Friday, March 28, 2008

Want more lenses for your K20D? Here’s how to get them...maybe.

Hi Pentaxians and friends,

Pentax has moved closer to the Professional caliber DSLR cameras with the K20D, although I see no reason it is not in the Professional class to begin with. It is a better camera than that 8 mp expensive Professional DSLR camera that sold around $8,000.00 a few years ago… you know the one! It is just as good as or better than some Professional cameras available today at a much higher price. Anyway, the purpose of this post is not about comparing the criteria of Professional camera versus Advanced Amateur cameras. We’ll keep that for another post.

We spent a serious amount of money for our Pentax DSLR, whether it’s the K10D, K20D, K200D, or one of the K100D series. The camera body is just the beginning. If you were to sit down and add all of the purchases you made on photographic related items since getting your camera body, you may be in for a surprise. Count the lenses, cases, filters, magazines, books, cleaning stuff, etc, I bet you have spent a lot more than what you spent for the camera body.

Then, the LBA saying (Lens Buying Addiction) started by Lance Blackburn of Australia, really made me think of how many lenses I purchased, sold, traded, over the last few years. I have to keep that number secret.

You all know that the lenses are actually the most important part of your photographic system. Buy good glass, and you’ll have them forever, especially with the backward compatibility of Pentax cameras. It doesn’t pay to buy cheap lenses as the quality of your pictures will suffer. I prefer buying lenses made by the camera manufacturer. They know their cameras better than anyone else and design their lenses to suit. I personally would rather have one excellent lens than half a dozen cheap lenses. The problem, at least for me, is the cost of purchasing the lenses. I don’t have that proverbial money tree in my backyard.

Photography is my passion, but not necessarily my wife’s passion. She doesn’t always agree with my LBA. I learned through the years, that good marketing entails creating win/win situations, or at least the perception of a win/win situation. If I get lenses, my spouse should get something too. Actual monetary value does not necessarily have much to do with it. You know…it’s the thought that counts.

Don’t think that buying lenses first and taking her out for dinner after the fact will do. Of course, we should all spend money within our budget, but everything runs much smoother when both of us get something. Knowing my wife like I do gives me the insight of treating her good first, before I buy my lenses. How could she get upset after I spend money on her? She loves shoes, purses, and sunglasses. I can buy many of those for the price of one good lens. So we buy shoes, purses, sunglasses and other “stuff” for her often and when it’s my turn to buy a new lens, I get what I want without any disagreements.

There are many women in photography now and I suppose that the opposite applies as well. Let him buy what he likes…then buy your lenses.

You know, in the end, it’s probably me that gets the short end of the stick. My wife is likely aware of my scheme and really lets me think that I’m in a win/win situation. How can I disagree anytime she buys clothing, shoes, etc? I want my lenses and I even tell her how good she looks in her new “stuff”.

Thanks for reading,

Yvon Bourque

Monday, March 24, 2008

New "Old Stock" ! Vivitar 2X Macro-Focusing Teleconverter.

Hi Pentaxians and friends.

I haven’t written anything for the past five days or so. My daughter and my granddaughter were visiting and we spent some times at Disneyland, California. I will post about that later on this week.

I was in Claremont, California, last week for business. While there, I spotted a small camera store in a strip mall along Foothill Boulevard. After my meeting, I drove back to the store. The store, "Claremont Camera & Video", is located at 863 W. Foothill Boulevard in Claremont. Like many of the smaller camera stores, it is having a tough time competing against the “ B&H Photo” the “Best Buy” and the Circuit City” of the world. In fact, the store has turned into a predominantly Scrapbooking store.

However, they still have a lot of photographic equipment for sale. It’s what we usually call “New Old Stock”, meaning of course that the equipment is new but outdated or new but not being manufactured anymore. Small camera stores l can be found in many Towns across the USA and probably other Countries as well. You owe it to yourself to visit them and take a real close look at what they have. You won’t find much of the newest digital autofocus lenses and high-end DSLR cameras. However, if you know what to look for, you can get great deals, much better that you can on EBay for example. In the case of filters, tripods, camera bags and many more items, it doesn’t matter if it’s old stock. I spotted full cabinets with lenses and accessories. None were autofocus but I noticed several Vivitar 2X Macro-Focusing Teleconverters for Pentax, Nikon and Canon. The prices were still as marked back then, I suppose. I purchased some filters at bargain prices, step-up rings and the Vivitar 2X Macro-Focusing Teleconverter for Pentax. I paid $35.00 for it and although not autofocus, I think I found a pearl.

