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.
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:
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.
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 !
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.
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 🙂
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 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.
Pentax is clear on which lenses are weather sealed and to which level:
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:
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 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.
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.
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 !
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.
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.
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.
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
– DA35mm/2.8 Macro Limited
– DFA100mm Macro WR
– 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 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 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.
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 ?
I’m not a fan of kit lenses, rarely did i bought a kit lens alone, habitually they come with the camera. So i was curious and looked in my camera bags and sorted all the kit lenses i have, to my surprise i have more than i thought i owned.
So here they are, i only bought 2 of them alone, the 3 others came with the cameras but didn’t especially wanted them. Starting from the left side: SMC Pentax A-50mm/2.0, Sony 18-55mm OSS for NEX, Canon 18-55mm IS II, 18-55mm IS and 15-85mm IS. The only 2 i bought alone are the Pentax A-50mm/2.0 and the Canon 15-85mm/3.5-5.6 IS which is the kit lens of the 7D. The build quality vary from very good (Pentax 50mm) to very cheap (Canon 18-55mm IS II). BTW only the Pentax is a FF lens.
Sony NEX-3 with 18-55mm OSS, handheld.
They can all deliver some good to very good IQ if you know their limits and stop down the aperture 1 to 2 stop. The one that i use the most often is my Canon 15-85mm because of it’s very good IQ and range, in fact during my last vacations i used that lens for most of my shots.
I would use my Pentax A-50mm/2.0 more often, but since i already have the excellent DA*50-135mm, i use the latter because it’s more versatile. But the Pentax A-50mm is the best of my kit lens when using extension tubes for Macro shots, it delivers very good IQ and can be a good alternative to a Macro lens if you want to save space and weight in your camera bag. Those old 50mm kit lenses are cheap to buy and are worth looking for them, there is a lot of them on the used market.
I wouldn’t trade my best lenses for a kit lens but they can be useful especially if you don’t want to risk damaging your best lenses. So don’t dismiss them and gave them a try.
Canon T3i with 15-85mm IS, tripod.
Pentax K20D with SMC Pentax A-50mm/2.0, Polarizing filter, tripod.
Canon T3i with 15-85mm IS with Polarizing filter, tripod.
Canon T3i with 15-85mm IS, tripod.
I bought that lens just before going to vacation (New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island) because i wanted a Zoom lens, taking photos with a complete set of Prime lenses during family vacation is just too slow and you always change lenses and kids don’t wants to wait too long while dad is taking photos 😉
The comments below are based on that 2 weeks trip, so it’s not a long period but it was the lens i used for most of my photos and that 15-85mm was glued to my T3i. I’m not a fan of zoom lenses, so i’m critical about sharpness, habitually i found that zoom lenses are too much of a compromise in IQ but there is some very good ones out there. One of the negative point of zoom lenses is that their minimum focusing distance is not close enough when used at their shorter settings! This one focuses down to 35cm, not bad but when you’re at 15mm it’s too far, for comparison my Pentax DA14mm focuses down to 17cm !
Dickson Creek in Fundy National Park, NB.
The 15-85mm was very useful along that creek and around the waterfall.
At 15mm, ISO 100, 2 sec. at f/11,Tripod and a Polarizing filter.
The IQ of the lens never disappointed me at any settings, not always as sharp as a good prime lens of the same focal length but still very good in most situations. The versatility of that lens compensate for the little things that are not perfect like minimum focusing distance, some distorsion at 15mm and some vignetting at wider apertures especially at 15mm but easy to correct in LR.
The EF-s 15-85mm is a big and heavy lens compared to the 18-55 kit lenses but the built quality is higher and the 15 to 18mm range is very useful. I didn’t had problem with zoom creeping yet since the lens is brand new but i know from what i’ve read that it will come eventually. I really liked that lens for family vacation and will be using it for my regular photography from now on.
Some more shots taken with that lens:
Here is a shot to show the sunstar effect of that lens, i did use a Polarizing filter but the flare resistance is not bad, need more shots to have a final judgement and without any filter.
Handheld with IS activated at 15mm at f/8 at ISO 100.
The Confederation bridge, from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island in about 10 minutes.
This is a 12.9 kilometre (8 mile) long bridge, it’s the longest in the world crossing ice-covered water.
At 15mm, at f/13, ISO 100, tripod and Polarizing filter.
At 80mm, ISO 200 at f/6.3, handheld with IS.
Zoomed in at 100% to show the details, crop from above after PP and sharpening.
Baie des HA! HA!, Bic Park, Quebec
At 15mm, ISO 100 at f/11, tripod.
Corner crop of the shot above.
Acadien day on August 15, La grande Tintamare, they make as much noise as they can to commemorate that day every year, Bouctouche, NB.
15mm at f/8, ISO 200, Polarizing filter and fill-in light with the built-in flash of my T3i.
Old School in Avonlea, village of Anne of Green Gables, PEI.
19mm at f/8, ISO 400, handheld with IS.
Dickson Fall close-up, Fundy National Park, NB.
At 40mm, ISO 100 at f/14, Tripod and Polarizing filter.
Dickson Creek in Fundy National Park, NB.
At 85mm, ISO 100 at f/11, Tripod and Polarizing filter.
I wanted a telephoto zoom lens to go along my 400mm/5.6 L and 7D. I didn’t want to spend too much because my goal is to buy a 70-300mm IS L or wait to see if Pentax would come out with the 135-400mm WR that was on the roadmap. It’s a lens that will be used in vacation or when i don’t need or want to carry my 400mm lens. I read many reviews and user opinions before i finally bought one when a store here in Canada was selling brand new ones for 420$ . I could also have bought the 70-200mm/4 L as it was 600$ (i already own a TC-1.4XII), but i wanted to have a lens with IS.
