Thursday, 8 December 2016

Becoming a Pentaxian and Why I Love My New Camera

      As someone who had been interested in Photography for a long time, around a year ago I decided to focus on learning more and improving my skills. As far as buying cameras goes, my research and choices were pretty ill informed...
      I started out with an Olympus E-500 twin lens kit which just happened to be on a good offer at the time when my parents treated me around GCSE time. We were taking a trip to africa to go on safari and they wanted me to get some good photos. This camera lasted me for 5 years, it was pretty abysmal in anything resembling low light but otherwise gave some great colourful images. I managed to extend its life and usage using it with OM film lenses and an £11 adapter from Ebay. 

      At the start of my final year at uni I was asked to photograph my cousin's wedding, in hindsight I should have upgraded before the wedding, but I decided to put the money gained from that towards upgrading after the event! At that time I hadn't paid much attention to any of the new cameras around. After being completely overwhelmed I figured out two cameras within my budget, one by Canon one by Nikon. I chose the one edging slightly in reviews and which had a half decent deal with freebies, the Nikon D5100. 
      This camera took me through the last year of university, lots of photos for this blog, and all of my holidays and days out over the past 3 years. The D5100 is a great camera, and it did well for my needs for a long time. As an aerialist and performer, I have started photographing shows more and more in the past year, and that it where it started to let me down! Low light is always going to be a killer when it comes to photography, and as much as I could do, I wanted something a little better! 

       Around 6 months ago I started working in a camera shop, and this was where the itching started! Working for a large technology company for 2 1/2 years I tend to nerd out over things a fair amount a lot more than I did before... Being able to play around with cameras all day I was like a kid in a candy shop, it was great, but actually terribly more confusing. There is definitely no such thing as the perfect camera, and I spent a huge chunk of time being indecisive and discounting models for various reasons. Too big, too heavy, don't like the viewfinder, too expensive, horrible menu system etc. etc. 

      And then one day we had a Pentax K-70 arrive in store. Having only been announced in June, we were expected to have a play around with it and get used to its features. And so, I did the ridiculous thing and I switched systems! I traded in everything Nikon I owned and I bought K-70 with an 18-135mm and a DA 50mm prime lens. I thought for all you camera lovers out there I should explain why I went for a camera system that for most people is a bit of a curveball:

Weather Sealing - Almost all of Pentax bodies are weather sealed, and not just a little bit.. Combined with a WR lens these cameras survive a crazy amount, in Florida I was doing a timelapse of rain falling in my parents swimming pool in a tropical storm - no worries! The build quality on this camera is mad, it feels solid in your hand yet is as small as my old entry level Nikon body. 

In Camera Stabilisation - No more VR vs Non VR lenses, put any lens on this camera and it is stabilised. Everything is done in body, and it works really well. I have noticed myself taking photos and assuming they will be shaky hearing a slow shutter speed only to find they are sharp, it is like magic. 

K Mount Compatibility - Pentax have not changed their mount since their film camera days, this means you can find any old K mount film lens (of which there are hundreds) and you can stick it on your digital body. This has two advantages. One - you have access to a huge range of lenses at a lower price, you just use manual focus. Two - because of the in body stabilisation these lenses are also fully stabilised! My camera also has focus confirmation so it will beep/flash when your subject is in focus which is handy.

The gorgeous Sunny taken on a 135mm f2.8 film lens.

Wifi & In Camera Processing - Ok so pretty much any new camera now has Wifi but combined with the fact that I can process images in camera this has been a godsend. I can now take a RAW image, choose filters, image style, cropping etc. and save a new version directly on my camera before sending it to my phone via Wifi. My Instagram feed is now much more heavily filled with Pentax K70 images rather than low quality iphone pictures and it makes me happy how easy it is. 

In Built Intervalometer - This is something I have yet to utilise enough, but if you are into timelapse photography you will love it. I can set up my camera to take a number of photos, pick the interval, file size, file type etc. to then create timelapse videos or image sequences. Below is a very basic attempt to show the storm weather we had in Florida - don't judge I haven't spent too much time on this...

A video posted by Josie Maskell (@josiethejump) on

Multi Exposure - Harking back to anyone who used film photography this is a mode that is great fun to play around with. You can combine 2-2000 images with 3 different blending modes to create unique and interesting photos. I believe this is also designed for creating star trail or astro images which require a large number of exposures if your camera were on a tripod - as someone who has never tried this I wouldn't know where to start. 

RAW File Image Quality - Now I cannot vouch for all the new cameras, but the recovery and quality from RAW files on this camera has been incredible. I put it to test a lot on my trip to Florida in September and here are some before and after shots when recovering shadows and detail in tricky sunset/low light situations. 

  Now obviously everyone has very specific tastes when it comes to cameras! And no camera is perfect, lens wise, the 50mm is probably my favourite for images though the screw drive autofocus is comical levels of noisy! Pentax please, please please make a budget friendly and quiet 50mm lens, the 55mm f1.4 is £650 which I can't really stretch to... Noisy lenses aside, here are a few of my favourite images from the past few months since owning this camera.