Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Proud of Myself Today

I have written reviews off and on for years. I have reviewed cars and camera gear in my past, and while I do not consider myself a writer, I enjoy teaching... and I have a passion for photography...

Its more than a hobby for me, its a passion...

The perfect job for me, besides the job i have right now; writing reviews on camera gear, writing tutorials, travelling to exotic locations to photograph and running workshops for photographers all over the world.

But today, one small step for man, one giant leap for my photographic ego, I was published for the second time this month.

An article I wrote was published at:

Canadian Nature Photographer

PHOTONews Canada

I am not done here either... many more articles already written, and I hope to have them all published

Thanks to Robert at The Canadian Nature Photographer and Mark at PHOTONews Canada for publishing my articles.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

UPDATE "Putting the Quotes to the test"

OK, so you read my last post on how I am attempting to put two quotes to the test...

I came away from my first visit bombarded my bugs, unhappy with the location shoots and a sky that didn't co-operate...

Let the investigation begin...

1) found out when the next two full moons are... would like to be down there on those nights.

2) the pesty bugs... I talked to dozens of people, called the local fisherman and found they were shad flies, a late hatch that will be done in a couple weeks when the temperature drops.

3) photographers ephemeris showed me the time in which the moon will be exactly where I want it.

So, my investigation is complete... I am ready to go back for round two!

And while i am there for round two i will ask the owner of that property if i can access the shore behind his house... thay will make round three interesting.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Putting the Quotes to the TEST

There are a lot of quotes out there in photography… “It’s not the size that matters”, “Want a better photo, pick a better location”… and my favourite from Ansel Adams, “Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter.”

But I have heard two quotes lately that have stuck in my mind. A friend of mine Gary Simmons said to me, “you have to visit a location a minimum of 25 times to get the photograph you want”, and another friend of mine, Gary Stortz said to me, “It’s the six inches behind the viewfinder that makes the difference in a good photograph”.

These two qotes entered my mind the other night while at a location I have never been to before… and I began to ponder these two sayings ...and ya know what, these two things are soooooo true.

Planning, researching and understanding the idiosyncrasies of the location makes a huge difference in the photographs you take home after a photo shoot. Knowledge is power, or in this case, knowledge and planning takes a better photo.

As for coming back to a location time and time again… well, the other nights outing to a location that I have been admiring for over a year was proof of that. I went on a whim and got there only to find, the tides were wrong, the bugs were ruthless and it was too cloudy. I also realized that the shot I really wanted was going to have me ask for permission to get onto someone’s lake front property.

I am going to have to go back after I do some research on the location. I have admired photos from here for a long time and thought, “hey, I can go get those for myself”.

Wrong… not on Friday night… so, I will go back to the drawing board. I will do some research, ask the locals some questions, get permission to access that property and go back… again, and again, and again.

Then I thought, I have this blog, I have a lot of people that read my blog, most novice photographers, why don’t we chronicle me getting the perfect shot, well MY perfect shot out of this one location.

So, stay tuned, watch for the twitter posts at @kpepphotography, watch my site and follow the blog as I detail the steps I take, how many times I go back, just to get a few photos that I know this location offers.

The following three titles in Bold Font are links to the photos I got on my first time to this location… enjoy, its not that I am not happy with them, it just wasn’t what I personally wanted.

The First of Many Photos from My Latest Obsession

Lakeside Serenity


So here is the plan…

#1 – check photographers Ephemeris to identify sun and moon locations at different times of day.
#2 – research those damn bugs… the looked like shad flies, but I do not know. All I know is I am not standing on that beach getting swarmed again… LOL
#3 - Get permission to enter the private property
#4 – Schedule a trip back this location that’s over 200km’s (100 miles) from where I live

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

One rule and ten guidelines

Everyone has their opinion on what elements a good photo contains... when you enter a competition, judges will look for things the average person will not even think to look for. I will never forget hearing feedback on an image I entered into a competition; there was a twig hanging into a silky stream of water flow below a waterfall backdrop and it was distracting. I thought WTF, I didn’t even see that... how anal retentive is this guy?

