Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bigma, Purchased, Abused and Reviewed

Well it was a long time coming, but i eventually got my hands on the ultimate long reach birding/wildlife zoom lens from Sigma.... "Bigma" is well known in the long telephoto zoom lens category for it's large 50-500mm reach on a 35mm camera, or around 770mm on my Pentax 1.54x crop factor APS-C sensor.

There are not a lot of choices for modern K mount zooms, Sigma offer a couple of options, in particular noteworthy are the newer 120-400mm and 150-500mm, both are considered a little less sharp than Bigma and are both slightly cheaper to purchase than my 50-500. They do also offer Sigma's latest HSM & OS technology, which i will look at in further detail later.

The first thing you notice about Sigma's large Telephoto zoom is the large box, and accessories that it ships with. The 50-500 has an APS-C lens hood, an FX lens hood, a step down ring (from 95 to 86mm) several straps, a large padded lens case, manuals, warranty card and both lens caps.

One of the great things about the lens hoods apart from it's size, is it's ability to attach the lens cap directly to the hood so the hood can be permanently attached when not shooting. I did however notice that unlike my other lens there was no red dot to align the lens itself to my K-7, with a little frustration i got it in and turned & clicked and now have it attached to the Pentax.

When handling Bigma for the first time you immediately notice the size/weight, as well as the build & quality of construction, it feels like a quality lens. The switches feel tight and responsive, the zoom and focus rings are very firm and require a good grip to turn them one handed. It's Big! Yes well that was to be expected now wasn't it? The size seems to reach about 12 inches with the APS-C hood and cap installed when not extended. (The image below does not have the lens hood on)

Switching the button from 'Lock' to 'Unlock' allows the lens to extend from it's 50mm stationary position to the extended position of your choice. The lens is marked with imperial and metric markers for distance and focal length, and has an awesome aperture marker which moves at the base of the lens inside a plastic window, the magnification is also listed at each focal length. The focal length EXIF info seems a little weird as it seems to only update at certain lengths.

This isn't the fastest lens ever obviously and with APS-C sensor cameras not the most well known for their high ISO / low noise performance especially on my Pentax K-7, the lens can indeed be a real challenge to use effectively in the field.

The aperture falloff is a little disappointing as at around 90mm the f/4.5 becomes a smaller f/5.6 and then around the 250-290mm mark the f/5.6 slows to the standard f/6.3 for the rest of focal length. Personally I would of liked the f/4.5 to last perhaps as far as 135 to 150mm, and F5.6 @ 300mm.

Bigma is a bit of a weird duck in focal length terms the shorter end is generally not needed by most who want a Wildlife or Birding lens, generally a 250-500mm would likely cover that area, but having the 50mm & wider end does allow for some versatility, the lens is also quite sharp at the wide end and stays quite decently sharp to about 240mm, with a progressive drop off from there that is quite acceptable from such a large zoom lens.

If that's still not versatile enough for you Bigma allows for some decent macro shots too, with a max magnification of 1:3:1 @200mm Bigma allows some closeups via an impressive minimum focus distance for all focal lengths, it will surprise you how close you can get to your subjects with such a big lens in hand.

Getting a decently sharp image in the 300-500mm range is going to take a decent shutter speed, in my own experience this can generally be achieved at about 1/250th of a second shutter speed on the K-7 when the Sigma lens OS is activated. At 250-300mm this is quite easily achieved on birds in trees and and other stationary objects, however the weight, overhang and extreme focal length make it a challenge beyond that at the 400-500mm mark. Sigma claim the OS is effective to around 4 stops, I would say it is one of the better OIS/SR systems around and it would almost reach that effective range.

The lens lacks a focus limiter, and i say it's a big thing to be missing on this lens, The built in HSM motor is quick and silent and often works well, but it does hunt a lot, trying to shoot into creeks, water, sky or tricky non contrasty areas will see Bigma confused at every opportunity and can be quite frustrating.

