objects or plants out of your frame.

So get close and down to the level of your subject and have fun while getting interesting perspectives!


Live View helped my Photography.

Back in late 2008 i was shooting with a Pentax DS2, i dropped it on my Pentax-67 M*400mm/4 and broked the LCD, i had to replace my DSLR! I bought a Pentax K20D to replace it, it’s equipped with LV but i’ve never liked it in that camera so never used it in the field. Then a couple of years later i bought a Sony NEX-3, i liked the focus peaking feature, it was so easy to get accurate focus now with my old Takumar (M42) lenses !

When the Pentax K-01 came out i bought one immediately, the focus peaking was a big selling point. This is the camera that really get me hooked on LV, the AF was accurate and getting photos from different angles was a lot easier than trying to look into the VF of my K20D.

Getting a low POV is easy now, even if the LCD screen of the K-01 is fixed you can see relatively well from about every angles. For this photo my K-01 was directly on the ground and i was able to shoot from a comfortable position instead of being forced to lay flat on the ground … it’s good when it’s wet and cold or you’re getting older 🙂

AF in LV is useful for wildlife also, especially when they are a long distance from you. If the light is good it locks easily on your subject, if not i switch to MF. My 7D with 400mm/5.6L+TC 1.4X II can’t AF but in LV that combo can be use in AF, sure it’s not fast but it works. I’m using LV more often now for wildlife when my subject give me the time, it’s certainly a must have now for me when photographing frogs with my 70-200mm or 400mm with extension tubes and/or a TC 1.4X.

For this long distance shot of a Cormorant in a tree i switched to AF in LV and zoomed in to get more accurate AF. I used my 7D with and 400mm/5.6 L on a tripod.

This is a good example of using LV for manually focusing precisely on the eye of a frog. Here i took that shot of a Bullfrog with my 7D and 400mm/5.6L.

Having a big screen to compose is so much fun, better than looking at a VF, especially the VF of the entry level cameras. It’s more like a small View Camera. You can stay away from your camera in a more relax position, i use a cable release while looking on the LCD until my subject is at it’s best.

 

Here is an example of using LV with a cable release and waiting for a subject to flew in my composition. I was waiting and in a comfortable position without having to wait with my eye glued to the VF.

I never thought i would buy a DSLR with a tilt and swivel screen but i did it when i bought a cheap Canon T3i. I learned to appreciate that screen and can’t wait to use it for photographing frogs with it at my local pond, it will be useful when my tripod will be low in the water, it will be easier to see and focus on the LCD.

Sure they are not perfect, in bright sun it’s still difficult to see well compared to a VF, but i managed to use them anyway, if i really can’t see anything i use the VF.

Here is a short video on how i use my K-01 for ground level shots, a lot easier than trying to see in the VF:

http://s47.photobucket.com/user/leopold44/media/M4V06483.mp4.html

For this photo of a Green Frog i had to lay down on the shore of the pond and was holding my K-01 equipped with my DFA 100mm Macro WR as far as i could above the water. The big LCD, Focus Peaking and SR made that shot possible.

LCD will get better in the coming years, resolution is already better than just a couple of years ago. There is LCD that have touch screen now, i have some experience with the Panasonic GX7 and it works pretty well, like an I-Pod. The camera manufacturer will include those touch screen more and more in the coming years for sure and probably other features that we can’t imagine yet but will make our life easier as photographer.


Weather sealing in Lenses and Cameras, a new trend !

Weather Sealing is not a necessity for the Outdoor photographer but it’s certainly a desirable option when choosing a new camera or lens. When i was shooting with film cameras my Pentax gear was not sealed and there wasn’t many of them that were sealed at that time. I was using plastic bags when it was raining, not the best thing but it gets the job done, i’m still using plastic bags and/or raincover for my gear with no weather sealing.

Camera and lens makers are including Sealing into more of their products now and it’s a good thing for the Outdoor photographers (Wildlife, Landscape , sports …..).  Even Fuji with their new X-T1 and some WR lenses coming later this year is joining the party. Unfortunately not all manufacturers indicates clearly which lenses are sealed and to which degree they are. Canon L series of lenses are not all sealed, some not at all, some partially (they require a filter with a gasket to complete the sealing) and some are fully weather sealed. Nikon is also vague on this point, i’m not too familiar with their lenses and which ones are sealed.

