The history of photography is littered with famous names, some of whom survived and prospered: Nikon, Canon, Fuji and many that perished: Kodak, Contax, Minolta. Between these two extremes lie a handful of other brands such as Olympus and Pentax whose fans have experienced an emotional rollercoaster in a way that perhaps only England football supporters can truly understand. In fact the heyday of Pentax coincided with the supremacy of English football in 1966. In the 1960's Pentax utterly dominated 35mm film camera production - theirs were the SLR's personally used by all four Beatles, David Bailey shot the most legendary fashion shoot in history (Jean Shrimpton in New York) on a Pentax and he used a Pentax or a Rolleiflex for all of his most iconic fashion shoots throughout the swinging sixties. Don McCuillin probably the greatest war photographer of the century used Pentax cameras to cover the Vietnam war for some of the most intense photographs ever committed to film. From the streets of New York to the miniskirts of swinging London and into the jungles of the Far East in their heyday Pentax cameras reigned supreme in a way that no camera manufacturer has approached since.
Ringo was always an enthusiastic photographer and keen Pentax user
As was Paul McCartney
Pentax's journey to SLR supremacy had its foundations in their pioneering refinement of the single lens reflex camera. They took the early German single lens reflex designs of the Ihagee Kine Exakta of 1936, the Contax S of 1949 and the pioneering work of Praktica and designed the first Japanese 35mm single lens reflex - the Asahiflex 1 in 1951. The Asahiflex used the Zeiss/Contax S screw mount which later came to be known as the Pentax screw mount. It wasn't until the Asahiflex IIb of 1954 that Pentax really caused a sensation however by eliminating the viewfinder blackout that blighted SLR's until their development of the instant return mirror. This invention ended the supremacy of the rangefinder and ushered in the era of the single lens reflex. Pentax remained the biggest selling SLR camera until well into the 1980's as a review of their lens line-up in the late 1980's will attest. The Pentax lens range at that time was the most comprehensive range of optics ever offered by any manufacturer in history. The catalogue listed no less than four 50mm prime's at f1.2, f1.4, f1.7 and f2.0 and four 135mm lenses at f1.8, f2.5, f2.8 and f3.5. All extremes of focal length were catered for from the 15mm f3.5 fisheye through the 20mm f2.8, and both f2 and f2.8 versions of the 24mm and 28mm lengths. At the telephoto end you could buy 200mm lenses at f2.8 and f4, 300mm at f2.8 and f4.0, 400mm at f2.8 and f5.6, 500mm at f4.5, 600mm at f5.6, 1000mm and 1200mm both at f8 and a range of catadioptric telephotos at both 1000 and 2000mm. It's worth noting that nobody in the photographic world even makes such lenses anymore. Not only that but Pentax went on to design the cult 31mm, 43mm and 77mm limited lenses posessed of such stellar optical quality and build they were widely regarded as perhaps the finest lenses ever made for a 35mm camera.
The stellar Pentax 77mm f1.8 Limited, widely regarded as one of the finest portrait lenses ever made
Combine that with the fact that Pentax had pioneered the development of the world's first lens multicoating to reduce reflection and refraction in lenses in 1971 with the seven layer SMC (Super Multi Coating) process. This achievement was initially proclaimed by Nikon as impossible because at the time their lenses were coated with from one to four layers of coating and even that was pushing the technology of the time to its limits. After the announcement of SMC, Nikon, Canon and Zeiss elected to pay Pentax a license fee to use the Pentax process which made multi-layer coating commercially viable for the first time. Alongside the ubiquitous Pentax 'K bayonet' mount which was practically an industry standard and was used under licence by several other manufacturers Pentax were also marketing a full range of 645 and 6x7 cameras and associated medium format system lenses to accompany them. In terms of accessories there were multiple motordrives, databacks, bellows units, ringflashes and the like to cater for even the most obscure photographic need. The range was as lavish and extravagant as the haute couture it frequently photographed. During the seventies the Pentax corporate calendar was shot by the great Sam Haskyns in locations spanning the globe and on sets worthy of a Bond movie. Such indulgence for a mere corporate calendar would be equivalent today to an organisation hiring Steven Spielberg to direct its latest TV commercial.
Sadly Pentax pre-eminence was not to last and the late 1970's saw the rise of Canon who successfully used Nikon's strategy of enticing professional photographers to use their equipment and in doing so they created a halo around their brand very successfully. The Canon camera you bought with some cheap consumer lenses bore little relation to the professional grade Canon F1 that the pro's were shooting on Wimbledon centercourt at the time, but people wanted to be seen shooting what the pro's were using and in marketing terms that was enough to swing the market in Canon and Nikon's favour. Pentax were late to that particular party with the professionally orientated Pentax LX of 1980. It was an amazing film SLR and often cited as arguably the most capable professional 35mm film camera of them all but it was too little too late and Pentax failed to get it into the hands of enough top line pro's to make a difference.
The magnificent Pentax LX
In 1975 Steven Sasson an engineer at Eastman Kodak built the world's first digital camera but it wasn't until the the mid 1990's that the technology became mainstream with a range of compact digital cameras marketed by Sony, Konica, and Fuji amongst others. The sensors in these early devices were far smaller than 35mm film because the technology to build a full frame digital sensor did not exist. Pentax saw an opportunity to develop the world's first full frame digital SLR and embarked on a project with Phillips to develop what became the Pentax MZ-D. The resulting camera was first shown at the 2000 Photokina show where it caused a sensation as the world's first full frame digital SLR - years before Nikon and Canon attempted the same feat. The project was however cancelled before launch because Pentax were unhappy with the performance of the Phillips sensor. Contax pressed on with the same sensor and launched the Contax N1 the world's first commercially manufactured full frame DSLR but it didn't perform particularly well and essentially led to the closure of the Kyocera Contax imaging division and the end of an iconic camera brand. Pentax retreated from professionally orientated digital cameras licking their wounds and left the field open to Nikon, Kodak and Canon which further eroded their market share.
