It was getting late and I still didn’t have a photo I was happy with. I had taken some photos in the broken window of a house from the 1700’s that I shot earlier in the year (365-72). The interior itself was nothing exciting so I was kind of disappointed. It wasn’t until I got closer to home and was going to stop at the grocery store that I saw the sunflower growing in an office building parking lot. The lone sunflower loomed over six feet tall, growing in an island in the parking lot. The rest of the island was not very well landscaped so I suspect the sunflower wasn’t planned. Since the sun has been covered by clouds most of the last few days the flower was a nice reminder.
Since the flower was pretty tall, I just pointed the camera blindly into it and shot a few frames (oops, sorry, film talk), checking my composition on the LCD. I used the on board flash since the light was getting low and to punch up the color some. It’s times like this that on camera flash comes in handy. So the flower beat out what would have been my shot for the day, the house interior.
Here Comes the Sun
As for shooting, I’m still plagued by my DA 17-70 lens refusing to lock focus above 50mm. It does this almost always, no matter the light or contrast levels, and seemingly at random. The lens is fine (to spec) and I think it’s just a design trait, at least with my K20D. I usually work around it but it’s frustrating on shots like these. I’m on the verge of changing equipment but I’m not sure what step to take first. I really am happy with the image quality I am getting with my current gear but it’s just the actual process of taking some photos that bugs me. Do I try a newer Pentax body to see if it works fine with my DA 17-70? Do I try a DA*16-50 to replace my DA 17-70? Or do I start all over with a new system? I played with the Nikon D7000 and it seemed pretty cool but the lenses I like in the Nikon system are $$$$. Suggestions are welcome.
First, it is likely the lens, not your body. You should be able to confirm this by using another lens… do you have the kit 18-55mm? I use my K-7 with the 18-55 WR and 50-200 WR. I am getting very good results with both and enjoy having WR lenses. Lately I have been trying to decide what to buy next and it will probably be a flash, not a lens. However I am still looking at lenses. I think the newish Sigma 24-70 HSM is a really nice lens. I wish there was a DA* in the same range. The weather sealed options for Pentax are the 16-50 and 50-135. There are tons of positive reviews of the latter and it is a mixed bag on the former. One pro shooter has worn out multiple copies of the 16-50 and he keeps replacing or repairing them. He says the SDM motor in it is good for about 20,000 actuations before it fails him.
My brother won’t even buy a lens with SDM in it because of how widely reported the issues are. Personally I am leaning towards buying both of these lenses in the next few years and dealing with any problems if they arise. My suggestions for you would really depend on how much you want to spend, whether you want primes or zoom, and whether or not you want weather sealing. The only drawback to the lenses I am using is that they aren’t fast enough. I’d love to have the two DA* lenses mentioned above and it seems like a lot of the pro shooters I see online own both of them. The third party options are pretty nice as well, they just lack weather sealing. For the money you are spending at that point I personally would be getting Pentax and the weather sealing.
I know it’s the lens, what I don’t know if it’s the lens WITH my body. I have read where others had the same problem with the DA 17-70 but is was always with the K10D/20D. I still haven’t found users of newer bodies having the same problem. This is my second version of this lens. the first exhibited the same characteristic and I sent it in for repair on warranty. They just gave me a new lens (the one I have now). I don’t believe it is a SDM problem because it’s fine from 17-50 and on occasion from 50-70. No noises or broken parts. I think it’s in the design of the lens coupled with the AF sytem. Say at 70mm, it wil focus swiftly and silently but when it starts its doublecheck, it keeps racking back and forth and never locking. The focus throw is really short so I think it can’t quite fine tune it enough. I think it is an electronic issue that can be resolved with new firmware but I don’t think Pentax ever updates firmware on lenses. It’s too bad because optically the lens is great and works fine for me. I like the range also. I’m not really interested in third party lenses, no reason – just me. Of course there are no stores in the area that sell Pentax or I would simply try the lens on a new body. I might have to order one from Amazon just to experiment.
The K-7 is a great price right now. I love mine and don’t have issues with the ISO performance now that I understand my camera and lenses a lot better. I like the 17-70 range and think that lens would be great, it’s a shame about the focus. Do you ever manual focus for 70mm? That lens definitely sits at a sweet spot for the focal lengths I am using, but the slowish f/4 and potential SDM problems have put me off it. I think I am more likely to save up and take my chances with the DA* 16-50 and 50-135. Like you I really don’t want to go third party, though I will probably be picking up a Metz 58 AF-2 flash in the next month. It’s the same price as Pentax’s best flash but I think I will like it better. Also, the problems people have had with Pentax flashes have put me off again. Maybe I should just buy Pentax and take my chances 😛
Manual focus is difficult because of the short focus throw. It is only about a 1/4 turn or so. It’s really touchy and tough to nail manually. That’s why I’m upset over the AF. That is also what I think the fault of the design is. When the camera does it’s double check of the AF it throws it too far off focus and wants to correct that and starts a vicious cycle. I guess from 17-50 the focus point isn’t as critical and that’s why it doesn’t do it then. I’ll probably take my chances on a *16-50 (with extended warranty) but i actually use the 50-70 range more than I thought I would. It is covered with my 55-300 but that defeats the purpose of a wide to moderate zoom.
If I was to buy a flash, I would most likely go with a Metz also.