A weekend with the DA* 50-135 f/2.8

Discussion in 'Pentax' started by mattb.net, Jun 1, 2011.

  1. My wife helps put on a big trail running race, mountain bike race, and climbing festival here every Memorial Day weekend. It's become pretty popular but entries need to be capped to preserve our trails and the community feeling of the event. This year the bike race sold out (350 racers) in 7 Minutes back in January.
    I've done it the last two years but decided this year to try shooting it and seeing if I can get published or at least sell some images to the racers. Since my DAL 55-300 is just ok, I decided to rent the 50-135 from cameralensrentals.com for this.
    It looked funny on my K-x. I'm so used to small primes that this lens looked like a behemoth on that little body. But I don't really care how my camera looks, so no big deal there. It does add considerable size and weight too, which is more important to me. I would have a tough time putting this thing in my bike backpack for shooting while on a ride like I do with my primes.
    This is the first SDM lens I have used and I have to say it's pretty nice. It may not actually be faster but being quieter makes it seem so. Most of my shots came out in-focus pretty well using AF-C and the auto 5 point setting.
    I guess I could have sat in one spot and just shot everyone from there but that gets boring for me and produces boring shots IMO. I know these trails very well and know how to combine driving the jeep trails with running/hiking to get to the spots I wanted to hit, so I went to four different spots for the bike race. I used the running races as a test/warm-up the day before so I didn't hit as many spots or get as many photos as with the bikes. I used the 50-135 for most of the shots, only putting the da15 on for a few atmospheric wide shots. The light was nice in the morning but as the day progressed it was pretty challenging at times.
    The lens was easy to handle for what it is and once I got used to the zoom & focus ring locations it felt very natural. I took about 3300 photos over the weekend which is a lot more than I usually shoot. I sun burned the inside of my left forearm because I'm not used to having it facing up (supporting this big lens) and never put sunscreen there. I also went through three sets of Eneloops a day which seemed like a lot. I'm thinking the AF-C and bigger lens must have also contributed. I started in RAW but had to switch to jpeg so I wouldn't run out of space but still filled a 16GB and most of an 8GB card just with the bike race.
    To my eyes the results look pretty good. I set up a Zenfolio site (still on the trial period) to sell the images and the race organizer (Dave Wiens - a mountain biking legend) hasn't sent out the links to the racers yet, so there haven't been any sales but I'm hopeful.
    Here's a couple of examples of my friends I posted to Facebook (so there is some loss of quality) to generate some interest:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    So in short, the lens is just as nice as everyone says. I liked using it but I'm not convinced it's worth the asking price for the amount of use it would get from me. Of course if I sell a lot of these shots, I may change my tune but I'm not holding my breath for that to happen!
    If you have made it this far, I'll add that my Zenfolio site with all the racer photos that made the cut at mattburt.zenfolio.com. If this is successful I'll probably integrate that with my existing site for a more seamless experience.
     
  2. Matt,
    You've put up a lot of really excellent photos on your zenfolio page. Hopefully the url for your website gets publicized enough so that you can sell some prints. Beautiful scenery, an absolutely gorgeous day and you picked some real winning locations to shoot from. There will be lots of smiles when people see these.
    Congrats!
     
  3. Nice work, Matt!
     
  4. Nice, Matt. Like look of the out-of-focus areas in the background of shot #2 here.
     
  5. Very good crispness to the shots. To offer a critical observation- perhaps due to the lighting conditions, or possibly the K-x metering in combination therewith, contrast looks a bit harsh, rendering a somewhat "hard" look as opposed to simply good sharpness. I bring up the metering, because I have the K20D and K200D, which appear to be designed more to protect highlights and render a somewhat more subdued quality. I recently acquired a K-r, and find exposure to be a bit brighter in the metering as well. But I still have not a lot of experience with it.
    I own the Pentax DA* 50-135mm, and have found in my own shooting interests, it gets rather frequent use. A very fine lens indeed, and not all that bulky or heavy for what it is. I also have the 55-300mm, and use it quite often when I need that extra range.
     
  6. Thanks guys!
    Yes, the mid day light got pretty harsh and it was challenging to get detail out of the shadows without blowing the highlights. I'm also used to shooting raw and switching to jpeg adds a little more in-camera processing which seemed to change the look of the photos. But overall I think I like them pretty well. I got some I'm very happy with and a lot that seem fine and a few that didn't turn out so great. I can live with that.
     
  7. I am a nice guy, really, but I would not be happy with these images. I reckon 'us pentaxians' here on PN often to friendly and to mild about each other.
    Wonder what you did in pp? with the gear you have, you should be able to do better. These look almost like lomo.
    Mind you, I don't pretend to do better...
     
  8. Maybe there's a joke that I'm not getting, but those images don't look anything like Lomography. I actually agree that there are times when a little more hard-nosed criticism wouldn't hurt, but Lomography? Nuh-uh.
     
  9. I can take the criticism and I agree some of these are not representative of my best work. On the harsh lit shots I had to use a lot more fill light that I typically do and then try to bump up blacks to compensate a little but it does kind of throw off the colors. Maybe that's what looks "Lomo" to you? The morning shots and running galleries have a lot less of that because the light was better but the harshly lit ones needed it or you can't recognize the rider.
     
  10. Matt, I have PS 1 which is now an old version, but it has a category selected via a tab at the top labeled "enhance". Included are adjustments of contrast, brightness, auto-contrast correction, etc. and one called "fill flash". I have found that one to be very useful for opening up dark shadowed areas in high-contrast situations, especially when actual fill flash was not used. I have not noticed any distinct adverse side effect from using it judiciously when needed.
    Another thing I have discovered is that something that looks overdone on screen often does not come off that way when making a print. Images appear more contrasty and also brighter on screen with the back lighting.
     
  11. In my opinion "wheel sport" image gain much more from wide lens view(even preferred over shift lens), unless object in positioning of photographer give other choice in equipment .Thanks for showing.
     
  12. I enjoyed looking at them. The setting is gorgeous, and some of the shots are quite good, especially the ones that have better light. I wonder if using a little fill flash would have enabled better balance between faces and background lighting, but that would limit your shutter speed.... Good luck getting the shots to the attention of the riders! I suspect you could sell a few.
     
  13. Thanks Nick. Yes, I've sold a few so far, about half and half between the runners and cyclists. I learned quite a bit on this outing so if I can recoup my costs, I'll just consider it a free workshop. :)
    I also decided I'd probably rather cover a race by getting fewer shots that are higher quality, like for a publication. The "try and get everyone" approach got a little old after a while. I would have rather been more picky at least about the time of day I was shooting.
    Yury, I shot a few wide but was trying to get recognizable shots of individual people so that is why I went for that lens. It did feel a little constricting at times. I also wanted some magnification so I could get the mountains in the background to be prominent, which I feel worked well in a lot of shots.
     

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