Long-term with the Pentax 645D

I’m closing in on three years with the Pentax 645D. Overall, I still enjoy using this camera. There’s a lot to like.

I spent about three weeks with a Nikon D800 and D800E. After shooting many images side by side with the 645D, I am confident that it still has an edge over the full-frame 35mm DSLR bodies when it comes to per pixel image quality. More to come at some point on that one.

This summer I was looking forward to some personal photography to add to my Deserted Lands series. Looking at the image below, I didn’t drop the camera. Instead, after roughly 9,500 images the shutter decided to pack it in. I recall reading online somewhere that is it rated to 30,000 images. Not that it matters when you’re standing in Montana wishing the camera would capture an image.

Ricoh (Pentax) Imaging Canada has been very helpful and had an estimate within a couple days of receiving the camera. Here’s where I feel potential purchasers of a 645D should be fully aware of what they’re buying. You already know this is a niche product. My shutter is being fixed in Japan. This is not a quick process. Nor is it inexpensive. At nearly $2000 for the repair, I’m two thirds of the way towards buying a Nikon D800 body.

What does one do? Fortunately I have clients that have a flexible enough schedule and can postpone their projects. I’m hoping the new shutter lasts a lot longer that the first one. At the current rate, it’s costing me nearly $0.20 each time I fire the shutter. I take solace that it’s still cheaper than a frame of film.

Will it last?

Will it last?

Keeping it simple

One of my favourite aspects about teaching is seeing how people take ideas and information, then find ways to express their vision in their own unique way. I’ve been privileged to meet so many talented people while teaching for the Publishing and Photo-Imaging programs at Langara College.

As creative types, we need to keep nurturing our naturally inquisitive nature that seems to often become diminished as we get older. While teaching technology, I frequently run into people that are worried they will do something wrong or somehow break their software. Unlike software from 15 or 20 years ago, it’s difficult to render your photo editor useless or permanently change your pixels. Experiment. It’s essential.

So where is this post going? If you’re still with me, have you considered giving your camera to your child? No, not your $1000+ DSLR with your brand new super deluxe zoom lens that is worth more than your monthly mortgage payment. Besides worrying about it hitting the pavement, there are far too many buttons, knobs, screens, dials and whatnot. Roadblocks to creativity?

Instead, pull out that old point ‘n shoot digital camera that has been abandoned in the upgrade bin of your closet. Better yet, let your child use your smartphone next time you’re at the park, beach or the fair. The range of apps available will satisfy just about everyone’s tastes.

While visiting the PNE this year, my eight year old daughter asked for my iPhone and started photographing the ride called Atmosfear. I noticed the cool clouds drifting by and suggested we take more photos from a different angle.

Without prompting, she fired up Photo Forge 2 and confidently stated that she didn’t need any help. Apparently not.

Conversion to black and white, addition of a frame and a texture. Photo finished.

Keep it simple. We can all benefit from that approach.

Original image

Original image

Edited in Photo Forge 2

Edited in Photo Forge 2

Pet Photos with Santa – SPCA fundraiser

14 Years ago I ventured to Gibsons, BC to volunteer as the photographer for the Sunshine Coast SPCA Pet Photos with Santa fundraiser. This annual event has come to mark the beginning of the Christmas season for me. The dedication of the volunteers, support of the local businesses,  and the enthusiasm of the attendees have all contributed to the success of this event. While the dogs have definitely been out in numbers, we have a following of dedicated cat lovers, and over the years we have seen guinea pigs, a hen, ferrets and others. This fine fellow just joined his family five days ago.

2012 Pet Photos with Santa

Moiré and Lightroom 4 (beta)

I saw mention of the addition of a moiré removal option for the adjustment brush in the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Beta that is currently available on the Adobe Labs site. Moiré has long been an obsession of mine since I started shooting with a medium format digital back in 1999. I was hoping that the Adobe engineers had come up with a tool that matched this technique. This link documents a technique that as far as I can determine, was invented in late 2002 at an Advanced Applied Color Theory class taught by Dan Margulis. Seems hard to believe nearly a decade has drifted by since then.

