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Old Mar 15, 2011, 6:25 PM   #1
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Default Finally some K-5 birds, some other guys, and a mini review.

Hi All,

It's finally warming up a bit here, so I've gotten out to shoot the K-5 a little and my cats are relieved. . .

I went to the local Nature Center to see if the Yellow Bellied Sapsuckers had returned to tap the trees where I had found them last year, but they hadn't so I hung around the feeders to see who might show up. All the birds were skittish, and it was difficult to get close, so I got what I could and most of the shots were obscured by something that got in the way, so aren't very good at all. I'm primarily interested in shaking out the cobwebs and testing the performance of the K-5, so these shots served some purpose, but aren't really anything to post.

The birds were all taken handheld with the K-5, FA*300/4.5 + P F 1.7x AFA (510mm f7.7) AF was used exclusively to focus, and all were shot in Jpeg ***, Av priority, Auto ISO 200-10000, Auto WB. I set the shutter mode to High Continuous, but normally shoot singles. I've set the Highlight Correction to ON, and will probably keep it there, but some of these settings might change as I get used to how the camera reacts.

I mostly saw the usual suspects, but this Field Sparrow made an appearance.



Downy Woodpeckers were plentiful, and they were more interested in getting to the suet, so they were easier to shoot while they staged on a nearby tree to wait their turn.

A Male. From the look of the original file, the white patch on the back was blown. I was surprised that I could recover some detail from the original jpeg. I need to keep the K-5's ability to save the RAW file of the last shot when I'm chimping. . .



A Female. This one was easy to correctly expose since she was lit indirectly.



Dark Eyed Juncos stick around through the winter, but are most evident in the very early spring here. This one was about 25 feet (@8m) away and the K-5's extra resolution helped here for such a small bird at that kind of distance. This one was underexposed quite a bit as I forgot to reset a lot of - Ev Comp.



I get cold pretty quickly, so I spent some time inside the Nature Center warming up. I used my Sigma EX 180 f3.5 DG APO Macro for these guys. Both were handheld with the lens wide open through glass.

This very serious looking guy was shot at ISO 10,000.



I don't quite understand the double reflection. . . At first look, I wanted to clone out the reflections, but then I got to like them, so I left them in. This one was at ISO 2500.



PP'ing the pics from this camera is still a work in progress, so these might be a little overprocessed. All were cropped to 8x10 PP'd to taste and downsized for posting.

I wanted to write a little review of this camera, but decided to wait until I could use it outside for some birding, since this is my main use for a DSLR.

When I first got the K-5, I was a bit disappointed by the high ISO IQ. At factory settings, I found the noise disturbing at even moderate ISO. Being cooped up during a brutal winter had a silver lining. . . I was forced to experiment a lot with very high ISO, and made a nice discovery -- the Jpeg engine isn't necessarily the cause of worse high ISO noise performance in the K-5 -- it's the Sharpening algorithm in the Jpeg engine.

To my eye, all settings other than -4 for Sharpening cause all sorts of artifacts for the noise, even at ISO 200. I set the image parameters to "Natural", leave all of the other settings at "0" except for Sharpness at -4, and Jpegs look really close to unprocessed RAW to jpeg conversions. I thought that lowering the Contrast setting might also reduce apparent noise, but all this did was make the images look flat so I returned it to "0". With a usable ISO range of 80-10,000, my favorite indoor lens has become the DA 18-250 f3.5-6.3. I can shoot everything from very close shots to pretty long range candids with just the one lens. At f6.3 at the long end, this was impossible with any of my other bodies. The only negative about this lens for this use is that it doesn't have Quick Shift focusing. In relatively low light this would help as I could manually prefocus the lens to get quicker AF and eliminate lock to lock hunts -- if the focus is close, AF works fine with this lens indoors.

Some caveats here -- obviously 8 bit jpegs won't have the nearly DR of 14 bit RAW, so they have much greater limits to details that can be pulled from both highlights and shadows -- especially the colors you can get from the very deep shadows.You need to expose correctly, but even with jpegs, the K-5 files are a little more forgiving than previous models, and blown highlights (my personal biggest problem with exposure) occur, even with "Highlight Correction" ON, but birds with small white patches in direct sunlight aren't usually well exposed by any center-weighted metering system. I use CW as it's much more reliable than Spot would be for quick long tele handheld shooting.

I use Topaz Denoise 5 for NR and Topaz InFocus for sharpening. My main editor is Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 which can use most PhotoShop plugins, but is considerably less expensive (v. X2 is still available @ $25) and easier for me to use since I've used PSP since it was shareware, some time in the '90's. I also use Focus Magic as a sharpener, but mostly use it for motion blur as its interface (and I think algorithms) are better for this purpose. I believe that Focus Magic uses a combination of deconvolution and local contrast enhancement in its sharpening, while you can separate the two types with Topaz InFocus. I prefer to use deconvolution alone as it doesn't seem as prone to adding halos and dark outlines where they shouldn't be. Also InFocus' Micro Contrast adjustment is a subtle but great tool.

It's a pretty fine line, but AF is less of a distraction with the K-5 for me. All previous Pentax bodies were more of a frustration with the delays caused by the tiny micro adjustments before a focus lock. The K-5's AF is pretty much lock on first try in good light, and there are fewer adjustments in very low light. Shooting was quick and easy, even with the f7.7 max aperture lens combo I was using. All of my Pentaxes going back to the DS focus quickly and well with the FA*300/4.5 + AFA combo, but the K-5 is just quicker and more sure.

I'm now using an Adata 16gb Class 10 SDHC and a Transcend Ultimate Class 10 card in the K-5 (a bit of overkill shooting jpeg *** --1767 images per card!) The time it takes to pull the camera from my eye to a distance where I can focus on the LCD is almost all the time the camera needs to have an image ready for chimping. With cards with slower than about 18MB/sec continuous write speeds, it takes a few seconds more to review an image, and this would also effect buffer fill times if I wanted more than 20 image bursts using RAW (I don't shoot many bursts, and those are rarely more than 3-5 shots). The K-5 also allows me to save a RAW with a press of the AE-L button when I'm reviewing the last shot in the buffer if I find that I've blown the exposure a bit.

I use Auto WB for virtually everything and only have needed minor color cast correction in a very small percentage of the over 2000 shots I've taken in all kinds of light since early Dec.

Functionally, my K-5 is a pretty good one. No sensor stain, no serious low light or tungsten FF issue with original firmware (this is supposed to be addressed with FW 1.03), no bounce flash overexposure. My camera did show some slight inconsistency of the AF point with my FA 50/1.4 when light levels fell below about Ev +5, but the FW 1.03 corrected this. There are a few issues, but none that effect how I plan to use the camera for the most part, so I'll send it in for warranty work, but not until maybe Nov/Dec.

Contrast Detection AF does not work on my copy and there is a bug in the remote wireless TTL mode that will not fire the remote external flash when some lenses are focused to between about 2-3 meters. Closer and farther away it's fine -- it just doesn't work at those distances. There's a possibility that the flash issue might be corrected by a future FW update, but I haven't heard of anyone else's CD AF not working, so it's apparently just a defect in my copy.

Neither of these is a big deal for me -- I haven't used CD focusing before and won't miss it, and if I wanted to shoot an indoor event with flash, I'd just take the K-7 for the flash work and use the K-5 for available light or just use the K-5 with the flash on the hotshoe since it's only a wireless remote TTL problem. My main use for wireless TTL remote flash is the Metz 15 MS1 Macro flash, and I use it at under 2 feet only, so it's not even close to the 6-9 foot "dead zone".

The conclusion that I've come to is that the K-5 is by quite a margin the easiest Pentax DSLR for my purposes. The high ISO performance (even in jpeg with the suggested tweaks) is awesome, and the camera is quick and responsive for birding and macro work.

Scott

Last edited by snostorm; Mar 15, 2011 at 6:36 PM.
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Old Mar 15, 2011, 7:29 PM   #2
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Nice series Scott...I like the last 2...nice lighting, sharp, and good compositions. The one of the tortoise/turtle (?) looks very good at ISO 10K!

Jehan
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Old Mar 15, 2011, 8:55 PM   #3
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Thanks for the write-up and the pictures. Like you, I've been amazed at how noise is well controlled, though I shoot almost exclusively raw. As soon as I get mine back I'll be getting a faster card - looks like lots of people have the Transcend, that's probably the way I'll go.

I have mostly used off-camera flash at 2-4 feet, so don't know if mine will suffer from your dead-zone issue. I'll need to try that.

