Re-learning curve: Pentax K100D Super

Things I like about this camera:

1). It was really cheap to buy (although most offerings of it aren’t).

2). CCD sensor. You want “film quality” images? Can’t beat the CCD sensors.

3). Uses standard ‘AA’ penlight batteries. Nothing special or expensive about powering it.

4). Pentax K lens mount. That’s a vast array of available lenses. I also have the M42 – PK adapter so I can use my classic Takumars.

5). Good control arrangements, easy to set up and use.

Things I don’t like about this camera:

1). It was used in an archaeological dig. As a shovel. This explains the price, and why I am continually cleaning it. The lens has significant coating damage on the front and I keep getting shadows on the images because more dirt is rattling around inside. It’s easier to re-touch the photos.

2). CCD sensor is only 6MP, making digital zooming an impossible dream.

3). Uses standard ‘AA’ penlight batteries which are more expensive to continually replace than just recharging a lithium set. I could buy rechargeable penlights, but that would be substantial capital outlay.

4). Pentax K lens mount limits adapting of other lenses because it is small. Fitting the M42 lenses is even tricky because the K mount is just a bayonet incarnation of the screw mount so the adapter is thin, fragile, and not always easy to get in place.

5). The shutter button focus has failed, causing some significant problems for me because I can’t tell if the image is focused and forget to push the ‘wrong’ button.

6). In addition to the internal and external dirt problems, some of the silver has come off the pentamirror so the viewfinder presents black splotches. My eyes have their own black splotches now, thank you, and I don’t need to see any more.

The ultimate question is: how well does this camera fit with my current photographic plans? This we evaluate on a basis of two criteria: usage and results. Usage … well you’ve seen the clues above. The viewfinder issue is more than a little vexing, and the back-button focus requirement has resulted in far too many out-of-focus images. Add to that the lack of digital zooming ability due to the low resolution sensor and subtract the fact I can adapt the Takumars to one of the Canons (and more easily) and you see it fails for usage.

Now what about results? As with all the equipment under my “new” eyesight, the percentage of “good” to “bad” pictures is disappointing. For the other cameras this has been a matter of me re-learning. In the case of the Pentax the camera itself presents faults which can not be overcome. It would be better if this were an excellent example of a K100D (without the silver loss and focus problem), but it isn’t. I could replace the lens, but should I bother?

Let’s look at the pictures:

Rusty rhubarb.
Lavender weed.
Typical sky shot.
Suddenly a raven. I fired off half a dozen shots trying to get this bird in frame and in focus!
Pale moth. (Notice the lack of sharpness due to the lens.)
A look at the lake.

Over-all I’d say the results are good, maybe only fair. Changing the lens helps (I have another series coming re that), but nothing can be done about the 6MP limitation on getting closer after the shot was made.

This is a camera I should sell. The question mark hanging over that is: would anyone buy it? If not, I have no problem keeping it. It doesn’t take up much space and is unlikely to get any worse from sitting unused.

Re-learning curve: Canon T100

Four weeks since having my retina welded. If there’s any further improvement it will be minor and slow, so I’ve got to work with how I see things now.

Last week, before the smoke filled the valley here and I started choking on every breath, I got a chance to try using the Canon T100 APS-C DSLR. This included some experiments with the manual Pentax Super Takumar lenses, not a one of which produced an acceptable picture. Curiously my ability to judge exposure has been affected, in that bright scenes seem darker and dark scenes seem brighter than either actually is. O-kay, going to need a light meter to do that now I guess. I mean I was off a good 2 stops on every shot regardless of lighting. That’s really bad for me. I can’t have an instant “do over” because I can’t see the camera’s LCD well either.

On to automatic lenses, exposure, and focus! I paid for those functions so I’m going to use them. In theory this eliminates many issues and leaves me dealing only with composition matters. In theory.

