I’m finally finished editing my photos from our visit at the Butterflies in liberty at the Montreal’s Botanical garden . It’s such a great event, not just for photography but for the experience also. All my photos were taken handheld because a tripod is not allowed inside due to the tight spaces and it would be dangerous for the other visitors. The SR system of my Pentax K50 was useful since I was not using flash, my Canon kit didn’t had IS but I was able to get some sharp shots with my 24mm STM.
I try to carry a camera with me as often as possible, you never know when a good opportunity will happen in front of you. This was shot tonight, I just ordered a Pizza at a local restaurant and I had to wait 20 minutes for it to be ready, so I decided to see if I could find something to photograph along the old Canal that is not too far away. After walking along the edge of the ice I finally found those 2 leaves surrounded by ice bubbles. Keep a camera with you and open your eyes.
When I woke-up on Monday morning it was -20°C, finally a cold night ! I took the following photo from the bottom of the canal looking directly at the waterfall. The shot was taken with my Pentax K50 and DA 40mm XS at f/11.
Two days later after 2 nights of -20°C temperature and that morning the temperature was around -12°C, i went back, but this time I positioned my camera at the top of the canal and waterfall and looking down at it. This time I used my Canon 7D with my 24mm STM also set at f/11. You can see that there is a lot more ice on the canal !
This morning it was -4°C 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.
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.
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 🙂
Friday it was 13°C and the next morning (yesterday morning) it dropped to -1°C and it was falling big wet snowflakes 😦
The photo below was taken at the Ecomuseum of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue near my home. Taken with my Pentax K50 and DA 55-300mm WR.
I didn’t post much lately, not much time and the temperature or subjects didn’t cooperated. Went to test my new Pentax K50 this morning, it was -15°C (-23°C with the windchill). I like to go to a local old canal to try out new gear because of the details in the canal.
It’s full name is : HD Pentax-DA 16-85mm/3.5-5.6 ED DC WR. I did owned the Canon 15-85mm/3.5-5.6 and liked it a lot because of it’s range and quite good IQ, it was especially useful during our family vacation we took 2 years ago in the province of New Brunswick and P.E.I. here in Canada. The Pentax is even more desirable to my eyes because it incorporates WR, is cheaper than the Canon as well when there is no rebates. The Canon quickly developed zoom creep, which it’s known for, hope the Pentax will do better in that department. They both focus down to 0.35 meter and uses a 72mm filter size.
My first impression when i removed the lens from the box was it’s solid feel in my hand, always a positive thing to feel that a lens can take some abuse. The zooming ring feels stiff enough for the moment to prevent zoom creep, will have to wait after some months of field use to see if it will maintain that stiffness and not suffer from zoom creep.
IQ and field experience
One of the most important selling point of lenses is sharpness, if a lens can’t deliver in that department most people will not buy it. Do you need to absolutely have the sharpest lens available, probably not, but a lens needs to be at least very good. Does the Pentax DA 16-85mm is good enough …….. after shooting for some weeks with it in the field i can say that it’s a very good lens.
The focusing ring is placed close to the mount, which is not my favorite place to put it on a lens, which seems to become a “trend” with lens manufacturer, i prefer the “old” way. It’s probably because now peoples are using lenses mostly in AF mode and it’s a better place to put the zooming ring more at the front of the lens. I would have liked the focusing ring to be larger also but i will live with it. It’s my first Pentax lens with a DC motor and it’s quite fast and silent. The AF is very good in LV at any distances, works really well in the field with most subjects.
Flare control is always very good on Pentax lenses, so this lens is no different than all the other Pentax lenses i’ve owned.
The more i use it the more i find that it’s a very useful lens for nature photography because it’s a complete package.
Close-up , does the image quality is maintained ???
The lens alone can focus quite close at 35cm resulting in a reproduction ratio of 0.26x, which is not bad. My Canon 15-85mm was not so good at 85mm at the minimum focusing distance, the IQ dropped, especially in the corners. Does the Pentax 16-85mm will perform better, will it make a good occasional “Close-up” kit ?
