A micro four-thirds competitor already?

Micro four thirds is still vaporwave, and it seems there is already a competitor.

Samsung is introducing what they seem to be calling a “hybrid” camera system – in other words the “EVIL” (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens) system we’ve all been drooling over (hopefully!).  Not much said about specs/lenses – hopefully they will at least have a model aiming at a higher level “advanced amateur” feature set rather than the “bridge” market (the folks going from a compact to SLR).

However what makes this really interesting is the fact that Samsung SLRs use the venerable “K” mount.  If they somehow preserved the mount compatibility with this new system that would be *huge*.  Imagine a compact, mirrorbox-less body that was compatible with K mount lenses… drool… of course now then I would absolutely *kick* myself for selling off my DA LTD primes 🙂

It’s just an interesting thought, unfortunately I suspect they will likely *not* be using the K mount (registration distances on SLR lenses and all that).  But it’s certainly within the realm of possibility.

Radiopoppers working with Pentax! (preliminary testing)

After eagerly following the saga of the Radiopoppers, from their vaporware inception to their current production I finally have a pair in my grubby little hands.  Oh happy day 🙂

(you want a review?  Here’s my review: radiopoppers rock my face 437 ways from sunday.  Get some.)

Now I got them to use with my newly acquired Canon 5D kit, but as it happens I still have some Pentax gear as well.  Officially Radiopoppers do not support Pentax PTTL, but I figured what harm could it do to test.

I mounted the P1 receiver on a Pentax 540FGZ flash.  Flash was set to wireless pttl slave (SL1).  Note that on the 540 the sensor you need to position the bead over is the lower right corner of the face, as you look at the flash *not* the round part in the middle (that’s just the AF assist light)

I set the K10d onboard flash to wireless controller mode, and covered the actual flash itself to ensure no light was coming out and triggering a false positive.   I fired off a few shots, and sure enough no slave firing – good!

Then I turned on the P1 transmitter, and placed it on top of the k10d.  The popup actually seemed to support it’s weight, and the transmitters fit rested nicely against the top of the eyecup.  I think it would be mountable with a little piece of velcro on top of the pop up flash!

The big moment – I fired a shot and sure enough, the slave popped!  Exposure looked correct too (roughly, just by glancing at the LCD.   I ran through a few apertures from 2.8 to 8 and the flash exposure seemed to remain consistent, indicating that metering info is working!  I could visibly see the difference in light output as the flash popped at different apertures as well.
So it seems that at least the basic functionality of the P1s works with Pentax’s PTTL wireless sytem.  it actually fires the flash, and ttl metering appears to work.   Bear in mind however, that this is far from a scientific test and YMMV.  Further testing will be needed 🙂

Pentax and… Microsoft???

from Photographyblog.com

I’m honestly not sure what to make of this – seems like kind of a weird combination for a “cross-licensing” agreement. On the one hand, it will surely be good for Pentax to have a company with the weight of Microsoft backing it, but on the other hand I am leery of the direction MS might influence Pentax in. I fear that MS would push Pentax toward more flashy, mass-market, consumer-level electronics (aka toy cameras) and away from what I feel to be their greatest strength: Fantastic optics and well designed cameras.

I mean really – not to bash Microsoft, but how often do you hear the words “Microsoft” and “well-designed” in the same sentence. I cringe to think of the feature bloat 🙂

Although to be fair, it is really to early for more than idle speculation. We’ll have to wait and see how this pans out.

new Pentax lens roadmap

Looks interesting.  The addition of a DA* 30mm prime particularly piqued my interest (30mm being my favorite “normal” length for a aps-c dslr)

The DA* designation also has me keeping my fingers crossed that it will be a 1.4

the 15ltd also looks potentially interesting,  especially if it is a “pancake” (doubtful as it’s hard to make a lens that wide small)

SDM compatible TCs are also on the menu, a well needed addition. 

