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01-22-2009, 06:35 PM   #1
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Lenses (and cameras) (longish post)

Sorry long post. I am trying to set the scene. Please read my reply below first.

My photography is ...anything! Macro to sports to landscapes. I have a pretty reasonable quality macro extension.

I have been a film SLR user for many years. I then used a PnS camera (Oly C750UZ) for about 4 years. When I bought it, it was "SLR-like" in that it has all manual settings available. In fact I used several film cameras that were completely manual, and for many years had one that had no lightmeter. So I know cameras' settings.

At the moment I have a Fuji S100FS, because I was too timid to re-enter the world of SLRs. It again has all manual controls available. Its main weakness is the lens, which has poor resolution at either end and sometimes _appalling_ CA. I am currently straining this camera.

I never use any preset mode on my cameras and AFAICS the K20D has none.

What I have no experience with is SLRs that have AF, AE etc.

OK. I am looking at either a K20D or a K200D. I realise that they are quite different beasts. I would look at two lenses, going from 18mm to 300mm. My trouble is that I am not sure that I will ever be able to justify the cost of a lens that can challenge the K20D. It seems to be feast or famine.

I am happy to spend the extra, if :
- I can then afford lenses that do the K20D justice to a great extent.
- in Australia, the K200D costs about 500-600, the K20D costs about 1100+. The kit lens adds about 120. (?)
- and/or, the extra power in the K20D is enough to justify it. I do tend to use whatever a piece of gear has available, (usually to the point where I find it coming up lacking, or not quite right ).

Both the K200D and the K20D are sold with a "kit" 18-55mm lens, which is good value. But does this kit lens do either camera justice? If not, what lens would I be looking at to better meet the cameras' capabilities?

I was also looking at the 55-300mm SMC DA lens that is available for about 650-700. Same questions, and also, what is the focusing like? I have found out that the focus is via a little worm drive driven by the camera. and one review said that the focus was noisy (not a killer) and slow (not good if this really is an issue).

I am willing to spend extra, but they seem to go from this to $$$$. I am happy to go 3rd party, but there seems to be little saving, except at loss of quality.

I would appreciate any help for this perhaps rather too vague question.

Nick


Last edited by OldNick; 01-22-2009 at 06:50 PM.
01-22-2009, 06:49 PM   #2
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Please read this first

Asking the question actually cleared my head a bit...I think. I was just reading the Steve's Digicams review of the two cameras, having worked out what I really wanted to know. The K20D is a world apart from the K200D.

So to simplify my question. Am I under-doing the K20D by using the 55-300mm DA SMC lens? If not what lens should I look at?

EDIT: Is the focusing arrangement on these a problem?

Thanks again

Nick
01-22-2009, 07:15 PM   #3
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I first suggest you buy the Pentax kit lens, making sure it is the DA 18-55mm version II. There are three versions now, the original, a slightly better version II, and a "light" version DA-L meant for the newest smallest K-m model. This lens is pretty good, versatile and inexpensive, and the other options are somewhat costly, especially on the wide-angle side. You might grow out of it but not immediately.

Camera choice is more difficult. Either path has pluses and either camera will work well. I'd suggest the K200D. The K200D certainly has plenty of features, enough to keep you busy for a long time. The rapidly moving technology will probably make any current model totally obsolete within 3 or 4 years, so why not buy an entry level now, then upgrade after your needs are better defined and the pro model is far better than the K20D? You can use the extra cash for a flash and tripod. The K20D is also a great camera, don't get me wrong.

The DA 55-300 is probably a good choice but I don't have one myself. I find 300mm to be much less usable on a DSLR than it sounds on the spec sheet, especially when the lens is kind of slow at 300mm. But that's just me.

Anything you can do to define your needs and uses will help you choose.
01-23-2009, 04:48 PM   #4
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Thanks for the reply.

From your sig I am guessing the "just one more" is about lenses?

However. I am finding this really tough. I am not one to see my gear as "obsolete" until something _completely_ different comes along (15Mp SLR video cameras?), or something stops me from using the gear, such as a major breakdown, or in the case of film, it just gets too $$.

So I tend to buy something good, then hang onto it until a whole new idea becomes affordable.

The K20D has some really nice features, such as the continuous shoot mode, which is not as good as some other makes, but walks all over the K200D's.

I am sticking with Pentax with its in-body IS, because IS adds $$ to a lens, without adding glass quality.

My puzzle is: How bad is the AF on the Pentax lenses, with this in-body drive? I am seeing a lot of comments about noisy and slow. If I put up with that, am I getting a really much nicer piece of glass _optically_ for the money.

01-23-2009, 05:31 PM   #5
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Hey Nick

Well first off, the S100 is a pretty good camera for the most part. If you are looking to cover the same range then the 55-300 is going to do the long end. As others have mentioned it is a bit slow at that end F5.8 I think, so even hand holding out there is borderline although if you have good skills....

What range do you use on the S100 the most? What does the s100 not do, that your really wish it did?

