Photography and some Pentax stuff

This section is dedicated to my interest in photography. At this page, I will mainly describe the equipment I'm using. For the images, please go to my Flickr photostream. When I decided to change my old Konica-Minolta A2 for a real DSLR, I went for the Pentax K200D. The primary reason for this was simple: lenses. From the early days, when 35mm film was used, I collected a decent setup of Pentax lenses. So, it was a clear choice what camera brand to go for. I had no intentions to sell off the Pentax glass in favour for some over-priced new Nikon or Canon lenses. The old Pentax-M and Pentax-A are really good optically and with the smart design of the K200D, they are easy to use. The second reason for choosing K200D before the K20D was price. I wasn't in need of the extra features and added resolution of the K20D as I'm a hobby photographer. Instead, I went for better optics as replacement for the ordinary kit lens that normally goes with the body. The SMC Pentax-DA 16-45/f4.0 was included in the purchase instead of the Pentax-DA 18-55/f3.5-5.6 that normally goes with the K200D. As a bonus, I got a little bit more wide angle in the lens. Regarding the body itself, even with the lower price (in comparison with the K20D), there are a lot of nice features in the camera: weather protection, image stabilization (with all lenses), 10.2 Mpixel CCD sensor, backwards compatibility with all lenses with Pentax bayonet (and M42 with adapter) and all these things you would require from a modern DSLR. What it lacks are these new things like live-view and video recording. But as I'm from the old school, grown up with film, so I don't need these kind of features. I don't even use the built in picture programs...

For a complete show-down of the camera body, please go to the Pentax K200D product description.

The Lenses

Time for that part that counts - the glass you put in front of that sensor. Whatever super camera you own, You can't get better pictures than the lens allows. And as usually, high quality glass requires a high quality wallet... Here comes the fun part in this Pentax story: high-quality optics could be found cheap on several places for a steal. If you can accept manual focus and one extra button push, there are plenty of nice SMC Pentax lenses (and other lens brands too) to be found at places like eBay.

The K200D makes this old lenses really easy to use: If you find Pentax-A lenses, then you can go fully auto on the exposure as with newer lenses, only focus is manual (with assist). With Pentax-M lenses, you have to use the manual mode (M setting). You also have to turn on the Custom Setting "Using aperture ring" to Permitted (2). Now you can use the manual aperture setting on the lens as usual. To get a correct exposure, press the green button. That will step down the lens to set aperture and take a reading (setting correct time). That reading is kept until a new reading is done or the shutter release is pressed. You can use the optical preview to see the effect of the aperture setting on all lenses, even these old manual ones.

Time for my collection:

SMC Pentax-DA 16-45/f4.0 ED AL

This is the lens I selected instead of the standard kit lens that comes with the K200D body. A good performer with priority on wide angle (little too short on the tele end) and with a strange twist: reverse zoom. It's shortest length is on the tele end and at widest setting, you will have shadowing when the internal flash is used. Strange design...
SMC Pentax-A 24/f2.8

K200D eqv. focal length: 36 mm

This lens works in the fully automatic modes if the aperture ring is set to "A"-position. Manual usage is possible if the Pentax-M approach is used. Picture wise, I can't say much as the lens was seldom used on the old film camera.
SMC Pentax-M 50/f1.2

K200D eqv. focal length: 75 mm

This is really a masterpiece. High quality both in build and optically. The large aperture of 1.2 really gives you a clear viewfinder image and and a shallow depth of field as no other lens available. The lens uses a fully manual aperture (no "A" setting), so use the manual method on the camera with this one.
SMC Pentax-M 50/f2.0

K200D eqv. focal length: 75 mm

This is what a "kit"-lens for an old Pentax MV looks like. The standard 50 mm with an aperture of 2.0 must be one of the most common lensen from the old Pentax time. These are rather cheap but they are good performers. Fully manual operation only.
SMC Pentax-M 40/f2.8

K200D eqv. focal length: 60 mm

This is the "pancake", the smallest lens Pentax ever created with all M features still available. I haven't tested it that much so I can give a vote for the image quality but the build quality is typically good and the lens is really compact. And with the field of view as a 60 mm, it is little to long for my type of shooting (as the only lens to bring with me).
SMC Pentax-A 35-70/f3.5-4.5

K200D eqv. focal length: 52.5 - 105 mm

A compact and rather lightweight mid-range zoom. It delivers good images and takes little space, making it a good walk-around lens. the A-settings allows for full auto exposure. The zoom-action is of push-type.
Takumar Bayonet 135/f2.5

K200D eqv. focal length: 202.5 mm

A eBay-find for a decent price. Reading at forums gives the impression that this is a bad lens. The main reason is the lack of multi-coating, making it sensitive to flare. Extra care needs to be taken to protect the lens from tray light. If done right, it should produce nice images. The large aperture makes it a good low-light lens too.
SMC Pentax-A 35-105/f3.5

K200D eqv. focal length: 52.5 - 157.5 mm

This is my personal favorite. The lens generate amazing images with sharpness to kill for. Together with the DA 16-45, it is the base of my kit, covering 95% of my shooting. The lens is very well build, all metal. Due to that, it is rather heavy. The A-setting allows for full auto exposure if needed.
SMC Pentax-M 80-200/f4.5

