Pentax 645 FLU Card

The oddly named Pentax FLU Card is a pretty cool piece of hardware I picked up to inteface wih the 645Z. It’s an SD card that set’s up a WiFi network for the camera and allows you to remotly control the camera and view or download images directly to a computer/phone/tablet. It’s a cool way for Pentax to be able to offer wi-fi control without baking it into the camera directly or forcing you to purchase an adapter that usually sits in the hot shoe and with the 645Z and with it’s two SD card slots allows you to keep a high capacity card in one slot and the FLU card in other. I wanted to set up a simple and logical test for the Flu card so I did a quick and dirty still life setup in house with natural light. The big questions that comes to mind with an integration like this is how well will it work?

Setup

Setting up the FLU Card is not difficult, you pop the card in the camera and hear a couple of audible beeps coming from the camera. Once that’s done the wi-fi is up and running and there is not much more to do with the camera, jump over to your device (Smart Phone, Tablet, Computer) and head over to your network settings. You should see a PENTAX_ network that’s been created, you’ll have a predefined password that’s in the documentation with your card. Pretty easily connect to this network and enter that password, it may then ask you to modify the network name and password, this is recommended to keep you safe so go ahead and do that. That’s it!

Connecting

Now that your on your new wi-fi network fire up a browser and navigate to 192.168.1.1 and viola your connected to your camera. Very Cool!

Features

  • Control Aperture
  • Control Shutter Speed
  • Take Photos
  • Tap/Click to Focus camera (Enable AutoFocus)
  • Zoom view of LiveView for focus assist/Manual Focus
  • View shot images
  • Transfer JPEG’s to Computer

Missing Feature

  • Advanced camera controls like White Balance

Bugs

The biggest feature I’ve hated about using the Flu Card to date is that when you are activly connected you can’t use any of the controls on camera (other than manual focus). Specifically you can’t change settings like white balance which would be very nice to get proper control of all color channels during exposure. I’ve also run into multiple other issues with it’s operation that are not killers but do make it slightly less usable than one would hope -

  • Freezing
  • Time Out
  • Slow response
  • Black Screen
  • Different features based on device

Overall

Long term I’d bet that Pentax can work out a few of the bugs like the timeout and the black screen and this will work really well for work where a wi-fi connection would be helpful to the photographer. I know that I’ll be using it more and more for the work I’m doing in house especially to get series of images where I want to keep mirror lock up, and vibration to a minimum along with a nice 10" screen over a 3" screen.




Pentax 645z 120mm Macro Aperture Series

So I’ve been shooting the 120mm Macro for a few days now and in the field I’ve been having issues getting the type of sharpness I’ve wanted and expected for this camera/lens combo. I’ve been practicing what I would consider good camera technique in so much that it’s been on Tripod, with Mirror Lock up set and a remote trigger with a 3 second delay and focus checked with zoomed liveview. Some of these can be attributed to external conditions (wind, light conditions etc) but some of them didn’t seem to be that. As such today was the first time I’d gotten a chance to move inside and set up a controlled test, boring subject but enlightening about the lens and depth of field in particular. With that I’ll start with the images, they are from f4 - f32 in full stops all focused on the “S” of the Roses’s bottle.

f/4

Take a close look at the text under the logo of the center bottle. There is only a fraction of an inch difference from the top text to the bottom but the bottom is noticeably out of focus. This is some pretty razor thin depth of field. You can also see some color cast in the leg of the toy horse on the right.

f/5.6

Here you can see the stop’s difference didn’t effect the depth of field much here. Where you can see the most change is the text in the glass at the top of the center bottle.

f/8

The Depth of Field is starting to kick in here, you can see the text is becoming noticeable sharper on the center bottle and the Crayola bottle is coming into acceptable focus on the main text.

f/11

This is where I think the image starts to show good depth in both tonal range and sharpness, Personally I think this is about the most ideal of the images in the series

f/16

Amazing how the text on the side of the bottle is starting to really clean up here.

f/22

This is about the ideal sharpness you can expect to see from this lens/camera setup.

f/32

You’ll likely be loosing too much to diffraction at this point to make f32 useful but if the main goal is sharpness it does hold the scene well and it’s extremely sharp. You can even see the dust on the backdrop here pretty well in the upper right corner.