The built quality is cheaper than my 400mm/5.6L and all my Pentax lenses (i don’t own cheap lenses for my Pentax cameras). I was aware of this before buying it, so not a problem. The focusing ring is not the best i’ve used and MF with LV is manageable at best.
Male Green Frog in the morning light.
Canon 7D with 70-300mm IS, 21mm Ext. tube, at 300mm, ISO 250, 1/320 sec. at f/11, tripod.
100% crop of the shot above with PP in Photoshop and sharpening applied (amount around 95 and radius at 1). You can see some CA in the highlights.
One of the reason i bought that lens was to photograph frogs which would need the use of Extension tubes on some occasions. At 300mm with extension tubes the sharpness is quite good , not as good as a Macro lens but good enough for publishing photos in a magazine. At shorter focal length the IQ is quite good, but with extension tubes and zoomed out from 200mm to 300mm the set-up is not very rigid and is prone to vibration so you need a solid tripod, i also use LV to focus and 2 second delay with a remote release.
7D with 70-300mm IS with 65mm of Ext. tubes, at 190mm, ISO 320, at f/10, tripod, remote release.
I’m lucky to have a young Cottontail Rabbit that likes to live in my backyard and he have a favorite spot just in front of a black spruce where it’s well hidden from predators. He’s now quite accustomed to see us in the backyard and i can get close to him with my camera and he even sleep when i’m close to him!
Here it is looking at me, below are crops from that shot, i was also trying Spot AF.
Canon 7D, at 300mm, 1/250 sec. at f/6.3, ISO 800, tripod, RAW.
Zoomed to 100% with no PP and no NR.
With some PP, sharpening in PS7 (Amount 89, Radius 1.0).
From what i’ve shot with that lens up to now it reflects what i’ve read on some reviews and user reviews, it’s quite good up to 200mm when stopped down 1 stop, at 300mm IQ drops but by stopping down to f/7.1 IQ is relatively good, not up to a prime lens.
This shot was taken near the minimum focusing distance of the lens using LV at 10X magnification.
7D with 70-300mm IS at 170mm, ISO 500, 1/25 sec. at f/6.3, tripod and Polariser filter.
This is a 100% crop of the previous shot.
A shot taken at “normal” distance, more standard use of the lens.
7D, lens set at 90mm, ISO 100, 1/50 sec. at f/10, tripod.
Sure it’s not as sharp as a prime lens at longer focal lengths but when stopped down it can produce very good photos until i can buy the 70-300mm IS L ! I’m now getting to know that lens and use it more often for photographing frogs and it’s doing very well. For the price i paid it’s a good value even if the built quality could be better especially the focusing ring that could have a better feeling. I wish that Canon would give at least the lens hood with their lenses like Pentax do.
Raincover for lenses
Back in March 2013 when i bought a Canon 7D and a 400mm/5.6L i knew that this combo was not as weather sealed as my Pentax K20D and DA*50-135mm and i didn’t want to use plastic bags like i did with my Pentax-67 M*400mm/4. So i looked on the Net to find a Raincover that would fit my new kit, i finally found a rain cover sold by Rainydays2008 for 20$ (Canadian) for the Canon 400mm/5.6L (they sell raincovers for different lenses). At that price it was not a big risk, it’s been a good investment for protecting my gear from the rain.
You can see in the photos above that the raincover is kept in place on the lens hood with a rubber band and it also have a small ruberized band inside to keep it from sliding on the lens hood. On the second shot above it shows that you have enough space to put your hands under it and use your gear without any problem.
Even if it’s for a Canon 400mm/5.6L it would certainly work for other lenses and camera combo, the 400mm/5.6L has a 72mm filter size and i can use Extension tubes with or without my TC-1.4X II. It would certainly fit on a Canon 300mm/4L with different cameras but also for Pentax lenses like the FA*400mm/5.6, F*/FA* 300mm/4.5 or even Sigma 400mm/5.6 and 300mm/4 APO Macro.
Waterproof card case
My camera bag was becoming full of SD and CF cards all piled in a pocket in Ziplock bags and it was not easy to find the one i wanted for a specific camera, so i bought a Gepe card safe Extreme case, which is waterproof and crush proof. Up to now i like it and will probably buy another one.
The advantage of that case is that you can put 4 SD cards and also 4 CF cards above them as seen above. Also when it’s closed you can see through so you can quickly know which cards are in the case.
In the field
I tested in several occasions the Raincover and the Card case and both performed very well. Last week i was able to photograph Frogs and a Great Blue Heron for over 3 hours in the rain with periods of heavier rain fall and i had no problem at all, my camera and lens stayed dry and i kept the Card case in one of my rain suit pocket.
Here are some shots i took during that morning.
Bullfrog with decorations !
Canon 7D with 400mm/5.6L with TC 1.4X II and an Ext. tube, tripod, remote release.
Great Blue Heron stretching, i stayed with him for over 2 hours sitting at the edge of the pond, patience even in bad weather is sometimes rewarded !
Canon 7D with 400mm/5.6L, tripod.
Yesterday i tried my NEX-3 with my 18-55 kit lens with my underwater case for photographing frogs. Well this morning i switched to my Sigma 19mm because it can focus closer than the Sony kit lens. It was a good decision, i got better shots because i could get closer to the frogs, 5 cm closer makes a big difference at 19mm !
All photos were taken at ISO 400 and f/5.6.