Pentax MZ-D - world's first full frame DSLR
It wasn't until 2002 - a full two years after the Pentax MZ-D that Canon and Kodak prototyped a full frame digital SLR. Canon showed their EOS 1Ds and Kodak followed with the Kodak DCS Pro 14N released in 2003. How different the market might have looked now if Pentax had taken the market by storm with the MZ-D in 2002! Canon and Nikon probably owe their professional and consumer market dominance in the 21st century to the fact that Pentax withdrew from full frame digital at the dawn of the millenium. Nikon went full frame with the D3 of 2007 while Pentax released their first crop format DSLR the bizzarely named 'Ist D' in 2003 and continued to market only crop/APSC format cameras throughout the first decade of the 21st century. This reluctance to develop a full frame digital SLR frustrated many of Pentax's most loyal fans. Those who wanted to upgrade to full frame digital for its superior light gathering potential plus the ability to use their lens collection to the full were forced to defect from Pentax and move to Canon or Nikon making the expensive decision to sell their prized Pentax lenses in order to start again with a different system.
It was sad to see a once great camera brand losing its way, facing declining sales and disappearing from many high street stores. Eventually Pentax was purchased by Hoya in 2007 who wanted the medical imaging division. Under Hoya Pentax imaging division saw its main production plant in Tokyo closed and many of its engineers were laid off. The merger did produce some fruitful endeavour however and the Pentax K7 and K5 series were developed and launched during that time and were warmly welcomed as fine examples of the APSC breed. Pentax also launched the medium format digital 645D which caused something of a sensation as a relatively affordable and excellent medium format professional camera. Having failed to make any serious inroads into Canon and Nikon's market dominance Hoya decided to sell Pentax imaging to Ricoh corporation in 2011 and a new exciting chapter in Pentax history began.
Ricoh is a true giant of the imaging business employing 110 000 staff worldwide in a diverse range of business areas primarily concerned with office technology and imaging. In many ways its nearest equivalent is Canon who also have a large office technology business. Ricoh enjoys the largest market share in most territories in office equipment whereas Canon cameras out-sell Pentax in most territories worldwide. Overall the Canon group are slightly larger than Ricoh but both dwarf Nikon who lack a similarly diverse range of businesses and whose primary activity is camera and lens manufacture. In short Pentax are now owned by a powerful global organisation with ambitious plans and crucially they have retained many of the original Pentax engineers and employees. This will ensure continuity and makes them a very credible force again in photography.
It's important to understand a little of this background to appreciate the significance and origins of the Pentax K1. Pentax are a company who have frequently pioneered radical technology and design approaches and have a unique perspective on what is needed to take great photographs. Their bodies are the toughest, best weathersealed and most ruggedly built of any camera manufacturer. We live on a planet where rain is commonplace (I should know - I'm British!) but few Nikon, Canon and Sony bodies or lenses are weathersealed - and arguably those that are don't reach Pentax standards in this regard. Pentax in common with Nikon use Sony imaging sensors because they're the best in the world but then tweak them and often manage to get better perfomance out of them than any SLR using the same sensor. Pentax bodies and lenses are smaller to store and transport than any other competing SLR system and don't bother looking for any equivalents to the Pentax limited prime lens range because you won't find them anywhere! On a Pentax camera the shake reduction is built into the body not the lens which means you get the benefit of stabilisation on every lens you ever use - even vintage ones and the lenses are both cheaper and lighter too. As an example of why I like in body stabilisation: Canon don't offer an f2.8 stabilised lens in the critical 24-70mm focal length range. This is precisely the lens that a wedding pro might use in a dimly lit church or a fashion photographer might use in low light location shoots. The K1 has a plethora of other useful technology too - the body is the first SLR in the world with on board illumination to assist any photographer shooting during the hours of darkness - and lets face it 'night' is a popular photographic subject! Aside from looking like the docking lights on the USS Enterprise which is insanely cool, it's a feature of great use too when shooting at gigs or shows when the house lights are dimmed. After all Volkswagen don't market cars without headlights so why expect a photographer to see in the dark? What do the other manufacturers do - advise their customers to eat more carrots?
In short the Pentax K1 has more technology built into it than any other DSLR on the market. None of this is technology for technology's sake though - the articulated screen is an utterly unique solution to the problem that photographers often have when shooting macro or landscape which is that nobody really wants to have to lie down in mud or on filthy pavement to compose a ground level shot. It also permits waist level shooting in studio and facilitates candid portraiture too. Want to record the location of your shoots so you can always return to a favourite poppy field you found three years ago?? Me too - and I bet there are lots of photographers out there who'd love to be able to do that. If you shoot rival full frames presumably at that point you take out your quill and ink and log the position or draw a map like Christopher Columbus did when he discovered the new world! If you're lucky enough to have a K1 though you just turn on the GPS function and the K1 will automatically append the latitude and longitude to the EXIF data. If you're shooting a (fairly) still life for an advertising billboard poster where quality is critical simply turn on pixel shift mode and the K1 will shoot 4 pictures moving the sensor by one pixel width for each one and will then composite them together instantly to build a picture file which comfortably outperforms even the best medium format designs. Think of it as a (4x36) 144 megapixel sensor and you're on the right track.
Shooting MimiG with the Pentax K1 and HD D-FA 24-70mm f2.8 SDM
Have you ever wanted to take pictures of the night sky or stars but have found them smeared across the sky in your long exposure photographs? Well now there's a way without needing to spend £2000 on an equatorial telescope mount - the K1 combines its pixel shift technology and GPS position to compensate for the movement of the stars. What is so exciting is that Pentax have looked carefully at what photographers do on a daily basis and looked for ways to make it easier for them to accomplish those tasks. The K1 is nothing less than a ground up re-examination of the design goals of a serious camera system. The K1 is a landmark creation, nothing less.
