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Pentax 50mm is a Sharp Shooter

Pentax K-5 with 50mm

The Pentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8 lens is a handsomely designed, moderately priced, fast prime.

I had read conflicting reports about its performance. Pop Photo gave it high marks, while the folks at were lukewarm about the optic. I needed a fast, versatile lens for my Pentax K-5 that I use around the studio. So when the 50mm went on sale for $182, I jumped at the chance to buy it.

After a few days of shooting, I'm leaning more toward the Pop Photo results. So much so, that I'm wondering if SLRgear got a bad version of the optic for testing. I'm primarily shooting between f/1.8 and f/2.8 here at the studio.

Dibs the Cat - Pentax 50mm
Portrait at f/1.8 with Pentax 50mm. Photos by Derrick Story.

I do think the lens is a bit sharper at f/2.8 than wide open. But that doesn't mean that it isn't crisp at f/1.8, and the artistic effect of the focus falloff is wonderful.

Dibs Looking Off
Portrait at f/2.8 with Pentax 50mm.

If I were going to complain about anything with the Pentax 50mm, it wouldn't be image quality. It would be the grinding sound of the AF motor. It's not a problem here at the studio shooting product shots. But I wouldn't want it at an intimate marriage ceremony. In those situations, switch to manual focus, which is quite nice on this lens.

The Bottom Line

If you own a Pentax K-mount body, you probably will love adding the 50mm to your camera bag. It's light, good-looking, and provides excellent image quality. Just don't shoot in AF mode in quiet settings.

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No photo library is complete without old, color-shifted family portraits. You can breath some life into these pictures by using the image editing tools in Aperture.

before-and-after-family.jpg That's me sitting on the couch with a camera. My sister looks pretty bored, and my Mom doesn't seem to be in a portrait mood.

Here are the basic steps I follow to work on an old photo:


  • Remove Cast with Temperature and Tint - I use the eye dropper in the White Balance brick and click on a neutral area with Temperature and Tint selected. This helps remove some of the color cast.
  • Improve Contrast - using the Exposure brick along with the Highlights & Shadows brick, I work on the exposure. I find the Mid Contrast slider very helpful with old photos.
  • Add Vibrancy - Once you've pulled the colors and exposure into a better place, restore some of the life with the Vibrancy slider. It will protect skin tones much better than the Saturation control.
  • Attack Shadow Noise - These adjustments will almost always increase noise in the shadows. I use the Skin Smoothing brush on noisy areas. It works great.
  • Tone Down Pesky Remaining Color Shifts - If you still have more color shift than you want, try using the Color brick and selecting an area with the eyedropper. Then you can adjust the hue and bump up the brightness. This is a nice finishing touch for color work.


  • Fix Blotches with the Retouch Brush - Weird spots seem to appear during this recovery process. Use the Retouch brush to knock down those imperfections.
  • Increase Definition and Sharpness - The Definition slider is an excellent helper with old photos. I usually move the slider pretty far to the right, then add some Edge Sharpening too.

Your old photo is still going to look its age. That's OK. But by experimenting with these tools, you can wash away some of the years, improving the appearance of your historical document.

Aperture Tips and Techniques

To learn more about using these tools in Aperture, check out my Aperture 3.3 Essential Training (2012) on Also, take a look at our Aperture 3 Learning Center. Tons of free content about how to get the most out of Aperture.

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Nimbleosity T-Shirt

As we turn the corner from Winter to Spring here in the States, The Nimble Photographer breaks out some new goodies in the spirit of the season.

The Nimbleosity T-Shirt ($17.50) wicks moisture away from the body. Perfect for a day hike, bike ride, or Sunday afternoon stroll. Double-needle hemmed bottom, sleeves, collar, and arms. Only weighs 3.7 ounces and designed with 100 percent high performance poly fabric.

The Stainless Steel Water Bottle ($12.95) is crafted by Wenger. This handsome 26-ounce "clean water" bottle is perfect for an afternoon hike, bike ride, or as a companion while running errands in the car.


The Walking Man logo is printed on the front in black, and Wenger is printed on the back. The matte finish for the bottle is charcoal gray. Kit includes D-Ring attachment.

The Microfiber Cleaning Cloth ($2.50) keeps those sunglasses and camera filters free of grime and smudges.

This cloth features our Spring 2014 Walking Man with "I have a high nimbleosity rating" circling him. Vinyl pouch included. Cloth measures 6" x 6". And if that wasn't good enough, free shipping for this item.