I like that one because we can clearly see it’s legs and body that are under the surface!
This one was cropped on top and right side for composition purposes.
This morning it was sunny and i had difficulties seeing the LCD, too much reflections on the case.
During the winter i bought a MEIKON underwater casing for my NEX-3 and 18-55 kit lens. My goal was to made different photos than the usual view of frogs. I wasn’t sure if i would be able to view the LCD of my NEX-3 clear enough to be able to compose correctly$. Finally after that 1st try i’m really pleased with the set-up!
Here is my NEX-3 in the underwater casing.
The controls are relatively easy to operate, didn’t had any real problem using all the controls on my NEX-3. You can only use AF since you don’t have access to the focusing ring. Now i need to practice to get better at composition with part of the frog underwater, there is a lot of branches underwater that prevents from a clear view of the frog’s body parts that are underwater. The 18-55mm kit lens was set at 19mm and it can focus down to 0.25 Meter, not close enough. Tomorrow i will try my Sigma 19mm which can focus down to 0.20 Meter, i will loose OSS but i will gain sharpness and i can go to f/2.8 is necessary.
Well here is my first shot.
I cropped the right side and some of the bottom part of this shot, the 18-55 don’t focus close enough and i can only set it from about 18mm up to 19mm within the casing.
Stay tuned, i will try again tomorrow morning, practice will make me better at this!
I’m not a big fan of Zoom lenses, i prefer prime lenses, so imagine shooting with a kit zoom lens for serious photography !!! I did use the Canon 18-55mm IS kit lens on my Canon XS for family photos but never for serious photography. Not long ago i bought a 7D and 400mm/5.6 L for my wildlife photos and also a set of Extension tubes. I like to try my lenses with Extension tubes to see how they performs, sometimes they are good but sometimes not so good.
So lets start with regualr distance shots without Ext. tubes, i took some photos with my 7D to see if that little lens can stand the 18Mp sensor ?
All shots taken in RAW and processed in LR and PS.
Here is a shot of my 2 young girls:
Taken with 7D and 18-55mm IS, handheld with IS activated.
Set at 32mm, 1/30 sec. at f/5.6, ISO 500, handheld with IS.
Here is a crop from the shot above, i zoomed-in to 100% in PS. From the TIFF files with no PP and sharpening, just resized and saved as JPEG.
Some tests with Extension tubes.
7D with 18-55mm IS with 34mm of Ext. tubes on tripod.
Set at 37mm, 1/80 sec. at f/8.0, ISO 200, tripod.
Some photos taken inside my house, sorry for the boring subjects!
7D with 18-55mm set at 44mm with 13mm Ext. tube, ISO 400, 1/200 sec. at f/8, handheld.
Zoomed at 100% and cropped in PS with no sharpening.
Same cropping but with PP and sharpening set at 90 % and radius at 1.0.
Close-up of my SMC Macro-Takumar 50mm f4.0.
At 45mm with 13mm Ext. tube, ISO 125, at f11, tripod.
Zoomed at 100 % with PP and same sharpening as above.
At 24mm with 13mm Ext. tube, ISO 125, at f11, tripod, same crop with same PP.
Well at normal distances that lens is sharper than i was expecting and certainly can be use for serious work if needed especially from about 20mm to 45mm where i found it to be at it`s best on my sample. Also it`s not too bad for close-up work, sure not as good as a real Macro lens but can be useful to shoot close-up at 24mm.
I’ve been a Pentax user for the last 25 years and really like their cameras and lenses, but currently there isn’t a 400mm lens that is available with fast AF and also there is no autofocus TC-1.4X available . After some long thinking i finally decided to sold my Pentax-67 M*400mm/4 EDIF, which is a great lens but it’s a fully manual lens and quite heavy at around 3700 gr. I wanted a lighter lens with fast AF and a TC-1.4X, so i choosed the Canon 7D and the 400mm/5.6 L, the Canon 400mm/5.6 L is only 1250 gr, so it is 3 times lighter than my Pentax 400mm lens was.
I went to the Ecomuseum of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue (on the western side of Montreal), it’s like a Zoo but the animals are either injured or born in captivity so they can’t be released in the wild, they use them for education. I like that place to test a new camera, lens or TC that i will use for wildlife. I tried different ISO settings and aso the TC-1.4X II, wanted to know if my kit had BF or FF problems.
Good news, looks like my combo don’t need any AF adjustment. The 2nd photo is a crop of the 1st one.
ISO 500, 1/800 sec. at f/5.6, tripod.
Testing the TC 1.4X II, taken W/O at f/5.6, sharpness is still very good !
ISO 800, 1/320 sec. at f/5.6, tripod.
It’s little cousin had something to say.
ISO 640, 1/500 sec. at f/10, tripod.
Miam ! Miam !
ISO 500, 1/1250 sec. at f/6.3, tripod.
Close-up of the Wolf.
ISO 320, 1/1000 sec. at f/6.3, tripod.
Ducks on Ice.
ISO 500, 1/500 sec. at f/6.3, tripod.
Sleeping time for the River Otter.
ISO 640, 1/320 sec. at f/11, tripod.
– The AF is fast and accurate, no needs to adjust it.
– IQ of the 400mm/5.6 L is at least as good as my Pentax-67 M*400mm/4 EDIF.
– ISO performance is about the same as my K20D, need more experience with the 7D to draw more definitive conclusions.
– The IQ with the TC-1.4X II is very good even W/O.
– I will need some times to get faster using the 7D, but it’s easier than i thought it would be considering the differnt disposition of the buttons and menu with a Pentax DSLR.
