Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A walk in the woods

I returned to Great Falls recently for a morning walk in the woods. It's one of my favorite locations. A frost still clung to the trees as I walked up the Gold Mine trail. This time of year the sun is low, the shadows long, and the trees mostly bare. In spite of the temperature and the season the woods were inviting.

The image has no people, no evergreens, no snow. But I like it anyway and made it into our seasonal card for this year. I wish all of you a warm wonderful holiday and a peaceful, healthy and prosperous new year.

Gold Mine Trail

Monday, November 2, 2015

Turn around

One of the best pieces of photographic advice I've heard is "Turn around." In my mind that means: when you're working hard on a particular subject or scene, remember to look at the rest of the world too.

Once I was shooting the Potomac River upstream of Great Falls, MD. I was on a rock at the river's edge, trying to compose some foreground vegetation, the river, and trees on the opposite bank. None of it worked very well. Eventually I gave up and turned to go back to the car. Just a few feet away was a gnarled tree with exposed, tangled roots...a wonderful subject that had been right behind me as I was looking the other way.

Tree and Roots
This summer we traveled to Quebec City, Canada. One brilliant afternoon we took a short ferry ride across the Saint Lawrence River to Levis. I wandered about the ship shooting the city and the river. The sun was low and Quebec City was strongly back-lit; difficult conditions. But as I turned from looking at one shore to the other, I noticed the ferry itself.

Quebec-Levis Ferry
In the "About Me" bio on this blog, I said that photography allows and requires me to look carefully at the natural world. But photography, like the world, is limitless. There are more potential images than can ever be captured. If in our concentration on one subject we forget to occasionally look in the other direction, we will miss things. Turn around.

(By the way, I made a print of the ferry shot on Hahnemuhle Photo Silk Baryta. I've been trying out some papers and I like this one a lot.)

Friday, October 16, 2015

October at the beach

We've often traveled to Lewes, DE for fun, food and relaxation. Recently we spent a weekend with family in nearby Rehobeth, DE. I'd never seen the southern portion of Cape Henlopen, which includes marshes and the beautiful Gordons Pond wildlife area. A bicycle ride opened my eyes and I set out with camera the next morning.

But first, I stopped at one of my favorite locations in Lewes, the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal. The combination of water, plant life, and sky in this spot draws me back again and again.

Lewes and Rehoboth Canal, October 2015
The vegetation at Gordons Pond had some autumn colors. It was a sunny Sunday morning perfect for shooting (though it might have been better earlier...I was at the canal at that point.) We are fortunate to have public areas dedicated to preserving environments like this. Thanks, Delaware.

Gordons Pond

Friday, September 18, 2015

New images from an old lens

In an earlier post I wrote that I'd enjoyed working with the old Nikkor 50mm lens from my Nikkormat FT3. Alas it has gathered too much grunge over the decades to be a useful working lens, but I loved the long focusing throw and the largish aperture (f/2) and speculated I could buy a clean used version pas très cher.

My favorite place for buying and selling used gear is KEH. Sure enough they had a pretty decent selection of old 50mm Nikon lenses. I ended up with the lens pictured below. According to Ken Rockwell's terrific site on Nikon lens technology, it's an AI (for automatic indexing) lens circa 1977. It's very clean and was a bargain at $89 plus shipping. It mounts with no fuss, focuses smoothly, and is just fun to use. Kudos to Nikon for keeping the F mount compatible for all these years.

Nikkor 50mm f/1.8, circa 1977

This morning as I labored in the back yard, Susan called my attention to the light in the dogwood branch over my head (I am very lucky to have a spouse with an eye for beauty). Not wanting to waste good light I dropped my shovel and grabbed the D750 and 50mm. Here's one of the shots:

Dogwood Berries
Not bad for old glass. During our trip to the Finger Lakes and Canada, I took the 50mm out one day in Ottawa instead of lugging the whole camera bag around. I took this picture of the National Gallery of Canada with it.

Ceiling, National Gallery of Canada
Obviously I'm happy with my new, old-but-capable lens.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Summer in the North, Part 2

(See previous post for Part 1: the Finger Lakes and Ottawa)

Our next stop was Montreal. Befitting its big-city status, it offered traffic jams, construction and detours. Once settled, though, we enjoyed ourselves.

