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06-19-2011, 08:53 AM   #1
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K-r jumped ship to Sony A55 due to FF issues

Posting this to both Pentax and Sony forums, since I've had experience with both systems now it may be interesting to both groups.

I started out looking for my first SLR and after some research discovered that my limited budget would go furthest on a Pentax K-r, with its in-body stabilisation and wealth of old lenses on ebay I wouldn't need to spend a fortune on Canon/Nikon lenses with stabilisation built-in. Didn't consider Sony at this point.

And I must say that the K-r didn't fail to deliver, really, really fantastic photos like I've never taken before. And the old lenses from ebay were both cheap and excellent. But then I discovered that indoors I was getting really poor shots, eventually pinning this down to the artificial light front-focussing of the K-r. Given the outstanding performance of the K-r otherwise I was happy to give Sony some time to fix this issue, unfortunately the shop I bought it from were less flexible - a strict 28 days refund policy was in force and should I go beyond that then they would only "fix" any issues.

Given the I now had a one-time opportunity to jump ship ... I did. Firstly I was going to get the Canon T2i(550d) but those stabilised lenses, I'm just not going to be able to afford them ! So I stuimbled accross a review of the Sony A580 - another camera system with in body stabilisation HURRAY, and references to the A55. The prospect of proper auto-focus during video and a microphone socket too swung it for me, A55 it would be ... if the electronic viewfinder was any good (as this seemed to be the first and last thing people talked about with the A55).

In the shop, a straight comparison of A55 EVF versus Pentax K-r OVF, no contest, in the dim surrounds of the shop back room the scene was barely visible in the Pentax, and although the A55 EVF smacked more than a little of an old camcorder I used to have, it was able to display the scene nicely (just a little noisy due to low light) - I can live with this.

The next couple of weeks weren't good, got a couple of lenses on ebay, tried to recreate a lot of the photos of the Pentax. Just not the same kind of WOW, now I've got to say here that at the same time the weather had taken a turn for the worse so lighting was perhaps less perfect. But the video was phenominal, just to die for.

I had the kit lens, a few of the supposed best classic lenses that ebay could supply :
  • Minolta 35-70mm f4 (GBP 25)
  • Minolta 50mm f1.7 (GBP 75)
  • Minolta 35-105 Macro (GBP 105)
  • Minolta 100-300 APO f4.5-5.6 (GBP 155)
Anyhow a few weeks of pixel peeping to no avail, the kit lens is quite good, the 100-300 APO too, 50mm f1.7 good in low light, 35-105 very disappointing frankly poor compared to the kit lens. No wow factor. Then happy day last week when my latest desparate ebay purchase arrived - a Minolta 50mm f2.8 macro (GBP 128). THE WOW IS HERE ! Frankly - thank heaven for that.

For comparison here are the Pentax lenses I had:
  • Pentax SMCP-FA 80-320mm f/4.5-5.6 (GBP 85)
  • Samsung D-XENON 50-200mm f/4.0-5.6 rebadged Pentax kit lens (GBP 48)
  • PENTAX-M 1:1.7 50mm (GBP 16)
  • Pentax 18-55 kit lens (included)
OK so having been there and done both, I feel I can say with some authority that the Sony A55 is the much better camera ***BUT*** the old lenses seem very hit and miss - you need to spend more on the lenses, by a large margin. Those Pentax lenses were DIRT CHEAP and delivered the goods, I've no doubt now that with the Carl Zeiss or Sony 70-400G lenses that the Sony rocks ... getting it to deliver with cheap glass is going to be tricky though.

