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06-14-2010, 02:36 PM   #1
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Pentax Kit for Afghanistan

Hello Forum,

I work as a pilot (civilian) in Afghanistan and would like to finally purchase a decent DSLR kit for use overseas and beyond. I have outgrown point and shoot cameras of various types over the years (Olympus, Minolta, Canon sd500, sx10is and sx200is).

I am attracted to the K-7 for it's performance and weather resistance. The Nikon and Canon lines appear much more expensive for the same level of performance you would get with the Pentax and DA* series lenses.

What I am considering is a K-7 with either:

18-55mm WR and 50-200mm WR
16-55mm DA* and 60-250mm DA*
DA* 55mm 1.4 (Low Light)
Appropriate Hoya lens filters to protect the end glass.

I love prime lenses from use with other SLR's. If a prime lens collection that offers weather resistance ( a must as the dust gets in everything here) is available I would prefer it. I understand the limited line of Pentax lenses is highly desirable.

Use of the camera will be a mix of action (aircraft shooting ordinance) and landscape/nature. I do seem to take a lot of Macro shots of insects and plants. I take portraits occasionally. From what I have read the K-7 is sufficient in ISO performance utilizing RAW instead of JPEG and that the reviews are somewhat overstated in that it performs to a lower standard then the competition.

Any other brand lenses are of no complaint as long as the weather sealing is comparable. Price is of lesser concern than quality and I see lenses as an investment that hold value.

I welcome suggestions and value your advice, best of all BH has a sale currently, thank you all!

Lee

06-14-2010, 03:21 PM   #2
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One thing I would say right off the bat is that if you need WR (and you do), then the new DFA 100 Macro WR should definitely be on your short list. You say you like to shoot macros, so there you go. It's a great lens that is highly desired in the general Pentax community, and not just for macros.

Other than that, I think you should probably stick to the DA*'s. The WR kit lenses are better than the kit lens of old, but if quality is truly more important than price to you then I don't think you'd be satisfied with them for long. ALL the DA*'s are good lenses and you really can't go wrong there. Just pick the focal lengths that you like or think you'll use the most.

Also, you mentioned Hoya filters. I highly recommend the Hoya PRO1 clear protection filters. They will not influence the image quality in the least. I put them on all my lenses, though they don't make a 49mm size which is what the DFA100 needs. You might try the Marumi Super DHG for that one or the equivalent B&W.
06-14-2010, 03:34 PM   #3
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Does WR really help you against SAND? And zooms are the worst for sand anyway. Better to stick with primes.

Does it actually ever rain in Afghanistan in the first place? And if it does, would you be taking pictures in that?

I would think you should be looking for the best prime available, and for Afghanistan, all I can think of is the DA 15 Limited.

Which will allow you to shoot magic, and not just photos. Many reasons why I recommend such a short lens for this environment as well.
06-14-2010, 03:56 PM   #4
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It rains a fair amount in the mountains over here. The sand is best described as fine like you would see if you beat a rug, not beach sand. The Canon SX200 has dust in the lens from zooming. In the south (Helmand/Kandahar province) the dust is particularly bad.

What would be a complete set of primes that are sealed sufficiently?

DA* 55 1.4
FA 100mm Macro WR
DA* 300mm F4
DA* 200mm F2.8

I would lean toward the 300mm for a telephoto. I really like the idea of a macro lens. I have no issue with using my feet to frame a picture and enjoy using primes. The last I used was a Nikon with a selection of zooms and I used the 35mm 1.8 and zoom telephoto at 200mm almost the entire time.

Keep in mind my home state is Maine so I'll see plenty of rain and I fully intend to use this in weather.

What would work for a wide angle?

06-14-2010, 04:27 PM   #5
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You're a pilot so I assume that you will be doing some shooting from the air. My first concern would be for a lens that was flexible enough to give you the range of views that you will need for photographing from the air. So, even though a zoom may be more prone to "inhale" dust while zooming, I'd certainly entertain the purchase of a good wide range zoom, possibly a 60-250 zoom, or even a wider zoom range, that would cover all of the focal lengths that you might need from an aircraft.

Keep in mind, the ideal of having a prime because of weather sealing and no aspiration of dust, may not serve your need for various focal lengths from the pilot's seat. I don't think that you will want to be fiddling with lens changing when your are trying to drive your airplane and also take pictures of some interesting thing on the ground. You want easy! So I would recommend a wide range zoom.
06-14-2010, 04:54 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by LeeRunge Quote
It rains a fair amount in the mountains over here. The sand is best described as fine like you would see if you beat a rug, not beach sand. The Canon SX200 has dust in the lens from zooming. In the south (Helmand/Kandahar province) the dust is particularly bad.