The only downside is the apparent removal of the 645d lens, seemingly indicating that the project really has been scrapped.  Sigh. 

But all in all, it looks like by next year pentax should have a remarkably full-featured lens lineup (the only missing elements being T/S lenses and superlong primes – both *very* highly specialized niches)


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pentax k20d and k200d announced!

The official announcement is in! K20d and k200d are here


seems like a nice upgrade to the k10, although not compelling enough to make me switch.  The new sensor does look interesting though, especially if iso6400 is useable. 

Frankly though I think pentax needs to do better.  As the market becomes increasingly competitive, and price points keep getting driven down, they need to release something to “run with the big boys” or risk going the way of KM – great cameras, great lenses, but just too little too late to keep up with the market.  I really hope pentax dosn’t fall into that trap! (and as an ex-KMer I really don’t want to switch systems again!)

Benjikan, over at pentaxfourms.com has been hinting for months that there would be a new camera that would blow us all away, and frankly this isn’t it… One can only hope that this is just the teaser, release at the beginning to whet the appetite for the big announcement

(this new sensor in a 1d or dx level body would qualify!)

First shots with the DA* 16-50

After drooling over this lens since it’s announcement, I finally got my grubby little mitts on the DA* 16-50/2.8. In my opinion, despite the moaning on the various web forums (*cough*dpreview*cough*) this lens is well deserving of Pentax’s “star (*)” moniker.

Build quality is top-notch, definitely “solid”, what I’d expect in a pro-grade lens. SDM focus is fast and accurate. Image quality is excellent – maybe not quite up to the level of the limited primes, but pretty close – easily as good as the comparable canon/nikon offerings (the 17-55/2.8s) especially when you consider that this lens goes to 16 instead of 17(don’t underestimate the difficulty of engineering that 1mm!) all in all an excellent offering. So without further ado, here are some of the first shots taken with it on the k10d. All were shot raw, minimal post processing in lightroom (just some exposure +/-) (click the thumbnails for larger) Nothing special, just some “walking around” snapshots.

Quite a foggy morning this morning, swallowing up the skyscrapers downtown:



Some fall foliage around Penn’s campus:





Oh no – New Pentax Delayed!

Apparently a fire at the plant that should have supplied Pentax’s Li-Ion batteries has halted production, delaying the much anticipated camera release announcement from November to February.


This is a critical blow for the already shaky Pentax (after the Hoya merger), and means they will miss the Holiday sales, as well as lose the “momentum” gained from the K10d.

It is really such a shame, and a terrible setback for a company that was aiming to do a major rebound this year. I hope they can recover enough to stay competitive against the new releases from the rest of the “big 5”

Pentax 18-250

Well, it looks like Pentax has thrown their hat into the “superzoom” ring, announcing their upcoming DA 18-250 lens. (that’s a staggering 28-380ish 35mm equivalent!). Judging by the pics, it appears to be similar to the Tamron 18-250, probably the same optical design – although the Pentax will have the famous SMC coating which should give it the edge in performance.

Also, judging by the design it does *not* appear to have SDM or weathersealing. SDM is not a huge deal but weathersealing would have been spectacular on a superzoom – as they are most commonly used as “travel” lenses where conditions are unpredictable and often not the best. I think weathersealing would have made this lens stand out head-and-shoulders over the other superzoom offerings. Pity.

DA 40 vs FA 35


40 or 35… 40 or 35… that is the question…
When it comes to a “normal” on the pentax aps-c dslrs, the best options seem to come down to the DA 40 limited and the FA 35.

When I first switched to the Pentax system, what lured me (in great part) was the appeal of the tiny, “jewel-like” DA primes – often known as the “pancake primes” due to their diminutive stature. My first 2 lens purchases were the DA21/3.2 LTD and the DA40/2.8 LTD.

Not having used the DA 40 or the FA35 before, I did a great deal research on the pros and cons of each lens for a normal prime. Eventually I settled on the DA40.

