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08-05-2014, 09:57 PM - 3 Likes   #1
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Field Report: 10 Day Mediterranean Cruise: K-30, DA 18-135, DA 21 f3.2, Sigma 10-20

I have been among those who have asked for lens and gear advice in preparation for a specific trip. Before my trip, I specifically asked for advice on a wide lens to bring along on a 10-day cruise in the Mediterranean along the coast from Rome to Barcelona and back. I had a Sigma 10-20 f4-5.6, but I was wanting something faster and smaller. The result was that I picked up a used SMC Pentax-DA 21mm F3.2 Limited. (Decision thread here. Thanks again for the advice.) We had a wonderful cruise and a great time with family. I ended up taking about 1500 shots which ended up being closer to 1300 after getting rid of the really bad ones. Here's a quick report to describe what worked (or not) for me photographically.

I didn't want to take a ton of gear, but I wanted to be prepared. This was more of a family outing than a photo outing, but I knew I would have many opportunities for taking pictures. My goal, therefore, was to travel light and have a versatile kit for everything from landscape and street photography to indoor and nighttime shots.

BAGS: Here's the gear list from my last travel adventure, and it was similar this time The Tenba Discovery Photo/Laptop bag worked out great again for holding everything, and I used it as one of my airline carry-ons. It is comfortable to wear, but when I was out for a day with family in the midst of crowds, it became too much. Anticipating as much, I did also bring along a fanny pack which can hold the K-30 w/ the DA 18-135, incidentals (e.g., battery, SD card, Lenstip cleaner, CPL filter, even the DA 21 if I fit things properly). My wife had me wear it as a man-purse instead of a fanny pack. When in Rome... I also carried one of those nylon string knapsacks for water and other things I might need for the day, and I often put the Sigma 10-20 in there. I have an Op/Tech SLR Wrist Strap on my K-30, and I find it very easy to walk around just holding the K-30 with the strap. Oftentimes I would end up carrying the K-30 with the DA 18-135 and then putting the Sigma 10-20 in the man-purse.

CAMERAS: My main camera is a K-30. I did also bring along my K-x as a backup. When I carry my Tenba bag, I leave the Sigma 10-20 on the K-x so that I have quick access to UWA if I need it.
Results: I almost exclusively used the K-30. I easily could get a full day's worth of shooting (most in one day was ~250 pics) from the battery, and so I just charged up each night or used my spare.

LENSES: I ended up taking the DA 18-135 which would be my main walkaround lens. With the K-30, it is a great WR combo. The last time I took a trip, I had the DA 35 f2.4 which worked out well , but I did find that it was often not as wide as I would like for indoor (including museum shots) and street photography. Hence the quest for a wider lens in addition to wanting something smaller as compared to the rather large Sigma 10-20. The result was that I got the DA 21 Limited, but I still also brought the Sigma 10-20. Finally, I brought the DAL 55-300, because if I didn't, then I would doubtless need it! I should also note that I brought along a Marumi Super DHG CPL filter for the 18-135 lens.
Results: The Exposure Plot graph (at bottom of this post) shows what I ended up shooting. All the 10-17mm range (and some of the 18-20mm) were shot with the Sigma 10-20 which turns out to be about 150 pics or 11-12% of my shots. For me, that's enough to make it worthwhile to carry the lens. In fact, I would usually start with the 18-135 until I needed to switch to the 10-20 and then just leave that on until I needed to switch back for something longer. On the long end, I only used the DAL 55-300 for 11 shots. You see the spike at 21mm. Some of those are with the DA 18-135, but about 150 or so are with the DA 21 Limited, i.e., about 11-12% of the total pics. A number of times I made a conscious effort to use the DA 21 as my walkaround lens. As you can see, then, over 75% of my pics were taken with the DA 18-135. As the chart shows, I tend to shoot at the wide end with over a third of my shots in the 18-21mm range. Still, the 135mm end got significant use.