What would be a complete set of primes that are sealed sufficiently?

DA* 55 1.4
FA 100mm Macro WR
DA* 300mm F4
DA* 200mm F2.8

I would lean toward the 300mm for a telephoto. I really like the idea of a macro lens. I have no issue with using my feet to frame a picture and enjoy using primes. The last I used was a Nikon with a selection of zooms and I used the 35mm 1.8 and zoom telephoto at 200mm almost the entire time.

Keep in mind my home state is Maine so I'll see plenty of rain and I fully intend to use this in weather.

What would work for a wide angle?
Your situation and needs far outweigh my ability to lend any valuable advice whatsoever.

Shooting from a plane is a whole different thing than walking around in Kandahar.
06-14-2010, 08:15 PM   #7
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On dust and Pentax WR, you should look at the thread:

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-dslr-discussion/104401-testing-k7-...ur-camera.html

Very interesting....
06-14-2010, 08:57 PM   #8
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I have not been over, however the company I work for has quite a few folks over there. I hear that the "sand" is more like talcum powder and it gets everywhere.

I am somewhat torn in terms of rendering usable advice. I think that the primes may be better suited (less moving parts), but you would be changing lenses much more often, thus the dust would get on the sensor (not good). On the other hand with zooms, you would be changing lenses less frequently, however inhaling dust during the zoom operations (that said, I would have to assume that the seals on the WR zooms would prevent that) - so I would tend to side with the zooms. I think that a quick call to the Pentax technical service line would be very helpful on the topic. They may know if they had any equipment come back for service from the area.

With that I would say that the DA* 16-55mm and DA* 60-250mm would be your best bet. High quality in two lenses. The 16 end is wide enough for wide angle (and do not forget about stitching images together). The 250 end should be long enough for just about everything. The combination would keep the lens swaps at a minimum. Also, it all should be able to fit into a nice compact bag to carry it all in. A couple of extra batteries, several SD cards, and you should be good to go. Maybe a mini tripod and maybe a clamp of some type to use as a pseudo tripod. Might as well toss in an external shutter release. I think with that you should be set for just about anything.

I might suggest making friends with a photo tech at the main base, who can give your body (sensor) a frequent cleaning for you.

I spent a couple of weeks out at sea on a helicopter carrier and was unable to get inside a couple of times when I really needed to change lenses. Don't do it - don't even think about it. I had a very dirty sensor for the last part of the trip (stack gas and not salt spray). I might even suggest keeping your equipment in plastic zip lock bags. While on board the ship, I was the only one there with Pentax equipment. Loads of Canons, Nikons and Sonys. The ship's photographer kept looking at my "little" K100 with the 10-17 Fisheye zoom, which worked out VERY well there in the tight spaces and large objects. He had the Navy order him a Tokina for his issued Canon. Its not a WR lens, but its built extremely well, and worked minor miracles.

The only other suggestion I might make is to consider a good quality circular polarizing filter for the lenses (not for the wide angle lenses though - not for anything less than say 28mm in focal length). This would help with the bright intense sun, glare off the sand, etc.

Other than that - be careful and stay safe....

06-15-2010, 09:53 AM   #9
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Thank you all for the advice,

I think I will give the DA* 16-50 and 60-250 both a chance initially. They are rated dust resistant and this will be a great test of that rating. I will not be taking many aerial photographs as this will be used mainly on the ground.



Lee
06-17-2010, 02:15 PM   #10
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Have you considered just getting an 18-250 and leaving it on pretty much the whole time?
06-17-2010, 02:21 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by LeeRunge Quote
Thank you all for the advice,

I think I will give the DA* 16-50 and 60-250 both a chance initially. They are rated dust resistant and this will be a great test of that rating. I will not be taking many aerial photographs as this will be used mainly on the ground.



Lee
you do know that if they are not "as advertised" might have a problem getting any service.
06-17-2010, 04:44 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by interested_observer Quote
I have not been over, however the company I work for has quite a few folks over there. I hear that the "sand" is more like talcum powder and it gets everywhere.

I am somewhat torn in terms of rendering usable advice. I think that the primes may be better suited (less moving parts), but you would be changing lenses much more often, thus the dust would get on the sensor (not good). On the other hand with zooms, you would be changing lenses less frequently, however inhaling dust during the zoom operations (that said, I would have to assume that the seals on the WR zooms would prevent that) - so I would tend to side with the zooms. I think that a quick call to the Pentax technical service line would be very helpful on the topic. They may know if they had any equipment come back for service from the area.