I gave it a try this morning, mounting it on my tripod i photographed some leaves on the ice. First thing i have to say is that the fact that it’s a Zoom makes it easier to change my framing, when using a prime Macro lens if your too close you have to play with the legs of your tripod, not as fast and effective.
I compared it with my Tamron 90mm Macro (model 72E) to see how it really performs at close range. It’s not fair in term of pure sharpness but i needed a benchmark, i’m not expecting the same degree of details from the DA 16-85mm, especially in the corners. But if the quality is good in the center it might be helpful for some Frog shots.
Here is my test subject:
At f/5.6 the Tamron has the advantage by a slight margin but at f/8 (the crop posted here) there is no real advantage, i would call this negligeable for field work. Adding the PP and sharpening and both could be printed quite large with very good IQ.
Pentax came-up with a great lens, from my experience it’s a better lens than the Canon 15-85mm that i was using in the past and it has the bonus of weather sealing !!! It makes a very good combo with my K50 and tough enough to shoot in very bad weather. It fits perfectly for the kind of photography I do, it can be landscape, Close-up or even family photos. With that lens i can do all that in good or bad weather while producing beautifully detailed photos. Like i said, my only complaint is the placement and size of the focusing ring, but that’s a personal thing because i’m using MF a lot in my photography.
Well, some will say that it’s pricey but if you look at how many lenses it replaces and how good it is, even for close-up photos, i think it’s well worth the price. Sure it’s a “slow” lens, if you need a lens with a faster maximum aperture to use in very low light it’s not the lens your looking for. But for a nature photographer who want a good lens that is not too big or heavy, for travelling or for everyday use, i think it’s one of the best option in Pentax land. Pentax really proved with that lens that they can make some excellent zoom lenses, not only small prime lenses. I will post updates when I will be able to try it out on Frogs.
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!
My first Macro lens i bought back in 1992 was the Tamron SP 90mm/2.5 (1:2 ratio, Manual Focus) , i really liked that lens, very good for the price. I used it until i switched to digital in 2006 and found that it was prone to sensor flare. After that over the years i’ve used many Macro lenses from Nikon, Olympus (OM and m4/3), Vivitar 90-180mm Flat Field but mostly from Pentax. Before switching from Pentax to Canon i was owning 3 Macro lenses: Pentax DA 35mm/2.8 Macro Ltd, SMC Macro-Takumar 50mm/4 and Pentax DFA 100mm/2.8 Macro WR. The Pentax DFA 100mm Macro WR is my favorite Macro lens that i’ve ever used, so when i switched to Canon i wanted to have the same advantages …. Weather sealing and IS (IBIS for Pentax) since i like photographing frogs i often shoot in wet and muddy habitat and also often handholding my camera because a tripod is not always practical.
At first, i wanted to buy the Canon 100mm Macro IS L, price, size and weight were cons for that lens compared to what i was used with my Pentax (FF lens also). Then i found that Tamron was making a 90mm Macro with VC and weather sealing (Unfortunately not available in Pentax mount), smaller and lighter than the Canon. Sure it does not feel as solidly built than the Canon and especially the Pentax which the barrel is made of metal, but it’s good quality plastic and should be able to survive regular use in the field. A Canadian store had a good rebate on the Canon but especially on the Tamron (600$ CDN) … more than 400$ cheaper than the Canon! So after reading reviews and user opinions i finally pulled the trigger on the Tamron 90mm Macro VC USD, as a bonus here in Canada the Warranty from Tamron is 6 years.
For the moment i will be owning only 1 Macro lens for my Canon kit so a lens in the 90mm-100mm range was my choice. A longer Macro lens is helpful for insects that are difficult to get close, for the moment i will use Ext. tubes on my 70-200mm/4 L if i need more reach when photographing Frogs.
This lens is Weather sealed but couldn’t find a definitive answer on how much weather sealed it really is, so i did sent an E-Mail to Tamron Canada and the next day i received the following answer:
“The weather sealing on your 90mm F/2.8 VC lens is provided by the gasket on the rear of the lens. There are no other gaskets or seals in the lens.”
