Feb 09 2009

Journeys with a Pentax K200D DSLR—Hitting the Trail

 
I’ve taken a lot of photos and added a new lens since my last report about the Pentax DSLR I bought in December, so there’s a lot to pass on. Let me begin with my new lens, the…

 
Pentax 50-200mm F4-5.6 ED Telephoto Lens The kit lens which came with my camera is bright and light, but I wanted a longer lens for shooting pictures of birds and other wildlife, so after some research I decided on this lens. At about USD150 it’s reasonably priced, and reviews were good. The 35mm equivalent is 76.5-306mm—a significant step from the kit lens. Here’s an example of a long shot of a female downy woodpecker at 200mm, hand-held, without shake reduction selected, and through a double pane window:

 

Female Downy Woodpecker

 
The telephoto is lightweight, compact, bright, and faithful to colors. I’m pleased with its sharpness, and also am happy it can share the circular polarizing filter as the kit lens (52mm). In fact, the telephoto with the lens retracted is about the same size as the original lens:

 

Lens Comparison

 
The long lens is mounted on the camera, with the supplied hood ahead of it. The hood which came with the kit lens is in front of the shorter lens. Both hoods have a polarizer filter (PL) window built-in so you can reach through the lens hood and rotate the polarizer. A nice feature. Here’s the long lens completely extended:

 

Telephoto Fully Extended

 
You can see that the lens is still quite compact, and in fact, I’ve found that it’s very handy to use, even when shooting out the window—it doesn’t smack into the glass, as I’d feared might happen when I was concentrating more on the viewfinder than on my position. The photo below is shot at full extension, and like the picture of the woodpecker, I hand-held the camera:

 

Chickadee

 
This chickadee photo is reproduced one-for-one. In other words, I have not altered the size from the original picture. See how the individual feathers stand out?

 
Trial photos inside the house and of birds attracted to feeders were entirely satisfactory, but I was champing at the bit to take…

 
Penny on the Winter Trail Don’t you name your camera? Penny handles wonderfully when on the trail, whether in wet foggy weather, or on the coldest winter days. My first trial with the kit lens was conducted without a polarizing filter, and glare from snow washed out many features. But with the polarizing filter I got some very good shots with deep blue skies, a minimum of glare even in bright sun, and fantastic colors.

 

Snowshoe Trail

 
The above photo was taken with the shorter lens equipped with the polarizer filter. If you’ve never used one before, give one a try. Just be sure you get the right polarizer (linear or circular) for your camera. Look at the colors and grain of this desiccated tree stump shot taken at 55mm through a polarizer:

 

Worried Wood

 
After shooting a few dozen pictures with the short lens, I switched to the long telephoto and went in search of subjects to put it through its paces. A flock of gregarious pine grosbeaks chattering in a thicket of pines (surprise!) offered the first opportunity. Here’s a female highlighted by low sun as another looks on. This was shot at the full extent of 200mm, hand-held, without employing the anti-shake feature, and without the polarizer:

 

Female Pine Grosbeaks

 
I spent a lot of time taking photos of these friendly, talkative birds, but the males hung back and let the females make the initial exploratory approaches toward me. Finally I had a chance at the males:

 

Male and Female Pine Grosbeaks

 
He’s not sure, and the pair speak softly to one another. “Is it safe?” he asks. “Scaredy cat!” she huffs. She rethinks, hops back, but he’s bolder now and shows his best side:

 

Male and Female Pine Grosbeaks

 
But then a breeze brings down some small snow bombs and they’re scared away:

 

Male Pine Grosbeak Flies Away

 
And it was time for me to get going, too, so I tucked Penny inside my jacket and snowshoed upriver, pausing for one last shot before reaching the trailhead. All in all I’m delighted with the Pentax and both lenses. I look forward to many happy journeys with them.

 

Backlit Falls

 
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