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01-02-2017, 01:09 PM   #1
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Help! Out of date and uncertain of IQ standards and need to pick your brains

Hi all, I am looking for some advice. Not done any serious photography for a while and looking to get back in. My past experience is with film cameras and I can't get a handle on the IQ standards for digital work.

I am looking for a new camera/lense setup. Main interest is in landscape and photo-journalism in wilderness environments in N Canada. Bad weather is normal and cameras have to stand up to some wet, mud and general abuse. A big issue is temp which is often down to -10 to -20c so battery freezing is a problem and changing lenses can be an issue (try it wearing overmitts at -20!). I have various ways of solving the weather problems but need a fairly compact set up so that I can keep it under a jacket not in the backpack.

I am looking to be able to produce prints in colour and B/W up to 13x19 that are good enough for local exhibition and club photography. What I look for in a pic' is good subtle colour detail (we get lots of soft light, luminous shadows and reflections not bright primary colours so you need to pull out the tones and contrast to get any punch). Most of my work looks to capture qualities of light and space you get in the mountains for which you need that clarity and the '3D' sense you get from a good lens rather than absolute lab resolution, contrast and edge definition and a 'crisp' image are more important than resolution. I don't do real low light work so wide aperture is not a priority but it is nice to have more depth of field options!

Previously I mostly used Nikons for 35mm film work but think the weather resistance of the Pentaxes is a super plus point so looking at a K70 body, I like simple cameras but the var-angle screen is a real plus for closeups and the new sensor looks worth the extra.

My problem is choosing lenses!

The Kit lenses would be really convenient (+ cheap!!) particularly the HD 18-50 and the size is a real plus but am a bit put off by the review comments about it possibly being fragile and soft at the corners and edges. How delicate are they and is the low sharpness going to show on a 13x19 print or will it just limit cropping?

Second option is the HD 16-85. Looks like it has the quality and the extra 2mm wide end would really be a plus, its just a bit bulky and pretty pricey. Is it worth putting up with this for the extra IQ?

Third option is to go for primes, Pentax do some excellent 35mm and 50mm at really good prices, they are light and compact and obviously top IQ. Would need something in the 14-16 range which is more of a problem as many are both big and expensive. Problem is changing lenses in the field. Do you think the extra IQ is going to make a real difference over the zoom options? (overall cost and weight is about the same for 3 primes as it is for the 16-85).

As I said I am out of date and only have film experiences from the 80/90s to go on. I know lenses, like many things, have improved and working with the 'digital darkroom' is amazing and solves some problems but budget is limited and I need to get the right choice first go rather than buy, try and change!

The rest of the setup is a duel screen computer, calibrated monitor and Canon Pixma pro-100 printer. I use Darktable and Gimp software. Been shooting with a Finepix HS20 which is fun and give surprisingly good pic's but not the IQ I want for prints and is huge and fragile.

May thanks for any comments

01-02-2017, 02:13 PM   #2
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The kit lenses like the (old) 18-55mm and 18-50mm are basically among the worst lenses the brand offers. Why? Because they have to be cheap and affordable to be shipped with any camera.
Most forumers here would recommend you buy a better lens, like Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 or Pentax 18-135mm, or the 16-85mm you mentioned. These will give you better features and image quality.
If you are looking for high IQ, buy modern zooms with a relatively small zoom range, or primes. The cheapest way to get high quality are primes like the DA 35mm and DA 50mm, or DA 40mm XS. The DA 70mm limited can be found second hand at good prices. These are basically the cheapest way to get top image quality.
If you stick to kit lens or superzooms, you will not get that IQ boost you want

QuoteOriginally posted by Roland Stockham Quote
Third option is to go for primes, Pentax do some excellent 35mm and 50mm at really good prices, they are light and compact and obviously top IQ. Would need something in the 14-16 range which is more of a problem as many are both big and expensive. Problem is changing lenses in the field. Do you think the extra IQ is going to make a real difference over the zoom options? (overall cost and weight is about the same for 3 primes as it is for the 16-85).
What exactly are you photographing? Do you really need UWA? If so, I would recommend Samyang 16mm f2 (for crop camera) or Samyang 14mm f2.8 (for FF). These are very affordable, super sharp. But only manual focus, pretty big, and might suffer from IQ problems more often than more expensive lenses. But if you get a good copy, it is super sharp.

