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12-29-2013, 11:10 AM - 12 Likes   #1
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K3 vs. Df

Comparing a Nikon Df to a Pentax K3 is a little like comparing an apple to an orange, but that’s the point of this post; neither is a *better* camera, each being better at certain things. This isn’t a laboratory controlled pixel peeping review, but simply observations when using my cameras in real life.



I’ve been shooting Pentax for over 30 years, so I instinctively move along with Pentax as their product line evolves, so adding a Nikon body to my bag is a big change (and added expense!). I should mention that I have no intention of leaving Pentax. I still think it’s the best choice for everyday photography along with telephoto work. So why the Nikon? Half of what I shoot is in low light, so there is definitely an allure from having the high ISO performance that full frame offers. Why the Df? I’ve spent decades shooting film, so a film style body packed with the D4 sensor is a natural attraction. The Df currently holds the title of offering the best high ISO performance on the market.



There are also a couple of lenses I have wanted to own and either can’t find them, or they simply are not available for Pentax. I have started off with ordering the Df with its special edition 50/1.8, the Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 135mm F/2.0 ZF.2 and the Zeiss Distagon 21mm F/2.8 ZF.2. I’ll need to take time to compare landscape work between the 21 and a similar focal length on Pentax, but based on what I am seeing so far, the 21/2.8 would be better matched with the K3.



I took both cameras to Butchart gardens at night with the intent of testing high ISO performance. A quick comment regarding the K5 vs. K3, I’ve taken a number of shots and the K3 seems as good to my eye. All Pentax shots are uing the FA 77 and the Nikon is using the 135. Anyways, I started at ISO 3200;

The K3 is first up. All shots are using the FA77.



Now the Df….using the Zeiss 135.



As expected, there is noticeably more noise with the K3. Both do well in detail (the scratch shown in the star on the centre left is blocked by a twig on the Pentax).

I did have some trouble nailing some shots with the Nikon, either through use error, or what I am assuming is the benefit of shake reduction (obviously not available with the Zeiss on the Nikon). The red tree trunk is a reflection off of the pond. This shot is with the Pentax @ISO3200. I was not successful getting a shot with the Nikon…



Both of these shots are at ISO 3200. The first shot is from the K3 with the second being the Nikon.





At ISO 12,800, as expected, the Nikon shines but the K3 holds its own;
Here is the K3….



And the Df….



Here is a 100% crop of the K3…..



and the Df……



Finally for ISO, here are two more shots at 12,800;

First the K3….



and the Df…..



So what about shooting in good light? First the K3 at ISO 100;



Then the Df at ISO 100



Another set with the first being the K3…



and then the Df….



100% crop from the K3…



100% crop from the Df….



Summary;

Personal preference and shooting style plays a big factor in choosing a camera. For example, I haven’t used both cameras in a studio setting, so if that’s where you spend most of your time, then you might (or might not) rate the cameras differently.

From first impressions with the Df, if I was to choose just one camera body, the K3 would be it. I’m looking forward to many years of use of the Df and can see it helping with half of what I shoot. I would be curious to compare it against the D800e, but already chose the Df over size and the way I like to use the camera. The Df has amazingly clean high ISO shots.

The K3 will continue be my go to camera for day to day shooting. Besides the cost factor, the build quality and form factor is better. The shell construction is much more solid, being all metal vs. the metal/plastic shell of the Df. The K3 offers in body stabilization and includes video which are not available on the Df. When I made the decision to pick up the Df, I had made the decision to stick with APS-C Pentax for Telephoto work, but I was a bit surprised at the performance of the K3 at lower ISO. As such, the K3 will see more use than I had originally thought.

K3 Pros
  • Cost
  • Build quality – metal vs. metal/plastic shell construction
  • IQ at low ISO
  • APS-C Crop for telephoto work
  • In Body Image Stabilization
  • Video

Df Pros
  • IQ at high ISO
  • Availability of aftermarket lenses (Zeiss / Voigtlander)


12-29-2013, 11:29 AM   #2
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The 100% crop of the man in the mask is stunning. Wow. The Df's high ISO is just spectacular.

The mushrooms show a whole lot. For one, the color and contrast on the K3 is significantly better. I'm guessing you attribute the blur of the Df in the 100% crops to camera shake? At 135, it could be pretty significant. But that doesn't explain the contrast. I expect better out of a Zeiss lens, so...what do you think is up there?
12-29-2013, 11:34 AM   #3
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Ideally I would have the same lens on both cameras, but don't. I could also have used a tripod, but the intent was to use the cameras as I normally would and then review the results. The FA77 certainly is holding it's own against the Zeiss....
12-29-2013, 12:00 PM   #4
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I am drooling over the 12800 shots out of the Nikon, thanks for posting.