Let's turn then to image quality. Pentax have a long track record of taking Sony's best of breed sensors and getting the highest performance out of them. I've been shooting the K1 for the past three weeks on a wide range of different subjects but especially models in studio and on location. I have found the image quality and clarity nothing short of astounding. When you zoom into a subject's eyes in Lightroom you will find every single eyelash clearly delineated with no grain visible. As a tool for professional portraiture this camera is second to none in the full frame field and the early reports from various review sites such as DPReview confirm this. One of the key things I have noticed since shooting the K1 is that it renders the shade and quality of light in a way I have only previously seen in medium format images such as those from the 645Z. Here's an example:
Shooting Jade Armitage in the forest - Astonishing rendering of light and shade points to class leading dynamic range
For portraiture I use the K1 gripped with either the new Pentax HD D-FA 24-70mm f2.8 zoom, the Pentax FA 77mm f1.8 Limited or the Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 and had outstanding results with all three. The new 24-70mm has the fastest and most reliable autofocus of the three lenses and in fact focuses so fast that it's as quick at focussing as your own eyes are - to the point of feeling instantaneous. The 77mm is a little more noisy but locks on securely and the 70-200mm Tamron is a revalation. I thought it was good on the K3 but it's even faster to achieve focus on the K1 and I can only assume that perhaps that's due to a software change or due to a more powerful body motor. I haven't really had much opportunity to try motion tracking yet although if it matches the K3 I will be happy as that proved a very capable camera for fast moving subjects including running dogs, children and aircraft.
Sensibly Pentax have elected to target the K1 at the pro and serious amateur market and the launch lenses reflect that. The holy trinity of zooms 15-30mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm are all available from Pentax at f2.8 and in addition there are full frame primes at 31mm, 43mm, 50mm, 77mm, 100mm, 200mm, 300mm and 560mm including macro options. There's an ultra telephoto pro grade zoom spanning 150-450mm and many other options available from Sigma, Tamron and Samyang to name but three. The obvious missing gaps are a 14mm fisheye and the classic 24mm, 28mm, 85mm and 135mm primes. The future lens roadmap indicates most of these gaps will be filled in 2017 and in any case you can buy third party if you really need them now. In addition Pentax is unique amongst camera manufacturers in providing compatibility with all its existing legacy glass so the K1 will take any of the Takumar screw mount, K-bayonet mount, M, F, FA, DA and even medium format lenses Pentax have ever made if you'd rather pick up a Pentax lens secondhand.
The astonishing Pentax FA 77mm f1.8 limited weaves magic spells with light
This legacy support means I am still using the SMC M series 50mm F1.7 lens that came with my ME Super in 1981 and shows Pentax commitment to thorough engineering excellence - it's more evidence of 'the Pentax way'. While other camera firms have revamped their lens ranges several times over the years leaving those with extensive lens collections using them as paperweights, Pentax have continued to refine their K mount in order to support their users and I deeply respect that sense of loyalty to the customer. The K1 incidentally uses the same batteries that the last three generations of Pentax DSLR's used and so with each new camera body I have gained a fully compatible battery - it's a nice touch. It's the polar opposite of those electronics companies who change their chargers and interconnects with every model iteration leaving their customers with a box full of unused chargers at home.
So Pentax have built probably the best full frame DSLR in the world fourteen years after they built the first full frame DSLR in the world. The Pentax faithful have been (finally) rewarded for their patience. The price is sensational - £1599 in the UK undercutting the Nikon D810 and Canon EOS 5D by hundreds of pounds and the 5DS by over £1000. That's not a bargain price it's a declaration of intent to recapture the ground they have lost in the past twenty years and return the brand to its former glory. Clearly with that price and specification the K1 will be a rip roaring success with existing Pentax users but the real question is whether Pentax can swing some of the competitor's market share their way too. Realistically it going to be hard to convert existing full frame Canon and Nikon users with large glass collections but I can see a real opportunity to capture the APSC shooters from other brands who are now looking to move to full frame. That's because those users are faced with scrapping their existing lens collection - you can't even mount a Canon crop lens on a full frame body anyway. The costs of moving to Pentax rather than Nikon or Canon are considerably lower simply because the body and lenses are generally cheaper.
K1 £1599 EOS 5D Mk4 £3499 Canon EOS 5D SR £2888 D810 £2137
Pentax 24-70mm f2.8 £1149 Canon 24-70mm f2.8 £1369 Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 (VR) £1733
Pentax 70-200mm f2.8 £1799 Canon 70-200mm f2.8 £1499 Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 £1579
Pentax 15-30mm f2.8 £1499 Canon 15-35mm f2.8 £999 Nikon 17-35mm f2.8 £1299
If you buy the K1 rather than the Nikon D810 and trinity lenses you'll save over £1000
If you buy the K1 rather than the EOS 5D Mk4 and equivalent lenses you'll save £2000
Bear in mind too that these Pentax products are all still at RRP because they are new products so expect the gap to widen further as discounts apply. I have friends who shoot excellent pictures on rival systems including Canon's venerable EOS 5D Mk3 and before the K1 existed it commanded a retail price of around £2300 for 22 megapixels of Canon full frame. Canon have a commanding market share and some truly lovely lenses but the world is changing and the K1 and Pentax 645Z are now stalking the Canon armada like a pair of hunter killer submarines: stealthy, deadly, technologically superior. In short the Pentax K1 may turn out to be the best thing that ever happened for Canon owners if it forces a re-appraisal of their pricing strategy and stimulates them to innovate more.