With that I would say that the DA* 16-55mm and DA* 60-250mm would be your best bet. High quality in two lenses. The 16 end is wide enough for wide angle (and do not forget about stitching images together). The 250 end should be long enough for just about everything. The combination would keep the lens swaps at a minimum. Also, it all should be able to fit into a nice compact bag to carry it all in. A couple of extra batteries, several SD cards, and you should be good to go. Maybe a mini tripod and maybe a clamp of some type to use as a pseudo tripod. Might as well toss in an external shutter release. I think with that you should be set for just about anything.

I might suggest making friends with a photo tech at the main base, who can give your body (sensor) a frequent cleaning for you.

I spent a couple of weeks out at sea on a helicopter carrier and was unable to get inside a couple of times when I really needed to change lenses. Don't do it - don't even think about it. I had a very dirty sensor for the last part of the trip (stack gas and not salt spray). I might even suggest keeping your equipment in plastic zip lock bags. While on board the ship, I was the only one there with Pentax equipment. Loads of Canons, Nikons and Sonys. The ship's photographer kept looking at my "little" K100 with the 10-17 Fisheye zoom, which worked out VERY well there in the tight spaces and large objects. He had the Navy order him a Tokina for his issued Canon. Its not a WR lens, but its built extremely well, and worked minor miracles.

The only other suggestion I might make is to consider a good quality circular polarizing filter for the lenses (not for the wide angle lenses though - not for anything less than say 28mm in focal length). This would help with the bright intense sun, glare off the sand, etc.

Other than that - be careful and stay safe....
Great point about making friends with the military photographers. Pentax has some really nice primes that I will be sure to pick up once I return to Maine. Right now It looks like the 16-50 and 60-250 DA* will cover about everything I need and should hold the dust out. Ironically it has been raining here the entire week. (Rain is short is heavy though, and some amazing thunderstorms.)

I spent the last few days giving Nikon and Canon a VERY thorough amount of research. The 300s and 7d are very attractive cameras. But in the end I don't care for pixel peeping as they all take very nice pictures. The Pentax K-7 has some very interesting features like the "trap camera" setup where you can pre-focus and let the subject enter the frame. I can think of many uses for this with a remote shutter release. Can this be left active for long periods of time?

Canon 7d looked very attractive but after reading the manual I just felt like Pentax has more to offer for features. (And I own 3 canon's) I like interval time lapse, canon lacks this. I like the "trap camera" setting. And HDR looks like it could be used to create some ethereal images.

Nikon looked like it had great AF performance but I have never used Nikons.

The total package with the sealed lenses sold Pentax for me. I think Pentax needs to sell this to outdoors types who will use there equipment in rain or want to. Almost everyone here on this military base has a waterproof point in shoot of some brand, its a feature that is in demand. Nikon and Canon lenses are either not well documented as sealed or are seriously expensive when coupled with a decent camera.

L glass and DA* are both expensive but a K-7 is half the price of a 7D if they are sealed equally.
Nikon is elusive on weather resistance other than in the body. I realize that pro's have used this stuff in horrible conditions for years so it must not be to critical or they just burn up equipment.

In the event that I do manage to get more than a trivial amount of dust in the body or lenses what is the route to take to correct this?
06-17-2010, 04:46 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Reportage Quote
you do know that if they are not "as advertised" might have a problem getting any service.
You mean if I use the lens in heavy dust or rain and it fails pentax may dismiss my claim with some clever legalize?
06-17-2010, 06:32 PM   #14
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I don't think build quality gets much higher than the DA*'s, which is a big deal in extreme environments. That is, minus the SDM issues. The classic photojournalism set up is a well built f/2.8 wide-to-standard zoom and standard-to-tele zoom, and a fast standard prime. But that depends how wide you need. Pentax doesn't have an ultra-wide sealed lens. But as others have said, the well-built primes are pretty tough too.

Last edited by CWyatt; 06-17-2010 at 10:14 PM.
06-17-2010, 07:48 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by LeeRunge Quote
I like interval time lapse, canon lacks this. I like the "trap camera" setting.
Pentax's time lapse controls can be limiting. Here is an external shutter release that provides additional time lapse functionality.
Timer Remote Cord for Pentax K20D K10D K200D K100D *ist - eBay (item 330346787168 end time Jun-17-10 22:20:30 PDT)
QuoteOriginally posted by LeeRunge Quote
In the event that I do manage to get more than a trivial amount of dust in the body or lenses what is the route to take to correct this?
When I came back home with a very dirty sensor and lenses, I took them to a local camera service center (who supported everything but Pentax, however if your are going to service hasselblad, I did not worry about my K100). They cleaned the sensor and body along with the lenses (outside). I am guessing that if you acquired a lot of dust inside the lenses, then someone like Eric ( Home ) could disassemble the lenses and clean them, but others would need to confirm this. You could probably email him and see what his answer would be....
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