Eric L. Woods

My Gadget Acquisition Syndrome Camera Nemesis: The Pentax K-1

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A theoretical exercise ahead… that may get me into some fiscal trouble shortly if history is any indicator.

A lot of cameras come up when Gadget Acquisition Syndrome or GAS comes up. On paper there are some popular contenders. Most are a mix of stellar specs, impeccable performance, and/or storied legacies combined with one last component, high cost. Often very high cost. Add in objective tactile shortcomings overruled by intangible subjective justifications and stir. These are the ones you read about most. I will stick to digital because film GAS is a bottomless pit of options far too numerous for a blog post.

The Popular Contenders.

Digital Leica M

The draw.

  • Specs:
    • Well… Admittedly not a strong suit if I am honest. Next up.
  • Performance:
    • Um. That is not this camera’s thing either admittedly.
  • Storied legacy:
    • Ding, ding, ding, part 1. This is where the Leica M cameras shine. It has everything.
    • That storied Ernest Leitz name that goes on the camera. One of the, and some would argue THE, biggest brand names in camera-dome. If you do not know the story I will not even attempt to do it justice. Google is your friend.
    • I’ll give you another. Oskar Barnack. The engineer who first “adapted 35mm cinematic film for still-camera use with a larger negative than other 35mm cameras…”
    • The Leica I is called the camera that changed everything after all.
  • Subjective:
    • Ding, part 2.
    • Leica cameras are simply wonderful in hand, wonderful to use, and a fantastic tool to create images with.
    • How do I know? I have had a Leica M3 and I currently own a Leica CL. This is where the “if it is not broken do not fix it” aspect of the Leica M rangefinder experience pays real dividends. That same wonderful experience in digital form.
Leica M3
Leica M3
Leica CL / 7Artisans 35mm f/2
Leica CL

The cure.

  • High cost:
    • As much as I would love to own one of these cameras I cannot justify the cost. Money no object I would own one for sure.
  • Objective shortcomings:
    • No AF is a hard sell at any cost. At over $8,000 I can think of no other name brand that could pull this off.
    • Sure, there are other Leica models but once you remove the rangefinder I lose interest.
    • For now I make do with another rangefinder-less alternative. Heresy to some, but works for me until I locate that money tree.
Sony A7c
w/ M Mount 7Artisans 35mm f/2
7artisans 50mm f/1.1
M Mount 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1
Sony A7c - AF - 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4
M Mount 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4
Meet JJ at Lowes - Sony A7c - 7Artisans 75mm f/1.25
M Mount 7Artisans 75mm f/1.25

Perhaps one day digital Leica. Another decade of depreciation might do it.

Pentax 645D/645Z

The draw.

  • Specs:
    • Three things.
      • Medium format.
      • Medium format.
      • Medium format.
    • Upwards of 50MP is nothing to sneeze at.
  • Performance:
    • Did I mention it is medium format?
    • But seriously this is the primary selling point. In almost every other metric most any other camera on sale today would best this camera feature for feature.
  • Storied legacy:
    • While not held in as high esteem as some other brands on this list do not sleep on Pentax.
  • Subjective
    • I owned both the film MF Pentax 645 and AF Pentax 645N and the digital 645D and 645Z both use the same mount.
    • Those Pentax lenses. Those lovely Pentax lenses.
Pentax 645
Pentax 645
16 of 16 - Provia 100F w/ Pentax 645N
Pentax 645N

The cure.

  • High cost:
    • Reasonably priced for a digital medium format camera if I am honest. But after spending a few hundred for the film 645 and a bit more for the 645N the jump to thousands was a tough sell. Realizing I was never going to move up to digital I let the film bodies go.
  • Objective shortcomings:
    • Reviews of this camera’s AF have not been kind. This is fine for hundreds on film. This is a no go for thousands.
    • Medium format here is a bit of a stretch since this sensor is smaller than what is already the smallest 120 film size.
    • Upwards of 50MP sounds good on paper but as I found out with the 42MP Sony A7RII that is more than I need. So much so it is the rare camera that I have owned or tried and did not bother writing a blog post for it. It is a great camera though. Now that I think about it just take the A7II post then add 18MP and an optional single shot silent shutter.

Fujifilm GFX 50R

The draw.

  • Specs:
    • Did I mention it is medium format?
    • 50MP.
  • Performance:
    • A relatively good AF performance for a medium format camera… which is not saying much if I am honest.
  • Storied legacy:
Fujica GW690
GW690
Fujica GW690III
GW690III
  • Subjective:
    • Like the GW690 and GW690III rangefinders I had, this camera has a very attractive rangefinder-ish design. I was so drawn to this camera that I came very close to actually purchasing one.

The cure.

  • High cost:
    • While a good deal when compared to other medium format cameras when you start factoring in lenses things get pricey quickly.
  • Objective shortcomings:
    • As above medium format here is a bit of a stretch since this sensor is smaller than what is the smallest 120 film size, 645. And the GW cameras I had were of the giant 6×9 negative variety.
    • Depth of field is a main party piece of medium format but if you compare relative lens specs (online comparison calculator here) FF lenses I have meet my needs.
    • As stated earlier 50MP is more than I need for my use case. And if high MP was my goal I would be better served purchasing an A7RIV since I already have the glass.
    • That A7RIV would outperform the GFX feature for feature including AF.
    • With contrast only, good AF for medium format is sort of a backhanded compliment. Other than the much higher MP and also phase detect, much more expensive GFX 100, AF is not really a medium format strong suit.
    • Made it to one step before placing a GFX 50R order before snapping out of it and deciding instead to invest in better glass for the system I already had. Not as much fun but that was definitely the better decision for me.

