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Equipment

How i use the K-01 for ground level photography.

Many peoples on forums ask how well the LCD of the K-01 is useable because it does not tilt or swivel. So i decided to do a video on how i use my K-01 for ground level photography and to show you at which angle i can see the LCD and still being able to compose and focus accurately.

You will see that i use my thumb instead of my finger to press the shutter release button, it’s the best way to do it, i tried with my finger but from this position it’s not comfortable and not as steady.

Sorry for the model in the video, Brad Pitt was not available 🙂

By chance i had a fresh haircut last night and i’m also freshly shaved from this morning…. i’m at my best !

Here is the video:

K01 viewing

Here is the photo i took in the video, more of a snapshot than a real photo.

K-01 with DA35mm Macro Limited, ISO 800, 1/200 sec.at f/6.3, with SR.

Here is another shot i took this week using the same combo and technique:

All photos on my site are copyrighted, property of Steeve Marcoux.


K-01… the Pentax’s Black sheep ?

Pentax took a big risk with the design of the K-01, nobody is indifferent to that new camera, you either like it or hate it. It will certainly not be a camera that will appeal to the majority of photographer because it’s not like other MLC (mirrorless camera). But under that design there is a real camera that can certainly take great photos when you get to know it.

I wanted a second camera body with very good image quality, with good live view and not too big, Shake Reduction (SR) is a very welcome addition and didn’t necessarily needed an EVF/OVF. Sure it’s bigger than any other APS-C  MLC but it’s still smaller than a DSLR and because of it’s shape it’s easier to find a place for it in a camera bag than a DSLR. I have my Pentax DA35mm Macro Limited attached to the K-01 and it fit nicely in a section of my bag.

Here are my first impressions so far.

Ground level photography.

I tried some handheld shots at ground level, with the help of SR it performed very well and getting sharp photos was easier than i thought it would be. Since you can’t hold it as steady as a DSLR because you’re not looking in a viewfinder and can’t brace the camera on your forehead, you learn to hold it differently. When i’m taking photos at ground level i can view the image and focus on the LCD from an angle of 45° from above the camera and press the shutter button with my thumb instead of my finger, seems to work fine for me. An advantage of a MLC is that it’s not as hard on your body (back and neck) since you don’t have to contort yourself as much to compose your shot, like trying to see something in the VF of my K20D while photographing frogs at eye level on the shore of the pond.

Here is 2 photos taken handheld with the DA14mm:

DA14mm, ISO 400, 1/25 sec at f/8.0

DA14mm, ISO 500, 1/20 sec. at f/7.1

Powerful Macro tool.

One of the reason i bought the K-01 was that i wanted a camera that would help me with manual focus, the live view and focus peaking were a big selling point for me. I shoot a lot of close-up and Macro and always use manual focus. When you combine a great sensor with very good focus peaking,  you get a camera that is great for Macro photography. Taking Macro shots at ground level will be easier, as discussed in the previous paragraph. Can’t wait to try out some frogs photos with my Macro and DA14 lenses.

DFA100mm Macro WR, ISO 160, 1/100 sec. at f/6.3, tripod.

DFA100mm Macro WR, ISO 200, 1/80 sec. at f/4.5, tripod.

With long lenses, i think i’m crazy !

One thing i wanted to try was how it handles with long lenses, because of it’s better high ISO performance than my K20D i want to use it for photographing frogs using my Pentax-67 M*400mm/4 with extension tubes. The K-01 is bigger and have a better grip than other MLC so it’s not that bad on my 400mm, i can use it with good results, my hands don’t suffer from trying too hold and maneuver the gear on my tripod. If needed i will not hesitate to use my K-01 with long lenses.

That shot was taken around sunrise in a forest of Pine, this Cottontail Rabbit was relaxing under a big Pine. The good performance at high ISO and the focus peaking made that photo easy to get.

Pentax-67 M*400mm/4, ISO 1250, 1/80 sec. at f/5.6, tripod.

Focus peaking:

This is one of the reason i bought the K-01, combine with the magnification (up to 6X), it makes obtaining exact focus easier especially with manual focus lenses. I selected the red button (customization menu) for turning On and Off the focus peaking, it’s useful to be able to turn it off quickly because sometimes the peaking makes it hard to compose your shots. Even without the magnification the peaking is accurate and i like using it that way when i’m taking photos handheld at ground level. If you want to see how it works you can take a look at my other post here:

https://steevemarcoux2.com/2012/04/07/peaking-feature-k-01-vs-nex-3/

What i like about the K-01:

– The buttons and wheels are well made with firm clicks and feel.