I can also remember a time when someone contacted me to purchase an image of mine from flickr. This was one of those photos that I posted of a house on an island, house was centered, followed no conventional rules, yet they wanted it to give as a gift. Who was I to argue, I knew it wasn’t my best work, but this person was willing to pay good money for an 11x14 print.

For the newer photographer trying to get a grasp on what makes a quality photo it can be confusing and frustrating. If you’re serious about photography and you want to learn more, you have two choices. One, return to school and take college courses. Start at the basics and get the technical side of being a photographer. Or two, you become a student of the successful photographers before us. There is enough information on the web, there are professionals that run workshops and local photographic clubs where you can meet and learn from everything the club would offer.

I took the latter method. I read, I watched, I tried, I asked questions, went out with professionals, put myself out there and constantly asked for feedback regardless of how hard it was to hear the constructive criticism at different points. Now, after taking more than 30,000 digital images I have the confidence to teach others, write articles and hang my images in galleries.

The following are the eleven things that always stay with me, yes eleven... I can’t refine it to ten.

These are things I heard, I tried and I now run through my mind when I stand behind the camera ready to take a photo.

The Rules of Photography

It may sound like a cliché, but the most important rule in photography is that there are no rules. Every situation is different and you are the one taking the photograph. Interpret the scene in your own style. If you and I were standing beside each other, and unless you were mentored by me, our final photographs would look very different.

There are however, a number of proven compositional guidelines which should be considered and are applicable to almost any photographic situation.

These guidelines will help you take more compelling photographs, lending them a natural balance, drawing attention to the important parts of the scene, or leading the viewer's eye through the image.

Once you are familiar with these composition guidelines, you'll be surprised at just how universal most of them are. You'll spot them simply walking down the street, and you'll understand why it easy to see why some photos "work" while others feel like simple holiday snapshots.

Rule of Thirds

Imagine that your image is divided into 9 equal segments by 2 vertical and 2 horizontal lines. Think of it like setting up a game of X’s and O’s. The rule of thirds tells us that you should position the most important elements in your scene along these vertical or horizontal lines, better yet, at the points where they intersect.

Doing so will add balance and interest to your photo. To help you out, some cameras even offer an option to superimpose a rule of thirds grid over the LCD screen, making it even easier to use. If your camera has this, use it for awhile... after some time it becomes second nature.

I put the focal point off to the right and aligned the subject along the right vertical line and the bottom horizontal lines of the grid.
Vancouver Inukshuk

Balancing the Elements in the Photograph

Placing your main subject off-centre, as with the rule of thirds, creates a more interesting photo, but it can leave a void in the other side of the scene can make the photo feel empty. You should balance the "weight" of your subject by including another object of lesser importance to fill the space. The main subject could possibly be larger, or the main subject might be the subject more in focus than the other.

I placed the stainless steel bean off to the left side and balanced the photo with the building to the rear in the right hand side of the photo.
Chicago Bean

Symmetry and Patterns

Everywhere we look we are surrounded by symmetry and patterns. They can be either natural or manmade, and they can make for very a eye-catching compositions. This is especially true in situations where they are not expected.

If you want to create a great effect with symmetry and patterns use them is to break the symmetry or pattern in some way. This introduces a focal point to the scene and increases interest of any image.

I used an entire image of one pattern. The pattern reaches the four corners of this image, but I broke the symmetry by injecting a colour that grabs the viewer’s attention.
Christmas Ornaments

Leading Lines

When we look at a photo our eye is naturally drawn to lines. By thinking about how you place lines in your composition, you can affect the way a person may view the image, pulling us into the picture, towards the subject, or on a journey "through" the scene. The decision is ultimately yours. Remember that there are many different types of line - straight, diagonal, bending, etc... – any will work if applied to the right scene.

I used the pier along the left of the image, and the row of stumps to create lead lines to take the viewer into the photograph.
Fifty Point Pier


Before you photograph any subject, stop and take time to think about where you will shoot it from. Our viewpoint has a massive impact on the composition of a photo. Rather than just shooting from eye level, consider photographing from high above, down at ground level, from the side, from the back, from a long way away, from very close up, and so on.

My advice to you is to try this. The next time you are going to photograph a scene, think, “from above, from below, close up, far away”... then shoot the scene from all the different vantage points. When you get home, look at them and see the difference the viewpoint of a photo makes.

