Sunday, November 22, 2009

Panasonic 45-200mm mini review

My 45-200mm arrived last night and today I was able to take some quick snapshots around the house. So far so good! With the GF1 (didn't yet had time to try with E-P1), the AF is very fast and virtually silent. The lens is not too big nor too heavy and balances nicely on the GF1.

The mega O.I.S is very impressive and I can get reasonably sharp images at 200mm and 1/30s!

From an IQ standpoint, I am very pleased so far: wide open, the lens is pretty good from 45mm to around 100mm and still pretty decent beyond that.

Overall, I am very happy with the performance of this $280 lens.

Some comments about using this lens with the Olympus E-P1.

The good news is that the AF is almost as fast as with the GF1 (feels as fast for me but don't want to start a milliseconds war here emoticon - smile so this is why I am saying almost as fast).

I also quickly tested Olympus IBIS vs Mega O.I.S. and I would say that at 200mm, the in lens image stabilization (MEGA O.I.S) does better than the sensor IS. Not much, but enough to make a difference. I would roughly say 1 stop difference. but in any case, bot IS systems do an impressive job.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

E-P1 with Micro Nikkor 55mm f/2.8

It has been a while since I posted something here. Well, lots of things going on and not enough time. I will try to do some m4/3 reviews (E-P1 and GF1) soon. In the meantime, here is a post about using the Nikkor 55mm f/2.8 micro with the E-P1.

So I decided to give my micro Nikkor 55mm f/2.8 a try. This lens is a leftover from my Nikon days and the only thing I needed was to find a cheap Nikon F to m43 adapter on eBay.

Well, the adapter was delivered today and I like the build and fit. I immediately tried the lens on my E-P1 and I am pleased with the potential of this combo.

Manual focusing using the EVF is very easy and precise (x7 magnification mode) and the image stabilization helps tremendously. Now don't get me wrong: it's definitively harder to use this lens on the E-P1 than mounted on a DSLR. And obviously, for any serious macro work, I tripod is highly recommended. Yet, I was able to take some technically acceptable test shots around the house.

I was ready to buy the Panasonic 45mm f/2.8 macro but I am not sure I really want to fork $800 for this lens anymore.

ISO 1000

Bokeh is a bit nervous on this one

The Canon is my wife's not mine, I swear!

The head below is about 1/2 inch. ISO 1250.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Fuji S100FS: Super Macro mode

A snail enjoying the moisture brought by tropical storm Edward... this little guy is about 1/2 inch from head to toe (!)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fuji S100FS: Dynamic Range

Seems to me that DR is pretty good with this camera. I didn't do any direct comparison but it might be as good as my DSLR (Pentax K10D).

Image shot in raw, converted with ACR and post processed in Photoshop. Exif embedded in image.

PS: I didn't use the S100FS' extended DR feature, as it's a jpeg thing...

The Galleria - Houston, TX (as usual, click on the image to get a bigger version).

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Fuji FinePix S100FS

I got myself a Fuji S100FS. As a long time DSLR guy, who likes to use prime lenses and doesn’t really enjoy electronic viewfinders, I’d never thought I would buy such a camera (a 14x zoom? Come on!). But after reading all the good reviews and feedback from users, I decided to give it a try…

To keep it short, I like pretty much everything about this camera: the speed (startup time, AF and write time, the 3 FPS in raw), the versatility of the lens (zoom range and macro capabilities, manual zoom ring), the very effective image stabilization system, the relatively excellent high ISO performance and the more than acceptable dynamic range, the quietness of the shutter, the articulated LCD, the flash hotshoe and the flash sync speed, the accurate metering and AF… indeed, lots of good stuff!

It’s not a small camera by any means, but it is light enough so I can carry it for hours without discomfort. And this is the first time that an EVF is good enough so it doesn’t distract you. Another thing to like is the plethora of controls (ISO, EV compensation, AF modes, metering modes, etc.). Actually, it’s better than some entry level DSLRs.

Obviously, there are a couple of things that I am not too excited about, like the totally unusable manual focus mode due to the lack of magnification during MF if you shoot raw. And I have to confess that I wasn’t able to figure out how the MF indicator works.