The Nikon D750 performed well. The low-light performance, aided by noise reduction in Lightroom, is very good. The altar of the spectacular Notre-Dame Basilica was shot hand-held at ISO 12,800, 1/30 sec. at f/8. I'm happy with the results.

Notre-Dame altar, Montreal
The vibration control seems to work well on the Tamron 24-70mm lens. The pulpit was shot at 1/6 sec. handheld. The wood ornamentation in the basilica is jaw-dropping.

Notre-Dame pulpit
Montreal has a botanical garden of 185 acres, including both greenhouse and outdoor areas. It is beautiful and, at latitude 45.5 degrees North, astonishing to someone from Maryland. We spent a lovely morning there. The bonsai exhibit, courtesy of China (so it's actually penzai) was a highlight but the entire place is worth seeing.

Orange Jasmine penzai

East to Quebec. Many told us "you'll think you're in Europe" and old Quebec City does have an Old World feel: narrow, curving streets, old stone buildings, and window boxes side-by-side with monumental architecture.

Old Quebec City street
Quebec Seminary

I especially like the way the D750 preserves shadow detail. I used the highlight-weighted metering mode a lot. The resulting images have underexposed areas that really come back to life when you adjust the exposure and reduce the highlights in Lightroom. This Quebec skyline shows the Chateau Frontenac (left), once a grand residence for British governors and now a hotel. I shot directly into the sun. Here are the before and after results. Look how much detail I could retrieve from the shadows without blowing out the sky.

Quebec Skyline (as shot)
Quebec Skyline (post-processing)
As in past trips, we found Canada beautiful, friendly, and rich in culture and history. If you have a chance to go, take it!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Summer in the North, Part 1

We traveled north this summer, visiting the Finger Lakes, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. The weather was simply wonderful: sunny days with moderate temperatures and low humidity. Even the bugs seemed inclined to relax, rather than annoy us. 

We tasted wine, of course (see earlier post). Wineries are prolific in the region. Our first overnight was at the beautiful, relaxing Driftwood Inn on the shore of Lake Cayuga. Our hosts and the other guests (a friendly group from Buffalo) made the stay enjoyable. And the region is very lovely this summer. Field and forest were green and lush. It appeared they were having a bumper season for hay.

Pier at Cayuga Lake

Hay Wagons, Ovid NY

We drove to Ottawa to stay with friends we met while traveling in Vietnam. They have an amazing home in the middle of the city, from which they showed us Ottawa's highlights. We walked almost everywhere--I can see the attraction of city living, especially when the weather is so fine. And Ottawa is a great city, compact, clean and studded with interesting sights. Parliament, naturally, but also the Rideau Canal, opened in 1832 to connect the Ottawa River to Lake Ontario. The first several locks are stacked together downtown. The canal is still in use, mostly for recreational boats. To the right of the canal in the photo is the grand early 20th century Chateau Laurier hotel. The National Gallery of Canada is housed in a beautiful glass and granite building; we enjoyed exhibits of works by Alex Coville and Mary Pratt. Opposite the Gallery, and framed here by the legs of its enormous arachnid sculpture, is the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica.

Parliament Centre Block, Ottawa
Rideau Canal Locks, Ottawa
Ceiling, National Gallery of Canada
Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, Ottawa
This post is getting rather long, so I'll end it here and write another about Montreal and Quebec City.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Another iPhone 5s shot

I've written before about the iPhone 5s and its camera: see this post which described how it worked out for me in Italy.

The 5s continues to be the best camera-that-you-have-with-you, at least for me. I'm never out of the house without it. True, it works best in daylight, it only produces JPEGs, and the controls are limited. There are apps that add useful features (I like Camera+ but haven't tried others) but in the end it's pretty much a point-and-shoot.

We traveled to the Finger Lakes region of New York recently. There are wineries EVERYWHERE! We stopped at one, Sheldrake Point on Lake Cayuga in Ovid, NY. There were two folks playing guitar and banjo on the lawn, kids romping on the grass, and a food truck. And wine. What more could you ask for on a beautiful summer afternoon?

You could ask for a camera. Or you could put down your wine, pull out your iPhone and get a nice shot of the late day sun across the lawn and vineyard.

Sheldrake Winery, Ovid NY

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Vancouver Island

We loved our time in Nova Scotia in 2014 (previous posts here and here). Splendid landscapes, friendly people, fascinating culture and no crowds. When the opportunity arose to see some of British Columbia, off we went, wondering how it might differ.

After a short and pleasant stay in Vancouver (the city), we boarded a ferry for Vancouver (the island). At 12,000 square miles it's about half the size of Nova Scotia, but it feels big because it's sparsely populated. Almost half of the 760,000 people live in Victoria, on the southern tip of the island, and many of the rest seem to be along the southeastern and southwestern coasts. Crowds were certainly not a problem (though you might find them in Victoria).

We drove west across the island through rugged, beautiful terrain. We stayed in Ucluelet at He-Tin-Kis Lodge, a wonderful place overlooking a small inlet in the rugged western coastline. A short hike away on the Wild Pacific Trail is the Amphitrite Lighthouse with a fog horn that operated evocatively throughout our stay. 
View from Wild Pacific Trail near Ucluelet, BC

Much of the southwest coast--in fact, much of the island--is parkland. On a day trip north along the Pacific Rim Highway from Ucluelet we stopped to hike the short Rainforest Trail loops. These are magical walks among tall trees and lush undergrowth, nearly silent, almost otherworldly.

Rainforest Trail

Returning to the east coast, we drove north, stopping for lunch at the Fanny Bay Inn with its lovely casual backyard for dining. We'd never heard of Fanny Bay oysters: they are exceptional. Our waitress, brightening visibly at our raves, told us where to buy more. We did, and made our second westerly transect to 
Strathcona Park Lodge, overlooking Upper Campbell Lake. The lodge borders Strathcona Provincial Park and affords spectacular views of the lake and mountains. We picnicked that evening on the porch of our cabin shucking and eating the oysters.

Kings Peak and Upper Campbell Lake, BC

Mt. Flannigan and Upper Campbell Lake, BC

It's hard to capture the scope and beauty of Canada. Everywhere we went we saw brilliant yellow Scotch broom, a spectacular and unfortunately invasive shrub, but I failed to get a good image of it. We also saw lots of lupine.

Oh Canada! indeed. We are fortunate to have seen some of both coasts and are planning another trip, to Ottawa, soon.

Lupine, Sooke Potholes Provincial Park, BC

Monday, May 4, 2015

Spring in the forest

Spring has been very beautiful here this year. A recent morning was so glorious that nothing would do except to take a walk with the camera. The park near our home was verdant and lush, the sun just starting to pierce the forest, our little stream burbling. There aren't many better ways to start the day.

Forest, Spring Morning

Nikon D750 handheld, 1/160 sec. at f/8, ISO 800, 70mm, AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR

Friday, April 24, 2015

Nikon D750 (Part 2)

After looking over my images from the Nikon D810 and D750, I've decided to purchase a D750. Both cameras produce very nice images, and I didn't see enough difference to justify the extra cost of the D810. I suspect that my technique wasn't (and often won't be) good enough to fully capture all the resolution of the D810. I don't make prints large enough to put all those pixels to good use. At least, not so far. And using that extra cash for better glass makes sense to me.

Speaking of which: the Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM lens is backordered, with no estimate of when it will become available (a couple of shots with the Sigma I rented are in this post). Instead, I ordered the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD, based only on its positive reviews. I didn't see a comparable Nikon lens in that zoom range that has vibration reduction. 

For a longer lens, I chose the AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR. I liked the results from the borrowed 70-200mm f/2.8 (thanks again, John) but the f/4 is 1.5 pounds lighter, and I don't do a lot of low-light work. It also focuses closer and takes a smaller filter. Oh, and it costs $1,000 less.

So my Pentax era draws to a close. My Pentax kit (Pentax K-5, Pentax 16-50MM F/2.8 SMC DA* ED AL IF SDM, and Sigma 70-300mm F/4-5.6 APO DG Macro) is on its way to the folks at KEH who I trust will defray the cost of my new gear by buying my old (if you have gear you don't want, it's worth looking at their site...you can get a quote and sell gear very easily).

My apologies for not including more images, therefore making you take my word about the comparisons. Useful comparisons are very hard to do, especially when you don't have both cameras at the same time. In any case, the web is bursting with D750/D810 comparisons: images, handling, focusing, controls, and overall sexiness for all I know. Go ahead: spend 59 hours reading and watching them if you like. In my case, I wanted to have my new camera in hand so I can get some time with it before my next trip.

Thanks again to everyone who shared their thoughts and experience!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Borrowing and trying out the Nikon D750 (Part 1)

(A tip of the hat to my friend John Gunnison, lifetime Nikon user and proprietor of online pulp bookstore Adventure House, for the generous loan of his well-loved D750, AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8, and AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 GII ED. Results with these lenses to follow in Part 2.)

This morning I had a new experience: I shot with a lens I hadn't used in about 30 years. It was surprisingly fun.

One of the things Nikon does well is lens compatibility. Its F mount lenses date to 1959 and its cameras continue to use the F mount. My second SLR* was a Nikkormat FT3, manufactured around 1977 or 1978 and furnished with a Nikon 50mm f/2 lens. I haven't shot film in decades so the Nikkormat has languished in the garage gathering large amounts of dust. Today I dug it out, dusted off the 50mm and mounted it to John's D750.

Nikkor 50mm, circa 1977

The gorgeous spring morning was pleasant, but the real fun was rediscovering focusing with this old non-autofocus lens. The focus ring on the 50mm turns more than 180 degrees, making it smooth and easy to focus just where I wanted. The viewfinder on the D750 was crisp and clear in the morning light. Very, very nice. At the risk of cliché: I felt like a kid again, and I didn't miss autofocus a bit.

Alas, the passage of time and the dirt inside the lens were unmasked in the images. They are hazy and misty, reminding me of the old trick of smearing vasoline on a filter. The soap-bubble bokeh is rather unusual, too:

Forest Floor
But I'd bet you could find a reasonably clean old 50mm for less than the price of a nice dinner. If I end up buying a Nikon DSLR, I'll be looking for one.

*My first SLR was a Minolta SR-T 101. No idea what became of it, but it was my first love.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Renting and trying the Nikon D810

In the previous post I promised an A/B comparison between my Pentax K-5 and the rented Nikon D810. The Nikon is back with Borrowlenses.com and I've had a chance to compare a number of nearly-simultaneous shots.

Spencer (our youngest son) and I carried the cameras and tripod to one of my favorite locations, the C&O Canal Historical Park. We had lovely, sunny weather to shoot across the Potomac and the many rocky bluffs and islands.

I continued to be impressed with the Nikon's speedy, no-fuss focusing. It's not critical in long landscape shots like these, but it's very nice. The Pentax displayed its typical sluggish-to-nonexistent autofocus behavior. I can't explain it but it's annoying, especially compared to the snappy Nikon. So it may be that some of the Pentax shots aren't perfectly focused. Exposures weren't exactly the same, either. 

We attempted to adjust for the crop factor by shooting images on the Nikon at 1.5 times the focal length of the Pentax (recall that the D810 is full-frame and the Pentax, APS-C). We didn't hit that exactly, so I've adjusted the cropping in Photoshop to give approximately the same image sizes. 

The results are impressive. The Nikon has outstanding resolution and the Sigma 24-105mm f/4 lens seems to make good use of it. Here are two uncropped shots, followed by two crops showing approximately the same area. Remember that these are all JPEGS with no sharpening added in Photoshop.

Rocky Island (Nikon D810, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 at 75mm, f/8, 1/320 sec., ISO 400)

Rocky Island (Pentax K-5, Pentax 16-50 f/2.8 at 45mm, f/8, 1/125 sec., ISO 400)

Rocky Island (Nikon crop)

Rocky Island (Pentax crop)

The overexposure in the Pentax crop unfortunately biases the eye against it, but you can easily see the difference in resolution...look at the trees, for example. Being able to crop that closely without going to mush would be very nice. The largest print you could make would be a lot bigger.

Some of you will say "Use primes! Zoom with your feet!" Fine, but in this location you would need to zoom with a boat. Prime lenses are sharp, low-cost and lightweight, but they don't always get you where you need to go.

One more thing I like about the Nikon: they have an app that lets you easily view manuals on your phone. It's well-designed and pretty easy to use. Nice touch.

Time to decide whether to add this expensive box to my kit. Very tempting.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

OT: More Auditions (update)

The search for my next camera has taken a rather scatter-shot approach so far. I've tried mirrorless, iPhone, and small travel-size cameras. I've tried Apple, Fuji, Olympus and Canon products. About the only thing missing has been a pinhole setup. 

I haven't given up, but I have changed course again. Today I get got my hands on a Nikon D810 and a Sigma 24-105 f/4 zoom, rented for a week from Borrowlenses.com. This set-up is neither small (4+ pounds) nor cheap (don't ask), making it appear that I've abandoned my search for a travel camera. Maybe I have. But the D810 has (reportedly) the best resolution of any DSLR on the market at the moment and I'm seduced by that (I've daydreamed about working in medium format). And using mirrorless cameras made me realize that I prefer optical viewfinders.

Others have influenced me, of course. Tony Northrup's buying guide suggests this camera and lens for landscape photographers. My friend and long-time Nikon owner (and proprietor of Adventure House books) John Gunnison has often nudged me toward Nikons and seems quite smitten by his new D750. He mentioned something I'd read about: with enough resolution, you can crop instead of packing a longer lens; a sports pro told John he does it. Even my next-door neighbor is carrying a new D810...I mustn't get left behind, right? 

A week is too short to learn much about a new DSLR, crammed as they are with features and settings. But the demise of the bricks-and-mortar camera shop leaves few options but to rent and try. Even if I was ready to buy today, the Sigma is back-ordered at B&H, so this is the fastest way to try out the combo. At very least I'll have some images to compare against all those others, and I'll know whether I'm still fit enough to lug it all around. Dear God, I hope I don't break it.

Update: The camera arrived and I took it for a walk. It focuses very quickly, even in rather low indoor light, which is a welcome change. Quietly, too. The D810 body isn't too heavy, but with the 24-105 lens mounted it gains a lot of weight. I'm beginning to see why normal lenses are regaining their popularity. Overall, though, it's responsive and fits my grip nicely.

Naturally I wanted to see lots of resolution. Here's a couple of shot and a detail from it, to give you an idea. The shot is wide open. The Sigma has noticeable vignetting at f/4 (look at the upper left corner) that mostly goes away by f/5.6.

And here is a tight crop of the same shot (less than 19 percent of the original pixels):
Daffodil (detail)
These aren't jaw-dropping images, but they give you a sense of how many pixels are in play. Bear in mind that these are JPEGs, though with minimal Lightroom manipulation, and were handheld.

There's a lot more work to do before I know if this camera (and this lens) is for me. I hope to do an A/B comparison with the Pentax K-5 in my favorite landscape location before my week-long rental comes to a close. Stay tuned.

The details:
Daffodil: Nikon D810, handheld, 1/1600 sec. at f/4, ISO 100, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 at 24mm.
Detail: same as above at 3013 x 2260 pixels (original: 4912 x 7360 pixels)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Landscapes of Southeast Asia

We returned from our travels in Vietnam and Cambodia marveling at the people and sights of those countries. In my previous post I described my trials with the travel camera I selected. But now I'd like to return to this blog's objective with a few landscape images.

The first two images were made from a boat in Ha Long Bay in northern Vietnam. It's a body of water littered with limestone islands--some 1,900 of them over 600 square miles--and dramatic karst topography. The scenery reminds me of ancient ink paintings from the East: steeply-sloped hills topped with trees and other vegetation, surrounded by water. It is a major tourist attraction, as you can imagine. Conditions were hazy during our visit so most of my shots are very soft and required a lot of Lightrooming.

Islands in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Islands and Temple, Ha Long Bay
Much of our trip was by boat on the Mekong River and some of its tributaries, but we also went ashore in several places. It was the dry season. Rice paddies weren't flooded, and other fields looked a little dusty.

Rice Field, Cambodia

Field and Palms, Cambodia
 In many places the river is the center of life. Fishing, irrigated farming, transport and commerce of every description depend on it. Vinh Long is one of many towns where channels seem as important as streets.

Landing in Vinh Long, Vietnam

Woman in Boat

Inlet, Kampong Chhnang, Cambodia

The details: all shot with Canon PowerShot G1X Mark II and 12.5 - 62.5mm lens 
Islands: 1/1000 sec., f8.0, ISO 400, 34mm
Islands and Temple: 1/1000 sec., f8.0, ISO 400, 62.5mm
Rice Field: 1/640 sec., f5.6, ISO 400, 25mm
Field and Palms: 1/1000 sec., f9.0, ISO 400, 55mm
Landing: 1/1000 sec., f7.1, ISO 800, 34mm
Woman: 1/250 sec., f9.0, ISO 800, 62.5mm
Inlet: 1/400 sec., f8.0, ISO 400, 24mm

Thursday, February 26, 2015

OT: The PowerShot G1X Mark II in Vietnam

Susan and I recently returned from a fascinating tour of Vietnam and Cambodia put on by RoadScholar. Neither of us had been to southeast Asia and we both enjoyed it immensely.

Just before embarking I purchased a Canon PowerShot G1X Mark II to see if it might be the travel camera I've been seeking (see this post, for example.) Alas, the answer is no.

The PowerShot is plenty light (1.2 pounds) and small; probably too small for my hands. One of its biggest flaws is a stupidly positioned Record button that I hit accidentally several times. That alone was enough to disqualify it. 

But there are other problems. The control dial on the back is too small for me to operate effectively. The mode dial on the top right doesn't lock and is easily nudged to a different setting. I sometimes found myself in Manual mode without knowing it. And for some reason, the focus bracket kept migrating to the lower right of the frame (perhaps because it's a touch screen? I'm not sure) and had to be re-positioned. These problems were a constant irritation.

One of my complaints with the iPhone 5s camera is its poor performance in low light. I had hoped the PowerShot's performance would be better, and it is...but not as much as I would have wished. You can see the noise in the boat shot, taken at ISO 800. The focusing in low light was slow and often inaccurate. 

The battery is pretty puny. On several days I was out of power by noon. And the 12.5 - 62.5mm (24 - 120mm equivalent) lens turned out to be shorter than I needed for most of the shooting I did.

So I'm not keeping the PowerShot. But here are a few shots it produced (bear in mind that these are JPEGS; they were raw files originally).

Cambodian Boy

Boat and Paddle, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Temple Demons, Cambodia

The details: all shot with Canon PowerShot G1X Mark II and 12.5 - 62.5mm lens
Boy: 1/100 sec., f9.0, ISO 400, 39mm
Boat: 1/25 sec., f4.5, ISO 800, 18mm 
Demons: 1/1250 sec., f4.0, ISO 400, 26mm

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

OT: The hunt for a travel camera, continued

Our next trip will be to Vietnam, and I had hoped to find a capable camera small enough to carry easily but large enough to give acceptable results in poor light. I tried using only the iPhone 5s camera in Italy (described here) but found it lacking in low light performance.

I previously "auditioned" two mirrorless cameras, the Fujifilm XT-1 and the Olympus OM-D EM-1 (described here). Neither impressed me enough to purchase. I felt I could go lighter without sacrificing too much quality, so the search continued.

Friends have helpfully weighed in with suggestions, ranging from the Nikon 1 through the Canon S and PowerShot series. After looking at a lot of specs and reviews I decided to order a Fuji XM-1 body and a Fuji XF 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 zoom. The XM body is light at 10 ounces, partly because it has no viewfinder, but uses the same APS-C sensor as costlier and heavier Fuji models. The zoom covers the focal range I'd like to have, though it weighs a bit over a pound. Still, the combination is half the weight of my Pentax K-5 with the Pentax 16-50mm f2.8 zoom attached.

Fast forward: the XM-1 and lens arrived. I put the lens on the body, and immediately got an error message: "Lens Control Error". An email exchange with B&H suggested doing a firmware update (to version 1.20).  Because the lens was released after the body, the thinking went, this might fix it. I dutifully ran the firmware update but it didn't solve the problem, so the whole lot is going back to B&H.

My wife is telling me that I have the worst luck with cameras. She may have a point. My K-5 was defective when it first arrived, so I waited around while Pentax looked at the body and decided to send me a different body along with the adjusted 16-50mm. I'm not sure the 16-50mm is at full performance anymore (see here). Come to think of it, the only digital camera I've owned that never had a problem was the one she gave me for Christmas in 2003: the Canon Rebel. Maybe I should let her choose my next camera...or maybe I should return to the Canon fold. I grow weary of the chase.

In fact, I wearied enough to order a Canon: the PowerShot G1 X Mark II. It will arrive in a couple of days. Stay tuned.