– I like the silent mode and 8 Fps.
– I prefer the pad on the Pentax DSLR, with the 7D you have to turn the pad (like my NEX-3), i guess i will get use to it.
– The weather sealing is not as good as with Pentax but i ordered a waterproof sleeve for my kit.
– The lens release button should be on the other side of the lens mount, it doesn’t feel right on the left side ?!?!
I think i will like that combo for wildlife photography, needs some times to really get fast and efficient with it but i’m already pleased with it.
“The Brick” is the nickname of the Pentax K-01 in reviews and on Forums, yes it looks like that but it’s the best looking brick i’ve ever seen! I’ve been using my K-01 for 1 year now and i wanted to talk how it performed in the field and if it was a good move to buy it immediately when it was available ?
FUN …….. that would be enough to describe the Pentax K-01!
If you read posts about that camera on Forums you will see that it’s the word that is used the most often to describe the experience to shoot with the K-01. It reminds me when i bought my 1st 35mm SLR, a Pentax K1000, same colors with big wheels and the minimum numbers of buttons on the camera. Sure the K-01 is not for fast action shooting when used in RAW format, just like the K1000 was not one either.
Does that means that the K-01 is a perfect camera ?
No, it’s not a camera for action photography if you shoot RAW format. This is my main complaint about the K-01, Pentax can certainly boost the speed to 3 Fps with a firmware update, but i don’t know if they will do it ? Pentax released a firmware update (version 1.02) for the K-01 and it helped the AF, it’s now faster with most lenses, certainly worth it. Would have liked to have an update for the 1 Fps drive in RAW at least up to 3 Fps. I did took wildlife photos with it when the animals were slow or not moving but i still prefer to use a DSLR for wildlife photography.
The rubber flap that covers the SD card door was a concern at first, but it proved to be durable and easy to close with some practice, will see if the rubber flap will survive many years of hard use.
I really enjoyed shooting with it in the field, i tried angles that were hard or impossible with a DSLR because you need to look in the VF. Sure you can use LV with most DSLR now, but the K-01 is more fluid and AF is accurate and faster with the new Firmware update.
This is one situation where the K-01 is king ! I was balancing on icy rocks while holding my K-01 with the DA14 just above the water’s surface. Even at an angle of about 45 degree i was able to compose my shot and the AF and SR were of great help also.
Another shot taken with the K-01 and DA14 from ground level, this Green Frog was tolerant because i was holding the camera at arm’s length which is less threatening than getting myself close with a DSLR while looking in the VF !
Here is one advantage of the “Brick” , if you use it with a small lens and without a quick release plate you can support it on nearly any side .
As you can see it can be useful, you can support it on many flat surfaces like a table, ground or any other practical places. I don’t know if it was the goal of the disigner and/or Pentax but for photographers it’s a plus. The grip is not as good as a DSLR especially with bigger lenses but up to my DFA 100 Macro WR i have no problem handholding it for shooting in different positions. When i’m shooting at ground level or taking photos of frogs in water i use my thumb to press the shutter release button.
I always prefer to use a tripod but there is situations when a tripod is not practical and the K-01 is really a great camera , for me at least, with the SR, LV and very good AF performance !
Well this was one of the main reason that i bought the K-01, because i was already using a Sony NEX-3 and liked to use the focus peaking with my od manual focus lenses. At first i didn’t found the Pentax version as good as the Sony, but with practice now i found it easier to get exact focus especially when using the loupe at 6X. In low light the Pentax K-01 focus peaking is better than the one in the Sony NEX-3, the Sony is hard to focus in low light.
I wish Pentax will come with a firmware update providing a choice of colors for the Focus peaking like the NEX cameras. In most situations i had no problem with the actual color of the focus peaking but with some subjects having a different color would have helped.
Since i live in Canada taking photos in cod temperatures, from autumn to spring, having a camera that can support very cold and humid environment is important to me.
One winter morning it was -27 C (-37 C with windchill factor) and i went to the shore of a lake and took photos for 40 minutes before i had to go to work, i wish i had more times, but a good test anyway. The K-01 never failed, just slower to refresh the LCD after a photo was taken, at the end of the session. I turned it off a couple of times to cold it down to see if it would start again, no problem. So the camera temperature was ranging from 9C for the first shot (the sunrise photo below) to -6C at the end of the session. When you use it more the camera temperature goes up again, so i think that using a MLC in LV will generate more heat than a DSLR used with it’s OVF.
On another occasion it was -18C and took photos for more than 2 hours and it never failed either even with a mist coming from the Waterfall that frosted on it. I did use it on many other occasions in temperature from -15C to -20C and the K-01 comes out with great performances every time.
Here is the photo of the sunrise taken on the morning when it was -27 C.
With Telephoto lenses.
With long telephoto lenses from 300mm and up a MLC like the K-01 or other MLC with no EVF/OVF are not the best cameras to use, i still prefer a DSLR. Especially when you use a lens with a tripod collar on a tripod, the set-up is not as rigid because you don’t press your forehead on the camera because you don’t look in an EVF/OVF. You need a faster shutter speed to obtain a sharp shot. But when i use my Pentax-645 FA300mm/5.6 which doesn’t have a tripod collar, it’s the K-01 that is attached to the tripod then it’s easier to get sharper shots.
The focus peaking really heps getting the focus where you want it with Telephoto enses for long distances shots.
Field on a frosty morning, this is one situation where focus peaking is helpful to get the focus where you want it with long manual focus lenses like here with my Pentax-645 FA300mm/5.6.