In wider market terms it's hard to understand how a company with the pedigree and heritage of Nikon can have suffered so many product launch issues and one has to ask whether Nikon are rushing products to market to try and compete with the huge market share of Canon? In many ways the dominance of the big two (Canon and Nikon) in recent years hasn't been good for photography. Canon with their over 50% market share have become lazy - their sensors for years have been no match for the Sony derived ones Nikon, Pentax and Sony use and their products are frequently more expensive than rivals and rarely particularly innovative. Nikon in an effort to try to unseat Canon as market leader have seemingly rushed many of their recent releases and suffered a string of botched launches and product recalls on nearly every recent camera. Sony have built some very interesting mirrorless cameras with state of the art imaging quality but due perhaps to their lack of camera engineering heritage their user interface and design has held back their adoption in the marketplace. The emergence of a revitalised Pentax and Olympus can only be good for the market and realistically even as a pro the choice is no longer merely between Canon or Nikon.
Perhaps most importantly though if you buy a K1 and join the Pentax system you will own a camera that will inspire you to take better photographs in a way that only the best cameras can. The K1 is so good that since owning one I have found my photography has improved. It's no different to playing tennis, when you start playing with a better opponent you are forced to raise your game. I have raised my game since shooting with the K1. My last two model shoots have both involved me pushing my technique to its limits and the last one which was on location was by far the most technically complex shoot I have ever attempted and I am delighted with the results.
With multiple wireless flash (gelled), smoke pyrotechnics, a princess and a K1 there are no limits to your creativity
So welcome back Pentax, in the K1 you have created a camera that has set a new high water mark in full frame digital. The K1 simply is state of the art in ergonomics, build, features, weatherproofing, stabilisation, image quality, low light performance and value for money. It seems somehow fitting that the company that started the SLR boom in the 1950's and that contributed so much to the last century of photography has built one of the defining cameras of its era. In the words of the 1977 Bond theme from the company's heyday Pentax - 'nobody does it better'.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the mighty Pentax K1
]]> [email protected] (Jonathan Gorse Photography) 35mm DSLR Pentax K1 fashion shoot full frame lens pentax superb https://jonathangorsephotography.com/blog/2016/5/PentaxK1 Wed, 18 May 2016 14:55:13 GMT
Shortly before Christmas like Eve waving an apple under Adam's starving nose, Pentax started reducing the price of their flagship K3 DSLR camera with discounts and rebates. I'm not very good with temptation, in fact had I been in the garden of Eden I would probably have grown an orchard and started a cider press, so I finally gave in and purchased a Pentax K3. I have been savouring every second with this lovingly crafted piece of photographic apparatus the way one might savour the company of an incomparably beautiful muse.
It is the first time that I have ever owned Pentax's latest and greatest flagship DSLR camera. The K3 offers all the traditional attributes of Pentax SLR's - incomparable build quality, gorgeous handling that makes you feel as if the camera has been custom made for you and image quality that is class leading even against the Canon and Nikon heavyweights. Moreover if you're in a forest shooting a model as I was last week, with the sun already below the horizon and the light levels are falling fast, the K3's awesome new focussing engine will lock on target with a precision only prevously known to fighter pilots and weapons officers in charge of ballistic missile systems on the latest frigates. I shot over 300 pictures in appalling light levels and the K3 missed focus only once. By the end we had resorted to a paraffin lamp and moonlight and the K3 kept locking on, I was genuinely incredulous...
Twenty four megapixels is a heck of a lot of detail and since getting the K3 I have been continually astounded by the razor sharp focus I'm seeing on eyebrows, eyes and individual strands of hair during portrait shoots. I've spent over thirty years shooting high quality cameras and I've never seen quality like this coming off the page or screen. The K3 is quite simply the greatest non-medium format camera Pentax have ever made. It's probably the greatest APSC DSLR anyone has ever made. It seems fitting that the company that invented the single lens reflex, that has led so many of the key developments for the past sixty years in photography has a new crown prince.
It's instructive to compare the Pentax K3 against Canon's recently launched flagship DSLR - the EOS 7D Mk2. Let's leave aside the fact that the Canon costs almost twice as much as the Pentax and consider the sensor scores by independent testing lab DXO mark http://www.dxomark.com/Cameras/Compare/Side-by-side/Canon-EOS-7D-Mark-II-versus-Pentax-K-3___977_914
DXO evaluate the raw image quality coming direct off the sensors in each camera and employ independent and rigorous laboratory testing techniques. In short the Pentax scores higher in colour depth, dynamic range and high ISO low light shooting. You can shoot in any light you like - bright sunlight, dark night, you can underexpose the shot and push your shadows up in post processing, you can shoot any subject anytime, anyplace but that Pentax is going to outgun the newly launched top of the line APSC DSLR Canon on every image quality parameter science can measure. I just know what I'm seeing with my eyes and the Pentax is simply blisteringly sharp and clean. It's better weathersealed too against ingress of sand, water, sleet, dust and rain. It will take every Pentax lens ever made, all 25 million of them and they include some of the greatest lenses designed since the dawn of photography. I've yet to track down a Pentax SMC FA 85mm F1.4, but one day I swear I will, because that lens has bokeh that looks like sunbeams in heaven and clarity that leaves even the most venerable Carl Zeiss designs trailing in its wake.
It was while considering the apex of engineering achievement that the K3 represents that I began to reflect on the journey I have taken in over thirty years of keen photography. My first camera was the Pentax ME Super with 50mm F1.7 lens and I still have it, indeed I still occasionally shoot with the 50mm and it's my go-to macro lens with a set of extension tubes. Here's mine:
I'm so very glad I still have my first camera and resisted the temptation to trade it in when upgrading. I took my first faltering steps as a photographer with it in 1981 and it made me a better photographer because the metering was always lousy, so I learned to use it fully manual and assess the exposure required myself pretty quickly. My first additions were a Velbon VGB-3 tripod (pictured) and later I bought a Tamron 80-200mm F3.8 lens for airshows and motorsport which I still have. Much later I added a Tamron 24mm F2.5 lens which eventually developed a focus ring problem. I well recall shooting Liverpool cathedral at night in 1983 and particularly enjoyed shooting my theatrical female cousin dressed as a gypsy in a poppyfield in Northampton back in the summer of 1985. I dropped the Pentax on a glacier in Alaska in 1986 (it survived unscathed) and I toured Japan with it later that same year.
