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03-17-2007, 07:48 PM   #1
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A* 200mm f4 macro - too dark to use?

Since I acquired this lens, I have treated this lens as my gem!

However, the biggest problem with this lens is that f4 is simply too dark for shooting macro. Especially when it comes to shooting insects...

In Australia, thanks to the ozone layer breaking down above our land and the mean, aweful drought kicking in to maintain great harsh sunlight to illuminate the environment for us. It is not unusual that insects love to stay under foliage or hide out somewhere incredibly dark.

My common strategy is to use high ISO to compensate the problem of poor lighting. But the noise is really an issue at this ISO when the shot is often taken with shutter speed of 1/8 sec or less with SR. The underexposure really makes the shot noisy.

For example,

F4 ISO 1600 1/20 sec SR




This shot is very noisy regardless what I do with PEF manipulation or photoshop work

During my trip in Taipei, I tried a new strategy:

1. I used ISO 1600, shot in PEF.

2. In Bibblepro, I use noise ninja to get rid of the noise totally 12+ strength 12+ smooth

3. In Photoshop, use Mike's find edge sharpening technique plus micro sharpening around the edges that I want to sharpen

4. Use Benjikan's "accentuation method" after the above interventions, the contrast also enhance the edge sharpness

It works as a treat

Examples

1/20s f/4.5 at 200.0mm iso1600 full exif



This shot is the one taken out of 100 or so attempts, tracking this gentleman in an abandoned construction with weeds everywhere in Taipei. The original shot is something I would discard in the trash bin on computers all the time. But Trying this method really produce "ok" images.

Few more ...

1/45s f/5.6 at 200.0mm iso800 full exif



1/500s f/5.6 at 200.0mm iso800 full exif



1/180s f/5.6 at 200.0mm iso1600 full exif



1/30s f/4.5 at 200.0mm iso800 full exif




BTW, my trip to Taiwan has been a feast - 400 clicks already 2 days into my trip


Last edited by roentarre; 03-17-2007 at 07:52 PM. Reason: forgot to include photos
03-17-2007, 07:54 PM   #2
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Wow! Those are stunning images. Thanks for sharing your technique, too.
I have two questions: Are you using your K10D at 1600 ISO? Where can I find info on Mike's fine edge sharpening technique in photoshop?
I often have to use the K10D at 1600 and think your process is the magic I have been looking for.
I look forward to more images from your trip.
03-17-2007, 08:06 PM   #3
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Nice shots James, insect macros are hard to do. And thanks for sharing with us your PS techniques.

NaCl(Have fun in Taiwan)H2O
03-17-2007, 08:29 PM   #4
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The return of the prodigal?

Fantastic shots! Where'd you find that lens? It's very rare and very much sought after!

But perhaps that will change soon?

Years ago there was a Pentax A 200mm f/4 macro lens that was (and still is in some places) considered the ultimate macro, the ultimate 200mm, and possibly the finest lens ever made. This is the lens you are describing.

Not a lot were made, and they're really hard to find and realy expensive.

According to legend, Marty Forscher in New York converted a number of them to Canon mount for a LOT of money.

I've seen the photos and specs on this lens. I had given up hope of ever tracking one down.

I just saw a new lens on the Pentax Web site, a P-FA 200mm f/4 Macro. Specs are the same, the barrel looks the same, and perhaps Pentax realized that if they made the lens again, people would buy it.

Not listed on any stores yet. Let's hope that Pentax marketing is finally waking up from their zombie-like slumber!



03-17-2007, 08:54 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wethphotography Quote
Wow! Those are stunning images. Thanks for sharing your technique, too.
I have two questions: Are you using your K10D at 1600 ISO? Where can I find info on Mike's fine edge sharpening technique in photoshop?
I often have to use the K10D at 1600 and think your process is the magic I have been looking for.
I look forward to more images from your trip.
The technique is listed in Post a pic section - my internet access is kind of slow here. Otherwise I would post his link

I only use ISO 1600 when I have to. Most of the time, I would prefer ISO 200 to 400. With Macro, I try to use Iso 800 whenever I could. But poor light is common place ...

QuoteOriginally posted by NaClH2O Quote
Nice shots James, insect macros are hard to do. And thanks for sharing with us your PS techniques.

NaCl(Have fun in Taiwan)H2O
Thanks, Salty. A LOT MORE insects here at present than Austalia. But I miss OZ already

QuoteOriginally posted by Dana G Quote
Fantastic shots! Where'd you find that lens? It's very rare and very much sought after!

But perhaps that will change soon?

Years ago there was a Pentax A 200mm f/4 macro lens that was (and still is in some places) considered the ultimate macro, the ultimate 200mm, and possibly the finest lens ever made. This is the lens you are describing.
I bought this lens off ebay from a canon pro guy who uses this on his 1Ds Mark II. He also sent me EOS adaptor for free. A very pleasant chap in deed as I still keep in touch with him (from New York).

I used this lens on my canon body 20d but I preferred k10d colour rendering...

I would get Da* 200mm f4 macro if it is ever going to be available ! More is better.
03-17-2007, 09:13 PM   #6
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Hey James!

You've got some awesome PP technique going there. Glad to hear that you're having fun on your trip! Can't wait to see more shots!
03-17-2007, 11:07 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by roentarre Quote
(snip)
I would get Da* 200mm f4 macro if it is ever going to be available ! More is better.
Unfortunately a 200mm macro probably does not make sense for APS sensors, but perhaps Pentax will eventually develop a D-FA* 135/2.8 macro which would have the extra stop of brightness you are seeking and would provide the same AOV on APS that the FA*200 does on 35mm film. This seems to be the pattern of their lens development activities.

Regards, Jim
03-18-2007, 12:54 AM   #8
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James,

This is a situation where a couple of reflectors would come in handy, together with someone to manipulate them for you.
Megan Gail might be a good choice but, failing that, any one of your scungey mates would do.

Seriously tho', the judicious use of 'passive' light manipulation is often quite successful. There are books that I've read on the topic, but I can't recall any titles. Much of it is, in any case more a case of trial and error and repeated practice.

03-18-2007, 01:34 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by roentarre Quote
I only use ISO 1600 when I have to. Most of the time, I would prefer ISO 200 to 400. With Macro, I try to use Iso 800 whenever I could. But poor light is common place ...
I've limited the auto ISO to 100-400, but then I'm not doing macro stuff either.
03-18-2007, 06:19 AM   #10
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great work James!!
03-18-2007, 06:42 AM   #11
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Dana... bad news for your hope about this lens

QuoteOriginally posted by Dana G Quote
Fantastic shots! Where'd you find that lens? It's very rare and very much sought after!

But perhaps that will change soon?

Years ago there was a Pentax A 200mm f/4 macro lens that was (and still is in some places) considered the ultimate macro, the ultimate 200mm, and possibly the finest lens ever made. This is the lens you are describing.

Not a lot were made, and they're really hard to find and realy expensive.

According to legend, Marty Forscher in New York converted a number of them to Canon mount for a LOT of money.

I've seen the photos and specs on this lens. I had given up hope of ever tracking one down.

I just saw a new lens on the Pentax Web site, a P-FA 200mm f/4 Macro. Specs are the same, the barrel looks the same, and perhaps Pentax realized that if they made the lens again, people would buy it.

Not listed on any stores yet. Let's hope that Pentax marketing is finally waking up from their zombie-like slumber!

Hi Dana,

Sorry to rain on the party: the image above is NOT a new lens. It's the AF version of the A*, and handles better (optics are both stellar). You can check the review I did on the lens in the lens review database.

Pentax made the FA* 200/4 macro from 2000-2004. Roughly 900-1100 of them were handmade in Japan. Used copies were in the $1500-$2000 range. I was incredibly fortunate to squeak in just under that range.

I obtained the last like new copy in North America (unless another one is hidden in the warehouse of a camera store), which was a demo unit. I know, because I spent almost 3 months trying to locate one. Any store that still has it listed is an outdated one. I know, I've called many of them...

Per Clarence, it's very unlikely they will be reintroduced.
It's mainly because Pentax (with few exceptions) will not be producing any more film era lenses. The only exception is that you can order the FA* 300/2.8 right now. Even the rare FA* 600/4 is gone.

I've been in touch with some of those in the know (pro photographers) that Pentax USA has requested it's re-release (FA* 600/4 - due to resurgence in Pentax interest, therefore longer lenses). I've sent a request up through these folks to the Pentax product manager for a direct request to order the FA* 600/4, circumventing the regular channels (ie. a phone call to their headquarters). There is already a re-design for the lens (both in 400 and 600mm), but it may depend on the sales, etc. of their other products before they move forward.

Time will tell...

Cheers,
Marc

Last edited by Marc Langille; 03-18-2007 at 10:17 AM. Reason: typo, add clarification
03-18-2007, 06:55 AM   #12
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Hi James!

QuoteOriginally posted by roentarre Quote
Since I acquired this lens, I have treated this lens as my gem!

However, the biggest problem with this lens is that f4 is simply too dark for shooting macro. Especially when it comes to shooting insects...

In Australia, thanks to the ozone layer breaking down above our land and the mean, aweful drought kicking in to maintain great harsh sunlight to illuminate the environment for us. It is not unusual that insects love to stay under foliage or hide out somewhere incredibly dark.

My common strategy is to use high ISO to compensate the problem of poor lighting. But the noise is really an issue at this ISO when the shot is often taken with shutter speed of 1/8 sec or less with SR. The underexposure really makes the shot noisy.

For example,

F4 ISO 1600 1/20 sec SR




This shot is very noisy regardless what I do with PEF manipulation or photoshop work

During my trip in Taipei, I tried a new strategy:

1. I used ISO 1600, shot in PEF.

2. In Bibblepro, I use noise ninja to get rid of the noise totally 12+ strength 12+ smooth

3. In Photoshop, use Mike's find edge sharpening technique plus micro sharpening around the edges that I want to sharpen

4. Use Benjikan's "accentuation method" after the above interventions, the contrast also enhance the edge sharpness

It works as a treat

This shot is the one taken out of 100 or so attempts, tracking this gentleman in an abandoned construction with weeds everywhere in Taipei. The original shot is something I would discard in the trash bin on computers all the time. But Trying this method really produce "ok" images.

BTW, my trip to Taiwan has been a feast - 400 clicks already 2 days into my trip
Looks like you're having fun...

I too often hit ISO 800 for my macro work, so I feel your pain. Try photographing a black insect in cloudy conditions - even worse if it's the rapidly moving black swallowtail butterfly...

Those are great, were you using a tripod? If not, those are steady hands you've got my friend!!

I really like #1 - sort of a "window into the insect world" kind of image - nicely done.

Please keep those great images coming!

Cheers,
Marc

PS - How long is a flight from Melbourne or Sydney to to Taipei? How about to Shanghei?
03-18-2007, 03:58 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by 35mmfilm_user Quote
Pentax made the FA* 200/4 macro from 2000-2004. Roughly 900-1100 of them were handmade in Japan. Used copies were in the $1500-$2000 range. I was incredibly fortunate to squeak in just under that range.
I suspect this lens will fetch well over $2,000 USD if one were to come available.

I've heard the 900 +/- production figure quoted before. Is this a figure that was provided to you by Pentax? Just curious.

-George
03-18-2007, 05:12 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by tranq78 Quote
I suspect this lens will fetch well over $2,000 USD if one were to come available.

I've heard the 900 +/- production figure quoted before. Is this a figure that was provided to you by Pentax? Just curious.

-George
It's because the more expensive FA* lenses were built to order. I remember this figure from several discussions by collectors, users of the lens, etc. About a year ago, Henrys put up 3 or 4 of them, obtained directly from Pentax Canada, and put them up for auction. They all hit the $1800+ range. I paid $1485 for mine, shipping included.

It is a rare lens, and a gem to use.

One other person I know who owns both the A* 200/4 macro and the FA* 200/4 macro prefers the A* for trips (smaller size), and the FA* for it's better handling (pull/push AF/MF clutch barrel, and IF).

I'll start a separate thread, showing what this lens can REALLY do! How about being able to render the individual colors within a pixel from 12 inches away. Even at 100% the image shows the separate colors, something our eyes cannot see.

I can honestly say that it's rendering power exceeds my camera. It's phenomenal...

Cheers,
Marc
03-19-2007, 02:03 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by 35mmfilm_user Quote
Looks like you're having fun...
This mantig was hidden below the grass. I tracked him for almost an hour in the drizzling rain. It is probably a bit old and frail - not moving as fast I could have imagined it to be. Snapped around 40 shots - most failed. It was so shy hiding behind the grass and leaves constantly, moving from side to side after I trapped it into a funny corner (a very dark corner).

Yeah, enough fun for macro just in one afternoon...

QuoteOriginally posted by 35mmfilm_user Quote

Those are great, were you using a tripod? If not, those are steady hands you've got my friend!!
Hehe I am a little embarrassed. No tripods or monopods. I want to travel carefree with nothing in my hands. so light - all my lenses crammed into a lowpro waist bag!

QuoteOriginally posted by 35mmfilm_user Quote
I really like #1 - sort of a "window into the insect world" kind of image - nicely done.


PS - how long is a flight from Melbourne or Sydney to to Taipei? How about to Shanghei?
Melbourne to Singapore - 8 hours
Singapore to Taipei - 6 hours

Sydney to Taipei - 8 hours

Sydney to Shanghai - 10 hours or so

I am planning a trip to Beijing again (lots of sentimental stuff to photograph there plus fantastic food)

QuoteOriginally posted by jamesk8752 Quote
Unfortunately a 200mm macro probably does not make sense for APS sensors, but perhaps Pentax will eventually develop a D-FA* 135/2.8 macro which would have the extra stop of brightness you are seeking and would provide the same AOV on APS that the FA*200 does on 35mm film. This seems to be the pattern of their lens development activities.
Fa* 135 f2.8 sounds great but I do not mind a longer reach for macro work with insects.

You are definitely making sense with the prediction of macro lenses development.

QuoteOriginally posted by Rolly Quote
James,

This is a situation where a couple of reflectors would come in handy, together with someone to manipulate them for you.
.
Unfortunately I usually travel alone... I do own a couple of collapsable Lastolite reflectors. Not so handy when I got no help around me except pedestrians thinking I was some sort of weirdo or freaks peeping into some ruined debrie clicking away a camera

QuoteOriginally posted by Rolly Quote
Megan Gail might be a good choice but, failing that, any one of your scungey mates would do.

Seriously tho', the judicious use of 'passive' light manipulation is often quite successful. There are books that I've read on the topic, but I can't recall any titles. Much of it is, in any case more a case of trial and error and repeated practice.
Thanks Rolly. You are definitely right. This is what makes insect macro so difficult. These insects do not stand still. Next time, I might place the reflectors around the insect as some sort of traps and at the same time reflecting natural light onto them... Will think of your advises next time
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