Overall

This is a very informative test for me in many ways. First it shows me that the “older” A optics can still live up to the 645Z but the camera is going to demand perfect technique to get all of those 51MP to show up the way you want. Also that the depth of field of this camera/lens especially when doing macro work is going to be razor thin and your going to want to be using somewhere in the range of f11 or smaller to get decent coverage.




Pentax 645z Reviews Coming

I’ve finally got the Pentax 645z in hand and am starting to put in through the paces, I’ll be give you all constant updates as I start to get comfortable with the camera and all of the lenses I’ve picked up. You should be seeing reviews on all of the following in the coming weeks -

  • Pentax 645Z
  • Pentax SMC FA 75mm
  • Pentax SMC FA 55mm
  • Pentax SMC FA 35mm
  • Pentax SMC FA 150mm
  • Pentax SMC FA 80-160mm
  • Pentax SMC F 120 Macro
  • Pentax SMC F 200mm




Pentax 645z Reasoning

There has been a lot of talk around the Pentax 645z lately questioning the need and market for the camera. Chief among those concerns in my view are camera size, sensor, the march of technology versus the cost of purchase today.

Size of course is a big concern and a valid one, who really wants to be traveling and hiking with a large and heavy camera along with the lenses and the tripod? No one I know to be sure, unfortunatly after a while if you want the best quality final product it’s a trade off you have to make although technology is making the gap smaller. You can make some wonderful images with smaller cameras available today the question I always come to is, can you show your work at the size you want without sacrificing the quality you want. For me I’ve always wanted a bit more than 35mm both in film and digital.

The sensor I conceed is the unknown and the biggest gamble. 14 bit versus the medium format standard of 16 bit could be a bigger deal than I’m thinking. The fact that it’s a switch from CCD to CMOS may also end up as a big deal. What is the defining qualtiy of Medium format, the size, the lenses or the fact that most of them have been using CCD’s up to this point? I can’t answer either of these today and I’m hoping that they are not gambling in the wrong direction. The fact that Hasselblad and PhaseOne have already taken the jump to this same sensor gives me a little bit of peace of mind but only time will tell.

The march of technology has gotten alot of attention with this camera mainly due to cost of entrance. Why would you drop $12k on this camera and lenses when it’s possible that you’ll be able to get this quality out of a smaller package in a year or two? The long and short of it all is this may in fact happen but it’s just as possible that it never happens, we won’t know for a while and while everyone is still figuring that out some lucky photographers will hopefully be making some wonderful images with this camera.

Long and short there are concerns with any major purchase but if you know your market and you have a void or itch that can fullfilled with this camera it’s not a bad choice. If you want to play it safe you could easily wait a year and see how the market is playing out.




Bad Batteries

I’ve had a string of luck lately that tainted my feelings on camera batteries. On multiple days where I wanted a camera but it was not my main focus thus I didn’t take all my equipment I checked for battery status and space on the card installed in the camera and left for the day. 15 pictures into my voyage I get the dredded blinking red battery indicator. Both times I was using aftermarket batteries, was this the root cause? I’ve had mainly good expereince with aftermarket batteries lasting just as long as OEM batteries which is giving me pause now. Is it the batteries or the cameras mis reading of the available charge to balme?

Anyone know of a way to tell which is which? I’d love to know more reach out at adam at knowphoto dot com




Medium Format Warm Up

I’ve been thinking Medium Format for some time now and as I said in my [last post][lp] the Pentax is high on my list. I wanted to take a few moments to talk about why I’m considering a move to Medium Format photography. To be fair the types of photography I love to shoot lend them selves perfectly so my points are pretty well in line with the best points of Medium Format to make my job easy.

