Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pentax K20D and K200D PEF Support for Aperture

Just following the release of the Mac OS X 10.5.3 update, Apple released Digital Camera RAW Compatibility Update 2.1 which adds RAW (PEF) support for the Pentax K20D and K200D cameras. This is fantastic news for iPhoto users and especially Aperture users. You can view the full list of additional support included in the update here.

The Mac OS X 10.5.3 update also added additional RAW (PEF) support for the Pentax *ist DL2, *ist DS2, and K100D Super cameras. Full details are available here. This finally means that every single digital SLR Pentax has made is supported. These include the Pentax *ist D, *ist DS, *ist DL, *ist DS2, *ist DL2, K100D, K110D, K10D, K100D Super, K20D, and K200D digital SLRs.

Between the two updates, Apple has added RAW support for nineteen more cameras. This is great news for photographers. Apple seems to be keeping on top of updates a little more than it has in the past. Keep up the good work.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Palm Springs Air Museum Photos

Over Memorial Day weekend, I took my family to the Palm Springs Air Museum. We got a chance to look at a number of airplanes from World War II as well as a few from more recent engagements. All of the pictures below were shot with the Pentax K20D along with the DA 14/2.8 or DA* 16-50/2.8 lenses. The six pictures of fighters consist of two U.S. Navy fighters used in the Pacific theater. These are the F4F Wildcat and the F6F Hellcat.

50mm; 1/40s @ f/2.8; ISO 400; SR On

16mm; 1/100s @ f/2.8; ISO 400; SR On

14mm; 1/80s @ f/2.8; ISO 200; SR On

16mm; 1/80s @ f/2.8; ISO 400; SR On

14mm; 1/50s @ f/2.8; ISO 200; SR On

14mm; 1/80s @ f/2.8; ISO 400; SR On

While not the best picture, the picture below shows one of the machine guns from the B-17. There are two things we learned here. One, the .50 caliber machine guns on the B-17 had interrupters that prevented the guns from being fired at the wings or the tail of the B-17. That makes perfect sense but I had never heard that before. The other item of interest was the origin of the phrase "the whole nine yards." This comes from the length of the ammunition belt that fed these .50 caliber machine guns. It was nine yards long and if you used it up, that was it.

28mm; 1/50s @ f/2.8; ISO 200; SR On; Flash

May 2008 Bag Thoughts

What camera bag do you use? I have purchased too many bags in my quest for the "perfect" bag. There is no such thing as a perfect bag for every situation. When I first started out learning photography, I had a basic bag that seemed to work just fine for my camera and two lenses. As I collected more gear, this was not enough. Somewhere along the way, I discovered Domke bags. The bag that I found fit my needs at the time was the F-6. I prefer the ballistic variants of these bags. I still have two Domke F-6 bags and I like them very much. As time went on, I needed more bags.

More recently, I discovered Think Tank Photo camera bags. I particularly like the Urban Disguise series as well as the Airport Check In. I now own the Urban Disguise 20, 30, 40, and 60 bags. (For MacBook Pro computers, the Airport Intelligence 15 and Airport Intelligence 17 bags are fantastic!) I also frequently use the Airport Ultralight backpack. Recently I was packing my whole kit into the Urban Disguise 40. This worked but was very tight and was not a good fit to work from. If my kit were smaller, it would be fine but I carry too much stuff with me.

What do I use now? I have started using the Domke F-2, J-803, and J-Series Belt Bag for most of my needs. I can fit lots of gear into them and they are designed so that I can easily access my gear. The J-803 can carry one K20D body with D-BG2 battery grip, the DA* 50-135/2.8, DA* 200/2.8, DA 14/2.8, and DA 35/2.8 Macro Limited lenses along with the AF-540FGZ flash, batteries, and other accessories. This is really tight but it fits. This leaves a K20D body and the DA* 16-50/2.8 lens which I carry. This works pretty well but is not the best solution for easy access.

The J-Series Belt Bag really only works as a secondary bag or for a few accessories and small lenses. Otherwise, I have started using the Domke F-2 ballistic bag. With it, I can add a few more lenses and accessories.

I can fit the DA* 50-135/2.8, DA* 200/2.8, DA* 300/4, DA 35/2.8 Macro Limited, and DA 10-17/3.5-4.5 Fisheye lenses in the Domke F-2. I can also fit a Pentax K20D with with D-BG2 battery grip along with the AF-540FGZ flash, batteries, and miscellaneous accessories. This time, I have the DA 14/2.8 and DA* 16-50/2.8 lenses along with a Pentax K20D body left out. I keep these items in my computer backpack which works out great.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

May 2008 Lens Roadmap Thoughts

The Pentax Lens Development Roadmap has been an interesting document to watch over the past few years. What is coming next? It appears that the first lens to arrive that is on the current list is the DA 55-300/4-5.8 lens. This should add a consumer level lens that fills in the gap up to 300mm. It will be a nice option for those that the DA 50-200/4-5.6 lens just is not enough. While interesting and a great move on the part of Pentax, this is not one of the extremely exciting lenses on the horizon.

