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10-27-2018, 07:19 PM - 23 Likes   #1
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Pentax KP experience... 3 weeks and 3500 clicks later

Hey everyone.
I mostly just lurk here, but I've been a Pentax user for a long time. (separate story, but first Pentax experience was with a K1000 back in high school and developing my own film, early 90's.)

My history goes something like this: (yes, I've rarely had funds for the "flagship" at the time... Oh well)
Pentax K1000
Yashica FX-7
Pentax ZX-M (the last of my 35mm adventure).
K110D
K200D
K7
K5
K5iis.


My K5 is always too soft (I know, probably pixel peeping too much) - and the K5iis has 175,000 clicks on it, and I have weddings coming up.. So I felt I needed to get a new body so if one goes...
So 3 weeks ago I got the KP.

Here's what will probably end up being a rambling, all-over-the place, non-technical run down of my experience so far with the KP.

First impressions: Man this thing is tiny. Actually so much so, I had to order the grip right away. (I was going to just get by just buying a few spare batteries, but the camera is actually so small it made it necessary for me to get the grip. I bought some spare no-name D-LI90 knockoff batteries. And I love having vertical shutter buttons when working vertically, etc...) My hands aren't monster size, but my pinky can't hold the grip at all, and I felt like I was going to drop it.

Side note on battery life: I think that's more related to how long you have the camera powered on, vs. how many actual shots you take. Battery rated to just over 400 shots? pffffft. I got over 700 my first go out with it, and it only displayed half battery left just when I was finishing. But I'm glad to get the grip.

Buttons: Oh man, more customizable buttons. That's awesome. Was bummed at first that it had no dedicated ISO button on top panel like my K5.. (but then I just reprogrammed the FX3 button to do just that, since I shoot in manual mode 99% of the time.) This is pretty nice.
Lack of top LCD: I didn't think I would miss it. But at first I did. I missed not seeing the ISO, shutter speed, or aperture on the top LCD... for a few days. Once I fixed the FX3 button to change ISO, I change everything while looking through viewfinder, or I press the info button and have it show me the settings.

So, I did a couple shots around the house. Typical, "hey it's 11pm, no one is up, it's dark outside... so hey, the family pet is hanging out... "

(will hop for food) ISO3200, Pentax DA* 55mm f/1.6, 1/60


So that was cool. I am pleased with the auto-white balance. Quite frankly I don't know what they did, but it's much improved. I do miss the "Flash" WB setting, as that seemed to be spot on with my Cactus flashes, and render it very pleasing. (they're a little cool, so I always have to make the temperature warmer if I shot in Daylight vs. Flash on my K5). But I can set the WB easy enough manually if I want a setting for that... I'll get to that custom dial thing later.

Anyway... I told you this would be rambling.
SPORTS:
I took it to a football game for the newspaper, but I didn't shoot with it at first because I was worried about what I read about "smaller buffer size" etc etc.. For the paper, I don't need 1000 shots. I need like, 6-10, so the editors can pick what they want to use for the story. So after the first half, I put my (Tamron) 70-200 f/2.8 on the KP and went to town.

Let me just say this: The frame rate is just as fast as the K5. And despite having a smaller buffer, I found the KP much more usable in the field for sports. Why? Paired with a fast SD card, it can handle the bursts in a play, and when the buffer fills up, it clears much faster. (I use a Sandisk Extreme Pro. And I'm not a paid reviewer for anything, I'm just passing that along.) I shoot bursts during a play, and often times in between there are lulls. My K5 - when I fill the buffer, it takes a *long* time to clear. Even with the fast SD card. The KP can handle most of my normal bursts, AND it clears faster, so I get more usable shots.





Now - High school football isn't lit like pro sports... For anyone who shoots it, you know what I'm talking about. Most of the schools don't have great lighting. The older style lights, if you use too fast of a shutter speed, you get green one shot, magenta the next. Because the light flickers/has a phase.
Occasionally you shoot at a few venues that do have good lighting, or they play during the day. But that's rare.

So that's not going to be fixed by the camera. The light is contrasty as hell. It doesn't bother me. It is what it is, I'm paid to get photos for the newspaper in the lighting that's there. I tweak everything in Lightroom to get the most out of the pics. (oh, I shoot RAW by the way. All the time. The few times I thought "oh, it's just my kids goofing around, I'll switch to JPG. No. I've regretted it. I'm not a control freak about much. RAW vs. JPG? RAW every day...)

Autofocus: (for sports).
So - my Tamron 70-200 has always required a heavy correction in camera. Pentax of course rocks with customization. My K5 required a +8. My KP requires a +10. Thankfully that's almost dead on, because it can't go any farther.

