Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pentax 645Z F Stop Setting

I note on the PentaxForums that Royce Howland, fellow Calgary photographer  has discovered a possible glitch in the Pentax, in that he can't reliably use the f stop ring on some lenses when in manual exposure setting. I had not discovered  this because I always put the lens into A mode where the camera sets the f stop, after all the camera comes with front and back dials specifically for the purpose, but still, if you can do it, it should work.

When I tested my camera, the same problem happens - for some odd reason, when in manual mode and setting the f-stop on the lens, the camera thinks it is two stops wider, and that gap stays as you change f-stop. This only seems to happen with FA lenses, not the A series manual focus lenses, and not the new lenses that of course don't have f-stop rings anyway.

For me, it's a non issue, just something for people to be aware of - use the body to set f-stop, lens aperture set to A.The proper aperture is set and recorded.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Editing Turner Valley 645Z Images

 The colours of the above image were not harmonious and the image shouted for a black and white conversion. Given the antique nature of the subject, it seemed sensible to apply a toning. I used my usual browntone made by applying a fill layer of solid colour and converting the blend to colour, with adjustments to intensity across the brightness range via the blend detail window (double clicking on the layer). I wasn't quite happy with it and having this evening looked through Roman Loranc's wonderful book of photographs in which he uses a neutral black but toned mid and light tones, I decided to try adding a saturation level, with a -76 adjustment to saturation. I then double clicked on the adjustment layer and moved the right hand (highlight) slider of the output image to the middle, thus removing the desaturation from the light tones. I then used the opacity slider for the layer to reduce the desaturation effect overall to 70%, leaving jut a little richness to the shadows and softening the gradation of colour.

I quite liked the web image but my print of this photograph looked week, the highlights lacking detail, the port quite dull, and the backdrop rather flat. About a dozen adjustment layers later the port had some oomph, the shadows some depth, and the highlight silver some richness.

I don't think I'm finished with the editing here. I think to right of the port could be a tad lighter, probably using a curve in which the white point is moved to the left, rather than just a lightening curve. but first I'm going to live with the print for a few days.

One thing I'm delighted with is that these files do stand up really well to editing. It does seem that the larger and cleaner the original file, the better edits look. The Nikon D810 is out and it fixed most of my frustrations with the Nikon, and early testing suggests the images will be great, but I have absolutely no regrets about my purchase of the Pentax 645Z, the most comfortable I have felt about a purchase in a long time.

More Images From Gas Plant

Images From Turner Valley

This was with the 300 mm. lens, two images blended, though in hind sight I really needed 3 to get the nearest part of the fibreglas in focus.

This was shot with the 75 or maybe the 35 and below is a 100% clip from somewhere in the middle. I'd love to see a six foot print of this image.

Shot with the 120, aiming upwards, perspective corrected in Photoshop, Command A to select all, Command T to transform, and Command Drag to stretch the corners to correct perspective and trim exactly to requirements.

Another Day With The Pentax 645Z

I photographed about four hours and by the end the camera battery was indicating low but not out - still functioning fine. I had used live view for all the images, and many were 30 second exposures inside one of the Turner Valley Gas Plant buildings, all the windows boarded up, light supplied by one large door in  a very large building. I used the 25, 35, 75, 120 and 300 mm. lenses.

To my surprise, the images from the 300 look great - very sharp. This might have to do with the 30 second exposure eliminating shake, also no wind indoors. Outdoor images were inconsistent, some sharp, other very definitely showing movement. I know that when I was using both Canon and Nikon, 2 seconds wasn't enough to settle movement after pressing the shutter and I'm looking forward to getting an infrared remote for the camera. Clearly more testing is required, but it's nice to know the lens itself is fine.

The camera worked perfectly, with no quirks that I could discover. I'm still learning how far to the right I can push exposure. At the moment I'm being pretty careful not to go well into blown highlights just in case, and knowing I can dig into the shadows without problem.

My impression is that while resolution may not be that much higher than the D800e, it's easier to get high resolution - the Nikon could do it, but not consistently, even in similar conditions, and frankly that's a huge advantage for me.

When checking sharpness of an image already made, you can scoot around the magnified image quite quickly. When doing so in live view before the shot, it's fairly slow - not an issue for the kind of work I do.

Focus blending is working well, using Helicon Focus, and I made my first images today that will need to be stitched - which is perhaps a bit silly but the lens nicely fit the vertical part of the subject and it just seemed natural to then swing the camera.

I did wonder how badly I'd miss my zooms, after all my 70-200 has always been my favourite lens, both in Canon and Nikon. To be honest, I didn't even give it a thought till now, after the fact. Sure I did more lens changes as I set up scenes - but that's at least as much lack of familiarity with the angle of view of the specific Pentax lenses and already is improving.

I worry that the battery compartment lock seems flimsy - a thin tab that has to be lifted up, turned 90 degrees and then pulled to open the door. It would be very awkward in gloves. I'm going to be careful with this.