Olympus and Pentax have a very good reputation for working in bad weather. I’ve been shooting with some Pentax WR and DA* lenses for some years now and i can attest that they can be used in any bad weather  that we have here in Canada.

This photo of a Green Frog with friends was taken with my Pentax K20D and DFA 100mm Maco WR, it was raining and after 2 hours i was soaked but my gear had no problems at all.

Pentax is clear on which lenses are weather sealed and to which level:

http://c2b6d376b97bcc466063-5420c200a1f030d1394a9548df6eadbd.r5.cf2.rackcdn.com/files/support/Pentax_Ricoh_WR_White_V2%20_2_.pdf

Recently i bought a Tamron 90mm Macro VC for my Canon kit and it is equipped with a rubber gasket around the lens mount but no other seal in the lens. I don’t know if the Tamron seal will be as good as the Pentax or if it will still work well after some years in the field, but it’s good to see a third party lens makers adding this feature to their lenses.

I did a short Video to show the difference between the Pentax and Tamron gasket around the lens mount:

http://s47.photobucket.com/user/leopold44/media/MVI_4892_zpse0417590.mp4.html

The camera is also important, not all cameras have the same degree of protection against rain and dust. The Card and battery doors of my Canon 7D doesn’t have any gasket even if the camera is said to be weather sealed, however there are seals in other parts of the camera, compared to my Pentax K20D which have the best doors i have used with rubber gaskets and a very good locking mechanism.

All in all weather sealing is now part of the choices you have to make when choosing a new camera, lens or system, when i have choices i will buy a sealed lens over another one if all things are similar. It’s not a necessity but it certainly makes your life easier in the field and gives you a worry free experience while concentrating on getting the best shots you can.

 


PENTAX DA 20-40mm F2.8-4 ED Limited DC WR review.

Pentax DA Limited series are special lenses, especially the focal lengths and their maximum aperture opening, but they are also small and full metal lenses (even the front lens cap) like the old days !!! They are not for every one, if you need a fast lens you will have to look elsewhere, there is already many choices in standard lenses, the Limited are about small size, craftmanship and IQ, by that i mean not only sharpness, in fact they are not always the sharpest lenses you can buy for a certain focal length but they have character. Pentax really kept the phylosophy of the DA Limited line with that zoom and as a bonus it looks sexy with that Takumar type zooming ring !

I’ve been waiting for that Limited Zoom lens since Pentax put it on their roadmap some years ago, it’s finally here and as a bonus it now have the benefits of the new HD coating, WR and the newer DC motor. The lens also incorporates an ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass and a super-low-dispersion glass element.  So as soon as i could Pre-order one i did it and waited anxiously for it to be delivered at my door 🙂

For me, the “slow” maximum aperture is not important since i wanted it for it’s small size and because i will use it mostly stopped down for landscape. It fits in my goal of building a smaller kit for travelling or when i don’t want to carry a heavy camera bag. It will replace my FA20mm/2.8 (255 gr.)  and DA 35mm Macro Ltd (215 gr.), less space and weight but with the versatility of a zoom lens. It will do a great combo of Weather resistant lenses with my DFA 100mm Macro WR and DA*50-135mm, with those 3 lenses i can cover most of my needs for general nature photography.

Here it is, the new kid on the block in a family portrait of my zoom lenses.  You can see the size difference here compared to the Canon 15-85mm. Canon 15-85mm/3.5-5.6, Pentax HD DA 20-40mm/2.8-4.0 WR Limited, Pentax DA*50-135mm/2.8, Canon 70-200mm/4 L

Here is the Maximum f/stop for each focal length setting on the lens:

– 20mm: f/2.8

– 25mm: f/3.5

– 30mm: f/3.5

– 35mm: f/4.0

– 40mm: f/4.0

Some might argue that this new Limited lens is not wide enough, well, there is certainly better lens for WA shooting. I already own a Canon EF-S 15-85mm/3.5-5.6 IS when i need more range in a zoom lens, but there is some tradeoff ….. size and weight ! The Canon weights 575 gr. (no hood) and takes 72mm filters, compared to the Pentax DA 20-40mm Ltd at 291 gr. with the hood and takes 55mm filters. BTW the Canon is a crop sensor lens, not a FF. They don’t fill the same niche and purpose and that’s why i own both of them.

