November 2, 2013

but what does it all mean

I was excited about the new Pentax K-3. From the spec sheet it seemed like a good upgrade from my K-7, but there was a considerable gap between what was left of my bonus and the K-3's price. Then I saw this video and realized a couple things: 1) I don't know any dancers, and 2) apart from the weather sealing, it's more camera than I really need.

So I went another direction. The Pentax K-01, soundly derided by photo forum curmudgeons on its release, has been discontinued (although rumor has it that Ricoh is putting the blue ones back in production for the Japanese market), so it's pretty cheap right now. It has a chunky body, slightly odd ergonomics, and no optical viewfinder. But after giving it a try, several photographers have decided it's fun, and its sensor (APS-C, as in the K-5 series) and image quality have earned some respect. As one reviewer put it, "if you're looking for the least expensive way to get a camera with the world's best resolution APS sensor...the Pentax K-01 has no competition."

So, yeah, rather than trying to bridge the gap between my savings and the price of the K-3, I decided to use a couple of gift cards and the remains of my bonus to buy a discontinued K-01 body. Then I jumped on eBay and sniped a set of four old Super Takumar lenses: a 35mm f3.5, a 55mm f1.8, an SMC 135mm f3.5, and a 200mm f4. (All but the 135mm are pre-SMC lenses, so they're likely around 50 years old.) I've been playing with them for a couple days now; they all seem to be in great shape. The 55mm is pretty beat up. The knurling is worn and the focus ring is a little loose; it looks like it was the former owner's best-loved lens. The 135mm was horribly dusty on first sight, but it was all external; the foam lining of its case is deteriorating. I think the SMCs used a radioactive element in the coating - nothing at all to worry about healthwise (holding a cellphone to your head is probably a lot more dangerous), but enough to turn the case's foam to dust after 50 years. Once I cleaned it up, the lens seems to be in good shape. The 200mm is pristine, but I'm finding it difficult to use; there's no viewfinder on the K-01 so the lens is tricky to hold and focus. I might have to get a monopod or a loupe/shade to enjoy it. The 35mm f3.5 is an absolute gem, a very lucky find - by itself it's probably worth three times what I paid for the whole set of four.

So, that's what the italic notes on the last few pictures have been about; I'm trying to keep track of which lens is doing what. I'm having a lot of fun playing with them, but the 35mm is the clear leader so far.

Does this mean I'm going to give up the dream of owning a K-3 and a collection of fine Pentax HD lenses? Heck no. But in the meantime, for about a third of the price of a K-3 body, I'm gonna have me some fun. And yes, I'm still using the excellent MX-1; in fact, the more I use it, the better I like it. :)

On a side note - does anyone know how to turn off Google's new auto-enhance feature? (It changes things that I upload here in unexpected ways...might have to think about a different blogging platform. Ugh. Later.)


  1. Replies
    1. I did a little more research; the 135mm didn't use the radioactive stuff, but the 55mm did. (They used thorium oxide in the glass, not the coating.) So, yeah, the case degradation is probably the result of something else. Might have gotten wet at some point. Who knows? And I probably won't use the 55mm much anyway - I have a 50mm f1.7 that's much easier to work with.

  2. I hate...and love...reading reviews before buying a new many choices!! I usually mess it up but exciting trying to Russian Roulette!