Here it is with my Tamron 80-210mm F3.8:
I shot a lot of airshows and aeroplanes with this combination over the years (now an airline pilot I am a huge aviation fanatic and there's not much that sends shivers up my spine better than the sound of a Merlin or crackle of a jet engine)
By 1995 after fourteen years dependable service I decided the time had come to move to a more modern camera design and so purchased a Pentax MZ-5n. The sophistication of its metering was a huge improvement on the ME Super and this model could be relied on to shoot accurate automatic exposures. It also offered motor drive and autofocus built in and I shot extensively with it and enjoyed utilising both my existing lenses and a new Sigma 24-70mm F3.5-5.6 standard zoom that I purchased new. I can only presume that cost prevented me from buying a Pentax standard zoom lens with the camera but I never much cared for the build quality of the Sigma, it was rather plastic although optically reasonable. I don't even know if I still have it, it might conceivably still be in a loft somewhere and with the likely launch of a Pentax full frame DSLR in 2015 might actually be useful!
I got some great shots of Paris in 1996 with this combination plus my wedding and honeymoon in Thailand in 2000 as well as New York, Mexico, Florida and then Monument Valley Utah in 2004. In 1998 I had added the Tokina 80-400mm F4-5.6 telephoto autofocus zoom to my armoury while in Australia on a mission to shoot kangaroos in the bush. As a lens it performed admirably on a range of airshow targets and is still in occasional use when I need very significant reach. My favourite portrait of myself was taken in Paris with this camera by my then girlfriend Caroline and looking back it's amusing and faintly depressing to reflect on how handsome and young I look leaning nonchalently against the balcony of the Concorde St Lazare Hotel at Gare du Nord in Paris. Judging by the fact my mother still has a framed print of this in her hall I suspect she thinks I look at my best too (oh to be 26 again!)
Here's my MZ-5n with the Tokina 80-400 AT-X fitted:
I eventually decided with the birth of my first child in 2005 that the time had come to move to a digital camera and so around 2005 I purchased my first DSLR, the Pentax Ist DS. The MZ-5n which was my last film camera had served admirably for some ten years. The Ist DS had six megapixels, great handling and the ability to work with all my existing Pentax lenses and I purchased it with the really rather good Pentax 18-55 DA F3.5-5.6 lens combination. I loved this camera and have in fact enlarged prints to 30x20 inches from it and achieved impressive quality. My wife took a favourite picture of my daughter and I holding hands and gazing out across one of the Lake District's many lakes and it still hangs framed on our landing. This camera served us well as a family until I decided to upgrade to the Pentax K5, principally to enable me to shoot video and stills with one device. It had become a chore carrying both a video camera and SLR system on holiday. Sadly I part-exchanged my Pentax Ist DS against the K5 in March 2013 and so it is the only camera from my whole camera history that is no longer in my posession. I regret that, if only for completeness.
March 2013 and in rolled the Pentax K5 on a tsunami of technology. I approached my purchase with a very open mind and in fact considered a switch of system to the Nikon D7000. I had always had something of a hankering for a Nikon camera, in part because of their professional credentials (Nikon and Canon had risen to become the two most common pro choices at this time) and so I actually walked into the camera shop and asked to see the Nikon D7000 before any Pentax. The Nikon was a very well received camera with great image quality but felt very plastic in my hands and rather lightweight. I asked if they had a Canon EOS 50D I could try and while better this still seemed a rather lightweight although very comfortably shaped camera. My gut reation was that I simply didn't love either of them. Next I tried the Pentax K5 and the second I picked it up I was shocked, it felt dense, heavy, serious and dramatically cold to the touch (because it's all metal unlike the others). I couldn't believe the difference, the Pentax oozed quality and it was like comparing the build quality of a Mercedes Benz to that of a Kia, there was simply no comparison. The cold Pentax felt like something created on another planet not merely another factory, almost like something salvaged from Area 51 and I utterly fell in love with it. My one attempt to leave Pentax was foiled by the sheer class and quality of the product.
This camera complete with Pentax 18-55 DA WR water resistant lens was a big step up from all that had gone before. It was my first pro-level camera and was the departing flagship DSLR from Pentax and available at a very compelling price because its successor had just been launched. As a result the professional build quality with weather-sealing and a solid magnesium body gave this camera a serious heft that all my previous cameras lacked. It was also the first one I purchased a grip for. My only complaint with Pentax over the years was that their bodies were rather small for a man with hands resembling those of a gorilla! The grip instantly improved the handling, battery life and overall feel. I was in love with this camera and its arrival led to me becoming rather more serious about my photography again. A few months later I missed having an ultra wide angle lens and so decided to add the hugely impressive Pentax 12-24mm F4 lens to my arsenal. It's an incredibly flexible and high quality lens and a delight to use especially for landscape and architectural work.
Here's my K5, now relegated to back-up body duties:
It's a formidable camera, even by today's standards and I've shot many thousands of fine pictures with it. During 2014 I started jonathangorsephotography.com as a means of storing and exhibiting my work. It also enabled me to provide secure access for any shoots I do with models or for family and friends. In terms of lenses I added the Pentax DA 17-70 F4 SDM lens for portraiture and the Tamron 70-200mm F2.8 for fast telephoto work and the latter in particular really is a blisteringly sharp and fast lens. The K5 proved an able professional camera and all my initial model shoots and commissions were undertaken with it until the K3 arrived at the end of 2014. There truly is little that this camera can't do and it is a professional grade workhorse with excellent image quality and sublime handling. It only had two limitations in my view: firstly the autofocus system could very occasionally miss focus and secondly it shot video at awesome quality in a format called 'motion jpeg' which frankly is the best quality format possible on a DSLR, but the file sizes are gargantuan. For my meagre family holiday needs such quality is frankly unnecessary and I prefer the smaller file sizes of the slightly lower quality Pentax K3 video format which followed it.
