Spring photo contest
It’s time for the second Redoubt Reporter, reader-submitted photo contest.
Photos will be judged and winners selected by a three-member panel. After each contest closes, we’ll publish and discuss some of our favorites in the Redoubt Reporter, space permitting. We’ll choose some of our favorite submissions from this spring 2012 photo contest and our fall 2011 contest and invite those photographers to frame and hang their photos at a Redoubt Reporter June 2012 group photo show already scheduled at the Sterling Highway Kaladi Brothers coffee shop.
The deadline to enter is 11:59 p.m. April 20, 2012. All submissions must be in high-quality digital format. Submit no more than five JPEG images by email to email@example.com.
1. Our themes are “Winter into spring” or “End of a long winter,” and submissions must fit this theme. Entrants must be amateur photographers who are residents of the central Kenai Peninsula.
2. Photographs can be of any subject fitting the theme but must have been taken of the Kenai Peninsula on or after Jan. 1, 2011.
3. If you submit photographs in which people are recognizable, you must also provide us with their permission for us to publish any such photographs.
4. Please do not submit portrait photos. Do not submit photographs whose content would not be appropriate for publication in a family newspaper. Do not submit photos of illegal subject matter. All such photos will be deleted immediately without notice to you and at the sole discretion of the editor.
5. Photographers must include their name, telephone number, email address, town of residency and each photo’s date, location and subject matter.
6. Submitted JPEG images should be of the best possible technical quality. Good technique and technical quality are important, but originality, creativity, interesting subject matter, artistic merit and good composition are even more important.
7. By submitting photos, you agree to our publication of them in the Redoubt Reporter newspaper and on our website. The Redoubt Reporter will have the right of first publication of your photos. However, you will retain the copyright for all other purposes and your name will be listed if we publish any of your photos.
8. Our decisions about what’s published or selected for exhibition are final and are admittedly subjective. Space is limited, and the judging panel and editor reserve the right to choose photos at their discretion.
9. Retain your original digital files of all submitted images. We are not responsible for preserving copies of your digital images.
By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter
A few simple tests of your photo gear can often save you a lot of money and grief. You may be surprised in the process. It’s no different than carefully sighting in a rifle before deciding whether and how to use that rifle on your next high-country hunt.
Recently, I decided to test all of my Pentax lenses to get a sense of which lenses provided the best image quality. I took comparable photos with both of my high-end zoom lenses at every marked focal length as well with my several single-focal-length Pentax “prime” lenses. In the process, I learned that an extreme wide-angle lens that I nearly discarded as bad was actually very sharp, but only when set to an unexpected lens aperture.
Most inexpensive and medium-priced lenses that fit digital SLR cameras are consistently sharpest at intermediate lens apertures, usually in the range between f 5.6 to f 8. Knowing that, I made my outdoor tests at f 7.1, halfway between. I reasoned that f 7.1 should be pretty close to the optimum lens opening for every lens and, thus, give me a good estimate of the relative sharpness of each lens.
I was wrong. A few lenses simply refuse to obey the conventional wisdom.
Initially, I was distressed at the very poor sharpness of photos taken with my 15-mm Pentax extreme wide-angle lens. Extreme wide-angle lenses are very difficult to design and too often notorious for poor edge sharpness. My f 6.3 shot looked really soft, as in terrible. According to the published data that I’ve seen on this lens, the f 8 shot should have been acceptably sharp. It wasn’t.
Out of desperation, I went back outside and took a final test photo at f 11. To my surprise, it was wonderful, very sharp from edge to edge. Just in case that was a fluke, I took several more test shots at f 11 over the following days. Every one was sharp from corner to corner.
That smaller f 11 aperture is very usable outdoors despite the dim evening light, even at the lowest ISO setting. That’s because the Pentax bodies include built-in hardware that stabilizes any mounted lens and because extreme wide-angle lenses can be used at slower shutter speeds without noticeable blur from camera shake, the opposite of shake-prone telephoto lenses.
Several lessons were apparent that apply to all cameras, not just high-end dSLR models. Actually test your equipment to find out the strengths and weaknesses of each camera and lens at various magnifications and lens apertures from the widest aperture through f 11.
Because every camera and lens has some degree of assembly variation and error, the best performance of individual lenses and cameras likely varies a bit from the norm. Check professional review sites to get a sense of where your lens should perform best, but then run your own tests. I certainly was surprised.
Remember, as well, to reset your camera to your normal working settings for lens aperture, ISO sensitivity and autofocus before putting the camera away. That way, you’ll reduce the chance of using an incorrectly set camera later. I know that I forgot to reset my camera after making these tests, failing to re-enable autofocus and failing to set the lens aperture to f 5.6, which is typically best for well-behaved modern lenses, aside from the 15-mm Pentax.