I could have taken this photo standing up and centered the house, but i wanted the ground to lead the viewer up to the house. I also wanted the sky in the image as well. So, I used a wide angle lens and laid on the ground to get this image.
Talbot Trail Home

How many times have you taken what you thought would be a great shot of a subject, only to find that the image wasn’t as good as you thought because the background was distracting? Go on, you can admit it, no ones around to hear you agree. Hey, I have done it many times... i was so focused on a subject that i forgot to pay attention to the background.

This sort of goes back to the viewpoint as well... taking the background into consideration when choosing a viewpoint is usually something i take into consideration.

The human eye is excellent at distinguishing between different elements in a scene, whereas a camera has a tendency to flatten the foreground and background, and this can often ruin an otherwise great photo. We see in 3D and a camera does not...

Thankfully this problem is usually easy to overcome at the time of shooting - look around for a plain and unobtrusive background and compose your shot so that it doesn't distract or detract from the subject. If you are photographing a stationary object like a flower, a person, a hummingbird feeder, throw up a solid colour backdrop. You might feel silly, but your image will end up being head and shoulders better than someone who didn’t have the foresight to think about this.

I used a black background to keep the focal point on the flower in this image
Velvet Petals


Because photography is a two-dimensional medium, we have to choose our composition carefully to convey the sense of depth that was present in the actual scene. You can create depth in a photo by including objects in the foreground, middle ground and background. Another useful composition technique is overlapping, where you deliberately partially obscure one object with another. The human eye naturally recognizes these layers and mentally separates them out, creating an image with more depth.

Another way is using the depth of field that different aperture settings can create an open aperture of f/5.6 to f/8.0 will give the photo much more natural depth than an f/20. The smaller aperture setting, f/20 will compress the image and keep the majority of the final photo in focus.

I used the stream and light to help bring the image together. I also included the foreground, middle ground and a background in this image to convey depth and create interest.
The Farm

The world is full of objects which make perfect natural frames. As a photographer we can use trees, archways and holes. By placing these around the edge of the composition you help to isolate the main subject from the outside world. The result is a more focused image which draws your eye naturally to the main point of interest.

I used an interesting frame, a clock, to frame in the Sacre Coeur in the background. The Pope was there giving a mass and I wanted an interesting image of the church.
Paris Trip

Often a photo will lack impact because the main subject is so small it becomes lost among the clutter of its surroundings. By cropping tight around the subject you eliminate the background "noise", ensuring the subject gets the viewer's undivided attention.

You can do this in the camera, or in post processing. My preference is to maximize the pixels of the image and crop in the camera. You can adjust in post processing, but you start with a better composed image versus an image that you might not be able to work with.

I wanted to focus on the facial expression and get the guitar in the image, but i did not want all the clutter of bystanders in the image. So, I cropped in the camera to just focus on his eyes and expression.
Playing for his Food

Now that most of us are shooting with a digital camera we no longer have to worry about the costs of film processing or running out of rolls of film. I can remember a time when i would have a bag of film when i was taking photos of my baby brother laying on blanket, just to make sure I didn’t run out. But now, digital memory cards have the capability of holding 500 to 1000 RAW images. That would have been a lot of drool photos of my baby brother some 30 some years ago.

As a result of the digital age, experimenting with our photos' composition has become a real possibility; we can fire off numerous shots and delete the unwanted ones later at absolutely no extra cost. Take advantage of this fact and experiment with your composition - you never know whether an idea will work until you try it.

As I mentioned earlier, composition in photography is far from an exact science, and as a result all of the "guidelines" above should be taken with a grain of salt. If they don't work for a particular scene, ignore them. But they can often prove to be spot on, and are worth at least considering whenever you are out taking photos.

Someone once said to me, “it’s the 6 inches behind the camera that has the greatest effect on your photography”... so learn, exercise the brain muscle, try different techniques, but most of all, have fun.

Happy shooting!

Monday, 19 September 2011

The elusive art of “Bird of Prey Photography” … or is it that elusive?

For me, birds of prey capture my imagination because they seem so regal and powerful, the majestic imagery of an animal that can soar so silently until it strikes at a prey sort of compels me to want to capture the perfect emotion of the moment when the shutter clicks.