So that leads me back full circle to the Pentax K3 which is currently my main professional body. It's faster, cleaner, slightly better ergonomically and put simply is an awesome photographic instrument I am proud to use.
Thirty four years of photography encompassed in five cameras and my life spent taking pictures since the age of eleven. Thank-you to Pentax for being there on burning tropical beaches in far flung places, for travelling with me faster than a bullet on Concorde at Mach 2, for faithfully recording sunsets and sunrises, the birth of our child, her first steps, my engagement and mine and other's wedding days. Thank-you for enduring tropical monsoons in Thailand, for being dropped on glaciers in the arctic circle and surviving, for shooting freezing moonlit cathedrals and for not succumbing during snowstorms on the summits of mountains. In short for always enabling me to capture amazing pictures and memories from my life no matter wherever in the world I have been or how extreme the conditions.
Like an old friend you never let me down...
]]> [email protected] (Jonathan Gorse Photography) Cameras DSLR Lifetime Pentax https://jonathangorsephotography.com/blog/2015/1/a-new-pentax-camera-arrives-and-some-thoughts-on-those-that-have-gone-before-it Sat, 31 Jan 2015 21:31:23 GMT
The event was very well attended and raised over £2500 for the school, we'd like to send our congratulations to all the winners but especially Sarah Sear and her family who won the photo shoot we offered in the silent auction. We're really looking forward to shooting Sarah and her lovely family in the New Year.
Here's some pictures from the event:
Thanks to everyone who came to see us, it was great catching up with friends old and new. We worked very hard in the weeks leading up to the event to create a highly professional stand which was both eyecatching and reflected the professionalism with of Jonathan Gorse Photography in all aspects of its operation.
Here's a final picture before we opened giving a better view of the stand - catch you next time, Jonathan
]]> [email protected] (Jonathan Gorse Photography) Hollycombe School https://jonathangorsephotography.com/blog/2014/12/hollycombe-school-christmas-fair Tue, 23 Dec 2014 09:46:40 GMT
A conversation with Ben, the landlord of my local - the Rising Sun Pub www.risingsunmilland.com led to the opportunity to shoot their annual music festival 'Millfest' which has been building a large audience over the past five or so years. Last year over 2000 people attended this superb event and enjoyed music by several great bands but Ben was determined this year's event would be even bigger and better.
I had some T shirts and polo shirts printed up with my logo just in time and am really glad I did because if you're pushing past people at a concert or even just photographing them, having some official clothing on certainly avoids people getting annoyed when you point a camera at them...
I knew that because the concert went on deep into the night that I would need very fast lenses indeed to cope with the low light levels. I already have an excellent Tamron 70-200mm F2.8 but decided to purchase a Tamron 17-50mm F2.8 for this gig as well to give me a very fast and ultra-sharp standard zoom (I normally use a pentax 17-70mm USM DA at F4.0). Benjamin Kanarek the top-line fashion photographer who shoots covers for Tatler, Vogue and Conde Nast uses the very same Tamron lens so I knew it would be superb and he's very much an idol of mine because of his stunning work. I can only say how glad I was during the night that I bought one!!
Events started around 4pm, it was boiling hot and a sizeable audience was building, you could feel the sense of anticipation in the air. All of the artists were provided by the Alex and Phil management company www.alexandphil.com and they had provided a stunning line-up culminating in Alex Katsi and his band International Naughty Boy. In the event we got something even better when members of some of the other bands playing earlier in the day joined them on stage and supplemented their line-up!! I had been asked by the organisers to get plenty of candid pictures of people attending so I spent quite a lot of time while the light was good doing just that - it was as pilots say a 'target rich environment'! There were lots of attractive people in funky clothing having a great time and that's always a good start! I also captured some great pictures of the earlier artists on stage before the venue became too crowded - it was a great buzz to be shooting while hearing superb live music. In a way it was just like flying airliners - it was so enjoyable it didn't feel like work! I also elected to shoot some panoramic pictures of the event by shooting blocks of three or four pictures which could later be joined to produce a 180 degree panorama of the festival and these worked very well.
As the darkness fell and light faded the concert built to a crescendo as International Naughty Boy and Brando took the stage. It always amazes me how a great band can really take the energy at a concert to another level and that's exactly what happened. The crowd were going wild, the band were on fire and I reflected that this is what it must have been like if you'd seen Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street band in the 1970's when they were young and hungry for success. I kept shooting throughout the whole nine hours of the festival and by the end of the night had over 1300 shots on the camera. At one point I decided to try and shoot from behind the band on stage and their security and sound engineer let me on and I achieved another lifetime ambition - to be on stage in the middle of a rip-roaring set with a rock band in full flow!! What a great band and what a great bunch of guys!! While watching International Naughty Boy I was struck by their lead singer Alex Katsi who has a similar stage presence to Freddie Mercury - the same kind of way of holding himself erect like a Greek God, the same panther like grace about the stage - I feel I captured some of that essence.
To say I'm thrilled with the results is an understatement - I think there are some great images here! I was pushing the Pentax right to its limits, shooting wide open on my very fastest lenses, pushing the ISO sensitivity right up at one point as high as 6400 and all the time battling with shutter speeds which were dangerously near the redline where camera-shake is an ever-present danger. That extra stop to F2.8 though made all the difference and meant I could carry on shooting where lesser camera-lens combinations would have rendered blur. I'm really pleased with the resulting pictures of an awesome band in full flow and best of all I think they capture the interplay between musicians on stage, their energy, style and emotion. I'm also genuinely thrilled to have found a new genre that combines my love of music with photography and I would definitely love to do a lot more concert and band-related work as part of my photography. So if you're a band member, manager or promoter get in touch!!
Here's some more pictures from Millfest 2014 enjoy and let me know what you think on my guestbook.