It's taken some technique to get Bigma to work effectively in the field, constantly balancing settings in regards to aperture, shutter & ISO in differing weather, and varied shooting conditions to make sure the shot is always allowed for. I myself settled on manual settings of 1/250th, F/8.0 and ISO 250 and with this setting i can shoot birds and the like when stationary in good light.

Shooting in Tav mode, which is Shutter & Aperture priority mode on the K-7, i can generally balance the shutter and aperture and let the camera choose the ISO, this helps in those situations where speed is required, dialing in a little EV compensation helps too. Being efficient at handling Bigma requires constant adjustments, so going from cloud to sky or bird to flying bird, is usually handled more proficiently by TaV than in Manual mode. (Pentax's green button can be of great use too....)

I find that I'm using a hybrid manual focus system to shoot Dragonflies in flight, often using the AF button to lock onto a surrounding area, and then using the MF ring to adjust it back to actually see the dragonflies. (not fun @ 500mm) This takes a lot of coordination and effort to do quickly enough to get the shot of them using the left hand for stabilization, focus and also zoom, using 1/5000th shutter as they zigzag across the top of the pond at high speeds, often never pausing for more than a moment.

An hour of following Zigzagging insects across a reflective pond, one eyed & holding the lens extended from 300 to 500mm while fighting camera settings in addition to using both autofocus and manual focus together in time to snap the shot is a tough workout and will take it's toll physically, especially on the wrists and patience of any man. :)

This is the result @ 1/4000th & ISO 1600:

After several weeks in the field, the lens is starting to fade a little in areas of paint, and their is a fair amount of dust behind the frontal element, which i consider a design flaw of Bigma, as this is well reported on both older and newer models and is quite disappointing, perhaps a future model with circular aperture blades and WR build are in order, it would make me feel better with all this pollen around.

The other technicalities are all decent, distortion is controlled well (especially by the ACR profiles) and the amount of CA or purple fringe is very well controlled, i experience almost none even when shooting directly into the sun. The filter thread is 95mm or 86mm with the step down ring and this allows the ability to use standard filters such as UV, ND and CPL, although there is a warning with the CPL & step-down ring together. The large diameter means there is few cheap filters available (none from DX in 95 or 86mm) so costing a Hoya CPL or other expensive UV means prices of $150-350 is standard.

Bigma comes standard with a tripod collar attached to the lens, I personally rotated the collar 45 degrees, which made a big difference in my hand holding of the lens, and allowed a large surface area to be held which means less stress on my hands/wrists. In regards to tripod use I have found my tripod to not handle the weight on shots of the Moon for example, where Bigma is angled above 20-40degrees there is a certain amount of drooping and creeping when trying to hold those angles on my tripod mounts, so i recommend a very decent Tripod, Monopod & matching head.

I was told to expect to want a Monopod, So I was going to add a carbon fiber monopod and applicable head, but have since realized that the hand holding is not as bad as I had feared, in fact I'm quite surprised and impressed at how easy to hand hold bigma in the field is, and how comfortable to use at the same time. So far I've likely taken around 2500 shots with Bigma, and have indeed enjoyed my time with her, the wildlife, birds & insects are far less trusting however with the bigger lens attached.

So those are my experiences with Bigma thus far, I am glad I purchased the lens, and i hope to get some good use out of it over the next 2 years, the above images were all taken over a 2 week period around my local neighborhood. I will make changes, additions and more thoughts over the next few months.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Hanvon B10

Slates, Pads, Tablets, UMPC's, Touch Screens

There is a lot of names for the latest keyboard-less PC craze, and while the iPad may of kicked of the mainstream push to capacitive touch computing at home, they are not the only ones.. Hanvon or HannWang Corporation is a Chinese based technology company started in 1984 and specializing in Handwriting and Touch recognition software and hardware. Hanvon have a lot of E-Book and Pen Based computing technologies included in their portfolio. The Hanvon B10 is the first consumer based Windows 7 multi-touch tablet on the market hot on the heels of the iPad.