Also, while I don’t really mind the easy-to-remove chromatic aberrations, dealing with purple fringing is time consuming and the wavy barrel distortion at wide angle is hard to get rid of. The size of the raw files (around 23MB each) is not an issue as I convert them to DNG. The lossless compression reduces them to 11MB.

Bottom line: lots of things to like and a very effective and fun camera.

All images shot in raw, converted to DNG and processed with Adobe Camera Raw. Exif data embedded in the images.

Out-of-topic rant about the pictures taken around The Museum of Fine Arts: I found out this weekend that we are not allowed to take pictures in pretty much all areas of the Museum. Quite ironic for a place that promotes arts.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Pictures are back...

I reached my bandwidth limit and I had to remove temporarily all the pictures. Sorry for the inconvenience. Images are back now.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Pentax K10D… a year later

About this Review

Since I don’t think that the world needs yet another K10D review or that I can (nor want to) compete with the cohorts of highly talented and meticulous professional reviewers, I decided to focus on what makes the K10D unique and innovative and not waste your time going after the minute details of each and every options.

All my comments about Image Quality are based on images shot in RAW mode. I never bother shooting jpeg.


Time runs! It has been a year since I started using the Pentax K10D. Back in December 2006, the K10D was already a very affordable DSLR (about $900 at that time, around $550 now with rebate, body only), loaded with very nice features: improved shake reduction, dust-proof weather resistant body, large viewfinder with a glass pentaprism… definitively a step up to the already very nice K100D camera I played with for a couple of months before deciding to invest a bit more into the Pentax System.

Back in 2006, my workhorse camera was the excellent Nikon D200. I used it for pretty much everything: studio work, landscape photography, candid, weddings, sports and street photography. My only issue with it was it size. I like small cameras.

So in September 2006, I gave the K100D (the K10D older/little brother) a try. I was so impressed with this camera that I decided to take it with me when I had to travel to Shanghai for business. To my surprise I found that I exclusively used the Pentax during this 3 week long trip, leaving the Nikon in my hotel room all that times! In fact I liked the Pentax so much that as soon as the K10D became available, I decided to buy one and after few weeks using it I retired my D200.

So why am I reviewing now a camera that as been released more than a year ago? Because I truly believe that in order to publish a reliable photographer review (as opposed to a geek review), one needs to spend more that few days or weeks with the camera. After taking tens of thousands of images in freezing cold winter (Colorado) and in hot and humid summer (Texas), from sea level to 10000 feet elevation, with a multitude of different Pentax lenses, I think it is time for me to share a couple of things I discovered while using this fantastic camera. Not to mention that with its new bargain price, the K10D is now more appealing than ever.

The Camera

The K10D is Pentax’s most advanced digital SLR, as of today. It offers a plethora of advanced and original features, like Share Reduction (SR), dust-proof weather resistant body, very clever exposure modes and 11 point AF with 9 cross sensors. The imager is the Sony 10 mega-pixels APS-C size CCD also used by other manufacturers.


The K100D is a very nicely build camera that feels right in my hands. It’s unfortunately bigger than the K100D, but definitively smaller than the Nikon D200/D300 or Canon 40D.

All essential settings can be adjusted directly using the numerous dials and buttons available to you: metering, auto-focus, ISO, shake reduction, bracketing. You only need to navigate the menus for white balance, flash settings and drive mode. You can assign different roles to the front and rear dials, to the AF button and to the “green” button. For instance, I like to have the front dial controlling the ISO in Aperture Priority mode (the rear dial being used to set the aperture value).

The AF mode lever can be set to Manual, Continuous or Single. No need to dive in the menus to switch between C and S, as it is unfortunately too often the case with entry level cameras.

The viewfinder (glass pentaprism) is big, bright and precise, with no distortion whatsoever. Manual focusing is nevertheless a challenge with all auto-focus SLRs that lack split image / microprism focusing screens. The viewfinder status bar provides all the information I need and the AF point LEDs and frame are not distracting.

Conclusion for Handling


  • Excellent construction and ergonomics, very logical and convenient controls.
  • Excellent viewfinder and viewfinder information.


  • I could use dedicated white-balance and drive mode controls.
  • I don’t like the position of the lens release button (right side, when holding the camera). I prefer when it’s on the left (no pun), like with all others manufacturers but Leica. This way, you don’t need a third hand to change lens.

