mjbamigo's reviews

  • Pentax 100-300mm f/4.7-5.8 SMC P-FA

    7 out of 10 points and recommended
    Light weight, compact design for a 300mm lens, solid feel, and contrast and color
    All-plastic construction, including even the lens mount, long minimum focus distance, soft at its closest zoom, and a slow autofocus

    Pentax has a tempting offer in the smc P-FA 100-300 F4.7-5.8. It's a powerful 3x zoom lense covering a very useful telephoto range and stated on Pentax's Web site as "ideal... for sports and wildlife photography." It is, once locked in place, a joy to use, and almost as "ideal" as promised.

    On first touch, the lens feels sturdy, but just a bit toy-like. It doesn't hide its impressive zoom range. Turn the wide, rubbery zoom ring and thin focus ring to send the front element extending an impressive 6.5cm on a wobbly barrel. Its exterior is completely plastic-made, right down to its bayonette mount but has an attractive, gold-tint to its silver finish. Teamed with any of Pentax's camera bodies, this lens certainly has a sideline-sportsphotographer-pro look to it, although in miniture scale.

    In use, the lense is easy to operate. The zoom ring is very comfortable and responsive. The whole 3x range can be explored by just rolling its grippy barrel back and forth between thumb and middle finger. The focus ring is smaller and far forward on the body of the lens, but provides a smooth rubber ring for traction and works well to focus fine-tuning with light touches from your index finger.

    Both rings, and particularly the zoom ring, have a nice amount of resistence and will never allow the long barrel to creep out while the camera is slung on your back.

    To add three quibbles about this lens's focus ring, though, let me add my frustration that: first, the lense can not be manually focused unless the MF/AF switch on any of Pentax's camera bodies is in the manual focus mode. It has no clutch action like many other Pentax lenses; and second, the ring is small, smooth, and very far forward on the barrel. Occationally, I find myself squinting through the view-finder and running-a finger up and down the lens, searching for the manual focus. Finally, when it comes time to accesorize, my polarizing filter will stay in place when zooming, which does not rotate the front element, but will rotate off-axis with the focus ring which does turn the front of the lens.

    I have been been using this lense for two years and have enjoyed it. Especially when I have had the chance to take it along waterskiing. Perched on the back of the boat with a sporty subject dragging behind, there is no better lens for the price. It combines very well with the sport setting on my *ist DS, holding focus and grabbing nice sharp, colorful shots of aquatic acrobatics. When this zoom range (100-300mm or about 150-450mm on my *ist DS) is combined with a subject held with a rope, literally, at a specific distance on a sunny afternoon, very nice results are sure to follow. This is THE Pentax lense for water skiers or wakeboarders.

    Also, for the occational bird or flower shot , this lens will deliver nice color and contrast, especially, I find, pleasing blues and greens. My shots come out a little too soft at the extreme zoom end. Thoughout the zoom range, they need more "smart sharpen" in Photoshop CS2 than pictures from the 18-55mm ubiquitous kit lens and especially from my favorite Pentax lens, a classic smc P-F 50mm F1.7. If shooting JPEGS, I would humbly suggest increasing your Pentax camera's on-board sharpening at least a notch when this lense is fitted.

    In bright light, it transmits lots of color, and keeps lens flare to a minimum (which is nice, because there is no hood). During long exposures, lights in a scene will turn to highlights on the sensor without turning into excessive little star shapes. (Which is a bummer for shooting a pretty tree decked with Christmas lights).

    What this lense is absolutely not is a macro lens. Pentax says its minimum focus distance is 4.9feet, and I will verify that nothing within arms reach is within focus range.

    It is also not the lense for fading light. If you do not already have a tripod, this would be the lens to encourage you to get one. I regret, however, not having had the opportunity to test this lense with a "Shake Reduction" equipped camera body like the K10D, K100D, or K110D.

    One last complaint, but a serious one, the smc P-FA 100-300 F4.7-5.8 is not spectacularly fast at focussing. I find the little rubber ring frequently, and noisily, spinning back and forth throughout its whole travel, hunting for a subect. I hope that newer bodies from Pentax (besides my *ist DS) perform better in this respect.

    To sum it up, this is a solid-feeling zoom that will give your Pentax camera a little "pro-ness" at sporting events and out on the trail without being a huge investment. It can often deliver very nice results, though is limited in its flexibility by a long minimus focus distance and slow auto focus. Especially if, in addition to your love of photography, you happen to be a water skier or wakeboarder, I highly recommend this lens.

    reviewed November 14th, 2006 (purchased for $275)
  • Pentax 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SMC P-DA

    7 out of 10 points and recommended
    very sturdy, compact, and a fast focus
    optical quality is not top notch

    This is the kit lens that came with my *istDS, and I've used it a LOT. I got so used to it and it's results, that when I switched to using a 50mm prime instead, I was blown away by the saturation, contrast, and sharp photos that the 18-55 can NOT do. So, bottom line in terms of image quality, this is not a spectacular lens.

    However, it is a great little size to carry around and covers the perfect zoom range for most settings. It's very nicely built, sturdy and rugged. It feels much more substantial than the equivalents I've tried from Sigma or even Nikon. I love having a REAL FOCUS RING. Some lenses these days don't.

    Also, it focuses fast and works perfectly with my TTL flash. It's a little limiting in terms of aperture, but nice in good lighting.

    Also, one "CON" that I really enjoy is the distortion at the lens's wide end. Towards 18mm, it does do a subtle fish-eye effect on my *istDS, which, I think is really cool. It's made for some cool, slightly distorted shots. Photos I've taken that feature tile surfaces really emphasize the effect, it's weird. If you're shooting architecture, maybe this is not your lens.

    So, it's a full little lens that is sturdy and handy. It's not a good choice for taking full advantage of your Pentax SLR's sharpness or contrast, but it's so easy.

    reviewed January 14th, 2007 (purchased for $100)
  • Pentax 50mm f/1.4 SMC P-FA

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Contrast, Color, and Sharpness
    slow focus for a prime, weird, plasticy body

    This was an upgrade from my 15-55 kit lens. It is absolutely worth it. I miss the wide range, 50mm on a cropping DSLR makes it a right-up-in-your-face view on most things. Now that I'm been shooting with this, I think I'll start saving for a wider Pentax prime.

    But I had no idea my *istDS could get such results. The pictures are sharp and contrasty. It's bright; the pictures, and even the viewfinder are much more light than with the 18-55mm. The photos seem to glow.

    highly recommended.... (also consider one of Pentax's older versions. I have a beautiful 50mm f1.7 that also gets very nice results. Pentax, though, seems to have a tradition of building these things in a strange, plastic casing..)

    reviewed January 14th, 2007