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02-26-2013, 09:48 PM   #1
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k-01 vs dslr

I'm sure there are plenty of threads about this and I have read what I could, but I thought a few might give an opinion on my particular situation. I have an ist-ds that I got new, old stock maybe 4-5 years ago and it is the only dslr I have owned. I have had/still have some pretty good prosumer cameras. A few years ago just going out and buying a new dslr body wouldn't have been that big of a deal but currently it is (money wise).

My only major functional complaint about the ist-ds is low light performance. I'm tired of dark and or motion blurred shots. I have been wanting to get a new body for a couple of years (shake reduction and much better high iso performance than the old ist-ds). Till now the best option was a used kx/kr. Keh had a kr recently for around $300. A new k-01 is the same price and I can get the pentax extended warranty for $20 more. I have a lot of lenses (nothing great but good enough, mostly full frame film lenses, nothing that originally cost much over $300, AF and MF to cover any range 28-300mm many times over). I have never owned an AF prime before, and it would not be cost effective given my budget to ever buy one. I can get the 40mm in kit with the k-01 for around $70 more (getting a lens cheap that I would probably otherwise never spend the money on). I have no idea how nice it would be to have one as I never have. I do tend to favor zooms.

A k30 is of course an option but much harder to come up with the money for (more than double the cost for the body at current prices). Its its going to take moving mountains to come up with the money for a k-01 kit before they are gone as it is.

So any thoughts on getting the k-01? It seems the best option to me if I can manage the money before they are gone. I understand they do not work as well with long lenses but do not really understand the nature of that? I understand the AF is not as accurate, but how bad is it? I have a sony v-1 (about an $800 semi compact years ago, a bit outdated), and canon a40, an older 5mp sony subcompact, an olympus 11mp subcompact that is much newer. They all seem to get the job done. Is the auto focus going to be like some of these? What exactly is the problem with long lenses? They just don't want to focus or something?

Of course there is the no slr viewfinder (which would really suck but for half the price, I think I could learn to live with it). I will still have the ist-ds to use too.

Any thoughts? Any opinions of any kind would be much appreciated.

02-26-2013, 10:04 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by ripit Quote
I'm sure there are plenty of threads about this and I have read what I could, but I thought a few might give an opinion on my particular situation. I have an ist-ds that I got new, old stock maybe 4-5 years ago and it is the only dslr I have owned. I have had/still have some pretty good prosumer cameras. A few years ago just going out and buying a new dslr body wouldn't have been that big of a deal but currently it is (money wise).

My only major functional complaint about the ist-ds is low light performance. I'm tired of dark and or motion blurred shots. I have been wanting to get a new body for a couple of years (shake reduction and much better high iso performance than the old ist-ds). Till now the best option was a used kx/kr. Keh had a kr recently for around $300. A new k-01 is the same price and I can get the pentax extended warranty for $20 more. I have a lot of lenses (nothing great but good enough, mostly full frame film lenses, nothing that originally cost much over $300, AF and MF to cover any range 28-300mm many times over). I have never owned an AF prime before, and it would not be cost effective given my budget to ever buy one. I can get the 40mm in kit with the k-01 for around $70 more (getting a lens cheap that I would probably otherwise never spend the money on). I have no idea how nice it would be to have one as I never have. I do tend to favor zooms.

A k30 is of course an option but much harder to come up with the money for (more than double the cost for the body at current prices). Its its going to take moving mountains to come up with the money for a k-01 kit before they are gone as it is.

So any thoughts on getting the k-01? It seems the best option to me if I can manage the money before they are gone. I understand they do not work as well with long lenses but do not really understand the nature of that? I understand the AF is not as accurate, but how bad is it? I have a sony v-1 (about an $800 semi compact years ago, a bit outdated), and canon a40, an older 5mp sony subcompact, an olympus 11mp subcompact that is much newer. They all seem to get the job done. Is the auto focus going to be like some of these? What exactly is the problem with long lenses? They just don't want to focus or something?

Of course there is the no slr viewfinder (which would really suck but for half the price, I think I could learn to live with it). I will still have the ist-ds to use too.

