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smc Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 lens performance

In the quest for a lens with a focal length that would be considered close to normal, I tried the following two lenses:

  • smc PENTAX-DFA 645 55mm F2.8 AL SDM AW [IF]
  • smc PENTAX-FA 645 45mm F2.8

The first is the lens that was originally released with the Pentax 645D camera. While the image sharpness was fine at the centre, the soft edges were not acceptable for the type of work I do. Same comments are true for the 45mm lens. I returned both and purchased a 45-85mm zoom to see what it can do.

In my blog post on the 45mm fixed lens, I photographed a brick wall to see how the centre versus corner sharpness compared. The same wall is featured below with the 45-85mm set to 45mm and an aperture of f/8. Due to the closer camera to subject distance of the asphalt in the lower corners, I’ve chosen a crop slightly up from the bottom of the frame.

Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 lens shot at 45mm f/8 - overall view

Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 lens shot at 45mm f/8 – overall view

Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 lens shot at 45mm f/8 - top left corner

Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 lens shot at 45mm f/8 – top left corner

Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 lens shot at 45mm f/8 - top right corner

Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 lens shot at 45mm f/8 – top right corner

Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 lens shot at 45mm f/8 - bottom right corner

Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 lens shot at 45mm f/8 – bottom right corner

Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 lens shot at 45mm f/8 - bottom left corner

Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 lens shot at 45mm f/8 – bottom left corner

Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 lens shot at 45mm f/8 - bottom left corner with chromatic aberration adjustment enabled

Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 lens shot at 45mm f/8 – bottom left corner with chromatic aberration adjustment enabled

The crops from this image demonstrate the superior performance of the 45-85mm zoom compared to the 45mm f/2.8 fixed lens. The centre and corners, except for the top right, are consistently sharp and exhibit good detail. Focus was set to Auto as it is generally more reliable than my eye. Camera was on a tripod and ISO was at 200.

The second last image in the series shows the chromatic aberration that can show up with this lens when it is shot at 45mm. Turning on the correction in Adobe Lightroom (same as Adobe Camera Raw) eliminates the colour fringing very effectively. The lens exhibits barrel distortion which can also be removed by enabling the lens corrections.

I was very impressed with the performance of this lens at the wide end of the zoom range. In the more than three years that have elapsed since shooting this test and creating this post, I have shot with this lens extensively. Focusing manually is challenging with the slow maximum aperture, however I have found using autofocus is mostly reliable and any shortcomings in image sharpness have usually been related to insufficient depth of field or not choosing a focus point that maximizes the available depth of field.


Kent, Oregon

Eat CaféNorth of the town of Antelope is Kent, Oregon. This abandoned café is just a few feet away from the shoulder of Highway 218. The trucks speed past and the days when people stopped for a bite to eat are long forgotten.

When I first photographed this spot in 1993 there were large white letters on the roof that called out to the passing drivers “EAT”! For me, it has always been the “Eat Café”. Over the past 20 years this building has continued to decay. The roof now has open places between the shingles. It is only a matter of time before the elements start to claim even more of the structure.

The front faces West if you’re planning on some photos while passing through. It’s a great spot to drop by in the evening as the warm light reveals the wonderful texture.

Antelope, Oregon

Straddling Highway 218 in north-central Oregon, you’ll find the town of Antelope, Oregon. I’ve visited Antelope a couple times before and made sure I would have time to wander around the town when passing through in July 2013.

20130717-129When photographing the buildings and details of Antelope, I’ve always found the town to be exceptionally quiet. Few people have passed by and only the occasional vehicle has broken that silence with the hum of its tires on the asphalt.

The photographic appeal of the town lies in the school and playground. I’ve never been there on a weekday during the school-year. I can only assume that at some point the playground is filled with the laughter and calls of the children that live in the area. That’s all fine. I quite like it on a hot summer afternoon when the dry grass yellows in the sun.

20130717-136Though some people may find it seems desolate, it is being maintained – witness the flag proudly flying and the playground equipment that is kept in good repair.

The swings emit the occasional squeak, brought on by the hot wind blowing through town. I have photographed this school on black and white infrared film back in the mid-1990s. The film was unforgiving – requiring loading the Hasselblad film backs in a changing bag, lest it get fogged.

I’ll take the convenience of digital any day. Maybe some people think it’s a compromise and somehow lessens the value of the images. I’d rather explore the area and look for more angles that capture my impression of the town.

