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04-11-2007, 12:58 PM   #1
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Experiences with Pentax on an Italy tour

Thought I'd relate my experiences in a just concluded "big bus" tour of Italy with the family and some Pentax gear. Ideas below, in no particular order.

The trip was a graduation present for my daughter. Several years ago, as an incentive to finish law school, I offered to send her on a trip wherever she wanted to go. "Italy!", was her request. She followed that up with "I want you and Elisa to come too." So, I was on the hook.

Before the trip, I agonized over what equipment to take. My lens inventory is vast, but not as large as some forum members, and even had my choice of various bodies. Below is a list of what I took, followed by some comments about the equipment I choose to take along with me.

K10D (without the grip)

Zenitar 16/2.8
"the pancake kit" (DA21/3.2, DA40/2.8, DA70/2.4)
"the kit lenses" (DA18-55/3.5-5.6, DA50-200/4-5.6, Tamron 1/4x tc)
"the 'low-light' lens" (FA50/1.4)
"the Brunelleschi dome telephoto lens" (K135/2.5)

IR filter, 49mm polarizer, 52mm polarizer
three batteries (OEM Pentax and two Impact clones)
120/240 battery charger
bulb blower

SD cards
2-2Gb OCZ (very fast cards)
1-2Gb Extreme III (very fast)
4-2Gb Ultra II (medium fast)
3-2Gb Dane-Elec (slow)
6-1Gb Ultra II (medium fast)
3-1Gb Dane-Elec (slow)
1-1Gb SanDisk (medium, borrowed from wife)
several smaller capacity cards, not used, one lent to my daughter for her M20

All carried in a Lowepro Micro Trekker 200 (except for the K135/2.5)

- - - - -

comments:

1.) Opted for extra SD cards instead of a winchester backup drive. I have an older Wolverine drive, but it doesn't seem to read cards very well anymore. After pricing new drives, it was more cost efficient to just get a few more cards.

2.) I shot in DNG/JPEG mode and took a total of 1610 exposures. Probably, less than 20 of them were deleted in the field. Had enough room on the cards, but was starting to run short. Had the smaller cards if needed (128Mb. 256Mb and 512Mb, total of 2Gb for all the smaller cards.) I did borrow one 1-Gb card from my wife, as she didn't need it and lent a 512Mb card to my daughter because she accidentally deleted all her images from her card. I took her card, write protected it, and recovered the files after I got back home with deleted file recovery freeware.

3.) Took way too many lenses. Based on a run of the "exposure plot" software, I used the DA21 more than all other lenses combined. That is unique for me, as I'm a telephoto person and rarely use wide angles. Next used lens was the FA50, followed by the DA40 and the DA70. Individual lens details below:

3a.) Zenitar 16/2.8 - This lens came in handy for those situations where 21mm was not wide enough. It was only used a few times, but was invaluable when needed. It was worth taking, even if only used a few times.

3b.) The 'pancake kit'

3b1.) DA21 - this lens was used by far more than any other, and as stated, was on the camera for over half of the total shots takes. Nighttime and daytime, this was the 'go to' lens.

3b2.) DA40 - this lens was the second choice when I didn't need such a wide angle and wanted a little bit more reach. Definitely worth having along.

3b3.) DA70 - when I had the pancake kit in my pockets and needed the reach. Might have been able to do without, but small enough that it was worth taking along. I'm glad I had it with me.

3c.) FA50 - second most used lens, primarily for interior, low-light shots. I had a faster lens (A50/1.2, but wanted auto focus capability. Some advised about not taking a fast 50, but I couldn't have done without. It is definitely needed at night. Some of my best shots were taken with this lens.

3d.) FA28-105 - specs show it was my fourth most used lens (after the DA21, FA50, and DA40). Most usage was at either stop (28mm and 105mm). Could have possibly left it at home, but was very useful when I didn't want to have to hassle with lens changes. Glad I had it along.

3e.) DA18-55 (and DA50-200) - only used one day when I didn't want to change lenses (pancake kit). Most shots with the kit lens was at 18mm and the DA50-200 at the long end (water shots in Venice of the shoreline). I could have done without these two lenses.