Btw, if you shot Pentax in the past, any old Pentax K-mount lens can be used on Pentax DSLRs. So if you have an old 50mm f1.7 or something you can use that. Many of us on this forum like to use some old lenses, even if they have limited features. They can have high IQ, higher than the 18-50mm or some other budget lenses
01-02-2017, 02:44 PM   #3
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Thanks for that, it is somewhat the conclusion I had come to. I don't need real UWA but do find that (35mm equivelent) 24mm compared to 28mm gives more sense of space when picking out detail in landscapes like a weather tree or driftwood on a beach, just more of a sense of the endless horizon. With the DOF at that length auto-focus is not a high priority but size and wt are! It is one of those choices that is not essential but a definite plus if you can get it without compromising other qualities. The DA limited lenses look great (15, 35 & 50 would cover everything) but they don't do a WR version!
01-02-2017, 03:17 PM   #4
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Shooting in extreme cold outdoor conditions is a challenge.
a) Camera: Although both the K3ii and the K70 are rated down to 14F or -10C, I believe the K3ii by not having a built-in flash or swivel screen and being the flagship is more resistant to external induced (temperature, moisture, etc) problems. I understand why Live View is more desired in cold shooting than fogging up the optical finder. However, keep in mind, that Live View will be draining your battery faster.

b) Primes: Unlike film cameras that were more mechanical and less electronic, the digital camera is more vulnerable when switching lenses and the overall elements. And youʻre very limited to only a handful of Pentax primes that are WR, AW, or DA*.

c) Zooms: Although I agree that most 18-55mm kit zooms are never the best lenses, they are an incredible value and manufacturers often lose money on these lenses. They donʻt want to sell you on their new camera which creates poor IQ because of the kit lens. I sincerely believe they are under-rated and Iʻve seen some Pentax 18-50 and 18-55mm zooms that were exceptional. Of course, it you can afford the price, size, and weight of something like the 16-85mm or 18-135mm, it will give you a bigger range and higher IQ. Just saying, donʻt think of the DSLRʻs kit 18-55mm like the FSLRʻs 35-70mm or 28-80mm: Theyʻve improved.

d) Manual focus lenses: Not sure how many, if any MF lenses are WR or AW, but without a motor, itʻs one less tech issue in the cold or moisture problem and one less thing not to drain your battery. Of course, you could always just manually focus your AF lenses too. The flip side, manual focus with the quick shift feature is going to drain as much power as AF. The K3ii has 27 phase detect and 25 cross type for AF vs. the K-70 11 phase detect and 9 cross type.

e) Power: I know you want to keep size down, but here a battery grip is going to double your shooting time. Also the Pentax grips are WR. They can also accept (6) AA cells.

f) Cases: Have you considered either a holster or a backpack that can be worn as a chest pack? That can help with dealing with a larger lens or camera than something smaller under the jacket. Pacsafe Camsafe V11 Anti-Theft Camera Front Pack 15180505 B&H

01-02-2017, 03:23 PM   #5
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Get a Pentax K3 or K3ii and the DA 16-85 which is weather sealed. Done.

For something fun get a wide prime like a used DA 14 or DA 15 for under $400.
01-02-2017, 03:35 PM - 1 Like   #6
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I was out shooting for about an hour today in -20 C. Just the humble K-50 and 18-55 kit lens. A WR kit that wasn't in a bag, got covered by snow multiple times and kept shooting the whole time. I started with fully charged eneloop AA batteries in the adapter and came back with the camera showing a full battery. I left the camera ON and had the settings prefigured so all I had to do was press the AF button and shutter with my THICK winter gloves on. The camera showed no problem of slowing down and took images fine. If you are out all day I'd recommend keeping multiple spare batteries in a warm pocket.
01-02-2017, 03:51 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Roland Stockham Quote
Previously I mostly used Nikons for 35mm film work but think the weather resistance of the Pentaxes is a super plus point so looking at a K70 body,
If your experience is only with FF (35mm film) cameras then you might also think about the k-1 which would eliminate any mental conversion you would need moving to a crop format. But maybe it was so long ago that is not a problem for you.
QuoteOriginally posted by Roland Stockham Quote
I am looking to be able to produce prints in colour and B/W up to 13x19 that are good enough for local exhibition and club photography.
Any current DSLR is more than good enough for 13x19. A 24mp camera like the k-3II will give you more than 300dpi resolution at that size. I just sold a 40x60 metal print of an image taken with the K-3 and it came out amazing. Client was very happy.
QuoteOriginally posted by Roland Stockham Quote
Second option is the HD 16-85. Looks like it has the quality and the extra 2mm wide end would really be a plus, its just a bit bulky and pretty pricey.
I highly recommend the DA 16-85 if you are looking for a modern lens. As noted above many old film era lenses will also work but they will not be weather resistant. It really is not bulky at all, at least compared to the DFA 24-70 and other modern lenses. Pricey is a different question of course, but you do get what you pay for. Another alternative is the excellent DFA 28-105 but that will not be all that wide on APS-C.
01-02-2017, 03:54 PM - 1 Like   #8
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Oh, and I hope you know about digital cameras and their problem with switching temperatures? Once the camera is acclimatized to cold, you cannot enter a hot area, because the temp difference will cause condensation inside the camera and lenses and can even damage the digital circuits, help fungus grow, etc.
So if you shoot in cold, you need to read up about this. Basically, you just put your camera bag inside of a large PVC bag or garbage bag, seal it tight, then leave it to warm up gradually, without moist air entering the bag.
Extreme cold also damages batteries. You want to keep the batteries close to you at body temperature before you use them, and buying spares is a good idea. Once a cold battery says its dead, you can put warm it up inside your coat, and it will regain a little charge.
You can also think about buying photographer gloves with detachable finger tips.