The lens feels very good in the hand, the cold and solid feeling of metal is such a joy. The lens hood is made of metal and screws into the filter thread and as a bonus the metal lens cap fits on the lens hood which is great since your hood is always mounted on the lens and ready to shoot. The zooming ring have more resistance than i like on a lens but this is a positive thing, you will never experience zoom creep in the field, but the focusing ring is smooth.

The DA 20-40mm Ltd balances very well on my K-01, it’s like they’ve been made to work together. Both with high quality materials and fun to use in the field. With the DA 20-40mm you will have to shoot more like if you had a prime 30mm lens but with some room on both side because of the limited range, so you will need to walk more around your subject (which is not a bad idea). With my Canon 15-85mm i tend to zoom in or out unless i crank it to 15mm when i want the maximum FOV.

FLARE TEST:

This Pentax lens have 9 elements in 8 groups and incorporates the new HD coating. The lens hood is small, so Pentax is really confident in their new Coating! Didn’t had a chance to really try the flare resistance of the lens but here is the only photo that somehow show how the lens performs.

No sun in the shot but we can see the highlights coming between the wooden wall, good for looking for Aberrations.

Here is a crop of the previous shot, the only part that i can see some aberrations.

Pentax K-01, at 20mm at f/8, ISO 1000, handheld with SR.

SHARPNESS:

Something for the Pixel Peepers now, sharpness is not everything but it certainly is a big part of the equation especially when you pay nearly a 1000$ for a lens.  The corners at 20mm at f/2.8 are not the best but unless you need that kind of settings at 20mm there is better lenses that would fit your shooting style.  It was certainly designed for landscape photography where you need to stop down for DOF. I use it at any focal length and any aperture from f/2.8 down to f/11-16 if necessary. So apart from the corners at 20mm i have no concern about the sharpness of that lens.

Here is a 100% crop of a photo taken at 38mm at f/4, not too bad !

Vignetting:

Every lens is a compromise, here Pentax made it smaller and lighter so they had to do some compromise. The good thing is that they did some compromise in a place easy to correct in the camera or in PP. They left some vignetting especially at 40mm where even stopped down there is still some vignetting, see below for an example.

It was raining and a thick fog was covering the landscape, a good test for the WR and SP coating !

K-01, at 40mm, ISO 100, f/10, RAW, Tripod.

This is the photo just above without any PP directly from the RAW file, you can see some vignetting, taken at f/10 at 40mm but it was easy to correct in LR.

Here is another example of the vignetting present at 40mm, this time near the minimum focusing distance of the lens. I did no PP on this one posted here, but in LR the vignetting was easy to correct.

K-01, DA 20-40mm at 40mm, f/13, tripod, RAW.

MACRO:

The lens by itself already have a minimum focusing distance of 28cm and gives a repro ration of 1:5. I will probably be the only one to try this, but i put my Extension tube of 25mm on my DA 20-40mm Ltd to see how it would do as a close-up/Macro lens if needed in an emergency.  I photographed the same scene with my DFA100mm Macro WR just to have a reference for IQ, i tried to keep the same composition and the same plane of focus. Like usual i used a tripod and 2 second delay in RAW with my K-01. Below are some 100% crop with no PP or sharpening, not bad at all, will have to test it in the field.

The subject, with DA 20-40mm at 40mm at f/11.

DA 20-40mm at 40mm at f/8.

DFA 100mm Macro WR at f/8.

DA 20-40mm at 40mm at f/11.

DFA 100mm Macro WR at f/11.

Some Close-up photos taken in the field, i wasn’t expecting that Limited zoom lens to be able to do that good at the minimum focuing distance even with an Extension tube it still deliver very good IQ.

Close-up taken in my garden to test it outside, at the minimum focusing distance of the lens with some cropping for composition purposes.

K-01, at 40mm, ISO 100, f/14, tripod, RAW.