  1. Megapixels - This is my first point and an easy one to make when you want to print large or crop deep.
  2. Sensor Size - If megapixels are the first reason sensor size and pixel size are a close second. Good clean pixels are just as important as lots of pixels.
  3. A negative magnification vs 35mm and crop sensors allows for longer lenses and better feel for portraiture.
  4. Since the 645z is not truely 6x4.5 it’s effictivly working like a crop sensor where you utilize the center of the lenses more. This is usually the sharpest thus less demanding on the glass even though 51MP is never going to be easy on glass.

I have the 645D coming from Lens Rentals for a trip I’m taking to Quebec and then the 645z on order to be delivered in June if all goes well.




Pentax Announces 51MP 645Z

Medium Format Digital has been an interest of mine for a long time now and the Pentax in particular as it was one of the first medium format film cameras I used. I hope to be able to test this camera out in June to see how it really stacks up to the high end DSLR’s out there today.

Press Release


Ricoh Imaging’s new PENTAX 645Z medium-format DSLR features a 51.4 megapixel CMOS sensor, Full HD video and a responsive shooting experience with three frames-per-second

DENVER, CO, April 9, 2014 – It is not often that a camera can be referred to as a game-changer. One that can provide photographers with the tools that not only enrich their craft but are capable of producing images so distinct they are easily set apart from the competition. Today, Ricoh Imaging Americas Corporation is pleased to announce the game-changing PENTAX 645Z medium-format DSLR, thus altering the landscape of professional photography.

Developed on the multi-award-winning legacy of the PENTAX 645D and the historic PENTAX 645 film cameras, the PENTAX 645Z improves upon one of the most lauded cameras in the company’s 95 year history. Featuring an amazing 51.4 megapixels on a high-performance CMOS image sensor, the PENTAX 645Z assures super-high-resolution images with a stunningly realistic sense of depth combined with vivid colors and rich shadow detail. The resulting images feature a uniquely distinct look and an unmistakable brilliance that clearly differentiate professional photographers to their clients. The thoughtful inclusion of a CMOS image sensor enables live view on a tiltable LCD panel while also making the 645Z the first and only camera in the medium-format category to offer video recording capabilities, resulting in footage that captures amazingly lifelike reproductions with tangible depth and incredible dynamic range.

“Our diverse lineup of DSLRs enables us to offer professional tools like the 645Z at a price point within reach of many photographers,” said Jim Malcolm, Executive Vice President, Ricoh Imaging. “Today’s photographers are looking to differentiate their craft and the 645Z offers the perfect option as an exceptional medium-format camera that does not sacrifice in quality or specification, with affordability.”

The new PENTAX 645Z has also received several significant enhancements including an improved and highly responsive shooting experience that can capture an incredible three frames per second—a significant benefit when compared to other medium-format cameras featuring CMOS sensors and an equivalent resolution—with a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000 of a second. The 645Z is equipped with an amazing top ISO of 204,800 for images with exceptional quality, even in situations with very low light or pushing for higher shutter speeds in all lighting conditions, providing the photographer with totally new creative options far beyond the scope of existing medium-format photography. Additionally, the 645Z is compatible with the recently introduced FLU Card, providing remote operation of the 645Z including the ability to release the shutter, view a live-view, and browse and download the images recorded on the card using a wireless connection to a smartphone, tablet, computer or any web browser enabled device.

Widening the 645Z’s already diverse applications for shooting is an articulated LCD with a 3.2-inch LCD monitor with approximately 1,037,000 dots, ensuring even the most agile photographer captures waist-level, high and low-angle images with precision and ease. Finally, the PENTAX 645Z features an incredibly sturdy and dependable body with a magnesium alloy frame and a diecast aluminum chassis, complemented by 76 weather-seals for a cold-resistant, weather-resistant and dustproof shooting experience.

In conjunction with the launch of the PENTAX 645Z, Ricoh Imaging is also excited to announce the availability of 13FA 645 lenses to support an even wider variety of optics providing the perfect system that spans numerous shooting scenarios.