Auto Focus

Let’s cut to the chase: the K10D 11 point AF system (with 9 cross sensors) performs very well. It might not be the fastest, but it is reasonably accurate, even in very low light. Also, the AF points are ideally spread over the frame.

The other good news is that ALL the 9 cross sensors can be trusted, so you are not stuck with the central AF point (no need to “focus then compose” because you can only rely on the central AF point, as it is too often the case with other DSLRs).

Continuous focusing is another story. As far as I can tell, the Pentax AF module doesn’t implement any kind of predictive AF, so with subjects quickly moving toward or away from the camera, the AF lags behind. This might be a deal breaker for some.

Auto Focus Quirks

It’s like all DSLRs regardless of brands or models have been jinxed when it comes to AF. In the case of the K10D, the jinx is an annoying case of front focusing that happens when shooting under artificial (tungsten) light. To make things worse, this is usually when you need to use your lens wide open.

Of course, you can always try to micro adjust the AF when the camera is in service mode and neutralize this front focusing problem, but it is not recommended by Pentax and only possible with firmware 1.10. I really hope that Pentax will add an AF adjustment function to its future DSLRs (Canon did it with the 1D Mark III and Nikon with the D3 and D300). But in the meantime, I’ll keep using the service menu…

Although most of the Pentax lenses I use behave consistently, AF wise, I found that the FA 50mm f/1.4 and the DA 21mm f/3.2 Limited can be problematic. The FA 50mm tendency to front focus under tungsten light is more pronounced than with the other primes lenses.

As for the DA 21mm (or at least with my copy of this lens), the problem is more complex than that: this lens back focuses in daylight when the AF is performed with the aperture between f/3.2 and f/5.6 but it focuses perfectly when AF is performed with the aperture set to f/6.3 and beyond and then reset to f/3.2 right before taking the picture. In other words:

  • Case 1: aperture priority at f/3.2, AF is performed, picture is taken: back focus

  • Case 2: aperture priority at f/6.3, AF is performed, then camera set to Manual Focus and aperture set to f/3.2: perfectly focused.

Go figure…

Conclusion for Auto Focus


  • Very consistent AF, very accurate and sensitive.
  • All 9 cross sensors can be trusted. No need to “focus then compose”.
  • Ideal positioning of the 11 AF points.
  • Access to service menu let you fine tune the AF (not recommended nor supported by Pentax).


  • No predictive AF, continuous AF is lame.
  • Camera front focuses under tungsten light condition.
  • A couple of Pentax lenses show some inconstant AF results.


Not too much to say about metering and the K10D: it’s excellent. Everything is as it should be: multi-segment metering is adequate in most situations, spot metering is very precise and the controls are ideally located so switching from the different modes is easy and intuitive. Also, Pentax provides us with a couple of “smart” modes, like Sv (Sensitivity Priority), TAv (Shutter and Sensitivity Priority) and a very flexible Program mode. In review mode, the usual RGB histogram and the flashing clipped highlights and shadows are also very helpful to fine tune the exposure.

Shake Reduction (SR)

For SR, the K10D is at least one stop better than the K100D. It gives you 2 to 3 stops advantage, depending on the lens. And after using it for a year, I found that SR is indeed very valuable with normal and wide lenses. Just to give you an idea, I am consistently getting sharp pictures at 1/10s with a 40mm lens.

This is definitively a feature I would sorely miss and I would really hesitate to buy a camera without SR.

Image Quality

Image quality is very difficult to evaluate, since so many things contribute to it. I honestly think that the IQ can’t be assessed without taking in account the real world parameters that can influence it: AF performance, metering, camera shake (and shake reduction), etc.

In other words, I don’t care if a camera has a fantastic sensor if this very camera cannot accurately AF or meter properly. Or requires using a tripod because of mirror slap induced vibrations.

Back to the K10D, I already said the AF was good, the metering excellent and SR very effective. That’s definitively a good start! So what about the 10MP sensor? Well, over all, it’s not too bad:

  • Noise is well contained up to ISO 400, acceptable at ISO 800 and passable at ISO 1600. Unfortunately, the K10D has a “bug”: the processing engine introduces a Vertical Pattern Noise (VPN) that might show up in high ISO images, or if you “push” the levels in post processing. It is not often visible, but when it is, I found that it’s almost impossible to get rid of.
  • The anti-aliasing filter is a tad too weak in my opinion, but I know that most people prefer it this way. In my case, I would have preferred a stronger high quality anti-aliasing filter.

