Category: Reviews

A couple of lenses

Well my next purchase is going to be one of these. The only problem at the moment is money – they’re expensive. I guess I will have to look at the second hand market – there are good deals to be had.

Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4.5 DC Macro Lens – Pentax – £245.00 inc. 15% VAT

sigma17-70mmmacroThe Sigma 17-70mm DC Macro is a large aperture standard zoom lens designed specially for digital SLR cameras. The lens is ideally suited for a wide variety of subjects and is designed specifically for digital SLR cameras featuring APS-C size image sensors.

This revolutionary lens has a minimum focusing distance of 20cm (7.9”) throughout the entire zoom range. A maximum magnification of 1:2.3 enables extreme close-up photography. An impressive achievement for a standard zoom lens.

The new lens design and multi-layer lens coating reduce flare and ghosting, a common problem with digital cameras. A Special Low Dispersion (SLD) lens and two aspherical lens elements provide excellent correction for all types of aberrations and produce a high level of optical performance throughout the entire zoom range.

This lens offers a large F2.8 aperture at 17mm wide angle and yet it is compact, with an overall length of just 82.5mm (3.2”) and diameter of 79mm (3.1”). Performance is superb, even in relatively low light conditions indoors or at dusk.

The lens is equipped with an inner focusing system, which prevents the front element from rotating making it particularly suitable for petal shaped hoods and circular polarizing filters. The lens is also equipped with a zoom lock that eliminates ‘zoom creep’ during transit.

Maximum aperture: f/2.8.
Minimum aperture: f/22.
Angle of View: 72.4-20.2 degrees.
Weight: 455g.
Dimensions (Length x Diameter): 82.5mm x 79mm.
Filter size: 72mm.

Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC Macro Lens – Pentax – £315.00 inc. 15% VAT

sigma18-50mmThe Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC Macro lens is specially designed to suit the characteristics of digital SLR cameras and provides a high level of optical performance. It has a large aperture of F2.8 throughout the entire zoom range, offers superior peripheral brightness as well as a compact and lightweight construction. A maximum magnification of 1:3, makes this lens ideal for close-up photography.

This large aperture standard zoom lens, with close-up ability, is ideal for all types of photography including portraits, landscapes and snap shots. The constant large aperture enables easy confirmation of focusing through a bright viewfinder. This lens is perfectly suited for low light conditions indoors or at dusk.

Special Low Dispersion (SLD) and Extraordinary Low Dispersion (ELD) glass elements provide excellent correction of colour aberrations. This lens produces an exceptional level of optical performance. This lens has excellent correction for vignetting, a common problem with large aperture lenses. Its new design ensures superior peripheral brightness. The super multi-layer lens coating reduces flare and ghosting. High image quality is assured throughout the entire zoom range.

Its design incorporates both glass-mould and hybrid aspherical lens technology which offers a compact and lightweight construction. The lens is also equipped with an inner focusing system. The non-rotating front lens element makes the lens suitable for using its petal-type lens hood and circular polarising filters.

Maximum aperture: f/2.8.
Minimum aperture: f/22.
Angle of View: 69.3-27.9 degrees.
Weight: 450g.
Dimensions (Length x Diameter): 85.8mm x 79mm.
Filter size: 72mm.

I may go for the latter one because of the f2.8 throughout the range. I need to think about this and also check out the second hand market.


Pentax K10d

frontview-001’s views on the K10d. Perhaps my next upgrade!!!

Conclusion – Pros

  • Smooth clean images with good color and tone, not as crisp as we would like
  • Robust body with dust and weather seals, high build quality
  • Accurate and fast auto-focus
  • Unique exposure modes; sensitivity, shutter/aperture priority, hyper program
  • Selectable program lines; Normal, Hi speed, Depth and MTF (lens sharpness)
  • Good range of image parameter adjustment (-5 to +5 for each)
  • Dedicated RAW button a useful addition
  • Selectable RAW format (PEF or DNG)
  • Unlimited continuous shooting in JPEG mode
  • Occasionally useful ‘digital preview’ allows you to take a test shot which isn’t saved
  • User definable Auto ISO (set minimum and maximum ISO)
  • Good built-in flash metering
  • Large and bright Pentaprism viewfinder (0.95x magnification)
  • In-camera Shake Reduction system offers some advantage in low light
  • Dust reduction by anti-static coating and optional sensor ‘shake’
  • Mirror lock-up implemented as part of the self-timer
  • Function menu for quick access to important settings (although hard buttons are better)
  • Large, bright and high resolution LCD monitor
  • Good battery life from high capacity Lithium-Ion rechargeable
  • Proper hinged doors covering the connectors (not the cheap rubber bungs)
  • In-camera RAW development and image retouching (B&W, Sepia, Soft etc.)
  • USB 2.0 Hi-Speed interface (with mass storage device driver)
  • Value for money

