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Affordable Full-Frames: They're Here!

But where is Pentax at? An editorial · 12-17-2012 · By PF Staff in Photo Industry News

Some crazy deals on full-frame camera have been announced this week, and when we say crazy, we aren't kidding!  As much as we hate to promote cameras from the competition to our community, these deals are so good that we can honestly recommend these cameras for any enthusiast that has been waiting for months, if not years, to get a full-frame.  Some of these cameras are now priced lower than Canon and Pentax APS-C DSLRs were last Christmas!  First we examine the deals, and then, more importantly, we offer some commentary about what all of this means for the camera industry.

Let's take a look at the deals:

First is the Nikon D600, which is Nikon's entry-level 24-megapixel full-frame, launched in October and targeted mostly at enthusiasts.  There's an $800 instant savings on a kit which includes a nice lens.


For just $1996, you get all of the following:

Do the math, and that works out to about $1300 for the camera itself.  That's about what the Pentax K-5 cost a year ago!  On top of that, B&H will throw in free 2-day rush shipping and a $40 gift reward gift card.  This deal is also available at Adorama, who offer $80 back in rewards and an extended warranty, but no free tripod.

Next up is the 21-megapixel Canon 5D Mark II, an older body, but now more affordable than ever: it's just $1599 and you also get some extra freebies.  The nice thing about Canon cameras is that Pentax lenses can be adapted without the need for a "correctional" element (a cheap teleconverter which ruins image quality), whereas you may as well give up before even trying to adapt K-mount lenses onto a Nikon.

Canon 5D Mark IIThe freebies that come with the 5D include:

  • Extra battery
  • 16Gb CF card
  • Third-party battery grip

And you also get free 2-day shipping and 2% back in rewards at B&H. But what about the Canon 6D?  Well, it's not as cheap as it should be, nor as good as it should be, so let's move on!

Last but not least is the Nikon D800, the 36-megapixel full-frame that we recently compared to the Pentax 645D.  It's got a $200 instant savings for a final price of $2796, and like the other cameras, it includes free two-day shipping.  For a camera that nearly matches the image quality of the $8800 645D, it certainly is a steal!


This kit includes the following:

  • An extra battery
  • A Lowerpro bag
  • A remote trigger
  • A 32Gb CF card
  • $56 back in rewards

Deals on cameras high-end cameras such as the D800 certainly don't happen every day!

As tempting as these low prices might be, what does all this really mean, though?  What's the bigger picture?

Well, the bottom line is that through their pricing, Canon and Nikon are putting their full-frame cameras in the hands of more enthusiasts and advanced amateurs. Because of the higher manufacturing costs associated with full-frame sensors, and bigger, heavier, and more expensive lenses, full-frame DSLRs have typically been reserved for professionals since their debut in 2002 (for Canon) and 2007 (for Nikon).

These new prices are within reach for many shooters who have traditionally been limited to high-end APS-C models such as the Pentax K-5, Canon 7D, Nikon D7000, or Nikon D300s. Last year it would be unheard of to find a new full-frame DSLR in the $1300 - $1600 range! 

Thus we notice that just a year ago, a gap existed in the market which has now been filled.  This gap is what Canon and Nikon are now filling by offering an affordable entry-level full-frame cameras for enthusiasts.  Many Pentaxians (loyal Pentax users) were hoping that Pentax would be the first to fill this void, but it appears that this will not be the case.

With that said, how much lower can prices go?  If Pentax does end up releasing a full-frame camera, how will it be priced?  If not through low price, then Pentax will have to market their potential full-frame in a different way.  Pentax's intuitive interface, in-body shake reduction, and huge lens lineup are certainly big bargaining chips, and we hope that Pentax Ricoh makes good use of them when developing their full-frame DSLR.  Some might argue that Canon and Nikon have taken Pentax's opportunity to enter with an entry-level full-frame camera, but only time will tell what will end up happening!

Pentax K-3
Above: Pentax's nonexistent full-frame is the most popular camera on our site, by number of pageviews

But if you're tired of the wait, just go for the D600 or 5D Mark II now.  You will undoubtedly enjoy the image quality benefits that come with full-frame bodies, and worst-case, you can sell your Canon or Nikon workhorse and switch back to Pentax if Pentax delivers a more attractive alternative - and remember, just because you get a camera from a different manufacturer doesn't mean you have to sell all of your Pentax glass!  Lenses will always be able to withstand the test of time, while camera bodies, sadly, typically go out of date after less than a decade...