20130717-117Around back of the school was a fire engine from the 1940s. (In my complete guess as to age.) The dry climate seems to preserve items like this. On the west coast, the damp climate and cool winters would see a vehicle like this be consumed by moss and mold.

While peering at the dash through the driver’s window, I spotted my daughter in the distance having a look inside the school. Maybe a scene devoid of people isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I rather like her in the background.

Long-term with the Pentax 645D – A Redux

In August of 2013 I posted my experience with a shutter failure on my Pentax 645D. I was  disappointed, but what can you do when you’re now the owner of a $9000 brick? You get it fixed so it can continue to earn you money.

I approved the nearly $2000 repair estimate and off to Japan my camera went. Apparently a new shutter is not something that can be installed in the Canadian repair office.

It took roughly two months to have the camera repaired. For a full-time professional this would not be acceptable and is the reason backup plans need to be in place. Lens rents the 645D out for $375 for a 5 day period. I suppose as long as it wasn’t a last minute or weather-dependant photoshoot this could be a viable option. I’m not in a position to justify a second 645D body or a backup Nikon/Canon system. Borrowing equipment from friends did come in handy a couple times.

Earlier this year Pentax announced the 645Z—a fairly major upgrade to the 645D. Many sites have a full listing of the new features, however one really caught my eye. It has a shutter rated for 100,000 activations. Sounds like an attractive upgrade to me.

Xrite ColorTRUE Review

ColorTRUE iconWhile on Apple’s App Store recently, I happened to notice Xrite’s ColorTRUE app. It promises to bring color management to your iOS device assuming you have a recent Xrite device such as:

  • ColorMunki Smile
  • ColorMunki Display
  • i1 Display Pro
  • i1 Pro 2

Fortunately, the Professional Photography Dept. at Langara College had purchased an i1 Pro 2 earlier in the year so I was in luck.

The setup is remarkably simple. Connect the device to the computer you normally use it with. Ensure it is on the same WiFi network as your iOS device. For my test I used an iPad Air. The larger gamut of the Air compared to the Mini should be noted if you’re a photographer.

When I started the ColorTRUE app on the iPad Air, it automatically went out and looked for the computer with the i1 Pro 2 attached. Connecting was simple and quick. Next, you need to calibrate the i1 Pro 2. After placing it on the calibration plate, a push of the button on the device started the calibration process.

The app flashes white, then red, until you place the device on the iPad’s screen. It auto detects the device when it’s in place and starts reading the patches the app presents on-screen. Total time was roughly three minutes. It looks similar to a monitor calibration sequence with a series of red, green and blue patches followed by several shades of grey.

ColorTRUE screenshot
The ring of circles surrounding the large red circle in the screeshot above shows the number of patches being read.

Once all the readings are taken, the brightness is adjusted and the profile is saved to Xrite’s server for use by the iPad being profiled. To get the benefit of the app, you need to view images from the Camera Roll on the iPad. The ColorTRUE app gives you options to view the image calibrated vs. uncalibrated, change the RGB profile (sRGB, Adobe RGB, and Pro Photo RGB) and adjust the white point.

The ColorTRUE page on Xrite’s website mentions that any ColorTRUE aware app will make use of the profile so that more accurate color can be obtained. The reality is that other than images on your Camera Roll or those being viewed in the Camranger app will not get the benefit of the profile you just created. Xrite has made an SDK available to developers. Whether the photographic community petitions the developers of their favorite apps to incorporate the ColorTRUE technology remains to be seen.

Evaluating a couple images left me with the impression that the app has a certain degree of usefulness in particular applications. If you can conveniently transfer your images into the Camera Roll (if they’re not already present) and you are in an environment with relatively controlled lighting, then the slightly improved rendering will be of interest. Should you have images that are in either Adobe RGB or Pro Photo RGB color space, then this app will allow you to see correct color rendering. You are also able to apply a print simulation. This will be of interest for those photographers creating images destined for a printing press. It does not include profiles for inkjet printers.

The ColorTRUE app is one of those bonus add-ons that adds to the value of an existing purchase. It wouldn’t motivate me to purchase a new colorimeter or spectrophotometer, however it will be useful from time to time in my workflow. I’m hoping the developer of the ShutterSnitch app chooses to incorporate the ColorTRUE technology.