Finally, remember that high-magnification lenses inherently have much shallower depth of field where focus is acceptably sharp. Don’t mistake unavoidably narrow depth of field for a lack of sharpness.
An excellent buy: If you’re interested in trying out a Micro Four-Thirds compact-system camera or need a second body, reputable dealer Cameta Camera is advertising new Olympus E-PL1 bodies on Amazon for $150, body only. The E-PL1 uses the same sensor and electronics as the E-PL2, and has excellent potential image quality. The main difference between the E-PL1 and the later E-PL2 lies in the better construction and more comfortable ergonomics of the metal-bodied E-PL2. Otherwise, the important inner workings are identical.
You’ll need a lens, of course, and it makes the most sense to try to find a good buy on a Micro Four-Thirds kit lens. Either Panasonic or Olympus will work. I prefer the Olympus M. Zuiko II 14- to 42-mm lens for its compact size and sharpness, but this lens can be a bit expensive to separately purchase. Some other affordable Olympus and Panasonic Micro Four-Thirds kits lenses would work fine, but I would definitely avoid both the Olympus 17-mm prime lens and Olympus’ first version of the M. Zuiko 14- to 42-mm. It’s definitely inferior to the later, smaller M. Zuiko II version.
Pentax compact systems: Pentax has always marched to its own drummer, and that’s really apparent in the first Pentax compact-system cameras. Their first CSC was the Q system, which was well-built, tiny and cute. That’s a real marketing plus in Japan for some reason, but condemns the Q system to niche status in the U.S. and Europe.
The Pentax Q takes fairly decent images but uses a very small sensor, whose midrange image quality and ISO capability are not consistent with the reason that most people buy CSCs in the first place. Oh, and the basic Pentax Q sells for $800 or so, as high as the much more capable Panasonic G3, Olympus E-P3 and E-PL3 Micro Four-Thirds models with better lenses and bigger sensors.
On to the newer Pentax CSC, the Pentax K-01. This camera should have a lot going for it. It uses the entire broad range of Pentax K-mount lenses and upgraded versions of the same excellent 16-megapixel Sony sensor and Pentax image-processing chip used in the semipro Pentax K-5. As a result, image quality is exceptionally high, better than nearly any other CSC, better than most semipro dSLRs on the market. It’s body and appearance were designed by “celebrity designer” Marc Newsom of Australia.
So, what’s the hitch?
The K-01 is big and, to many people, ugly. Although it makes a lot of sense for Pentax to make a CSC that uses Pentax’s already extensive line of quality lenses, the downside is that any K-mount body will be noticeably thicker. A CSC like an Olympus Pen or Sony NEX is designed from the onset to work with much smaller and thinner lenses, so the camera bodies can be much thinner, as well.
Pentax chose to use a clunky body and then try to make it look hip and modern. Apparently, they’ve succeeded in that regard because there are many positive comments about the body design coming out of areas like California. To me and many other users, for whom a camera is a functional working tool first and foremost, it’s a niche product. I was going to say, big and ugly.
However, the image quality is, indeed, excellent and the Pentax’s lens line is extensive and high quality. Unfortunately, Pentax also took the opportunity to significantly increase lens prices and forbid lower-priced Internet sales. Although that’s partly the result of the very strong Japanese yen, the timing couldn’t be worse. I’m glad that I already bought my Pentax lenses because the new prices are definitely too high for my taste. Instead, I would look at the many excellent third party Pentax-mount lenses from Tamron and Sigma.
Speaking of shooting yourself in the foot, Sony’s seemingly headed the way of Kodak — quickly downhill. Sony’s most recently yearly loss on operations was a staggering and unexpected $6 billion, the third such large loss in as many years.
Sony’s been hit by heavy competition in its core TV business and did not manage its technologies. Apple was in much the same spot ten years ago but was more nimble than Sony. Rather than withering away, Apple is now the most valuable company in the world.
Sometimes, you’ve got to be willing to change with the times, even when you think you’re on top. In fact, there’s a fair bit of research suggesting that people who are psychologically unsettled by dissonant events around them tend to be more creative and better at solving competitive problems. Staying in a comfortable rut is not the path to long-term success and top status in our fast-changing world. Just ask Kodak and Sony.
Kenai “Small Shots” show: The ninth annual Kenai Fine Arts Center’s “Small Shots” show is accepting entries April 27 between noon and 5 p.m., and on April 29 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Your images must not exceed 70 square inches in size, must be framed and ready to hang. Each person may submit up to three entries. The entry fee is $10 for KFAC members and $20 for nonmembers. If you need more information, call the Kenai Fine Arts Center between noon and 5 p.m. at 283-7040.
Local attorney Joe Kashi received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from MIT and his law degree from Georgetown University. He has published many articles about computer technology, law practice and digital photography in national media since 1990. Many of his technology and photography articles can be accessed through his website, http://www.kashilaw.com.