A Viewfinder Darkly

Photography tips and tutorials

Pentax K1 exploring the basics

The Pentax K1 in the local botanical gardens trying some of the basic functions.

Aperture Priority (Av) is a  commonly used exposure mode, especially for landscape photography where controlling Depth Of Field is important. This was a good mode to start testing the Pentax K1.

It was a bright sunny morning with dark shadows from the larger trees providing  a challenge for the metering system.

garden pond

The bright white bridge over the lily pond with the deep shadows from the tall surrounding trees


Camera displays

The LCD panel on top of the Pentax K1 is  smaller and has less information than the K5.  Only the essentials are here, shutter speed, aperture and the status of the memory cards.  The other  information is now displayed on the  rear monitor screen.

Importantly worked out the two new adjustment dials. The left dial selects a  function for adjustment. The right unmarked  dial steps through the options for the function. The information is displayed on the rear screen.

camera monitor

rear screen with setting info displayed

Setting the function selector dial to the crop position and the I  used the unmarked adjuster dial to cycle through the sensor size options.

I took three lenses, two crop size zooms a 35mm full frame prime. This gave  a general coverage from 10mm to 135mm.

Crop Mode Selection

When I cycled through the crop mode options I found a 1:1 option as well as full frame (FF) and crop (APS-C ). This mode crops the image to the square format when you take the photo,  handy for posting straight to my Instagram account  from the Pentax K1 using the WiFi functionality, hopefully.

In crop mode the viewfinder displays a rectangle indicating the limits of the image in crop mode. Interestingly, it changes size when zooming a crop mode lens. It seems at the longer focal length of a zoom it has a larger image area than in the shorter end of its zoom range.


In the fernery, a very shady environment for the ferns, cranking up the ISO to 3200 produced very clear images with little digital noise. A small amount of noise reduction in Lightroom cleared it up,   but was it really necessary?

deep shadows

The Pentax K1 brought out the detail in the deep shadows with little noise.


Image Stabilisation

I went  below the canopy of a spreading Elm tree to take  a record photo of the  details plaque. When I checked the information after the taking the photo and I saw the shutter speed of 1/15 of a second I was worried that camera shake might make the text hard to read.  Then I upped the ISO and reshot the photograph to make sure I  got a readable picture.


name plaque

The plaque on the Elm tree is easily read even with hand holding and shutter sped of 1/15 second

Reviewing the photographs in Lightroom the 1/15 second image looked clear and reasonably sharp. The exposure was a bit off , but that did not matter. This confirmed generally what I found with the photographs  in the dark areas that the 5 axis Image Stabilisation is a step up from the system in my Pentax K5.

Dual Cards

The Pentax K1 automatically changed from the first  SD card  to the second card when the first was full without missing anything.


On first impressions the Pentax K1 delivers the expected improvement  in image quality. It is not dramatic but there is more fine detail compared to the Pentax K5.  The digital noise performance is another area of improvement.

There were  surprises in the effectiveness of the Image Stabilisation system and the seeming variability of the capture area with crop lenses.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 MARK II Review

Olympus camera body from the front with lens attached

The  OM-D E-M1 MARK II is the new flagship from Olympus.  The new camera has  a 20.4 megapixel Live MOS sensor,  more than its predecessor. Olympus are promoting  the benefits  of  its speed and compact size.

The digital sensor is still the  slightly quirky four thirds format and is considerably smaller than a full frame sensor,  with a crop factor of two.  The smaller sensor and mirrorless design allows Olympus to produce a compact camera body and lenses making it easier to carry.  While the camera is classified as  mirrorless, it does have an electronic viewfinder. This has advantages when photographing with telephoto lenses or  in low light conditions of being able to hold the camera securely and minimise camera shake. (more…)

Pentax K1 the first impressions


The Pentax K1 full frame DSLR arrived today and the first impressions were  encouraging.

Body of the Pentax K1 seems to be about same size as K5, despite the larger full frame sensor and  the need to accomodate a larger mirror box. The feel in the hand of the K1 is similar to my Pentax K5 DSLR.   As expected on a top line DSLR there are  a number of  controls with  adjusting dials, wheels and buttons. (more…)

Pentax K1 my new camera

camera body

Digital photography  technology advances relentlessly, offering improvements in image quality with each new generation of digital sensor.

When to Upgrade

I don’t upgrade my DSLR with every new model as generally the differences  are not large enough for me to buy every new  model.  I seem to buy about very second new model DSLR  for my Pentax camera system.

Now it is time to add a new Pentax K1 to the camera bag to replace my Pentax K5 as  my first choice DSLR. What are the factors leading to the decision to buy the new K5? (more…)

Storytelling with composition in photography

water and bridge

Every picture tells a story and part of the art of photography is using composition to clearly tell the story.

The key to a great photograph is understanding what it is about the scene that compels you to take the photograph.  This is the underlying story of the photograph. It may not be  action; it could be a mood a texture or just the beauty of a landscape. There are many stories to tell so photography is a rich art form.

My approach is thinking of a possible caption for the photograph before  pressing the shutter button.  Then I use the compositional tools, including  framing,  depth of field and exposure, to  guide the viewer’s eye to the  main point of the scene. (more…)