Tagged: Pentax 21mm lens

2013 Bowie HS Graduation



In the last couple of weeks I have taken over 600 pictures; but, you won’t be seeing many of them in this blog due to copyright and privacy issues.  All of the pictures were taken with raw format under mostly difficult circumstances with poor lighting, etc.  The first picture above was taken with the 21mm lens at ISO of 1600, f/4.5, 1/50 sec. at the end of the ceremony.  The second picture was taken earlier at 300mm, ISO of 6400, f/8, 1/160 sec. with the 55 – 300mm lens.  Neither picture has been cropped.  I really would have preferred a faster, better, and longer lens but the zoom lens does quite well, especially when you consider the cost of it.  I used the program mode set for maximum sharpness profile to get the most out of the lenses.

In some other circumstances in the past two weeks I had to use a 50mm f/1.8 lens due to very poor lighting and then crop a lot.  Since those pictures ended up being small I made a slide show out of them and it turned out pretty good due to the excellent quality of the 50mm lens.

I haven’t finished working with my pictures, but so far, I think the results just emphasize the value in having good fast lenses and a high megapixel sensor with low noise qualities.  I haven’t translated that into what it means relative to my next camera or lenses, but I will be thinking about it.  In the meanwhile I’m doing OK and can get by with what I have.  During this past two-week period I used my Pentax K-5 with three lenses … the 21mm f/3.2 and 50mm f/1.8 prime lenses, and the 55 – 300mm f/4 – 5.8 zoom lens.

Prime or Zoom Lens



These might not be the best pictures to illustrate this point but they do.  I was on the way down to the central building the other evening to take some pictures of an event.  Due to the lighting, the distance between me and the actors, etc. I had to take pictures with fast prime lenses.  On the way down I had the 50mm f/1.8 lens mounted on my K-5 and used it to take the first picture above.

On the way back I happened to have the 21mm f/3.2 lens on the K-5 and used it to take the second picture.  The 21mm lens was probably the best choice for both pictures but I just used the 50mm for the first picture since that is what was quickly available.  It is the nature of those scenes to not last long and I didn’t wish to take the time to change lenses.  Would I have been better off to have had a zoom lens mounted and ready?  Probably, but since I wasn’t using a zoom for the event I didn’t have one with me.  I was traveling light with my camera in hand with the other lens plus extra battery and memory card in vest pockets.

I wasn’t using a zoom lens because my zoom lenses are all slower, bigger, and heavier and I couldn’t use them to get acceptable pictures for the conditions I expected.  By acceptable I mean as good as I could get with my 50mm f/1.8 prime lens.  I had tested them out and found that it was better for me to use the 50mm lens and crop-zoom to get pictures without digital noise in the poor lighting.  The zoom lenses all required a higher ISO which resulted in less detail in the pictures after I removed the noise.

There is another reason that I didn’t switch lenses for the first picture.  I try not to change lenses any more than necessary to lessen the chances of getting dirt in the camera.  I also find that it isn’t the easiest thing to do, change lenses, when I’m walking.  I prefer to do it while sitting next to a flat clean surface to set the lens on.

My world of photography seems to revolve around the issue of what lens should I use.  When going out to take particular pictures under a known environment, I usually can pick the right one.  If the circumstances are unknown I will usually use a general purpose zoom lens, either the 18 – 135mm or the 55 – 300mm depending upon the likelihood of particular subjects … but, not always.  I don’t like the combined weight of a zoom lens on the K-5, so I often just go for a walk with the 21 or 50mm lens on it, or with the NEX-6 with a 35mm lens, which is much lighter, and just photograph what is appropriate for the lens.  This means I will be photographing landscapes and if a fox runs across the field, or a colorful bird lands in a tree, it isn’t photographed.

I really prefer a prime lens due to better speed, higher image quality, quicker response time, and lighter weight.

Source of Ideas


The above picture is a picture of my bed.  I took it with natural light using my new 21mm lens (effective 31.5mm) at an ISO of 6400, f/4.5, 1/50 sec and hand-held.  The only extraordinary thing that I did was to use the camera level to make sure that I was holding the camera level in two planes so that I didn’t get any distortion.  Why am I showing this picture?