We have dozens of forum users who supplement their Pentax system with a full-frame camera: if you end up doing down the D600, D800, or 5D route, we hope that you become one of them rather than joining the dark side!

We'd like to conclude by saying that we have very high hopes for Pentax, and we are sure that Pentax Ricoh will deliver sooner or later, given the positive changes that they have already made.  However, the longer they wait, the fewer loyal Pentax users will remain.  We really hate making posts like this, and we'll always be here for Pentax, but will you?

PF Staff's avatar
About the author: Various writers regularly contribute articles to the Pentax Forums homepage blog. More recent articles are published under each author's forum username. We hope you enjoy our guides and news coverage!

Tags: canon 5d, nikon d600, nikon d800, deals, pentax full-frame, professional dslr, pentax camera

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Cynog Ap Brychan [Delete] Dec 19th, 2012 8:57AM

I've already gone down the D800 route (and the D3 before it), but I won't be getting rid of my Pentax gear. I'll definitely be in the market for a Pentax FF when it arrives.

zosxavius [Delete] Dec 18th, 2012 8:26PM

Yeah, what's next? "Buy the OM-D! Finally! Mirrorless done right!" Hasn't every other website pimped out the D600 and 6D by now? Unless you only visit pentax forums (and hell, even here everyone knows), you would have surely heard about these cameras by now. Oh yeah, good luck with the 5d Mark II and all the lovely banding and shadow noise that ancient sensor throws off. Hope you liked the DR of the K-7, because its a big step back from the K-5, I'll tell you that much. Have fun with no optical stabilization on those pentax primes too! The D600 is a nice camera if you like wet cleaning the sensor every hundred pictures or so.

photoman1 [Delete] Dec 18th, 2012 2:57PM

You need to shave the mirror or cut the aperture pin to safely use a Pentax lens on the 5D ii.

Pentax Bob [Delete] Dec 18th, 2012 11:56AM

In answer to your question, Yes. I will wait for the Pentax FF. I will then compare what is available and decide. I would like to learn more about adapting Pentax glass to Canon.

Transit [Delete] Dec 18th, 2012 11:15AM

Class A said ' I find this continued pushing of other brands odd for a Pentax-oriented forum. If we can believe the rumours, and there is no reason not to, then the wait for a Pentax FF should soon be over. Why push Pentaxians to the dark side? '

....maybe there are kickbacks from the ad links :)

LFLee [Delete] Dec 18th, 2012 9:44AM

The price for the D600 package is really good, the first time I seriously think about switching to Nikon. Wife approve the purchase of this package with one condition: if I like the D600, sell the Pentax gears. I couldn't see myself selling my Pentax lenses collected over the years. So I decided to wait for another year for Pentax. But certainly FF has come down in price, that Pentax will have a tough time selling $1300+ APS-C camera anymore. Those who said you don't need FF, will you buy a APS-C camera if they are same price as FF? I will have a hard time justifying that. If Pentax don't go into FF, I can see myself getting into Nikon while keeping a APSC K5IIs camera and some nice glasses. If Pentax/Ricoh get into FF, they will be the company that has the most complete inter-changeble lens camera lineup, from Q-APSC-FF-MF.

spartan [Delete] Dec 18th, 2012 6:31AM

You could have added the Sony alpha 99, I recently used it and agree with the DP review results, the EVF is very good and close to optical. Image Quality reduction is minimal compared to the benefits of EVF. I also like the sony system concept with the NEX lenses on both their NEX lines for APSc and video camcorder.

Bottom line... as much as I used to push people to use pentax, I cannot advocate for the pentax system and I will be leaving for either sony or nikon in the very near future.

jackassp [Delete] Dec 18th, 2012 3:52AM

To get the most out of the D600 or D800 bodies you will need some PRO Nikon glass, the 24-85mm kit lens under-resolves the sensors on the D600 and D800.
Yes, I do have the D600 as well as Pentax gear, and am happy to continue using both (at least for a little longer...)