Anyone who says you can't use Pentax for sports... well let's just say you can work with what you got. With practice, it's more about timing rather than firing 1000 shots off at a time anyway. I've always used back button focus vs. trying to use shutter-button-focus, AND I don't use continuous focus mode. Single shot, back button focus. Yes, do I hit it a bunch of times? Sure. But I'll tell you, I started getting out of my shell and talking to other photogs at events - and with their Canons and Nikons they often to do the same thing. Guy I just talked to last night admitted he gets more keepers if he uses back button focus on his Canon than if he tries to use auto and have it do 3d tracking.

(disclaimer - this is the one shot in this review that isn't from the KP. It's my K5-iis, with Tamron 70-200).
ISO800, 1/800s, f/3.2


Okay - so buffer is great, and improves my hits vs. the K5. And autofocus is definitely faster than the K5, hands down. So a win-win all around. Nice job Pentax. Here's a few more sports shots:
(One more thing - I don't test my focus adjustments on a chart. I do it on-the-fly. I fixed my Tamron by focusing on the ref's feet, then looking at the grass next to it to see if it was on the right plane. Don't waste your money on test charts. Borrow your spouse/sibling/friend and shoot with it. ) When I was fixing my 55mm f/1.4 - I had my son hold up fingers as I was adjusting. So I ran through 6 shots each with corrections of +1 through +6 to see what worked best in the field vs. on a line chart.

Right... rambling. Sports shots coming:
1/640s, f/3.5, ISO640


1/640s, f/3.5, ISO800


1/800, f/3.5, ISO200


See? You can do it. (I do want to get the Pentax 70-200. Or the 300 f/4. Because I do want the weather sealing for a sports setup. Eventually.)

While we're talking sports, we should also talk high ISO performance:

High ISO performance: I'd say this is... pretty similar to the K5. Up until you hit ISO 1600. Then the K5 degrades, and the KP still is decent. A surprising amount.
The K5 - I cringe when I have to go to 6400. I've did some tests (being weary) at ISO 12,800 and they looked fine for paper. It's not pro football / Sports Illustrated quality. But I'm not shooting in a pro stadium with good lighting either. I'll take what I can get.

ISO 1600, 1/125s, @ f/1.4, Pentax DA* 55mm


ISO 8000: 1/320s, @ f/2.8, Pentax 40mm HD DA (not a fantastic shot, but the venue is the basement of a hotel, where the Tae Kwon Do studio is, it's all fluorescents. It's pretty crap lighting for photos...


ISO 12,800, 1/500s, f/3.2. Tamron 70-200.
(also, here you can see the lights phasing ... bottom portion of screen is starting to turn dark/off color. Ugh. The things we do for extra cash.



Oh.. and I've gotten over missing the top LCD by now. And I've assigned the user dials to have base settings I use for night sports. Damn that's handy!
Because I shift from one thing to another so often... I'll very frequently get to a football game and the camera is all set up for portraits / daytime shooting. Not that it's hard to change the WB, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, etc... But turning one dial to get there? Fan-tastic.

PS. I love the weather sealing. This is from today, and is also why I want to get the 70-200 weather resistant Pentax lens. It was raining sideways, windy too. There was another photog with an umbrella there covering his stuff up, until his umbrella blew out backwards. And I'm shooting in the rain confident that all I have to do is cover up the lens, but I don't have to worry about the water getting on the body.

(my KP + magnifying eyecup... I got that years ago. the rubber is starting to peel off.)




Portraits:

Most of these, if not all, are with the DA* 55mm. I love that lens. The depth of field at f/1.4 (or I usually use at f/1.6 or f/1.8) is so shallow it provides such awesome separation.
room light: DA*55, 1/160s, f/2.2, ISO 100


window light: DA*55, 1/125s, f/1.8, ISO 100


Outdoor / HSS Flash: (with Cactus RF60 flashes and V6 trigger) 1/5000s, f/1.8, DA* 55mm, ISO100


I have no complaints here. The KP over the K5 has higher resolution. 24 vs. 16 doesn't seem like much... but it is. Though I don't do a lot of cropping. (I'm pretty aware of what I'm doing when I'm shooting. When I crop it always feels like "that's not what I wanted... it looked better the way I had it..) The only time I crop a lot is for sports when sometimes a) I don't have the reach and have to crop to get tighter in on action. Or b) editor likes to have a selection of vertical vs. horizontal shots to fit paper columns... so I give them half and half usually.

It still feels awkward when I crop though. I did say I would ramble. It's your fault if you've continued to read this far.