After the DA 55-300/4-5.8 lens, the two lenses to come next are the DA* 60-250/4 and the DA 17-70/4 lenses. The DA* 60-250/4 is a great addition to the lineup. Pentax is continuing the trend of making DA and DA* lenses that match equivalent 35m focal lengths. In other words, they make the DA* 16-50/2.8 which is equivalent to a 24-70mm lens and the DA* 50-135 which is equivalent to a 70-200mm lens.The DA* 60-250/4 is roughly equivalent to an 80-400mm lens. You can also see this same sequence with the DA* 200/2.8 which is like a 300mm lens. This sequence breaks down some with the DA* 300/4 because nobody makes a 450mm lens. It is still a very logical focal length for Pentax to make.

What about the DA 17-70/4 lens? Where does this lens fit in? This lens is basically equivalent to a 26-106mm lens which is very similar to Canon's 24-105/4L lens. I wish Pentax would make a DA* version of this lens. Better yet, make a DA* 16-80/4 lens. That would be a great range! In any case, I think the DA 17-70/4 will be a mid-range alternative for those looking to upgrade from the DA 18-55mm kit lens but who are not quite ready for the expense of the DA* 16-50/2.8 lens. The DA 17-70/4 lens will probably replace the DA 16-45/4 lens that currently sits in this spot. In this day and age, the 16-45mm range is not enough when people are looking for a larger range while still maintaining a higher level of performance than the kit lens.

If I were deciding what lenses to make, I would make a two tier professional line. The DA* 16-50/2.8, DA* 50-135/2.8, and DA* 200/2.8 lenses would be the f/2.8 pro line and then a future DA* 16-80/4 along with the existing DA* 60-250/4 and DA* 300/4 lenses would be the f/4 pro line. Canon has done this in many ways with their lineup. I would also add three other lenses to make the series complete. For Pentax to really compete with Canon and Nikon at the pro or semi-pro levels, they must bring back some of the big glass. This means that they need DA* 400/2.8 and DA* 600/4 lenses. The final of the three would be a DA* 200/4 Macro lens.

Pentax has done a superb job in the prime lens department with their current line as well as the future DA* 55/1.4, DA* 30, and DA 15 Limited lenses. One other thing on the roadmap that warrants attention is mention of a rear converter for SDM. This would round out the Pentax lineup and cause many to take Pentax more seriously. It would be great to have both 1.4x and 2.0x rear converters. Only time will tell. Keep up the good work Pentax!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pro Kit 2008

As new lenses and cameras come out, our typical kits change from time to time. My professional kit has changed a great deal since I last wrote about this in 2006. For one, the Pentax K20D is out and is superb! Two K20D bodies form the basis for the kit. I use the D-BG2 battery grip with one of the K20D bodies. I have decided not to use a D-BG2 battery grip on the K20D I carry with me most of the time.

For lenses, I am using primarily the DA* series lenses. These include the DA* 16-50/2.8, DA* 50-135/2.8, DA* 200/2.8, and DA* 300/4 lenses. I also usually bring along the DA 35/2.8 Macro Limited lens for close-up opportunities and as a great fixed focal length walk around lens. To round out the selection, I frequently bring the DA 14/2.8 lens and sometimes also the DA 10-17/3.5-4.5 Fisheye lens. I always bring the AF-540FGZ flash with off-camera cord and also a Kenko 25mm Uniplus extension tube. All of this equipment fits nicely in a Domke F-2 Ballastic bag.

If I might have the opportunity to shoot pictures of birds or other animals, I might bring the A* 400/2.8 with the A 1.4x TC-L and A 2.0x TC-L teleconverters. I usually throw in a few extension tubes as well. I carry this extra equipment in a Think Tank Photo Airport Ultralight backpack.

To summarize:

Pentax K20D body
Pentax K20D body with D-BG2 battery grip
DA* 16-50/2.8
DA* 50-135/2.8
DA* 200/2.8
DA* 300/4
DA 10-17/3.5-4.5 Fisheye
DA 14/2.8
DA 35/2.8 Macro Limited
AF-540FGZ with off-camera cord
Kenko 25mm Uniplus extension tube
Domke F-2 Ballistic bag

A* 400/2.8
A 1.4x TC-L
A 2.0x TC-L
Pentax extension tubes
Think Tank Photo Airport Ultralight backpack

Fire on 108 Near Knight's Ferry

Earlier today, my wife and I were on our way to Modesto and we started seeing some smoke in the distance. As we neared Knight's Ferry, we saw that the fire was very near Highway 108. We passed the fire and then turned around to go back and get a better look. I had a Pentax K20D body with me along with the DA* 16-50/2.8, DA* 50-135/2.8, DA* 200/2.8, DA 14/2.8, and DA 35/2.8 Macro Limited lenses. I used the DA* 50-135/2.8 and DA* 200/2.8 lenses for these shots. The first two photos show the fire in several spots when we first passed it.

