Thursday, January 04, 2007

Got the Pentax K10D!!!

When I was in Costa Rica, I got word that the K10D was in stock at the place where I pre-ordered. However, I could not respond immediately and hence could not secure one from the first batch and was put on the waiting list. Upon my return I did vent my frustration about this to some Pentax friends, which helped me in getting a K10D less than a week later. I cannot go into details (though everything happened perfectly legitimately), but an unsold K10D was located for me and sent through express service. Also got the grip, but not the viewfinder loupe which I had intended on getting as well.

In the mean time my personal life hasn't given me much time to play with the K10D. Only on the Christmas eve party at my parents did I shoot some family pictures. Enough to make me a happy man with the camera.

I cannot comment on image quality yet, since I didn't upload the images onto my PC yet, but I got to taste some aspects of the K10D I hadn't noticed at Photokina when I first handled it. It's the ergonomics! Pentax already had great advantage for me on this field with the *istDS, but they have really outdone themselves with the K10D. The dials have received a function in most every menu, and as such the camera is sooooooo easy to handle:
- in playback: rear dial zooms (as on the DS), front dial navigates between images keeping the zoom. Great for reviewing sharpness.
- in the menus under the menu button: one dial is page up/down, the other tab-to-tab. On the DS navigating the menus was much less confortable. All of a sudden having to go into the menus for some settings is much less work.
- Under the Fn menu. Here the dials work really well. Setting AutoISO boundaries is a breeze, flash compensation in the flash menu (exactly where it should be),
- and of course in the exposure modes (P, Sv, Tv, Av,...) both dials can be extensively customized, allowing no operation, program shift or Ev compensation to be set on the free one (which one that is, can be chosen per mode).
- I LOVE the way the bracketing works...

Well, the K10D is a much richer camera than the DS in features, but the way the controls interact and give you an considerable extra degree of freedom is just as important, if not more.

One gripe is the AF button, which becomes hard to reach when the grip is mounted and held in portrait orientation. Why couldn't an AF button be put on the grip too?

Anyway, I think the K10D will be a camera that will serve me considerably longer than the DS did. The *istDS was a great camera to get to know the advantages of digital without going overboard on specs, but now I know what digital can do for me and photography has become much more of a hobby for me than it ever was, I really think only a camera like the K10D suits me. The DS won't be retired 100% yet though. It may still serve as a small light weight alternative when the K10D is just too big to carry, esp with a pancake mounted, there's no APS-C DSLR as nice and compact as the Pentax *istD series.

Next on the list are some accessories for the K10D.
- I'm still going for the viewfinder loupe. Ok, it only enlarges 1.2x, but I tried it on my DS at Photokina as was heavily impressed by it. I want it still. I will have to forget about getting a Delkin LCD protector/hood for the K10D then though, but having it break relatively easily and become a bit loose on my DS has made like it less as a solution. A glue-on one may be a thought, but I'll probably go without for now.
- Since I'm thinking of the K10D as more of a longer term camera than of the DS, I seriously consider getting a more advanced focussing screen for it. I'm hesitating between the LL-80 Pentax makes (4 divisions horizontal and 4 vertical, unfortunately not 3 like the LF-60) and a custom Katz Eye one. The Katz Eye version would allow me to have only those lines I want and have a split screen for manual focus. I'm not sure I really need the latter one, since I always managed to focus manually just fine using the Pentax screens. Also Katz Eye has OptiBright and regular screens, the choice between which slightly influences the meter, so I will first have to get used to lens behaviour on the K10D (different or not from the DS??) to decide. The Pentax screen will not be different from the built-in one and is much cheaper, so possibly this will be the safer choice... However I would have preferred it to have divisions to enhance the 2 3rds rule rather than the 4-by-4 grid it has now...

And then we're back to lenses. I might have a chance to get a black FA31/1.8 limited soon. I'm sure I will like that even better as a standard than my FA35/2. And the upcoming DA* lenses have me eager too. Though the price will determine whether the DA*16-50/2.8 may replace my DA16-45/4 (unlikely). The DA*60-250/4 is a more likely contender though, fortunately it will come later in the year so my budget will be able to balance out more nicely...

More to follow...


The DS in Costa Rica

Already home about 3 weeks from Costa Rica, but no time yet to report here.

The Pentax *istDS proved still very useful throughout the trip, but knowing some of the functionalities the K10D is going to offer me, made me aware of some of the advantages of the K10D over the DS I wouldn't have realised before.

First what was in the bag:
- body: *istDS
- flash: AF540FGZ
- lenses: Zenitar 16/2.8 fisheye, DA21/3.2, FA35/2, FA77/1.8, Tamron SP90/2.8 1:1 macro, Sigma EX70-200/2.8, FA*300/4.5
- teleconverter: Tamron 1.4x

A few days saw very wet weather, esp in the cloud forests in and around the Monte Verde reserve and along the Carribean coast. I used a rain cover to protect the DS which made sure it survived the wetness without a glitch. However, this made the rear LCD inaccessible and changing lenses was out of the question too. I just mounted the Sigma EX70-200/2.8 and hoped this focal range would suit most images I would want to take (other lenses I took were too small to protrude through the raincover's lens opening, excepting the FA*300/4.5). Pretty much ok, only I did miss a wider angle and macro (plus flash). But I got to take some pictures, better than none at all. The rear LCD not being visible made me shoot all in ISO1600, and hence the reflection that the K10D's Sv mode (sensitivity priority allowing ISO control using one on its dials) would have helped me a lot.

The high ISO was frequenlty necessary because the monopod proved too cumbersome in the rainforest and the bean bag too dangerous. Too dangerous because of the poisonous animals crawling around on the rocks, trees and branches the bean bag would have to be put on. This was also the reason why walking required a walking stick for stability (grabbing onto rocks, trees and braches being too risky) which made carrying a monopod troublesome. Hence my wanting SR for most of the trip, which proved justified since I did get quite a few blurry shots, though I was content with the overall results.

Another thing that bothered me was the frequent hazing on my lenses. Especially when boating along a river in the humid climat saw the lenses fog up at every stop (when the wind settled down). Not a very large time frame to take shots and a long wait to have a second go. Very often the air made my camera bag interior go wet too. Fortunately all lenses dried out nicely without any trace. Next time I might invest in some more water absorbting stuff though...

Most used lenses ended up being:
- DA21/3.2 for landscape and town shots (occasionally the Z, FA35 and FA77 served too, the latter two for some pano work)
- Tamron SP90 for macro, and there's a lot of macro opportunities in Costa Rica. Always with the Tamron 1.4x TC mounted for extra working distance and the AF540FGZ for extra light (tilted down 10 degrees).
- FA*300/4.5 for birding and general telework. I'm very happy I had this one along. I often used it with the Tamron 1.4x TC for some extra reach. At first I was unsure the fixed FL of this lens wouldn't limit me too much, but I hardly ever used the Sigma except in situations where no lens changes were possible. The FA*300 also did well with the AF540FGZ on numerous occasions.

Ok, so I regretted not having the K10D yet, but I did appreciate the DS on other fronts. One of these was its size and weight. Some of the walks were pretty rough (one well over 30km on very hilly terrain) and the 8kg of gear weighed down on me considerably. The K10D+grip wouldn't have helped, so I was glad at times to only have the DS to carry... There's always a bright side... I might even hang onto the DS not just as a back-up, but also as a lighter travel solution.