Pros as I see them of each camera:
Pentax K-r :
  • Shockingly good photos under natural light
  • CHEAP
  • Cheap excellent lenses (including kit lenses !)
  • Control dial and access to shooting params (A55 ok once you get used to it, but Pentax is just so much more accessible)
  • Did I mention its cheap and the photos stunning ?
  • Excellent jpg's from the camera (sharpness 3, contrast 2, saturation 2, tone - bright), actually better than the processed raw files much of the time !! Sony A55 photos seem to need a despeckle in addition to other tweaks.
Sony A55
  • EVF (I'm sure that expensive OVFs could rival it, cheap OVFs cannot come close in low light. Also in bright lighting the Pentax OVF shooting parameters were completely unreadable. Its a pitiful OVF really !)
  • Great photos if you get a good lens (might involve a big outlay)
  • Reliable focus (Pentax cannot focus in artifical light)
  • THE VIDEO, oh the video ! Real QUICK focussing, and there's a mic input if you want to get rid of focussing sounds. Pentax doesn't do AF during video, thats useless for me.
  • Panorama and 6 shot twilight HDR, these might seem like gimmicks, and I'm sure that similar things could be achieved on a PC, but man they deliver outstanding results.
Note - battery life on both is a little poor, you need to budget a spare or two - just go for a third party one from Amazon.

Happy with my choice now, but if you want excellent photos in good light on a tight budget go for a K-r, just avoid artificial light and the video. If you go for the A55 don't expect good photos without good (possibly expensive) lenses.

06-19-2011, 10:31 AM   #2
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I jumped from the A200 to Pentax when Sony went psycho in 2009, introducing three entry-level cams - twice! - and abandoning the A700-class cameras. They totally changed their interface as well, both switches and menus - so if I had to learn a new way to shoot, why not with another brand? I've since become a big fan of the thumbwheel when only one dial is in play. The A580 does sound very nice, but Sony burned me once & that's enough. For a newcomer without my baggage, it would be different.

The SLT is definitely tuned for video, with the always-AF setup. Its big drawback to me is battery life, though it sounds like the new announcement does better. The lack of mirror throw would be curious to adapt to, in a good way.

No one can argue with some of the classic Minolta glass; I had their metal-clad 50, 35-105 and 100-200 f/4.5 and they were excellent. What, you have no Beercan yet? Their 70-210 f/4 (something about that design in all brands ) is a cult classic!

Perhaps Sony has settled down philosophically, and it sure seems they're betting the farm on SLT. They claim that FF is still in their plans, but they sure went silent on it. Folks on their side are still awaiting their A700 update; I check alphamountworld site for my fill of enthusiasm of all things Alpha, and those folks are seeing the light, or drinking the punch, on advanced mirrorless cameras. More electronics and less mechanics: no surprise from an electronics giant, I suppose.

Last edited by jimr-pdx; 06-19-2011 at 10:37 AM. Reason: keybored screwing up
06-19-2011, 11:47 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by SteveUK Quote


so having been there and done both, I feel I can say with some authority that the Sony A55 is the much better camera
QuoteOriginally posted by SteveUK Quote

but if you want excellent photos in good light on a tight budget go for a K-r, just avoid artificial light and the video. If you go for the A55 don't expect good photos without good (possibly expensive) lenses.

Those two statements seem to be somewhat incongruous. I know you used video and the EVF as major considerations for your determination, but my guess is that most DSLR buyers would cite IQ as the most important factor??? And getting the most bang for the buck is also nice. So looking at your last point and using your words "excellent" and "budget"......vs good photos but with more expensive lenses (on an already more expensive camera).....one could conclude that the K-r is the better value and the "better" camera in that regard. At the very least, even with all the variables mentioned, it certainly does not lend itself to supporting the A-55 as a "much better" camera (even if it is for you).

Not trying to say there aren't reasons to support your claim......I'm just wondering if most DSLR buyers would read that and think, as I did, that the K-r is more appealing UNLESS the video and viewfinder are critcal components for them. And my suggestion is that for most it would not be as important getting excellent photos (or also in your words "shockingly good") in most situations (ff in tungsten light notwithstanding) for perhaps considerably less money. Otherwise at that point, if money is not as big a factor.....why not purchase the K-5 (which is in some ways a fairer comparison for the A-55)?

Last edited by ccd333; 06-19-2011 at 02:39 PM.
06-19-2011, 03:34 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by ccd333 Quote
Those two statements seem to be somewhat incongruous. ....one could conclude that the K-r is the better value and the "better" camera in that regard. ...
OH HELL YES. The K-r is (FF aside) fantastic value. I've spent 40-50% extra now on my A55 solution, its come at a price. But the FF and the video make the difference for me and I had some stock to sell for the extra funds.