The Hanvon is a 10.1" Windows 7 based Multi-Touch Tablet device running an Intel Celeron M 743 1.3Ghz ULV, or Ultra Low Voltage processor. And while it's significantly faster than any Atom based processor and offers a few niceties like x64 capable instruction set as well. Unfortunately the ULV portion of this chip is a little over pronounced IMO.
Intel® Celeron® M Processor 743

The reason for this is the 743 does not support any type of speed-step technology to allow a lower power state, its constantly running at it's intended maximum 1.3Ghz, most modern CPU's have the ability to downclock the CPU to a more modest speed when idle, unfortunately the Celeron ULV is not one of them, and that unfortunately leads to a 3.5hour average battery life on the Hanvon B10 under Windows 7, which is not quite in the same league as the iPads or other Arm & Atom based tablets. At the same time the Hanvon B10 offers a lot of ability compared to those other Tablets.The newer and more efficient Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 is a similar spec 1.3Ghz ULV with the same TDW of 10watts, however the dual core design along with larger cache and instruction set enhancements such as SSE4, speedstep and Vt, make it a much better choice for future tablet models.

This leads us to the next concern with the Hanvon B10, and indeed an alarming trend in electronics manufacture in general at the moment, which is to only include sealed and not removable batteries in there products. The 4800Mah battery should be removable and replaceable with OEM and 3rd party replacement batteries. It's a pet hate for Apple products and why others would want to replicate that stupidity is beyond me. Removing of the 4 torque screws will allow access to remove the battery, but it's not a nice easy job as it is for most notebooks or mobile phones, a higher powered and likely heavier 7200mah battery would of been preferred.

The removal of 4 torque screws on the back plate leads to a host of things to see, such as the included 320Gb Toshiba 2.5" 5400rpm drive, 3DSP WiFi B/G + BT2.1 Mini-PCI-E card and antenna, and a DDR2 200pin SODIMM 2Gb 800Mhz Memory module. This means unlike the CPU the HDD, WiFI and Memory are all upgradable too.

For example :
*Intel 5300 WiFi A/B/G/N - Half-Height Mini-PCI-E Wireless card = $40
*1x4Gb Corsair 800Mhz DDR2 SODIMM -VS4GSDS800D2 = $185
*Kingston V+ 64Gb SSD - SNVP325-S2/64GB = $265

Those listed upgrades would make a nice improvement to every part of the Hanvon B10's performance, which BTW is quite exceptional already and miles in front of any Atom based netbook. Obviously one of the concerns with the Hanvon, is indeed the extremely high price point and although the B10 is unmatched in features and specifications, the price should of included a couple of features the competition already does....

* Accelerometer
* WiFi N
* 3G

All the above options should be included for the almost $1k asking price, but some things that the Hanvon B10 does include for the price are nice, like the SD Card slot which not only provides the useful SDHC card slot (duh), but actually allows you to boot from the device as well. Most Notebooks's force you to use an additional USB flash drive to boot Operating Systems etc from, but the Hanvon allowed me to load Windows Ultimate x64 directly from an SD Card.

Other ports and slots include 2x USB2.0 ports, 1xMini HDMI output (with adapter), 1xVGA output (with adapter) and the standard 3.5mm Headphone and Speaker output ports. It would of been nice to see an extra USB port on the left hand side personally, as it seems you can never have to many.

Apart from the ports, the Hanvon features 5 buttons on the left side for such things as:

*Power On/Off
*WiFi & Bluetooth On/Off

*Brightness Up
*Brightness Down

Above those is the rocker switch which allows simulates the Up/Down and also the Enter key is achieved by pressing the Rocker inwards. All of these buttons are a nice inclusion, and their hardcoded functions mean you can enter the Bios and makes changes, as well as select options in Windows all without a keyboard. Although advanced options like F8 can be a little tricky, not to mention console xconf hacking in Linux, so consider a USB, Wifi or BT Keyboard.

This does lead to some issues however, the lack of a dedicated rotate screen button or accelerometer does mean that the Hanvon is a little awkward to rotate into Portrait/Landscape and vice versa. As a workaround, using Microsoft's gestures or Flicks to rotate the screen is likely the easiest solution, or using a 3rd party utility called "AutoHotKey" to make a script to switch the buttons around. I'm now using the Rockerswitch to rotate back and forth, but this leaves my arrow keys modified, which is not ideal. One extra button for Rotation, would of been very nice to include. I have now added a Suspend Toggle to the rockerswitch making it a breeze.

