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08-28-2011, 03:36 PM   #1
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Hello from Irene - looking for first DSLR

Posting from metro Boston via my cell phone, as Irene has knocked out phone and internet service!

I'm in the market for my first DSLR. I want something I can take hiking and camping with the boy scouts, so I'm leaning towards Pentax for its line of affordable weather sealed cameras and lenses. Camera-side stabilization seems like a nice feature too; I've seen many suggestions that lens systems are superior at long focal lengths, but then I also haven't seen complaints about poor stabilization performance from Pentax users shooting at 200-300mm, so I'm guessing that it probably works well enough. I also like the quick-shift focus.

The K200D seems like a good starter camera, and I like the fact that it takes AA batteries so I don't have to worry about whether they'll be making batteries for it in a few years. I'd probably go for the K-r if it were weather sealed. I'm considering going a step higher to the K20D or K-7, but $200 for a battery grip to use AA batteries is pretty steep! The 18-55 and 50-200 WR lenses should make a good starter system. My boys have gotten into bird watching so I have my eye on the 55-300, which seems to be quite well regarded for its IQ, but unfortunately there's no WR version of that lens.

I have an SMC PENTAX-M 40-80 f/2.8-4 zoom lens that an older relative found at home; we're not sure why it was there, and it looks almost like new, but after reading the reviews of this lens, I doubt it will be very useful, especially without a proper focus screen. When using a manual focus lens, do these cameras give you an indication of when the AF system thinks you've got it right? I also have access to a few good old Nikon lenses, but I think the advantages of affordable WR and stabilization have me sold on Pentax.

My last SLR was a Konica Autoreflex T3 (made approximately when I was born!) which I loved but it's in need of some repair. Maybe I'll get it fixed some day for the sake of amusement and nostalgia, but it's hard to justify spending money on that because I'm really not shooting film anymore. Too bad there's no digital system for those old Konica lenses!

08-28-2011, 03:54 PM   #2
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I'd recommend a K-r kit with the 18-55 kit lens and the 55-300mm DA L. This is by far the most cost-effective setup, and it'll have you covered at practically every focal length. You might consider adding a prime (such as the 35mm F2.4) for low-light shooting. Overall, the 55-300mm lens is much more highly-regarded than the 50-200mm; see their lens reviews:
Pentax-DA 50-200mm F4-5.6 ED WR Reviews - DA Zoom Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database
Pentax-DA L 55-300mm F4-5.8 ED Reviews - DA L Zoom Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

The reason I'm not recommending a K200D is that it's not a current body. It's cheaper, yes ($400 w/grip on our marketplace), but once you add the kit lens and a standalone DA 55-300mm, you'll end up paying more than you would for the K-r kit. Each successive Pentax body has better responsiveness and more features, and I think that's worth taking advantage of.

Unfortunately neither of these bodies feature weather-sealing, but unless you do a lot of outdoor shooting in a rainy area, I don't think it's very important in a beginner camera (plus, weather-resistant compact cameras are much cheaper so you could get one of those instead).

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08-28-2011, 03:54 PM   #3
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We also have in-depth reviews of these lenses on the homepage, if they're of any help:
Pentax Lens Reviews | Pentax in-depth reviews | PentaxForums.com

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08-28-2011, 04:03 PM   #4
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Welcome to the forum and thank you for the great introduction. The K200D is a good and versatile camera but I feel you may outgrow it quickly and want something with a bit more control. The K20D is a very good camera but is heavier and more bulky than the K200D so best bet is to go a little higher to the K-7 or K-5 which are slightly smaller and have better low light functions. My choice would be the K-5 which would last you quite awhile before you feel the need for an upgrade.

08-28-2011, 04:56 PM   #5
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Welcome here and all the best in your quest for a new dSLR.
Indeed the K200D is an excellent starter camera if you need weather sealing, but the K-r will be even more capable if you don't take your camera out into rainy/dusty/smoky environments.
08-28-2011, 05:30 PM   #6
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Welcome to the forum.
08-28-2011, 08:47 PM   #7
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Hi all, thanks for the welcome and the tips. The K-r with 18-55 and 55-300 is indeed an attractive package at a good price, but I decided against it because (1) none of it is WR and (2) the DA-L lenses don't support quick-shift. To me, WR is the biggest reason for choosing Pentax in the first place. I want to be able to take this camera hiking, camping, skiing, by the lakefront, around a campfire, and in a canoe.

eaglem: Thanks for pointing out the size. The K200D and K-7 are pretty similar in size, but I hadn't noticed the difference with the K20D. Of course, by the time you add on a battery grip for AA batteries, the K-7 doesn't look small anymore.

The K-5 looks impressive, especially its low light performance. I found one site that gave it poor marks for stabilization; I'm not sure what to make of it, but the methodology looks suspect:

http://www.digitalcamerainfo.com/content/Pentax-K-5-Digital-Camera-Review.htm

Anyway, I'm not going to spend that kind of money on a starter camera. If I find myself reaching the limits of the first camera and wanting more, the K-5 is a likely candidate for my first upgrade. I figure that if a K200D allows me to wait a year before buying a K-5, it will have paid for itself, and then I will have a camera that makes a good spare or hand-me-down for my son. If I'm going to spend that kind of money, I'd rather put it into lenses that will be usable for many years to come, such as (perhaps) getting both the 50-200 WR (for general use) and a 55-300 or one of the cheaper FA 300-range zooms (for shooting wildlife in good weather), or maybe a prime lens or one of the higher quality zooms. I looked at the 18-135, but it doesn't seem worth the premium over 18-55 if I'm buying telephoto zooms anyway. Do any of the third party lens makers offer WR lenses?
08-28-2011, 09:18 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by dt54 Quote
If I'm going to spend that kind of money, I'd rather put it into lenses that will be usable for many years to come, such as (perhaps) getting both the 50-200 WR (for general use) and a 55-300 or one of the cheaper FA 300-range zooms (for shooting wildlife in good weather), or maybe a prime lens or one of the higher quality zooms. I looked at the 18-135, but it doesn't seem worth the premium over 18-55 if I'm buying telephoto zooms anyway.
I would take the 18-135mm over the 18-55 + 50-200 for the added flexibility and faster AF, FWIW. I haven't been impressed by the 50-200. Hopefully, though, a weather-sealed version of the 55-300 will come out soon!

QuoteOriginally posted by dt54 Quote
Do any of the third party lens makers offer WR lenses?
Sigma is starting to make WR lenses, but it'll likely be a few years until we see more lenses. Currently, this is the only WR lens they make, and it's not available yet:
Sigma 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 II DG HSM Lens Reviews - Current Zoom Lenses - Sigma, Tamron, Adaptall and 3rd Party Lens Review Database


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