Old Louisville Pentax K10D, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SMC Pentax-DA AL 2020
I don’t have much to say about this photo except that I like it. Also, while Old Louisville is stunning to see, I’m not sure I’d want to live there. The architecture is severe, imposing. It would wear on me quick.
If the Pentax K10D isn’t a dinosaur among DSLRs yet, it will be soon: it was introduced in 2006. At 10.2 megapixels, its image resolution doesn’t compare to modern cameras, but was good for its day and is plenty even now. It’s a competent performer in all but low light. Critically, you can buy them used for as little as $100. I bought one because it promised to take all of the manual-focus K-mount lenses I already own — and because other owners report that its CCD sensor returns film-like color.
The K10D was aimed at the “serious amateur” market, offering features entry-level DSLRs didn’t. It is sealed against dust and weather. It automatically removes dust from the sensor on startup. It also includes a shake reduction system.
It offers the usual Program, Aperture Priority, and Shutter Priority modes. It also offers Sensitivity Priority (Sv), where you dial in the ISO and the camera chooses aperture and shutter speed; and Shutter/Aperture Priority (TAv), where you set aperture and shutter speed and the camera chooses the ISO. In these modes you adjust shutter speed with the dial on the camera front below the shutter button, and the aperture with the dial on the camera back below the LCD screen.
The K10D uses an 11-point autofocus system, with 9 points clustered around the center of the frame. It offers matrix, center-weighted, and spot metering. A menu setting lets you choose the ISO range the camera will use in auto ISO mode. I set mine to 100-400 ISO, because ISOs higher than that lead to progressively noisier images on the K10D. Its ISO range is 100 to 1600.
By the way, I’ve reviewed a handful of other digital cameras: the Kodak EasyShare Z730 (here), the Kodak EasyShare C613 (here), the Canon PowerShot S80 (here), the Canon PowerShot S95 (here), the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 (here), and the Sony FD Mavica MDC-FD87 (here). Have a look!
I bought the K10D to see how vintage Pentax glass performed against a digital sensor. I started with my 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M. Because the K10D’s APS-C sensor is smaller than a frame of 35mm film, a 50mm lens behaves more like an 85mm lens would on 35mm film. I liked doing close work with this lens.
I also bought an adapter to let me mount my screw-mount Takumar lenses. It worked, and here’s one photo to prove it. I made this through my 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar lens.
I mounted my 28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M lens for a trip to Chicago. This lens is a little too wide for me on my 35mm SLRs, but it was just right on the K10D.
This photo from the 28/2.8 shows the brilliant color the K10D’s CCD sensor can deliver. It reminds me of shooting on color slide film.
Shooting a manual lens on the K10D isn’t as simple as mount and go. You first have to go into the camera’s menus to enable the Using Aperture Ring setting, which lets the camera recognize the aperture you select on the lens. You also need to set the mode dial to M, for manual exposure. And then when you’ve framed and focused a scene, you have to press the green-dot button (next to the shutter button) to stop the lens down and meter.
It works very well. But on my trip to Chicago I soon wished for easier shooting. I started looking for a good autofocus lens for my K10D. I first found a 28-80mm f/3.5-4.7 SMC Pentax-FA lens for cheap.
The lens was best with distant subjects. It struggled to find focus closer than about five feet. Also, when I shot subjects with a lot of depth in anything other than great light, things up close were out of focus.
The narrow end of this 28-80mm lens was mighty useful on road trips, however, where I sometimes want to zoom in on something distant. Thanks to the APS-C crop factor, 80mm is like 120mm on 35mm film.
Next I tried a 35mm f/2 SMC PENTAX-FA AL lens, thinking a prime would perform better. This lens cost way more than I’m used to paying for my gear. Unfortunately, with this lens mounted the K10D frequently couldn’t find enough light to fire the shutter, and the autofocus 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. When it hit, it hit big, however, as this photo attests. Still, I sold this lens pretty quickly, for what I paid for it.
I feared that I would soon let the K10D find its next owner. Then I read somewhere that the lens that came with the K10D in its kit, the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SMC Pentax-DA AL, worked well with this body and performed beautifully. So I bought one. Verdict: oh heck yeah.
How wonderfully this light, plastic-bodied kit lens performs. It focuses quickly and nearly silently. It’s super sharp. It has a tiny bit of barrel distortion at the wide end and a tiny bit of pincushion distortion at the narrow end, both easily corrected in Photoshop. Except for that slight flaw, this lens makes the K10D almost a pleasure to shoot.
Since getting the 18-55mm lens I’ve taken the K10D on more road trips. This is a fairly heavy camera — my wife’s Nikon D3100 feels feather light in comparison. By the end of a long day on the road I definitely feel the K10D slung over my shoulder. This is why the K10D is almost a pleasure to shoot.
I’m not thrilled with the JPEGs the K10D generates — for a CCD sensor, colors are surprisingly muted. Fortunately, shooting in RAW and applying a couple quick tweaks in Photoshop’s RAW editor makes the colors pop.
Purple and yellow are, to me, the big tests for color fidelity on a digital sensor. Purples too often come out as blue and yellows too often wash out. The K10D handles both colors very well.
Typical of DSLRs, the K10D’s extra long battery life far outclasses my point-and-shoot Canon S95. For a full-day road trip I must bring my two extra batteries for the S95, while a full charge on the K10D’s battery is more than enough.
Because of the K10D’s CCD sensor, you quickly reach the camera’s limits in low light. Better low-light performance was one factor that drove the industry to CMOS sensors. But so far, CMOS sensors can’t deliver the same bold color as CCD sensors.
I don’t often use the K10D to photograph family. My Canon S95 is so much lighter and easier to handle for that kind of work. But whenever I do use the K10D with family, the images I get back richly reward me.
I’ve written mostly about the lenses I’ve tried and the images I’ve gotten. So let me wrap up by offering my take on the K10D under use. Its viewfinder is big and bright for a DSLR — you’ll find bigger and brighter viewfinders on plenty of 35mm SLRs but seldom on other DSLRs. All of the controls are just where you’d expect them to be, the body feels good in the hand, and the grip is perfect. It all adds up to easy, sure handling.
Despite its weight and the low-light limits of its sensor, the Pentax K10D is a winner.
My son graduated from Purdue and then landed a job in Bloomington, home to Purdue’s arch-rival, Indiana University. So far, he’s not taken too much flak for his educational pedigree! I visited him a couple weeks ago and we strolled around campus as we talked. I had my Pentax K10D along with its 18-55mm zoom lens.
In 1988 I had a girlfriend at IU. Laura and I remain friends to this day. Sometimes she’d come to see me at Rose-Hulman in Terre Haute and sometimes I’d visit her at IU. We walked campus a lot because it didn’t cost anything; neither of us had much money. It’s remarkable to me how after more than 30 years IU feels exactly like it did then, but I recognize almost nothing.
My son and I stepped off campus proper to walk some of the neighborhood directly to the north. I was drawn to its brick streets and the architecture of the houses. Many of these houses contain university departments today.
Kirkwood Avenue is the heart of the off-campus student experience. It’s remarkable to me how many places on it are still there since the 1980s, like Nick’s below. I remember well having beers at Kilroy’s and the Irish Lion back in the day, and pizza at Mother Bear’s. They’re all still open.
We’re still dealing with COVID-19, of course, and campus was crowded. So my son and I masked up for our walk.
I was just talking to a friend the other day, a fellow with young children who admitted that he doesn’t enjoy his children as babies. I was the same way. I loved them, but I didn’t start to enjoy them until they were mobile and verbal. The older they became, the more I enjoyed them. The middle- and high-school years were my favorite. What I wouldn’t do to have just one more year of high school with my sons! But that ship has sailed. I’m fortunate that my sons are happy that when their old dad wants to come see them. They always make time for me.
