Discount Photography: Getting the Right Start

By PF Staff in Influential Photo Gear on Dec 3, 2012

It may sound obvious to many, but it is easy to underestimate the importance of buying into the right photography system. As a member of the local photography club, I often talk to novice photographers who are eager to rush out and spend a small fortune on an expensive camera body and the biggest telephoto lens they can find, without first considering that they have no idea about what types of photography they might enjoy. I was fortunate enough to have a friend suggest the Pentax K100D Super to me, and picking one up  in the Spring of 2008 was by far the best choice I ever made as a novice photographer.

For those not familiar with the K100D Super, it's not the most advanced camera by today's standards: it boasts a modest 6MP sensor, poor performance over 800 ISO, and a mere 2.8 fps rate of shooting. However what it lacked in technical specs, it made up for with compatibility. The camera is compatible with every lens Pentax has ever made (including modern SDM lenses), includes in-camera shake reduction (which is an often overlooked feature), and allowed me to learn and play with a wide range of lighting and photographic techniques for the bargain price of $500.

Since I picked up the K100D Super, I've owned a variety of both old (Pentax M 28/2.8, 50/2, 50/1.4, 85/2, 80-200/4.5) and new lenses (FA 50/1.4, DA 17-70/4), lighting equipment ranging from the legendary Vivitar 285hv to semi-professional Alien Bees, to professional lighting kits. I've experimented with high-speed and strobist  photography, astrophotography, studio photography, and nature in the French Alps. And I've been able to do all of this at a steep discount because of the availability of affordable, manual lenses such as the Pentax M series, and the compatibility of Pentax's gear with other brands such as Nikon and Canon. In fact, I estimate that in most cases I was able to experiment with these different styles of photography at about 1/10 the cost of picking up new equipment.

Most importantly, once I discovered the gear that I enjoy owning the most, I've been able to put together a kit that I thoroughly enjoy using. Recently I purchased a kit of 3 pancake lenses to go with a new Pentax body. While the new gear is better suited to my style in many ways than the K100D Super, I wouldn't have known it without being able to experiment and play with all the gear that I have for the past 5 years.

Today, Pentax continues its tradition of offering extremely capable and affordable cameras to photographers looking to get their start. The K-30, for example is receiving rave reviews and is just as compatible with Pentax equipment as my K100D Super was when I picked it up. If I were talking to a novice photographer today, I wouldn't hesitate to give the same advice that I received when I was starting out. Pick up an introductory Pentax body, and take advantage of all of the legacy glass and equipment you can. You'll be able to try out far more gear than your friends at a fraction of the price. I realize that the words "discount" and "bargain" often have negative connotations in the photography world. It can be difficult to convince yourself as a novice photographer that you can be just as capable using a $200 camera as you can with a $2000 camera. But the fact is that photography is what you make of it - and that the best thing you can do as a new photographer is try out as many different types of gear, and as many different styles as you can. The point is to have fun and take photos - and whatever gear gets you there the fastest is likely to be the best.


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