Compared to the Pentax DFA 100mm Macro WR, which have several gaskets inside the lens also, the Tamron can’t be used in constant rain like the Pentax can, but there is no gap between the focusing ring and the plastic barrel, so maybe it can take some light rain, the weak point might be the switches. The seal around the lens mount doesn’t look as tough as the one on the Pentax DFA 100mm Macro WR but i will have to wait and see how well it will hold-up in the long term.
I made a short video showing the gasket on the rear mount of the lens:
The lens is made of plastic but feels solid, i like tha it’s an IF lens, it will not extend when getting close to my subjects. The focusing ring is large and easy to grip. I would have liked the focusing ring to be more progressive, by that i mean taking more turn from infinity to minimum focusing distance (it takes 1/2 turn from minimum to infinity). Because of that, at close range, just a little turn of the focusing ring and it makes a big difference on where the focus is made, compared to the old Manual focus lenses it’s not as easy to use … but most of the AF lenses suffers from that unfortunately.
On the lens you will find 3 switches (focus limiter, AF/MF and for the VC On/Off), all 3 are easy to use and i have no complaint about them.
Before going to results in the field i want to talk about a little thing that i like about that Tamron lens …. the lens caps ! They are the best i’ve seen on a lens, thick enough and easy to use with a good firm lock, easy to use even in winter with cold fingers, same for the lens hood. Compared to the Canon front lens caps which are the worst i’ve used , too thin and difficult to use.
Results in the field
Modern Macro lenses are all very good, the choice of one over another is based more on features and focal length. Depending on your needs and the subjects you want to photograph there is a Macro lens that is more suited for the task.
The lens also performs very well at normal shooting distances, like this shot of a frozen waterfall, taken at f/11, tripod.
I finally had some time and opportunities (spring was late this year and subjects were difficult to find), this lens performs really well and IQ is very good. I have no doubt and use it at any aperture, sure there is a little drop of resolution as you stop it down to f/11-16 but still very usable, wouldn’t use f/22 as the drop in IQ is too much for my taste.
The Bokeh looks good even if there is some Bokeh fringing (green in the OOF background), which is not that evident at normal viewing distance, i can live with it. In the photos posted here the OOF area are smooth and doesn’t distracts the eyes from the main subject.
This lens is bigger and heavier than my previous Pentax DFA 100mm Macro WR but it handles quite well on my 7D and T3i and it works well for ground level subjects with the VC and the articulated LCD of the T3i.
Tamron produced different versions of this 90mm (f/2.5 and 2.8) over the years and they all have a very good reputation for delivering great results and this one is no exception, Tamron did another great version of their 90mm Macro. It may not be as weather sealed as my Pentax DFA 100mm Macro WR was, but it’s a great lens that fits my needs and at a very good price. If you’re looking for another option than the Canon, Nikon or Sony brand Macro lens in that range this one certainly deserve a good look before taking a final decision. I will post updates when i will have more experience with that lens for photographing Frogs at my favorite pond.
Macro and Close-up photography is a lot of fun and it can open a whole new world of opportunities for a photographer. You don’t necessarily need to buy a dedicated Macro lens, there is other options, we will look at that later.
A true Macro lens can go to a reproduction ratio of 1:1 but some lenses (often older manual lenses) can be found that only goes to a 1:2 repro ratio and needs an extension tube to go to 1:1. Many zoom lenses have a Macro position but at best they will go down to a 1:3 ratio. Some wide angle lenses have a Macro position, i have an old Clubman 24mm/2.8 Macro that can go down to 1:4 repro ratio. Currently on the market you can find many Macro lenses in different focal lengths ranging from 35mm up to 200mm, some are stabilized and some rely on the image stabilisation in the cameras (IBIS). If you really want to get close with excellent IQ Canon makes the MP-E 65mm 1-5X which can go from 1:1 to 5:1 repro ratio. Macro lenses are the best way to go because they are easier to use in the field, you just turn the focusing ring as you get closer and the IQ is excellent, but they are not cheap unless you can buy old ones are some newer models on the used market.
