My [long] list of cameras overtime
Here is a rather long history of my cameras and lenses…
At the beginning
At the beginning, I had no camera on my own, I just took my mother’s APS compact camera and used that for shooting. It was better than nothing (I did quite a large number of photos during my trip to Indonesia with it) but the very limited zoom and the rather poor quality of the builtin lens was a big problem.
In 2000, on the wise counsel of a close friend of mine who just bought a Minolta Dynax 800 (film, in these times, digital was still very expensive and not yet good enough to compete), I bought myself a Minolta 600si Classic. Very nice camera, easier to work with than the bigger and more expensive 800, I did a lot of pictures with it. Very happy I was.
Most of the “Voyages” and “Ferté-Allais” were taken with it, either with the very nice 28-105mm/f3.5-f4.5 Minolta lens I bought instead of the standard 28-80 or with a Vivitar 70-210mm/f4.5-f5.6 a friend lent me for a few months.
I said was because during the summer of 2006, it was stolen along with a Canon camera my SO had and the Canon Ixus 400 we bought in 2003 before our daughter’s birth. The bastards stole the three cameras and the two memory card (256 MB CF) with pictures and the film in the 600si :-(
Just before the birth of our daughter, we thought about buying digital point-and-shoot camera. After looking at some magazines and FNAC (well-known French retail store) reviews and asking around, we settled down on the Canon Ixus 400, a small and feature-packed 4 Mpxl camera.
We took close to 4500 pictures with it before it was stolen.
All-in-all, a very nice, small and powerful point-and-shoot camera. Optic is not stellar of course and zoom is rather limited due to the lens itself but we enjoyed its size and compactness.
Everything stolen :-(
Without going into too many details, during the summer of 2006, all our cameras were stolen in the car when we were at a wedding’s dinner. Yes, we should have removed everything from the car before but an unfortunate chain of events lead to us leaving our things there… Lost two films in the two films cameras and two CF memory cards, all full of pictures.
The loss of all our cameras was bad so we started to hunt the market for a new point-and-shoot camera first. After the good experience with the Ixus 400, my feelings were going towards another Canon one and after looking at the market, the 800 IS seemed a very good choice, especially with the integrated image stabilizer and the optical viewfinder (a feature seen less and less in P-a-S cameras…).
We have not been disappointed. Apart from having a rather weak integrated flash, it is very nice and fast (much faster than the 400), deliver nice 6 Mpxls pictures and large videos (640x480 @ 30 fps).
Still, it can’t replace the stolen Minolta…
My first DSLR
The Canon Ixus 800 IS is a very nice point-and-shoot camera, I’m not denying that.
But, in my case, being used to SLR (Reflex cameras) with the exchange of lens during shooting, having long zooms (70-210 for example), be able to manipulate capture parameters and all that, it occurred rather naturally to me that I needed a new SLR.
My first reaction after the stealing was to buy a used Minolta 600si as I very much enjoyed it and it can probably be found for a moderate price considering how many people are going for DSLR
After looking at the DSLR market and learning of the new players like the Canon EOS400D, Nikon D80, I found the Pentax K10D.
In theoria, it is one of the best, even having more features than its Canon and Nikon counterparts while sharing some characteristics. Even more interesting all these new DSLR are within the sub-1000 € range (camera-only of course).
I then started to look on the web, hunting for data about the K10D on several websites (like the official Pentax ones, the unofficial ones and more), subscribed to several RSS feeds to get more information.
All this helped moving forward in my choice and in fact, conforted me to go with the Pentax. It is a bit more expensive than cameras which are more than adequate for my own usage (like the K100D) but I found out that some of the features of the K10D are simply too compelling (tropicalisation, DNG support by the camera, integrated anti-shake system)…
So, I begun to look at forums too, trying to see where I could buy it, when the cameras were being delivered first in order to be sure to get one fast (when you have decided such a buy, generally you just can’t wait O:-)).
So, I pre-ordered on Nov. 20th at the FNAC of Boulogne-Billancourt and got my SMS… Nov., 22nd (gee, was fast!) and was the first to get mine out of 6 pre-orders.
I’m very very happy now :-)
First feelings are pretty good: good grip on the camera, it feels a bit heavier than the D80 (which is good), maybe even better built. The lens given with the kit is a better-than-you-would-have-thought 18-55/f3.5-f5.6. I’ve taken the 50-200/f4-F5.6 zoom as well to have a longer lens when needed. It seems a bit on the noisy side for AF though.
Lens Buying Addiction (LBA)
Part of the problem of having such sophisticated toys is that it is never enough especially in photography where most of the performance is coming from the lenses. A good body is essential but having good lenses is a must and why good ones are so expensive.
