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09-20-2015, 01:47 PM   #1
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Introduction and seeking advice: fast lens or upgrade K200D for low light?

Hi from Norway,

I have read the forum off and on since purchasing my K200D in 2008 (actually, the forum was lots of help as I was deciding on what DSLR and starter lens to buy). I work as a fisheries researcher and rely on my camera for documenting work I do at sea on both commercial fishing vessels and research vessels. I purchased the K200D and DA 18mm - 250mm f/3.5-6.3 which has served me really well. I added a manual focus A 50mm f/2 for a cheap and faster lens, and then a SMC DA 40mm f/2.8 Limited for a lighter carry-around lens. I also have an old AF280T flash, but don't like to use it at sea due to size, instability of the camera with a flash perched on top, and the preponderance of reflective objects like safety reflective piping on people's lifejackets and work suits. I have found OP/TECH accessories (fast cap lens cap [go for the metal ring version!] and neoprene soft pouch camera cases) to be extremely useful to add a level of easy to use protection when I am working with my camera slung around my shoulder. One thing with the fast cap, the portion that remains in front of the lens when the cap is flipped open is quite thick, leading to vignetting in the corners when shooting at wide settings with the 62 mm cap on the 18-250. I wish I had purchased a larger size cap and step-up ring to get it outside of the field of view. I use a Hoya PRO1 DIGITAL circular polarizer filter quite often if I am trying to get images of things going on just below the water surface and there is enough light.

I really want to like the 40 mm but just don't find that I use it much. The 18-250 is on my camera most of the time, with the 50 as my "low-light" option. When I run an Exposure Plot analysis of what focal lengths I typically use with the 18-250 it is generally on either end: I am either photographing things sitting on the boat deck right in front of me or I am trying to pull in things 50-200+ m away.

I really want to have something faster for use in low light or so that I can shoot at higher shutter speed. Tripod is not an option, as it would be too unwieldy and there are significant vibrations coming through the boat deck. It seems like 50 f/1.4 is one option, but I find 50 mm to be an awkward length after the DSLR crop factor, I am always having to back up to get everything I want into the frame. Fine on land, but not always an option when I am at sea. I was thinking of something like a 30 f/1.4. KEH has a Sigma 30 f/1.4 EX DC for under $250 and the lens seems to be pretty well reviewed on the lens database here. But then I got to wondering whether a new body with better high iso might be an option I should look into, recognizing that the DOF is going to be pretty narrow if I am shooting a fast lens fully open. I try not to go higher than iso 800 or 1000 with the K200, but maybe I should play around more at the higher settings. I also miss having the ability to capture video in the K200, and rely on a Lumix DMC-TS4 for that. Since the Lumix is waterproof, it is also what I use if conditions are wet, so although weatherproofing would be nice I haven't had any incidents with my current setup of non-WP lenses in several hundred days at sea.

So, should I be thinking about a new to me (but used) body? Has sensor technology improved significantly in the past 7 years? If so, what models should I be looking at? It seems I could get a K-X for about $170, K-7 for $250 and K-5 for $420. Since I am otherwise pleased with the K200D it seems slightly indulgent and wasteful to replace it.

If faster glass seems like a better option, what do people suggest? Am I on the right path thinking a fast 30 mm lens?

I am often in the US and maintain a permanent address there, so I would be ordering for delivery there.

Thanks for reading and thanks in advance for any insights!

-Shale

09-20-2015, 02:40 PM - 1 Like   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by shalerosen Quote
Hi from Norway,

I have read the forum off and on since purchasing my K200D in 2008 (actually, the forum was lots of help as I was deciding on what DSLR and starter lens to buy). I work as a fisheries researcher and rely on my camera for documenting work I do at sea on both commercial fishing vessels and research vessels. I purchased the K200D and DA 18mm - 250mm f/3.5-6.3 which has served me really well. I added a manual focus A 50mm f/2 for a cheap and faster lens, and then a SMC DA 40mm f/2.8 Limited for a lighter carry-around lens. I also have an old AF280T flash, but don't like to use it at sea due to size, instability of the camera with a flash perched on top, and the preponderance of reflective objects like safety reflective piping on people's lifejackets and work suits. I have found OP/TECH accessories (fast cap lens cap [go for the metal ring version!] and neoprene soft pouch camera cases) to be extremely useful to add a level of easy to use protection when I am working with my camera slung around my shoulder. One thing with the fast cap, the portion that remains in front of the lens when the cap is flipped open is quite thick, leading to vignetting in the corners when shooting at wide settings with the 62 mm cap on the 18-250. I wish I had purchased a larger size cap and step-up ring to get it outside of the field of view. I use a Hoya PRO1 DIGITAL circular polarizer filter quite often if I am trying to get images of things going on just below the water surface and there is enough light.

I really want to like the 40 mm but just don't find that I use it much. The 18-250 is on my camera most of the time, with the 50 as my "low-light" option. When I run an Exposure Plot analysis of what focal lengths I typically use with the 18-250 it is generally on either end: I am either photographing things sitting on the boat deck right in front of me or I am trying to pull in things 50-200+ m away.