Till next time... Jonathan
]]> [email protected] (Jonathan Gorse Photography) Boy International Milland Millfest Naughty Rising Sun band concert gig music rock https://jonathangorsephotography.com/blog/2014/7/shooting-my-first-music-festival Mon, 28 Jul 2014 17:05:10 GMT
I think the truth is that my daughter with her unblemished youth can get away without much if any make-up at all but as people get older make-up can often help to cover skin blemishes and highlight the eyes which can add a little more quality to the finished result. It has prompted me to write a pre-shoot briefing for customers though making some recommendations on make-up, hair and clothes and that can only be a help when arranging future shoots.
The shoot went well and I am pleased there are some great pictures - the viaduct built in 1841 for the main London to Brighton line to cross the Ouse Valley makes a stunning backdrop for portrait pictures. The flash and softbox performed superbly and I was impressed that the Yongnuo 560 III with its guide number of 58 had enough power to match the strong sunlight that afternoon and offset the otherwise hard shadows that could result.
Rhiannon has achieved mastery of the pensive pose and I feel fortunate in having such an excellent model to work with! I wasn't initially keen on the dungarees but I think they give a suitably industrial feel to a location which so strongly reflects the industrial revolution and the coming of the railways.
]]> [email protected] (Jonathan Gorse Photography) Balcombe Sussex West portrait railways session viaduct https://jonathangorsephotography.com/blog/2014/7/viaduct-shoot Thu, 17 Jul 2014 11:35:56 GMT
Bailey emerged in the 1960's and within 18 months of setting up on his own was shooting for Vogue!! Perhaps even more significantly he, Terence Donovan and Brian Duffy were the triumvirate who brought a completely new sense of movement and style into fashion photography. Traditionally photographers had been aristocrats who photographed debutantes and other aristocrats using large format cameras in static poses. Bailey, Donovan and Duffy dubbed the so called 'black trinity' were working class Londoner's who captured models in a much more candid style, often against a plain white background and in high contrast monochrome. These images have become iconic and have influenced the style of fashion, celebrity and advertising photography for all time.
Bailey had one other significant person with whom he conquered the world of fashion photography: Jean Shrimpton who went on to become the greatest supermodel of all time. Bailey discovered Shrimpton when he saw her working with another photographer and was instantly attracted to her. Her appeal I feel is that while she is staggeringly beautiful, hers wasn't the unattainable ice-maiden beauty or vampishness so common amongst models today but was a 'girl next door' prettyness that made her the fantasy of so many red blooded males both then and now. When I looked at her photographs in the gallery they were just mesmerising - the perfect coming together of a great photographer and an iconic muse.
In 1962 Bailey and Shrimpton headed over to New York for what became the most famous fashion shoot in history. He threw out the medium format camera he had been asked to use by Vogue and took out his Pentax Spotmatic S3 35mm camera and began to shoot candidly on the streets of New York city. This wasn't at all how Vogue wanted things done but it broke new ground entirely and Vogue were forced to concede that he had created a landmark photo shoot. Here's Shrimpton by Bailey in New York:
So having put Bailey in some context my impressions of the exhibition were that he is an even better photographer than I ever thought. He really does manage to get inside his subject and to reveal the character within.
Technically Bailey is an absolute master at studio lighting and the brilliance of his lighting set-ups took my breath away. A fellow photographic chum who came too and I spent ages staring at the catchlights in the eyes to try and figure out how he had lit the images! What particularly inspired me was the fact that I have a very small studio (12ftx10ft) at home and yet you could have shot 80% of Bailey's work in that space so I no longer feel that my studio is quite as limiting.
Personally I found the exhibition awe inspiring, informative and fascinating. I have a much deeper appreciation for the man and his work and I would urge any of you to go and see his next exhibition because all of us can learn from a master of photography like David Bailey.
All images remain copyright of their respective owners.
]]> [email protected] (Jonathan Gorse Photography) Bailey David Jean Shrimpton photography https://jonathangorsephotography.com/blog/2014/6/david-bailey-exhibition---london Sun, 08 Jun 2014 10:53:22 GMT
1. They all take the Pentax K bayonet mount lenses and Pentax build (and have built) some truly outstanding lenses.
2. They all have a logical and intuitive user interface, something Pentax excel at.
3. They are better built than equivalently priced Nikon, Canon, Olympus etc cameras.
4. Heritage and engineering excellence.
5. Photo quality
Examining each of these points in turn:
The Pentax K bayonet mount remains perhaps the most famous camera lens mounting system in the world. Launched in 1975 it remains the one constant in a world of camera change. Crucially what this means is that you can buy the latest and greatest Pentax digital SLR in 2013 and use any K mount lens built since 1975 on it. This respect for heritage is unique amongst camera manufacturers - the majority of whom are delighted to change their lens mount system every few years in order to force their loyal customers to go out and purchase a whole new range of lenses. I like that and it's increasingly rare in a world where companies are run by bean counters who seek to maximise profit at the expense of consumers. As a result there is a thriving secondhand market for secondhand Pentax lenses and some outstanding bargains can be had on superb glass if you purchase secondhand.
Technically too the cameras support this by offering unique features such as 'in-body' shake reduction systems. Where Canon, Nikon etc fit their shake reduction systems in their lenses, Pentax fit them in the body to the sensor itself. What this means is that when you use an old 1981 Pentax 50mm F1.7 prime (optically stunning by the way) as I do, you get the benefit of shake reduction - indeed that system will be helping to keep your pictures sharp no matter what lens you fit.