From left to right: Pentax DA 35mm/2.8 Macro Limited, SMC Macro-Takumar 50mm/4 and Pentax DFA 100mm/2.8 Macro WR. As a side note you can see the big difference here between the lenses from the old manual focus Takumar to the modern Macro lenses when you look at the distance scale, the focus throw of AF lenses is so short that those scale are pretty much useless compared to the old time.
Here is my Clubman 24mm Macro, you can see the reproduction ratio on the front of the barrel.
A small Macro lens like the Pentax DA 35mm Macro is easy to carry around and can give effect that a longer Macro lens can’t. Here i was so close that the lens was touching the flower and the result is that we feel like we are in the flower with the insect.
A longer Macro lens gives you more working distance which can be useful for insects or potentially dangerous animals like this snapping turtle. Here i was using my 100mm Macro lens handheld but a 200mm lens would have been even better to be safer.
Here is a comparison between 2 Macro lenses to show how the focal length affect the background. The photo above was taken with the Pentax DA 35mm Macro Ltd.
Now, this one i tried to kept the same subject’s size with a Vivitar 90-180mm Flat Field at 180mm at the same f-stop. Also notice the different color cast of the 2 lenses.
Reversing rings are a cheap way to get into Macro photography, you just screw the reversing ring into the filter thread of the lens and then mount it to the camera (BTW they came in different sizes, like filters). You need a lens with an aperture ring to do that if you want to control the aperture ring of the lens even if you don’t gain much DOF by doing so. The wider the lens the closer you can go and gain more magnification but you will be very close and the rear of the lens is exposed to the elements. You can’t vary magnification much by focusing the lens, so if you want a different magnification you need to use another lens. Another advantage is that you can mount whatever brand of lens you want.
A reversing ring is a cheap way to get into Macro photography, you can use it on your kit lens or a small prime like a 28mm, 35mm or 50mm.
Here i used it with my SMC Takumar 35mm/3.5 to photograph this lady bug.
Close-up lenses are like filters and when used on any lens they make it focus closer. They come in different strengths, size and quality. I have a Nikon close-up 6T, but Canon makes very good ones also, you will pay more for those 2 brands but the IQ is worth it. The advantage is that you don’t loose light when you use them but depending on the lens the IQ can suffer. You can still use them on a Macro lens for more magnification.
Even if you have a Macro lens extension tubes are worth having in your camera bag, i use them with my Macro lens and also with my longer lenses to make them focus closer. There are many choices on the internet, you don’t need to pay for the ones from your camera brand since this is only tubes without any glass elements in them. They come in a set of tree but you can also buy them separately (Canon does that). I use Aputure extension tube set (13mm, 21mm and 31mm) for my Canon gear and they work very well with my lenses and AF works very well also even on my 400mm lens when needed.
Extension tubes uses the same mount as your camera brand (if you use Pentax you need to buy K mount tubes, Canon EF mount for Canon ….) and you mount them between the camera and the lens. So if you want to use your 50mm/1.8 lens with extension tubes you need to add 50mm of extension tubes to get to a reproduction ratio of 1:1. So here comes the biggest drawback of extension tubes,as you add extension tubes you loose more and more light and you quickly loose 1 or 2 stop of light which results in a longer exposure time. I like to use extension tubes with a zoom lens because the magnification varies as you zoom, so if you add about 50mm of extension tubes to a 70-200mm lens you will gain more magnification as you zoom from 200mm to 70mm.
Here is a photo taken with a 70-300mm lens with 64mm of extension tubes, not in the Macro range but we can call it Close-up.
Another photo taken with extension tubes added to a lens, this time it was to my Tele-Takumar 200mm/5.6.