It’s been raining with warm temperatures for the last 3 days now and there is water on the ice of the ponds and lakes. The following photos were taken at 40mm, the DA 20-40mm works pretty well as a “Close-up” lens. 

This one near the minimum focusing distance of the lens.

K-01, at 40mm, f/13, tripod, RAW.

K-01, at 40mm, f/13, tripod, RAW.

100% Crop of the shot above before any PP, directly from the RAW file in LR.

Some photos taken in the field.

 

One of my first shots in the field while it was snowing.

Pentax K-01 with DA 20-40mm Ltd, at 38mm at f/11, ISO 125 tripod, RAW.

Old Canal on a cold morning.

K-01 at 24mm at f/16, ISO 100, Tripod, RAW.

Sunrise on a Lake taken on my way to work.

K-01, at 20mm, f/13, ISO 100, Tripod, RAW, Graduated ND Filter.

Conclusion

For me that’s a lens that fits my kit i wanted to have for my Pentax system, will probably add a smaller and lighter WR body (K50) to complete my lightweight and WR kit along with my K-01. It’s not a lens for everybody and will never be and continue to be a “controversial” lens in discussions on Forums. Pentax lens designer had to made some compromises to come up with a small and lightweight Limited Zoom lens, they did where it didn’t affect the IQ. Vignetting (which is easily corrected in the camera or in PP) and they made it an f/2.8-4.0 lens instead of a constant f/2.8 lens, for a lens that is primarily directed to the outdoor (Landscape) photographer, those compromises are worth it to have a lighter kit, as a bonus the lens add WR, HD coating and DC motor.

It might become a legendary Pentax lens, as  the 1st Zoom lens in the Limited series, with it’s small, lightweight, all metal build, WR and very good IQ, it certainly deserve it.

Old Canal on a cold morning.

K-01, DA 20-40mm at 40mm, at f/13, ISO 100, RAW, Tripod.


Update, using Canon and Pentax as a dual system.

I’ve always been a Pentax shooter for over 25 years, i like Pentax because they makes such great prime lenses and have a good choice of Weather Resistant cameras and lenses at different price levels. Last year at the same date my kit was (all Pentax lenses) :

– Pentax K20D and K-01

– DA14mm/2.8

– FA20mm/2.8

– DA35mm/2.8 Macro Limited

– DFA100mm Macro WR

– DA*50-135mm/2.8

– K200mm/2.5

– Pentax-67 M*400mm/4 EDIF

– TC 1.4X (Tamron AF and Pentax 1.4X-S)

– Extension tubes set

In 2013 i wanted to cut the number of lenses and weight in my camera bag, at the same time i decided to be a dual systems user (Pentax and Canon), Pentax for their WR, small metal lenses (DA 20-40mm Ltd and DFA 100mm Macro WR)  , Canon for their long lenses and Zoom lenses choices for wildlife.

I sold some of my Pentax lenses, even my DA35mm Macro Limited !  In December 2013 i added a Canon 70-200mm/4 L (price was too good) and a Pentax DA 20-40mm/2.8-4 Limited WR. So now i have 2 zoom lenses for each system, the Canon zooms covers more range but are heavier and not weather resistant.The Pentax zooms are both weather resistant, smaller, lighter and of high built quality. Lets not forget that ALL my lenses are stabilized with Pentax SR. Here is my complete kit for each system:

CANON

– Canon 7D and T3i

– Canon 15-85mm/3.5-5.6 IS (575 gr.) (Filter: 72mm) (great for travelling and vacation)

– Canon 70-200mm/4 L (705 gr.) (Filter: 67mm) (will be used for landscape, wildlife and Frogs)

– Canon 400mm/5.6L (1250 gr.)

– TC 1.4X II (220 gr.)

