This section of the site is devoted to descriptions and comments on the equipment that I use for my photography.
I freely admit that I am more comfortable with the technical aspects of my hobby than I am with the artistic side; I find it relatively easy to determine the technical merit of a photo (is it properly exposed, in focus, etc.), but difficult to decide whether it is 'good' image. It isn't just my pictures that I have this problem with - I try to look critically at the many thousands of images that are presented to me in newspapers, magazines, on TV, on websites and so on, but find it very difficult judge their relative artistic merit.
Consequently, you will not find much discussion of the art of photography (the 'why') on these pages, but if you are concerned with the 'what' and the 'how' then I hope you will find something of interest.
Steve Morton August 2009
The Pentax K10D has gone into well-earned retirement, and has been replaced by a SONY SLT55V. So far, I'm very happy with the change, and will write up my reasons for changing, and my experiences with the SLT55V 'real soon now'!
From mid 2007 until early 2011, my main camera was a Pentax K10D DSLR.
I'm not going to list all the features and functions of the camera - for anyone interested, there is a comprehensive review on the DPReview site here.
I bought the camera in the autumn of 2007, and have shot more than 5000 images with it since then. Almost all the pictures on this site have been taken with it - the exceptions are the Marc and Amy Wedding galleries, and the Taw Estuary gallery, which were taken with a Canon 10D.
Why the Pentax?
The Pentax replaced a Canon 10D that I had used since early 2003. The 6 megapixel sensor of the Canon was starting to limit the quality of my prints, particularly as I often crop down from the original image, and, when combined with Tamron 24-135mm lens that I used most of the time, the weight was becoming irritating when we were walking. And, I had retired from work and moved to North Devon in 2007, there was a little bit of money left in the kitty after the financial dust had settled, and so the decision to replace the Canon was made.
I had always secretly lusted after the Canon 5D full frame DSLR, and had made a point of only buying full-frame capable lenses for the 10D, but unfortunately, the kitty wouldn't stretch that far. I was unimpressed with Canon's other mid-range offerings - the 40D, which was the updated equivalent of the 10D at the time didn't seem to offer much more in spec terms, apart from a higher resolution sensor, and was as heavy as the 10D. Their lighter cameras (the 350D then) didn't offer the strength and build quality that I was looking for - I do occasionally treat my cameras rather roughly, when hiking through thunderstorms, for example! I therefore looked around to see what else was available.
Other than Canon, I found very few suppliers of mid-range DSLR's that attracted me - Canon was clearly the market leader at that time, and nothing else seemed to come close in terms of specs, build quality or price, until I came across the Pentax.
I had used a Pentax film SLR (an ME Super, if memory serves) for many years throughout the late 1970's and '80's, and had fond memories of its responsiveness, light weight, and sheer usability. The previous Pentax DSLR offerings were burdened with a silly name (the *ist, which is a lot easier to type than it is to say) and mediocre specs, but the review sites and magazines were getting quite excited about the K10D, which had been launched in the UK earlier in 2007.
For me, the specifications of the K10D that stood out were:
- metal, weather sealed body
- shake reduction in the camera body
- light(ish) weight
- 10 megapixel sensor
- ability to create .dng format raw files
- compatibility with many older Pentax lenses
Several suppliers were offering the K10D body with two lenses (the usual 18-55mm kit lens, and a 55-250mm tele zoom) at a good price, and since I obviously couldn't use my Canon lenses, this looked like a good deal, and so I placed my order.
The camera and lenses arrived a few days later - with a French manual, which rather confused me! However, an English version was available on the Pentax UK web site, and so, after a bit of intensive study, I was ready to go.
First impressions of the camera were all positive. With either of the 'kit' lenses fitted, the camera was much lighter than the Canon, and it had the 'feel' that I remembered from my old ME Super. It is difficult to pin this down to one or several features, but the camera felt (and still feels) 'eager' to take pictures. It must be a combination of the feel and layout of the controls, and the size, grip and balance of the camera.
The viewfinder was a revelation - large, bright and clear, and displaying useful information. There is a lot more functionality in the in-camera software than I was used to with the Canon, and the menu structure was no worse than that of other DSLR's. The most used functions (ISO, white balance etc.) are available from a 'Function' button without having to go through the main menus, and other dedicated buttons and switches give access to metering modes, auto-focus and so on.
Two and a half years on
After more than 6000 exposures, I have no regrets about my decision to go with the Pentax. The camera has been completely reliable, and has never let me down, in spite of some moderately serious abuse! Battery life (using either the original Pentax battery and a Hahnel backup) remains excellent - even though I usually carry both (fully charged) batteries with me, I've never had to change one in the field, even on a full days shooting of serveral hundred frames. This is a pleasant change from the Canon batteries, which died after a year or so and had to be replaced.
One early task was upgrading the firmware from the v1.1 that the camera was shipped with to v1.3, which remains the current release. This was a trouble-free process, and gave access to many more facilities, including wireless flash operation.
The image stabilisation system continues to works well, although, of course, it is not a complete 'cure-all' for camera shake! An unexpected benefit is the efficacy of the dust removal system (which uses the same sensor moving mechanics to shake any dust off the sensor). Although I have had some dust spots on photos, it is MUCH less of a problem than it was on the Canons. I have a sensor cleaning kit, consisting of Pec Pads and methanol, which I have had to use twice since I started to use the Pentax - I had to clean the Canon 10D sensor every month or so!
The camera continues to be pleasant to use, even more so now that I am comfortable with the controls and software.
Nothing is perfect, of course, and problems have appeared as well. One that drove me to distraction early on was the inability of the camera to take a photo with a level horizon. I would set it carefully on a tripod, level it with a spirit level, and still the horizon would be tilting downhill from left to right. It is easy to fix in Lightroom, and I have just got used to it now, but I did come across some correspondance suggesting that this is a known problem with the K10D.
The autofocus performance is not aa good as I would wish. In particular, it does poorly when tracking moving subjects, and is mechanically noisy. I find that I am using manual focus much more now than I used to, which is probably a good thing, but I sorely miss the viewfinder focussing aids (split prism rangefinders and microprisms) that were provided in all SLR's at one time. The K10D does allow the viewfinder screen to be changed, but Pentax offer only two other choices, differing only in the screen markings. There are third party screens available (all from the Far East, it appears) that do provide the more traditional focussing aids, but they seem to be cheaply made plastic devices.
This site was originally created to the share pictures that I took on a very wet scrambling expedition in North Wales with the other people on the trip, and the first version went live in May 2005. I have since removed the gallery that contained those pictures, as we are no longer in contact with the people involved. In those days, I had a rudimentary understanding of HTML, and this was enough to hack the web galleries produced by Photoshop into a complete site.
Then came my stepson Marc's wedding in November 2006. Marc's lovely bride is Amy, who is American, and although some of her family were able to attend the wedding in the UK, many were not, and so I added all the wedding pictures to the site so that they could share the day.
Progess to date