If you like to shoot in Macro, you probably found that it’s often easier to shoot in Manual anyway. I used my Pentax “A” 50mm f/1.4 and I am very pleased with the results. You get a 2X multiplier to begin with and you can adjust the macro mode by simply turning the rubberized ring on the barrel of the Teleconverter. It has a range of 1:1.5 to 1:20. The one I purchase has all of the connections found on “A” type lenses and therefore everything is compatible with my K10D and K20D except for the autofocus.

All of the flowers above were less than 1/4" across.

I haven’t seen any Vivitar 2X Macro-Focusing Teleconverters for Pentax on EBay, but I’m sure they can be found occasionally. Check out small camera stores in your area, you might be surprised at what can be found if you look carefully. Ask the store manager if they have any “New Old Stock” items not displayed.

It makes me wonder why they don’t make an autofocus version for today’s DSLR cameras. Let us know if you have found “New Old Stock” items too.

Thanks for reading,

Yvon Bourque

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

More pictures with the K20D and the DA 10-17mm

Hi Pentaxians and friends,

I have my four-year old grandaughter from Florida visiting us for the rest of this week. Needless to say, I may have to pospone some posts until she leaves next Monday. Maybe I will post our trip to Disney on Friday and Saturday. There are great shots to be taken at Disneyland in California. Anyway, for now, I thought I would post additional pictures taken with the K20D and the DA 10-17mm.
This is my 1988 Jeep Wrangler JA that I purchased form my step-son. It's great because I can go just about anywhere with it, to take pictures. It's my best " non-photographic" camera equipment!

Thank you for reading. I know this is not the best post I have ever written, but it keeps the blog alive, I hope.
Yvon Bourque

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Pictures with my new K20D and my new DA 10-17MM. Very exciting!

Hi fellow Pentaxians,

Today I felt like a kid with a new toy. Actually we’re all kids at heart; the only difference between kids and us, grown ups, is the price of our toys. Anyway, I just wanted to post a few pictures taken with the K20D and the DA 10-17mm lens. It is very unusual to have snow in our area at lower altitude. It snowed yesterday and I just had to go out there and put it on film…I mean on a memory card. While there, I found an old abandoned house and couldn't resist jumping over the fence even if there was a "No trespassing" sign. You have to do whatever it takes to get the pictures.

I just got my K20D last Monday and I received the DA 10-17MM last week as well. The lens was purchased on EBay. It was posted for $350.00 with “Buy it now”. I didn’t wait and purchased it right then before someone else had time to snatch it away. That’s the best price I have seen for it.

As for or the pictures above, I played with the saturation in Lightroom, but the K20D is a dream camera. All pictures were taken in RAW and processed in Lightroom. The results were transferred as JPEG files to Photoshop Element V.6 and reduced to a resolution of 100 pixels per inch with a height of 600 pixels. It a small file and it e-mails or posts easily.

Some reviewers will trash the K20D while some other will praise its qualities. But if you have a chance to try the K20D, you will know right away that this camera is an evolution of the revolution that was the K10D. I could go on for hours, but the “proof is in the pudding” really applies to this camera. I tell you, Pentax did it again.

Thank you for reading,

Yvon Bourque –

Friday, March 14, 2008

One trick to take pictures of our furry friends:

Most of us have pets. It appears to be universal. Dogs especially have been human’s companions for centuries, although cat and bird drawings were found on walls of ancient civilizations.

Here in California, it seems that one out of every two families have a dog. People love their dogs as much as another human in many cases. Dogs are loyal to their owners and are always happy to see you. I know that if I was half the man my dog thinks I am, it would be great. Someone has that phrase posted on one of the Forum sites. It’s very true.

People take pictures of their pets all the time. The first rule, in my book anyway, is to get close to the animal. Take close-up pictures. Take pictures with a large aperture and you should be able to get great portrait shots with a background filled with excellent bokeh. Always focus on the eyes.

We all have a tendency to take pictures of our dogs or cats from our point of view. That creates pictures from above the animal and often includes the ground which is not necessarily appealing in a picture. Bring the camera to be at the same level as the animal, and focus on the eyes. That’s easier said than done. I, for one, am not quite ready to lie down with the camera in the middle of a public sidewalk to photograph my dog or anyone else’s pet for that matter.

