When I last left you I mentioned a new wide-angle lens that I was going to try out. Well I did try out THAT lens and it didn’t quite work out the way I had hoped. It wouldn’t take much snooping to know I usually use Pentax camera gear. I like it, it works for me, and I find their lenses to be of high quality optically. I own a few of the Pentax Limited lenses and thought for a long time about getting a DA 15mm Limited wide-angle lens. I read a gazillion user reviews and looked at another gazillion photos and generally liked what I saw. I also liked the idea that it was rather compact for easy travel but I disliked the maximum f4 aperture as I am generally an available light photographer. Plus most users claimed it had to be stopped down to f8 for maximum quality.
With all of that info at hand I purchased a clean used example on eBay and when it arrived I set out to do a few quick tests. Just shooting items around the house and examining the photos I quickly noticed that the center sharpness was decent when shot wide open and really sharp when stopped down. The bummer was the edges quickly turned to mush when used at f4 and never got much better even when stopped down. I kind of knew this going in as a number of users reported soft edges but, judging by the photos I reviewed I thought it wouldn’t be much of a problem. Well, for me, it was.
I wanted a wide angle lens more for tight area photography then for landscapes. There has been a number of times when I wanted to shoot interiors of dilapidated buildings and couldn’t get what I wanted into the frame in a single shot. Unless there is a focal point subject close to the camera, I need the whole picture to look good, edge to edge. The DA15 just couldn’t do that. The edges were soft enough to notice and I don’t really want a lens that I can only use at one aperture, so I asked the seller if I could return it and he graciously said OK.
As I went about sending back the lens I looked at the sellers other items for sell and noticed he had a Vivitar Series-1 13mm f2.8 lens in Pentax mount. Since I was sort of bitten by the wide-angle bug I thought I would give that a try. It was wider than the DA lens by a couple of millimeters and was faster at f2.8, so it had that going for it. The downside being it wasn’t an AF lens and it was considerably larger since it is designed for the 35mm format not Aps-C. The manual focus isn’t too much of an issue due to the large depth-of-field and I found it easy enough to focus through the viewfinder and I could always use the live-view for more critical focusing. The bulk is another matter since it takes away any “always have it with you” advantages. This is a lens I have to purposely want to have with me otherwise it takes up too much room.
But how does it perform? I am happy to report that it is an incredibly sharp lens from edge to edge, even at f2.8! That makes it quite usable for the low light interiors I would most likely use it for. It does have its share of distortion but I found it easily correctable during processing with negligible effects on the angle of view. So it is definitely a keeper but, as I mentioned, I would have to take it out on special “missions” only. And the added bonus of when or if Pentax comes out with a 35mm format camera (or I get a Sony A7) I will have an even wider angle to explore.
In the mean time I have been practicing my new found wideness to not so good effect. It takes some practice and vision to shoot wide and I will need some time at it before I can declare any winning photos. These were shot on a test run in Pittsburgh over the weekend and I hope to get out and about with the lens in the next few weeks to see what I can do with it.
Whew, I think that’s more text I wrote then all last month. 😉