How many times has this happened to you? You are standing there, waiting, after some time has passed you’re A.D.D. sets in and your mind wanders, you start looking at the resident ducks, the occasional squirrel that darts past aimlessly and you start photographing “something” because your shutter finger is getting itchy… then all of a sudden, splash, squawk and before you can turn the lens towards the sound, the bird of prey is flying off away from you with a fish in its claws?

You regale in a full range of curse words, get pissed off at yourself and go shoot the same old ducks butt sticking out of the water as it feeds on the weeds below… you’re blanked again and you swear off bird photography till you see the next image that inspires you.

Nature photography is patience… it’s planning, and it typically takes hundreds of photos before you capture that one photograph that meets your expectations. But if you think nature photography can be difficult, try taking photographs of birds of prey. This type of photography amplifies all of the above and offers the photographer an extra set of obstacles. There are harsh lighting conditions, shy and sometimes overtly aggressive subjects, you have to take into account shutter speed, aperture, distance from the object to ensure detail, size of the subject, background noise and the actual speed of the bird that you are shooting.

But all that being said, if you love to photograph birds then there is nothing more exhilarating than capturing a picture of a beautiful bird in its native habitat. If you do not consider yourself a bird photographer, I would encourage you to try it… Look at me, I never considered myself a bird photographer. Anyone that knows me would chuckle if they heard that I was willing to spend long periods of time perched in a “blind” or wait in a covered area attempting to photograph one of our local birds of prey. I actually spend more time scouting areas, talking to locals to learn what they see and identifying habitat than I do taking photos.

Have I lost you? Are you thinking to yourself, “planning, scouting, going out time and time again just to learn about a birds habits… is this guy for real?”

Yes, it’s true… you see there are a few sayings that photographers always need to keep in the back of their mind. One, success in photography comes more from the six inches behind the viewfinder that what’s in front. The knowledge you gain by planning will increase your chances of success. Two, it takes at least twenty visits to a location to get a photograph that has that “WOW” factor. These repeat visits and patience will pay off, trust me!

How to Find Birds of Prey
When you initially spot birds of prey, get familiar with the area where you are trying to find them. I have noticed that many birds that I photograph have a regular routine in their habitats. They hunt at the same times, they perch on the same limbs, and they hunt the regular locations. This is true for hawks, eagles, herons and many other kinds of birds.
One thing to remember, flight is tiring for these large birds. They do more sitting and standing then they do flying. So when you are trying to locate birds, watch the tree lines and single trees adjacent to tree lines. If you see a Heron in a specific pool, or a Hawk spending the day perched in a particular tree scouting for prey, there is a very good chance that they will come back to that spot again and again. They may not come back tomorrow, but they will eventually, and if you are prepared, you will be rewarded.

Do not ignore indigenous species of birds for “tells” of the location of birds of prey. If you hear a murder of Crows raising a racket, look around them. This often happens due to the presence of a bird of prey. Crows love to harass these meat eaters. So next time you hear a murder of crows going crazy, get out your long lens and see what caused it. This trick also works with other territorial birds such as sparrows and mockingbirds, these birds will verbally scold and chase any predator birds in their area to protect their young and livelihood.
Photographing Birds in Flight
Photographing birds in flight and capturing their gracefulness is a challenge that any wildlife photographer needs to aspire too. When comparing a perched bird to a bird in flight is “no-contest”. Hands down, the more interesting images are always of a bird of prey in flight.
The best time of day for flight photography is during the golden hours, up to 90 minutes after sunrise or 90 minutes before sunset. The reason for this is not just to get the bird lit with beautiful golden light versus the harsh noon light. The sun is lower in the sky so the underside of the bird will be better lit, you will catch the finishing touches like the glint in the eye and it will aid in proper exposure. Another great time to photographing a bird in flight is when there’s snow on the ground, or over a larger body of water. The light reflects off the snow and water and illuminates the underbelly of the bird more effectively.

