Sunday, February 23, 2014

Review: Spacecom H3.5mm f1.6 on a Pentax Q


Just a bit of a disclaimer before I get started since this is the first of these kinds of reviews on this new blog of mine (although I may eventually transfer some of my older reviews over).

I don't do proper reviews. Or maybe I can't. At least not in the way that other reviews do with all the comparison pics and test charts and whatnot. I'm not a very technical photographer. I grab my gear and take it for a spin. Then I post pics and my thoughts on how it feels to shoot with it and what I thought of the pics. If I'm interested enough then sure, I may do some further in depth testing. But I usually don't.

Okay, let's do this. Spacecom is a company that makes CCTV lenses for surveillance cameras. Those cameras don't usually require super perfect lenses since they'll mainly be used for video and not even artsy type videos at that. Just surveillance. Keeping an eye on your property, making sure no one's doing anything suspicious and hopefully identifying them if they are doing suspicious stuff, etc. So keep that in mind as you read more of this post.

Spacecom seems to have a huge lens line up and they may even have lenses that perform well on digital stills cameras. I'd love to get my hands on some of their other lenses especially their f0.95 lenses. But just so I don't waste anyone's time, I will say now that if you're after a high quality lens that's sharp across the frame, you may want to stop reading.


Still here? Phew!


DESIGN

The Spacecom H3.5mm f1.6 is not the smallest when compared to my other C-mount lenses but it's small enough. This thing is very light, it's mostly made of plastic although the rear mount is metal. It feels good on the Pentax Q, not at all front heavy and most of the weight is still on the camera body. Focus and aperture rings are smooth and easy to use.



FIELD OF VIEW


When used with a Micro Four Thirds sensor and a Nikon 1 sensor, you get something like a circular fisheye image (circle in the middle of the frame and just black outside of the circle) although you don't get the 180° field of view that you'd get from actual circular fisheye lenses. The Spacecom seems to be designed for 1/2" sensors. By the way, you won't be able to properly screw this into your Micro Four Thirds or Nikon 1 C-mount adapter without some modification since the area around the screw mount is just too big for the adapters. It's perfectly fine though on a C-mount to Pentax Q adapter.

You get a lot of distortion from this lens but not as much as you would when using a true fisheye lens (even a fisheye lens that don't have a 180° field of view) so you may be a bit disappointed if that's what you're after. But I do like how it's a cheap alternative to a wide angle lens on the Pentax Q as long as you don't mind a bit of manual focusing.

If you chose to do so, you can correct the distortion using some kind of software and have the lines almost becoming straight. I used the distortion slider in Adobe Lightroom for the images below.


Original
Distortion adjusted in Lightroom
Original
Distortion adjusted in Lightroom

I usually go around +75 to +100 on the distortion slider depending on how it looks. It's far from perfect but not bad for a cheapie CCTV lens.


IMAGE QUALITY


This lens isn't too bad if you're the type that views a photograph as a whole and not a pixel peeper. Not that there's anything wrong with being a pixel peeper. I do that quite a bit too but I've learned to turn that part of my brain off when shooting with the Pentax Q and C-mount lenses.

You may want to forget shooting this at max aperture though since it's super soft wide open. You'll have to go at least towards the halfway point of the 'CLOSE - OPEN' aperture ring (see the main image of this post) to get past the softness. But at that point, a lot of things are in focus so I don't even have to worry about manual focusing for each shot. I just set it to infinity focus and point it at whatever I feel like shooting, oftentimes shooting 'from the hip' and not even looking at the LCD screen.

The corners are soft but the centre of the image is decent enough in terms of sharpness. Chromatic aberration is really bad especially in the corners. Hard to correct in post too. But I like that I can have a pretty wide (almost fisheye) lens for my Pentax Q without spending however much the Pentax 03 3.2mm f5.6 fisheye lens can be bought for (although I'd like to try that out one day).


 

Depending on how you frame your shots, you may be able to take the focus off the soft corners. And if you're applying filters or just messing around with the colours of your photos, the chromatic aberration may not seem so bad. It's mostly a non issue when shooting in black and white.



What's nice about this lens is the minimum focusing distance. While it's no macro lens, you can get pretty close to your subjects.


 

VALUE FOR MONEY

I got this as part of a bundle back in January. I paid $85 for 12 C-mount CCTV lenses and included were 2 copies of this lens, 6 copies of the Rainbow S4.8mm f1.8, 1 copy of the Pentax 6mm f1.2 and 3 copies of the Pentax 16mm f1.4. So I'd say that it's extremely good value. As to whether it'd be a good value lens for you, that will depend on how much you can buy it for and how useful a lens like this would be to you.


FINAL THOUGHTS

If you already have the Pentax 03 3.2mm f5.6 fisheye lens then there's not much point in getting the Spacecom H3.5mm f1.6. But if don't have the Pentax and you don't mind owning a wide angle (and somewhat fisheye) lens that has its imperfections although produces nice enough looking images then give it a shot. I got 2 copies of this lens plus a bunch of other CCTV lenses as part of a bundle and I didn't pay much for the package so no complaints from me.

What I've found interesting is that when I'm using this camera and lens combo, I focus more on what I'm capturing and less on the specific details of how I'm capturing it. The photos taken with the Spacecom aren't going to win any image quality awards so I don't bother with trying to make the images as technically awesome as they can be. Minimal effort, just point and shoot. Don't get me wrong, I love taking my time to get a shot just right. And I'll always have that tendency with my other gear. But I love being able to empty my brain so to speak, capture moments without thinking too much about the how. I've certainly enjoyed my brief time with it.

Next up on my C-mount reviews is the Rainbow S4.8mm f1.8 which is fairly similar to the Spacecom lens.

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