Shooting the 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL lens on my Pentax K10D

It was totally an impulse purchase, the 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL lens I bought. I’d been toying with buying a fast prime for my Pentax K10D. Then a Black Friday email from Used Photo Pro pushed all of my buttons: the lens was already marked down and then they offered an an additional 15% off.

It is also the single most expensive bit of photo gear this cheapskate has ever purchased. Because of that, the bar is super high — I’d better absolutely love this lens.

I took this kit to Coxhall Gardens, a park in Carmel, an Indianapolis suburb. I harbored a fantasy of man rapturously bonding with machine to produce fine-art images for the ages.

Pond at Coxhall Gardens

Instead, I experienced a camera whose autoexposure frequently couldn’t find enough light to fire the shutter and a lens and autofocus system that often struggled to guess what I meant the subject to be. Even when it got the subject right, it sure hunted a lot trying to focus on it. Here, I wanted the pump to be in focus.

Coxhall Gardens

Here the K10D focused on the pine tree out in the mid-distance rather than the large tree trunk right in front of it. What the? I checked: I had multi-point autofocus on.

Wood by the street

I drove home disappointed: just didn’t bond with this kit on this outing. But I think I need to give it another chance. I’ve only had the K10D a few months and have yet to learn its ways. I remember that it took a few months to really become one with my beloved Canon S95. I need to give the K10D time, too.

Coxhall Gardens

It is, however, telling that the camera behaved better for me on my previous two outings: the first in Chicago with a 28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M manual-focus lens, and the second on my October road trip with a 28-80mm f/3.5-4.7 SMC Pentax-FA lens.

Coxhall Gardens

If after a couple more major outings with this lens I don’t start to make it sing, I’ll probably just sell it. The great thing about lenses like this is that they tend not to depreciate. This lens in particular is highly regarded and should sell with no trouble for at least what I paid for it.

Coxhall Gardens

For fun I did a bokeh test. Here’s the lens at f/2, 1/500 sec.

Coxhall Gardens

f/4, 1/160 sec.

Coxhall Gardens

f/8, 1/50 sec.

Coxhall Gardens

f/16, 1/30 sec.

Coxhall Gardens

When the lens manages to focus properly, it is plenty sharp and offers reasonable bokeh.

I think my next trial of this lens will be on one of my Pentax film bodies — this lens has a manual-focus ring and should work great. If it passes muster, I’ll know that my meh experience here was not the lens’s fault, but the photographer’s.

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Recommended reading

Some day I’d like to skydive. Here comes the ground, ready or not; hope the parachute works! Well, that’s how I feel about the coming of Christmas this year. Here it comes, ready or not! Meanwhile, I keep reading blogs. Here are the posts I liked most this week.

What’s your dream job? Ken Levine‘s is being a panelist on a 1950s-60s game show. Now that he mentions it, that might be my dream job too! Read Jobs I wish I had

Here’s more from Johanna Rothman about building healthy corporate cultures, ones that are most likely to avoid the kind of behavior that makes headlines. Read Build Respect in Organizations, Not Families, Part 2 and Build Respect in Organizations, Not Families, Part 3

On the occasion of his blog’s 25,000th post, Mark Evanier tells how to write a blog that reaches 25,000 posts. Read Post #25,000

This week’s camera reviews and experience reports:

Preservation, Road Trips

On the square in Martinsville

On our October road trip I intended to follow the old alignments of State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway from Indianapolis all the way to Bloomington. Modern SR 37, a four-lane expressway, is being upgraded to Interstate standards to be I-69, and that will certainly cut off easy access to many of the old alignments. I underestimated how much progress has been made — shortly south of Martinsville, construction already blocked off all access to the old road.

At least we got to see a little of Martinsville first, specifically its square. The courthouse at its center was completed in 1859, with additions built in 1956 and 1975-1976. It’s unfortunate that trees blocked the view on all sides, as it is a stunning building well preserved.


