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06-01-2013, 05:49 PM   #1
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How Much Stock Should One Put In Lens Ratings by DxOMark

Hello,

I'm considering the purchase of a Pentax DSLR and lenses. I'm drawn to Pentax primarily for the excellent dynamic range of the K-5 II sensor. Capturing images with a wide dynamic range and very little distortion is my goal, as I'll be using the images as reference material for creating oil paintings. I've spent some time reviewing the camera lens ratings at the DxOMark web site, and noticed that most of the top rated lenses are made by Nikon or Carl Zeiss. Do you feel that photographs made with Pentax products can match the quality of those made using Nikon glass? I'm also considering the purchase of a full frame Nikon D600 or Canon EOS 6D because of the excellent dynamic range they offer, but they each cost about twice as much as the K-5 II. I'm hoping to acquire a DSLR body and two primes for about $2000. The full frame body alone will cost that much, but it may be worth spending more to get superior images. Thanks for any advise you may have to offer.

Nick

06-01-2013, 06:04 PM   #2
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No single metrics (DxO or others) will give you the correct answer.

My advice is: do your home work. Use the available literature including Photozone (Welcome to Photozone!), DxO, dPreview (in some cases), the Pentaxforum user reviews (Pentax Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database) ... At the end the best lenses will always ranked at the top! But ultimately the best lenses are the ones which work best for you. Some lenses work very well with some users and not others.

Pentax does offer some superb lenses, especially prime lenses. The FA Limited series (FA31mm Ltd, FA43mm Ltd, FA77mm Ltd) is considered one of the best series of primes, across all brands. The DA Limited series provide some superb APS-C pancakes lenses, and no other manufacturer offer such a broad series of high-quality pancake lenses (DA15mm Ltd, DA21mm Ltd, DA40mm Ltd, DA70mm Ltd). Some older FA* lenses are regarded as the pinnacle (eg FA*85mm f1.4). More recent DA* lenses are also very well regarded (eg DA*55mm, DA*200mm, DA*300mm). And I do not mention the backward compatibility to older highly regarded legacy lenses....

Do you home work, and you will find that Pentax offers some of the best prime lenses on the market.

Hope that the comments may help, and welcome to the forum.
06-01-2013, 06:23 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nick S. Quote
The full frame body alone will cost that much, but it may be worth spending more to get superior images.
If image quality is the only priority and cost is not a factor get a D800 and pro Nikon glass.
But if you compare apples to apples (aps-c to aps-c) then Pentax holds up quite well, and in some areas exceeds. Ergonomics, though that is personal, features and image quality are all good. But I don't think it is fair to compare k-5II to full frame cameras costing far more.

Price out what you want in both systems and see where you are at. Assume you will get an appreciable percentage of the D600 image quality with the k-5 but not all of it. So is that extra 5 or 10 or 20% or whatever worth the extra cost in both money and weight? Only you can decide. I sell images shot with k-5 every day. You need to decide if your application requires better or not. Personally for your stated intent I think a FF camera is overkill. Unless you are going to blow those up to 20 x 30 to work from in which case you might see a difference. The question is whether that difference is worth $2,000 more and a much heavier camera.
06-01-2013, 06:27 PM   #4
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hcc,

Thanks very much for your comments, and for the links.

06-01-2013, 06:34 PM   #5
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Apparently you're planning to 'translate' an image taken with very specific time and hardware constraints into an artist's impression of that moment in time and space - and likely perspective as well.

I don't understand how anything except perhaps color rendition might concern you with regard to the resulting image in which case post-processing may be more important to you than camera/lens specifics.

H2
06-01-2013, 07:01 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by pacerr Quote
Apparently you're planning to 'translate' an image taken with very specific time and hardware constraints into an artist's impression of that moment in time and space - and likely perspective as well.

I don't understand how anything except perhaps color rendition might concern you with regard to the resulting image in which case post-processing may be more important to you than camera/lens specifics.