I have to be a bit more careful clamping the camera to the tripod head The small square Really Right Stuff plates are great for not getting in the way, adding bulk or weight to the camera, but as the camera is much larger than the plate, I seem to be spending more time checking to be sure the plate is really seated in the clamp before letting go  - but this is mostly to do with the size of the camera blocking the view of the clamping, not the smallness of the plates and I wouldn't want larger plates. It's even worse when I use Arca Swiss style plates on a view camera. For that size, I actually prefer the safer and much larger plates from Manfrotto, but I wouldn't want to put two of those on the Pentax.

One thing that has to be considered with Pentax is the size of the company and the rate of development, though if you think of how long people have been waiting for a new 100-400 Canon zoom, or a 400 5.6 with IS, maybe I shouldn't worry too much. I do have the sense though that the camera and lenses have to work for me now, not from some future possible development. For my style of photography, the Pentax and its current equipment are perfect and I have no sense that I'm limited waiting for further developments. This won't be true for others, who might need leaf shutter lenses, or tilt shift. As to this latter, correcting perspective in Photoshop is so easy that shifting isn't really needed (and with the high pixel count, using shifting to stitch more pixels isn't important, and tilting has largely been replaced with focus blend, which is, after all, a lot more flexible being able to cope with 3D subjects, not just flat planes.

What if the company itself disappeared? People used Contax medium format for at least 10 years after the company went bye-bye, so again I don't see this as a huge issue and the fact that Ricoh can release such a great camera at this time speaks well of the company. The 645D was successful despite its limitations, the 645Z could be huge for the company.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Pentax 645Z After 3 Days

Perhaps the thing I like most about the Pentax is the compete lack of surprises - everything works logically. I have the open aperture live view focusing that I used to have on the Canon and really really missed on both the Nikon D800e and Sony A7r. You may thing this is a small thing, but if every single exposure you have to change the aperture to wide open, focus, then stop down again, it really is a pain - and if you forget to stop down again - disaster. And if you are in manual exposure - forget it because the screen gets too bright and you have to change the exposure too - so nice to be back the right way. And I always have the option to preview stopped down but if you aren`t using especially fast lenses, focus shift is not a big issue.

Turns out I like the weight and size of the body - it just feels so solid, and I don`t have the sense with long lenses that they need separate support - which makes changing lenses that much easier.

I find I don`t really need the 150 mm. lens - too close to my 120 to be worth the trouble, and I`m replacing the old 200 with the better 200 FA so I`ll likely carry the 25, 35, 75, 120, 200 and ?300.

I need to do more testing on the 300 both to see if shutter shake is an issue (I don't think so) and resolution - it's sharp in the centre, not sure about the corners yet.

I really like that the tilting lcd screen moves away from the body when you look down on it, not partially hidden by the viewfinder, especially if looking at it from an odd angle, like the camera aiming downwards but higher than I am.

I like that the lenses and lens caps screw on the right way unlike Nikon. The viewfinder is great and with glasses easy to use including the data display. It's easy to both use and see exposure compensation, and focus comfirmation works great, with the focus point glowing red in the viewfinder, unlike Nikon that had that little green circle at the bottom of the screen.

ISO has a dedicated button so really easy to use.

These may seem little things but they sure do make shooting more pleasurable and working the camera less distracting.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

35 mm. A Lens On Pentax 645Z

This is the resolution on the 35 mm. lens - better than the 25 even in the centre and 90% as good as above right into the corners. Were it not for the wider field of view, it really wouldn't be worth having the 25 mm. lens. I should point out that there was a lot of haze from forrest fires and the foreground is also sharp and not hazy - see below for a section from the lower right corner:

Jura Canyon

A focus blend with the Pentax 645Z. One minor inconvenience of using the old A lenses is they don't transmit the focal length to the body. I can't remember whether this was the 75 or 120 lens.

you can click on this section to see resolution at 100%

Lenses On The 645Z

Just back from a quick series of infinity landscape test shots, somewhat into the sun (lens shaded by hand), f 11 because that's what I shoot 90% of my landscapes and industrials at.


25 mm. edges ok but corners are a bit soft - useable but frustrating for the cost of the lens - exactly as Lloyd Chambers reported. Mind you my Zeiss 15 wasn't perfect, but this is worse - useable, probably ok in most prints, and better for the auto correction in Lightroom, but not ideal.

35 mm. - sharp corner to corner - nothing to criticize.

75 mm. - sharp corner to corner

120 mm. - tack sharp - the best I have, and contrasty, which the other sharp lenses aren't

150 mm. - sharp

200 mm. this is the old version, one lens element less - and sharp only in the centre - not even edges (which is fine, it didn't fit in my bag).

300 mm. - sharp , though a bit low in contrast. Can't comment on corners as lack of depth of field prevented checking, even at 300 yards.

I don't have the 55 or 90 - can't see paying for the 90 when the 120 is so good, and do I really need something between 35 and 75 - so far my experience says no.


From entertainment the locals put on for us when we visited the island of Miquelon (French colony). Shot with the Sony A6000, hand held, IS, 16-70 Zeiss, 1 second exposure.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Jura Canyon With The Pentax 645z

The camera worked well today, posing no difficulties at all. I used the 25, 35, 75 and 120 lenses, all to good effect.