Here is the script for AHK:
$Up::Send ^!{Left}

$Down::Send ^!{Up}


Another unique feature of the B10 is the Avago LaserStream optical mouse system, the small square sensor is a touch based optical mouse that tracks your finger as you move across it, it's a very handy mouse alternative and a welcome addition to the package.

Also included is an integrated 1.3Mp Web made by eMPIA, which is a standard affair unless you are a vegetable like logo wearing tablet.

The Hanvon is using an Intel GS45 chipset with Intel 4500MHD videocard using 128Mb (Bios Maximum) of the 2Gb system memory. The 4500MHD is the latest incarnation of Intel's bog standard and highly lacking videocard and while it does perform adequately at the tasks it's assigned, it's not about to output 1080p HD video to your TV or play Crysis at Supermax, this is still reserved for anything Nvidia at the moment. The lack of the DDR3 ram in the Hanvon however does cost the 4500MHD some performance and it's capable of running at a higher clock speed and with more shaders when using DDR3 memory.

The 10.1"1024x600 resolution LED Backlit screen is manufactured by HannStar while the ColorFilter Capacitive Multi-Touch elements are sourced from Taiwan based Sintek Photronics, which features some snazzy multi-touch abilities combined with some less snazzy or rather average horizontal viewing angles, and if you are lucky enough (which i was not) a screen protector is also included in the box. The B10'screen will likely need that protection as it does tend to show up every fingerprint and speck of dust it can at all times, but the included microfiber cloth is indeed a good one.

I would say the iPhone/iPads screen has the better viewing angles and touch accuracy along with the famed oleo-phobic coating but the Hanvon is very nice none the less and it's good to see a company actually get the capacitive touch part right as most other Asian manufactures have been insisting on resistive screens. It would of been nice to see Hanvon screen support more than two fingers like more modern systems. The screen however remains one of the highlights and is more likely let down by the sometimes clumsy Windows 7 implementation of touch and gestures, which although works and is quite good, is perhaps not as fleshed out as other touch-screen technologies, however the ability to run MeeGo, Android x86, Jolicloud and other touch linux based touch OS in the future is a nice bonus.

The Syntek/3DSP WiFi and Bluetooth card or perhaps the placement of internal antennas, means that WiFi performance is quite a concern, not only is there a lack of WiFi N, but the WiFi G is struggling to transfer at any more than 2MBps, I would of much preferred to see something like an Intel 5300 card included instead. I have already gotten a Broadcom for testing.

Hanvons website lists carbon fiber as a possible option, but my version alas is the standard aluminum affair. I'm not sure how this would affected the temps, of the B10 which while running HWMonitor shows the CPU runs around 32-42c, and the HDD a little cooler at around 30c. There a few small vents at the back which allow some heat to escape. It does get warm in the hand which is expected considering the performance and form-factor, although the fan has seemingly kept the hand-warming to a minimum lately as the fan seems to work better sometimes than others. The 1kg weight makes it quite comfortable to hold easily one handed as well. An included stand would of also been a nice addition perhaps as would of a leather case... ;)

So there is my overview of the Hanvon B10, I've had mine for a about a week and it's generally a nice and useful Tablet device that will see my laptop have a little less time in my lap. This device is a little expensive and a little unpolished for what it should be, however there is simply very little on the market right now that can be compared to the Hanvon. Unlike the iPad it can run Windows 7, MacOSX, and even boot many Linux distros from the SD Card, or run a bevy of peripherals like USB TV Tuners, and XBox controllers, the iPad is a pure toy in comparison.

Unfortunately the rest of the market will likely add Atom CPU's to their Tablets, which mean it could take sometime before we see the B10 bettered and with MeeGo and Android for x86 coming soon the Hanvon, we will also have some interesting choices for future OS choices too.