H2
Hello pacerr,

I'm a landscape painter. I make oil sketches, usually measuring 11" x 14" on location. I sometimes choose to create larger studio paintings based on my small canvases. As an aid in developing the larger studio paintings, I often rely on photographs taken while on location. I believe that having images that capture, as closely as possible, what I see with my natural vision in terms of color, values and perspective will make the process much easier for me. I currently use images made with a Canon S90, which exhibit lens distortion and lack dynamic range. I'm not satisfied with these images, even though I rely more on my small paintings than on the photo reference.

Nick
06-01-2013, 07:53 PM   #7
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There are essentially parallel threads on this same topic by Nick S. I would echo what has already been said. There is no single metric that is perfect and will correspond precisely to your personal impressions once you have the kit. The reviews here in the lens section are, by and large, pretty well done and reasonable.

Here is my reply in the other thread:

The best combination for you would probably be the K-5IIs + FA31 if you want the closest to natural vision. On older Full Frame cameras 50 was the "normal" but on APS-C cameras its 32 or so and the FA31 is the closest. The DA35/2.4 is MUCH less expensive and a very nice lens. If you want 1 lens to do both the natural vision and copy work then the 35/2.8 Macro may well be your best choice. It has a very flat field so the image your are copying is as accurate as possible. It does macro so you can focus very closely and enlarge a good bit. It is also close to the field of view on the APS-C camera that will produce an image near what your eye would see.

Two advantages to the APS-C over the full frame cameras you have mentioned are that the cameras are less expensive and smaller. The K-5 models have the added benefit of being weather resistant when paired with a WR lens.

The thing you do not mention in your post is a tripod. For high quality landscapes, architectural and macro photos a solid tripod is not optional.
06-01-2013, 10:08 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nick S. Quote
Hello,

I'm considering the purchase of a Pentax DSLR and lenses. I'm drawn to Pentax primarily for the excellent dynamic range of the K-5 II sensor. Capturing images with a wide dynamic range and very little distortion is my goal, as I'll be using the images as reference material for creating oil paintings. I've spent some time reviewing the camera lens ratings at the DxOMark web site, and noticed that most of the top rated lenses are made by Nikon or Carl Zeiss. Do you feel that photographs made with Pentax products can match the quality of those made using Nikon glass? I'm also considering the purchase of a full frame Nikon D600 or Canon EOS 6D because of the excellent dynamic range they offer, but they each cost about twice as much as the K-5 II. I'm hoping to acquire a DSLR body and two primes for about $2000. The full frame body alone will cost that much, but it may be worth spending more to get superior images. Thanks for any advise you may have to offer.

Nick
DxOMark has great tests of sensors. Sensor performance is easily quantified.
DxOMark tests lenses in the same manner. Beauty cannot be quantified.


I have a D600 and a K-5, and lenses for both. I prefer shooting the K-5. Especially considering your goal (reference for oil paintings) I'd have no problem recommending it. Nevertheless go through the accounting of the actual lenses and camera you'd purchase - it may turn out that Nikon's cheaper lenses 'make up' for the more expensive camera.
http://drcameraphd.blogspot.com/2013/04/aps-c-lenses-arent-smaller-arent.html

06-02-2013, 07:40 AM   #9
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I think that for the price the k5iis is hard to beat. But the big difference between pentax and the other big 2 is they offer excellent cameras and lenses that you can't get from Pentax at ANY price.
So to me it comes down to bang for the buck...is spending double or more on a system going to make you that much better as a photographer?
I just don't have the cash to spend $5000 on a body and $20,000 on a superior lens (extreme example but yes Nikon has such beasts)
I am happy trying hard to capture that magic action shot with the pentax equipment I have....and didn't need to sacrifice a family and kids to do it
Just my opinion