The last image is a focus blend and as so often happens when blending moving water, odd contour lines form in the water and I decided to take advantage of them, and even accentuate them a tad - looking almost like a palette knife painting.

The first image is a severe crop, some 16 mp of the original 51 - and holds up very well.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Pentax 645Z

I put in a request for a Pentax 645Z about a month ago, after a number of others had done so, and was very surprised to come home from work yesterday to find a phone message that my camera had come in. This morning I happily picked up the camera and 25 mm. lens. I already had 35, 75, 120, 150, 200, and 300 mm. lenses, all but the 300 manual focus. I already knew the 120 was extremely sharp.

Some have worried that the camera isn't sufficiently better than the Nikon D800e (and soon to be released 810) to be worth the limitation in lenses, the weight and the bulk.

I have to say, I used my old camera bag that is a bit smaller than the heavy one I lugged my Nikon around in, and managed to fit into the bag, the camera and a lens mounted (even the 300), separate storage for the 300, 150, 120, 75 and 35. I had doubts about the older version 200 so didn't worry too much With a bit of fiddling, I even found room for the rather large 25 mm. lens. The weight is a little more than the previous Canon equipment it used to hold, but not by a lot and certainly not a concern. So, no more space, not sig. heavier - already a good start.

It was easy to set up the camera for raw DNG, no jpeg, two cards, one then the other, iso 100 (a dedicated iso button), and quickly found the button to change to 2 second self timer, mirror up at the beginning).

I had purchased RRS plates for bottom and side and used my RRS 34 tripod with BH55 lever release head.

The camera feels great in hand and the controls are very straight forward. I once pressed the iso button instead of the exposure compensation button, but quickly found my error and that was it for problems working the camera.

Format is the second last menu list in the last category, part way down - too bad there doesn't seem to be a my my menu like Canon uses, but knowing where to find it it doesn't take long to get there.

I took a few snaps hand held but once I was in the building I wanted to photograph, I relied entirely on live view.

I discovered that while a tilting and swinging lcd screen would have been nice, the tilt only lcd still helps in vertical pictures where the camera is aimed up or down - you just have to accept that you are looking at it at an odd angle. I didn't find it especially difficult to aim the camera viewing this way and it was much better than trying to crouch down and tilt my head up painfully to look at a fixed screen.

I found the magnify for focus button is the ok button and works great for focusing accurately. I did wish that one could see where the magnified image was going to be like the Sony A7r does, and I also wished that I could scroll around the screen a lot faster than the camera does to get to corners for a focus check, but this is nit picking. Other than that, there was nothing I found difficult. Live view is with the lens wide open, same as Canon and opposite to Nikon and Sony - a system I much prefer. Focusing with the lens stopped down to f11 or f16 is a nightmare even though with live view it's bright - just too much depth of field.

The lcd screen was a little dark in the bright sunny afternoon so I cranked it up to max and lost no quality and gained much brightness and it was thereafter decent in full sun - all I could ask of it.

The viewfinder is a delight and focus confirmation works well even with the manual lenses, and the 300 autofocuses even in my house tonight - no complaints there.

The 300 does not have a lens collar but with the size of the camera and width of the lens mount, and the light weight of the 300 5.6 lens, I didn't feel this was needed or even desirable.

So, what about image quality? Well, it's early days. It's at least as good as the Nikon was and a lot less frustrating to use. Love that 120 Macro. the 25 held up well if not perfectly (my Zeiss 15 didn't either). The files stand a lot of manipulation without breaking up.

I feel really good about this purchase, certainly better than I did with either the Nikon or Sony. I now realize that the Sony electronic viewfinder is largely for hand holding, that I rarely do, and so is surplus to requirements.

On the way home from my shoot, I stopped to photograph some horses standing in a field, using the 300, iso 400, hand held and of course no IS. The camera and lens performed just fine.

I will do more formal testing in the coming days and post examples, but there is enough on the net already for that to be of less than critical importance. I would like though, to establish just what I can expect from each of the lenses.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Atlas Coal Tipple

Nipped down to Drumheller yesterday, with plans to shoot the badlands but decided first to visit Atlas Coal Tipple, and ended up spending the rest of the day there. My Metabones Canon adapter failed (couldn't communicate or set the f stop). This was more than a little frustrating as it eliminated 3 of my 5 lenses, including my favourite 70-200, and close focusing (my extension tubes are Canon). This had been on the camera in Newfoundland when the previous A7r came off the tripod and fell six feet onto rocks.

The adapter looks fine but works only intermittently. I had fortunately decided at the last minute to take my A6000 kit with me and so used that for the rest of the day including these two images, both shot with the very small 55-210.

I occurs to me that I could have used it on the A7r but with the rear baffle still in place it only ups the pixels from aps-c size 15 mp to about 20 of the full 36 and you lose the quick focusing of the A6000 and 24 mp within the aps-c size, oh yeah, and IS too, though that didn't matter using the tripod.

this image was from the washhouse, 10-18 at 10 mm., 30 second exposure at f14, considerable work done to even out the exposure, increase local contrast and give the image depth.