The lenses “given”; with the K10D (18-55mm/f3.5-5.6 ED and 50-200mm/f4-5.6 AL) are not that bad and maybe better than most “kit” lenses but still, f5.6 when used for portrait is not really good and with bad lighting conditions, you will be forced to use the builtin flash if you want to avoid high ISO (and the other way around).
So a very bright & fixed lens made a lot of sense to me pretty soon. After looking extensively on shops’ websites and several auctions on eBay, I managed to get my hands on a Pentax SMC-FA 50mm/f1.4 (left side picture).
Oh boy, this is a gorgeous lens. Some pictures on my Flickr site to give you an idea of what this baby can do. I love it. Fast, nice and very very bright.
So now, I’m into LBA from time to time. I’m already thinking of replacing the kit lens with a Sigma 18-50mm/f2.8 EX DC Macro to be able to do some macro shots (only 1:3 though) and a better aperture all the way. The other contender is the newly-released-for-pentax Tamron SP AF 17-50mm F/2,8 XR Di II LD Aspherical [IF] (yes, that’s a mouthful). I have not decided yet. Maybe never.
Old lenses time! M42
After the death of a close family member who was hooked on photography, I got hold of his cameras, all using a very old mount, M42.
- Chinon CS: unusable, comes with a Chinon 55mm/ƒ1.8 lens, not in a very good condition though.
- Zeiss Icarex 35S without a lens. Seems usable.
- Pentax Spotmatic SP500 (from 1971 I believe) in working order, fitted with a Fujinon 35mm/ƒ2.8 lens and a superb Super Takumar 135mm/ƒ3.5 (type III), see left side picture.
I’ve bought a M42/Pentax K lens mount in order to be able to use these M42 lenses. I’ll post pictures when it has arrived.
The M42 topic here on the so-called HFR (for
hardware.fr — in French) seems to have lot of useful information on various M42 lenses and there seems to be quite a number of sites dedicated to these as well. Camerapedia is nice too for references.
After going to my SO’s father house, I’ve found myself with two more M42 lenses.
- Helios 44-M 58mm/ƒ2: a nice Russian-build very fast lens (eq. 82mm)
- Enna Ennalyt 28mm/ƒ3.5: not in a so good condition but works. First lens I saw with a continuous aperture ring.
Why, Oh why did I ever went into this? I found myself now looking on eBay for M42 lenses. LBA in M42-land is hard too. (but I finally did not buy any, M42 is nice but cumbersome to use).
Some pictures on my M42 on Flickr, one with the Helios and the others with the Stak 135mm.
LBA hits again - Vivitar 105mm/ƒ2.5 Macro Series 1
LBA hits again. After discussing macro on the hardware-fr forum on Pentax lenses, someone posted a link to an eBay store offering what appears to be a very good macro lens: Vivitar 105mm/ƒ2.5 Series 1 Macro.
The Series 1 line of lenses seems among the best macro lens lines, made years ago (early 1990s says the vendor). Official price started at 249 US$, got it at 210 US$. Here is the eBay link. They were not really made by Vivitar by the way but manufactured for them by various companies like Tokina, Komine, Kino and others. See the [Wikipedia Vivitar]((http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vivitar) page for details.
This is really a very nice and very well built lens. A bit heavy, gets very long when trying to shoot 1:2 or 1:1 macro shots but I love it. All the pictures named
macro-NN on Flickr were taken with it.
Serial number is 22403951, meaning it was manufactured by Kino Precision aka Kiron.
Solution to a nagging problem Pentax FA-35mm/f2 AL
What do you do when a given lens is too long for some situations (small rooms, too crowded or no range) but has such a large aperture that it is the only way to do pictures w/o flash? Well, you try to find another lens close to that one.
It happened just a few times too many that the FA-50mm/f1.4 is too long and I also shot with a friend’s FA-31mm/f1.8 Limited too many times to ignore the pull.
I turned down the option of the Limited series because it is probably the most expensive of the FA Limited lenses (around 1100 € is France, 740 € in Canada) and I’ve found that a less known lens, the FA-35mm/f2 is according to Photozone almost as good (and even better sometimes) but at a quarter of its price. One loses half a stop but you can’t have everything.
You can compare with the FA-31mm/f1.8 Ltd here.
So I went to eBay and bought this nice FA lens, 308 US$, 200 €. Comes with a hood (none on the FA-50 unfortunately), almost as small as the FA-50, fast AF, very nice image quality, I’m happy.