I never regretted buying my K-01 even if i paid the full price (some peoples have to sacrifice themselves ). The K-01 is really a camera that grows on you and put the FUN back into your photography ! With it’s great IQ, SR, excellent construction which should last many years and it’s particular design, the K-01 will become a classic Pentax camera. The K-01 really shines for photographing Macro and landscape for nature photography. Other photographers might not consider you a real photogapher when they see that you’re using a K-01, if they know which camera you’re using in the first place, but when they will see the photos you have taken with the Brick they wil be surprise.
My K-01 was supposed to be a back-up camera for my K20D, but the more i used that camera the more i wanted to photograph with it. It really grows on you and finally my K20D is now my back-up camera !
My K-01 is the camera that i reach for when i want to enjoy photography, it says a lot !
We don’t know yet if Pentax will continue with a K-02, Pentax never said that they will do another K-Mount MLC like the K-01 …. so chances are thin to see a K-02.
I was looking for a smaller lens to use when i don’t want to take my big and heavy Pentax-67 M*400mm/4. Sure, i could have bought one of the 300mm lenses available in K-mount but i was curious about that lens and how it would perform on my K20D and K-01. There is not much info or reviews on that lens, from what i’ve found it’s said to be a good lens, so i think it’s worth writing a small review on the image quality and my impressions of how it feels to use it in the field.
Lens specifications and first impressions
This lens is not marked as a “*” lens but the build quality is very good as usual with Pentax lenses. The focusing ring is large and smooth just how i like them on a lens. You can switch to AF by pushing it forward to the front of the lens and then pull it back toward the camera to switch to MF, like the FA* K-mount lenses.
– Weight: 775 gr
– 7 elements in 7 groups
– Filter size: 67mm (same as my FA20mm/2.8 and DA*50-135mm/2.8 certainly an advantage for me)
– Min. focusing distance: 2.20 Meter
– Number of aperture blades: 9 (nearly rounded)
– Range of F-stop: f/5.6 to f/45 (two position between f/5.6 and f/11, after that 1/2 f/stop between f/11 up to f/32 and full stop between f/32 and f/45).
Here is a size comparison with my Pentax DA*50-135mm/2.8:
The lens hood have a small part on the bottom that you can remove so that you can turn your polarizer filter that is attached to the lens, i like that feature (the DA*50-135 also have it). There is no tripod collar on that lens, i would have liked to have one on such a long lens but since it’s not that heavy in handles quite well.
The nights during the week were cold, between 0C to -6C, good conditions for ice formation around rivers and ponds. On that morning i tried different ISO and shutter speeds to see the effects and selected my favorite later.
K-01, 1/15 sec. at f/11, ISO 500, tripod.
What about the image quality of that lens ?
I didn’t shoot brick wall or other set-up for this lens, instead i decided to evaluate it’s IQ only from photos in the field since long lenses can be affected by the environnement like wind and haze. Keep in mind that the comments apply to the lens used on APS-C cameras and that the IQ can differ if you use that lens on a 645D.
As for sharpness i tried it at every apetures, my conclusion is that it’s good at f/5.6 and it’s at it’s best from f/6.3 to f/11. At f/16 the diffraction already shows it’s nose and from f/22 to f/45 i call it soft and unusable.
This photo was taken near the minimum focusing distance of the FA300mm/5.6. The lens was stopped down at f/8 and i found the sharpness to be very good. As usual the camera was attached to a solid tripod.
My goal when i bought that 300mm was to replace my big and heavy Pentax-67 M*400mm/4 (weighing 3700 gr.) so i could take a smaller camera bag for my photo outing when wildlife is not my primary interest. So i wanted to know how the sharpness of the FA300mm/5.6 would compare to the M*400mm/4. My guess before taking some shots was that the 400mm would be sharper at f/5.6 since it will already be stopped down 1 stop and the 300mm will be W/O. My guess was right, not a big guess since it is logical and predictable.
Most of the time i use my 400mm at f/5.6 but i also stop it 1/2 stop more when i can, so i tested both lenses stopped 1/2 stop more than f/5.6 and it’s probably at that setting that i will use the FA300mm most of the time.
OK, i said i wouldn’t take photos of brick wall …. well i cheated just a little here !
Here is a 100% crop of a photo i took in the field to see how those 2 compares, this shot was taken stopped down 1/2 stop from f/5.6. Both shots were taken with my K-01 in RAW with no PP and i did use the 2 second delay with the help of a solid tripod.
But a photo taken in RAW needs some PP so i did that in the photo below to show how the final photo would looks like.
Same shot of the FA300mm/5.6 with some PP, amount 100 and radius at 1.0. This is a 100% crop.
Now a more interesting subject, a Golden Eagle portrait taken in a Zoo and a 50% crop after PP in Photoshop.
K20D at ISO 640 lens set at f/6.3, on a tripod (no cropping).
Here is the 50% crop of the photo above.
Aberrations and flare control
Older lenses can suffer of aberrations and flare because they were not designed for digital sensors, the coating on the rear lens elements can cause reflections on the sensor. I came across some Pigeons on a roof with strong backlit around sunrise. I took some shots to see if i could produce some CA, in that shot below taken with my K-01 and the FA300 at around f/8 we can see some CA but it’s not that bad at all.
It’s a 100% crop from a shot taken at f/8.0 with no correction of the CA, not bad for an older MF lens. In most situations i couldn’t see any CA in my photos.
In most of the situation i didn’t encounter any problem with flare, but while i was taking photos of the Golden Eagle at the Zoo i did had problem with flare. I don’t know if it’s due to the lens (probably sensor flare due to the older coating) or reflections inside the K-mount adapter. My Pentax-67 M*400mm/4 also have flare problems in that kind of light, subject against a white sky are when the lens is pointing in the direction of that sky.
