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12-08-2010, 01:01 PM   #1
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Have $1,000. What to buy?

Hello all. I am looking to purchase a new camera and lens(es), and need your advice. Most of my shooting will be in fairly poor lighting, often of moving subjects. I don't necessarily need a lens with high zoom, but would make use of it every once in a while.

I purchased a K-x w/ kit 18-55mm lens last week, but returned it because I didn't like the results. In any environment, pictures lacked sharpness and detail, even when shooting stationary subjects and using a tripod. (Even outdoors with great natural light.) Pictures of stationary people in decent lighting lacked detail, with or without flash. The only shots that consistently turned out okay were close-up / macro shots of stationary objects using a tripod.

Overall, the results were consistently poor, regardless of whether I used Auto, Shutter Priority, etc., and regardless of whether I went high ISO/fast shutter, low ISO/slow shutter, etc. Even in ideal conditions, the results tended to be worse than what I would used to get from my old Canon Powershot SD1000 P&S.

I think something may have been wrong with the autofocus system, but I'm not exactly sure. Regardless, I'm reluctant to purchase another K-x.

Anyway, I have a budget of $1,000 want to get the most bang for my buck. I am leaning towards a K-r, but am not entirely sure which lens(es) I should consider. Is the stock 18-55 lens decent, or would it be better to just buy the body and go with a different lens? Any thoughts would be helpful. I think I would prefer an all-purpose lens to two less versatile lenses, but am open to going either route. I am also open to buying a non-Pentax camera if it would better suit my needs.

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

12-08-2010, 01:34 PM   #2
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The K-r will deliver IQ similar to that of the K-x (with slight improvements to AF and high-iso performance), so it really sounds like you're looking for a K-5.

While the K-5 is currently out of your budget, it might be worth it to wait it out and go with it and the 55-300mm lens.

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12-08-2010, 01:40 PM   #3
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A P&S doesn't require any skill. A dslr does.

And claiming that your Powershot gave you better results than the K-x is proof of that.

That's simply not possible for any range of subjects, using the K-x properly.

Can you post some of your Canon shots for us to get a frame of reference here?
12-08-2010, 01:44 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
The K-r will deliver IQ similar to that of the K-x (with slight improvements to AF and high-iso performance), so it really sounds like you're looking for a K-5.

While the K-5 is currently out of your budget, it might be worth it to wait it out and go with it and the 55-300mm lens.
I would grab a K-5 in an instant if it were within my budget.

12-08-2010, 03:43 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ira Quote
A P&S doesn't require any skill. A dslr does.

And claiming that your Powershot gave you better results than the K-x is proof of that.

That's simply not possible for any range of subjects, using the K-x properly.

Can you post some of your Canon shots for us to get a frame of reference here?
You make a lot of assumptions here and come off a bit rude. If that's intentional, it's not a nice way to welcome a new member to the forums, in my opinion.

As I stated before, I think my K-x was defective. Here's why:

While it certainly takes more skill to utilize a DSLR's advanced functions and manual options than to use a P&S, I don't see much reason why a properly-held K-x in Auto mode would produce shots inferior in detail to those taken with a properly-held $150 P&S in an identical "easy" scenario. (By "easy" I mean, for example, an outdoor shot with a naturally-high shutter speed or an indoor shot of a stationary, seated person about two feet away, with or without flash.) Nor do I see why there would be a lack of detail even when using a tripod, with the K-x indicating proper exposure.

Over the few days I had my K-x, I took almost 1,000 shots. I took many a series of 8-10 shots of the same subject, from the exact same position, with varying ISO, aperture, and shutter speeds, in an attempt to isolate and/or rectify the problem. I used various modes, including manual, shutter priority, sensitivity priority, etc., and wasn't happy with the results. Even if I made rookie mistakes in manual mode, that doesn't explain why I got bad results when, for example, switching to sensitivity priority mode and setting the ISO to 1600 or 3200 (in a room with imperfect but not awful lighting) as the camera itself is then supposed to adjust the aperture and shutter speed accordingly. I did not take any shots when the camera displayed any of the settings in red or flashing (can't remember which way the camera communicated it) to indicate inadequate light. Keep in mind, the results were typically unfavorable even when using a tripod, turning off the in-camera IS, and using slow shutter speeds on stationary objects five feet away. How much room for error is there in such a setup? A stationary object five-feet away in decent light -- or in poor but manageable light, with an adequate reduction in shutter speed -- should be fairly detailed and sharp with just about any camera when using a tripod. Keep in mind, my pictures weren't coming out too dark - just too blurry/un-detailed.