Sky before the smoke moved in. A ‘general’ picture that came out fine.
Then we started getting some weird clouds. Picture is still okay, though.
“Silver and Gold”. The smoke begins to affect the light.
“Bugsy sent me!” Experiment with close-up focus (mud wasps).
How to drive the autofocus nuts. It had a helluva time latching on to that web! The difference here was sufficient that even I could see if it had worked before pressing the shutter.
Artistic image achieved.

The issues with this camera are that its EF-S lenses are not the sharpest (and I need all the sharpness I can get now) and the ‘focal points’ are little black dots in the viewfinder; my eyes now have their own little black dots and I kept getting confused about which dot was which for trying to fix focus. In short the extra effort I need to go to now in order to get an acceptable image has slowed down my photography, whether I want to take my time or not. This is a problem for any rapid ‘grab shots’ of wildlife, for example. The lowered resolution of my vision makes spotting birds in trees extremely difficult, and even affects my ability to recognize a potential scene. ‘Obvious objects’ are much easier to pick out. They just aren’t always the thing I want to photograph.

I have my Olympus E-410 here as well. I’ve yet to buy the longest lens for it (70-300mm zoom) because they are always 3X as much as I paid for the camera and the two shorter zooms. However if the smoke would like to go away I can evaluate that for use with “my new eyesight”. The Pentax K100D Super should get a check too, although that camera had issues even without vision problems factored in. It is because of the changes and the fact I have four different DSLRs with five (or six if you count the classic glass) different lens systems that I’m rethinking how I do photography.

The two bright spots are the Canon G11 and Fuji F80, which are just point-and-shoot basically and not a concern. Likewise the Nikon is hanging in there, but its failings of focus and exposure are now exacerbated by my own. Thinning the herd to where I have fewer cameras which I can more easily use and that produce results I want is what I’m contemplating now.

Around the towns

Some things spotted here in 100 Mile and there in Williams Lake. All pictures taken with the Canon G11.

1949/50 Mercury M-47
Com tower
Study in Orange and Gray
Why fly when you can take the train?
Land and sky
Nectar of the gods

Other than these photos the day didn’t go very well. I’m heading back to the cabin to resume work soon.

Spring tries

The weather here keeps shifting between seasons, often in the same day.

More of that white stuff.

Nevertheless, the seasonal birds are trying to come in. I spotted Canada geese flying north as well as a couple of snow geese. Plus this little fellow has returned:

Varied thrush.

The skies can be dramatic at times.

Boiling clouds.

And sometimes serene:

Eagles into the sunset.

And sometimes fluffy:

Cotton clouds.

Meanwhile I wait. For better weather, for clear road to the cabin, for vaccine inoculation, and for the arrival of my latest photo equipment acquisition.

And because these pictures were all taken with the Nikon P610 (best choice for when you’re trying to get bird pictures), another picture of the moon:

Mandatory moon.

One scene seen six ways

Manual images are fine, but sometimes need some post-processing to make them just right. Or maybe not.

The original. Underexposed, moody. Or is that ‘muddy’?
Automatic equalization applied in GIMP. Better exposure, odd colours.
Auto white balance correction applied in GIMP. Most people would say this is ‘right’.
Exposure corrected using brightness and contrast controls in GIMP. This is the most accurate to life.
Getting artistic: white balance correction with colours “toned down” by ‘fading’.
When all else fails try turning the colour off. Or even if the colour is good it doesn’t hurt to see what the monochrome version looks like.

I, eagle

Tracking a bald eagle on a gray afternoon with the Pentax K100DS and Vivitar 135mm f2.8 lens (202mm equivalent). “Full manual” with focus, aperture, and shutter speed pre-set. Except for the last two images, each picture is a 640×426 crop of the full size. Processing included sharpening, +10 contrast (dull day, old sensor), and smudging the flaw spots if they appeared in the image. This is a 6MP camera; these frames are basically 1/16 full size. That is a lot of digital zooming for such a low resolution imager. Notice the sky colour changes as the bird moves from being front-lit to back-lit flying into the light.

Olympus Serendipitous

The camera: Olympus E-410 (aka Evolt 410).

The lens: Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f 3.5-6.5.

The other lens: Olympus Zuiko Digital 40-150mm f 3.5-4.5.