While you're in the store, you may want to check out our popular Walking Man Cap, limited edition shoulder bag, and variety of T-Shirts.

Microfiber Cloth.jpg

These products have a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting

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Nothing shakes up a composition like a fisheye lens. And for Micro Four Thirds shooters, the Olympus 9mm Fisheye Body Cap lens ($99) is an affordable way to have some real fun.

First of all, it's really about the size of a standard camera body cap. So you don't need much room in your camera bag to add this dash of spice. I've been using the Olympus 15mm Body Cap lens ($49) on a PEN E-PM2 body ($323) as a super compact backup camera. And it's been truly handy (and very compact).

But the 9mm is more than just an emergency lens. It has two aspherical elements, 140 degree field of view, and three manual focus settings (including a close-up mode that allows you to shoot at 7.9").

Twin Townhouses

There's no AF, and no lens communication with the camera. I shoot in Aperture Priority mode (using the f/8 constant aperture). There's also no lens metadata sent with the picture, although I doubt you'll forget which lens you used when you look at the image.

Personally, I really like high-value tools that bring something unique to my camera bag. And when I'm in the mood for fun fisheye effect, I know I'll always have this little gem with me.

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The 9mm fisheye lens has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting

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I like custom icons for my internal and external hard drives. They make it easy to quickly identify which is which on my desktop.

The problem is, that when you reformat a hard drive, your custom icon will be replaced with a generic version. Not only are the generics not as attractive, but there's no visual distinction among the various units.

Fortunately, it's easy to preserve your custom icon. Before you reformat the drive, use the Get Info command (CMD-I). In the upper left corner, you'll see the icon for your hard drive. Click on it once to highlight it, the go to Edit>Copy to save it to the clipboard.

Go ahead and reformat the drive as normal. (Make sure it's backed-up first!) Then use the Get Info command again, click on the generic drive icon, and choose Paste. You'll have your custom icon once again.

If you want to save your custom hard drive icons for future use, Open Preview (the app) and choose File>New from Clipboard. The entire family of icons will be pasted and you can save them as an .icns file. That way you'll never lose them.


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This week on The Digital Story photography podcast: Lowepro Pro Roller x200 AW Grand Prize; From the Screening Room: Ben Long: Shooting and Processing HDR; and on the Workshops Update: Sonoma Coast Photography Workshop Open for Business - All of this and more on today's show with Derrick Story.

Story #1 - The Weekly Update: Getty and Flickr to cease partnership (DP Review) Even though the 6-year partnership ends, "Your status as a contributor to Getty Images is unchanged by this news. Your current agreement with Getty Images remains the same and agreements will NOT be terminated by us as a result of this change, no matter how few images you have on"


In other news, Ultra-high def Panasonic GH4 ships this May at a price enthusiasts can justify - $1,700 body alone and $3,300 with camera and interface unit together, which adds 4K HD-SDI output with timecode, XLR audio, and DC power, as well as a stereo levels display and physical levels controls. Should ship in May. (Imaging-Resource).

And finally, iOS 7.1: The changes we love (and the ones we don't) Includes HDR auto, the camera automatically detects when an image might be improved by HDR, and shoots in that format. (Macworld Magazine).

Story #2 - Lowepro Pro Roller x200 AW Grand Prize

This is a sweepstakes for podcast listeners only. The goal is to bring you into our family of social network sites, so you can stay better informed about what's going on in our virtual camera club community. (Lots of TDS news isn't covered in the weekly show.)

Participation is easy. All you have to do is join one or more of our social network sites, and let me know which one(s) via email. Here are your choices:


If you're already a member of all three social sites, send the email and say so. Be sure to include your shipping address.

Twenty-five randomly selected participants will receive the brand new "I have a high nimbleosity rating" microfiber camera cleaning cloth. One participant will receive the Lowepro Pro Roller x200 AW camera bag.

Only rules are that your email has to be date stamped before March 31, 2014, and if these sort of things are not allowed where you live, then I can't change that. In other words, void where prohibited.

I hope you toss your hat in the ring. I can't wait to send out those cool Nimble microfibers, and of course the Pro Roller X200.

Story #3 - From the Screening Room - Ben Long: Shooting and Processing HDR. This week's featured artist is expert photographer and all around great guy, Ben Long. Ben shows you the ins and outs of High Dynamic Range Photography in this week's title.

You can watch Ben in action by visiting the TDS Screening Room at While you're there, you can start your 7 day free trial to watch other photography titles, plus every other topic in the library.