I'm looking forward to seeing more of your birds as the spring and summer come on.
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Old Mar 15, 2011, 9:14 PM   #4
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great work, well done.
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Old Mar 16, 2011, 12:00 AM   #5
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Thank you for the excellent write-up Scott and some nice birds too.

I had to get an extra card for the Pro-shoot the other day so I bought a San Disk Extreme 8gb Class 10 SDHC, to go with the two San Disk Extreme 8gb Class 6 SDHC I have already. All of these are extremely fast reviewing and there is never any delay (on the K7 as well as the K5) though I don't shoot in RAW very often, usually shooting at 14MB Jpg ****. I have never yet filled a buffer !
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Old Mar 17, 2011, 1:12 AM   #6
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Hi Jehan, Harriet, Ira, and Kevin,

Thanks!

I'll try to add more observations as I get some more experience with the K-5 -- I like trying things that are a bit outside the box, and I think this camera deserves more exploration than it seems to have been given by most. I seem to be getting a higher percentage of keepers, but we'll see. . .

After another session, I'm finding that the images from the K-5 are even easier to process than the K20/K-7 -- except everything takes longer due to the larger files. . .

I hope to be participating more in the forum now that I can get out and shoot.

Thanks all for looking.

Scott
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Old Mar 17, 2011, 7:41 AM   #7
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I noticed the same thing about processing the K5's images - I have different settings in Detail than I did with the K20/K7 (less contrast sharpening). Being able to "push" the shadows without introducing noise means a lot to me, I'm not as likely to bracket and do HDR merging. The larger files do mean that there's more leeway for cropping, so they aren't all bad.
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Old Mar 18, 2011, 5:40 AM   #8
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Scott - Thanks for some great images, and for taking the time to share such specfiic, insightful and helpful commentary. So glad the weather is permitting you to get out & enjoy!!

PS - would love to own the 180 macro someday - do you know if it is still in production? (far beyond my budget today, but maybe someday...)
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Old Mar 18, 2011, 6:55 AM   #9
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Hi mole,

Thanks!

The Sigma 180 for Pentax seems to have been discontinued sometime last January or thereabouts. I got mine the first week in Feb, and it was an "open box" new one from Adorama -- the last one they had apparently. It's a great lens for shooting small creatures as the Min focusing distance is about 10" from the front of the lens. I'm using it with the F1.7x AFA, and this gives me about 1.9:1 at 10" and 1:1 at about 15", so most insects aren't intimidated by the camera and lens at all.

It's a pretty heavy sucker though, and hang even a lightweight macro flash like the Metz 15 MS1 from the end of it, and it's a handful, but there are advantages to this setup:

The 1.7x AFA narrows the macro AF range to a few mm, so it's possible to use AF-C for shooting macros -- I get a significantly better keeper percentage than using MF and moving in and out as is the most accepted practice. I shoot this combo using AF as a matter of course now.

At 1:1, the DOF is actually deeper than with the lens alone with a given aperture due to the greater distance.

This lens has the lowest CA/PF of any lens I own, and this really is nice for flash shooting since it almost always increases some contrast areas to the point where this might become a problem. The only places I've seen it with this lens, even when shooting it as a tele, are the "glints" from the flash on dark eyes like the Jumping Spiders, and this is very easy to correct. My D FA 100/2.8 Macro, which is considered a top performer by many, shows considerably more of the color aberrations in many cases.

Even without the AFA, it's pretty quick in AF. The entire range is only about 1/4 turn of the focus ring, and there's a focus limiter that separates the macro range from tele that can cut this down even further.

The lens is expensive, but very worthwhile. When I got mine, people who realized that they had been discontinued were asking $1K for them -- I got mine as an "open box" in new condition for less than $700. The only other lenses at this time that are comparable for Pentax are the legendary A* and FA* 200 f4 Macros, and they are rarely offered and usually $2K and up recently. Compared to those, the Sigma is a steal. . .

There are rumors that the Sigma 150 f2.8 Macro might be offered in the K mount sometime in the future, but I haven't heard anything from anything close to a reliable source -- it's probably just wishful thinking. . . The Nikon versions list for over $900, but the street price seems to be more like low $700 range.

I think you would do wonders with a lens like this. . .

Scott
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Old Mar 18, 2011, 12:20 PM   #10
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ISO 10000! Nice shooting.
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