One Month, One Camera – July 2019 (III) – Pentax K30 – Patience And Restraint Pays Off

This month I’m using just one camera again, a Pentax K30 DSLR. 

In previous posts I talked about being frustrated with erratic exposures, then decide to simplify everything, start with a basic set up, and get used to that before any further experiments.

This approach and many photographs later, it seems the patience has paid off, and I’ve found a core set up I like. 

(I realise I’ve shot approaching 1000 photos with the K30 in about a fortnight, equivalent to over 27 rolls of 36 exposure film. This is where the affordability and immediate feedback of digital kicks in and I’m reminded that film just isn’t a viable option for me any longer…)


This is what the set up looks like –

– Pentax-DA 35mm f/2.4 lens. A lens designed for such DLSRs, and giving an equivalent 53mm field of view, something I’m very comfortable with from my SLR days. I set the camera to AF and then occasionally when the lens struggles to focus (up close, in low light) I switch to manual mode and fine tune it that way.

Another plus is the lens is very light, and on the K30 keeps the whole camera very portable.

– Program (P) mode. The camera sets the aperture and shutter speed it feels is best, then I can tweak the aperture up or down to change depth of field as and when I want. If it’s at f/8 and I want a more shallow depth of field, I might drop down to f/4 , for example. So I see this as kind of an assisted Aperture Priority (Av) mode.

– Custom image (ie colour mode) set to b/w, with high/low key adjust at +1, everything else zero.

– High contrast digital filter on, set at level 1 (of 5). This digital filter adds great contrast but makes images a little too dark on its own, so the high/low key at +1 in the b/w mode lifts them with a little added brightness.

– ISO400 – I started with ISO100 but a few ventures into dark churches meant this was giving too slow shutter speeds, so I switched to ISO400 to gain a couple of stops on the shutter speeds.

This also makes the images a little more “grainy“, whereas ISO100 can look a bit clean and sterile for my tastes. I doubt I’ll stray from ISO400 from now on.

– Everything else off or at zero, including all kinds of digital corrections!


So this is giving me pictures I’m happier with than my initial control set up.

The main wins are –

  1. The K30 seems to meter well 95% of the time with this lens.
  2. The K30 is producing the more contrasty and moody kind of b/w images I like straight out of camera.


I have been very tempted to switch lenses and play, but I stuck with the DA 35/2.4, as just getting consistent results and building confidence in the camera was my priority.

Now I know this set up is delivering though, I can think about trying a different type of lens.

You might recall the K30 can use M42 lenses with a simple metal adapter, plus any K mount lens, from when they were first introduced in 1975, to the present day.

I have five M42 lenses, a Pentax-M 28/2.8, a Pentax-A 50/1.7 and Pentax-F 35-70mm, which is the same type of mount as the DA, so should operate identically.


Most likely I’ll try the Pentax-A 50/1.7 next.

I can stay with Program mode, but will need to focus manually.

Everything else will be left exactly the same as my current settings, to maintain that consistency, and honour the plan of only changing one variable at a time.

Using Pentax-M and M42 lenses will need a larger shift in my approach (manual lenses, so no Program mode, and manual focusing), so I’ll build up to those after the Pentax-A experiments.

From using the A 50/1.7 previously (and its 50/2 and 50/1.4 siblings) I know I can expect some very satisfying images, they’re absolutely lovely lenses, and the manual focusing will add a bit more tactile pleasure that shooting with a plastic AF lens like the DA 35/2.4 lacks.

More updates soon.


All photographs in this post were made with the Pentax K30 with Pentax-DA 35mm f/2.4 lens.

Thanks for looking.

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3 thoughts on “One Month, One Camera – July 2019 (III) – Pentax K30 – Patience And Restraint Pays Off”

  1. Congratulations on getting the results! It’s really frustrating when the equipment seems to thwart your every effort, isn’t it?
    Some of my recent experiments included mimicking Tri-X film, which lead to my remembering why I didn’t use it often; I don’t like it. :p
    Today I’m working with the Super Talumar 35mm, which has issues. The pictures come out yellow and the image even looks yellow in the viewfinder. I can compensate with auto white balance (which doesn’t get it right either due to the elevation issues), but this is the only lens with the problem. I suspect the coating has not held up over the years. It’s a shame because it’s the only ‘normal’ focal length lens I’ve got – and it seems Canon forgot to make any.
    Oh well, we soldier on don’t we?

    1. Marc, yes with me, when a camera is not working out as I want it to my inner dialogue starts going along the lines of why am I bothering, when I could just grab an excellent compact like my Ricoh GRD III or Pentax Q or Lumix LX3 and know it will deliver with minimum fuss time and time again.

      I think at the moment I’ve stuck with it because I do like the way a DSLR feels more serious somehow, and the payoff for mastering it (or at least being able to use it with certain specific settings and get the output I want reasonably consistently!) is greater.

      There’s also the viewfinder experience, which, whilst not really comparable to using a 35mm film camera with a great VF, is quite different to using a digital camera with a screen only, and does make the experience more immersive.

      Also, that draw of the old lenses which is a huge reason why I fell in love with shooting film about six or seven years ago, lenses like the Takumar and Pentax-M series.

      On that subject, I had a 50/1.4 Tak that was pretty yellow when you looked at it. I thought the photos would come out as if the camera had been wearing those yellow tinted sunglasses, but I couldn’t tell any difference compared with images made with a “clear” lens. I guess it depends on the degree of discolouration. I wonder how b/w images come out using that one you have?

      If it’s beyond usable for you, on the upside the 35mm Taks are quite plentiful and pretty cheap these days.

      A friend of mine on Flickr used Canon 35mm film SLRs extensively, and he bought a brand new 40/2.8 Canon lens a couple of years back, and it wasn’t expensive at all. It sounded like the Canon equivalent of the Pentax-DA 35/2.4 that I have, and are very impressive for a modern plastic lens.

      Oh I’ve found it –

      Canon EOS 300X & EF 2.8/40 STM

      I know it’s not quite 35mm, but not a much different FOV, and it would be 64mm FOV on a Canon DSLR (I think the crop factor is 1.6 on their APS-C sensors?) They seem to be around £100 used over here. I’d certainly look into them if I had a Canon DSLR, don’t know if it’s of any interest to you.

      1. I’ve seen the 40mm lens offered, but as the 35mm is technically a bit too ‘long’ for what I want I’ve discounted it. As for other used lenses … they seem to be made of gold judging by the price. Perhaps that explains the yellowness? 😀
        I have found a few work-a-rounds for it, and one of them is to go for B&W. Other include fudging the white balance, post-processing hell, and using a purple filter. All are less-than-ideal. So I keep looking. It’s just a shame to have the lens and not be able to make full use of it.

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