Conclusion – Cons

  • In-camera image processor unable to deliver crisp sharp edges, better to shoot RAW
  • About a third of a stop less highlight dynamic range than the competition
  • Slightly inconsistent continuous shooting rate (although always around 3.1 fps)
  • Would have been nice to have hard buttons for White Balance and ISO sensitivity
  • Turning up sharpness setting doesn’t deliver crisper edges
  • Average automatic white balance performance, still very poor under incandescent light
  • Flash must be raised for AF assist (although AF works even in very low light)
  • Color space selection buried in custom menu

Overall conclusion

My first impressions of the K10D were very positive, a well designed and robust body with a clearly extensive range of manual functions and a fairly logical control layout. The positive experience continued in use with the large, bright Pentaprism viewfinder, fast auto focus and short lag times. Menus and playback are equally as snappy although I personally found the connected 4-way controller less easy to use than the K100D’s four separate buttons.

The K10D’s advantages over the competition are fairly clear; dust and weather seals, in-camera Shake Reduction which delivers at least some low light advantage with all your lenses, selectable RAW file format (although both are 10MB+), user definable Auto ISO, digital preview and those unique sensitivity-priority and shutter/aperture-priority exposure modes. It’s a camera which should provide more than sufficient ‘gadget satisfaction’ for even the most demanding shutterbug.

When we reviewed the K100D we thought Pentax had got their image processing just right, however the single element of the entire K10D equation which left us scratching our heads was just that. Either a poorly implemented demosaicing algorithm or a strange choice of sharpening parameters means that while the K10D’s JPEG images have plenty of ‘texture’ they can lack the edge sharpness we’re used to seeing from semi-pro digital SLR’s.

Pentax may well have been aiming for a smooth film-like appearance but I at least feel that the inability to tweak this out by increasing sharpness is a mistake. That said it’s unlikely you’ll see this difference in any print up to A3 size, it’s a 100% view thing so you have to decide if that’s important to you or not. To get that absolute crisp appearance you’ll need to shoot RAW, and use Adobe Camera RAW or another third party converter (as the supplied converter produces similar results to the camera).

With the criticism out of the way we return to the K10D as a ‘photographic tool’, something it does very well. It’s a camera you get used to very quickly and never really leaves you searching for the correct setting or control. It’s also a camera you can grow into, the unique exposure modes are both creatively interesting and useful, a range of options such as this encourage you to experiment. At just under $900 it’s a very strong proposition, so despite our reservations about the slightly soft image processing the K10D just achieves a Highly Recommended.

Panasonic Lumix 2

This is what has to say about it…

lx2frontback-0011The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 is an evolution of a very unique, innovative and intriguing camera, the DMC-LX1. The new model has the important addition of a 16:9 wide-screen LCD which matches the sensor, making the DMC-LX2 a true wide-screen camera. It still offers a choice of image aspects, from wide-screen 16:9 to the more conventional 4:3., so if you are interested in panoramic photography, but also want to take “normal” images (albeit at a reduced resolution), then the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 is a great choice. Other improvements over the original DMC-LX1 are less noteworthy – you may not use the extra scene modes, for example. The DMC-LX2 is actually a backwards step in some respects, most notably the fastest shutter speed which drops from 1/4000th to 1/2000th, and slower continuous shooting. The DMC-LX2 still offers a wealth of advanced features that all serious photographers will love, with a faster RAW mode and better software.