K200D eqv. focal length: 120 - 300 mm

A decent tele-zoom with fixed aperture. Haven't used it that much but the few pictures I have seen from it are good (but not excellent). Sturdy built, rather compact but with one drawback: the push-action zoom creeps, making the lens shift if pointed up or down.
SMC Pentax-FA 28-200/f3.8-5.6

K200D eqv. focal length: 42 - 300 mm

This was my travel lens when I shot 35mm film. A good 7x zoom range made it useful. But the big zoom range did affect the image quality - the pictures were good but not perfect. It works fine (full auto, both focus and exposure) on the K200D, but the FOV magnification "destroys" the wide end, making it more like a normal to long tele lens. A bonus could be that only the best part of the lens is used (center part) - need to test that...
SMC Pentax-M Macro 100/f4.0

K200D eqv. focal length: 150 mm

A nice macro lens that become a little bit too long at the K200D. Still, it is useful as a short tele and the macro works but you need a steady hand (or a tripod). Fully manual on this one only.
SMC Pentax-M 135/f3.5

K200D eqv. focal length: 202.5 mm

A short tele that became a little bit longer. This lens was never used at the film time as zooms was more practical. So, I have no idea about performance. Fully manual only. Built-in lens hood - clever.
Takumar-A Zoom 28-80/f3.5-4.5

K200D eqv. focal length: 42 - 120 mm

A descent short zoom that works in automatic modes (manual focus only). Could be a nice addition to the 16-45, but I need to test it in some real situations first and see the results. The build quality is decent and it has a macro setting (magnification unknown).
Super-Takumar 55/f1.8

K200D eqv. focal length: 82.5 mm

An old classic that deserves it's place in the camera bag. An M42 lens that gives you a nice portrait FOV when placed on a DSLR. I haven't used it that much yet (tricky to mix M42 with K-bayonet in the same kit) but it should deliver very good pictures. As all M42 lenses, this must be run in stop-down mode with manual metering only (switch on lens must be set to "M").
Super-MC Macro-Takumar 50/f4.0

K200D eqv. focal length: 75 mm

The newest addition to my Pentax collection. A very compact macro prime lens with a capability of 1:2 magnification without any accessories. The lens is a M42, so an adapter is needed and stop-down metering is required. It should deliver very good images (experiences from other users).
Pentax Rear Converter K T6-2X

Not a real lens but an accessory that multiplies the attached lens' focal length. Useful together with tele lenses as an cheap way to go super tele. Of course, an image degradation is expected and you loose 2 stops.
Sigma 135-400/f4.5-5.6 APO

K200D eqv. focal length: 202.5 - 600 mm

This is the long-shooter that did a short job at Kennedy Space Center/Forida. A nice pic of the space shuttle at the launch pad was caught. Anyhow, with the new camera, the lens became even longer, making it a true super-tele. Must really try this one out in the wild. The lens is fully automatic, both focus and exposure.

In addition to the lenses above (and certany, there will be more in the future), I have some other accessories like extension tubes, macro converter and filters.

The Russian Zenit Photosniper

This is the most odd addition to my lens collection. A Russian made 300 mm lens fitted to something that resembles a rifle. Using it is like shooting a rifle too. The kit was found at and is mostly a collector item. But my idea is to convert it to be used with the Pentax K200D. That involves making the trigger to work with the camera. The lens itself is a Tair-3 300 mm, f:4.5 prime tele. The lens is also available as a regular lens that could be mounted on a tripod and used as any normal lens. My buy did not include the Zenit-ES camera and the Helios-44-2 lens (already got a Helios-44M) that should be included for a complete kit.

The operation of the Photosniper version of the Tair-3 (Tair-3 PhS) is rather different compared to a regular Tair-3 (that uses the classic barrel twist for focus and pre-set aperture with two rings). The focus is controlled by a large knob underneath the lens. When the whole thing is assembled, the knob ends up in the front section of the rifle stock, making it easy to operate without having to let go of the stock (see pictures below). The aperture is a rather strange thing as it is stopped down when the trigger is pressed. The red marked knob at the end of the lens cocks the aperture, opening it up all the way. At this point, it is possible to set the wanted aperture by turning the aperture ring. The fully open aperture allows for easier focusing too. When the trigger is pressed, the aperture is released and closed down to the pre-set value at the same time as the camera fires. The procedure has to be repeated before next shot is taken.

So, here are the pictures of the thing:

The steel case the lens came in. As you can see, there are space reserved for the missing camera and lens.

The parts that makes the Photosniper.

The focusing wheel. This allows for focusing the lens with the left hand kept on the stock.

Comparison of the two Tair-3 models.

The whole thing assembled.

Russian Fisheye - The MC Zenitar-K 16/2.8

Next up in the "strange" Russian lens collection is the Zenitar 16 mm fisheye. This lens is a fixed extreme wide angle lens with an largest aperture of f:2.8. The difference between a "normal" 16 mm wide angle lens (like my Pentax 16 - 45 zoom) and this lens is the image distorsion. You will have a heavy barrel distorsion of the image taken, making all lines bulging out on the sides. This is not a full circular fisheye lens as it produces images that covers the entire frame (some extreme fisheyes creates circular images with a view of 180 degrees). And due to the crop factor of the K200D, the fisheye effect is even less as this lens is designed for 35 mm film cameras.