Here is a nickel, buy yourself a real flashgun kid
What do you do when even a fast lens like the FA-35mm/ƒ2 is not enough and you don’t want to go into high ISO (1600 or more)? Especially if you rightly find that the built-in flash is far too small and underpowered (NG is 12) — not to mention too close to the lens axis?
You buy yourself a real flashgun with a rotating head (both horizontal and vertical direction is better)… There a several to choose from, being Pentax own (360FGZ and 540 FGZ), Sigma 500 DG Super or Metz 58 AF-1 which has everything including wireless support and is cheaper (and easier to get compared to the Sigma).
(with apologies to Scott Adams, quote taken from a Dilbert cartoon).
I finally took the Metz 58 AF1 flashgun. While I still struggle to use it properly as flash photography is not easy, it is useful and can save your day, especially if you can bounce the light above or on the side of the subject. Direct lighting is often too harsh.
Grip time - D-BG2
For a long time I’ve seen people using grips with their reflex cameras and wondered why. Apart from the fact that it generally gives you extra battery power or even more available card memory, my main question whether it was worth the extra weight… So I wondered for quite a long time.
Then, while I was in Ottawa (ON), Canada for BSDCan 2008, one of my favorite BSD conferences, I went to a computer shop there and tried it (BTW, Vancouver is a much better place for Pentax gear, Leo’s Cameras is a very nice and friendly shop!).
Well, I’m definitely convinced. I’m happy with the second battery inside it (and the extra space for a SD card) of course but I must confess I was wrong about the ergonomics and the grip has been on the camera since the purchase. It feels very good with it, my little finger has found its natural place and I feel more confident with the camera in my hand with it.
Digital workflow with Adobe Lightroom
Before going full digital, I mostly used Apple iPhoto to store and more or less organize (meaning I just store them really) all my digital pictures (taken with the Canon P&S camera) and then when I did develop a film, I used to ask for a CD containing the JPEGs of these film pictures. As I did almost no editing on these, it worked quite well for some years. JPEGs are not the best format for real editing anyway.
After buying my Pentax K10D, it was pretty obvious I needed something more sophisticated, especially in the light for my rather early choice of shooting almost only in RAW on the K10D. RAW shooting makes it much easier to edit & correct pictures (especially highlights/shadow and white balance), things that are much more complicated with JPEGs. There are several interesting software to do this (DxO, Pentax’s own supplied software) but they are all concentrating on only one aspect: editing. Photo management is much more than that: you need way to sort pictures, manage keywords and so on.
Being a mac fan, there was more or less only two choices: the first one being Apple’s own software, Aperture. Aperture is very nice, works well especially on the management side but requires a very fast machine to be really efficient.
The second choice came a few months after the first one when Adobe released beta versions of Lightroom, their own photo management software.
After testing both and especially the final retail version of Lightroom, I choose it. At 208 € (early price till end of June, 2007), it is expensive but very worth it IMHO. I used it to completely reorganize my library, put proper keywords and I’m very happy with it.
It can import pictures while converting them to Digital Negatives (DNG, see on Adobe’s site), something I saw as a “universal” RAW format, put keywords while importing and all sorts of things you do with digital pictures (editing, crop, noise reduction, spot removal, and so on.).
The 1.1 update brought in some much needed features like better noise management, the new clarify (smart sharpening) tool and much better photo management through catalogs.
After a few months of public beta testing (which I didn’t really follow for lack of time), Lightroom 2.0 is now out and I just upgraded my copy (Adobe still has its own “special” rate between the US dollar and the Euro though :-( ).
There are several changes in there and it seems that Adobe manage to keep the lead compared to Aperture. While Aperture got a major release a few months ago ahead of Adobe, with several new things (mostly about what is called plugins but really more external editors), Adobe has done something I did not really expect: adding localized changes like Aperture but as non-destructrive ones! That means that 1. one does not leave the workflow while doing local changes and 2. it does not add a TIFF or PSD file along with the original image! That also means that these changes are part of the history and you can still do snapshots, go back and all that!
With releases 3 and 4 of Lightroom, Adobe updated the RAW rendering engine twice and it is now much better then ever. The one in 3.x (2010 process) was good but much slower then 2.x while speed came back with release 4 (2012 process).
The Pentax K-7 is a fine camera and I enjoyed it but it suffered a bit from its youth. The high ISO in the new sensor is slightly worse than the K20D at same ISO and the video formats were a bit weird compared to other cameras (no 1080p, just 720p and a larger but different format as well). It was also using the old SAFOX auto-focus system and that one was getting outdated.
Enter the Pentax K-5: 16 Mpxls in a new sensor with better high ISO performance, an enhanced SAFOX auto-focus, SDXC support for larger and faster SD cards but encased in the same small and light body of the K-7.
