Pentax FA 77mm f/1.8 Limited Review

Right off the bat this is a top 5 lens for me. Perhaps top 3.

I had Pentax DSLRs a couple of times before and this lens was on my radar both times. With my recent return to Pentax, I bought a used copy. Immediately became very attached to it, but then to my great disappointment, it broke. Returned it. Hurt to do so. Tried to let it go. Then it went on sale… new… and very silver… for about what I paid for the used one.

Why did I want this lens? So many reasons. Continue reading “Pentax FA 77mm f/1.8 Limited Review”

Love DSLRs. But I chose mirrorless because I love film gear more.

A valid response to this blog title is “What?” Allow me to explain. Or try to anyway.

These are interesting times. A lot of virtual ink is spilled debating between mirrorless or DSLR. Most points made miss the point for me really. Sure, I chose mirrorless. But my choice has nothing to do with a dislike for DSLRs. I love DSLRs. But I love film cameras more.

But, but… Battery life… OVF over EVF… Native lens selection… AF speed… Dual card slots… So on and so forth. Meh. Gladly put up with all of this. (And most of these concerns are being eliminated by the most recent wave of mirrorless cameras. An A7iii will be in my future and it may go down as the industry tipping point.) But once again film tech is what changed my mind.

Why? Continue reading “Love DSLRs. But I chose mirrorless because I love film gear more.”

3rd time a charm. Revisiting the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8

A lens so nice I bought it… thrice? Anyhoo…

I love a bargain. My father is the tech/geek inspiration, but my mother’s battle cry is “Never pay retail!”

Round 1:

A while back I had a Nikon D3300 that I really liked. Would still have it if the upgrade path were not so prohibitively (for me) expensive lens and body wise. My favorite lens for it was the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8. More about that version here and below is a sample photo of a nightmare fuel mutant hummingbird lobster moth thing captured in my backyard with it.

Shots from the day.

Round 2: Continue reading “3rd time a charm. Revisiting the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8”

A Mighty Mitakon: Return to Speedmaster (85mm f/1.2)

Full disclosure. I like:

  • Odd lenses.
  • Manual focus lenses.
  • Metal lenses built like handheld medieval weaponry.
  • Good value.

This explains my collection of old-timey film lenses…

 

…and my appreciation of Mitakons. First up was the Mitakon Speedmaster “Dark Knight” which was great on the Sony A7 I once had…

  • Random Neural Firing Afterthought Sidebar: I really, I mean really liked the “Dark Knight”. It was great fun and while I wish they made more mount variations I surmised from the short flange to internal lens bits (technical, I know) distance that it was never intended to accommodate a DSLR’s mirror box so this 85mm Mitakon was likely going to be my only option. Interestingly Mitakon makes this 85mm in more mounts than they usually seem to do (Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and Sony FE full frame). While not f/0.95, f/1.2 is nothing to sneeze at and while 50mm is my favorite practical focal length, 85mm is my favorite if I have room to back up. Actually bought this lens before I had originally intended since it seemed that the last to be released Pentax variants were drying up at retail sites with only Adorama having any available when I purchased this one. But as of this writing they are now backordered on all, but the Nikon mount. All mounts seem available at their own site, but at a higher cost. Amazon does not even list a Pentax version.  B&H charges the full price and also does not list a Pentax variant. Just now noticed that they call this lens ‘The Dream’? Preferred Dark Knight, as a Batman head, but OK. And we are back in 3, 2, 1…

…and then the twice bought Mitakon Creator 85mm f/2.0 which I still have. Continue reading “A Mighty Mitakon: Return to Speedmaster (85mm f/1.2)”

A tale of 3 Sigmas. Part 3: Best for last. EX 50mm f/1.4

Full disclosure: I LOVE 50mm (or near 50mm) prime lenses.

If I could only have one lens that is what it would be. What is not to love? Smaller than a zoom. Not wide enough to distort. Not tele enough to require backing up much if the subject is close. Usually even the most thrifty variants are sharp enough (even if a bit of stopping down is required) to capture a distant subject and crop later. Usually bright enough to offer very nice bokeh and low light capabilities… Ok. I’ll stop. Personal preference of course. Some would go with a different way, but if you are in the market for another lens this is a good choice. Plus even a bad 50mm is usually still a pretty good 50mm. Everyone makes them. The go to lens on all of my 35mm film cameras. Continue reading “A tale of 3 Sigmas. Part 3: Best for last. EX 50mm f/1.4”

Old 35mm lenses saved me medium format film developing.

Not long ago you would find a medium format camera on my person or nearby. Why? Glad you asked. While I always admired the look of the cameras themselves once I obtained one for myself I was hooked by the ‘look’ of the images they produced. Sometimes when people talk about a certain brand or format’s look admittedly I roll my eyes. But to my surprise when my very first roll of medium format film came back the difference was right there before my eyes.

 

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As much as I tried to emulate this look with digital I could not with the tools I was using. That is until recently. Truth be told I had given up and had accepted the fact that I could not afford digital medium format so I split my photography in to practical (digital) and optimal (medium format film) and would usually carry one of each. My fascination led me to purchase 2 more medium format film cameras. I love each for entirely different reasons.

 

A full frame camera with an insanely fast lens previously did not quite hit the mark owing more to personal taste than anything else. A fine camera and a stellar value, but I never did warm up to the Sony A7. One issue was the fact that I could not afford Sony’s fast zoom lenses. With the release of the K-1 40 years of legacy native and 3rd party lenses opened up, many offering autofocus, with many being readily available and quite affordable. While Pentax offers a fine, newer autofocus 50mm f/1.4 reviews indicated that this lens was not the sharpest at f/1.4, but at f/2 it really sharpened up. That information led me to try out the older film era 50mm f/1.7. I saved a few more bucks by buying one with a cosmetic defect (crack in the clear plastic over the DOF calculator) from KEH.com.

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So a cool camera I really like paired with a pretty humble old lens. No big deal right? But this simple set up netted amazing results. With AF down to -3 EV as an added bonus.

 

Is it dead on medium format look appropriation? No. Of course not. One cannot simply flaunt the laws of physics. Surface area rules in areas of light gathering and ultimate resolution. Is it close enough? The subject isolation, color rendering, transition from in focus to out of focus? To my eyes and for my purposes combined with the amazing IQ of the Pentax K-1 (called a full frame marvel for a reason) yes. Enough where I can stop hemorrhaging cash getting film developed weekly and reserve film time for fun and special purposes like a recent family portrait session that included my Grandmother below.

My experience with this lens completely shifted my fo… Nope. This totally changed my shopping list. Instead of looking at newer Pentax and 3rd party glass I started looking at legacy glass even scoring 4 M42 screw mount lenses. In order of purchase (galleries linked)  the surprise hit Vivitar 200mm f/3.5 ($30), Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 swirly bokeh machine ($47), the technically excellent and pin sharp Takumar 50mm f/1.4 ($100), and one I picked up recently just because it was so inexpensive, the Takumar 55mm f/1.8 ($43, no album yet).

I still love film and will continue to shoot with it regularly, but now that I am getting the look I want from digital I can either save a few bucks (hah!) or divert the savings towards even more inexpensive glass that performs well above expectations.

-ELW