Considerations to Increase Success
Exposure Mode - Always try to shoot in Manual mode, setting your aperture and shutter speed manually will reduce the amount of bird silhouettes. When tracking a bird in flight, chances are you will slip off your target. If the camera was set in Shutter priority or aperture priority your camera will suddenly meter differently and you will ruin the shot.
Aperture – If possible, try to keep your aperture up around f/5.6 to f/8.0 if the light is there. These settings will allow you not to miss the detail in the bird’s eyes. If light is low and its forcing you to dial up the aperture to f/2.8, bump up your ISO value to maintain higher shutter speeds and more optimal needed for birds in-flight photography.
Shutter Speed - I have photographed birds most shutter speeds and have captured the moment, but luck had a lot to do with the capture. I panned properly, the tracking was easy, the light was perfect, etc… As a general rule of thumb, try keeping your shutter speed above 1/1250 of a second or more. The faster the shutter speed, the better your chances of getting a tack sharp image of that bird in-flight.

Focus and “Frames Per Second” – Your DSLR has a few different focus modes. For bird photography especially you should set your focus on “Continuous Focus”. This will allows you to track the bird and the camera will constantly adjust focus on the focus point of the lens. Where to put that focal point? I aim for the neck or head with an aperture of f/8. There will be some forgiveness with that setting. It is an f/2.8, well, focus right between the eyes of the bird and hope for the best… and I do mean hope… this is one of those times where you will take those hundred plus images to get the one image with the WOW factor.
“Frames per second” is the amount of images your camera can take in a single burst. This, coupled with continuous focus only helps photograph sequences, but won’t make all of your images in focus. Tracking the bird is half the battle, if your focus point slips off your target it doesn’t matter how many frames per-second your camera can fire, they will ALL be out of focus. Also, I find that with my camera, which does 6 frames per second, tends to take one or two images to catch optimal focus. So not only do we have to worry about slipping off the focal point, your hop sis generally to get the image on frames 3 thru 6
As with anything, practice makes perfect. I practice my hand held panning skills on birds such as pigeons and local garden birds. They are smaller and faster, move in more erratic flight patterns and will give you the practice you need to refine this skill. Remember, practice makes perfect.

Happy shooting everyone!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Holiday Photos

The holiday season is a great time of the year to take pictures of family and friends… whether its grandpa sleeping off the effects of tryptophan from the 2nd helping of turkey, or little Johnny sneaking into the kitchen to steal a deviled egg before dinner, there is an abundance of photographic opportunities to capture.

Below I have listed a few things to keep in mind while you are at the family gatherings…

Capture everything from a different POV

Since it’s a festive time of year and people will be surrounded with food, snacks, presents etc. oh ya, and that perfectly cooked turkey, you might want to your focus on people instead. If it is slightly higher or lower than the eye level, something that offers a different POV, well IMO, that is a perfect shot.

Compose in the camera

The main subject should be framed properly in the viewfinder. Make sure that the background is not too distracting or there is nothing behind that might ruin the entire picture… something like a bright window, or your favorite uncle is giving you the finger.

Remember your rule of thirds when composing and check your light meter to ensure proper exposure.

Get a Little creative

You are the director of this event, and people like to have their photo taken for the most part… so pose them, direct them into positions… the end result will be far better than just snapping off a few hundred photos… trust me… been there, bought the t-shirt…. It could be as simple as offering a suggestion on what you want to be captured in the pictures.

On the flip side, yes I am speaking out of both sides of my mouth… LOL… you can also take pictures while people are caught unaware you are photographing them… wait… anticipate the moment, then throw off a few frames of your aunt drinking straight out of the gravy bowl before she washes it out.

Lighting The Scene

The celebration is usually indoors so if the room is too dark or if the lighting is too low, put on as many light sources as possible. You can customize the white balance setting so it will match with the main source of light. You can also adjust the digital camera sensitivity mode to get bright and clear shots of the subjects and events. But if you think that the daylight would suffice, open up all the windows and let the sunshine in.

Or, pop open the built in flash or throw on the flash and light the scene using organic lighting and flash lighting…

Best of all… don’t be a camera snob… Include yourself in some images…
All cameras have a delay… and you might own a remote trigger… Nothing is stopping you from setting up the camera on a tripod or on the counter, focusing, framing and running over and posing in a photo or two… show those pearly whites or chase the kids…

Photography is all about capturing the moment… and it’s a festive time of year… go and create images that family members will laugh about for generations to come… just like that old black and white of crazy Uncle Fred wearing a suit with a hula hoop twirling around his waist…

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

New Mentor Program Available at KPEP Photography


Mentor Programs have been a historical method of passing information from one photographer to the next as far back as I remember. For you, the benefit of working with someone more experienced, with a program tailored to your specific goals is a sure way of expediting your learning curve.