Yet another one, Pentax K-3
After more than 3 years using (with great delight) the Pentax K-5, I felt that some changes were maybe needed.
I skipped the K-5 II (and its sibling, the K-5 IIs without an anti-aliases/AA filter) because I felt these were not worth an upgrade). I thought that maybe I would switch to something lighter and smaller such as one of the shiny new Fuji hybrid cameras (X100s, X-E2 or even the newly release X-T1) but before that, Pentax got a new camera out: The K-3.
Many changes in that one:
- 24 Mpxl in a new CMOS sensor
- dual SD slot
- improved auto-focus with 27 points incl. 25 cross-type in the center
- improved metering system with 86000 zones
- improved auto white balance metering
but still using the much-loved K-7/K-5 body (but with an enhanced grip, requiring another grip - sigh).
I can confirm that the new metering system is much better than the previous one and the auto-white balance (AWB) setting is much more reliable now. The camera is also faster at continuous shooting (8 fps) and at processing them. It even displaying each picture when going continuous.
Of course, the RAW files are larger but that does not seem to be an issue with Lightroom (now at 5.3); DNG are easily processed.
Well, it had happened, I have switched from the world of DSLR I’ve been playing into for the last 8 years to the wonderful world of hybrid cameras…
I must confess that when I bought the nice K-3 last year, I already felt I was missing something. While the K-3 is really a wonderful camera (and it did perform splendidly), I was already interested by the hybrid movement and the Fujifilm set of cameras. I did not felt confident enough to jump there, especially with most cameras being either rangefinders-like (X-Pro1, X-E2) or without a viewfinder at all (X-M1) and I’m still fond of that way of shooting.
The camera I just bought (slightly early Xmas self-gift) did not exist last year and so I thought that the reselling value of my previous K-5 was going down fast hence the K-3.
Having such a nice set of exceptional lenses did help of course, I was not ready to jump ship but even there, I saw that I was carrying and using them less and I shoot with the classic 18-135mm a lot, lighter and more versatile.
It has changed.
The X-T1 has been out for many months now, the lens lineup is getting better and better and they have really awesome lenses such as the XF56mm/ƒ1.2, more or less the equivalent of my previous FA* 85mm/ƒ1.4 but with ƒ1.2 (one half-stop faster!) and a better focal length (remember that in the APS-C world, you have to multiply by 1.5 to get the real one).
The X-T1 does satisfy my wish of keeping a viewfinder (and oh boy is that one gorgeous electronic viewfinder - EVF) while being a much lighter camera (not that smaller which is nice too).
The only thing I’m missing is a macro lens. The current XF60mm/ƒ2.4 is only 1:2 and not long enough for me so I’m skipping it, waiting the hopefully-in-2015 90mm which seem to have been announced (but it does not seem to be even remotely a macro lens so I’m probably going to skip it as well).
Oh right, no zoom this time for the moment. The only one I’m considering is the 55-200mm to shoot flying planes and other things. Everything else will be with the fixed lens trio. I’m also changing from my usual 31mm (eq. 47mm) to a wider 23mm (eq. 35mm), we will see how it goes, new perspective, new ways of shooting!.
Exciting times before me.
If you can read French, I also did a blog post about my migration.
I’m afraid I did it again. Made the mistake to go out and try the new X-T2, announced at the beginning of July, 2016. There is no silver option this time, maybe next year (a fuji tech told me).
It has all the features I loved in my previous X-T2 (see above)
- 24 Mpxls X-Trans sensor (still APS-C with a x1.5 factor)
- dual slot for CD cards (choice of extend, backup and jpeg/raw storage)
- faster autofocus (way more points, up to 325 across the frame)
- more film simulations (notable the new ACROS B&W with R/G/Y filters)
- 4K video mode (much better video support overall)
- better grip (even counting the new options)
- booster grip with two batteries
- better dials (slightly higher, better locking system)
- better manufacturing (like, the SD trap)
The autofocus has more points and is supposedly much faster (everyone seems to agree), the menus have been re-structured and are better (that I can see for now).
Yeah, I bought it, having a friend of mine ready to buy my (much loved) X-T1. So sue me.
I’m still thinking about the booster grip. I loved it on my K5/K3 but it really adds weight and size to this wonderfully small camera… I did try the new XF 100-400mm, it is big, not very fast (ƒ5.6-6.3) but when you need a longer reach than the 55-200mm or the 50-140mm, it does the job.
One example, shot in darkish conditions with the new ACROS film. At ISO 5000 it is just perfect. Norig
I think I’m in love with Black & White photography again.