– The shutter is very quiet, the first time i tried the K-01 in the field it was windy and i couldn’t hear the shutter.

– Focus peaking is great and accurate.

– Battery life is also very good, i made over 450 photos and some videos as well as playing around with the camera on the first charge.

– Built quality is also very good and i like the feeling of the camera in my hand, i don’t have problem with the layout of the controls.

– Shake Reduction is very good.

What i don’t like about the K-01:

– 1 Fps in RAW is my biggest negative point on the K-01, hope Pentax will address that in a future firmware update.

– Rubber door flap of the SD card compartment. I learned to close it with relative ease but my concern is more if it will survive in the long term ?

– AF is not the fastest but i don’t use it often anyway.

Conclusion:

If i had to own only 1 camera the K-01 wouldn’t be my choice because i need a DSLR with a faster motor drive and a VF for wildlife photography. But as a second camera body i think it’s a great value for any photographer who want a MLC or a smaller camera than a DSLR with great built quality and with focus peaking,  you can’t go wrong…. and the IQ is superb!

About high ISO i can say that i like the results up to 1250 ISO, i did try it enough above that to make a conclusion how high the quality is good enough for my taste. Will make another post here when i will have more shots under my belt with the K-01.

Time will tell if Pentax made a mistake or not by coming out with the K-01, it is certainly a camera that is already controversial, it’s not for everyone, but i like that Pentax made that move since the market is already full of tiny MLC that or not always easy to use other than with small lenses.


Focus peaking, K-01 vs NEX-3.

Those 2 cameras have the focus peaking feature that helps achieve exact focus especially with manual lenses. They work about the same,  i want to share with you how they work respectively and what is their pros and cons of each.

Pentax K-01:

– Grey peaking without any settings for level of peaking and no color choices.

– Peaking can be turn on and off easily by pushing red button (i selected the red button in the customization menu).

– You can magnify by  zooming up to 6X (2X, 4X and 6X) to focus more accurately.

Sony NEX-3:

– Choice of 3 colors (red, yellow and white) with strengths level.

– Peaking can be turn off and on but you have to go in the Menu which is not very fast.

– You can magnify the view to 7X or 14X, i use 7X only.

On my NEX-3 most of the time i use the yellow peaking but sometimes depending on the color of my subject i use the red. Up to now both work pretty well, Pentax took a different approach in the color and effect but it seems to do the job, i tried it with some of my lenses and i’m satisfied.

The best way to do it is by showing you, so i made a video of how the K-01 and NEX-3 peaking feature work in the field.

K-01

k01

NEX-3

nex3


Pentax DFA 100mm/2.8 Macro WR, how it performs in the wild !

I take a lot of close-up and Macro photos in bad weather because it gives a different feeling to the photos but it can be tricky to protect your gear when it’s raining. So when Pentax announced that lens i bought it as soon as it was available… i knew it would be a great lens for a nature photographer !

The DFA 100 Macro WR in it’s natural habitat during a rainy morning.

After 2 years with that lens i decided to share my experience of how it performs in the field. Over the years i have used and owned several Macro lenses, presently i have a kit of 3 Macro lenses:

– Pentax DA 35mm/2.8 Macro Limited

– SMC Macro-Takumar 50mm/4

– Pentax DFA 100mm/2.8 Macro WR

Each have their use and reason to be in my camera bag, when i don’t have enough space to back-up or want a “wider” Macro lens i use the DA35mm Macro Ltd or the Takumar 50mm/4. The DFA 100mm WR is useful when i need more distance from my subjects like insects and frogs or if i want to isolate the subject to eliminate a distracting background. So for me the 100mm Macro is the one that reach for in general when i need a macro lens since it’s the most versatile of the 3.

I use the DFA 100mm Macro WR most of the time on a solid tripod to get as much details as possible in my photos but when i need a view from the ground i use it handheld on my K20D. Since it’s not too big it balances quite well and with the help of shake reduction (SR) i can get sharp photos with a relatively slow shutter speed.