The flare i encountered with the P-645 FA300/5.6 on my K20D.
In the field
Even if it’s a Medium format lens it’s not heavy and handles well with my K20D and even my K-01. The biggest difference between the FA300mm/5.6 and my M*400mm/4 is that to focus from the minimum distance to infinity the FA300mm needs only 1/3 of a turn of the focusing ring where the M*400mm needs a full 360 turn! So the M*400mm is more precise and easier to obtain critical focus but with time i will get the hang of it like all my others AF lenses.
So how a lens handles in the field can have a negative effect on the sharpness also. Since this lens doesn’t come with a tripod collar it’s important to have a good technique. A tripod collar is probably not needed on a 645 camera since the lens is light enough to be supported and with the weight of the camera the handling may not be as good if a tripod collar was included.
After some practice in the field i now find it easy to use on a tripod with my K20D or K-01 and i’m getting sharp results without any problem.
Did i do the right thing when i bought that lens ?
The more i use it the more i like it and i’m getting to know how to use it to get the best out of it. I’m taking it with me everyday when i’m going to work, my kit is:
– DA35 mm Macro Ltd
– DFA100mm Macro WR
– Super Takumar 150mm
– Pentax-645 FA300mm/5.6
A lot less weight than my regular camera bag and it feels so light, i think i will use that lens a lot and will take it with me for our yearly vacation instead of my Big M*400mm/4 and knowing that i will not loose any IQ! The DA*300mm/4 would certainly be sharper W/O and at f/5.6 but the price is higher also, if a 300mm would be my main long lens the DA*300 would be my choice but for more occasional use the Pentax-645 FA300mm/5.6 is a great choice.
Some photos taken with that lens:
A cold morning with frost and fog makes for great photo opportunities.
K-01, FA300mm at f/11, tripod.
Snowy Owl taken in a Zoo through a fence.
K20D at f/6.3, tripod.
Two lenses with the same focal lenght and speed but with different purpose since the Pentax was made during 35mm SLR era and the Sigma is a brand new design optimized for APS-C MLC (and M 4/3 cameras). I bought my Pentax FA20 around 1995-1997 for about 850$ CDN (Canadian) and the Sigma just cost 240$ (CDN with shipping and taxes). The most evident physical difference is the diameter of the front of the lens, the Pentax takes 67mm filters and the Sigma takes 46mm filters ! The Sigma have 7 aperture blades and the Pentax have 6, they are more rounded on the Sigma so it should produce a better Bokeh.
The build quality is better on the Pentax , which is not a surprise, the Sigma comes with a lens hood and i had to buy it separately for my Pentax…. now, the Pentax lenses always comes with a lens hood. The minimum focusing distance of the Pentax is 0.25 meter and for the Sigma it’s 0.20 meter.
I will test both of them on my Sony NEX-3 to see how they compares to each others.
Here is a photo taken in the field with both lenses on my NEX-3 from the same place, you can see that the Sigma’s 1mm advantage is evident here, the plant is not cut in the upper part of the frame.:
– Pentax FA20mm/2.8:
– Sigma 19mm:
Now, here is my test set-up inside my house for sharpness and CA. My tripod was set to it’s lowest position and at 0.7 meter from “Fraisinette” . I use a bubble level to be sure that the camera was leveled side to side and that it was not tilted down in the front.
All the photos were taken in RAW at ISO 200 with the 2 second delay, manual focus was used with the help of the focus peaking. The photos were developed in Lightroom where i turned the sharpening to zero and nothing else was done in PP after that, only resized and saved them in Jpeg for the web.
Now the results:
Sigma at f/2.8.
Pentax at f/2.8.
We can see that the Sigma is sharper and have better contrast than the Pentax at f/2.8. After that the Pentax is always sharper than the Sigma all the way up to f/11, from f/16 diffraction kick in and they are very similar in performance.
Sigma at f/8.
Pentax at f/8.
The Sigma 19mm is knowned for it’s CA, but what about the Pentax ?
Well the Sigma showed CA at all apertures while the Pentax is free of CA from f/5.6. The CA is not that visible here but easier to see while zooming in Photoshop. You can see it along the white dress on the right side of the photo.
Sigma CA at f/2.8.
Sigma CA at f/11.
Pentax CA at f/2.8.
If you need to shoot often at f/2.8 then the Sigma 19mm is the one to buy, Pentax lenses are not always the sharpest W/O but sharpens nicely when stopped down and the FA20 is no exception here. The corners in the Pentax shots are better since this is a FF lens but the Sigma is still very good when stopped down.
They are both very good lenses, the Pentax is a tad sharper and shows more details when viewed at 100% but in normal use and when printed you may have difficulties setting them apart. The Sigma have AF on an NEX camera and is smaller since the Pentax needs an adapter. So for the price the Sigma is a no brainer.
The Sigma is a modern lens and the Pentax is a legacy lens, i will continue using my Pentax FA20mm on my K-01 and my Sigma 19mm on my NEX-3.
Some shots taken with both lenses:
Sigma 19mm at f/5.6.
Sigma at f/11.
Pentax FA20mm at f/13 with Polarizer.
Taking photos during winter is more demanding on you and your equipment, so you have to dress for the weather to keep shooting and getting the shots in the field. Having cold fingers or cold feet is not a good idea when you’re trying to concentrate to find subjects and compose your shots. I live in Canada so the major part of the year is cool or cold, i really like to take photos in cold weather, there is so much to shoot in winter.