Any thoughts? Any opinions of any kind would be much appreciated.
The K-01 delivers excellent IQ and it's certianly going to be a huge upgrade in that respect. As for the AF, it's not inaccurate, but it is really slow. This is because contrast detect autofocus (the type available in live view) has to cycle through a bunch of focus settings, make measurements, and then stop when it detects the peak focus. I may be oversimplifying things a bit, but the bottom line is that if a lens has really long throw (many of your FA lenses probably do), then AF on the K-01 is going to feel slow.

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02-26-2013, 10:15 PM   #3
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Personally, for my amateur/non-pro level needs, I don't find the K-01 to lack anything that I need.

All around, the K-01 will be a step up in terms of specifications from your ist and at its price, you can't go wrong.

As you've noted, the largest difference will be the lack of VF. Up until now, I've been a strict view-finder only shooter, but I've found that the focus peaking feature on the K-01 (and K-30) is GREAT and REALLY helpful when using manual focus lenses, especially in low-light. Using the live-view screen is still a little awkward for me, but with time and practice, I think most people could get used to it.

Another thing, the K-01 is a bit awkward to hold, given its brick-inspired build. It doesn't have a grip like DSLRs, but I've found that a hand strap helps a bit and makes it feel more secure in my hands. The K-01 plays best will small primes or smaller/lighter zoom lenses; so do consider purchasing the DA 40 2.8 XS kit, if you have not experienced primes before. It is a tiny little lens that optically performs surprisingly well. I too was a zoom person before, but my DA* 55 and 40 Limited had me convinced that primes really weren't that bad; I still have a stash of zooms handy just because they're helpful to have in many situations, but I honestly find myself shooting more with primes now that I've gotten a taste for them. So do give that 40mm a shot, worst case scenario would be you not liking it and having to resell it.

AF isn't stellar and doesn't live up to that of the K-30, but it's not primitive. If you're a casual shooter and AF isn't that huge of an issue, it shouldn't be a problem. Also, I've found that older AF long-zoom lenses are the slowest (probably based on what Adam said). I can't complain about my fast primes though, focusing is relatively quick and accurate.

Truthfully, I do prefer my K-30 in terms of build and handling, but I love the K-01 because when paired with the DA 40 Limited, I can easily slip it into a small rectangular case and into my bag or backpack so I have it with me. It's not that easy to do with a clunky DSLR and large lens.

So yes, you do give up the viewfinder, the DSLR grip, and the handling and it may take some warming up to, but for the price and performance, it is definitely not a bad idea if you feel that you could live without these things.
02-26-2013, 10:18 PM   #4
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The problem with long lenses is that unless they are (big, expensive) constant-aperture, they aren't very bright, especially zooms. Contrast-Detect AF needs decent light to focus - it also seems to struggle a bit in low light with f/3.5 or slower lenses. For comparison, I've been told by owners of the Nikon D5100, which has the same sensor but does not hold the lens wide open for LiveView like Pentaxes do, that it's extremely hard to focus in LiveView indoors with the kit lens. So it's not just the K-01. It's more of a speed problem than accuracy. I can't really compare it to your other cameras, but I think others have said it's as fast as Phase Detect on some older dSLRs.

The K-01 has incredible image quality that runs circles around the istDS. For low light, it can get keepers at ISO 3200, where I wouldn't let my K100D go past 800 (same sensor as the istDS). It also doesn't have the tendancy to "go orange" in low light. It really is an amazing sensor - I used the K-x and K-r before, and the 16MP sensor was a much bigger step up than I expected.

The K-01 is not a good camera for action photography, unless you are good with old-school manual focus techniques. I thought I would miss the viewfinder, but after a week, I found it really liberating to work at arm's length. I do have dSLRs that I can use if I need a VF.

The ergonomics... are completely different. In some ways, it's so bad that it's good. There's really only a couple ways to grip a dSLR, and half a dozen with the "brick". If you can handle one before deciding, I strongly recommend it, although I did and wasn't impressed. It took a good week before it grew on me.

It really comes down to your tolerance for "different" and adapting technique to the camera rather than it adapting to you. It has limitations, but they can be "good" limitations in terms of learning new/old techniques.