12-29-2013, 12:03 PM   #5
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Great review! No dry stuff, just pictures. Thanks for sharing.

Also, it is really nice to see that FA77 performs so great. At the picture done at low ISO's Zeiss looks like a kit lens compared to FA.
12-29-2013, 12:19 PM   #6
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I didnt know the Df is so much bigger! Makes the K-3 look small. Like you said, apples and oranges, but still interesting comparisons.
The noise performance being better with the Df isn't really surprising, has much fewer pixels with a much bigger sensor area. Hope you enjoy your cameras, you will probably discover more pros and cons as you go on. Thanks for posting this comparison with sample photos
12-29-2013, 12:25 PM   #7
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Great summary and glad you are enjoying both cameras.
The 100% crop with the Nikon is amazing..
12-29-2013, 01:10 PM   #8
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Some observations: the 100% crops of the K3 shots are at higher magnification. To keep DOF the same, you should stop the Nikon down one stop (with a corresponding bump in ISO). Also, the SR of the pentax should give ~2 stops. Isn't it a better comparison to shoot the K-3 at 3 stops lower ISO and crop to the same actual magnification? The comparison as done is stacked against the K-3.


Last edited by Kozlok; 12-29-2013 at 01:15 PM.
12-29-2013, 01:19 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kozlok Quote
Some observations: the 100% crops of the K3 shots are at higher magnification. To keep DOF the same, you should stop the Nikon down one stop (with a corresponding bump in ISO)..
I think it is better as presented. It shows a key difference between APS-C and FF: DoF. For those of us who have not personally experienced a FF camera, it's good to see all the differences.
12-29-2013, 01:22 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kozlok Quote
Some observations: the 100% crops of the K3 shots are at higher magnification. To keep DOF the same, you should stop the Nikon down one stop (with a corresponding bump in ISO). Also, the SR of the pentax should give ~2 stops. Isn't it a better comparison to shoot the K-3 at 3 stops lower ISO and crop to the same actual magnification? The comparison as done is stacked against the K-3.
There are quite a few variables in this comparison which makes it very much an apples to oranges review. I simply wanted to use the cameras as I normally would, using the same settings on each to see what the result would be. You are correct, I might be able to try different variations given the differences between the cameras, but this was not my intent for this review.....
12-29-2013, 01:34 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by MadMathMind Quote
I think it is better as presented. It shows a key difference between APS-C and FF: DoF. For those of us who have not personally experienced a FF camera, it's good to see all the differences.
And those differences are? The pictures clearly shows the difference between a good 16MP sensor and a 24MP, but that is something which is expected. But what differences do you see in these pictures which are unique to FF?
12-29-2013, 01:42 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by StigVidar Quote
And those differences are? The pictures clearly shows the difference between a good 16MP sensor and a 24MP, but that is something which is expected. But what differences do you see in these pictures which are unique to FF?
I forgot that he used a 135mm lens on a Nikon, not a 77. All differences in DoF can be attributed to the focal length.

I know there's differences in DoF between APS-C and FF but I've wondered how great they are. Unfortunately, this doesn't provide any insight there.
12-29-2013, 01:46 PM   #13
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I hope that Pentax will make a 16Mp FF camera. maybe with multiexposure through SR. It could be a killer, and better that Nikon Df.
12-29-2013, 02:12 PM   #14
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Yes, this sensor would be nice in a Pentax camera. But I don't think we will ever see one because 16MP is ..... 16MP. Not quite 24 or 36MP.

And those interested in Nikon Df should start with this: Tested: the 2013 Nikon Df ? Ming Thein | Photographer
12-29-2013, 02:35 PM   #15
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Thanks for your comparison of the K3 and the Df. I bought a Df shortly after Thanksgiving with the kit lens, and since then have purchased 3 used Nikkor AIS lenses (24 2.8, 80 2.0, 28-50 3.5) for a grand total of about $600. All the lenses are in excellent condition. My wife and I are going to Vegas on Jan 1st for 7 days, and I plan on using the Df and lenses quite a bit - shooting the Ethel M cactus garden which will be lit with 250,000 Christmas lights, the Venetian's Winter in Venice festival, the Bellagio conservatory and who knows what else. So far I'm having a blast with the camera. I love using the legacy Nikkor glass with this camera.
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