Here are some more portraits, since my ADD is kicking in, and I can't remember what I was going to talk about next.
Oh - but the LCD - it throws me off a little. I think it's because I'm not used to it compared to how the K5 looks. So... turn on the histogram when you first get it. (i turn it on and off at random to double check what I'm doing still. But keeping it on gives you a good idea of what the file looks like, vs. what you're seeing on the illuminated LCD screen, which can be misleading one way or the other.

1/100s, f/2, ISO 160


Black and white (conversion on this one done in Topaz B&W Effects 2, I believe)
DA*55, 1/125s f/2, ISO320


DA*55, 1/60s, f/2, ISO320


DA*55, 1/160s, f/2.8, ISO500



Overall:

All I can say is I wish I had gotten this months ago, or with a deal that included the grip. (I'm convinced the grip could probably be offered for $50 and they would still make a profit. It's built like a tank just like the body... but it's not a $230 part... and I feel a little bitchy about that.)

That said.. That's really my only complaint. For someone who shoots a lot, I seem to be averaging about 7k photos the past few months, up and down depending on the season) - This camera is a beast. It handles great (with the grip with my hands.. those with smaller hands may be fine with the body only). It balances well with small and large lenses. The buttons are well placed. (I had thin gloves on today shooting in the nor'easter we were getting today, driving rain/ice pellets etc, and had no issues hitting the correct buttons.) Even with plastic wrapped around the Tamron lens and half over the body. I trust the body, I don't want to get water in that lens.

The image quality is fantastic.

The upgrade in resolution compared to the K5 provides better cropping ability when you need it. Though it does take longer to load in Lightroom / takes up more hard drive space. So there's that. But it's not that significant.

The autofocus is much improved. I'm very impressed. I only shot two full games while I got used to the camera, but I let go today and just trusted it - and it performed great.

I'm feel very good about the KP. My K5IIs is fantastic, but getting so many clicks on it that I was starting to worry about reliability. My backup (K5) I've never been as happy with, and I wouldn't use it if I *needed to get the shot*.

The KP is a fantastic camera. I can't comment on how it compares to the K1 - other than to say the burst rate on the K1 isn't made for sports, and the file size for my use would be a little excessive. The newspaper assignments don't need to be full resolution, in fact in they have specific needs and ask me to downsize for them. Plus I have a limited amount of time to process from the end of game until the deadline that night... So that factored into my consideration, as well as the majority of my lenses are for APS-C. I was prepared to buy a new body, but not any new lenses.

Anyway - more rambling. Final word is: The KP does the job, and does it well. I'm excited to do some night work soon with it. (star trails, work with the O-GPS1 unit, cityscapes, etc..)

10-27-2018, 08:05 PM   #2
JPT
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Thank you for this detailed report. As a K-5 IIs owner considering the KP as an upgrade, your comparisons are very helpful.
10-27-2018, 08:20 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by JPT Quote
Thank you for this detailed report. As a K-5 IIs owner considering the KP as an upgrade, your comparisons are very helpful.
I still love my K5iis and would still be 100% confident in it, if it weren't that I have 175,000 clicks on it, and I wonder about how long the shutter will last. You can't do weddings on a 6 year old camera without a solid backup plan :c)
(I don't do weddings all the time. I did 6 last year, and I have two coming up. I've had more success shooting seniors and doing family portraits for wall art.

If you have any questions feel free. I can even take a few side-by-side shots with both using the same lens/shooting the same scene if you wish.

Oh - and I like the articulated LCD screen for shooting low macro or if you have the camera in a very low position (where it's nearly impossible unless you lay down to peek through the viewfinder.)
or for holding camera over my head (using live view) - like when the team wins and they're all in a bunch jumping around - before even with live view I couldn't see the screen holding it over my head and at a down angle.. Now I can use live view and flip the LCD down and see what the camera is seeing. That's really nice.
10-27-2018, 08:35 PM - 2 Likes   #4
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You may feel like you are rambling but it was a very informative and interesting read. If I hadn't already bought a KP this Summer your experience may have pushed me over the edge. You've posted some very impressive photos, especially the night sports shots, I do know how lighting is at most high schools, the high ISO ability of the KP is perfect for that. I like everything about the camera so far, but there are still things I'm learning. I hope you can get that D FA 70-200 so you can throw away the plastic bag.

10-27-2018, 09:56 PM - 1 Like   #5
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Nice work khardur. I think I said before that the market (and some people on this forum) missed just how good the KP is as an all around package.

A few additional things I'd note over the the K-5iis are pixel-shift, 5-axis SR and silent shooting with ES in Live View.
10-28-2018, 08:52 AM - 1 Like   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by caliscouser Quote
Nice work khardur. I think I said before that the market (and some people on this forum) missed just how good the KP is as an all around package.