Hasselblad 907X 50C

The draw.

  • Specs:
    • Shares a sensor with the GFX 50R so…
    • Did I mention it is medium format?
    • 50MP.
    • Leaf shutter offers high flash shutter sync out of the box.
  • Performance:
    • AF is behind the similar sensor GFX but that is not the party piece here.
    • MF by way of this camera’s compatibility with Hasselblad V film bodies is the real party piece.
  • Storied legacy:
    • Hasselblad cameras went to the moon. Mic drop.
    • Hasselblad cameras are legends that were and still are regularly used by legends.
  • Subjective:
    • Hasselblad.
    • But seriously the ability to have access to new Hasselblad AF lenses and V body compatibility is very appealing.
    • I love my Hasselblad camera and the thought of not just adapting the glass alone, but actually using the camera with this digital back is very attractive.
Old school top to bottom. #Hasselblad #Manfrotto
Hasselblad 501c

The cure.

  • High cost:
    • As appealing as this camera is I still cannot justify the price.
  • Objective shortcomings:
    • As above, medium format here is a bit of a stretch since this sensor is smaller than what is the smallest 120 film size, 645.
    • The steps that had to be taken to support the aesthetics and dual nature of this camera brings too many omissions.
      • No EVF.
      • No hot shoe.
      • Interesting ergonomics when shooting AF glass.
    • Like the GFX, 50MP is more than I need for my use case. And if high MP was my goal I would be better served purchasing an A7RIV since I already have the glass.
    • That A7RIV would outperform the 907x feature for feature including AF.
    • Lastly, while nowhere near as impressive pedigree wise, this thing exists.
Kipon Baveyes 0.7x Optical Focal Reducer Lens Adapter
Kipon Baveyes 0.7x Optical Focal Reducer Lens Adapter
Kipon Baveyes 0.7x - Hasselblad Zeiss 80mm f/2.8

But for me personally none of these hold a candle to this last camera in the realm of GAS-dome. More on the “why” of this in the cost section.

Pentax K-1 (My review here.)

The draw.

  • Specs:
    • 36MP is a nice compromise for a high resolution sensor.
  • Performance:
    • While relatively poor AF as compared to the latest and greatest mirrorless cameras it is far ahead of the cameras listed above.
    • Built like a flipping tank.
  • Storied legacy:
    • <copy/paste from 645> While not held in as high esteem as some other brands on this list do not sleep on Pentax.
  • Subjective:
    • It is a full frame DSLR with IBIS. I repeat. It is a full frame DSLR with IBIS. Who else has that? <Checks notes.> No one. The only other DSLRs that have IBIS regardless of sensor size are also Pentax dating back to the W. Bush era K20D and before possibly.
    • I am certain other DSLRS likely have this, but the K-1 also has it’s own variation of focus peaking when using MF lenses. Not only that you can set it up to automatically take a shot when the camera determines you are in focus. ‘Focus trap’ or the like they call it.
    • I do not know what is going on with that Pentax sensor but it delivers images that are so pleasing to my eye. I point you to the samples below.
    • <copy/paste from 645> Those Pentax lenses. Those lovely legacy MF and AF Pentax lenses.
My father's hands. #Wisdom
My dear Father’s hands.
Zun Lee at WSSU Digg's Gallery
Zun Lee At his exhibit of his book featured by NY Times. With legacy MF Takumar 50mm f/1.4 M42 Screw Mount.
B&W
Pentax 77mm f/1.8 Limited
SMC Pentax-DA 40mm F2.8 Limited
Pentax 40mm f/2.8 Limited
Bee
Pentax 100mm f/2.8 macro
Veteran's Day Parade 2016
Threw in another favorite. The Sigma EX DG 50mm f/1.4.

Side Note: Admittedly I am a bit of low key recovering Pentax head. I currently only have two of the cameras from my last Pentax bender below.

Pentax

The cure.

  • High cost:
    • Here is the main reason this camera is the top contender on my GAS list. While not cheap it is nowhere near as expensive as the others and offers results that would be just as satisfying for me. New is a bit rich for an unnecessary camera, but at about $1,200 used it rests right on the line “Hey. Why Not?”
    • Add to that a boat load of affordable glass and it becomes more of a risk to my wallet. There is a reason I have owned two, sold two K-1 bodies, and still regularly contemplate going for a third round.
  • Objective shortcomings:
    • Like other cameras above this camera lacks a lot of the latest features like 4K video.
    • Also weighs like a flipping tank. Besides the Pentax above it is heavier than the medium format cameras listed above.
    • Has a bit of dead mount walking about it if I am honest. While I applaud Pentax’s determination to stick with DSLR only I am uncertain how that will pan out in a few years.
    • You know what else those legacy MF lenses can be used on? Any full frame mirrorless camera with a cheap adapter. Add a TECHART adapter and AF is available on Sony. (Sample photo below.) And who knows. I am reading about an adapter that will allow native AF of Pentax autofocus lenses as well. (Video below.)
Random
Sony A7III/TECHART AF/Helios 44-2

Main issue? I really do not need it. But GAS does not care of your wants and needs. It just demands to be fed more camera gear. In a year, where I welcome distractions more than any other I can remember, the call can be pretty loud. But I will continue to fight it…. I hope.

Mitakon Speedmaster 85mm  f/1.2
w/ Mitakon 85mm f/1.2

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