The image quality is a big point when you buy a lens and a Macro lens should deliver excellent photos at most F-stop and this one certainly can, i use it from f/2.8 to f/16 regularly with confidence and if i need more DOF i stop it down to around f/20 and the photos are still good.

When i got it i was a little concerned about the distances scale window that is open without any glass or plastic to stop water… but after over 2 years of hard use in the field in bad weather (rain, freezing rain, snow and around muddy pond shore looking for frogs), the WR seals never failed and i have no fear of using that lens in the same conditions as my DA*50-135.

The lens hood is attached to the body of the lens, the lens extends inside the lens hood as you focus closer and i think it’s a good thing since it offers more protection from the rain on that part of the lens. When you’re at the minimum focusing distance the hood doesn’t protect much the front of the lens from the sun rays and the rain. I’ve never had problem with flare but had some rain on the front lens elements on some occasions but easily cleaned in the field. Pentax probably made that compromise because they know how good is their SP and SMC coatings are ?

The focusing ring is large enough (i would have liked a little larger) and have a good feeling so it’s easy to obtain exact focus and with 8 rounded aperture blades the bokeh is more pleasing and so far the lens delivers beautiful background. The lens also delivers great colors and contrast so even when shooting in RAW the post processing is minimal.

Here is an example of the “bokeh”, taken at the minimum focusing distance of the lens at f/6.3.

The DFA 100mm Macro WR is also very good for taking photos at normal distances, the resulting photos are as good as when used at the Macro settings. I don’t use it often outside close-up and macro but i know that it will give me great results as well.

Old garage taken with the DFA 100 WR at around  f/11.

Some last points about that lens:

Some photographer will miss that there is no focus limiter on that lens but for me it’s not a big deal since i don’t use AF very often, and if i need it, the lens have quick shift focus. Another thing is that the lens hood is made of plastic, since the lens is made of metal i would have liked a metal lens hood… sure it would look like a Limited lens with it !

I prefer to use metal built lenses because they feel so good and the built quality is a plus when you use your lenses a lot in bad weather and they can be knocked, sure plastic lenses can also be very tough and durable but those metal one or just pure joy. There is something that is not fun about metal lenses, in winter they are colder than a plastic lens and you can froze your fingers faster when using it, so be careful.

I certainly hope Pentax will update the DFA 50mm Macro to be like the DFA 100mm Macro WR and maybe do a longer lens like a 150mm or a 200mm. If you need a great Macro lens that will give you superb photos and can take abuse and never let you down in bad weather… the DFA 100mm Macro WR is for you.

Some photos taken with that lens for you to enjoy .

ISO 500, 1/15sec. at f/11.

ISO 800, 1/4 sec at f/16.

ISO 100, 0.5 sec. at f/16.


Pentax DA14mm/2.8 for close-up photography

The Pentax DA14mm is the 14mm lens that have the closest minimum focusing distance on the market (correct me if i’m wrong). It’s a great lens to show a flower, mushroom or a frog in it’s environment by getting close and frame your subject with a background that will enhance it. It takes some practice to get the most out of that lens at close range, the lens hood can nearly touch your subject at the minimum focusing distance and also cast shadows. When i’m photographing that close i now remove the lens hood, especially when photographing frogs.

With the Shake Reduction of my K20D i can handheld that combo to take photos of subjects close to the ground or in situation when it’s hard to position a tripod. In some occasions i was holding my camera in one hand trying to photograph a frog while keeping my balance on the shore of the pond, the frog was certainly laughing at me !

The image quality of that lens is very good but the corners are not as good, so don’t put important elements in the extreme corners of the frame. The only thing i wish is that Pentax would update it as a WR lens !

This photo of a Green Frog was taken on a sunny morning on a small pond, the frog was lit by the sun and the contrast was too high with the surrounding vegetation for my taste. I took off my shirt and hang it up on some cattails to shade my subject and it’s environment.

Taken with a Pentax K20D, ISO 800, 1/25 sec. at f/10 handheld with SR activated.

When i  found this Stemless Lady’s-Slipper (white specimen, habitually they are pink) i knew i wanted to show that beautiful flower in it’s environment, so i choose my DA14mm for the shot. I was lying on my stomach on the ground and use the help of SR to steady the camera.

Taken with a Pentax K20D, ISO 500, 1/10 sec. at f/9 handheld with SR activated.