I came from the fuji S6000. And got the K100d first. Now I have the K20d. I have some of the slower longer zooms, but I do not use them all that much. (if the PF on the fuji bugs you, stay away from the Tamron 70-300)

I got into buying old prime lenses for cheap and playing with them instead. I have some 25-50 dollar lenses that are wonderful on the K20d. In the end, the backwards compatibility of the pentax lenses has cost money, but it has been a lot of fun. When you find a 25 dollar lens that blows you away, well it just feels good.

As I said, the s100 is a pretty good camera, good luck.
01-23-2009, 05:32 PM   #6
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I have a K20d, briefly had a K10d and K200d and didn't care for either of those. The K20d was a keeper. Imho it is worth the marginal extra money (if you figure you'll keep the body for a few years) in getting more manual controls, better sensor, better viewfinder, etc. If you break down the difference in cost between the two bodies over say 3 years, you'll find that owning a K20d is a rather small difference per day.

I find the AF to be ok. The 55-300 works without incident as long as there is decent light. It is a slow lens though, so you won't likely be using it in low light situations. I didn't find it particularly slow or noisy, but that is a personal thing. My 50-135* is silent, but it also is rather large and heavy compared to a small prime. It isn't small and heavy compared to competitor fast zooms though.

I'm going the other way from LBA, and thinking of selling more lenses and just keeping a few small primes (which is what I think Pentax does best). But that totally depends on what/how you shoot. I'm much more street and favor a small and portable system. Truth be told my D-Lux4 (previously a D-Lux3) p&s serves me pretty well in many instances. But if I want/need a higher quality file, I can get that from the K20d.
01-23-2009, 05:48 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by OldNick Quote
My puzzle is: How bad is the AF on the Pentax lenses, with this in-body drive? I am seeing a lot of comments about noisy and slow. If I put up with that, am I getting a really much nicer piece of glass _optically_ for the money.
IMO the 55-300mm is not all that slow. I say this because:
- it is F4.5 until you get to 210mm (that's 305mm in film terms)
- it is acceptably sharp and contrasty even wide open.

I would definitely prefer it to be quieter and quicker to autofocus. I'd be willing to pay for SDM if it was offered, but it's not. What is offered is a lens that kicks the crap out of the image quality of comparable Sony and Canon lenses. The 55mm wide end is very nice to have too.

I often shoot wildlife at 300mm, and I'd say half the time I use manual focus simply because branches and grass in front of and around the critter will trip up any camera/lens combo. If I'm in AF and the lens starts to hunt, I simply grip the focus ring and bring it back with the Quick Shift (manual override) feature.

I don't think you're going to find much difference in AF speed or noise level at this price. I have a Tamron 70-300mm and it's pretty much the same. Image quality and sharpness are better with the Pentax though.
01-23-2009, 06:18 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Igilligan Quote
Well first off, the S100 is a pretty good camera for the most part. If you are looking to cover the same range then the 55-300 is going to do the long end. As others have mentioned it is a bit slow at that end F5.8 I think, so even hand holding out there is borderline although if you have good skills....

What range do you use on the S100 the most? What does the s100 not do, that your really wish it did?

I came from the fuji S6000. And got the K100d first. Now I have the K20d. I have some of the slower longer zooms, but I do not use them all that much. (if the PF on the fuji bugs you, stay away from the Tamron 70-300)

I got into buying old prime lenses for cheap and playing with them instead. I have some 25-50 dollar lenses that are wonderful on the K20d. In the end, the backwards compatibility of the pentax lenses has cost money, but it has been a lot of fun. When you find a 25 dollar lens that blows you away, well it just feels good.

As I said, the s100 is a pretty good camera, good luck.
Thanks for the reply.

First question. Why did you choose the step up to the K20D?

I bought the s100 because it _is_ a pretty good camera and very versatile in a single package. I will probably keep it for common work when I don't want to pack a suitcase. However it is a bit soft at either end and in many shots, especially at wide angle, its CA is shocking. I take your point about the Tamron. It's a "too good to be true" at the price, AFAIAC.

At 300mm, the S100 is f5.3, so yes, 5.8 is a bit of a drop. I would have to hope that the IQ is a gain here, because they have not tried to push the glass.

I usually spend my time at either end of the zoom! I am either trying to take pictures of surfers/kite surfers, or wide-angling a building....unless I want to do some macro work....sigh. Macro's OK as I have an extender.

The S100 does a lot of what I want to do. but it tries too hard, I think. The small sensor and large pixel count make it a bit noisy at higher ISOs too, although they have done very well. It also compromises a lot in areas like continuous mode, to the point where in most situations I am afraid to use it.

One thing I really do notice about all non-DSLR cameras is the lack of aperture range. While I realise that f8 on a smaller sensor is "like f22" (etc) on a larger sensor, I noticed the trouble when I am tracking sports in varying light conditions., preparing for the "the shot". Because I use shutter priority for these, I run the range of aperture very quickly as I move from down sun into up sun, and have to change ISO! This of course ruins the track. I would rather up the ISO, then start at a large aperture and have the aperture range to maintain the shutter speed. The S100 does have f11, but only in full manual, which does not suit a light-changing track at all.