Story #4 - Workshops Update - The Sonoma Coast Photography Workshop is scheduled for August 22-24, 2014. And let me tell you why this is such a wonderful event for enthusiast photographers.

Virtual Camera Club News

Photo Assignment for March 2014 is HDR.

BTW: If you're ordering through B&H or Amazon, please click on the respective ad tile under the Products header in the box half way down the 2nd column on That helps support the site.

Listen to the Podcast

In addition to subscribing in iTunes, you can also download the podcast file here (31 minutes). You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. And from those images, I choose the TDS Member Photo of the Day.

Podcast Sponsors - Learn lighting, portraiture, Photoshop skills, and more from expert-taught videos at

Red River Paper -- Keep up with the world of inkjet printing, and win free paper, by liking Red River Paper on Facebook.

SizzlPix! - High resolution output for your photography. You've never seen your imagery look so good. SizzlPix! now is qualified for PayPal "Bill Me Later," No payments, No interest for up to 6 months, which means, have your SizzlPix! now, and pay nothing until August!

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The Bad Rap Against Mixed Lighting

Kathryn Portrait

I'm the first to admit that there are days when a mixed lighting scene would not be my first choice. But I don't feel that way all of the time.

And in fact, there are instances when I capture something that I truly like using a couple different light sources, such as this portrait of Kathryn.

Portrait by Derrick Story. Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom at 130mm f/3.5, ISO 1600, 1/400th, +2/3 exposure compensation.

The location for the shoot was a yoga studio that had a large skylight overhead. I had packed my usual gear including backdrops, strobes, and Lowel Ego Lights, which are 30W compact fluorescent lamps color balanced to 5000 degrees.

The light coming in from outside was probably around 5600 degrees, but it was tinted by the walls and flooring of the studio. All in all, it was quite a grabbag of color temperatures. We added to the recipe by using a circular Photoflex MultiDisc Circular Reflector for offside fill light using the silver/gold surface.


So how did I bring this all together? Well, first of all, none of the color temperatures were extremely different than my main lights, which were stacked Lowel Ego Lights. So my range was tolerable from the get go. I used a white/gray/black card for the first few frames to help me fine tune the color, if necessary, in post.

As it turned out, the color looked very good on the Canon 5D Mark II LCD, which is important for me during the shoot because I like to show images to the subject to build confidence. But in post, I thought they were a tad too warm, so I did cool them off.

It was worth it, however to have that wonderful, natural hair light during the shoot. I think that top light adds much to the composition. And with benefits like that, I'm happy to deal with a mixed light scenario.

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Join me on my Instagram site as I explore the world of mobile photography. And now Instagram features 15-second movies too.


Nikon Rumors is predicting a Nikon 1 V3 with a new 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 PD VR lens and a 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR zoom will be announced this week, probably on March 12th or 13th.

This could be tempting news for Nikon shooters, with the 3rd generation of the mirrorless line bringing about substantial performance improvements. The Nikon 1 V3 may lure more DSLR shooters into the mirrorless world who had been previously hesitating because they wanted to stay in brand, but weren't impressed with Nikon's offering.

As for the rest of us... a new camera announcement is always fun.

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The Nikon 1 V3 should have a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting

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Last night, when I downloaded the latest issue of Time Magazine for my iPad mini (March 17, 2014), I had no idea about the treat that was waiting for me.

The cover is a 360-degree panorama from the top of the Freedom Tower (The One World Trade Center) in New York. As I tapped and moved my index finger on the cover, I could explore the city below. This is something that could never be done with a paper edition of the publication.

I have been a big fan of iPad-compatibile publishing for some time now. I subscribe to Time, Popular Photography, c't Digital Photography, the San Francisco Chronicle, and others, plus USA Today, which is free. Publishers have continued to improve their offerings, making periodical reading on the iPad more than just convenient... it's compelling.

In my mind, this latest issue of Time is a watershed moment. My hope is that people will try these publications and see that the change from paper to digital isn't just an inevitable economic decision, but can actually move the periodical medium forward.

As a bonus treat, here's a behind the scenes about making the GigaPan image.

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The iPad version of Time Magazine has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting

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Among the discussion about the famous Ellen DeGeneres selfie at the Oscars, one of the talking points should be the great tip she provided for event photographers.

Ellen DeGeneres Selfie.jpg

Today on The Nimble Photographer Journal, I write about the lesson we can learn from Ellen's brilliant Oscar night performance in the entry titled, The Selfie Seen Round the World.

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Ellen DeGeneres has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting