Pentax Espio 928

Of all the models of film compact that Pentax made, and they made a lot, this is the one I fancied. I even had one briefly, but it turned out to be broken (which was probably how it ended up in the charity shop). Anyway, it’s a 928 – so it has a 28-90mm zoom. The extra wideness is, to me, more useful than being longer at the top end. It’s a Pentax too, so the lens is sharp and it has useful features.

This one turned up on the usual online market as ‘unknown condition, needs batteries’. I already had a battery from the previous purchase, so away we went. It seemed that most punters were put off, so I got it for about half a pint of beer.

The only fault with it appears to be that the diopter adjustment for the eyepiece has fallen off. This has left the viewfinder a bit out of focus. It makes little difference in use – I can see the autoexposure point and the frame lines and the camera can focus itself.

The camera is smaller than my other Pentax compact, a Zoom 105. But then, most cameras are.

Pentii

It’s just small enough to be an easy one-handed carry with the strap round my wrist and the camera in my palm.

The 928 has some nice features: there is a B setting with flash; it will do multiple exposures; you can do exposure compensation; there is a ‘fake’ panoramic mode that masks the film gate and the viewfinder. There is also a snapshot mode that sets the zoom and focus point for taking pictures with no shutter lag. It was probably an expensive bit of kit in its day.

Aysgarth Falls
Aysgarth Falls

The inside of the camera was nice and clean but the front of the lense needed a wipe. Because it retracts and covers when the camera is switched off, it probably never got noticed. At least this means it probably wasn’t scrubbed with a tissue.

It really works quite well. Like a lot of compacts, it doesn’t like the sun in its eye. The front element of the lens is barely recessed at all, so its surrounding provides no shade.

Castle Bolton
Bolton Castle, at Castle Bolton

So it doesn’t really like taking pictures into the sun. There is a fill-in setting for the flash though, so providing there is no direct sun into the lens it can work.

Castle Bolton

Like most of the Espio range, you can play tunes with the flash. You get the usual on and off, plus on with slow shutter, on with B shutter. So in a dark leafy tunnel of a path I can force the flash off to avoid the nearby leaves being brighter than the background. It also does pretty good fill-in in sunny conditions.

Chubby

Overall, pretty good. I believe the one to have is the 928 rather than the 928m, so I struck lucky.

Strap-ons

What’s the best way to carry a camera? The obvious answer is a bag, but what about when you want the camera handy?

Back when we wore flares and cheesecloth the answer would have been a neck strap. I’ve still got a box full of neck straps somewhere. You end up with the camera bouncing on your chest and it looks like you are advertising it.

Ammo
20 year-old me (bless). Ignore the bad hair and look at the thin camera strap and army-surplus gadget belt. I’ve never been one to let style stand in the way of substance…

You can sling the strap over a shoulder but like many people, my shoulders slope down, not up. I once had a photographer’s jacket – one of those waistcoat jobs with lots of pockets. That was in the days before it could be mistaken for a bomb vest. One good feature (the only?) was that it had a button sewn on the point of the shoulder. This was great for keeping a camera strap from sliding off, but I’m not sewing buttons onto all my jackets.

I’ve seen events photographers using a waistbelt or a bandolier arrangement that lets them holster one or more big digital cameras. Ideal for what they do but impractical for me. I can’t see the need in normal situations to be able to quick-draw my chip-shooters.

Generally, a camera is in my bag or in my hand. When the camera has a full length strap I generally loop a turn about my wrist. This keeps the strap from flapping in front of the lens and acts as a safety stop if I drop the camera. I’ve seen some of the street photographers using wrist straps. I admit that at first I thought they were a bit too groovy, like neck-beards or man-buns (see total lack of groove in the photo above). But since I was already doing something similar with a neck strap, I tried making one. Obviously I wanted to try this idea before spending real money on it. A bit of rope left over from replacing the dog’s lead and a strong split ring and I think it works pretty well. The length is right to let me carry the camera in one hand in and secure enough that I’m not going to drop it. OK – score one to the hipsters: it works.

Strap 2

So my basic walking-around kit became the camera in a shoulder bag if I don’t need it ready, and when I do the camera is carried in one hand with the wrist strap on. I’m right handed so this leaves my left hand free to use a light meter or change lenses. I like it – it’s discrete. I have been doing the same thing with a neck strap, which is to take a couple of turns around my wrist, but I wanted to see if this was better.

Strap 1
Spot the lens. I will be writing about it in future.

But while a bit of paracord is not as cool-looking as a dedicated wrist strap, it does give me the option of slinging the camera over a shoulder if I need both hands for something.

Vic would prefer I kept hold of the rope.

But hanging the camera from one hand for general strolling about – ideal. The only thing that is easier is my digital SLR, which has a prominent grip (for the right-handed). This makes it even more secure to carry the camera hanging from one hand with a couple of turns of the strap around my wrist.

On the whole though, and having tried the wrist strap, I find myself going back to the neck strap. I can double it round my wrist to give me the discrete hand carry, but it also lets me sling it over a shoulder when I need to open a gate or un/clip the dog’s lead.

So yes, I’m glad I didn’t buy an expensive wrist strap but also glad I tried the idea out.

Shooting pets

Is harder than you would think. I know a guy who specialises in pet photography and he must be a mixture of lighting technician, sports photographer and saint.

For a start, pets are usually smaller than people. This means you need to get close, but you also need to get low to be nearer their level (and besides, dogs can’t look up). But close means shallower depth of field. And since pets are often arranged horizontally rather than vertically the fall-off in sharpness may be more noticeable.

Fur also soaks up light. I’ve got some pictures that include a black dog and it might as well be a hole in the film.

Wet dog, direct flash
Wet dog, direct flash, pushed film. Not the ideal combination.

Flash can still be useful, as the buggers won’t keep still or pose. You have to watch out for highlights in the fur though, as it can be surprisingly glossy. Think of your subject being a mixture of Vantablack and mirrors.

Horse
A touch of flash can make them look sleek

You also run the risk of startling the animal. One time I was shooting someone jumping fences on their horse. I so wanted to use flash to get a bit of light into the subject and freeze the motion, but I was advised that startling a horse mid-air while standing that close was a bad idea (still not one of the ten worst things though). Dogs and cats (and many others) have also got reflective retinas, meaning their eyes light up like a zombie apocalypse if you get the angles wrong. But if you don’t use any lighting you can lose the catch-lights in their eyes and make the animal look like it was stuffed.

The best lighting seems to be big, soft sources like a large window. It means you can see the detail in the fur and the eyes.

C
Those really are his eyelashes

This is where digital wins totally over film. You can shoot hundreds of pictures and review them instantly. You’ve got autofocus. You can judge the exposure right off the back of the camera.

Or you wait until they are asleep.

Sparky

And even though I wouldn’t want my mate’s job, at least it’s not shooting weddings.

Devil in the details

There I was: classic car show; lashings of sunshine; throngs of people. But the cars were close together and surrounded by the people. What’s a poor boy to do?

Go for details.

I can’t do justice to a red monster covered in fins and chrome, but I can find an angle free of distractions and condense the whole to a point.

75

Or a big Pontiac surrounded by gazers but alone against the sky.

104

Actually, this works rather well. It really is possible to summarise or to try to find the detail that evokes. Does this work with people? I think it does.

30

But it’s the cars I like, so indulge me and see if you know the make and model.

Ok, that one was easy.

This one?

Obviously American. As is the next:

This one comes with a matching owner.

But the next one isn’t even a car.

It’s a bit of fun.

One more? Go on then.

Very red car

Focusing on detail is useful though, when the whole is too big, too cluttered or badly arranged.

What do you think?