The user interface on Pentax cameras remains one of the very best available - it's something they are very good at. Controls are clearly laid out, there are more function buttons on the camera and less settings that have to be changed by digging deep into software menus than most other cameras I have tried. What this means is I'm less likely to miss a shot because I'm fiddling about and the camera doesn't get in the way of taking pictures. Shutter speed is controlled by a wheel just in front of the shutter button, aperture by a wheel on the back plate where the thumb naturally rests. Mode selection is done by the command dial to the left, depth of field preview by a rotating ring around the shutter button. Everything falls nicely to hand and I can control all the prime functions on the camera with physical controls not menu settings. My experience with Canon is that they too tend to be pretty intuitive but Nikon seem to specialise in overly complex control systems - which is a shame because they build some lovely cameras...
Build quality. In my view this is an area where Pentax utterly dominate the market and you have to look at Leica or the professional Canon at Nikon cameras to come close. My Pentax K5 (now superseded by the £900 Pentax K3) is made entirely of magnesium alloy on a steel chassis. It is fully weather sealed from water, dust and cold via 77 special body seals and Pentax offers a full range of sealed lenses to match including even the standard kit lens that ships with the camera. Only the £5000 top of the pro line Nikon and Canon cameras get anywhere close to either this level of construction or sealing - so an EOS 1D at £5000 probably would equal the Pentax at around £900. Ask yourself how often it rains in the UK or how often you might want to use your camera on a canoeing, cycling, hill walking trip? Ask yourself how many times you've wanted to take pictures at a school sports day or gone for a walk and it's started to rain... I don't want to have to stop shooting just because the weather turns and I want to have confidence that my camera won't let me down.
When I bought my K5 I actually was thinking of switching system entirely to the Nikon D7000 which had rave reviews but just picking it up and feeling how plasticky it felt compared to the professional cold metal feel of the Pentax convinced me otherwise. If you want to see how tough Pentax DSLR's are watch this video of a soldier in Afghanistan pouring sand over his Pentax gear and then using the field shower to wash it off: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eo61t5fH6Qw - it still makes me wince but it's a testament to engineering excellence.
Heritage and engineering excellence. Pentax can trace their history back through over 70 years of innovation and ground-breaking design:
1952 Asahiflex 1 First Japanese SLR camera and first to use 35mm film
1954 Asahiflex 2 World's first instant return mirror system eliminates mirror blackout when taking pictures
1957 Asahi Pentax introduces the fixed Pentaprism to enable eye level shooting through the lens
1957 Pentax Auto-Takumar lenses are the first lenses with automatic lens diaphragms controlled by internal signalling between body and lens to permit instantaneous stopdown and re-opening after shutter release
1960 Pentax Spotmatic Pentax pioneers world's first in pentaprism TTL metering system
1966 Pentax Nocta World's first infra-red focussing system enables focus confirmation in total darkness
1969 Pentax 6x7 world's first medium format camera with 35mm style handling and features
1971 Pentax ES World's first aperture priority mode with TTL metering
1971 Pentax invent multi-coating lens process for up to 9 layers of lens coating later licenced by Zeiss and everyone else. Even today Zeiss lenses use Pentax SMC coatings. Up to that point nobody had managed to put more than 4 layers of coating on a lens and many lenses still had no coatings or single layers.
1975 Pentax K mount launched
1976 Pentax MX World's smallest and lightest SLR camera
1979 Pentax ME Super World's first SLR with push-button control
1980 Pentax ME-F World's first autofocus SLR - a full 10 years before this became commonplace
1981 Pentax is the first manufacturer to produce 10 million SLR's
1985 Pentax D3000 First 35mm SLR camera with DX film sensing
1987 Pentax SF-7 World's first SLR with automatic pop up flash
1997 Pentax 645N World's first autofocus medium format camera
2003 Pentax Ist d, first digital Pentax SLR and smallest and lightest DSLR in the world
2006 Pentax Ist DL - First DSLR for less than £500
2006 K100D Pentax first body with in body stabilisation (no Nikon or Canon camera to date has ever had this feature because they build it into their lenses, but you pay extra for it everytime you buy a lens...)
2008 Pentax K20D First budget/prosumer DSLR with weather sealing
2010 Pentax 645 D first digital medium format camera with SLR like handling qualities
2011 Pentax Q Worlds smallest and lightest interchangeable lens camera system launched
2011 Pentax 645D wins 'camera of the year' and voted best professional DSLR by TIPA
2013 Pentax K3 pioneer's world's first selectable anti-aliasing system, wins best DSLR of the year (TIPA)
2014 Pentax 645Z 51 megapixel medium format DSLR launched at a price point £7000 one third of its Hasselblad competitors. First medium format digital camera with on board video recording.
When I bought my Pentax K5 I evaluated lots of reviews of it one web and found DXO Mark - an independent testing laboratory who said the following:
In short the K5 is simply the best APS-C we have tested so far, sometimes able to compete even with very high-end full-frame cameras.
The overall score of the K5 puts it in the lead with 82 points — more than 9 points better than the D90 or the Alpha 55, and 16 points ahead of the Canon 7D or 60D. The K5 is literally the best APS-C performer for each segment, even in low ISO.
Wonderful Dynamic Range performance
Dynamic range is clearly where the K5 struts its stuff. The scores it reaches at ISO 80 are simply impressive: at 14.1 Ev (print mode), even the D3X’s full-frame sensor is not that good. Smoothing appears at ISO 3200 but does not impact the metrics.
Final thoughts. So in conclusion then Pentax have certainly made a very significant contribution to the development of photography. Little wonder then that when David Bailey shot Jean Shrimpton for Vogue in New York in the most important and revolutionary fashion shoot in history he threw his medium format camera away and picked up a Pentax SLR.
Today I too shall pick up my Pentax as countless millions of amateurs and professionals have done before me and I will thank those Pentax engineers down the years who have helped to give us all the incredible cameras we enjoy today whether they are a Pentax, a Nikon, a Canon or an Olympus.
]]> [email protected] (Jonathan Gorse Photography) DSLR SLR cameras https://jonathangorsephotography.com/blog/2014/5/why-i-shoot-with-pentax-cameras Sun, 18 May 2014 05:34:58 GMT