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06-22-2012, 07:22 PM   #1
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System Comparison

New poster, but I've been lurking awhile. I've noticed the roller coaster ride on kit lenses, and noticed loud cries that it may be time to change systems. A little background: I'm somewhat new to photography as a hobby, having bought my K-x a couple of years ago, but only started recently using it "seriously". I come to photography via being an artist by hobby (pencil and acrylics, mostly), and my focus is really on making art, not weddings, or portraits or anything someone would pay me for. I bought the KX based on reviews, and I really like it, but I have nothing but the kit lenses and an A50 F2. I found the PentaxForums a few months ago, and I am absolutely enamored with the 15mm limited controls my mind club. I find myself more drawn into landscapes, and alternative points of view, and trying to tell stories in photos. I think I would love wide primes and fisheyes. I want a macro. I've also been really wanting to take pictures at the beach and in the rain, so news of the K-30's weather resistance has me very interested. I'm starting to out-grow my intro kit, and started thinking about wanting to expand my tool kit. Since I'm an engineer by trade, I don't do anything without a plan, so I started carefully planning where I wanted to go with my kit. I definitely want that wide angle prime, at least 1 WR lens, and a collection of primes and zooms along the scale. The FA triplets, a couple of DA limiteds, a few zooms a macro and a fisheye looks to cover everything in the world. When I saw all of the commotion about lens pricing, I decided to model a couple of different kit choices between Pentax, Nikon, and Canon. I'm no fan of paying more than I have to for anything, so this seems to be the only way I can decide if it's better for me to change kits now before I have a bunch invested in my system. I'm not a Pentax fanboy. I'd change in a second if it would get me a better system for what I want to do. I admit, up front, that I don't know much about the other two brand's camera systems, and tried to match them the best I could with my limited knowledge. If someone sees a better point of comparison, please let me know and we can update the charts. Since I couldn't make tables work on the forum, I just posted jpgs from excel.

I'll start with my "Dream" kit, with my approach to try to match as closely as possible the focal length and quality of the Best (for me) Pentax kit:

What I notice is that the total kit price has gone up by ~10% over the old lens prices. Not really as dramatic as if you look at a single lens. Also, the Nikon kit is still $100 higher, and the Canon kit is $800 more. What's worse is that you get to carry around an extra 1.4 kg as well. Now a keen observer will note that much of the cost and mass of Canikon is in the 14mm competitor to the DA15. There really is no comparison, and for me, that is the most important lens in my next acquisition. To make things a little different, I take the Canikon 14's away, along with a couple of the FA primes, and make what I call a mid-level kit. The Pentax lens selection is a little wider, and a little slower. The macro lenses all get a little shorter and cheaper. Also, in this case, I put the K-30 in, but left the D7000 and 60D. As I stated, I really want WR, and I think these are the only WR APS-C's from them. Also, the lower-end Canikon seem to have worse handling, and only one control dial. Moreover, the selection of SWM compatible wide primes is a big fat ZERO at Nikon, and the budget bodies don't have screw drives. I think this comparison is probably fair, based on what I want from my kit:

We see that here, the Pentax has gone up by ~$300 with the new lens prices, which is less than 10% of the whole kit. Also note that the Nikon is about the same price, and the Canon $250 more. Brand P still is much lighter, and the new, higher prices seem fair for what you get.

But what about the lower end? I put the K30 up against the D5100 and Rebel 4Ti, and ditched all the limited lenses for the DAL:

OK, so the Canikon prices are basically a wash compared to the new prices, and the 100-200g, while not a lot, is significant as a percentage. We've given up WR because of the kit lenses, but the others aren't WR either.

So help me understand where I've gone wrong in this analysis. The total kit, for the kinds of primes I want to buy, seem very competitive with Canikon, even at the new, higher prices. The other brand's primes are faster, SWM is nice, but Pentax's are wider and lighter and the color seems nicer, and I really, really want the flare performance of that DA15! Their zooms are better from what I understand, but don't know. For me these are more important, so I think I'll stay.