In earlier articles I have discussed my intention to take pictures for various projects and that I think we should always have a purpose for taking our pictures.  I have also mentioned that many of my projects do not provide me with pictures that I wish to display individually in my blog.  Much of my photography is a long-term effort to collect a series of pictures in support of a particular story.  The above picture is one for a project about the place where I live; but I’m showing it here to demonstrate something else … one of the ways that I get ideas for projects.


I subscribe to a magazine called LensWork.  I am just mentioning it here to make the point that I have used many of their “project portfolios” to trigger ideas of my own.  They aren’t identical but in many cases they have been adapted along similar lines.  I quickly get tired of most web articles about camera gear and strive to find articles either in hard print or on the web that give me ideas about what to photograph.  You might want to try the same approach.

Photographers Have Options for Reducing Weight

In this past year I have read many blog articles about how some photographers no longer like to carry big heavy DSLRs when they are out walking and/or just shooting for their personal pleasure.  They are suffering from having carried heavy camera bags their whole life.  Their backs are giving out.  All of them are getting older, just like all the rest of us, and it seems that many are making a change in their cameras as they age.  Some replace their big heavy DSLRs with smaller, lighter, mirror-less compact system cameras such as the Sony NEX or Olympus or Panasonic micro 4/3 system cameras while others keep their big DSLRs for their business use, but get lighter cameras for their personal use.  In all the cases that I have read about, they put the emphasis on downsizing the camera; but, I would like to make an observation that there are other variables in the equation for reducing the amount of weight carried.

I speak from experience.  As I started having problems carrying my Pentax K-5 and lenses, and eventually had back surgery, I made the decision to sell my DSLR system and replace it with something lighter.  I tried many micro 4/3 cameras and lenses.  I found they reduced the amount of weight that I was carrying around but they also decreased the quality of my pictures in low light situations and created adverse problems for me with camera ergonomics … a case of arthritic fingers vs. small buttons too close together.  Since I did not like the negative aspects of the downsizing route that I had taken, I went back to a K-5 DSLR camera as well as lenses for it, and sold all of my other cameras.  I decided to make other changes to reduce the weight and increase the quality at the same time.

I agree with many older photographers that it is necessary to reduce the total weight of the gear that we carry with us … it is just a fact of getting older, especially for those of us with back problems.  But I decided to keep the advantages of my DSLR and to reduce the weight in other ways.  I’m in the process of using my heavier, longer zoom lens less and less and using prime lenses more and more.  As I mentioned in my last article, I added a Pentax 21mm prime lens to my set of options.  If I find that I can’t carry my 55 – 300mm zoom lens as much as I did (was on my camera the majority of the time), I will also change what I photograph as well.  It might mean fewer pictures of wildlife.  I hope to primarily use my 21mm, 35mm, and 50mm prime lenses and change the type and style of my photography to fit that choice of lenses.

I haven’t had an opportunity to really try my new 21 mm lens, but I did take one picture with it yesterday when I made a quick trip to a market.

Hanover Market

Hanover Market

The lighting in the market wasn’t the best so the above picture was taken at an ISO of 400, f/4.5, and 1/50 sec with the 21mm lens.  I’m thinking that this lens will make a nice travel lens since it is light-weight, very small (only 1 inch long), and makes for a more discreet camera-lens combination for carrying while touring.  One advantage of the lens is that it also gives me nice depth of field coverage and it crop-zooms fairly well as noted in the following crop from the center of the above picture.


In addition to having smaller, lighter gear to carry, it also allows me to carry it in a smaller, lighter bag as I make another change.  I have found that having a strap on my camera creates problems.  In the first case I decided that carrying a camera on a strap around my neck or over one shoulder was one of the problems relative to my back pain.  In the second case, I found that the strap attached to the camera lugs also occasionally got in the way of my hands … even when using a wrist strap.  The solution that I’m now trying is neither a neck, or shoulder, or wrist strap.  I have gone back to a system that I tried two years ago in which the camera is attached to my camera bag by a tether.  It is the system as shown in an earlier blog article (click here).  The picture in the article shows my older K-7 camera but the size is the same as my current K-5.  I’m also using the same bag as shown, but I might try some other bags before I deem the one shown as my preference.  It will depend on how many lenses I take with me.