The times when I personally learned the most in photography was when I spent quality time with people vastly more experienced than me. Whether it was out in the field, sitting at coffee shops talking, or getting advice on editing... these times were when I learned the most. I don’t care how many books you buy, how many YouTube videos you watch, clubs you join... all that knowledge these things fill your brain with will never come together until you find a mentor to walk you through your journey.

The Program that we create for you will be customized to YOU. In the beginning I will work with you to define your specific goals, identify any areas that need improvement and then, through a series of specifically designed assignments, provide one-on-one personal and telephone consultations and critiques. Together we shall implement a work plan that will accelerate your development as a photographer.

Creating an Individualized Program is important because each person has a different goal, and learns at a different pace. For example, you may be looking at developing a part-time photography business, or maybe you just want to take breathtaking landscape photos to show off to your family and friends. No matter what your goal is, I will work with you to make sure we achieve them together.

Program Options and Cost - There are three completely customizable options available in my Mentor Program to help you define and realize your individual goals.

Three-Month Option

The Three-Month Program option provides for one 2-hour personal session every three weeks plus up to one hour of personal or telephone discussions per month, as well as a final two hour follow-up session after the three months period is complete. Personal sessions will include discussions of specific problems or needs, field sessions, photographic assignments, and critiques - all designed to meet your particular requirements and complete your portfolio.

Three-Month Program - $ 350 (Payment: 50% due upon acceptance. Balance due 45 days after start date.)

Six-Month Option

The Six-Month Program option provides for one 2-hour personal session every three weeks plus up to one hour of personal or telephone discussions per month, as well as a final two hour follow-up session after the three months period is complete. Personal sessions will include discussions of specific problems or needs, field sessions, photographic assignments, and critiques - all designed to meet your particular requirements and complete your portfolio.

Six-Month Program - $ 600 (Payment: 50% due upon acceptance. Balance due 3 months after start date.)

One-Year Option

Program option provides for one 2-hour personal session every month plus up to one hour of personal or telephone discussions per month, as well as a final two hour follow-up session after the three months period is complete. Personal sessions will include discussions of specific problems or needs, field sessions, photographic assignments, and critiques - all designed to meet your particular requirements and complete your portfolio.

One-Year Program - $ 1000 (Payment: 25% due upon acceptance into the program; 25% due 2 months after start date; 25% due 4 months after start date; balance due 6 months after start date

How to Contact Me

Please visit the "CONTACT" page of my website and email me with your contact information. I will respond and set up an initial meeting to discuss what type of workshop that will suit your individual needs best.

Friday, 2 September 2011

My two weeks with the Pentax K-7

The various products that were used with the Pentax K7 DSLR to produce the final images taken to complete this product review were:

various polarizer filters and neutral density filters
Photoshop CS4 editing software
4GB SanDisk Ultra II compact flash memory card that writes at 15MB/s
Pentax-DA 18-55mm F3.5 -5.6 AL WR lens
Pentax-DA 50-200mm F4-F5.6 ED WR lens

Pentax K7 specifications:

Resolution 14.6MP
APS sensor size of 23.4x15.6mmSensor type: CMOS
Image size: 4672x3104
Focus system: TTL phase detection
Focus points: 11
Crop factor: 1.5x
Lens mount: Pentax KAF2 bayonet
File type: RAW (.DNG and .PEF), JPEG
Sensitivity: ISO 100-6400
Storage: SD, SDHC
Focus types: Auto single, continuous, manual, point select
Metering system: TTL open aperture 77 segment metering
Metering types: Multi, centre-weighted, spot
Exposure compensation: +/- 5EV
Shutter speed: 30sec-1/8000sec & bulb
Frames per second: 5.2fps
Flash: Built-in (Guide no. 13), external
Flash metering: P-TTL
Flash sync speed: 1/180sec
Image stabilisation: In body image sensor shift mechanism (Shake Reduction) max. 4 stops
Integrated cleaning: Image sensor cleaning function by supersonic vibration
Live view: Yes
Viewfinder: Pentaprism type (100% field of view)
Monitor: 3in TFT LCD, AR coated (921,000dot)
Interface: USB 2.0
Power: Li-Ion battery
Size: 130.5x96.5x72.5mm
Weight: 670g (excl. battery and card)

First Impressions

In the summer of 2009 Pentax launched a new flagship DSLR, the 14.6Mp, K-7, and it is full of features set to excite the novices and advanced semi-pro photographers alike. Some of these features include live monitor view, HD video and in-camera HDR capture.