Summary Pros:
Great Performance
Multifunctional x86-x64 CPU (unlike iPad or ARM processor based Tablets)
Expansion Slots - USB, SDHC, HDMI, VGA.

Summary: Cons:
WiFi performance is woeful.
No 3G
Battery Life

The Perfect Revision of the Hanvon B10 would include the following to make it better.

Intel SU7300
Nvidia Geforce 310 with Optimus Switching.
10.1" LED Backlit Multi-Touch PixelQi screen with 1366x768 res.
2x USB Ports + 1xUSB/E-Sata Duo port, 1xHDMI, 1xVGA.
2x DDR3 slots.
64Gb SSD
Built in stand
3G+WiFi N,+Accelerometer + UWB.
6hour removable battery

I have tried running various versions of Linux from the SD Card, they include Linux Mint, Ubuntu, OpenSuse and MeeGo, So far unlike my previous feelings on the matter, i generally seem think that Gnome is more stable, faster and better than the KDE desktop these days.

I also think considering the support that it's likely to get most mileage from Ubuntu, the 3DSP wifi driver is a pain to get working and although i did get it compiled and loaded, I remained without WiFi, worse it only seems to support TKIP and not AES encryption with the Linux driver which makes it incompatible with my current 2.4/5Ghz network without changes.

Linux does have Multitouch support in the Kernel, however so far getting the touchscreen to work is likely to be a while away, it will have to wait until i get the WiFi driver working.

sudo bash

You may have to change the details to suit the Kernel version in the script above and also the directory names.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Through The Looking Glass

I initially decided on 3 lenses with 2 more to come sometime afterwards.

smc PENTAX DA 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 AL WR
Filter Size = 52mm
Weight = 255g (With Lens Hood)
35mm Equiv Focal Length = 27mm-84.5mm
Minimum Focus Distance = 9.84 inches(0.25m)

The included kit lens is a wider more limited zoom than I'm used to however I've grown to like it's abilities, it's light, cheap and has decent IQ while also being WR as well and the great surprise is the really good minimum focusing distance. I will tend to use it for night time, architecture and landscape shots.

smc PENTAX D FA 100mm F2.8 Macro WR
Filter Size = 49mm
Weight = 360g (With Lens Hood)
35mm Equiv Focal Length = 153mm
Minimum Focus Distance = 0.99' (0.303m)

This is my first purchased lens and it gives me the ability to do some 1:1 Macro photography, something i couldn't do well with the FZ30. It's a small very well constructed WR lens with some impressive IQ as well. Fast 2.8 means great shallow DOF and lots of light and generally a firm hand and accurate manual focus is needed for the best of shots.

smc PENTAX A-50mm f/1.2
Filter Size = 52mm
Weight = 375g (With Lens Hood)
35mm Equiv Focal Length = 85mm
Minimum Focus Distance = ?

One of the most esteemed Pentax lens, the A-50mm f/1.2 is a fast prime with high quality metal construction, the 'A' model was discontinued from manufacture in 2006, and was still available in small numbers from Japan until early 2009.

It's fairly rare and quite expensive, and doesn't have any Autofocus, but it's still quite revered and sought after and well loved by Pentax prime enthusiasts. I myself have a love for the silver FA43 still, but this lens allows for some creative choices as the f/1.2 difference is significant.

smc PENTAX FA 77mm F1.8 Limited.
Filter Size = 49mm
Weight = 9.5 o.z
35mm Equiv Focal Length = 115.5mm
Minimum Focus Distance = 2.3 feet

This is considered one of the nicest portrait primes currently made by Pentax, I do myself think this makes the perfect portrait lens focal length wise, add to that it's unique color and character it's warmth and it's true revered primes in the Pentax range. Also features manual aperture ring and a high quality metal construction, it's delicate small and focus's fast (despite the reviews).

