Category Archives: Digital

Digital Photography (general topics)

Portraits and Lenses and Bears (oh my!)

Now that I have three lenses for my Nikon D800, I decided it would be fun to try them out in a “portrait” setting. Now, since I didn’t have a readily available model that would hold the same pose for a number of shots and lens swaps, I decided to use a trusty articulated teddy bear.

For my, now, annual Niece and Nephew Christmas shoot I had my new camera and my new 24-120mm f/4 Nikkor lens. This lens is a really nice, all-around, lens for travel and fun photography, but it isn’t really suited for a portrait lens. Why? It’s too slow. The f/4 constant aperture is nice, but it means that the depth of field is larger, the lighting needs to be brighter, and so on. Nevertheless, it’s a very good lens and forms the basis of my playing with my new 85mm f/1.8 G and my 105mm f/2.8 G Micro lenses. The observant will note that these two lenses were, in fact, on my Wish List and are now in my hot little hands.

First, the 24-120mm shot at 85mm with an aperture of f/4:

24-120mm at 85mm and f/4

Compare the above to the 85mm f/1.8 shot at f/1.8:

85mm and f/1.8
85mm and f/1.8

Now compare with the 85mm f/1.8 shot at f/4:

85mm and f/4
85mm and f/4

Now, the 24-120mm shot at 105mm with an aperture of f/4:

24-120mm at 105mm and f/4
24-120mm at 105mm and f/4

Compare that with the 105mm f/2.8 shot at f/3 (the 105mm Micro’s maximum aperture depends on the focus distance. In this case, I was closer than 10 feet, so f/2.8 wasn’t available):

105mm and f/3
105mm and f/3

Now, the 105mm at f/4:

105mm and f/4
105mm and f/4

Now, for a slightly more useful side-by-side comparison of the above 85mm shots:

Compare at 85mm
Compare at 85mm

Unfortunately, I had a slight movement in the camera body when lens switching and the zoom focal length isn’t exact on 85mm (there’s some variance that the camera can report). At any rate, you can see the depth of field and bokeh characteristics of f/4 versus f/1.8 is dramatic. You can also see that the two lenses, at the same aperture of f/4 are pretty similar, but if you look closely at the bokeh circles, the 85mm lens is much nicer, as the 24-120mm has some fairly sharp halos in comparison, especially when scaled down as these shots are.

It’s pretty clear, to me at least, that the 85mm and 105mm prime lenses are going to produce nicer portrait shots. Perhaps I should be looking at the AF DC-Nikkor 135mm f/2D too…

Alien Bees and the Home Studio

Just this past week I ordered, and received, the DigiBee kit from Alien Bees (Paul C. Buff) with the B800 heads rather than the B400. I’ve been itching to get something like this for quite a while, especially after having bought a pretty weak “home studio” kit that came with stands (poorly made), two soft boxes, and CFL based continuous lights. That kit, set up in a standard configuration left me with a shutter speed of 1/20 at f/4 and ISO 400. Like I said, weak, but what do you expect for a couple of hundred dollars? In any case, since I was about to do a Christmas shoot of my neices and nephews, 1/20th of a second shutter speed just wasn’t going to cut it, kids just move too much, so hence I ordered the Bees.
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Now it’s Sunshine and Roses

Well, not really, it is November. However, I took my K-5 back to Henrys today and they replaced it with a new one. No fuss, no muss. More importantly, my rear e-dial is now behaving correctly and, as an added bonus, I just dropped over a 1000 shutter actuations off my camera!

I’ve also updated to the 1.01 firmware now. So, there’s definitely an improvement on the buffer front and the DNG images seem to be a touch smaller, but barely. I’m guessing that there was something in the buffer algorithm that wasn’t quite right. Either way, it more than doubles the number of frames before you fill and, given the frame rate on the K-5, that’s a pretty big win. Pentax also mentioned some stability fixes but, to be honest, I hadn’t notice any issues on that front. I’m guessing that I wasn’t using the features that would have, potentially, had some glitches in it.

Anyways, you can now count me as both a happy Pentaxian and a happy Henrys customer.

Falling into the Trap and my K-5 Impressions

The other day, against my usually better judgement, I fell into a couple of debates about the capabilities of several cameras…

Three cameras with comparable capability were recently released into the wild: the Canon 60D, the Nikon D7000, and the Pentax K-5. If we ignore for the moment that the K-5 has a number of professional elements about it that places it in a different market segment, the three cameras otherwise have very comparable capability. That’s where the debates are now raging, especially based on the the DxOMark scores and the recent review from DP Review on the 60D that added their test shots from the D7000 and K-5.

These two articles sparked a series of debates that, despite my better judgement, I allowed myself to be sucked into. Whoops. However, I dropped out of the debates because, frankly, they don’t make a lot of sense. There are a couple of simple facts that come into play:

1. The people debating are no more going to change their brand than the next guy. So, does it matter if they think the other brands suck? Not really, it’s irrelevant because the proof is in the pudding anyways and that proof is really going to be the photographer.

2. The vast majority of people, myself included, using any of this gear are going to be the limiting factors for the camera. In other words, these three cameras exceed the capabilities of most photographers so sniping at each other about pixel peeping photo tests at various ISOs is ridiculous. I’ve already said before that pixel peeping is a trap and it is.

So, the debates are absurd. Forget them, just go out and shoot.

Speaking of shooting, I’ve now had the Pentax K-5 for about two weeks, so I’ve now had a chance to snap around a 1000 shots with it and form an impression… From the K20D, this is a monstrous upgrade, here’s why:

1. My single biggest complaint about Pentax cameras is now resolved. Yep, dark frame subtraction is no longer forced. This is a result of dropping the hot and noisy Samsung sensor in favour of the Sony one.

2. The dynamic range is simply stunning.

3. The frame rate has more than doubled, which helps enourmously with high action shots such as wildlife in motion and sports.

4. High ISO capability blows past the K20D producing usable images at 3 to 4 times the ISO capability of the K20D and, as an added bonus, look better than ISO 800 did on the K20D. I could have used that in some museums in Rome!

5. Higher resolution for greater detail. It’s not a huge leap in resolution, but it’s there and it shows, especially in macro shots.

6. Substantially improved autofocus capability. Where the K20D would hunt, get confused, and force me to manually focus, the K-5 just zips in and locks. Even in low light, I had reason to test this last night, the K-5 will acquire focus allowing me to do my picture of the day off a tripod. I would have never have done that the K20D, it wouldn’t work.

Now it’s not all sunshine and roses, it looks like I may have an issue with my rear dial: it’s flaky. I’m not sure if it’s a hardware issue yet or not, but I’m heavily leaning to that, so that means I may have to take it in for servicing. If I do, fortunately, I still have my K20D for my continued use. I’ll wait until I’ve applied the firmware update first though, just to be certain.

In any case, issue or not, I’ve simply found the K-5 a joy to use. I loved the K20D, but there’s no getting around the fact that the K-5 is a substantial upgrade for me. Good job Pentax!