Over the years i did learn how to stay warm and keep my cameras working in cold climate, i will share my experiences and tips in this article.
KEEPING YOURSELF WARM
Like i said earlier, if you’re fighting to keep yourself warm in the field you will not have energy to concentrate on your photography and all you will want is getting inside to warm up your feet or fingers. Dressing in layers is the best way to go, so if the conditions or your level of activity change you can add or remove layers. I prefer to use the warmest boots i can, currently i’m using rubber boots with a liner inside (they are rated for -74C) so i can get in the water if i want and still have warm feet.
Hands are more problematic because you want to keep them warm but still be able to use your camera without too much trouble. Instead of trying to explain all the gloves and mitts that i use i decided to made a video, other photographers certainly use different combinations depending on their needs:
If you are staying in the same place for a long period , like in a hide, you can use chemical warmers (hot pads) in your gloves or boots, they work quite well.
KEEPING YOUR EQUIPMENT WORKING
This is an easier thing to do, the main problem with using modern cameras in cold weather is “Batteries”. Always keep spare batteries in a warm pocket inside your jacket and switch them when the one in your camera is low and repeat again when the other one is getting low.
The thing is to keep your camera cold all the time, snow will not melt on your equipment if it’s cold. For protecting my gear when freezing rain is falling i use plastic bags when i’m not using my weather sealed lenses and camera.
When you go inside a house remove all your SD cards (or CF cards) and put them in a warm pocket inside yur jacket so you will be able to work on your photos when you go inside, i put my exposed SD cards in a ziploc bag in my pocket.
Your camera(s) and lenses should be kept in your camera bag when going inside, you can even put them in plastic bags to let them warm up slowly so that condensation don’t form inside your lenses. In all those years i’ve always kept my gear in my camera bags and never had any problem with condensation.
Tripod legs can get very cold, especially aluminium ones. My previous tripod was a Manfrotto 055 and i was using foam isolation for hot water pipe, now there is a lot of choice on the market for isolation for tripod legs in different camouflage colors.
Taken in autumn, it was around – 3C that morning, not very cold but cold enough to have frost on the ground and having to use my gloves.
Pentax K-01, Pentax DFA 100mm Macro WR, ISO 320, 1/50 sec. at f/7.1, tripod.
– Never blow on the front of your lens with your mouth because your breath can froze on it instantly.
– Watch those metal lenses, my old Takumar lenses are very cold in winter, especially when you screw or unscrew that metal lens hood.
– You can change your tripod’s feet with spikes for when you’re on ice.
One last thing …………… Don’t kiss your TAKUMAR lenses !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Pentax Limited lenses are well regarded among the Pentax shooters since the first FA Limited series lenses. The FA Ltd are faster than the DA Ltd which goal is to be smaller or pancake lenses. They are the modern incarnations of the old screwmount Takumar lenses, sure the Takumars were even better built but for modern lenses the Ltd are certainly different than most lenses produced these days where plastic is king. The DA35 Macro Ltd have a built-in metal lens hood, i like lenses with hood like that, and a beautiful metal front lens cap with velvet inside.
The DA35 Macro Ltd is my first, and only Ltd, that i own at the moment but i really like that lens. It’s a versatile lens since it can do landscape as well as Macro and it performs very well in both situations. If you buy it to do mainly Macro in the field, it’s not the best choice because of the close distance from the subject when you’re at the 1:1 repro ratio. For serious Macro i would choose the DFA 100mm Macro WR or the A*/FA* 200mm Macro.
Like i said, at the minimum focusing distance you’re almost touching your subject with the front of the lens, if i’m using that lens for photographing frogs i don’t use the built-in lens hood. I like the FOV that this lens gives to photos because you can see more of the background than with a longer Macro lens in the 100mm to 200mm range, but you have to careful that the background doesn’t look too busy and distract from your subject.
This shot above was taken with the DA35 Macro Ltd with aperture set at f/8. You can see that the background is too present and doesn’t help reading the photo, too distracting, even if i had selected f/4-5.6 the background would had still be too busy.
This shot was also taken with the DA35 Macro Ltd but this time at f/5.6 and i composed to eliminate the distractions in the background and it makes for a cleaner shot.
When you learn how to use that lens and control the background in your shots it will deliver beautiful photos with great colors and contrast. It also makes a good lens for landscape hpotography, it’s still plenty sharp for that purpose.
If you like metal lenses with great built quality and good manual focus feeling, then the Pentax Limited lenses are for you, sure they are not cheap but using such lenses is so much fun ! I will certainly buy at least another one of those Limited, pentax put a wide angle DA zoom Ltd on the roadmap that they showed for 2012/2013, hope that it will make it to production…. i will be one of the first to order one 🙂
I bought a Pentax-67 M*400mm/4 (EDIF) in december 2008 because my FA*300mm/4.5 was often too short and was using it very often with a TC 1.4 X. I finally found one at a good price, but when i received it and i saw that it had fungus inside, i wanted to return it. I finally sent it for repair evaluation, the price to repair the lens was higher than what i paid for it, so i decided to use it like that and see how it would perform.
I’m happy i kept it like that, it’s a very sharp lens and the fungus doesn’t affect the IQ. It’s an heavy lens at around 8 pounds and you also need a solid tripod and tripod head, i use a Gitzo GT2330 tripod (aluminium) and a Manfrotto Proball 469RC (that head can support up to 28 pounds). I use it handheld or braced on my truck door on occasion but it’s hard to focus and stabilize the lens at the same time because of it’s weight.