Pricing and Availability The PENTAX 645Z will be available for purchase in June 2014 for a category-low retail price of $8,499.95 for the body only.




Koken Store

Koken the portfolio management system that allows you the flexability to publish your photos to your site directly from Lightroom has released a new store. This can only be a good thing for the Koken community, a free project like Koken can only exist for so long without a revenue stream and this seems the perfect way for them to do that, I know I’ll be buying a feature soon if only to help ensure the project continues. The implementation method for the Store has also impressed me, the way that it’s not currently just an online storefront, it’s actually integrated into your site, it’s impressive and easy to use for what’s likely a user base that would rather spend time photographing than admin'ing servers.

To start, the selection of items for sale isn’t large but what they do have serves it’s purpose. For example the two theme upgrades Madison and Regale have had some features missing for a while but got addressed in version 2. Now these theme upgrades do pose a question about future upgrades to their free themes, are they all going the way of premium upgrades? After that you get into what I think Koken has needed for a while featueres that extend Koken. Image protection, Image watermarking, Instagram Import and Vimeo Import to start but I can only assume there will be more coming.

The only part of this that frustrated me from a perspective of a Koken user that has multiple installations of Koken is that Themes and Plugins limited to only allowing installation on one Koken instance. No sharing of your plugins or themes between your different websites even though you’ve paid for them. I assume I’m in the minority of users in this case, where most people will only have one Koken install I have two and could see reasons for more, it’s a pity to have to keep purchasing the same software each time.

Hoping to see more of these great features coming to a wonderful product.




Tweet Small Change

It’s all about creating art, capturing a moment and to that end sometimes it takes money to get your dream accomplished. A new project launched today called Tweet Small Change offering micro grants to help you get your dream going. A cute and fun idea for finding and funding new art projects.

Tweet Small Change is $140.00 micro-grants given to compelling arts projects that are pitched via tweets.

It’s not a large ammount of money but maybe it’s all you need to launch your project or complete some sections of it. Check it out for yourself to learn how to apply or check them out on Twitter.




Koken web publishing

Koken took a different approach to web publishing that really appealed to me, it allowed me to easily manage a lot of my website from Lightroom. I love the ease at which I can update the photos in a set of images, utilize Smart Collections to age photos on and off my website and simply publish without the hassle of exporting, uploading and organizing again online.

How is all of this possible? Koken created a simple Lightroom plugin where you can easily manage what images are published to your website and in what albums. You can use all of your standard Lightroom options for creating collections like star ratings, labels, keywords, dates, camera information and much more. This gives you great flexibility in terms of what is ready for publishing and when all within Lightroom. Just add a step to your workflow to check the publish services before you quit and you can easily keep your site up to date.

There are quite a few good templates to choose from with the basic install of Koken. That being said they have also documented the language they use to create each item of a layout so that you can create your own look and feel. I’ve decided to keep it on the standard side for the time being but I did test things out a bit and ran a custom version of one of the templates for a while. It’s always nice to see a nicely documented system especially from the start like Koken.

In my mind there are a few questions you need to ask yourself when thinking about setting up a portfolio online.

  • Do you want to self host or pay someone else to do it like Smugmug, Photoshelter etc?
  • How do you want to manage which images are on the site? Web Interface or Interface into an existing product you already use to manage your images?
  • How flexible is the publishing system, you don’t want to invest a bunch of time into setup only to find out you can’t put in a feature you want or need down the road.

At this point I’ve been using Koken for a while and it’s been stable. I have not had much load on the system to date so I can’t say how it would scale under heavy traffic but I can say it’s been the best portfolio site system I’ve used and the most fun to keep up to date. That’s saying a lot, a website that’s fun and easy to keep up to date. If your looking for a system where you can self host/publish your photography I’d fully recommend Koken

If you’d like to see my site built on Koken head on over to Adam Bliss Photography




Next page