3f.) Tamron 1.4x tc - taken along for use with the DA50-200. Didn't use even once, should have left home. Same for the filters. Didn't use them even once.

- - - - -

More 'exposure plot' chart analysis:

1.) aperture graph

1a.) a distinct Gaussian bell-shaped curve, with the exception of two apertures.

1b.) most used aperture was f/3.2 - not surprising as the most used lens, the DA21, has a maximum aperture of f/3.2

1c.) second most used aperture was f/1.4, again, not surprising as this is the maximum aperture of the FA50, which was used for nighttime, interior, flashless photography

2.) ISO graph

2a.) more shots at ISO 100 than all other ISOs combined. Makes sense for daytime, outdoor scenic snapshots

2b.) next most used ISO is ISO 1000, followed closely by ISO 1600. These must have been the nighttime, outdoor shots and interior, low-light shots

2c.) all other ISOs about equal in usage

3.) Shutter speed graph

3a.) a very well defined Gaussian shape, with the peak at 1/60s.

3b.) slowest shutter speed is 1/2s and fastest 1/3200s.

- - - - -

General comments:

1.) I 'hate' flash and only used the built-in flash a few times as a fill flash. Some of my best shots were at night, without flash.

2.) Be sure to wander about at nighttime. The whole environment changes at night. The tourists go back to their hotels, the vendors who cater to the tourist pack up and go home for the night, the fountain lights are turned on, couples and lovers walk hand in hand, the teenagers hang out in the Piazzas, and the whole country has a 'Disneyland' magic about it. If you have ever gone to Italy, and not gone out at night, you've missed the best part.

3.) I'm so happy I took the 50/1.4 lens. Would not have been able to take some of by best shots without it. Imagine the restaurant lights are dimmed, the opera singer is lit by only candlelight and wandering through the diners, and you can still get the shot, without using a flash to ruin the mood! Priceless!

4.) Autofocus wouldn't work at times. Especially noticed with the DA21. Since most times was when trying to acquire scenic snapshots, and infinity focus would serve fine, I just switched to manual focus, and took the shot. That was a minor irritant, but not a buster.

5.) Foul weather about half the trip. Very glad I had the weather-proofed K10D instead of the K100D. Rained a lot! Got a bad cold in Venice, wandering the back streets in the rain. No damage to equipment.

6.) Saw a lot more Pentax cameras than I do in the states. Even saw another K10D.

7.) Shake Reduction and f/1.4 allowed me to take flashless photos, and the subject really appreciated it. I could tell that they were more than willing to pose for me than other tourists with flash p&s cameras.

The guitarist in one restaurant wants me to send him the photos I took of him, he was so impressed.

8.) Took the standard scenic shots, but also made sure I took a lot of the shots with the family members in the frame. When all is said and done, those will be the most cherished shots. Also tried for a variety of situations, such as shots of my daughter dozing while in transit.

9.) Some of the better shots will become slides in a DVD video of the trip. Will be using ProShow Gold.

10.) "big bus" tours sux. Good for a first, initial visit...but, no more. Very little time to explore on your own.

Final tip, learn some of the language. The locals love it if you attempt to speak some of their native tongue. If you already know Spanish, you are more than half way there. It is simple enough to master the basic phrases of courtesy. Well worth the time and effort.

Above comments submitted in hopes of helping other forum members in their planned or potential trip abroad. Buon viaggio! Have a gelato for me.


Last edited by volosong; 04-11-2007 at 01:05 PM.
04-11-2007, 01:13 PM   #2
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couple more thoughts

A few more random thoughts:

Shot P mode mostly, as it was a family vacation and I didn't want to concern myself with proper exposure calculations (and the time it would take to think about it first). Used Av a few times and even Tv, but mostly I just let the camera decide what was the best exposure.

Mostly, set the ISO to automatic, and the range from ISO 100 to ISO 1600. How's that for letting the camera decide?

Glad I shot DNG/JPEG, as there were a few time I forgot to set the white balance from the evening before back to AWB. DNG will save a few keepers.