It’s a very sharp lens, even at f/4 it’s useable but i prefer using it at f/5.6 unless i really need f/4 because of the light level. With the great performance of DSLR in high ISO f/4 is not needed very often. If needed i know i can use it stopped down all the way to f/11 and it’s still quite sharp, even f/16 is useable if needed.
That shot of a Coyote was taken at a local Zoo, the aperture was set to f/5.6 to blur the fence.
The Bokeh is quite good because the lens have 9 aperture blades, they are not round, but in most shots the OOF (out of focus) highlights are not distracting.
Here is a good example of the Bokeh, it was taken probably at around f/5.6-6.3.
It’s one of my favorite lens for photographing frogs since it can focus as close as 2.8 meters, so when i’m photographing frogs i can add extension tubes if i want to get closer to my subject. The focusing ring is precise, you have to turn it a full 360° to go from 2.8 meters to infinity.
There is some CA but you have to zoom in to really see it, in most shots you won’t notice it. The color of the CA is green, it is mostly visible in OOF areas especially the “beige” dead grass in autumn. In can show sensor flare (pale circle in the middle of the frame) when shooting in direction of the sun at longer distances, it doesn’t happen very often but it’s good to be aware of that.
The bad side of that lens is it’s weight (8.3 pounds), it’s the price to pay for a Pentax-67 lens with a full metal build. I wish it would be lighter since i’m not getting younger and it puts a lot of weight in my bag. Sometimes i wish that it was an AF lens, it would be helpful but i can live with it, if Pentax would came up with a DA*400mm/4 i would do the switch to have a lighter lens, AF and WR.
In conclusion it’s a great lens and i love it, sure there is better choices for wildlife photography, but until Pentax came out with a long lens in the 400mm to 600mm range and as a DA* i will continue to use that lens.
Here is a video i made about that lens and some shots as well:
Taken from my truck and braced on the door with SR activated.
Pentax K20D at f/5.6.
After several years of using my Lowepro Mini-Trekker (around 12 years), my equipment grew up in number and size, my old Lowepro was beginning to fall apart and i couldn’t carry all the lenses i wanted. I visited many wild areas and took many shots with the equipment i carried into it but it was time to replace it.
After reading reviews and opinions on the internet i decided it was time to go to the store and try some bags with my equipment. There is a big camera store in Montreal, which is a 30 minutes drive from my home and they have a large selection of bags. The thing that i wanted in my new bag was that my K20D attached to my Pentax-67 M*400mm/4 would fit so that it’s always ready when a subject appears. In my Lowepro Mini-Trekker the 400mm with the K-mount adapter attached was barely fitting and my K20D was alone with no lens attached, not a quick way to react when a deer or a bird is in my lens range!
After trying my equipment in some bags and putting them on my back i finally decided for the Think Tank Streetwalker Hard Drive bag. The bag feels solid and well made and comes with a very good guarantee. All the equipment i want to carry with me fit in the bag and is comfortable when adjusted.
I have now used it in the field and i’m still very pleased with my choice, i have yet to try it in the rain. When i will have more experience with it in the field i will post an update.
Here is my bag content (from upper left):
DA*50-135/2.8, K200/2.5, K-01 with DA35 Macro Ltd.
In the middle: Pentax-67 M*400m/4 with K20D.
Bottom: Extension tubes and TC 1.4X-S, FA20/2.8, DFA100 Macro WR, DA14/2.8.
Just wanted to share some photos taken with the K-01 that i took lately.
Still learning that baby, the more i use it the more i like it, it really grows on you. Well, since i got it i barely used my K20D, even for wildlife shots !
Close-up of a Snapping Turtle, i was glad i still had all my fingers after that shot 😉
Taken with the Pentax DFA100mm Macro WR handheld with SR.
That morning the fog was very thick and lasted even after sunrise, the insects couldn’t fly away so i was able to take many shots.
Taken with the Pentax DFA100mm Macro WR and Pentax-A TC 1.4X-S, tripod.
Stemless Lady’s-Slipper taken in a pine forest near my home, they are so beautiful.
Taken with the Pentax DA14mm, tripod.
Taken with the DA35mm Macro Limited, handheld with SR. I wouldn’t have been able to take that shot with a DSLR because it would have been impossible to see in the VF, even with the K-01 it was hard to compose and focus. A tilting or swivel screen wouldn’t have been helpful either because the camera’s LCD was up against the steep shore of the pond.
Even if it’s have some limitation it’s certainly a camera that have it’s place in my bag, i never left home without my K-01.
One of the first reason why i bought the K-01 was for photographing frogs.
– Great High ISO performance expected (same sensor as the K-5).
– Shake Reduction.
– Live View with focus peaking.
Well ….. does the K-01 met my expectations ?
I now have used it on several occasion for photographing Green frogs at ponds and it makes taking photos at water’s level so easy compared to when i use my K20D. Focusing when holding the camera just above water is made easy now with focus peaking and i now use my DA14 more often since the frogs are not as scared now that it’s only a camera that come close to them and not me with a DSLR.
The high ISO quality is a great advantage here because when photographing frogs at ponds, early or late in the day, you don’t have much light.
Here are some shots taken with the K-01:
Taken with K-01 and Pentax DA14mm (handheld with SR), ISO 800, 1/100 sec. at f/10.
Taken with K-01 and Pentax DFA100mm Macro WR (handheld with SR), ISO 1600, 1/100 sec. at f/8.
Taken with K-01 and Pentax DFA100mm Macro WR (handheld with SR), ISO 1250, 1/125 sec. at f/7.1.