02-26-2013, 10:58 PM   #5
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On the negative side the K-01 LCD is crap out in bright light, you either have to stand in the shade or get some sort of hood otherwise it becomes a point-n-shot-n-pray.
It's a great indoor camera or a well lit street camera at night.
I'm happy I bought one, the image IQ is excellent, the ergonomics are quirky but not uncomfortable at all for me. The button placement isn't as bad as some have said and it's pretty quick to learn to operate in full manual mode (which is how you can use the telephoto, fully manual with manual focus and focus peaking - much quicker than AF).
The rubber flappy door is irritating and slow, not sure what they were thinking there..
I had an *istDS since 2004, after a short learning curve I never found I missed not having SR. I quite often switch it off on my K-7 as I can get sharper pictures when it's off.
At the current sellout price, every PENTAX fan should have a K-01 in their kit, there's really no good reason not to
02-26-2013, 11:03 PM   #6
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Thanks a lot for the info. I think I can learn to live with slower auto focus if its reasonably accurate. I know what you mean about the camera taking extra steps to focus from prosumer cameras I have. Exactly how slow is really slow though? No chance to get shots of moving children slow? As far as throw, I'm not sure how low the throw gets on some lenses? My main carry lens right now is a tamron 28-200mm xr (not the di) that seems to have about 45 degrees rotation. My old carry lens before that is a quantaray 28-90mm 3.5-5.6 (sigma 28-80mm) which has very little throw (30 degrees or less). I have an f 100-300mm (almost a full 360 degree rotation of throw), but also have a quantaray (sigma) 70-300mm and a quantartay 100-300mm (?) that have about a 90 degree throw. I also have others with varying throw but I don't think too many are much less that 90 degree throw including the ist-ds kit lens. Are the short throw lenses going to be reasonably faster auto focusing or is anything going to be really slow (I understand the extra steps in focusing and the focus out before focusing in and such so I know it will always be slower)? Would a 90 degree throw be considered short in reference to this camera, or are the 45 degree and less ones the short throw ones that might work better?


Also, what exactly happens when you use longer lenses? Does it just hunt more or miss accurate auto focus? Whats considered long/too long to use?

Sorry about all the questions. I'm just trying to visualize it.
02-26-2013, 11:08 PM   #7
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Opps, it seems some of my questions got answered while I was typing.
02-26-2013, 11:34 PM   #8
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I don't think the ergonomics will be too much of an issue. I can adapt to holding different cameras pretty well. If the problem with long lenses (and short lenses) is speed, that could be an issue. I do not have any fast AF glass. The tamron 28-200mm is 3.8-5.6. The quantaray 28-90mm is 3.5-5.6. The quantaray 70-300 is 4-5.6. The only lens I see that is any faster is an fa 28-80 that is 3.5-4.7. Everything else seems to end in 5.6 and nothing is faster than 3.5 on the short end. I don't need super low light shooting, just normal room lighting (not really bright but not dim at all either). Are any of these lenses going to even work with it? I have faster MF glass (28-200mm 3.5 constant, 35-80mm 2.8 constant and 1.7-2.0 50mm primes and such), but my experience has been I can not focus fast enough to take pictures of kids that move around a lot.

02-27-2013, 04:06 AM   #9
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As someone also coming from the *ist DS, I don't think you could find better value for your dollar. The K-01 is no worse than the DS in almost every aspect that matters and has a couple great features not available on the DS. I haven't found a missing feature that I care about and the AF isn't any worse than the DS (which wasn't that great to begin with). So you get a huge upgrade in image quality, shake reduction, plus video capability for a measly $300. I don't miss the viewfinder although I still try to bring the K-01 up to my eye occasionally - old habits die hard.

I haven't done a lot of shooting in bright daylight yet so I may get one of the small detachable hoods if that's a problem.

I'm an engineer by education so I find the retro-industrial look very appealing.
02-27-2013, 05:53 AM   #10
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The 40mm XS is a very good reason to go the brick's way. Insane value.

Some says its slow, but its only slow when compared with its sensor siblings. The AF motor speed is actually faster than the KX (compared using DFA 100mm WR Macro).