@jimr-pdx - on battery my experience is that the A55 performance (if you turn off continuous focus) is better, both cameras struggle on battery I'd say. On old minolta lenses, I'd question what value "minolta colours" are in a world of PC post processing, compared to having sharp focus. For me the affordability of good lenses for Pentax was striking.

06-22-2011, 05:26 AM   #5
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Ok, I've seen the phrase and still can't lock it down.

What the heck does "FF" stand for?
06-22-2011, 05:32 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Get em all Quote
What the heck does "FF" stand for?
Depends on the Context. If talking about a body or sensors, it refers to "Full Frame" sensors as opposed to a cropped sensor (ala APS-C)

In reference to 'issues', it most often refers to "Front Focus"... its the antonym I guess to BF or "Back Focus"...
06-22-2011, 06:17 AM   #7
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It is a little thing, but I wish that people would adopt the convention of using "FF" for Full Frame and "ff" for front focus. Adr1an is correct, context is the best way to determine which is which.
06-22-2011, 06:23 AM   #8
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Glad you are happy with your purchase. The eBay lenses for pentax are already too expensive for me and I never use the video so I will stick with my k-r. The one thing that worries me about pentax is the dwindling 3rd party support. Brand lenses are very expensive.

06-22-2011, 08:06 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by kenafein Quote
Glad you are happy with your purchase. The eBay lenses for pentax are already too expensive for me and I never use the video so I will stick with my k-r. The one thing that worries me about pentax is the dwindling 3rd party support. Brand lenses are very expensive.
I think this is less of a concern for Pentax owners compared to some other brands, as we have a collection of 35 years worth of lenses available - both Pentax and third party - that function perfectly with modern Pentax bodies. In some cases, old glass can be better than what they produce today, and at a fraction of the price.
06-22-2011, 08:24 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Philoslothical Quote
I think this is less of a concern for Pentax owners compared to some other brands, as we have a collection of 35 years worth of lenses available - both Pentax and third party - that function perfectly with modern Pentax bodies. In some cases, old glass can be better than what they produce today, and at a fraction of the price.
But other brands can and do shoot with our Taks, raising the prices(though still the best bang for the buck). The well regarded Pentax lenses always fetch a high price if they're in good condition. Making them not much of a bargain compared to a new limited at times. Fortunately, after I purchase an UWA and a 135/2.5, I think I'm done for a long time.
06-22-2011, 09:41 AM   #11
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I don't shoot video, I don't like EVF's or Sony GUI menus, I need good AF-C and I don't want front-focus issues. Guess I'll stick with my K-x.

Last edited by audiobomber; 06-22-2011 at 10:00 AM.
06-22-2011, 11:15 AM   #12
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I tried the Sony A55 and was very impressed. The performance was outstanding and the camera size very good. This is an innovation to watch, for sure as pellicle can handle AF, video AF, legacy glass, etc.
06-22-2011, 08:23 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by kenafein Quote
Glad you are happy with your purchase. The eBay lenses for pentax are already too expensive for me and I never use the video so I will stick with my k-r. The one thing that worries me about pentax is the dwindling 3rd party support. Brand lenses are very expensive.
I agree on this and the skyrocketing prices of the old lenses are due to some that are very oblivious of the actual prices of those lenses before. Other brand users discovered the value of the Pentax lenses and compared to the cost of their lenses, the Pentax is still cheap for the price they pay for the good glass that Pentax has to offer.
Newbies also drive the prices up since they are too eager to get their hands on these lenses too and just buy mostly on impulse and being excited.
As for the third party, as long as Pentax doesn't become as popular as they once where, it would be useless for third party manufacturers to cash-in on making accessories for Pentax.
06-22-2011, 10:40 PM   #14
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I probably would've waited for the a77 if I were going to switch.
06-23-2011, 02:46 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by hawk1500 Quote
I probably would've waited for the a77 if I were going to switch.
Which may appear at the end of the year and will certainly be overpriced for some months afterwards.
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