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Weekly photo of 18 October 2015

This morning it was -4¬įC when I woke-up, I headed to a field near my home that I knew that will have a lot of frost. But the most interesting subject was Clover leaves caught in ice in a waterhole.

Taken with my Pentax K50 and Tamron 90mm Macro, tripod.

Weekly photo of 27 September 2015

I found this dead Dragonfly laying on Sundews (Carnivorous plants). It’s not the plants that killed the Dragonfly because it’s too big for them, the Dragonfly just died there. The heavy dew on the Dragonfly added the final touch on this cold morning. Taken with my Pentax K50 and Tamron 90mm Macro at f/14, tripod.

Published in Canadian Geographic ” Best Wildlife Photography 2016″.

Every year the Canadian Geographic society publish a special edition magazine of photos from their different contests that they run during the year. In this year issue I have 2 photos published in it on page 63 and 69, it’s probably no surprise that they are 2 photos of Frogs ūüėČ

Taken with my Fuji X-E1 and 14mm from a canoe.

This one was taken in a small pond with my Canon 7D and 400mm lens + extension tubes.

Weekly photo of 16 August 2015

It’s been some weeks now that I’ve posted a photo, I didn’t had time and didn’t take much photos. Yesterday I went Frog hunting with my camera and came back with Bullfrog shots.

I found this one particularly interesting with the blood sucking Mosquito on the Frog’s nose !

I used extension tubes on my Canon 400mm/5.6 L to get closer, my camera was mounted on my tripod which was immersed almost completely in the water to get that eyes view.

Weekly photo, 04 July 2015

Taken with my Pentax K50 and Tamron 90mm Macro at f/8.0.

I took the following shot on a morning just before going to work, at first I was looking for Frogs but came back with that backlit shot of a Fly. I liked the fact that it was upside down.

 

 

Weekly photo of 21 June 2015

This week it’s a photo of a Rose Chafer that i found on a walk near a pond. there were a lot of them i just had to choose the one who was best positioned and most photogenic.

Taken with Pentax K50 and Tamron 90mm Macro with some fill-in flash with the in board flash.

 

Sometimes you realize during the processing that you got a good shot !

I just bought a used Canon 70-200mm/4 L and wanted to test it out in the field to see if everything was working as it should and the that the IQ was what it’s supposed to be. I¬†was taking¬†some boring photos of a bridge as a test target, then I decided to walk along the shore of the lake. Directly on the edge of the water I saw a Big Male Bullfrog, I set-up my tripod and took some shots without much hope that it would make a good photo. When I got home later that day I opened the photos and did my regular processing but the photo was not that interesting.

Then I tried it in B&W to see how it would look, it turned out to be a better shot, by eliminating the color the pattern of the weeds surrounding the frog was put in evidence as well as the water and also the texture of the skin on the back of the Bullfrog. Sometimes I know when I took a shot in the field that I will do a B&W conversion but other times I realize during the PP that a B&W conversion is what a photo needed to really come to life.

Taken with my Canon 7D and 70-200mm/4 L at 200mm, f/7.1, tripod.

Weekly photo, 30 May 2015

This week photo is more abstract than usual, I found a Fern that was underwater and also liked the trees reflected on the water surface. So I used a Polarizer to cut off some reflection to be able to see the fern but not too much polarisation so that I could still see the reflection of the trees.

Taken with Pentax K50 and 16-85mm WR with a Polarizer.

 

Weekly photo, 24 May 2015

The young American Robin are finally out of their nest and they are easy to find because of their constant demand for food ! You just have to follow their chirping sound¬†! This little fellow below¬†was high on a branch waiting for one of the parent to bring some foods, unfortunately when one of them brought foods it wasn’t at a good angle and wasn’t worth a good shot. So here is my favorite of the series, the wind was blowing as we can see in it’s feathers.

 

Taken with Canon 7D and 400mm/5.6 L at f/6.3.

 

Pentax HD DA 55-300mm WR review.

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

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

WR is a big plus for my style of photography

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

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

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

 

IQ

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

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

Here we go with some real life photos:

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

 

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

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

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

Crop from the above photo with no PP and sharpening.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Handling in the field

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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