The cost: camera and ‘short’ zoom lens $108.80 CDN; ‘long’ zoom lens $29.16 CDN. (I’m not joking).

Olympus E-410 and lenses.

Why did I buy it? You got me there. Perhaps I got confused. I was looking for the E-300 model, which was the last with a CCD sensor. But they command a premium price it seems. Then along came this and well … It’s bad if I’m bored. I made the purchase over a month ago but thanks to the seasonal shipping slowdown it has only just recently arrived.

A couple of things to point out: this is not the “Mystery Camera” used in two prior posts. Also, this is a four-thirds camera not a micro four-thirds. The difference being in the distance between the sensor and the lens flange; a micro four-thirds does not have a reflex mirror to take up space, and as such there is much more flexibility in the design for adapting other lenses. For the four-thirds cameras (which came first) there are less 50 different lenses available and adapting others is unlikely. As it is I got the two zooms which cover the most range. The ‘standard’ prime lens for this unit is a 25mm, which when found for sale tends to cost 3 to 5 times what I paid for the camera & short zoom. I don’t think I’ll be buying one.

So how does it work? Amazingly good. After getting over some minor ‘teething troubles’ having to do with getting images on to and off of the only compact flash card I have (64 megabytes) results are pleasing indeed. Lacking sufficient storage space for full-size images (I got 12 before the “card full” warning came up), I ‘dialed down’ the resolution to get more trial shots. Also had to download pictures by putting the card in the Canon PSA70 because I don’t have a USB cord for the Olympus. Nevertheless, we have images.

Obligatory lens sharpness test. It’s sharp.

The main reason for my going after any four-thirds camera was to see how that particular format compares to others. I’d say it does so favourably, with expected shortcomings and advantages. For example it is lousy in low-light conditions, as would be normal for a small sensor (APS-C sensors are bad in low light, anything smaller is even worse). On the up side it produces better pictures than, say, a 2.3 sensor. It is a good “compromise” camera, which is both its strength and its downfall: if you could have only one camera and needed it to shoot good pictures and take old lenses and be reasonably sized to carry about and have good wide-to-telephoto capacity (crop factor of 2X on this, so the 150mm focal length is 300mm equivalent) … well I can see where a modern micro four-thirds like the Olympus OM-D series would be a great choice. I would not recommend one of these older four-thirds cameras to anyone because they are truly dead-end devices.

Obligatory raven in the sky image. It’s raven.

Subjectively, using this camera is excellent. It handles very well indeed. Okay the focusing is a tad slow, but that is typical of cameras this old. On the whole the controls are in the right places and it passed the all-important test of producing acceptable photos on ‘automatic’ right out of the box (as it were).

Obligatory dog photo. It’s dog.

I don’t really know why I bought it, but I’m glad I did. Is it a ‘keeper’? It shouldn’t be, because it doesn’t fit the criteria for any of my kind of photography nor does it open up any new avenue as the G11 did. Will I get rid of it? No. For one thing it isn’t valuable enough to be worth making the effort to sell. For another … I’m invoking the¬†Eric L. Woods¬†Defense: “I like it. Leave me alone.”

Obligatory cloud picture. It’s cloud.

Experimenting with the Mystery Camera!

This was a nightmare of trying to get things working. To start with, there’s nothing but overcast skies here – and high winds. Then try to use a camera which not only am I unfamiliar with, but clearly some aspects of it don’t work! Like the autofocus, which I am dependent on. Its automatic settings aren’t very good either, and half of these pictures got quite a bit of rework to make them presentable. Half I left as-is. Oh and just to make things more confusing, it was set on ‘RAW’ to begin with which cost a few frames as well. I really hate having to process from RAW!

At this point I won’t tell you what the camera is.

Widest angle.
Maximum telephoto.
Marley the Model.
It was a dark and stormy morning …
Everything about this picture is wrong – except the moodiness.
This one it got right all on its own.

I need better weather and more experimentation before I discuss this device any further. So far it is not terribly impressive.