OTHER GEAR: I took along extra batteries, a bunch of SD cards, cleaning supplies for the camera, and a Win7 tablet. I used a 16GB SD card in the camera, and this ended up being all I needed, but... I backed up my photos every evening to the tablet.

CONCLUSIONS:
The K-30 with the DA 18-135 is an outstanding combo. Fortunately we had very nice weather, but one afternoon when there were some light showers, it was great to have a WR package. Some particular things to note regarding the lenses and how I used them.
  • In the bright Mediterranean sun, I ended up using the Marumi Super DHG CPL almost all the time on the DA 18-135. There is very minor degradation in sharpness, but it was very much worth using. I did also have the hood on the lens as well.
  • The DA 18-135 really is an incredibly versatile lens, and I am very happy with my results. On my particular copy, it actually is quite good at the long end. It is comparatively weaker at 18mm, but at 21mm it is good enough, even in comparison to the DA 21.
  • The DA 21 Limited can produce great pictures, but I found it unsatisfactory as a walkaround. It often was either too long or too short. I am glad I brought it, however. When I wanted to travel light, be less conspicuous, shoot indoors, or walk around at night, the DA 21was great. In addition, for static scenes, its low distortion characteristics make it a good choice for creating stitchable panoramic shots.
  • The Sigma 10-20 was needed for all those shots wider than 18mm. It is not always possible to gather the shots to create a panorama. Additionally, the 10-20 is capable of producing some dramatic pics, especially when there are clouds in the sky to add interest. The lens was really more useful for long or wide interiors or tall towers than it was for landscapes, and some of my favorite pics from the trip were shot w/ this lens.
NOTES FOR NEXT TIME:
Well, I hope there will be a next time! But for any kind of trip like this, here are notes to myself.
  • The DA 18-135 is really useful. Remember to bring the CPL.
  • I will bring the DA 21 f3.2 Limited along again. For the uses noted, it does a great job. Other options would be the DA 35 f2.4 or the DA 50 f1.8. Those latter two are faster and almost as small, but 21mm just works better for indoors.
  • The Sigma 10-20 is fine, but it is big. I think if I ever get the DA 15, I would be inclined to take it instead of the 10-20. OTOH, a disproportionate number of my favorite pics were shot in the 10-14mm range.
  • Leave the DAL 55-300 at home. It's a great lens, but for this kind of touring, I really don't need the long end, and the DA 18-135 does a satisfactory job for most telephoto needs.
Pictures? HERE is the Flickr photostream with all the EXIF intact. (46 pics total) I'm guessing you'll be able to pick out the Sigma 10-20 pics rather easily. The pic of the Monte Carlo Casino is a 4 pic pano using the DA 21. Night pics and pics on the ship are all with the DA 21. The rest were taken with the DA 18-135.

I'd be happy to answer any questions, receive suggestions, and accept comment/critique on the pics.

Attached Images
 
08-05-2014, 11:28 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by mgvh Quote
I have been among those who have asked for lens and gear advice in preparation for a specific trip. Before my trip, I specifically asked for advice on a wide lens to bring along on a 10-day cruise in the Mediterranean along the coast from Rome to Barcelona and back. I had a Sigma 10-20 f4-5.6, but I was wanting something faster and smaller. The result was that I picked up a used SMC Pentax-DA 21mm F3.2 Limited. (Decision thread here. Thanks again for the advice.) We had a wonderful cruise and a great time with family. I ended up taking about 1500 shots which ended up being closer to 1300 after getting rid of the really bad ones. Here's a quick report to describe what worked (or not) for me photographically.

I didn't want to take a ton of gear, but I wanted to be prepared. This was more of a family outing than a photo outing, but I knew I would have many opportunities for taking pictures. My goal, therefore, was to travel light and have a versatile kit for everything from landscape and street photography to indoor and nighttime shots.

