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My gear for the 2015 Frog season.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Young Spring peeper frog.

Green Frog.

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

 


Update, using Canon and Pentax as a dual system.

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

– Pentax K20D and K-01

– DA14mm/2.8

– FA20mm/2.8

– DA35mm/2.8 Macro Limited

– DFA100mm Macro WR

– DA*50-135mm/2.8

– K200mm/2.5

– Pentax-67 M*400mm/4 EDIF

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

– Extension tubes set

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

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

CANON

– Canon 7D and T3i

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

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

– Canon 400mm/5.6L (1250 gr.)

– TC 1.4X II (220 gr.)

– Extension tubes set

PENTAX

– Pentax K20D and K-01

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

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

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

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

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

– Extension tubes set

From left to right:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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


Sigma 19mm/2.8 vs Pentax FA 20mm/2.8.

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.

Conclusion:

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.