Interesting about the old primes. I have some, and a really nice K-mount Tokina 50-250 from my film days.. I was just not sure about its suitability for DSLR work.

01-23-2009, 06:26 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by nostatic Quote
I have a K20d, briefly had a K10d and K200d and didn't care for either of those. The K20d was a keeper. Imho it is worth the marginal extra money (if you figure you'll keep the body for a few years) in getting more manual controls, better sensor, better viewfinder, etc. If you break down the difference in cost between the two bodies over say 3 years, you'll find that owning a K20d is a rather small difference per day.

I find the AF to be ok. The 55-300 works without incident as long as there is decent light. It is a slow lens though, so you won't likely be using it in low light situations. I didn't find it particularly slow or noisy, but that is a personal thing. My 50-135* is silent, but it also is rather large and heavy compared to a small prime. It isn't small and heavy compared to competitor fast zooms though.

I'm going the other way from LBA, and thinking of selling more lenses and just keeping a few small primes (which is what I think Pentax does best). But that totally depends on what/how you shoot. I'm much more street and favor a small and portable system. Truth be told my D-Lux4 (previously a D-Lux3) p&s serves me pretty well in many instances. But if I want/need a higher quality file, I can get that from the K20d.
Boy! Now I remember why I bought the S100FS. So many more decisions!

Yes. It's hard to make yourself believe it, but over a few years, it's nothing.

I am a keen enough shooter to want camera power, quality and versatility. I realise I should pay for it. Suffer once. Smile forever.

Are there any lenses that are a bit faster (even f5.3 is better) that have a similar zoom range and IQ, and can use the K20D's AF system and IS? Or do I go back to older lenses again?

I really appreciate all this.

Nick
01-23-2009, 07:57 PM   #10
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My 18-55 II lens was a gift and a great one at that. Right now, if I were to start from scratch, i.e., had no lenses whatsoever, and were on a tight budget, but looking for unused equipment, I'd probably buy K200D (body only) + FA 50 f/1.4. Eventually, if you want to get rid of the FA 50 f/1.4, you will find buyers: That's probably not the case with the kit lens which is high in supply, but low in demand--in my parts, used, the kit lens sells for around as much as a ~30 year old M 50 f/1.7.
01-23-2009, 08:20 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by asdf Quote
My 18-55 II lens was a gift and a great one at that. Right now, if I were to start from scratch, i.e., had no lenses whatsoever, and were on a tight budget, but looking for unused equipment, I'd probably buy K200D (body only) + FA 50 f/1.4. Eventually, if you want to get rid of the FA 50 f/1.4, you will find buyers: That's probably not the case with the kit lens which is high in supply, but low in demand--in my parts, used, the kit lens sells for around as much as a ~30 year old M 50 f/1.7.

Thanks....more confusion!

I think I am heading toward the K20D. However I am starting to think (2nd hand) primes as a possibility. If I bought the kit 18-55, it's so cheap I would not care.....and I have _never_ succeeded in selling anything in my life.

Nick
01-23-2009, 08:25 PM   #12
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K20d + da 55-300

QuoteOriginally posted by OldNick Quote

...the 55-300mm SMC DA lens, what is the focusing like?

Nick
Cheers...

I pair the DA 55-300 to the K20D as a walk around lens when I go out with my dog. Check out my photo-journal (link below). Search on the lens and see the results of it in action under a wide variety of settings. Please keep in mind that my skills are at the 'enthusiast' level and I still have lots to learn. As such, IQ varies.

Anyway, I like the lens and perhaps my examples will give you a sense of how it performs under field conditions.

Of course, comments and questions are always welcome.
01-23-2009, 09:34 PM   #13
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Just a question, folks.

What happens if I use a lens with the K200D or K20D that _does_ have a focus motor?

Nick
01-23-2009, 09:43 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Michaelina2 Quote
Cheers...

I pair the DA 55-300 to the K20D as a walk around lens when I go out with my dog. Check out my photo-journal (link below). Search on the lens and see the results of it in action under a wide variety of settings. Please keep in mind that my skills are at the 'enthusiast' level and I still have lots to learn. As such, IQ varies.

Anyway, I like the lens and perhaps my examples will give you a sense of how it performs under field conditions.

Of course, comments and questions are always welcome.
Some nice shots there! Are these pretty much out of the camera regarding colour, saturation etc? And also not touched by the camera? The colours a very rich. No sign of trouble with snow either. It's notorious for CA in scenes.

There is a shot of a Carolina wren there at ISO 400. It has more noise than I would have expected. Is it a crop, or brightened?.......or both
01-23-2009, 09:46 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by OldNick Quote
Just a question, folks.

What happens if I use a lens with the K200D or K20D that _does_ have a focus motor?

Nick
I uploaded videos comparing the noise of the DA 17-70 SDM with the kit lens mark II. (YouTube - pentaxlan's Channel)
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