Yes they can be useful, i use my TC 1.4X with my 100mm Macro lens when i need more magnification but want to keep the same working distance and don’t want to disturb my subject. You can add a Teleconverter between your camera and the extension tubes to gain more magnification or to your lens alone. A good teleconverter is not cheap but the older Tamron 1.4X AF for my Pentax was working very well with my DFA 100mm Macro WR. The TC also cost you light, 1 stop for the 1.4X and 2 stops for a TC 2X.
Sometimes a TC 1.4X is needed even with a 100mm Macro lens.
There is also bellows that acts like a variable extension tube but they are not very practical to use in the field, too big and easy to damage. You can also reverse a 50mm on a 200mm lens but i’ve never tried it myself. I will post another article soon that will talk more on the use of the options above and techniques for using them.
Another cold week, but it makes for good opportunities for photos. You just have to dress well and be ready to endure some cold and be ready to shoot. That morning when i took that photo it was -30C and the Old Canal was all frosted …. like i was hoping for.
Pentax K-01 with DA 20-40mm Limited, tripod.
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.
Yesterday was a rainy and foggy day, i went to get some meat for the dinner and decided to brought my gear just in case. Well it paid off, took the following shot of a farm that i drove everyday in front of it but never took a second look. This time it was just screaming “TAKE MY PORTRAIT”.
Pentax K-01 with DA 20-40mm Limited at 40mm, 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 want to talk about a topic that is not often talked about in Photography forums. Peoples that or not photographers thinks that it’s easy to be a good Nature photographer, you just have to buy a good camera and then you go in the wild and you will take great Wildlife shots for sure since you have a very good camera !
I will not talk about learning the skills here like exposure, composition and knowing your gear, i will talk about how it can be tough on your body to be out in the field with a camera bag full of cameras and lenses in difficult environments and weather. If you want to be serious with your photography and come home with good shots and push yourself to get the best out of your subjects you will have to be out early and in sometimes in very bad conditions.
Eventually if your interested in photographing wildlife and especially birds you will need at least a 400mm lens, sooner or later your camera bag will get heavier and it’s your shoulders and back that will take that load. Add to this that you will be walking in rough terrain and often off beaten trails, your body will take some abuse over the years and as you get older all those years will get into you. Now we are lucky to have great camera bags and backpacks that help a lot carrying those heavy camera bags in the wild, when i started photography about 26 years ago i was using a camera bag like the journalist (a big square bag that you carry with the strap on your shoulder), not good for the shoulders and neck.
Blood sucking Mosquitoes are another thing that you have to deal with here in Canada and many other places in the world. They can drive you crazy while you’re trying to compose your shots, especially when i’m photographing frogs on the shore of a pond.
Canon 7D with EF 70-300mm IS + Extension tubes, tripod.
That Green Frog photo was taken on the shore of a little pond infested with black flies !
You will have to get wet and often shoot while getting flat on the ground on muddy terrain like when shooting along a pond. So you will get wet and cold even on not so cold days, as you get older your articulations will not like this too much.
Pentax K-01 with DFA 100mm Macro WR handheld while laying on the ground.
Cold temperatures are inevitable around here, so if you want to take great shots in winter you will have to go out in bad weather. I really like to get out early in the morning when it’s -15C or lower because you can take photographs of fog over the rivers. When shooting in winter you have to be well dressed, but your hands will get cold when handling metal tripods and lenses, i prefer to use thin gloves but there are times when manipulating the gear is easier with your bare hands. I once frozed my little fingers and they felt like i had a 100 needles planted in them for about 1 week.
When i saw that a Fox had walked on the Lake and the sun was just about to rise above the horizon, i stopped and didn’t had time to put my gloves on. It was -20C, my fingers got frozen quickly at handling the Graduated Split neutral density filter in front of the lens.
Canon T3i with EFs 15-85mm, tripod.
I may sound not too positive but it’s really like that, it’s hard sometimes, long hours waiting for wildlife on a cold day sitting in the snow but that’s what makes it so much fun. If it would be easy everyone would get great shots and there would not be so much interest in trying to get beautiful shots. Not everyone knows how much work it takes to get beautiful photos of Nature’s wonderful world, but YOU know what it takes to get them.
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.