« Kevin Ngo

Primed for Alaska with New Lens Kit

19 Feb 2014

50% of the fun of travel is to take photos of objects that millions of people have already taken pictures of. My girlfriend and I have set the next destination to be Anchorage, Alaska. Telluride, Colorado came in a close second. Sochi came in last. The March mission is to capture the Northern Lights where the skies are in full bloom towards spring break. With the marvelling abundance of wintery nature and wildlife in Alaska, I had to come prepared. So I upgraded my camera lens kit, featuring a trio of Pentax Limited Primes.

The Body

I shoot with a Pentax K-30 due to its superior entry-level bodies and vast assortment of cheap legacy lenses. It has a weather-sealed body, dual controls, a pentaprism viewfinder, same sensor as the D7100, shoots at a good FPS, and lotsa buttons. It was tough to end up here, it took weeks of researcn and flip-flopping. I previously had a T3i + nifty-fifty last summer which I took to China. I had returned it and then came indecision.

Within a couple of weeks last August, I had bought and returned/cancelled the Nikon D3100, D5100, D7100 and the Canon T4i and 60D. At last, I became happy with the Pentax. I’ve shot thousands of photos with it all over the country, and I’m still in love with its handling.


My dad used to shoot Pentax back in the 80s during the film era. Although he shoots with a Rebel SL1 now, he bestowed upon to me his awesome old gear. A Pentax-M 50mm f1.7, a Pentax-A 35mm-105mm, a Sunpak manual flash, a small studio kit (umbrella and slaves). I love most the Pentax-M 50mm f1.7 with its dreamy rendering and silky bokeh.

Pentax-M 50mm f1.7 wide open on some Valentine’s Day roses.

The Sitch

I currently shoot with the razor-sharp-even-wide-open Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 and the Pentax FA 35mm f2. The Tamron is excellent though I find I take too many subpar photos with it when I travel. Since it’s a zoom, I find myself standing in one place zooming in and out to compose. The size isn’t a big deal but I love walking around with a small surreptitious prime. The 35mm is great when I want to go light, and the extra stop comes in handy.

Upgrade to Limiteds

Though since I’m headed to one of the most beautiful places, I’m gunning for maximum image quality. So I upgraded my whole kit. As a Pentax shooter, obviously I had to go for the legendary, although expensive, Pentax Limited primes. Light, all-metal, sharp-as-fuck beauties. Just as I did with my camera bodies, I struggled paring it down to just 3 Limiteds. It took me a couple weeks and a lot of flip-flopping, but I finally settled on my final trio of primes: the 15/43/70. The Alaska kit:


Overall costing about $1.7k. A good use of my poker money. The Limited lenses hold their value really well anyways, even having appreciated in value. But I’m just trying to justify my recent lens-buying-addiction. These lenses are just so sleek, cold, and tiny. I look forward to walking around the snow-plodden Fairbanks, looking up at the stars with a Limited in each pocket.

The stars above Diamond Lake, Oregon. 30s with the Pentax 35mm.