For all that our cameras are capable of rendering the world in glorious Technicolor, their light meters are remarkably simple: they can only 'see' in shades of grey. When a light meter attempts to judge the correct exposure for a scene, it does so under the assumption that the scene's average brightness is middle grey (18% grey), which is exactly half-way between absolute black and bright white.
I spent a few weeks with a Pentax X-5. I used it whilst my brother's girlfriend was decorating the Christmas tree, I took it down to my father's allotment, and I conducted the requisite 'general fiddling' too.
The X-5 has 26× optical zoom capability (22.3 to 580mm, extendable to 4174mm with Digital Intelligent Zoom in 35mm equivalent) with a dual shake-reduction system and 1cm minimum focusing distance in macro mode. The 16 megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor has a maximum sensitvity of ISO 6,400. It can shoot upto 10 frames per second, capture HD video, and comes with a range of filters and in-camera tools.
It is powered by four AA batteries and can be picked up for around £180 or $245.
Build and handling
The X-5 feels very much like a scaled-down dSLR in the hands, with a chunky grip and protruding lens. It was comfortable to hold and the button layout was sensible. Would I have preferred to be able to switch on the camera without having to remove the lenscap? Yes. Is it going to change my life any? No.
The X-5 offers you M, P, full auto, and a range of other preset shooting modes. No, there's no Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority modes. After spending far too long messing about with the controls in an attempt to secure a decent exposure in manual mode and getting highly frustrated by the auto-focus with a mind of its own in fully automatic mode, I shot predominantly in Program mode. The ISO settings are squirreled away in a menu, but it was far less problematic to change the sensitivity than it was to deal with auto-of-focus pictures or to refer to the camera's idiosyncratic exposure meter and functionality. (I disliked the meter's display on the LCD and found it unintuitve.)
I wasn't at all comfortable using the electronic viewfinder. It looked far too much as if I should have been playing a video game than taking photos. As a consequence, I used the LCD screen exclusively and enjoyed its tilting ability, especially when I put the camera on a low-set tripod.
Powered by AA batteries, you are supposed to be able to get 330 shots from a fresh set of four. I'm sorry to say that I didn't come anywhere close to that number of images. Maybe 150?
Once I'd freed myself of the tyranny of the self-selecting auto-focus and switched to Program mode, I quite liked using the X-5. It has a great zoom range, the image quality is absolutely fine for web reproduction, and it's generally simple to achieve what you want (within its capabilities, of course).
The ISO tests showed that it was fine up to ISO 400, but after then, quality began to degrade significantly. Colour reproduction in daylight was good, but I found that the auto white balance tended towards too yellow in incandescent lighting. Set the white balance to incandescent, however, and the colour reproduction was far more accurate. I was pleasantly surprised by the impact of the pop-up flash indoors. It wasn't too harsh.I had pretty good results with the macro mode, too.
I don't have any particular love for in-camera filters, but the X-5's range of 12 were easy to use and could be applied non-destructively to the original image. In addition to those filters, you can play around stretching your images, giving people small faces, and creating collages. You can resize and crop in-camera, as well as edit video, too. There's also the ability to shoot direct to the camera's memory and then transfer the images to an SD card.
You get a lot of camera for your money with the X-5. But, it doesn't offer you anything outstanding and I found some of its features so frustrating to use that, from my perspective, they might not even have been included. Furthermore, I'm just not convinced by the bridge camera concept; they seem to sit in a photographic no-man's-land.
Would I buy it? No. Between my dSLR and a highly specced compact, my needs are met and the X-5 comes in no way close to fulfilling them.
Would I recommend it? If you really want a bridge camera, it offers such great value for money that I don't think you can ignore it.
More images on Flickr.
Recently, I realised that while I do an awful lot of writing about photography, I’m not actually spending all that much time actually taking pictures myself anymore.
A sad state of affairs – especially as I recently bought a gorgeous Canon 50mm f/1.4 prime lens. (I could rant about prime lenses for hours, but I’ve done so in a previous post, which (if I may nest my parantheses and be so bold as to recommend one of my own articles) is well worth a read), and I have a fabulous city right on my doorstep.
Anyway, so I have never really done that much street photography before, but I figured it’d be a crying shame not to have a go at it…
For someone who hasn’t done much (read: any) street photography before, I think I did pretty well – these are some of my favourites:
This photo, Mean Fiddler by Photocritic.org on Flickr, was a lucky one indeed. Shot from the hip just as he was finishing playing a song, the colours came out magnificently, and I got quite lucky with the focussing as well – Seeing as how I was shooting from the hip at f/1.4, it wasn’t as if I had a lot of leeway with my depth of field.
Technical Details: Canon EOS 450D with a Canon 50mm f/1.4 prime lens. 1/320 second at f/1.4 and ISO 100, metered in Aperture-priority AE with a -2/3 stop EV bias. More tech info here.
"Is he taking a picture of me?"
This photo, "Is he taking a picture of me?" by Photocritic.org on Flickr, was taken in the midst of a St Patrick’s day parade on Trafalgar square. She was hanging out with some of her friends in front of a fountain, and the light kept catching her, so I figured I’d try and capture that. The back-lighting was quite tricky (and, considering that all of these photos were taken on a single attempt, with one shot at getting it right, I think I got lucky), and I’m happy that I was shooting this in RAW, because I needed to do a few adjustments to make the photo come out well.
Technical Details: Canon EOS 450D with a Canon 50mm f/1.4 prime lens. 1/1250 second at f/1.4 and ISO 100, metered in Aperture-priority AE with a -2/3 stop EV bias. More tech info here.
Dreaming over Coffee
This particular shot, Dreaming over Coffee by Photocritic.org on Flickr, came about right at the beginning of the walkabout in London – I was in line for the queue at Nero coffee, and spotted this girl, who was sitting there, enjoying her coffee, and being rather blase about checking out the cute guys walking by – what is more summerly than that? When the moment came, I simply lifted the camera to my face, snapped the shot, and paid for my coffee. Simples.
Technical Details: Canon EOS 450D with a Canon 50mm f/1.4 prime lens. 1/200 second at f/1.4 and ISO 100, metered in Aperture-priority AE without EV bias. More tech info here.
Me too, brother. Me too.
This one, Me to, brother. Me too. by Photocritic.org on Flickr, was taken immediately after the girl above. We were sitting on the statue in the middle of Seven Sisters, and were watching the world go by. This fellow just showed up, stopped right next to me, and stared at the sky for a bit – His T-shirt made me laugh, so I couldn’t not take the shot.
Technical Details: Canon EOS 450D with a Canon 50mm f/1.4 prime lens. 1/200 second at f/2.8 and ISO 100, metered in Program-mode AE with a -2/3 stop EV bias. More tech info here.
If you want to se more, you can see the whole set on Flickr.
Also, if you haven’t seen many updates from me recently, it’s because I’m out of the country for a while, doing a load of photography and eating a lot of lovely food while visiting my parents in Mumbai, to be precise. When I come back, I’m finally moving back to London again – if I can find myself a place to stay, that is.