BAGS: Here's the gear list from my last travel adventure, and it was similar this time The Tenba Discovery Photo/Laptop bag worked out great again for holding everything, and I used it as one of my airline carry-ons. It is comfortable to wear, but when I was out for a day with family in the midst of crowds, it became too much. Anticipating as much, I did also bring along a fanny pack which can hold the K-30 w/ the DA 18-135, incidentals (e.g., battery, SD card, Lenstip cleaner, CPL filter, even the DA 21 if I fit things properly). My wife had me wear it as a man-purse instead of a fanny pack. When in Rome... I also carried one of those nylon string knapsacks for water and other things I might need for the day, and I often put the Sigma 10-20 in there. I have an Op/Tech SLR Wrist Strap on my K-30, and I find it very easy to walk around just holding the K-30 with the strap. Oftentimes I would end up carrying the K-30 with the DA 18-135 and then putting the Sigma 10-20 in the man-purse.

CAMERAS: My main camera is a K-30. I did also bring along my K-x as a backup. When I carry my Tenba bag, I leave the Sigma 10-20 on the K-x so that I have quick access to UWA if I need it.
Results: I almost exclusively used the K-30. I easily could get a full day's worth of shooting (most in one day was ~250 pics) from the battery, and so I just charged up each night or used my spare.

LENSES: I ended up taking the DA 18-135 which would be my main walkaround lens. With the K-30, it is a great WR combo. The last time I took a trip, I had the DA 35 f2.4 which worked out well , but I did find that it was often not as wide as I would like for indoor (including museum shots) and street photography. Hence the quest for a wider lens in addition to wanting something smaller as compared to the rather large Sigma 10-20. The result was that I got the DA 21 Limited, but I still also brought the Sigma 10-20. Finally, I brought the DAL 55-300, because if I didn't, then I would doubtless need it! I should also note that I brought along a Marumi Super DHG CPL filter for the 18-135 lens.
Results: The Exposure Plot graph (at bottom of this post) shows what I ended up shooting. All the 10-17mm range (and some of the 18-20mm) were shot with the Sigma 10-20 which turns out to be about 150 pics or 11-12% of my shots. For me, that's enough to make it worthwhile to carry the lens. In fact, I would usually start with the 18-135 until I needed to switch to the 10-20 and then just leave that on until I needed to switch back for something longer. On the long end, I only used the DAL 55-300 for 11 shots. You see the spike at 21mm. Some of those are with the DA 18-135, but about 150 or so are with the DA 21 Limited, i.e., about 11-12% of the total pics. A number of times I made a conscious effort to use the DA 21 as my walkaround lens. As you can see, then, over 75% of my pics were taken with the DA 18-135. As the chart shows, I tend to shoot at the wide end with over a third of my shots in the 18-21mm range. Still, the 135mm end got significant use.

OTHER GEAR: I took along extra batteries, a bunch of SD cards, cleaning supplies for the camera, and a Win7 tablet. I used a 16GB SD card in the camera, and this ended up being all I needed, but... I backed up my photos every evening to the tablet.

CONCLUSIONS:
The K-30 with the DA 18-135 is an outstanding combo. Fortunately we had very nice weather, but one afternoon when there were some light showers, it was great to have a WR package. Some particular things to note regarding the lenses and how I used them.
  • In the bright Mediterranean sun, I ended up using the Marumi Super DHG CPL almost all the time on the DA 18-135. There is very minor degradation in sharpness, but it was very much worth using. I did also have the hood on the lens as well.
  • The DA 18-135 really is an incredibly versatile lens, and I am very happy with my results. On my particular copy, it actually is quite good at the long end. It is comparatively weaker at 18mm, but at 21mm it is good enough, even in comparison to the DA 21.
  • The DA 21 Limited can produce great pictures, but I found it unsatisfactory as a walkaround. It often was either too long or too short. I am glad I brought it, however. When I wanted to travel light, be less conspicuous, shoot indoors, or walk around at night, the DA 21was great. In addition, for static scenes, its low distortion characteristics make it a good choice for creating stitchable panoramic shots.
  • The Sigma 10-20 was needed for all those shots wider than 18mm. It is not always possible to gather the shots to create a panorama. Additionally, the 10-20 is capable of producing some dramatic pics, especially when there are clouds in the sky to add interest. The lens was really more useful for long or wide interiors or tall towers than it was for landscapes, and some of my favorite pics from the trip were shot w/ this lens.
NOTES FOR NEXT TIME:
Well, I hope there will be a next time! But for any kind of trip like this, here are notes to myself.
  • The DA 18-135 is really useful. Remember to bring the CPL.
  • I will bring the DA 21 f3.2 Limited along again. For the uses noted, it does a great job. Other options would be the DA 35 f2.4 or the DA 50 f1.8. Those latter two are faster and almost as small, but 21mm just works better for indoors.
  • The Sigma 10-20 is fine, but it is big. I think if I ever get the DA 15, I would be inclined to take it instead of the 10-20. OTOH, a disproportionate number of my favorite pics were shot in the 10-14mm range.
  • Leave the DAL 55-300 at home. It's a great lens, but for this kind of touring, I really don't need the long end, and the DA 18-135 does a satisfactory job for most telephoto needs.
Pictures? HERE is the Flickr photostream with all the EXIF intact. (46 pics total) I'm guessing you'll be able to pick out the Sigma 10-20 pics rather easily. The pic of the Monte Carlo Casino is a 4 pic pano using the DA 21. Night pics and pics on the ship are all with the DA 21. The rest were taken with the DA 18-135.

I'd be happy to answer any questions, receive suggestions, and accept comment/critique on the pics.
Nice report, thanks for taking the time. On my way to Kruger Park this weekend with the K-30 + 18-135 and 55-300.
Brgds.
08-06-2014, 12:09 AM   #3
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Great report!!
Been living under Mediterranean sun so I can understand your "problems". Especially in summer. I can recognize the use of cpl in the sky and to be honest I'm not sure I like it. I prefer the bright sunny sky even with the burned highlights. Looking forward for a few more photos especially from beach

Last edited by tsakatsaka; 08-06-2014 at 12:17 AM.
08-06-2014, 08:21 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by tsakatsaka Quote
Great report!!
Agree! I'm curious about your methodology: did you compile the data manually or work out some automated (or semi-automated) process?

08-06-2014, 09:01 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by dadipentak Quote
Agree! I'm curious about your methodology: did you compile the data manually or work out some automated (or semi-automated) process?
Glad the report helped.
I used the free Exposure Plot software. Nothing fancy and only works with JPG, but it automatically produces that chart along with graphs of ISO settings, f-step, etc.
08-06-2014, 11:02 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by mgvh Quote
Glad the report helped.
I used the free Exposure Plot software. Nothing fancy and only works with JPG, but it automatically produces that chart along with graphs of ISO settings, f-step, etc.
Cool!
08-06-2014, 11:53 AM   #7
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It's not the number of shots, but the keepers/shots ratio that is important :-)
08-06-2014, 03:15 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by SpecialK Quote
It's not the number of shots, but the keepers/shots ratio that is important :-)
True! So I did a quick calculation.
1343 shots total
  • Sigma 10-20 > 150 = 11.2%
  • DA 18-135 > 1030 = 76.7 %
  • DA 21 > 150 = 11.2%
  • DAL 55-300 > 11 = .8%
I pulled out the better ones and ended up with 340
  • Sigma 10-20 > 50= 14.7%
  • DA 18-135 > 250= 73.5 %
  • DA 21 > 38 = 11.2%
  • DAL 55-300 > 3= .9%
Then I pulled out 46 of the best
  • Sigma 10-20 > 11 = 23.9%
  • DA 18-135 > 28 = 60.9%
  • DA 21 > 7= 15.2%
  • DAL 55-300 > 0= 0%
What I interpret this to mean is that both the Sigma 10-20 and DA 21 do better than their average. It could also be a matter of focal length (i.e, the 10-20mm range gets more interesting pics if one does it right) or opportunity (i.e., only the DA 21 really worked indoors and at night).

08-06-2014, 04:27 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by mgvh Quote
True! So I did a quick calculation.