Sigma (Bigma) 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM
Filter Size = 95mm (86mm with included step down ring)
Weight = 1970g
35mm Equiv Focal Length = 75-750mm (10x)
Minimum Focus Distance = 50cm @ 50mm-180cm@500mm

One of the main reasons for going Pentax was the the problem with decent length zooms the price on Canon or Nikon to get more reach of better image quality takes far too much money, so it seemed that i would go for Bigma regardless of which mount i would of chosen. The Canon 100-400l is similarly priced, but a little old. The extra reach i decided over the L of the Canon.

The lens has it's own drive motor HSM and has better optical image stabilisation than the inbuilt Pentax body SR. The lens is heavy and large and should be tripod mounted, but generally won't be with me. Well respected for Bird and Wildlife photography. I have yet to order or recieve this lens.

So those are my 5 chosen Pentax Lenses, I will see how they go before committing to any others.

To protect and serve, ND Filters, CPL and UV Filters:
I purchased some cheap DX no-name filters to eventually compare to Hoya filters, i would still like to add a few more and a ND4 filter.

49mm Premium UV Filter:

Massa 52mm Circular Polarizing Filter (CPL)

Massa 58mm UV Filter:

I think generally the UV Filters did help with unwanted reflections, but are really just a way to keep the lens protected and clean. The CPL filters have more of an impact and a desired affect in the right circumstances. Obviously plenty of Photos to come.

Monday, June 21, 2010

With a Backpack on my Back!

Before i got too carried away with the new Camera, I figured it would be equally important to get the required accessories for my rejuvenated hobby.

Kata Bumblebee PL-220:
The first of such accessories is of course the Camera Bag, and with that in mind i looked at the various models on offer and the choice came down to the Australian made Crumpler range, or the Russian Military grade Kata Bags. In the end it was hard to separate them for various reasons and features. The Kata PL-220 was chosen for it's size and feature set, with enough room for future lenses. I also plan on adding the smaller Crumpler Karachi for day trips.

Sandisk 16Gb Extreme III Class 10 SDHC Card.
The Sandisk cards are well known for their great performance and high price, the question of whether i needed an 8Gb Extreme II or 16Gb Extreme III. Really the Extreme II would of been fine for most shooting, only HD Video and perhaps continuous 5.2fps would of affected the slower card. I can shoot around 650 RAW images or over 11oo Jpegs on the Extreme III.

Pentax K7 BG-4 Battery Grip.

Pentax K7 D-Li90 Battery.

Cleaning Materials:
The need to keep all of the lenses, filters and sensors clean see's the need for a few cleaning supplies. Various cloths and microfiber items, as well as a AirBlowers and a LensPen was ordered from DX.

An added extra in the cleaning arsenal, This LensPen is well constructed and useful for when the AirBlower is not as effective, the LensPen retracts a oil free dusting tip that removes marks and dust.

The large AirBlower is really excellent for getting dust off the Camera, OVF, or Sensor, and am quite surprised at how useful it really is.

These soft cloths come in a 6 pack and offer a nice clean residue free cloth, which is soft enough to use on most items, screens and lenses, they do not clean as well as the MF cloths, but are less prone to leave scratches.

Microfiber Cloth
Very effective 3M Microfiber cloths are truly excellent for cleaning just about any computer or electrical item, screen, lens or anything else, they are a little more expensive and harsher than the soft cloths above.

Remote Controls:
The need to control the Camera remotely, or wirelessly for various types of photographic situations is needed. The Pentax Camera's are compatible with Canon when it comes to accessories like Remote Controls: I purchased 3 remotes from DX for the Pentax K7.

The Universal Infra-Red Remote:
Universal Inra-Red Remote, is slim small and easy to carry in a side pocket, it uses the CRV2383 Battery and allows for focus after shutter, fairly basic and cheap but it works for it's purpose.

Yung Nuo RF Wireless Radio Remote:

Yong Nuo Cabled Timer Remote:
This little timer switch unfortunately does not have a hotshoe adaptor, which means it hangs down from the Camera, rather than mounts it, it also does not provide a memory or interval timing.