Another thing, I changed the brightness of the LCD (from the menu) to its brightest, and found that even noonday shooting is not a problem anymore.
02-27-2013, 07:27 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rob22315 Quote
As someone also coming from the *ist DS, I don't think you could find better value for your dollar. The K-01 is no worse than the DS in almost every aspect that matters and has a couple great features not available on the DS. I haven't found a missing feature that I care about and the AF isn't any worse than the DS (which wasn't that great to begin with). So you get a huge upgrade in image quality, shake reduction, plus video capability for a measly $300. I don't miss the viewfinder although I still try to bring the K-01 up to my eye occasionally - old habits die hard.

I haven't done a lot of shooting in bright daylight yet so I may get one of the small detachable hoods if that's a problem.

I'm an engineer by education so I find the retro-industrial look very appealing.
Thanks a ton. The auto focus on the ds didn't exactly seem world class though it gets the job done. I had wondered a lot how things like that would compare to such an old model as the ds (I read the review here and lots of other things but comparisons are always against newer cameras). That really helps make my decision.
02-27-2013, 07:29 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Salagubang Quote
The 40mm XS is a very good reason to go the brick's way. Insane value.

Some says its slow, but its only slow when compared with its sensor siblings. The AF motor speed is actually faster than the KX (compared using DFA 100mm WR Macro).

Another thing, I changed the brightness of the LCD (from the menu) to its brightest, and found that even noonday shooting is not a problem anymore.
It certainly sweetens the deal a lot.
02-27-2013, 08:17 AM   #13
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I used to personally own a K10D and I still use a friend's K20D and K-7 from time to time. I couldn't resist the K-01 when the price dropped to less than $350 and the image quality is so great that I recently picked up a second K-01 body just to have a spare. AF on the K-01 is slower than a DSLR, but I find it just as accurate.

I'd say without any doubt the K-01 has better low light (high ISO) performance than any Pentax camera that predates the K-5 (including the K-7). The only things that older DSLRs like the K10D, K20D and K-7 have over the K-01 are:

- Viewfinders
- Faster AF
- Better ergonomics

Honestly, I can live with the AF speed of the K-01 for 90+ percent of the shooting I do and if I'm worried about the AF speed I can grab my Canon DSLR gear or my Olympus OM-D. The lack of the viewfinder doesn't bother me personally because I used to shoot medium format film in the 90s and early 2000s using a camera with a waist-level viewfinder ... so composing my images using the LCD feels perfectly normal to me. As for ergonomics, if you hold the K-01 so you can trip the shutter button with your thumb (holding it like an old Hassy with a cable release under your thumb) it feels MUCH more ergonomic than holding the K-01 like a DSLR:


02-27-2013, 08:49 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Julie Quote
Another thing, the K-01 is a bit awkward to hold, given its brick-inspired build
JJJPhoto's post above is similar to my approach but I've never tried the thumb.

In my personal experience I started by holding the K-01 as if it is a classic Pentax SLR such as the MESuper. I rest the entire base of the camera on my left palm; draw my elbows firmly in to my sides and place my feet shoulder-width apart (left foot slightly forward in my case). The natural position of the camera is then about 6" in front of my face at nose height. I grip the right side with my index finger on the shutter release, compose, focus (whether manual as if it is an MESuper with my left fingers or AF) and release.

My issue is with managing all the button and wheel inputs. It is awkward to adjust compensation, shutter speed, aperture, flash-up, and anything on the 4-Way controller in this position - but then we didn't really do much of that in the film days with our eye in the VF.

Once I have the settings as I want them I take the picture.

This method doesn't lend itself to anything that requires quick decisions or quick changes. It is either hyperfocal and Manual settings such as for street or contemplative such as portrait or landscape.

The omission of the grip makes this a near-complete analog for a film camera in practice if you can overlook the lack of a viewfinder.
02-27-2013, 09:04 AM   #15
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K-01 with kit 40XC lens is focusing faster and more accurate then istDS, or K100DS that I am using now.
Shooting with manual focus lenses is a lot of fun, unlike struggling with viewfinder of istDS.

Optical quality of 40XS IMHO is only OK for a prime lens. Nothing spectacular in my opinion, I wouldn't spend more than $70-$100 on it.
I played with this camera yesterday in B&H store while waiting for my online order. I like it, the only time where i might see problems with this setup is shooting outdoors in bright sunlight, keep your istDS as a backup for these situation.
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