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06-30-2012, 01:50 PM - 1 Like   #1
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Lens Experience Israel Trip: DA 18-135 & Sigma 10-20

I recently got back from 24 days in Israel. I'm a teacher at a seminary, so a significant part of my trip was getting pictures of the archaeological and biblical sites. I also will be having some of my pictures licensed by a Bible software company (BibleWorks) to be incorporated in the program and linked with biblical texts. I was also getting some instruction on Photography and Archaeology that would require some macro work. If I get a chance, I'll try to write up something in the Beginners Forum about some general experiences w/ photographing, but I thought I would share some specific lens experiences here. I ended up taking 3200+ shots.

I have a K-x, and I brought the following lenses with me:
  • Pentax DA 18-135 F3.5-5.6 - This was my walkaround and general purpose lens.
  • Sigma 10-20 F4-5.6 - UWA
  • Pentax M 50 F1.7 - This is my fastest lens for the possibility of dark situations.
  • Pentax DA L 55-300 F4-5.8 - My telephoto
  • Sigma 90 F2.8 Macro - This was going to be used for archaeological close-ups.
Observations:
  • I really enjoyed using the DA 18-135, and I am very pleased with the results. I was in a lot of dusty environments, so the WR provided some security. (My K-x, on the other hand...) I was able to use this lens for 80% of the pics. The pic of Masada below is just a typical example. Note that lighting was rather challenging most of the time because of the harsh light and strong contrasts. The focal length was ideal. I rarely needed something longer, especially because it was so hazy most of the time, and it was difficult to have clear views of distant objects.
  • If I wasn't using the 18-135, I was using the Sigma 10-20. This turned out to be a great travel lens. In fact, it turned out in practice that I would start w/ the 18-135 and switch to the 10-20 when needed and then just leave it on until I needed something longer than the 20mm end. The pic below of the bell caves at Bet Guvrin shows off the UWA. (This was actually a rather dark space, so that was taken wide open with the ISO sneaking up to 1000.)
  • The M 50 F1.7 didn't get much use. I either had plenty of light or, in darker settings, I needed something wider.
  • The DA L 55-300 is one of my favorite lenses, but I didn't have much use for it. As noted above, the hazy conditions made it hard to use a telephoto.
  • The Sigma 90 is great for macro shots (1:2 or 1:1 with the apochromatic adapter), but that was only used in limited and specific settings.
Summary:
In most travel situations, I could easily get by with 18-135 and the 10-20. They make a great combination, and I am happy with the results.

Attached Images
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PENTAX K-x  Photo 
View Picture EXIF
PENTAX K-x  Photo 

Last edited by mgvh; 06-30-2012 at 06:27 PM.
07-01-2012, 03:40 AM   #2
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Thanks. Lens field reports such as this are very useful.
07-01-2012, 06:14 AM   #3
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Yes, I believe your story will help others decide which lens to purchase for vacation. You notice many people ask; I'm going to ______ what camera and lens should I buy? My philosophy has always been keep it light weight. You could possibly eliminate your 90mm macro with a Raynox. Did you have problems with dust on the sensor and is the first picture of the Masada?
Thank you for the article

Last edited by Kaufeetime; 07-01-2012 at 06:38 AM.
07-01-2012, 04:27 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kaufeetime Quote
My philosophy has always been keep it light weight. You could possibly eliminate your 90mm macro with a Raynox. Did you have problems with dust on the sensor and is the first picture of the Masada?
Thank you for the article
Thank you!
  • I usually wouldn't bring a macro along at all, except I knew that I was going to be doing some specialized macro work. The Raynox would be a good option to keep things lighter. (I don't have one, though.)
  • The dig site (I was at Bethsaida) was incredibly dusty. I cleaned my sensor every day using a rocket blower. That worked out fine, but the viewfinder in my K-x got dirty. At least that doesn't affect pics at all.
  • Yes, that is Masada. It's a bit different view than most because I descended via the west side and came around the Roman messenger path. So the view is from the north looking to the south and slightly east. You can see the Dead Sea in the left background and the Roman ramp on the right.


07-02-2012, 01:09 PM   #5
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Thanks mgvh for the travelling report. I just wanted to chime in and say that I like the lens too, and that maybe you can clean up your viewfinder.

If the viewfinder got dusty, and you can see the dust particles, chances are that the visible dust is on the focusing screen (or on the bottom of the pentaprism if you have one -- I guess pentamirror cameras have air next to the focusing screen on both sides). The focusing screen can be removed and cleaned. One has to be a bit careful not to damage the screen, mirror or any other sensitive part, but it can be done. I have done it for another reason -- changing to a KatzEye split prism focusing screen.

As for traveling, I have also used the 18-135 with good results on my K-5 for over a year (as long as I have had the camera). Since I walk around a lot and carry all of my stuff, I bring as few and light things as possible. The camera plus lens is a big part of the weight I carry, and the smaller aperture and thus lighter weight was the reason I originally wanted the 18-135. I still like the lens, although lately I have mostly used my most recent addition (not for traveling yet, though): the FA 31 ltd, which I also like a lot. Those two are the only modern lenses I own, and I have no plans on getting any other lenses anytime soon (in other words: I am happy with them, and have no plans on macro/super tele/super wide at the time being, maybe later though ;P). I also have an M50/1.7 and an M135/2.5, and I used the M50 a little for indoor club photography (really dark) once, as well as concert shooting (also once).
07-03-2012, 07:30 AM   #6
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@hjb981: Thanks for the suggestions about cleaning the viewfinder. I checked, and clearly the dust is on the 'top' of the focusing screen. I.e., it's not on the side open to the mount. So, as you say, I'd have to remove the focusing screen. I guess I'll live w/ the dustiness for a while...
07-03-2012, 05:26 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by mgvh Quote
@hjb981: Thanks for the suggestions about cleaning the viewfinder. I checked, and clearly the dust is on the 'top' of the focusing screen. I.e., it's not on the side open to the mount. So, as you say, I'd have to remove the focusing screen. I guess I'll live w/ the dustiness for a while...
If you buy an after-market focusing screen, they usually come with a handy tool for r&r (remove & replace). Perhaps you could get such a tool if you plan on taking the screen out (I am not sure where to look without getting a screen though, which is obviously not justified just to get a simple little plastic pair of tweezers). Another tip is to put some lens paper over the mirror during r&r to avoid damaging it. Lastly, make sure that the battery is out of the camera, to avoid accidental activation of the mirror.

Anyways, I would also rather wait and just leave the dust where it was, until I was sure that I had covered all the hows and ifs on the r%r process. It is a bit fiddly, and there are obviously parts that you do not want to damage in there, and as you say, it won't hurt the pictures. Another option may be to have a service place do it. It should not be too expensive, because it is a pretty fast thing to do if you know how to do it (for me it took maybe half an hour, but I guess I could do it in 5 minutes if I practiced a little).
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