At the beginning of this article I mentioned that all the photographers complaining of the weight of their system only talked about changing cameras … not lenses; but I don’t think that means that they haven’t also changed lenses.  Several photographers have switched from their heavy DSLR cameras to cameras like the Fujifilm X system.  Since these cameras currently don’t have long zoom lenses available yet, it either means that the photographers didn’t use long zoom lenses before or else they have also made a change in focal range as I am trying.

In reality, photography isn’t any different than other aspects of life.  As we get older we have options relative to reducing the burdens on our life.  Photographers can change cameras or they can change lenses, or/and they can change what they photograph.  All of us, photographers or not, will have to make similar changes in our lifestyle to reduce the impacts of our non-sustainable lifestyles.  We will all end up making changes and downsizing.  We will have to cut back and do less with less.  It’s time to make changes while we are able to adapt.

Working through the Fog … Prime vs. Zoom Lenses

121225-073000_Plum Creek

I used my 55 – 300mm Pentax zoom lens set at 107.5mm, f/5.6, ISO = 400, and 1/200 sec. to take the above picture.  This was a clear case where I needed the zoom’s focal length to reach across the pond.  The conditions were also such that I didn’t want to be changing lenses while out in the field.  Conditions like this, along with the potential of seeing wildlife, have made this lens one of my favorites except for when it isn’t.

There are many situations when the 55 – 300mm f/4-5.8 zoom is not my preferred lens.  These are when I find it too heavy to carry long distances, when I desire greater image quality such as sharpness, when I desire a faster lens, and when I’m working among people who don’t like to be “shot with a cannon.”  For those times, I prefer to use a prime lens.  I will occasionally use my 18 – 55mm zoom lens, but not often.  I don’t like the quality of the images as well as those taken with a prime lens so I generally only use the 18 – 55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens during inclement weather since it is weather resistant as is my K-5 camera.

But, the decision process of which lens to use is sometimes foggy since I can’t see into the future.  My preference when going out to take pictures is to decide which lens I’ll need before I go and then put it on the camera and not take any other lenses.  I usually manage with my decision, but not always.  I have three prime lenses for the Pentax K-5 … the 21mm f/3.2 (on order), the 35mm f/2.4, and the 50mm f/1.8, which give me effective focal lengths of 31.5, 52.5, & 75mm.  A big difference between Pentax and Nikon or Canon is that Pentax decided to produce small light-weight primes rather than fast primes; therefore, the Pentax primes are lighter and create a more discreet camera-lens combination than its competitors.  I love the smaller, lighter size of the system when using primes, but I still have to decide which one to use.  I try to error on a slightly wider focal length than I think I’ll need since I can then crop-zoom to get the composition desired.

I’m going to change my setup in order to decrease the chances of having the wrong lens with me.  If I know that the odds are high that I might need different lenses, I’m going to start taking a camera bag with an extra lens or two in it.  I have mostly avoided this in the past since I didn’t want to carry any more weight than necessary.  Since my circumstances have changed … my back is doing better and the weight isn’t as much of a problem, and I’m not out in the field for long periods of time any more … I am going to take a bag and multiple lenses.  But, this also means that I need to get familiar with changing lenses while out in the field.  I’ll let you know how it works for me and tell you a little about my bag setup as well as different strap arrangements at some later date.  My desire is to work the kinks out and have my techniques perfected before spring so that I can concentrate on taking pictures.

BTW … if you aren’t using prime lenses, try them.  I really prefer the image quality, the lower weight, and greater ease of carrying a more discreet system.  I’m looking forward to my new 21mm prime lens and will use my primes more than my zooms if I take less wildlife pictures.