Rocksteadypix [Delete] Dec 18th, 2012 3:46AM

I think it is fine for the enthusiasts to say "I will wait" or "what do I need a full frame for" but the pros and semi pros amoung us have been under UNBELIVABLE pressure to deliver results comparable to the Nicon & Canon pro cameras. Our loyalty has cost us immeasurably but perhaps forced us to dig deep as photographers in order to stay competitive. I really appreciated this article as it helpd me to glimps outside my loyalty blinkers for a moment and indeed gave me options i might not have considered. This benefits me directly as a photographer and member of this forum. To the person who finds the positive discussion of other brands on a Pentax forum "counter revolutionary" (to use a South African term), i ask you whether the forum is for its members or for Pentax? I also believe that the most important benefit of this article is that it sends a very clear message to our prefered brand that time waits for no man and this above all is serving us as Pentaxians. I find this an open, honest and brave contribution and I thank you for it. Your even bigger fan, Matthew.

pinholecam [Delete] Dec 18th, 2012 2:49AM

This site has really sunk low.
Is this PF or Camera Enthusiast?

The info on 5DII using Pentax lenses is misleading.
Its not as easy as slapping on the adapter and using it.
The aperture lever needs to be removed (some by unscrewing, some needs to be chopped).
The lever guard needs to be removed too.

Even with M42 lenses, not all the lenses are usable.

What about the responsible thing to inform ppl that easily 50% of D600 have a oil/dust on sensor issue within 3K actuations?

RonHendriks1966 [Delete] Dec 18th, 2012 1:52AM

Still in support for the coming off this FF Pentax camera.

Runegutt123 [Delete] Dec 17th, 2012 11:56PM

Why on erath should I buy a full frame?
The only things thats better on full frame, is fast wideangels.
Everything else is done equal or better by a aps-c

The only fullframe I would like to own, is a Leica M9, but thats a bit out of my range.

Wired [Delete] Dec 17th, 2012 10:29PM

Chiane, yes, it is WR, but its not as well built nor as well sealed as the K5.

laolao [Delete] Dec 17th, 2012 10:05PM

I am waiting my D600 to deliver, and I will keep all my classical Pentax lens alive with a K-01.

Class A [Delete] Dec 17th, 2012 9:35PM

Well, "But if you're tired of the wait, just go for the D600 or 5D Mark II now. You will undoubtedly enjoy the image quality" does not sound like you are "hating" to promote other brands.

I find this continued pushing of other brands odd for a Pentax-oriented forum. If we can believe the rumours, and there is no reason not to, then the wait for a Pentax FF should soon be over. Why push Pentaxians to the dark side?

oxidized [Delete] Dec 17th, 2012 9:32PM

Sure they are tempting, but I'd much rather wait another year and see what happens. Full frame could be fun but there is nothing pressing which requires me to use a full frame camera right now. On the other hand, the wait could be worth it since I will get to use all of my pentax lens (including my dear 31mm), and still have my K-7 as a backup. Otherwise, switching systems would be a pain in the butt and IMHO at this point just isnt worth doing...

Franky2step [Delete] Dec 17th, 2012 9:20PM

I will likely pick up this D600 deal along with the 28mm f1.8 tempting

chiane [Delete] Dec 17th, 2012 8:34PM

Pentaxi, you know the d600 is WR right?

pentaxki [Delete] Dec 17th, 2012 8:19PM

There are numerous "super sale flippers" with deep pockets that will spring for these sales. As far as Nikon is concerned, they will make up their Q4 number for D600 and keep the execs happy. Watch eBay as it saturate with D600.

This is a risky move for Nikon. This will devalue their entry line by pushing D7000 and D5200 into lower price bracket. I personally don't see a future for the D3k line.

Here is an opportunity for Pentax to push something like, "Why get a Canikon for travel when you can't even shoot in rain? Get a K-30 with 18-135 WR and shoot what you want in any weather."

TomB_tx [Delete] Dec 17th, 2012 8:05PM

I have to agree - the pricing likely makes it harder for Pentax to justify entering this market with the lower margins to recover development costs. Yet if they don't they would likely lose market share on the high end anyway. Tough decisions.
I may spring for a D600, as I prefer manual focus and it does very well, and can use Nikon's manual focus all mechanical lenses from the early years, as they didn't cripple the mechanical AI sensing of the aperture ring. They also clearly have a larger full frame lens lineup, which would be another issue for Pentax to match. I have a good range of Pentax-M lenses, but Pentax needs to sell new lenses for a camera to be profitable. Maybe if they de-cripple the K mount it would ease the lens situation for legacy users while they develop new FF lenses, therefore providing more sales of a FF body and keeping their base users in the fold.