Be sure to take a charger and at least one extra battery. I'd be DIW without the charger. Make sure you have a two-pin European plug adapter. Most chargers are dual voltage, but the pin configuration is not the same as in the states. Impact batteries didn't last as long as they should have. This was discussed in previous threads and I'll have to test more extensively to determine if they are defective.
04-11-2007, 01:31 PM   #3
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Steven,

Thanks for this nice write-up of your experience in one of the most fantastic places I had the pleasure of visiting. It is truly a magnificent country.

Sometimes you have to find out the hard way that you brought too much equipment. However, it's probably a better scenario than missing out on opportunities due to limitations. Last time I was in Europe, I took hundreds of photos with a point and shoot. Yes, a point and shoot....arrrgh. Imagine my dismay when I processed them when I returned. So many wasted photos and opportunities.

I plan to go back to a few more European cities (including Venice...very excited!) in May and this time I'm gonna be strapped with my K10D, limited pancakes, and a 50mm A 1.7. Your posting has helped confirm my plan.

Thanks.

Bori

Last edited by Bori; 04-11-2007 at 01:48 PM.
04-11-2007, 01:44 PM   #4
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Thanks for the info

I did one year of law school before switching to photography school, though this is not really related to your post. I'm leaving law to my mother and grandfather .
I'm going on a short trip to scotland in a month or so and am deciding what to bring. I was thinking the 3 pancakes, 50-200 and 10-17 but now I'm wondering if I should bring the 50mm as well. I hate schleping more than I have to though. I'm a lightweight lazy person... Maybe I'll leave home the zooms and just take the primes.
I'd love to see some photos!

04-11-2007, 02:32 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Leya216:
I'm going on a short trip to scotland in a month or so and am deciding what to bring. I was thinking the 3 pancakes, 50-200 and 10-17 but now I'm wondering if I should bring the 50mm as well. I hate schleping more than I have to though. I'm a lightweight lazy person... Maybe I'll leave home the zooms and just take the primes.
I'd love to see some photos!
Hi, Leah. That's my daughter's name too. If I had your equipment list, and was going abroad, I'd leave the 50-200 behind and take the 50 instead. The pancakes, for sure. You'll find the 10-17 useful also. Had a chance to pick one up, but wanted a rectilinear instead of a fisheye.

If you are an interior, flashless type of person, you'll find a fast 50 is extremely valuable. If you aren't afraid of flash, then it doesn't matter. Personally, I don't like flashes going off in my eyes, so I tend to not use them on other people.

I wondered how long it would be before someone asked for some photos. They'll come later...promise.
04-11-2007, 02:36 PM   #6
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Hi!

I'm half Italian and know Italy very well. I find I use wide primes more on my travels than anything else. I guess you just feel you want the best quality... you'll have less chance of going back for another!

No need for zooms in Italy.. I think you'll find Italians more willing to be photographed than people of any other nation! They love it! I did a shoot on a trade floor at a larg investment bank once... everybody ignored our presence except the Italian team who leapt at the chance of being photographed... posing with phones and everything! haha So again, wide primes are great for getting right in the middle of things.

Can't wait to see your photos to see where else you went... Venice is indeed a photogenic place... where else did you go?
04-11-2007, 02:53 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Christian:
...where else did you go?
The usual two-week tourist route. Rome to Sorrento/Capri/Pompeii to Assisi to Ravena to Venice to Verona to Lago di Como/Lugano/Maggiore to Florence to Pisa to Siena and finishing up once again in Rome. Nice, but too little time to explore on our own. I've heard and read that the real way to experience Italy is to get off the tourist beats and wander the back streets. Did a few times, and had my best experiences then.

The locals are extremely friendly. We were trying to decipher a sign along a rambla in front of a stylistic horse head 'statue' with Isola Bella in the background. We thought the sign had something to do with the sculpure, and just about had it figured out when a couple walking their dog (off the leash) came by and were embarrassed because the sign was a city ordinance sign saying that dogs must be on a leash. We all had a good laugh about it.