Last week, we went to Pasadena, California. Pasadena is a very vibrant city. There are dozens of outside Caf├ęs and Restaurants. People drive their pricey cars up and down Colorado Boulevard, just like in the 60’s. On the sidewalks, people are walking along with their dogs. They’re everywhere. So I took some shots of owners holding their dogs. They looked okay, but I wanted to get down on the sidewalk and take pictures at the animals’ level. Then it came to me. I had my monopod with me, the K10D, and the CS-205 cable switch. I thought that if I turn the monopod up-side-down, and bring the camera close to the ground, I could actually take pictures even from a lower point than the animals. The only problem I had, I didn’t want to damage the top of my camera by touching the sidewalk. I had a flash adapter in my bag and installed it on the K10D. Now with the camera up-side-down, the flash adapter was hitting the ground first, protecting the camera body from any damage or scratches from the rough surface of the sidewalk.
Here are the results. The pictures will have to be rotated 180 degrees but all Pentax DSLRs can do that in-camera. It even gives you a sense of the world viewed from the dog’s point-of-view. No wonder small dogs bark and are sometimes scared of people. We look like giants to them.

Use a wide angle lens if you can, and there will be a little guessing as to whether the subject is framed properly or not, but you will be surprised at how accurate you can point the camera when attached at the end of a monopod, while the camera swivels around the “flash adapter”. The CS-205 allows you to take the pictures without having to be so low to the ground.

You could use a right angle finder but you still can’t get as low to the ground and they cost more money.

Thank you for reading,

Yvon Bourque

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Continuation of the discussion about taking the plunge to RAW files.

Hi friends.

My post on Raw files was also displayed on several forums. I had the most comments from the Pentax Forum on Amongst all the comments, Charles Gravely took my post one notch up and I thought I would share it with you all. Charles has gracioulsy agreed to let me post his comments. Here goes...

Charles Gravely,Mar 01, 2008; 11:56 a.m.
Cool discussion - here's my experience -

I switched to Raw and I love it!

I think there is a misconception that Raw takes a lot of extra work. That was why I held off for so long. I don't have time to mess with these shots either - imagine having to tweak a hundred photographs or so after every time you go out with your camera - not a chance! I just don't have that kind of time on my hands.

The fact is, you don't have to do anything to them and they are still better than JPEG. Just download the files as normal and you are done. View them, sort them, enjoy them. The difference is, if you find one you like you can then go ahead and make it really great. This has nothing to do with the steep learning curve of photoshop. You don't need photoshop at all (unless you are into localized adjustments).

There are three down-sides to RAW

1) You have to replace your current photo sorting program with one that handles Raw files. There are a few contenders out there and they are all great. This does cost money. I paid about $300 for Lightroom.
2) They take up loads of space on your hard drive. Of course hard disk space is very cheap now. I will admit, when I switched to raw, I also added two new hard drives to my computer - one just for files and a second one just to have a redundant copy (RAID level 1). This cost me about $250 for 1T of storage - good for loads of photographs and a backup strategy you don't have to think about.
3) If you want to e-mail a photograph to someone, you have to export it to JPEG. Of course this is not really an extra step because even if you started with a JPEG you have to downsample to send to someone anyway. Convert to JPEG and downsample is single step that is done with batches of files in your photo sorting program of choice.

I did say you just download as normal and enjoy your photographs - no extra work. In fact, you do spend more time simply because it is so much fun to tweak the odd shot and add keywords for sorting. This is not because it is necessary but rather you get lured into it.

I started shooting digital (and film) when my daughter was born 8 years ago. Now that I have switched to raw and I am cataloging my old JPEGs in lightroom (about 12,000 shots). I have two regrets -

1) I wish I had organized my files better along the way with keywords etc.
2) I wish they were all raw because the JPEGs are simply stripped down raw files.

I believe the longer you wait to switch to raw, the greater your regret will be later when you realize that all shots up to that point are missing huge chunks of data that you were entitled to. There is no recovery.

I made the jump after viewing Michael Riechman's tutorial on Lightroom. This demonstrates exactly how raw files are handled and clears up many misconceptions about the work involved. Of course it only covers this particular program and there are others that are probably just as good. This is not a criticism because the tutorial is what it says it is - a lightoom tutorial. I believe it's only about $15 and it is unbelievable! It's worth the $15 before sinking $300 into Lightroom. I can't speak highly enough about this tutorial. And by the way, I have no association with Michael Richmann or his company.
Happy shooting Sincerely, Charles

Thank you Charles and thank you all for visiting my Blogsite.


Yvon Bourque