Sunday, December 28, 2008


Testing out the 1DsII. Miserable weather for shooting so far, but here's one. (More)

Friday, December 5, 2008


Pentax K20D, Sigma 30/1.4 (More)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

It's full of stars

K20D, Lensbaby 2.0 Fun piece of glass, and has a surprisingly sharp "sweet spot" compared to the original Lensbaby. (More)

Stuart McGuire

From a local car restoration place / junk yard. K20D and DA 21mm Limited.
Overcast day, and it actually rained when taking these shots. Had to be quick; while the K20D is weather sealed, the lens isn't.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Edge sharpness of the 30/1.4 -- example

I got curious as to just how well or poorly the 30/1.4 performs along the edges. It is certainly fairly soft there when wide open, but how about stopped down? I took the pumpkin/Halloween shot below and checked it out...
..and interestingly, it performs pretty darn well! The below samples shot at f/7.1

First, the unmolested (i.e. non-HDR processed) image.

Next, a 100% crop from one side:

Bad? Not at all! While it doesn't perform quite as admirably as my 40mm Limited, I wouldn't hesitate to use this for an overall walk-around lens. As I said in an earlier post, it's nothing to be praised resolution wise when you get near the edges/corners, but neither should you heed the advice of those who claims it's so soft the edges are just wasted and unusable...

For landscapes/architectural, you might find it lacking (there's some distortion too), but for a general purpose "normal" prime it is probably pretty ideal assuming you get a good sample.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Trick or treat

Playing some more with HDR and the 30/1.4.
Surprisingly, at f/7.1 the corners look... pretty good! I know this lens has a rep for soft corners, and it isn't as good as many resolution wise, but I have to say that for most shots it is good enough and then some.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A tonion of onions (Sigma 30/1.4)

(ISO 800, f/6.3, 1/60th)

The Sigma 30/1.4 finally arrived, after making its trek from Canada over the span of a few weeks...
(Honestly, what is the DEAL with buying from Canada? One package took over TWO MONTHS to arrive. You can get something from Japan in three days, but heaven forbid anything has to make it across the northern border...)

This is a pretty interesting piece of glass. While lenses like the Pentax DA 40mm Limited attempt to provide uniform sharpness across the board, the Sigma approach was more or less "to hell with the edges and corners, it's all about the center". Consequently, the center resolution even at f/1.4 is stunning. The edges, well, eventually they start catching up but one would be hard pressed to praise them at any aperture. Bad? Not at all; all lenses are compromises and you just have to pick the ones with the right strengths for your shooting. Take a look at the PhotoZone reviews for the DA 40/2.8 and the Sigma 30/1.4 to see just how radically they differ.

For a good walk-around normal-ish prime lens with excellent low light capabilities, this is a hard one to beat. Sure, there's the Pentax 31/1.8 which is an excellent excellent lens, but vastly more expensive. There's the DA 35mm Limited macro, which is also a very good lens but a full two stops slower than the Sigma. None of these are the "right" or "wrong" lens; as always you have to pick the one that best fits your needs. For me, it's the Sigma.

(ISO 400, f/1.4, 1/125th)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Pentax 40/2.8 DA does "macro"

The 40mm isn't exactly known for its closeup focusing abilities... But here it is in all its glory, stacking no fewer than THREE Hoya closeup filters (+1,+2,+3). Surprisingly the image quality didn't deteriorate significantly; probably this is due to the controlled environment. Lighting: 8x20 softbox on a 160ws monolight. (More)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

HDR is like crack

I keep telling myself HDR is bad and wrong, but...
It's so hard to say no.
I finally broke down and decided to evaluate some of the HDR programs out there. The one I see referenced most often is Photomatix. However, I was less than impressed with the user interface and performance of it, so decided to download a bunch of others: Artizan, Dynamic Photo HDR, easyHDR, and a half dozen more. I kept coming back to Dynamic Photo HDR, since it has a simple, useful user interface, runs VERY quickly on my AMD Turion TL-58 powered Toshiba, and has a great price to boot. Will probably attempt to use it for less garish stuff in the future, but right now I can't help but push those sliders too far...



Saturday, October 4, 2008

Row of Rears, Takeoff

Some junkyard explorations near our house.
Right next to the one pro photo store still operating in this area, there is a car "restoration" outfit. Or so it claims to be; I have yet to see any of the rusting hulks outside actually go anywhere. Regardless, it makes for a fun place to go snap a few shots when I'm out picking up some supplies.

Pentax K20D, DA 16-45/4

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Pretty Lighting on the Cheap

Found some instructions on how to MacGyver a lightbox out of tissue paper and an old box.
This shot was done in a roughly 12" side cube, with the top and sides cut out, and some plain white tissue paper taped over the holes. The surface the camera is sitting on is a single 12" granite tile from Home Depot (cost $3.99), which provides a nice reflection. A single monolight was shot from the right, and some black and white pieces of craft paper were used to block and reflect the light. In retrospect, the light is a little too unbalanced and could use more fill from the left. Still, for the price you can't really argue with the results. (More)

Interlude I

Pentax K20D, Da 16-45/4, single snooted mono light from above. (More)

The Nightmare

Pentax K20D, Sears 135/2.8, snooted monolight bounced off foam core board. (More)

A Crime Was Committed Here

While shooting some ebay auction photos, inspiration struck...

My daughter had left her partially disassembled Mr Potatohead on the floor, and I had just read about strong shadows and boldly angled light in one of my lighting books. To get this harsh, dramatic lighting, I used a single monolight with a narrow snoot. It was set moderately low; probably 3 feet off the ground. The final image ended up being in a somewhat odd format (very wide), but the scene just would not have worked well in any other arrangement.

Camera used was Pentax K20D with Pentax DA 16-45/4 lens.