Most of the moiré “removal” tutorials I’ve read focus on blurring away the color moiré. Easy enough done in Lab color mode. However this is where things usually end. Or, where there is a lot of painting or cloning as the next step. Either way, the detail in the fabric is usually destroyed or the luminance moiré is left behind.

So, how does the moiré removal brush in the Lightroom 4 beta stack up? I have a library of images with moiré that I keep on hand that I use in a couple of my courses at Langara College. Some are shot with DSLR cameras and others are from medium format digital backs. Generally, the blurring effects of the low pass filter present on nearly all DSLR cameras means moiré is seldom a problem. The downside is an image that has lost some of its fine detail.

The example image below was shot with a Pentax 645D with a 45-85mm lens. After shooting thousands of images with this combination, I can confidently say it can produce a spectacular level of detail. The first image shows the overall image (with excess background cropped away). The subsequent images are 100% crops of the same area of the image. Being as they are presented on this blog, they are JPEG format, however are saved at the highest quality setting.

My conclusion? A couple images showed very promising results with the moiré removal brush in Lightroom 4 (beta). However, it’s images like the next one that truly test the feature. I’ll still be using the 10 year old technique on the stubborn images. Maybe Lightroom 5 will nail it completely. In the meantime, cameras like the just announced Nikon D800E and medium format backs will deliver the fine detail some photographers demand, but with the chance that moiré will add to their post-production time.

Full Image - Crops are from lower left corner

 

100% Crop showing moiré in original image

Moiré removal using Lightroom 4 (beta)

Moiré removal using LAB blending technique

 

Trying out the smc Pentax-FA 45-85mm f/4.5 lens

The pause in blog posts has not been due to lack of happenings, but rather quite the opposite. In the past few posts I’d been discussing the challenges in finding a decent mid-range lens for the Pentax 645D. I have written about the older FA 45mm lens. Most users are going to be disappointed by the performance of that lens. Similarly, the new “digitally optimized” 55mm lens also has poor corner sharpness. Twice bitten, now what?

I had read online about some users obtaining good results with the smc Pentax-FA 645 45-85mm f/4.5 zoom lens. This seems to go against the usual wisdom of a prime lens being sharper than a zoom, but I was willing to try anything at this point. My other option was to turn to a Pentax 67 lens with an adapter for the 645D and that was not a road I was interested in traveling just yet.

There is a camera retailer in the U.K that I had purchased my smc Pentax-FA 645 200mm f/4 lens from in December. Great prices and good service. I figured it was worth another email now that I was looking for the 45-85mm lens. Once again, Mifsuds was excellent to deal with and my lens arrived a little more than a week after my email was sent. I normally try to support my local dealers, however going that route in this case would have meant a 3X surcharge.

It’s worth looking at the recent prices on EBay to see what lenses are proving to be popular on the Pentax 645D. The 35mm, 45-85mm and 120mm Macro have all experienced stronger pricing since the 645D became available outside of Japan. It does not appear the 75mm has seen the same increases, although it is an excellent piece of glass as well.

Within a day of it’s arrival, I was out shooting with the 45-85mm lens. It is tougher to focus manually than the 45mm or 55mm lens since its maximum aperture is about one and a half stops smaller. The focus just doesn’t “pop” as well. This is not unique to this lens, however. It’s just a fact of using a slower lens.

So far, I’ve found the 45-85mm to be a good performer with the autofocus system in the 645D. Most images are in the “keeper” category, though keep in mind that I’m mostly shooting subjects that either don’t move or move very slowly. It’s possible to manually focus this lens successfully in good light.

In my next post I’ll show some examples with the 45-85mm. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a mid-range lens for the Pentax 645D, this is the one to go with or should at least deserve your strong consideration.