A few additional things I'd note over the the K-5iis are pixel-shift, 5-axis SR and silent shooting with ES in Live View.
I haven't done too much handheld in low light yet. So definitely interested in the SR. And I do some interiors and architecture stuff as well.. So I'll be definitely hitting the pixel shift feature soon to test it out and compare...
10-28-2018, 11:00 AM - 1 Like   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by khardur Quote
I haven't done too much handheld in low light yet. So definitely interested in the SR. And I do some interiors and architecture stuff as well.. So I'll be definitely hitting the pixel shift feature soon to test it out and compare...
You will find it takes a bit more time when uploading your PS images but they are noticeably better with still lifes. Great review and very impressive sports work. You should definitely post more often!
10-28-2018, 12:19 PM   #8
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There are plenty of diehard K5 and K3 users who underestimate the KP.

I for one really enjoy it.
The three biggest improvements for me over a K3 are high ISO, button customisation and the third control dial. Once you've set up the KP how you like to shoot it is such a nice camera to use.

Like you, the large grip and battery grip make a big improvement with larger lenses.

10-28-2018, 01:47 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by SSGGeezer Quote
You will find it takes a bit more time when uploading your PS images but they are noticeably better with still lifes. Great review and very impressive sports work. You should definitely post more often!
Do you need to process them in the Pentax supplied editor Silkypix to make use of the PixelShift images, or can they be processed in Lightroom like other images?
10-28-2018, 03:59 PM - 1 Like   #10
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Thanks for all your input. I too have long had my K-5 IIs, which I also still love and I still use it. However, I now use my KP most often, and have been likewise very impressed with the results I get from it.
10-28-2018, 08:30 PM - 3 Likes   #11
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Great review. I've been shooting with a KP for about a year now, and I still have a K-5IIs that I use as backup/second camera. I agree with everything you've written about the KP, the K-5IIs and the K-5. The KP is an unusually good little camera with a few quirks, which you can mostly get used to.

I plan to buy that damned $230 grip to ease the battery issues. I've shot the battery out twice in situations where it wasn't that convenient to swap. Also I shoot in pretty cold weather sometimes, and have read that the larger battery in the grip handles the cold better.

Never have quite gotten used to not having a top LCD, but I'll live.

On the other hand I love the image quality, the five user modes, the third dial, the flip out back screen, pixel shift, and hand-held HDR. What else? The compact size.

For me the main problem with the KP is its high price.
10-29-2018, 03:30 AM - 1 Like   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by khardur Quote
hey everyone.
I mostly just lurk here,

man - this is one fantastic "lurkin" here !

Awesome stuff, explanations, and photos !


10-29-2018, 03:41 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by howieb101 Quote
There are plenty of diehard K5 and K3 users who underestimate the KP.

I for one really enjoy it.
The three biggest improvements for me over a K3 are high ISO, button customisation and the third control dial. Once you've set up the KP how you like to shoot it is such a nice camera to use.

Like you, the large grip and battery grip make a big improvement with larger lenses.
Is the KP an improvement over the K3 in terms of autofocus?
10-29-2018, 03:59 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by larryaustin3 Quote
Is the KP an improvement over the K3 in terms of autofocus?
It's pretty similar to the K3 if marginally faster in AF-S. I have not tried any action shooting in AF-C but by all accounts in AF-C is vastly superior to the K3 series. See review here on this site:
Pentax KP Review - Focusing | PentaxForums.com Reviews

I usually go to the Australian Tennis Open each year and shoot a lot with my K3. If I go this year, its probably a toss up between the KP to give it a good test run in action shooting or taking my K1 and shooting in crop mode. I might take my K3 one day to compare but I certainly won't take two cameras on any one day. Later in the day higher iso is required so the K3 is not such a great option.

I probably wouldn't buy a KP for AF-C improvement. It's value is really in high iso, customisability, newer standard inclusions like wifi and tilt screen and smaller size if that's your kind of thing. Because of the interchangeable grips it's kind of like two camera's in one. If you use the small DA primes it becomes like a mirrorless and if you like larger zoom lenses, add the battery grip and it's much like a K3 or K1.
11-05-2018, 12:38 PM - 1 Like   #15
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That is a great review, well done !!
Superb pictures ... well "executed". Great technique too.

This really makes me want to get that KP for birding, no kidding.
I don't need super fast AF as long as it does the job. Frame rate? ... I don't really care.
High ISO handling ... now THAT is what I need.

Tired of waiting for the "K3 replacement", if that ever materializes.
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