The rest of Martinsville’s square was a mixed bag of buildings ranging from dilapidated to gorgeous, with several vacancies punctuated by occasional businesses, including this one which had just opened.


This building originally housed the First National Bank of Martinsville. Remember when every town of any size had its own banks? Today, thanks to bank consolidation, few of those remain. I wonder how many mergers happened before this became a BMO Harris Bank branch.


I enjoyed this building’s strong presence. It was built in 1893 for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and looks like it’s either been well maintained over the years or has been recently restored. Its first floor is largely occupied today by a coffee shop that specializes in homemade cheesecake.


This building looks recently restored as well. I appreciate how the facade, especially the store entrances, retain a period-typical look.


I was especially taken with the sign painted on this window. While the metal beams behind that glass mean that this door no longer operates, and that the Martinsville Bowling Center is a thing of Martinsville’s past, it’s great that the sign was retained.


Other buildings on Martinsville’s square are in various stages of restoration. Here’s hoping the next time I come through on a road trip, I get to see a completely revitalized square.


Martinsville was so excited about the Dixie Highway, by the way, that the town immediately paved it in locally made bricks. The Dixie’s route is covered in asphalt today, but another local road remains paved in those bricks. I told the brick Dixie story and showed the remaining brick road here.

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At Thompson Mill

Jesus loves you
Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom

Driving along Indiana’s back highways — and, I feel sure, back highways across much of the Midwestern United States — it’s common to pass signs much like this one, nailed to utility poles and trees.

I’ve always doubted that such religious sloganeering materially helps convert anyone to the faith. Especially the signs that say things like “Hell is Real” or “Repent Sinner” — such signs are sure to repel people.

At least this sign has a friendly message.

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single frame: Jesus loves you


Photography, Road Trips

Roads I’ve been down

Do you ever notice the road images at the top of this page, just above my blog’s name? If you click your browser’s refresh button, eventually you will see them all. But today there will be no need for that: I’m going to share all 13 images with you and tell you where these roads are located.

I’m doing this on the occasion of adding a new road image to the rotation: this one. I made it on my October road trip. It’s State Road 45 in Brown County, Indiana.


The rotating header images are a feature of the WordPress blog template I use. (It’s the Ryu theme, in case you’re curious.) Using road photos I’ve taken, I shrink and crop them to 350×150 pixels, upload them, and link them to the header. The template and WordPress take it from there.

Here, then, are the rest of the roads in rotation.

US 40 in Putnam County, Indiana. From my 2009 road trip of the National Road in western Indiana.


Route 66 near Auburn, Illinois. From a 2013 Spring Break trip my sons and I took along Route 66.


Route 66 over the South Canadian River near Caddo, Oklahoma. From the 2013 Route 66 trip.


State Road 45 in Brown County, Indiana. From a long drive in 2013.


Peacock Road, former National Road, in Guernsey County, Ohio. From my 2010 trip across Ohio’s National Road.


Old State Road 37, former Dixie Highway, in Morgan County, Indiana. From my series of 2012 road trips exploring the Dixie in Indiana.


Old State Road 37, former Dixie Highway, in Morgan County, Indiana. From the 2012 Dixie Highway tour.


Route 66 at Devil’s Elbow, Missouri. From the 2013 Route 66 trip.


Route 66 west of El Reno, Oklahoma. From the 2013 Route 66 trip.


R344 in County Galway, Ireland. From my 2016 Irish honeymoon.


N59 near Connemara National Park, County Galway, Ireland. From my 2016 Irish honeymoon.


Unmarked road, Lettermore, County Galway, Ireland. From my 2016 Irish honeymoon.




Due North

Due North
iPhone 6S

I had reason to be in the Boone County Courthouse recently. (See an exterior photo in this post.) As Indiana courthouses go, it’s a relatively new one, completed in 1911.

At the center of its main floor tiles were arranged with an arrow pointing north. I always wonder how accurate such markers are. Given the courthouse’s placement on the city’s downtown street grid, this arrow points in a northerly direction, at least.

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Photography, Preservation

single frame: Due North