I really want to have something faster for use in low light or so that I can shoot at higher shutter speed. Tripod is not an option, as it would be too unwieldy and there are significant vibrations coming through the boat deck. It seems like 50 f/1.4 is one option, but I find 50 mm to be an awkward length after the DSLR crop factor, I am always having to back up to get everything I want into the frame. Fine on land, but not always an option when I am at sea. I was thinking of something like a 30 f/1.4. KEH has a Sigma 30 f/1.4 EX DC for under $250 and the lens seems to be pretty well reviewed on the lens database here. But then I got to wondering whether a new body with better high iso might be an option I should look into, recognizing that the DOF is going to be pretty narrow if I am shooting a fast lens fully open. I try not to go higher than iso 800 or 1000 with the K200, but maybe I should play around more at the higher settings. I also miss having the ability to capture video in the K200, and rely on a Lumix DMC-TS4 for that. Since the Lumix is waterproof, it is also what I use if conditions are wet, so although weatherproofing would be nice I haven't had any incidents with my current setup of non-WP lenses in several hundred days at sea.

So, should I be thinking about a new to me (but used) body? Has sensor technology improved significantly in the past 7 years? If so, what models should I be looking at? It seems I could get a K-X for about $170, K-7 for $250 and K-5 for $420. Since I am otherwise pleased with the K200D it seems slightly indulgent and wasteful to replace it.

If faster glass seems like a better option, what do people suggest? Am I on the right path thinking a fast 30 mm lens?

I am often in the US and maintain a permanent address there, so I would be ordering for delivery there.

Thanks for reading and thanks in advance for any insights!

-Shale
I'd recommend stepping it up to a newer camera like the K-50, K-3, or K-5 so that you can crank up the ISO a bit more freely. In the US, a new K-50 is available for under $300, which is probably the best value currently out there.

As for low-light lenses, if you decide to go down that route later, the previous-generation of Sigma 30mm's is highly-regarded. The selection of fast lenses for Pentax is limited otherwise, but if you're fine with manual focus I wouldn't overlook Samyang lenses such as the 24mm F1.4, 35mm F1.4, 16mm F2, etc.

I wouldn't consider the K-x or K-7 as they aren't nearly as big of an improvement over what you already have.

Adam
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09-20-2015, 02:48 PM   #3
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Welcome to the forum, wow... that Adam's fast off the mark with a reply.

+1 what he said.
09-22-2015, 12:49 AM   #4
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Thanks for the input, Adam and confirmation, Kerrowdown. I think I will see what the holiday shopping sales do to prices of the K-50 and even K-S2 as I am not in a particular hurry. I will also see if any killer deals show up on a used K-30 in the marketplace. I was considering a used K-5 I found last night for $250 but I think I want a smaller body with some more "idot" settings for instances where I just want to be able to pick up and shoot without thinking.

09-22-2015, 01:10 AM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by shalerosen Quote
Thanks for the input, Adam and confirmation, Kerrowdown. I think I will see what the holiday shopping sales do to prices of the K-50 and even K-S2 as I am not in a particular hurry. I will also see if any killer deals show up on a used K-30 in the marketplace. I was considering a used K-5 I found last night for $250 but I think I want a smaller body with some more "idot" settings for instances where I just want to be able to pick up and shoot without thinking.
I would expect the K-S2 to go considerably lower in the coming months. The K-50 has pretty much already hit rock-bottom, though- at nearly a third of its original price.

Adam
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09-23-2015, 06:47 AM   #6
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Bonjour from France and welcome to PF !

Hope to see some images soon. Salut, J
12-13-2015, 10:15 PM   #7
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Well, I went for the Samy's deal of a new K-50 kit plus flash for $250 after rebate. I was ready to jump on the less expensive K-S1 but waited too long and they were sold out by the time I had convinced myself to purchase it. But I think it ended up for the best. The K-50 arrived yesterday and so far I am really liking it, particularly the TAV mode with front and back control wheels to simultaneously control aperture and exposure. And I also now have a fully weather sealed kit with the included 18-55mm AL WR lens.

The K-50 doesn't feel as solid as my K200 and I miss the rubber patch for my right thumb, but it is perceptively lighter and smaller and the low light performance and autofocus seem to be vastly improved. I also picked up a Sigma 105mm 1:2.8 EX macro when KEH was doing a big sale around Black Friday and I really like how it is performing as a portrait lens. I didn't realize how much having the limited DOF at f/ 2.8 and 3.2 would draw focus to my subjects. It is also a lot easier to get candid shots of my 2-year old at the distances required by the 105 mm focal length. Using my 40 mm 1:2.8 (Limited pancake) or zoomed out with my 18-250 I am just too close and he starts focusing on me or clawing at the camera to see himself.

Thanks again for the recommendations, I hope my father will enjoy my old K200 as an update from his K1000!
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