– Extension tubes set

PENTAX

– Pentax K20D and K-01

– Pentax DA 14mm/2.8 (420 gr.) (nothing like this lens in the Canon line-up, that wide which can focus so close)

– Pentax HD DA 20-40mm/2.8-4.0 WR Limited (283 gr.) (Filter: 55mm)

– Pentax DA*50-135mm/2.8 (685 gr.) (Filter: 67mm)

– DFA 100mm Macro WR (340 gr.) (nearly half the weight of the smallest 100mm Macro of Canon, ALL FF)

– Tc 1.4 X (Tamron AF and Pentax 1.4X-S)

– Extension tubes set

From left to right:

Canon 15-85mm/3.5-5.6 IS, Pentax HD DA 20-40mm/2.8-4.0 WR Limited, Pentax DA*50-135mm/2.8, Canon 70-200mm/4 L

As you can see, those 4 zooms are a big part of my kit now. Those 4 zooms are very good to excellent, the 15-85mm is the “weakest” one of the group but it’s still in the very good territory, it’s not perfect but if you know how to use that lens it will produce very good photos. In fact, last August during our family vacation in New Brunswick and PEI i took 90% of my photos with the 15-85mm even the photos for my Stock Photo Agency. They replaces many of my good primes i had, they certainly delivers the IQ i need.

There is more to a lens than being THE sharpest lens … versatility, weight and FUN are certainly high on the list, but you also have to consider Bokeh, contrast and distorsion. Zoom lenses tend to have more distorsion than a Prime lens, especially the WA zooms. Now my camera bag is lighter and i change lenses less often in the field, especially useful in bad weather, even more when i’m using my Pentax Weather sealed lenses.

Do i take all those lenses with me every time ….. never, but i have choices now and take the lenses i need to do the job and i know they will all deliver great photos for me. I bought the Canon 70-200mm/4 L because i already owned the TC 1.4X II and i knew that it would work well together and it’s true after using this combo i can attest it still deliver very good IQ when used properly. Next summer i will use it with that TC1.4XII and also with my Extension tubes for photographing frogs, it will be a great addition for that kind of subjects. Another plus for that lens is that it takes the same filter size as my Pentax DA*50-135mm.

Taken with my T3i and 15-85mm IS, it was really useful for taking this photo, i was able to change focal length quickly to capture the action.

Snowy Owl taken at a local Zoo (Ecomuseum of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue), my first subject with my 70-200mm/4 L with the TC 1.4X II.

I really like my Pentax DA*50-135mm/2.8, sharp and weather sealed, my favorite lens for landscape photography especially when it’s raining. I took that shot in autumn during a light rain, i didn’t protected my K20D + DA*50-135 at all, i was able to continue shooting without worrying about my gear.

Old Canal on a cold morning, i like that place when the nights are cold, in the morning everything around is frosted. My Canon 70-200mm/4 L was perfect for that shot and also for taking close-ups of the old canal.

Another one on a cold foggy morning at -23C with the Pentax DA*50-135mm, i was able to fine tune my composition with a zoom since i couldn’t get closer since i was already standing at the edge of the river.

One of the reason i switched to Canon for my wildlife photography was the choices in long lenses.The 400mm/5.6 L is also very useful when i’m photographing frogs from a distance, or i can add a TC-1.4X or Extension tubes to get closer.

Taken during a light rain, Canon 7D with 400mm/5.6L protected with a rain cover.

Conclusion

I think that i now have 2 systems that works well together and fits my needs and shooting style, i’m satisfied with what i have and can cover all i need to shoot. The only thing i will maybe change in 2014 is trying to update my K20D to a newer Pentax camera, i dropped it 4 times up to now and i had to put duct tape on it to keep it Weather Reasistant …. a very tough camera. The 7D is very tough also, i dropped it last summer in a pond while photographing frogs with my 400mm attached and they both survived after some drying time with rice !

The Canon gear is more a working set-up while the Pentax is more based on fun and high quality built metal and WR lenses. They both can be used to produce great photos and i will continue using both unless Pentax comes up with many choices in long prime and zoom lenses that are WR. An excellent DA* 400mm/5.6 or a DA* 100-400mm would probably be enough for me to come back a full time Pentax users, especially now that the K3 is a better choice for fast action photography.

The Canon 18 Mp sensor is good but still not on the same level as the Sony 16 Mp EXMOR sensor found in many Pentax cameras and the new 24 Mp sensor in the K3 looks very good also. Canon needs to come up with a better crop sensor, maybe in the 7D MK II ?