Pentax has never been known for holding significant market share of the DSLR market currently enjoyed by rivals Canon, Nikon and more recently Sony. What Pentax can hang their hat on is their solid reputation for innovation and quality, producing many classic cameras over the years, such as the K1000 and the LX. The K7 has a number of styling cues that are reminiscent of Pentax's classic pro 35mm SLR camera. It even has the leatherette textured rubber covering most of the lower art of the body. The similarities are not just cosmetic; the K-7 has the same robust professional build quality, with a tough lightweight magnesium alloy body over a steel chassis, full weatherproof environmental sealing allowing it to operate at colder temperatures than many of its rivals, and more importantly it has that classic camera look and feel, with advanced ergonomic handling. Also in common with those classic Pentax cameras, the K-7 is smaller and lighter than any of its immediate competitors.

Using the Pentax K7

I had the camera for only three weeks and many times in the extreme cold… and here are my impressions so far. At first glance, the K7 looks like a small, inexpensive DSLR camera. It has more weight to it than you would expect and that is when you realize that it’s made of metal, not plastic. The build quality seems good, a drop on the ground would have proved the durability… but I am not about to be on the hook for $1600 for the sake of this review.

Pentax claims the camera is weather proof, and I can attest to that. On a recent photo shoot one morning I got hit hard by a rogue wave and the camera and I got quite wet… later that day that camera was still working great with no signs of damage. My real concern when I got the camera was going to be how it performed in the cold Canadian winter. The K7 is the only digital camera that claims to have an operating temperature below 32 degrees F. Of course, most camera’s can perform far below 0 degrees F, but no other camera manufacturer has dared to claim that their camera cannot only work, but perform at its full potential below freezing, and a night in Chicago at -6 degrees Fahrenheit proved their claims in spades.

If a camera can’t produce publishable images for me, then it really doesn’t matter what features it has and how durable it is. Now I am about to say something you will not hear many people admit. Any of the current pro or semi-pro cameras (even most consumer model point and shoots) being produced today can create double page, magazine quality images. There I said it. Now you can all quit comparing the different camera models and running those ultra technical sensors tests that really mean nothing, and go outside and start taking photos with your point and shoots… So now we can attest that the image quality of the K7 can produce magazine, book and fine art quality images. However, each camera does have its strengths and weaknesses and a “look” that is unique to each manufacturer. So l will talk briefly about the “feel” or “quality of the quality” of the K7 images that I produced.

The K7 has 14.6 MPs crammed into an APS-C sensor. This of course, means two things: an unforgiving sensor and poor high ISO performance. While it exceeded my expectations in controlled indoor situations, outside taking landscape photos with vast DOF requirements was a tad disappointing because of the softness of the images it produced. Nothing Adobe RAW editing could not help fix, but a starting point further down the sharpness scale would have been more preferable. In saying this though, my impression is that the detail for any advanced amateur is superb and the files show no signs of any aberrations. In fact, the files from the K7 are some of the most artefact free images I have ever seen. I give much of the credit to the superb DA Limited lenses. Being able to shoot in DNG is great. I wasn’t forced to upgrade to CS4 just because I bought a new camera.

I rarely shoot over ISO 400. 90% of my images are shot at ISO 100. So honestly, I could care less about the camera’s ability to shoot at ISO 1,600! I tested it and pushed the limits but that was more for my reader’s sake than mine. There is some noise present even in files shot at ISO 400 and above, but they did clean up, just like the sharpness, very nicely in ACR. If you really need high ISO performance, then you should be reading a full frame camera review instead.

The In-depth Reviews can be viewed here

Company website

Photos from current K7 users

Some images that I took with the Pentax K7