Thursday, January 04, 2007

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.


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