Until LBA struck. I should have known it would happen. Of course, now I have them both.

Now I’m not going to do a “pixel-peeper” oriented comparison of test charts and LW/PH measurements. If you want that, I would point you to the *excellent* photozone.de lens tests:

These are just my personal impressions having had and used both lenses for a fair amount of time. I will preface this by saying that both lenses are absolutely top-notch when it comes to image quality, definitely what you would expect from a high quality prime. In terms of image quality, you cant go wrong with either one (pixel peeping aside) So without further ado:

First off, FOV (field of view). At first, this didn’t seem that important to me. The DA40 translates to 60mm (taking the 1.5 crop into account) and the FA35 to ~53mm. Thats only 7mm right? not a huge difference… or so I thought… To me at least, the difference is huge. My photographic style tends toward wide-normal lenses, and I just can’t help feeling a bit constrained by the FOV of the DA40. The FA35 feels perfectly natural to me when I look through it, wheras the DA40 always feels like I’m “being squeezed” just a tad. This is just a personal preference, I know some people love the 40/43 FOV – to me though its just kind of awkward. That being said, I am still comfortable using it as a slightly long normal.

Secondly, Speed. The FA35 is a full stop faster than the 40. nothing much to say bout that, it is defintely an advantage – we’re talking the difference between using ISO 800 vs 1600 indoors. Definitely something to consider if you do a lot of low light photography. (the FA35 is perfectly useable wide open btw, as is the 40)

Third, handling. Both perform very well. The build quality of the DA40 is spectacular – all metal, tight tolerances. wonderful to hold. The FA35 is definitely not as good, but still decent. much more “plastick-y” but still head and shoulders over the build quality of, say, the kit lens.
Both lenses focus very quickly on the K10d, although the DA seems a *bit* faster and maybe a bit better in low light (ironic since the FA is the better low light lens).
The FA35 also has the advantage of being full frame, thus will work on film bodies as well. (Apparently the DA will too, but it is not designed as such and edge performance suffers along with vignetting.)
The DA (being a DA) has the “quickshift” feature – meaning that after the camera autofocuses it automatically disengages the clutch and allows you to manually focus/fine tune without changing the AF setting on the camera (Similar to “Full-Time-Manual” focus). The FA does not have this feature – you must change the switch on the body to manually focus it. I find the quickshift focus very useful, so nod to the DA there.

Finally the big clincher is actually size. If not for this I would have bought the FA and never looked back (despite the DA’s better build quality and quick-shift advantage) However, the one thing that keeps me going back to the DA is it’s unbelievably tiny size. Serously, you have to mount this thing on the camera to appreciate how small it is. It looks almost like a large body-cap rather than a lens. As far as I know it’s pretty much the smallest SLR lens on the market, and at a weight of 90 grams (IIRC) it could almost float away. Stick it on the K100d or the *istDS and you’ve got a kit that’s practically pocketable with SLR+Prime quality. Almost like the “poor man’s Leica” (grin).
I like a compact camera kit, since I like to carry it everywhere. The k100d+da21+da40 are just about as small as you get in the SLR world, and give you a 35mm equiv. and a normal. Hard to pass up, and this keeps me coming back to the DA40.

So as it stands, I’m still undecided which I like more. I find myself using the FA35 more and more now because of the better FOV and speed, but I just can’t give up the size and quality of the 40. It seems to be that the FA is living on my k10 (I guess the rationalization is that it’s already big, so the added size of the FA doesn’t make as much difference) while the DA is pretty much stuck on my k100 for when I want a super-compact “grab and go” camera.



Pentax DA* lenses here?

Is it true? the DA* lenses are finally here?
This comes from Ned Bunnell, the marketing VP for Pentax USA so I’m assuming it’s reliable…<grin>

NED BUNNELL: SDM Lenses Shipping

of course there is no further information. Is this a worldwide release, or just certain countries? are the actually in the stores, or is this just Pentaxes announcement that they are shipping from the factories….

come on man, details!

