I got a new camera! A Pentax K-5, and I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it. But at the same time, sort of by accident I bought a lens, Pentax’s D-FA 100mm f2.8; it’s a little on the exotic side and fooling around with it has been eye-opening and also pure fun.

Anne and Poppy

That’s my niece, and the cat’s name is Poppy. I turned the camera on for the first time, pointed it across the room, said “Hey, Anne!” and shot without thinking much; the light was moderate so no trouble at ISO 800. Entirely unretouched excepting white-balance correction.

Background · What happened was, I was in Calgary on family business. I’ve been watching the price of the K-5 creep down since its introduction last year and waiting to pull the trigger. Alberta doesn’t have a provincial sales tax so I thought I’d hit a camera store or two. I started at Robinson’s because it was out of downtown; easier to reach and park at. They only had one K-5 in stock, the demo model, and offered me an outstanding price.

It’s been a couple years since I bought a new lens and if you’re in the Pentax niche, that’s sort of missing the point. I have all the basic lenses I really need, so anything I buy is going to be for edge cases.

Recently there’s been considerable buzz around Pentax’s new 100mm “WR” prime, which is of metal construction and weatherproofed. At Robinson’s I noticed the previous model, about the same optics but in basic plastic; plenty good enough for my limited talents. I suspected they’d want to unload it and I was right.

By the way, if you’re anywhere near Calgary and are interested in a telescope, you really need to drop by that store; I’ve never seen such a big impressive collection anywhere.

MACRO · The lens’ official name includes that word, all in caps just like that. Which means “use this for close-ups”. I dragged a couple of family members out in the brutally-awful late-spring cold for a photowalk, and observed that the vegetation was plentifully equipped with hoarfrost:

Calgary hoarfrost
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Calgary hoarfrost

It was bright enough so the lens wasn’t wide-open, but this puppy has, by design, cruelly limited depth-of-field, which is why the background is attractively blurred and also why the hoarfrost is just barely focused.

Clearly my limited photographic technique faces a challenge here. Also I need to print out a focus chart and maybe dial in some lens-specific corrections, which Pentax makes easy.

Portraits Darkly · You may have noticed that that picture of Anne and Poppy above came out pretty darn good for an unplanned natural-evening-light point-and-shoot effort. I’m beginning to think that where Pentax says “MACRO” they should have said “PORTRAITS”.

The 100mm is reasonably bright at f2.8. Also, the K-5 is regarded as an outstanding low-light camera. So let’s point it across the table of a dimly-lit restaurant at my other niece Elizabeth, who’s Anne’s twin.

Elizabeth
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Elizabeth

Ladies and gentlemen, those are at ISO 6400. Yes, I could have used Lightroom’s outstanding noise-reduction to smooth out some grain, but actually the way the raw capture looks doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I suspect that for the next little while, my dinner companions are just gonna have to get used to having this particular K-5/100mm combo pointed at ’em.

Oh, and another portrait:

Rune, sleeping

My much-loved 12-year-old Bengal cat enjoying my mother’s lap. The ISO is a mere 3200. One of her eyes can be in focus but not both because cats’ faces aren’t flat like ours are. She doesn’t seem to mind.



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Abu Mansur (Mar 29 2011, at 04:16)

Congrats with the new lens Tim. Yes although I use the Nikon system now, I still have good memories of my old film Pentax. After I left SUN I bought a Nikon D90 because most of my pals were in the Nikon system and really enjoyed photography after a very looong hiatus. Some of my photos are at http://www.flickr.com/photos/amansur/

Mansur

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From: Roland Tanglao (Mar 29 2011, at 08:06)

for family snaps of "just capturing the moment", iso6400 is very usable. i use 12800 for kid pics all the times and it's great. not worthy of publication due to graininess but it captures formerly uncapturable moments without flash! this is where digital makes a big difference. Where does it end? I use to tell people that 12800 would be good enough. Now I think ISO 1 million or so would be good enough :-) !

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From: Andrew (Mar 29 2011, at 09:15)

I love primes. I have Canon's 100mm f/2 lens that I use whenever I can. It gives me high end image quality and aperture flexibility at a price I can justify as a Dad paparazzi :-). Sigma's f/1.4 50mm is next on my list to save for.

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From: Kathy Sierra (Mar 29 2011, at 13:17)

I am wildly in love with my Canon 100mm 2.8 L macro. I thought it would just be for special circumstances, but I almost never take it off. I have learned to walk backwards a lot.

But this post inspired me to try the macro capabilities of my lens.

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From: Mike (Apr 02 2011, at 18:00)

All a portrait lens is, is a lens in the range of 80 to 120 mm. Anything shorter gives wide-angle distortion to faces (i.e., big noses). In the old days (maybe up through 1980), people didn't like that. (Today, anything goes in portraits.)

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