The 17-28mm Pentax fisheye zoom didn't sell spectacularly well because, aside from its fan club of enthusiasts who had heard me praise it, who knew how useful the lens was?
Four years ago, Fumio Urano, Pentax's president, asked me what lenses I thought Pentax should make with its new DA, digital-only mount. Naturally, I brought up the fisheye zoom, but in focal lengths appropriate for providing 90- to 180-degree coverage on an APS-sized digital sensor camera.
But, I added, it wouldn't sell if it didn't get some help from its friends and the manufacturer. Such a lens is just what Pentax produced and we tested in the June 2006 issue ("Fisheye View").
While the new 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 Pentax DA lens, at 1.10 pounds, is some 2 ounces heavier than the earlier fisheye zoom-and, at $400 after rebate (street), only $20 additional-it's a more useful optic in what I feel is a critical area: close focusing.
Quite often, when going on a picture-taking jaunt, I'll confine myself to taking just one unusual or unique lens. I took the older fisheye zoom to the open stands beneath Tokyo's Yurakucho rail station.
Close-ups of the yakitori broiling on dozens of skewers over open fires with diners gobbling ought to make interesting fisheye pictures. Or so I thought.
Impossible! Even at the closest focus-ing distance of 18 inches, all seemed too far away throughout the zoom range. Yes, an 18-inch close-focusing distance seems pretty close-but not at wide angle! Thankfully, the new lens focuses much closer.
While examining it and complaining about this story at Pentax headquarters, I was more than a little surprised when Pentax's Senior Executive Officer Ko Torigoe jumped up, twisted the new fisheye's focusing ring to its minimum 5.5-inch focusing distance and thrust his face, nose first, to about one inch from the front of the lens. I took a picture. "Better?" he asked.
You tell me.