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06-05-2012, 03:14 PM   #1
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I cheated on Pentax (but we're good now)

Short version: I tried to ditch my pentax film/digital kit in favor of a NEX-3 and Voigtlander rangefinder with Leica lenses, but wasn't impressed.

Hey all, I thought you might be interested in the little experiment I did over the last few months. Although I had little to complain about with my film/digital Pentax collection, I've got a thing for all things small and classy and niche, so I wanted to try a rangefinder.

The idea was that I like to have a versatile kit to shoot both film and digital photos in a compact package. For a typical holiday I would bring my K-x, Super programme, DA21ltd, A50/1.7, and M85/2 or M135/3.5. So I collected a more or less equivalent package with a NEX-3, Voigtlander R3A, NEX 16/2.8, Leica Summicron-c 40/2, and Leica Elmar-C 90/4 (totalling around 1400 euro) to see what would happen. Here's some impressions:

-Size and weight: The Pentax set weighs around 1,8 kg, NEX/voigt weighs 1,3 kg. A big difference when carrying around this stuff in a messenger bag all day. Put on a table the size difference is obvious as well, but in practice size doesn't matter too much: my bag becomes a bit thicker and that's it.

-Image quality: Not much difference really. the Sony 16 has pincushion distortion which i found really annoying (stretched corners are my main issue with wideangles, i often prefer fisheyes for 'natural' perspective), but then again, it's much wider than the 21ltd. The Leica 40/2 has pretty bad bokeh, but I really like the focal length on both film and crop cameras. The Leica 90 is really sharp and nice, but slow. the M100/2.8 I once had was about as sharp and small, and a stop faster. The M85/2 isn't as sharp, but more versatile due to its speed and I really like its character wide open.
Every once in a while I'm thinking I'd like to do a little more with video, and with this experiment I realised that in-body IS is a big deal: NEX with anything longer than the 16mm gives useless handheld footage.

-Handling: well, as I was new to rangefinders, I did have to get used to it. Often I'd forget about the focusing for a quick shot, as the image in the VF looked just fine, resulting in out of focus shots. Obviously, that's a newbie thing to do, but RFs just have fewer visual cues than SLRs. Another thing is the framelines, which are set by the user. As I only had 40 and 90 lenses, the right framelines were in all the time, but I still had to remember which to use. I didn't mess up, but that's another thing to remember. Also, the framelines are not nearly as accurate as an SLR viewfinder, and I found framing of 90mm shots awkward with so much in view but not in the picture. When walking around with the voigtlander around my neck, it had a tendency to rotate until the lens pointed upwards - a little annoying, and I had no idea how to fix that, except for holding the camera in my hands.
On the digital side, the NEX works well. Focus peaking is very convenient for focusing manual lenses, and I didn't have any issues with the LCD blacking out in full sunlight. The flip-up display works nice for shooting in different angles. However, I did miss simply using a viewfinder a few times, and I didn't enjoy the lack of buttons on the camera, as that meant they'd do something different depending on the shooting mode and attached lens.

-Future plans: Although I'd really like to have a few lenses I know very well, there's always dreams for later. Perhaps a NEX-7, so I could have a viewfinder again, or a fast (f/1.2 or so) fifty, or a longer tele, or a faster portrait lens (the elmarit 90/2.8 was on the top of my list), but the problem is that once you have the Sony 16 and the Leica 40/2 and 90/4, most of the bargains (save some exotic russians) are already in the bag - the rest is awefully expensive. With Pentax, there's little (cheap) choice on the wide end of the spectrum (beyond 28mm), but for the rest it's much, much cheaper than anything NEX or Leica/Voigtlander.

So in the end, I figured the Voigt/NEX combination could be nice, if I'd take the time to get used to it. There would most likely be some benefits to that system compared to Pentax, but as far as I could see for now, they'd be minor. And there would be at least as many benefits to the Pentax system. So I kept asking myself why I was trying so hard to like the Voigt/NEX, while there was little wrong with the Pentax kit.
Two weeks later, I've sold most of the stuff I bought for the experiment, and it looks like I'll even make a little profit on it. Last weekend the Pentax gods rewarded me for my decision when I found a perfectly working MX with Vivitar Series One 28/1.9 in a camera shop for 60 euro! For the rest of the money, I'm thinking about getting the first K50/1.2 that I can find, a more sensible 28 or 35, a decent film scanner, and a pair of running shoes to lose the extra weight in my bag somewhere else... and the other half I'll save for the summer holidays

06-05-2012, 03:32 PM   #2
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I really love my NEX-5n. I kept it alongside my K-5, but I find myself going to the NEX more. I recently bought some nice Canon FD glass to go with it. I think the grip on the NEX-5n works surprisingly well with a big honking lens, and while I didn't buy a bunch of M-mount or range finder stuff, my DA limiteds are small enough, even with the adapter. Sigma has 19 and 30mm lenses that are apparently plastic fantastics, from the reviews. The Canon 85 1.2L I bought is my new favorite lens, and it was a bargain.








06-05-2012, 03:46 PM   #3
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Oh sure, I didn't mean to turn this into a NEX bashing thread, as I was quite fond of the thing, and also of the handling with old lenses. But if I'm sharing lenses between my film and digital bodies, I think I'd pick a pentax dslr over a nex+k-adapter any time.
06-05-2012, 03:51 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by urje Quote
Oh sure, I didn't mean to turn this into a NEX bashing thread, as I was quite fond of the thing, and also of the handling with old lenses. But if I'm sharing lenses between my film and digital bodies, I think I'd pick a pentax dslr over a nex+k-adapter any time.
Oh I know you weren't. I just really love focus peaking and the NEX allows me to both share lenses, with my Pentax, and try lenses I'd never be able to use on a DSLR camera. Now that Pentax is adding focus peaking to their DSLRs, I am very interested though. It is such a great feature. I wish they would add it to the K-5 via firmware, like Sony did for the NEX 3.

06-05-2012, 03:56 PM   #5
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Ha, well, I can always do that when I run out of Pentax lenses I still would like to try
06-05-2012, 04:25 PM   #6
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Pentax should also add articulated screens, but maybe that is an issue with WR.
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