Joby Gorrilapod Mini Tripod:

Velbon Extendable Tripod:

Macro Extension Tubes

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Panasonic FZ30:
• 7.18 x 5.32 mm CCD Sensor with 8.3 million pixels total • 8.0 million effective pixels
• 3248 x 2160 (3:2)
• 60 - 1/2000 sec
• 9 Point AF + AF Lamp
• ISO - 80, 100, 200, 400.
• Continuous Shooting: 3FPS
• 640 x 480 /30fps MJPEG
Weight: 740g (With Battery)

The Panasonic FZ30 is a P&S (Point And Shoot) it generally refers to non-interchangeable lens designs like DSLR Cameras are. However the FZ30 does provide full manual controls, exposure, WB, focus, ISO, etc. The Panasonic uses a Leica designed and coated zoom lens that is 35mm to 420mm, with a 2.8 on the wide and a 3.7 on the tele end, it's actually quite an achievement for the size, weight and quality it obtains.
To get a similarly configured DSLR with similar abilities on the lens setup is impossible. You need a range of lenses and most are heavy, large and costly to come anywhere near the results found on the FZ30.

Pentax K7:
• 23.4 x 15.6 mm CMOS Sensor with 15.1 million total pixels • 14.6 million effective pixels.
• 4672 x 3104 pixels (3:2)
• 30 - 1/8000 sec
• 11 Point AF + AF Lamp
• Continuous Shooting : 5.2FPS.
• 1280x720 (720p) 30FPS MJPEG.
• Weight: 750g (with Battery)

The Pentax K7 is quite similar in a number of respects to my FZ30. The size, weight and ergonomics are almost identical. The K7 is a semi pro DSLR, with magnesium/steel body with complete WR sealing & dust prevention.

Both cameras can shoot RAW, with image stabilization, weigh about 750g and are considered to share the same weakness in low light or high ISO shooting, and are both made by smaller Japanese Camera manufacturers starting with the letter "P". :)

There are however some major differences. Obviously interchangeable lens, the larger DSLR CMOS sensor, a Pentaprism optical viewfinder and a Mirror/Shutter system.

The EVF on the FZ30 is actually an LCD screen which shows an illuminated display of what the lens is pointing at. The OVF on the K7 is an actual view of what you are seeing, via a prism, while it's bigger and offers a larger FOV the EVF is much brighter and easier to see.

Panasonic's mirror less 4/3rds DSLR's are born from the FZ's success, and has taken the DSLR market into a new era, creating all sorts of competition for industry heavyweights Canon and Nikon. I myself am left wondering if there is much benefit to still having a OVF over EVF.

There are times when i believe that that the OVF would be beneficial, but i tend think the EVF provides more advantages, in particular when changing aperture on the EVF you can actually see the whole scene in the EVF getting darker or brighter (under or overexposed) in realtime, and thus getting a immediate feedback. The OVF obviously gets no brighter or darker depending on the settings, you must actually take a photo and see the results before knowing if your settings are close or not.

Anti-Shake technologies differ in that, Panasonic use Optical Image Stabilization and Pentax use a Body/Sensor Shake Reduction(SR) technology. Personally i think the OIS is better on telephoto lenses and is more effective, however SR seems to help at lower shutter speeds a little more.

Pentax DA II 18-55mm WR Kit Lens actually is only covers a small amount of the focal length that the Leica provides and with an additional 255 Grams of weight, when you include the 55-300mm as well the Panasonic is a nice neat and light package.

I have used the FZ30 for thousands of shots over the last 5 years, but it will now be relegated to the backup camera, overall since owning the K7, there are been little reason to go back to the FZ30, but i will include some comparisons for fun.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

DA K7ing & Eye

So after a very impressed 5 year love affair with Panasonic, another Japanese beauty has caught my eye, literally as it were.

The Pentax K7 + DA II 18-55mm WR lens becoming my first DSLR with the standard kit with a few more to follow. The Panasonic was an outstanding P&S camera with an amazingly decent 12x Zoom lens with 28-435mm Leica credentials, it consistantly gave great sharp images even at 400+mm with the help of it's optical stabilization. It will remain my backup Camera.

The K7 is currently being charged and will begin a series of comparative tests to see how 5 years of technical progress can be in the Digital Camera market.