Bottom line for Image Quality

If you always manual focus and always use a tripod, then you can definitively find better sub $1000 DSLR cameras than the K10D, IQ wise. But in real world situations, the K10D is a winner. I wouldn’t recommend shooting above ISO 800/1250 though, mainly because of the VPN “bug”.

Compared to…

Before using the K10D, I used Canon (D60, 10D, DRebel), Olympus (E-1), Nikon (D100, D70, D2H, D200) and the Pentax K100D. I won’t be comparing the K10D against all these cameras but only against the Nikon D200 and the little brother, the Pentax K100D.

What I prefer in the K10D vs. the Nikon D200

  • Shake Reduction: this is a big one. As I wrote earlier, the K10D SR system will provide you with at least 2 to 3 stop advantage against the D200. Not only because it is very efficient, but also because the D200 shutter is vibration prone.
  • Cross AF sensors: the D200 AF system is definitively more advanced than the one on the K10D, but the Nikon has only one cross sensor compared to nine for the K10D. With the Nikon, I always had to “focus and recompose”, since the accuracy of the external AF sensors was not that great. Not such thing with the K10D. You can trust and rely on all 9 cross sensors to accurately focus.
  • Smaller body: you mileage may vary on that one, but I prefer small cameras.
  • Pentax Pancake Limited lenses: that was the reason I bought into Pentax in the first place.

What I prefer in the Nikon D200

  • Both shutter lag and blackout time are noticeably shorter.
  • Continuous AF: this one is a no-brainer. I am not even sure that the K10D has predictive AF (if so, Pentax forgot to mention that in the K10D manual).
  • Lens offering: hundreds of lens to choose from.
  • Better anti-aliasing filter. It forces you to sharpen you images in post processing, but it prevents artifacts.
  • Better automatic ISO.

K10D vs. Pentax K100D

I found that the K10D is better at everything but the size and the high ISO performance when compared to the K100D. Even though, I love the K100D. It is small and simple to use yet very effective. So if you care for better SR, larger image buffer, weather sealing and/or better controls, I would recommend the K10D. Otherwise, go with the K100D.


It's hard not to like the K10D: great handling, excellent build quality, plenty of innovative and advanced features, capable AF system (with some quirks), great image quality (up to ISO 400/800)... and the ability to mount these extraordinary Pentax Limited lenses. All that for about $600.

Just like any other camera, the K10D shows also some weaknesses and limitations, like the less than stellar continuous AF (AF-C) performance, the noise level and noise pattern above ISO 800 or the lack of telephoto lens in the Pentax lens lineup.

I would love to see Pentax releasing a K10D in a smaller body, with better high ISO performance and auto-focus calibration. But overall, for me and for now, the K10D does the trick.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Black and White using Adobe Camera Raw

I found that Adobe ACR does a decent job at converting to B&W (HSL/Grayscale and Tone Curve). Also, it is quite convenient because your settings are automatically saved in the sidecar files.

Here are some images using this technique. K10D in raw format converted with ACR. Exif embedded in images. And yes, that was a cloudy day.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It has been a while...

It has been a while since my last post. I am kind of busy. I will resume posting as soon as I can decide what my next camera will be... the Canon 5D is very tempting with the recent price drop, yet I don't feel like carrying around a 2 lb. over-sized camera. I also need a small P&S and I am thinking about buying the Canon G9... Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The perfect take-anywhere camera? Not!

I bought a LX2 last week and took it for a test drive in San Antonio, TX. I liked the camera very much: size, controls, build quality, lens, 16:9 aspect ratio, responsiveness and of course the ability to shoot raw.

Mega O.I.S is very helpful if not as effective as what I am used to with my Pentax K10D or K100D.

1/2s hand held! Not too bad ;-)

Unfortunately, the image quality doesn't seem to be up to the challenge: soft corner, serious CA (easily corrected with ACR, though) and, worst of all, horrible painterly effect on dark areas of images, event when shot at ISO 100 in bright light!

1:1 crop. Yes, this is ISO 100 and raw format!

full image

I can't believe that Panasonic decided to apply what seems to be some aggressive noise reduction to raw images. It just doesn't make sense!

The camera is on its way back to Too bad :-(