New pentax models, k10d successor – my take.

The announcement of the k100d SUPER has sparked a flurry of speculation on the release of upcoming Pentax cameras, seemingly corroborated by a well known fashion photographer sponsored by Pentax France (Benjamin Karanek) who reported that Pentax would be releasing 2 new DSLRs (not counting the medium format 645d) this year.  Furthermore, these would *not* merely be rebrandings of the k10d or k100d. 

Now for all us Pentaxians, this is thrilling news.  Even if you are perfectly satisfied with the k10/100 (I am), it’s nice to see an aggressive approach by pentax, hopefully gaining some market share, and expanding it’s line of dslrs.  Pentax is often maligned as not having a true “pro” camera, the likes of the Canon 1d series or the nikon d2x, so it would lend them a lot of credence as a “serious” camera maker (as they were back in the old days!)

Most likely fueled by the rumors of an upcoming 18 megapixel sony sensor that will be used in the next pro Nikon body, there is much speculation that pentax will be releasing a full frame (or 1.1 crop to allow for in body SR) camera. 

Personally I think this is *highly* UNLIKELY.   Look at the evidence – all of Pentax’s recent lenses have been aps-c only.  The new DA* lenses are also aps-c only.  Now call me crazy, but I don’t think it likely that a company would revamp their entire PRO lens lineup (the * lenses are Pentax’s pro-grade, the equivalent of canon L-lenses) to aps-c size, and then release a pro camera that would not work with them. 

Now some people will counter that a few of the DA lenses have been tested on full frame, and actually cover the entire frame.  That is true, but the fact remains that is not how they were designed.  Edge performance is poor, and many vignette heavily.  Not exactly what you would want in a pro grade lens.

Not to mention the fact that if the 645d ever materializes, (and the lenses for it are on the roadmap!), IT would be the “full frame” offering, especially if they could market it at a price point to compete with the canon full frame pro model (1dsMKII right now) meaning, around 8k.   Given the fact that Mamiya has just released a MF setup for under 10k, and knowing Pentax’s penchant for aggressive pricing, I think 8k or even less may be possible.  I think the 645d would essentially make a full frame pro dslr offering kind of redundant, and “muddy” the line (especially with no upcoming lenses for it).

So, assuming an aps-s sensor, what would a camera above the k10d look like?  Here’s my take:

  • most likely a 12-14mpix sensor, maker unknown. 
  • weather sealing (obviously), in body AS
  • improved af system (more x-point sensors etc… possibly an “open loop” focusing system like canon to improve speed)
  • more metering segments.
  • FASTER FLASH SYNC.  this is one weakness I see in the k10d.  1/180 is not all that great.  Very often creative use of flash requires a higher sync speed, especially off-camera flash. Most “pro” cameras have 1/250 or 1/500 at least
  • likely a built in grip ala’ the canon/nikon pro bodies.
  • faster frame rate (maybe 8fps?, possibly only 5)

Honestly I think this is probably about it.  It’s not particularly glamorous, but I think the above improvements are really what will appeal to the “pro” market above the k10d.   Image quality is fine.  I think that if you even took the existing k10d sensor and put in in a body like the above it would be a great pro camera.  (And for all you measurebators complaining about the .jpg softness – FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, GO OUT AND TAKE SOME PICTURES INSTEAD OF COMPLAINING. – btw, do you remember when the Nikon d200 came out?  yeah, same “.jpg softness” issue. That’s right – from one of the most highly regarded semi-pro cameras out there. Same “issue”,  and yet plenty of pros are taking fabulous pictures with it.  So there.)

Anyway, I don’t have any connections to Pentax, I don’t have a friend of a friend of a cousin who works there or anything, so all this is pure speculation. ]I think it is logical, well reasoned speculation- but we’ll see in the end!

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