Thanks

Randy
06-02-2013, 11:38 AM   #10
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Thanks all, for the comments and links. They will assist me as I gather information in my effort to make an informed purchase (with my limited funds). I highly value and appreciate your input, as my own experience with digital photography is limited. I apologize if any of you found my questions annoying or trivial. If any of you care to recommend a book that will help me learn more about the subject, I'd be grateful. So far, I've been doing my research online. As I'm sure you know, there's so much information available online that it can be quite daunting to the uninitiated.
06-02-2013, 12:51 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nick S. Quote
I apologize if any of you found my questions annoying or trivial.
I don't believe any of your questions were annoying or trivial. Possibly uninformed, but that is fine, we just try to make you informed.

You can spend just about anything you want to on a digital setup, from $250 point & shoot to $45,000 digital back medium format. The thing you need to determine is what your requirements are and how much you are willing to spend. To be honest your stated requirements are not particularly difficult to achieve with most any modern digital camera. There is a difference between need and want. If you want the best image quality possible look at the D800 or the Pentax 645D. But to do what you are looking for most any APS-C DSLR will be more than enough.

Since you asked the question on a Pentax forum there might be a bit of bias toward Pentax since you stated you were looking at that brand. And as several people have stated the k-5 or k-5II is an exceptional camera and a very good price point. You can easily get a nice k-5 and lens kit for your stated budget.
06-03-2013, 07:22 PM   #12
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Nick, I was just reading all your threads. I'd go with a used K200D and an F (or FA) 50/2.8 macro. If you can't get either of those used lenses then a DFA 50 macro would work. One of the points of having a macro is the flat field, minimizing distortion. I recently shot some cabinet doors for a commercial client. I didn't even need to use Photoshop to cut out (mask) the rectangular doors out against the background - I just made very minor keystone and rotation adjustments in Capture One, then simply cropped the now perfect rectangles. A macro lens should get nearly distortion-free captures of your paintings.

The K200D has a nice CCD sensor which yields well saturated colors and sharp images - even better color saturation than current models (which is why I kept mine even when I updated to the K-5 and K-5 IIs). This combo is much cheaper and as good or better than a K-5 II or IIs for your purposes, I think. The F (or FA) 50 macro lenses also give nice color, and some claim they're the sharpest lenses Pentax has ever made.


You need some color management. Start with the approx. $250 Xrite Eye One Display Pro to keep your monitor profiled (you can't get better for less than $1000, and even then only slightly better). You may want to do some camera profiling as well, although that can get complex. But since you shoot in a controlled environment, it could be worth it.

If you don't create your own camera profiles, then try Capture One - it has very good camera profiles. If you'd rather use Adobe, then use the latest version of either Photoshop (at least CS6) or Lightroom (v4), since their profiles are finally good enough that I'd consider using them. In any case, make sure you're bringing RAW files in - PEF is generally preferable over DNG for your purposes (helps ensure the RAW editor gets all the metadata and knows what camera it's dealing with).

Last edited by DSims; 06-03-2013 at 07:35 PM.
06-03-2013, 07:46 PM   #13
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DXOMark Lens scores are laughable. Most people don't seem to realize this, but DXO clearly says that the score is based solely on "optimal focal length/aperture combination". Do you know what this means? Take a look at this simple hypothetical graph I made for 2 lenses comparing performance vs aperture.



DXO, by their own standards, would give a higher score to lens B...
06-03-2013, 07:48 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by DSims Quote
A macro lens should get nearly distortion-free captures of your paintings.
If I've understood correctly, OP wants the reverse.
Painting using reference photographs, not photographing paintings.
06-10-2013, 05:19 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Cannikin Quote
DXOMark Lens scores are laughable.
DXOMark is useful but don't look at the final score, it's just too synthetic and sometimes out of touch with field use. But their detailed graphs are useful. What I like in their lens testing is the field map. It's much more visual and useful than histograms with center, border, corner numbers. IMHO. Also it's better to follow the Photozone advice of not comparing cross-systems.
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