Archive | June, 2013

Are tilt-shift lenses a thing of the past?

27 Jun
Image copyright Jeff Dean.

Image copyright Jeff Dean.

With cameras being able to capture images whose resolution far exceeds that required for most applications, and raster graphics editors, including RAW converters, now being capable of perspective correction at (subscription models excepted, God forbid!) a perpetual license price of less than what a tilt shift lens would cost, do we still need tilt-shift lenses? What do you think?

My photographers of the week starting 24 June 2013

23 Jun

Each shooting a Pentax K10D.

What’s the deal with the Pentax K-50?

23 Jun

In a strange reversal over the general feeling when the K-30 was released (“what does the K-5 offer over the K-30 that justifies the higher price?”), everyone is now asking what Pentax’ new K-50 offers over predecessor K-30, and whether indeed these are just firmware updates rather than “real” improvements.

First of all, the biggest complaint with the K-30, that the default kit pairs a weather-resistant camera with a vulnerable lens, rendering the whole assembly prone to water intrusion, has been addressed: the K-50 comes with a new variant of the 18-55mm design, a light-weight plastic lens (DA-L) that is additionally weather-resistant (WR): the DA-L 18-55mm WR.

Pentax K-50 in white

A white and black Pentax K-50 with the new weather-resistant and colour-matched DA-L (plastic) 18-55mm kit lens. Promotional image from Pentax.

Other than that, the firmware is now capable of correcting “jaggies”, that is, jagged edges that are an aliasing-spectrum phenomenon. Somewhat disappointingly, however, the algorithm is likely to overcorrect in some cases, leading to a loss of jagged detail, e.g. jagged leaf edges. I would personally prefer to have a stronger anti-aliasing filter and not worry about whether some algorithm will delete important detail in my image.

Composition Adjust

The K-50 has inherited Composition Adjust from the K-5 series, but what is it? Composition Adjust allows you to move the sensor around while sensor stabilisation is disabled. This gives tilt-shift to any lens with sufficiently large image circle, or alternatively allows you to stitch images together in post for a very wide-angle image, although not quite rivalling 35mm proportions. Some people just like to have composition adjust so they can make fine adjustments to composition while the camera is on a tripod head that may not be very conducive to small corrections. It is not a feature you’ll be using very often, but it would be nice to have if you can get it for free.

K-50 conspiracy

It seems likely that the K-30 has always been capable of ISO 51200 output in principle, and the K-50 now adds this feature without any known change in the image processing platform or sensor. However, no firmware update is as yet available to enable ISO 51200 output in the K-30. Whether this is an example of deliberate crippling in order to give customers enough reasons to continue buying the K-5 and its successors, or whether Pentax simply considered the addition of ISO 51200 too confusing for people, or the resulting image quality too potentially offputting to those knowing little of digital photography, may forever be unclear to the layperson.

In terms of design, the K-50 returns to shapes that were tried on the K20D, a time when Pentax and Canon cameras looked more similar to each other than they do today. This may be a ploy by Pentax to get the K-50 sold more easily to those more familiar with Canon bodies, but is just as likely an attempt to reach out to the female demographic who may have found the design of the K-30 too edgy and sporty.

Should you consider buying the K-500?

In one word, no. I won’t discuss colour choices, as the matter is very simple (the K-500 comes in one colour, which is black, the K-50 allows many different combinations, depending on your location). But I will address weather sealing.

Pentax K-500

Pentax K-500 promotional image.

Weather sealing keeps spray water, sand and dust out of your camera and lenses. You will need to do less cleaning and maintain your kit in good condition for longer with weather sealing. A weather-sealed camera will also retain its resale value for longer, as dust and moisture can less easily invade the lens and camera. Therefore especially those on a budget should NOT consider buying the K-500 because it will depreciate faster, and you’ll end up losing money. You will be better served to save up for another two months and buy the K-50, and for those who live in the land of plenty, there is no currently publicised reason for buying the cheaper camera.

There is one single scenario in which I can see the K-500 making sense, and that’s if you mostly shoot indoors with cheap lenses and are expecting to get through 100k to 150k actuations relatively quickly, essentially treating the camera as a consumable. If I were in that position, I would get the K-500, but seeing how many actuations are usually left when cameras hit the second hand market, I think this will involve a minute proportion of Pentax’ customership. (You can get the mirror or shutter repaired when either breaks, but for a camera in this price bracket, it may not be worth it.)

That thing about the battery holder

The K-500 is clearly modelled as a spiritual successor of the K-x series, where the K-x and successor K-r were not weather-sealed, and the K-x could only be run with AA batteries, with an adapter being available to do so with the K-r (and K-30). With the new models, the rule is that the K-500 includes only an AA battery adapter and batteries, but no lithium rechargeable, whereas the K-50 includes only the Pentax-label lithium battery, but misses the battery adapter. While the adapter and lithium battery are similarly priced, you may want to try out both to see which suits you better, and if you’re going for the K-50 and want to use AA batteries, you’ll have to factor the extra 55 Euros into your purchase (price correct at time of writing). Generics for either part sell for a few dollars, but may affect the warranty relationship with Pentax; some reports suggest the original Pentax batteries are superior to most if not all generics – blind faith probably plays a role, but if I had to give any advice, it would be to support Pentax and avoid playing a gamble with your camera over 40 dollars. Some generics are more reputable than others. Always read the reviews and let others make mistakes first. The same caveat w.r.t. paying separately for the adapter also applies to the K-30.

Note that the K-50 will come with a charger for the battery. If you don’t already have a stash of rechargeable AA batteries and charger, this will add to the cost of any setup that uses the battery holder. Obviously, if you’re remotely serious about photography, you won’t want to even think about using throw-away AA batteries, as these will quickly get quite expensive and are worse for the environment.

Using AA batteries also apparently reduces continuous drive speed from 6 down to 5 frames per second.

Conclusion

Don’t get too fixated on buying the K-50 rather than the K-30 – they are very close in features and ability. However, you should definitely avoid buying the K-30 with a weather vulnerable kit lens – this alone may justify any price difference you may see between K-30 and K-50 kits!

My photographers of the week starting 17 June 2013

15 Jun

Pentax making headway

15 Jun

With the announcement of the K-50(0), it is becoming clear that Pentax has, over the past year, rather successfully capitalised on its existing investment and market position, and also launched itself into new niches:

  1. Pentax has continued its market leadership in the rugged camera segment, with the WG-3, WG-3 GPS and new budget entrant WG-10. Note that this is a segment that will survive the 2012-14 cell phone purge.
  2. Similarly, Pentax has continued its flagship K-5 with worthwhile incremental improvements that, given the huge impact of the original model, will keep the boat afloat for now.
  3. Pentax has released firmware upgrades at regular intervals, each time causing a news item on sites such as Imaging Resource or Digital Photography Review. Other manufacturers have been less clued in to this marketing tool.
  4. Pentax is now releasing cameras at regular intervals, again causing news items with the Q10, Q7, K-50(0) and, let’s face it, Ricoh GR and Pentax MX-1.
  5. With the GR and MX-1, Pentax Ricoh have made it clear they can and want to own the higher end compact market, which is the right decision as the rest of the compact market will die.