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: I 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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Old cars, Film Photography

Kodak Plus-X and the Carmel Artomobilia

I had two SLRs slung over my shoulders at the 2017 Carmel Artomobilia last month: my Pentax ME with wonderful Fujifilm Superia 100 inside, and my Pentax Spotmatic F with my last roll of Kodak Plus-X.


On this day, with this lens (55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar), the Plus-X returned blacks you could just fall into.


And the grays and whites came out creamy.

Hurst Olds

I wished briefly that I had screwed in my 35mm f/3.5 SMC Takumar. The thick crowds made it difficult, at best, to back up far enough to get entire cars in the frame. The 35/3.5 would have made me back up a lot less.


But I’ve been exploring the 55/1.8’s considerable charms lately, and in retrospect am not disappointed I left it on the camera. It performed well, and it’s seldom a real problem to focus on an old car’s details.


Growing up in the 1970s as I did, when half or more of the cars on the road were from GM, it was easy to take their dominance for granted. Looking back, it’s clear just how good their designs were. How daring it was in 1970 that the second-generation Camaro and Firebird had no distinct rear passenger windows! The shape of this window opening is just smashing.

Flying lady

Packard’s Flying Lady hood ornaments are a favorite subject. I shoot them whenever I come across them at a car show.

Ol' propeller nose

This is the famous front end of the Studebaker I photographed from the rear here. The girl walking away was a happy coincidence as I framed this shot, so I made sure to include her.


The Citroën DS is funky from every angle and in every detail. Just check out how these headlights don’t both point forward. This is a later DS; earlier ones had uncovered headlights.


Plenty of American muscle was on display at the Artomobilia. I’m partial to the Mopars of the era for their no-nonsense styling.


Avantis were made in my hometown, South Bend. They were Studebakers at first, but after Studebaker shuttered a new company formed to keep Avanti production going. They used leftover Studebaker engines at first but eventually had to turn to Chevy to provide powerplants. Post-Studebaker Avantis were given the “Avanti II” name, probably for rights reasons.

Avanti II

As the show began to wrap up and the crowds thinned, I was able to get a few wider shots of the event and its cars.

Vette 2

It wasn’t all classics at the Artomobilia. Several owners of newer hi-po Ford Mustangs lined up their cars for inspection.

Hoods up

Here’s hoping I can find time for more car shows. I do love to photograph cars and I think I’ve become pretty good at it. They’re certainly the subject with which I am most confident.


Fujifilm Superia 100 and the Carmel Artomobilia

I love to photograph old cars. When the city of Carmel, Indiana, closed its downtown streets late last month for a car show, I took Margaret and we brought our cameras.

Carmel Artomobilia 2017

The Carmel Artomobilia is an annual event and this was its 10th year, but it was my first visit. I assumed for a long time that the show would mostly be newer exotic cars, and those don’t jazz me very much. But I was assured that the show is a good mix of all kinds of interesting cars. So off we went to see.

Carmel Artomobilia 2017

I put my last roll of Fujifilm Superia 100 into my Pentax ME, and mounted my 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M lens. I prefer this lens to my 50/1.4 in everyday shooting as it gives extra depth and warmth to colors. It made the Fuji 100 really sing.

Carmel Artomobilia 2017

It’s not often I get a roll back from the processor and feel my pleasure deepen with each frame I examine. But that’s just what happened with this roll. I am comfortable and confident with old cars as subjects, I was using my favorite camera, and I chose a lens and film that render color well. It was a recipe for success.

Carmel Artomobilia 2017

The Fuji 100 really loves green. It might be the color negative film I’ve used that renders green best.

Carmel Artomobilia 2017

The film returned deeply saturated reds similar to what I experience with Kodak Ektar 100. It’s too bad that Fujifilm discontinued this film. I like it as much as Ektar, and it was less expensive. That flare from something reflective out of the frame is a little bit of a bummer in an otherwise satisfying photograph.

Carmel Artomobilia 2017

All sorts of cars were present. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Morris Minor in person before. I love it when I get to “meet” a car in this way.

Carmel Artomobilia 2017

Plenty of classic American iron was on display, of course. I’m partial to 1960s Mopar muscle. I just adore the crisp and purposeful designs of Elwood Engel, Chrysler’s chief designer during this era.

Carmel Artomobilia 2017

What’s this? One Ferrari photo? The contrast between the sensuous hood line and that crisp wheel arch was too strong to ignore.

Carmel Artomobilia 2017

I’m old enough to remember when first-generation VW Buses were common hippie-mobiles, clapped out and covered in hand-painted flowers. I’m not old enough, however, to remember them as new. This one was beautifully restored.

Carmel Artomobilia 2017

I made so many close shots because, with a 50mm lens, I needed to back way up to get more of each car in the frame. Especially at first, the event was so crowded that when I backed up my viewfinder would quickly be filled with people — usually from shoulder to knee, given where I was composing. Fortunately, I like to make close shots of old cars.

I did get a few photos from a distance. Here’s one of Margaret shooting a Buick. She’s not remotely the car fan I am, and I’m fortunate that she’s so easygoing and will share with me pretty much any experience I ask of her.

Carmel Artomobilia 2017

I also shot my last roll of Kodak Plus-X in my Spotmatic F at this show. I’ll share those photos in an upcoming post.

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