The Von Lee Pentax K10D, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SMC Pentax-DA AL 2020
This may look like a former movie theater, but only this entrance remains. Behind it is new construction.
This theater opened as the Ritz in 1928, and was renamed the Von Lee in 1948. It’s a half block from the vast Indiana University campus, on a street that most students consider to be Bloomington’s main drag.
In 1988 I saw at least one movie here, maybe two. I had a girlfriend at IU and we could walk here easily from her dorm. I remember the auditorium being cramped. But we didn’t think much of such things then. Enough old theaters still operated that it was just how it was sometimes. Newly built theaters offered only three or four screens then. The mega multiplex was several years into the future yet.
You’d think that a university town would have been able to find a community use for an old theater. Well, they did. The Indiana Theater stands a few blocks down this same street. It fell into disuse just like the Von Lee did, but it found fortune in being reused as a performing arts center in 1995. I suppose a town Bloomington’s size can support but one such venue. The Von Lee’s auditorium was demolished in about 2006.
Fishing on the Dixie Highway Pentax K10D, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SMC Pentax-DA AL 2020
The Dixie Highway, old State Road 37, winds its way out of Bloomington, Indiana, and into the Morgan-Monroe State Forest.
This little lake lies just south of the forest’s entrance. I like to walk to the shore and photograph the trees. But on this day, I decided not to disturb this person fishing. I captured her (I think it was a woman) in mid-cast.
A couple weeks ago I drove to Bloomington to see my son, who lives there. When I headed home, I followed the Dixie Highway, old State Road 37, as far as it would take me. Since SR 37 had been upgraded to become I-69, which removed all of the turnoffs to the old alignments, I wasn’t sure what I would find. I was pleased that the old road took me almost to Martinsville. Here’s its route, which now includes some new-terrain road.
For about 14 miles, Old 37 and the Dixie follow a winding path nowhere near the new Interstate. But for the next four miles or so, until it ends, the old road parallels I-69 and acts as its frontage road.
Within those first 14 miles, the old road is just as it always was: lightly traveled and lush. I’ve written about this segment before, here and here.
I had this road entirely to myself this Friday afternoon. On past trips I’ve encountered bicyclists out here; not this time.
This long segment used to exit onto State Road 37, but Interstates are limited access by their nature. Here’s how it exited onto SR 37 northbound when I first visited it in 2007.
Today, the old road curves the other way into a brand new frontage road.
Shortly the frontage road meets the next old alignment of Old SR 37 and the Dixie Highway. When I last wrote about it, here, I said that an old bridge had been left in place after a new bridge was built alongside it. I got to see the old bridge. It was saved because its qualities put it on the state’s Select list of bridges, which prevents it from being demolished without the state jumping through a whole bunch of hoops. It looks to me like some repairs have been done to it to stabilize it. But it is open now only to pedestrians.
This southbound photograph from the new bridge shows that the old road has been significantly upgraded. Notice how wide it is, compared to the old road on the right.
The new road ends about 2½ miles later, where the older, narrower pavement resumes. Shortly the road dead ends at this old bridge.
I was happy to find this bridge still here, as I’d heard a rumor that it had been removed. But I’m still saddened that it’s closed to traffic after failing an inspection in 2015. Here it is the last time I got to drive on it, which was in 2012. Read more about this bridge here.
The old highway north of the bridge has been removed, however. What a strange sight.
I’ve heard that this bridge will be repurposed as a pedestrian bridge. I’ve studied the I-69 plan map for this area and it looks like there’s no plan to continue the frontage road from here.
Here’s one final look at this old bridge from the north.
Until I-69 is built around Martinsville, it’s easy enough to return to SR 37: back up from here to the first side road, follow it east until it Ts, turn left, then follow that road until it reaches SR 37.