1/3200s @ f/2.8; ISO 200; SR On

1/640s @ f/8; ISO 200; SR On

After we turned around, we pulled over to the side and I took this shot. As you can see CDF had a helicopter there to fight the fire.

1/1000s @ f/8; ISO 200; SR On

Very quickly the fire started getting worse and these few cars were among the last to get through. The smoke got very think and it was really impossible to see through it very well. I think it was at this point that the fire crossed the road.

1/800s @ f/8; ISO 200; SR On

After the fire crossed the road, it died down some and some water from the helicopter helped.

1/1250s @ f/8; ISO 200; SR On

The helicopter repeatedly picked up water and dropped it. The helicopter is on its way to get more water in the picture below.

1/1000s @ f/8; ISO 200; SR On

There was a CDF bomber that dropped fire retardant several times but it really did not see much use other than circling for a long time.

1/500s @ f/10; ISO 200; SR On

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Demanding Birds No More

I checked the nest of the demanding birds (probably starlings) that we had started calling Sunny and Star. All three babies are gone. I am pretty sure they were killed by something because last week they were not big enough to leave the nest. It is sad that they are gone. The parents stopped taking the bread we were giving them a few days ago and I think that must have something to do with it. Maybe the parents will be more successful next year.

Shots with DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro Limited

I have been enjoying using the new SMC Pentax-DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro Limited. All of the shots in this post were taken with this lens. This afternoon, I went out in the back and took some shots. I am not a botanist so I am not sure what sort of flowers these are. I did try to find their name but I was unsuccessful.

1/60s @ f/5.6; ISO 400; SR On

1/400s @ f/5.6; ISO 400; SR On

1/50s @ f/16; ISO 800; SR On; Flash

I have to put in a picture of Tristin, my son. He was out taking pictures with me. This particular photo is a great promotion for Pentax.

1/3200s @ f/4; ISO 400; SR On

Monday, May 12, 2008

Demanding Birds

Birds can be quite fascinating. Last week, my wife and I discovered a nest in a bush just off the front porch. There are three baby birds growing up quickly in the nest and two pesky parents flying in with food and back out for more. We are not sure what sort of birds they are but they appear to be a type of starling. If anyone recognizes these birds, please make a comment and let us know.

The mother bird, which we have come to call Star, is bringing in some more food for her offspring in this photo. This photo, and the rest in this post, were shot with the Pentax K20D, SMC-Pentax 400mm f/2.8 lens, and Pentax 2x-L teleconverter.

1/320s @ f/8; ISO 1600; SR On

The next three shots are various spots in some of the nearby trees where these birds tend to perch.

1/640s @ f/8; ISO 1600; SR On

1/1000s @ f/8; ISO 1600; SR On

1/250s @ f/8; ISO 1600; SR On

The male bird, which we now call Sunny, has very distinct beady little eyes that stare back at you.

1/400s @ f/8; ISO 1600; SR On

1/500s @ f/5.6; ISO 1600; SR On

I am surprised at how quickly these birds get used to my wife putting out some bread crumbs. She has been doing it since this past Thursday and the birds have already started to get used to it. The mother will fly up to the window and squawk until my wife puts more crumbs out. These birds are amazingly bold.

Tilt and Shift

Perspective control lenses are quite amazing and useful in landscape and architectural photography. If you have ever wondered how the whole process works, here is your chance. Michael Reichmann has just published a report on the new Nikon 24mm f/3.5 PC-E lens as well as an article by another author that explains much more about the subject. This second article is entitled Focusing the Tilt-Shift Lens.

While Canon users have had options in this area since the early nineties, Nikon, Pentax, and other camera makers have left consumers out of luck. This has changed for Nikon users with the recent announcement of 24mm, 45mm, and 85mm perspective control lenses. Unfortunately, the rest of us are still essentially left out. Pentax did make a 28mm f/3.5 Shift lens that was produced from about 1975 through 2004 but, as with other offerings, does not work well with most digital SLRs because of the reduced size of the sensor in most cameras as compared to the 36mm by 24mm traditional film plane.

I hope that Pentax continues to bring out innovative and fantastic products. I would like to add a wide angle perspective control lens to that wish list along with the biggest one on the list as of now: modern teleconverters. Hopefully Pentax will surprise us before too long.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Updates Coming...

I have been very busy and many things have changed in my life since late summer 2007. The most important of these events is that I got married on December 27, 2007. My wife, Susanne, and I are enjoying our new life together. Because of this, my priorities in life have been very different lately. Although posts will be less frequent, I will now be updating this blog regularly.

Since September 2007, many things have changed in the camera world. We have new cameras, lenses, and other technologies on the horizon. In the Pentax world, we have the new K20D and K200D digital SLRs. I will be posting on these camera bodies as well as new lenses. I will also post some thoughts on competing offerings. Stay tuned for upcoming posts!