06-23-2012, 04:10 AM   #2

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Welcome to the forum,
and to "amateur" photography in the positive sense of the word.

I'm not sure that trying to set up equivalent kits,
and then comparing their prices,
is an effective decision tool here.
For a start, it may be hard to make equivalences.
The other systems do not have anything like the DA 15, for example.
Retail price comparison is also tricky,
since there are special deals, and the second-hand market.

I see three major advantages of the Pentax system:

1. Excellent APS-C IQ on the K5, K30, and K01
(at high ISO, negating the argument that "The other brand's primes are faster").

2. In-body shake reduction: Every lens is stabilized.
(Another counter to "The other brand's primes are faster".)

3. It gives access to the vast pool of K-mount legacy lenses
(especially important if you're interested in "alternative points of view").

Last edited by lytrytyr; 06-23-2012 at 05:00 AM.
06-23-2012, 05:45 AM   #3
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Why do you want to replace the KX ?
There is no practical difference in the picture quality of the newer higher end cams, look at the raw files examples from the K30 at 1600
and do a side by side with the Kx ones.
I am printing 12x18s from one from cropped pics.
Just get 1 or 2 GOOD lenses, don't have to be the newest either. My F50 1.7 and old Tamron 90mm Macro are excellent and not expensive.
The equipment that you have to work on is behind the Viewfinder, you will find that the more pictures you take and the better you get at it the less you
will need to do it.
06-23-2012, 06:20 AM   #4

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QuoteOriginally posted by bobpur Quote
Why do you want to replace the KX ?
There is no practical difference in the picture quality of the newer higher end cams
I use both the K-x and the K5.
While the K-x quality is certainly excellent,
the extra dynamic range of the K5 is appreciable,
particularly with contrasty lenses like the DA 15 or DA 35 Macro.

06-23-2012, 01:15 PM   #5
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OK, the tables didn't show up. I'll try again! These are just png's from excel, I can't figure out how to make a table here!

06-23-2012, 03:42 PM   #6
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Some times LRA (lens research addiction) is as dangerous as LBA... but a bit less expensive

I applaud the work you've done and it sounds right to me. Pentax owners are no worse off with price rises, but they came from slightly lower 'base' prices so it feels worse. As a bargain hunter and m-focus user I'm pretty much immune to DA* jumps in any case. I too make many plans, including the Big Plan: ditch the plan if something "close enough" comes along (hooray, that takes planning too! ). The DA15 was in my plan, but a sub-$400 Sigma 15 fisheye came along; it's been a great fit for me even though a bit larger and heavier (though at 320g it's by no means heavy).

Personally I love shooting in the damp - good thing too in western Oregon! - so some WR gear is really a great thing. My k-x took a few showers in its time with no harm done, but it's nice to worry even less about such things.
06-24-2012, 04:20 AM   #7
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Numbers vs Results

Hello Kozlok, Welcome to the Forum!
That's a well-researched chart and some useful information for prospective buyers.
But I think you can only get just-so-far with objective analysis of a (mainly) subjective art form. No, numbers don't lie; They tell part of the story, truthfully.
The other part is how the tool(s) make you feel. Do they work well, are you comfortable using them, do they fit your needs? A few dollars or even hundreds of $$ aren't nearly as important as comfort and confidence in your equipment.
Trying out the comparable Nikon and Canon bodies in a shop seems like a good idea. Maybe they'll fit your hand and eye better, maybe not. Perhaps even a short rental, or borrow a friends' gear for a day.
The legacy lens available for Pentax are a huge point and (if you're comfortable with M/F) can change the numbers considerably.
But numbers aren't everything. Results are.
06-24-2012, 07:07 AM   #8
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I normally wouldn't nit pick something like this (unless I also had something useful to add), but it feels like I've been seeing FA31 and FA77 refered to as f/1.9 quite a bit recently, and I wonder where this comes from? (They are f/1.8, so it's a completely trivial difference.)

Well, I guess I'll add my mostly already spent two cents: Try the cameras first. A camera you like using will give you better results, regardless of technical merits.


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