Only two thing I really wanted to see/do on this trip. Only accomplished one of them. Walk the Via Appia Antica (ancient Appian Way) and wander the back streets of Venezia. Guess I'll have to return some day.
04-11-2007, 03:04 PM   #8
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I've been to all those places apart from the lakes... I'm a southerner...

Back streets of Venice are great. Nice and quiet, colours, washing lines etc...

Rome's good too for architecture and people watching. Huge and great old unspoilt buildings.

I'd be interested in your shots of Pompei... last time I went there I was a grumpy child, not impressed with hot dusty ruins at all!

04-11-2007, 05:21 PM   #9
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Thanks for sharing these info with us! Personally, I'm much more enlightened now about which lens to buy. Of course, it still depends on the user, but you've basically covered pretty much the kind of photography I usually take (flashless low-light photography and "vacation"-type photos).

Hope we could see some of the pictures you took.
04-11-2007, 05:45 PM   #10
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Glad you had a great time! Where are the pictures?!?

(For the record, my comment was to take the 50/1.4, rather than the extra weight of the 50/1.2. Totally different story if I was more sober at night!)
04-11-2007, 06:02 PM   #11
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Your experiences pretty well coincide with mine except on a few points:
(a) I had masses of time, (5 Years and could have stayed longer)
(b) Lived in a small RV (camper/motorhome), (You gotta love the flexibility.)
(c) I took very few photographs because I was too proccupied enjoying the experience and had only very limited funds.

Thanks a million for sharing your experiences.
04-11-2007, 08:15 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by carpents Quote
Glad you had a great time! Where are the pictures?!?

(For the record, my comment was to take the 50/1.4, rather than the extra weight of the 50/1.2. Totally different story if I was more sober at night!)
Eagerly awaits for new photos in carpents' equipement gallery on pbase. :P
04-11-2007, 08:40 PM   #13
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Glad you enjoyed yourself Stephen. I wondered where you had gotten yourself off to since it's *baseball season*. Looking forward to seeing some shots. I'm off to France this coming monday, but it's work, not play.
04-12-2007, 01:39 PM   #14
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Cool, thanks for sharing your experience...

But I am curious how you feel about the DA40 and FA50/1.4 it seems frmo your explanation, that you could have left the DA40 at home as well, and used the FA50/1.4 in its place.

your thoughts?

(I ask because I have the 50 but kinda want the 40 )
04-12-2007, 05:26 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by kmccanta Quote
Cool, thanks for sharing your experience...

But I am curious how you feel about the DA40 and FA50/1.4 it seems from your explanation, that you could have left the DA40 at home as well, and used the FA50/1.4 in its place.

your thoughts?

(I ask because I have the 50 but kinda want the 40 )
I "love" my 40. It is the default lens on the body. Disregarding ISO (maximum aperture), the best thing about the DA40 is the clutch focus mechanism in AF mode. The FA lenses don't have that. The DA lenses also AF faster than the FA lenses. They have a shorter "throw".

The DA40 was used as part of the pancake kit, so got lots of use during the day. The FA50 only came out at nighttime, when I needed the extra stops. Hardly used the other lenses after sundown, and never used the FA50 during daytime. I suppose I could have left the 40 at home, but it is so small, it didn't take up much room. The camera either had the DA21 or DA40 on it most of the time.

If you have the funds, you won't regret the purchase of the DA40/2.8 lens.

What I did leave home is the FA35/2.0 lens. I agonized over that one. In the bag, there was only room for so much. The decision came down to either the FA50/1.4, A50/1.2, or FA35/2.0. Decided for autofocus, so the 1.2 was out. The FA35 is the better "normal" lens, but decided that I'd rather have the extra stop for low-light situations, and took the FA50 and the FA35 got left at home. Especially since the DA40 covered the same basic focal length as the FA35 would have.

In hindsight, I could have left the DA50-200 at home and put the FA35/2.0 in its place. Only lens I wish I had access to was a wider rectilinear wide-angle than the DA21. Could have used that. But, de-fishing the Zenitar shots will work okay.
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