What I interpret this to mean is that both the Sigma 10-20 and DA 21 do better than their average. It could also be a matter of focal length (i.e, the 10-20mm range gets more interesting pics if one does it right) or opportunity (i.e., only the DA 21 really worked indoors and at night).
Yes to all of those :-)
08-06-2014, 08:48 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by SpecialK Quote
Yes to all of those :-)
Nice work!

Looking at your chart I can make one immediate comment for consideration.

Obviously the 21mm focal length got used a lot simply because it was a prime, it was available and you wanted to use it. However, it would seem from your qualitative comment 'it was too long or short' that the data attributed to the 21mm would have otherwise been spread across the surrounding focal lengths if that lens was not at hand. Based on the 'hump' pattern it would seem that the main focal range to cover would be 18-35mm. You could have a zoom specifically tailored to that range (one lens such as the Sigma 18-35mm) or have a few primes (e.g. 21mm, 28mm and 35mm).

With the primes it sounds as though you could get away with manual focus at a pinch as most of these shots were at infinity focus? In a travelling situation this would open up the possibility of 'A' series lenses (light and compact).

Would a hand full of small light primes be a possibility?
08-06-2014, 09:52 PM   #11
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Thanks, Wild Mark.
Yes, I can see the attraction of going to an all prime collection. Pentax had made a point of smaller and lighter primes, and I think that's great. If I did, I'd probably go w/ something like: 15, 21, 35 and/or 50, and 100 or 135.
Still... I love the convenience of a zoom. I especially hate changing lenses, because the sensor of my K-30 seems to attract dust in a way that my K-x never has.
That new Sigma 18-35 looks intriguing, and as you note, it covers a big chunk of my shooting range, but it also looks like a big (and somewhat expensive) lens.
08-07-2014, 05:10 AM   #12
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Thanks for the report. It's hard to find a better allround travel lens than the 18-135 - I would never go on holiday without it. A set of primes is a nice supplement but could never be a substitute for the zoom. At least not on my travels

That said, it's never wrong to bring some primes. I think my choice would be 15, 28, 43, 70. I like my FA28 better than my 21 (mostly to do with focal length, I think), and the 100 macro is a bit big even if it's very nice.

21+40 would be wonderfully compact, though.
08-17-2014, 04:37 AM - 1 Like   #13
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Hehe, nice you have been there ! I know well the mediterranean area as I live now here (Antibes, near Nice, 50kms from Monaco) and had also lot of vacations in various areas accross when I was young.

I visited Florence, not long ago, and your photo really reminded me of it. I fav one . Here my take of the Florence visit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nicolasbousquet/sets/72157644755356343/

When I was in Florence I didn't take my 17-70 but only my DA21, DA35, FA50 for the common range and also my 50-135. Since then I also brought the DA15, after many internal discussion as if it would be wide enough or not.

Overall I'am happy with it. I can really take most of my landscape and many picture with DA21. Very small, practical and the focal lens avoid having too much perspective distorsion or simply being too wide with no subject. I mean likely 95% of your shoots from 18 to 28mm could be taken with the 21. That just a different way to shoot. You move a little more arround the subject, think more of composition and a little less to just move the zoom to get everything as one do with a zoom. From your stats, that's more than half your shoots ! Using a 20-40, or 18-35 would allow you to cover 80% of your shoots.


Honestly through, from time to time 21mm is not wide enough.

I really had the problem and decided for the 15 as for the reduced size. In Paris this summer it worked very well and I never really needed wider. i mean if it is really wide, even 10mm will not do it. You need to do a pano or a fish (that was my conclusion anyway .

I tend to agree with you that more than 135mm is useless except if you have a special need like some safari. 135mm is really already a lot and you can crop a little if needed. I only see >135mm for special purpose like wildlife.
08-17-2014, 08:49 AM - 1 Like   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by mgvh Quote
We had a wonderful cruise and a great time with family
That's what holidays are all about and if you can get some photography in too, well that's just a bonus.
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