Category Archives: Gear Reviews

Fun with a fisheye

I had a mild attack of lens buying addiction a few weeks back, succumbing to a couple of temptations listed on Ebay. One of these was a Pentax DA 10-17mm F3.5-4.5 fisheye zoom.

I wouldn’t normally spend a lot of time introducing a lens, but I will on this occasion as the DA 10-17 is quite unique. At the 10mm end of its zoom range, the lens is quite ‘fishy’ in character with a 180º field of view across the diagonal of the frame. But at the 17mm end, it is much more rectilinear (‘normal’) in character, and what distortion there is can be substantially reduced using computer software should you wish to do so. This makes the lens quite a bit of fun as the act of zooming in or out also dials up or down the degree of fishy-ness. With fisheye lens, placement of subject matter can also impact upon the apparent fishy-ness of an image, so between zooming and subject placement quite a range of creative outcomes can be generated from a single scene.

Other nice things about the DA 10-17:

  • it’s light and compact, about the same size and weight as a 18-55 kit zoom;
  • fabulously rich colours without being overly contrasty;
  • while ultra-wide lenses tend not to be particularly sharp due to inherent optical compromises required by their design, the DA 10-17 is pretty good in the centre and by F8 not too shabby in the corners;
  • it focuses amazingly closely, like to within an inch or so of the rather large and protruding front element. It allows a surprisingly amount of selective focus from an ultra-wide lens.

On the negative side of the ledger, the DA 10-17 can be prone to purple fringing on high contrast edges, but my experience to date is that this readily cleans up in Lightroom or similar software in most cases.

The lens arrived in the post just a day before I was off to Sydney for a weekend away, so my first use of the lens is also something of a documentary of my Saturday in Sydney.

So here we go…

On most of the rare occasions I get up early to photograph sunrises, Murphy’s Law kicks in and the dawn fails to produce the goods – no cloud, too much cloud, whatever. So my general modus operandi is that I only get up early to catch planes. But occasionally I’ve been lucky, and on the Saturday morning, the act of being up early to catch the first flight to Sydney coincided with a really good dawn, just by dumb luck.

Dawn at Adelaide Airport

17mm, F5, distortion corrected in Adobe Lightroom. Some cropping and mucking about to remove a few annoying window reflections. Use of distortion correction software will stretch the outer portions of an image (as also does optical correction within a lens). You can see that demonstrated with the somewhat elongated fuselage of the second 737-800 to the right. First shot of the day and one of my favorites from recent shooting.

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First Impressions: Samsung NX1000 + 30mm Pancake

I’ve been on the hunt for a while for a second camera to complement my Pentax dSLR – something much more compact that is capable of being worn on a belt or tossed in a small bag, but at the same time not giving much up in the way of image quality. I’ve recently acquired a Samsung NX1000 camera together with a Samsung NX 30 mm F2 pancake lens. Read on to see if this is this the compact setup I have been seeking.
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