Btw, another great WR lens is the DA 20-40mm limited: https://www.pentaxforums.com/lensreviews/hd-pentax-da-20-40mm-f2.8-4-limited-dc-wr.html
and then the Pentax DA* 16-50mm f2.8, but this one has a bad reputation because in the past a lot of them developed problems with the SDM focus motor. And it is expensive (though, better than the kit lens)

That said, if you want to start with a WR kit lens, go right ahead. Lots of Pentaxians keep a kit lens only because it is a very affordable WR with a comfortable zoom range.

Edit: Tl;dr: K-5II or K-5IIs with DA 18-135mm WR and DA 50mm f1.8 for low light and portraiture. OR DA 18-55mm WR and DA 55-300mm WR. Note that the basic zoom lenses come in various versions and they are not all WR.


Last edited by Na Horuk; 01-02-2017 at 04:09 PM.
01-02-2017, 03:59 PM   #9
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Having only held the 18-50 RE in a store, I would suggest the 18-55 WR, as I think it is a big more "tough" and would be easier to handle with gloves on. If you can justify spending more, the 18-135 is an awesome value in a zoom lens.

If you really don't care about wide angle shooting, the 28-105 might be worth considering, but I would want to know for sure that it would cover the zoom range you really want / need.
01-02-2017, 03:59 PM   #10
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Agree with Alex645 about the chest pack--Lowepro sells an X-strap which allows their holsters to be carried in front.

Like Bertwert, I can recommend a K3 with 16-85 for winter; I've used that combo in the snow at temps as low as 9 deg F.

Finally, try snowboarding mittens with wrist loops and thin gloves with rubber nubs included. Wear the gloves inside the mittens; when you remove the mittens to shoot, the loops will keep them attached to your wrists (I use and like the Burtons). For me, the large size of the K3 body is an advantage for use with gloves.
01-02-2017, 04:00 PM   #11
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A recent article to remind Roland and everyone else about special cold shooting considerations:

Infographic: Essential Tips for Cold-Weather Photography | B&H Explora
01-02-2017, 04:03 PM   #12
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The first thing you might be missing coming from film, would be that APS-c , the sensor in the camera you are talking about is half the size of 35mm film.... so if you are thinking 14-16 on your Nikon film camera, you are talking 10-12 on APS-c.

My wife and I regularly printed 13x19 on our Canon Pixma pro 1000, and got great images with our K-5. In terms of Dynamic Range, a K-5 might be your best choice. That the Dynamic range on K-3/K-70 may well be an EV less than the K-5 would be my only concern. I use my K-3 as more of a wildlife camera, the extra crop room is very nice, but the high ISO performance is less than a K-5. We are hoping the K-70 will be better, but so far we don't know for sure.

But essentially, you can use any of the 16 MP cameras for what you want to do and do just fine.

As for lenses, for what you are talking about I'd say 16-85 all the way.

Last edited by normhead; 01-03-2017 at 10:26 AM.
01-02-2017, 04:41 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Alex645 Quote
A recent article to remind Roland and everyone else about special cold shooting considerations:

Infographic: Essential Tips for Cold-Weather Photography | B&H Explora
I have to be honest... I followed exactly none of them today
01-02-2017, 05:00 PM   #14
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Due to the rain i had my 18-50 out this weekend. It is tricky to open and close and zoom. I wouldn't try with gloves on.
01-02-2017, 07:31 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by normhead Quote
The first thing you might be missing coming from film, would be that APS-c , the sensor in the camera you are talking about is half the size of 35mm film.... so if you are thinking 14-16 on your Nikon film camera, you are talking 10-12 on APS-c.

My wife and I regularly printed 13x19 on our Canon Pixma pro 1000, and got great images with our our K-5. In terms of Dynamic Range, a K-5 might be your best choice. The Dynamic range well be an RV less than the K-5 would be my only concern. I Use my K-3 as more of a wildlife camera, the extra crop rom i very nice, but the high ISO performance is less than a K-5. We are hoping the K-70 will be better, but so far we don't know for sure.

But essentially, you can use any of the 16 MP for what you wan to d and do just fine.

As for lenses, for what you are talking about I'd say 16-85 all the way.
Don't do my own printing but the rest of it, listen to Norm and Bob's your Uncle.
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