The one area where I hoped that Panasonic would make significant improvements was image quality, specifically the issue of noise, and that’s certainly something that Panasonic claim to have rectified, with the introduction of the new Venus III image processing engine and an extended ISO range of 100-1600. Unfortunately the DMC-LX2 carries on the same old unwanted Panasonic tradition. Previous Lumix models have suffered from noisy images at relatively slow ISO speeds, and I’m afraid the DMC-LX2 with its 10 megapixel sensor is no exception. As Panasonic have attempted to keep up with their competitors by increasing the megapixel count, they have also had to try and hide the increased noise levels. The slowest ISO speed of 100 on the DMC-LX2 is perfectly fine, but ISO 200, which isn’t exactly a fast speed, displays some noise, with ISO 400 being both noisy and blurred as the camera attempts to mask the noise. ISO 800 and 1600 should simply be avoided if possible. Panasonic claim that they have “dramatically reduced the noise levels that challenged its predecessor”, the DMC-LX1, but only by introducing a water-like quality to images shot at ISO 400 and faster. The optical image stabilisation system partially makes up for the noise problems, in that you can take a photo at a slower ISO speed and therefore a slower shutter speed, and still get sharp results, without adversely affecting the battery life too much. But it isn’t a complete solution. Panasonic’s other attempt to alleviate the noise issue, the new High Sensitivity mode which provides a fastest ISO speed of 3200, is not successful because the image resolution is automatically reduced, resulting in much smaller print sizes.

The persistent noise issue unfortunately therefore makes the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 a premium-priced product that doesn’t produce premium results. Although cheaper than the LX1 was at launch, you have to remind yourself that this camera costs just over £300, which is nearly as much as a Nikon D50 DSLR with a kit lens (which has fallen in price over the last year). Without all that noise, the DMC-LX2 would be an expensive but still unique and worthwhile purchase. As things stand, I would wait for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 and hope that Panasonic cures the achilles heel of the DMC-LX2.

Leica C-Lux 2

leica-c-lux-23The Leica C-Lux 2 is a 7.2 million effective pixel digital point-and-shoot camera equipped with 3.6x optical zoom (28 – 100mm) Leica DC zoom lens wit integrated optical stabilizer, high-sensitivity ISO mode of 3200, and 2.5″ LCD screen. The camerais measuring in at 94.9 x 51.9 x 22 mm (3.7 x 2 x 9 inches), weighing 154 g (5.4 oz) and it’s running on Lithium-ion battery (capacity: 300 shots).


PopPhoto reviews the Leica C-Lux 2 and writes;
“The camera body is slim and very attractive with its sleek black or silver finish. The C-LUX 2 is heavy enough to feel solid and durable but light enough to feel comfortable in your hand or even shirt pocket…For the die-hard Leica fan, the C-LUX 2 offers a good feature set in a very attractive design, but unless you’re dead-set on your next pocket digicam bearing the famous red dot, it may be difficult to justify the steep price when there’s a Panasonic version for half the price.
Rating: N/A

PhotoReview reviews the Leica C-Lux 2 and writes;
“Pictures from the test camera were sharp, with natural-looking colours and a wider than average dynamic range. Unlike the Panasonic FX07 camera we reviewed last year, the C-Lux 2 did not produce colour shifts with high ISO settings in dim lighting or with flash. Image noise was, however, visible at ISO 400 and above, although it wasn’t particularly obvious until the top (ISO 1250) setting… Close-ups taken with the Macro scene mode contained plenty of detail and rich, attractive colours… Movie clips were similar to those produced by the FX07 and recordings captured at 30 fps looked smooth in both the 4:3 and 16:9 formats.”
Rating: ★★★★☆

PhotoPressUK has a preview of the Leica C-Lux 2;
“Rather than opt for the almost crazy defacto 10 megapixels, Leica has only gone for 7 megapixels and the results benefit from that. The images we took were on the standard auto “best shot” setting did suffer from being incredibly out of focus to start with to only slightly out of focus by the end (see images). We think this might have been due to our surprise at the speed the camera took the images and the far from ideal lighting conditions of the setting (bright lights in an exhibition hall). However what we’ve seen so far looks appealing, certainly from a design and functionality point of view. The camera was easy to use and the menus. Buttons are left to a minimum and all the relevant information is displayed on screen.”

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