What I was trying to do wasn't all that advanced. I took similar shots in the same manner using my significant other's Panasonic FZ35 and its corresponding manual and manual-esque modes a little while back, and got overall sharper, better results. I attached an unedited 100% crop JPG example to give you an idea of the level of detail was accustomed to getting from a P&S prior to buying the K-x. Imperfect as that picture is, very few of the shots from my K-x were even that detailed. (It would take me some time to get the old Canon shots, as they're on my old laptop, which is currently in one of the many moving boxes I have yet to go through.)

Perhaps my K-x wasn't metering or wasn't focusing properly. I don't know. What I do know is that with my K-x, shots in which the subject was over 3 feet away tended to be the most problematic; close-ups tended to be fairly detailed. I'm fairly new to DSLRs, but I'm fairly confident I went into this with more experience adjusting sensitivity, shutter speed, and aperture settings than the average newbie. I read lots of K-x reviews by novices who had never even messed around with any manual controls or bulky cameras prior to purchasing the K-x, and they seemed overwhelmingly happy with the shots taken with the K-x right out of the box. To me, that suggests a potential problem with my particular K-x.

On a potentially-related sidenote, when I got the K-x -- which I ordered "new" by the way, I noticed that the user manual was a bit crinkled in the corner and some of the items in the box seemed sloppily wrapped. In addition, the first shot I took was number 371 for the camera according to PhotoME. Perhaps I was given a returned unit.

Back to the topic at hand, does anyone else have any suggestions for my next camera purchase?
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12-08-2010, 03:56 PM   #6
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If you think you had a defective K-x then go ahead and try the K-r (depending on how forgiving your local camera pusher is). I would suggest however not getting the 18-55 kit lens but something a little better like the DA17-70. You may be able to get a K-r body and that lens (or a different lens like the Tamron 17-50 f2.8) in your price range.

Could also be you had a defective lens and there was nothing wrong with the camera. That would actually be my bet considering that you say you could get good results close up but not at distance. Even the shitty 18-55 is capable of Decent photos at a distance..

1A_Compare 28 to kit lens - a set on Flickr

It's certainly worth the few extra $$ it costs to get it with the camera.

12-08-2010, 04:17 PM   #7
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A Pentax k-r would seem like a good choice with the budget you have in mind. Also, a Tamron 18-50mm 1:2.8 would be worth checking out for indoor shots (low-light); I've been quite happy with that and the k-x for that sort of thing.
12-08-2010, 04:29 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by vegenigma Quote
Hello all. I am looking to purchase a new camera and lens(es), and need your advice. Most of my shooting will be in fairly poor lighting, often of moving subjects. I don't necessarily need a lens with high zoom, but would make use of it every once in a while.

I purchased a K-x w/ kit 18-55mm lens last week, but returned it because I didn't like the results. In any environment, pictures lacked sharpness and detail, even when shooting stationary subjects and using a tripod. (Even outdoors with great natural light.) Pictures of stationary people in decent lighting lacked detail, with or without flash. The only shots that consistently turned out okay were close-up / macro shots of stationary objects using a tripod.

Overall, the results were consistently poor, regardless of whether I used Auto, Shutter Priority, etc., and regardless of whether I went high ISO/fast shutter, low ISO/slow shutter, etc. Even in ideal conditions, the results tended to be worse than what I would used to get from my old Canon Powershot SD1000 P&S.

I think something may have been wrong with the autofocus system, but I'm not exactly sure. Regardless, I'm reluctant to purchase another K-x.

Anyway, I have a budget of $1,000 want to get the most bang for my buck. I am leaning towards a K-r, but am not entirely sure which lens(es) I should consider. Is the stock 18-55 lens decent, or would it be better to just buy the body and go with a different lens? Any thoughts would be helpful. I think I would prefer an all-purpose lens to two less versatile lenses, but am open to going either route. I am also open to buying a non-Pentax camera if it would better suit my needs.

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!
It is very possible that you had a defective Kx but 300 photos at initial usage is not uncommon. It might be a tad high but the manufacturer does testing on all cameras before they leave the factory. I believe my camera had high 200 actuations but cannot remember the exact #.

With that said I understand your hesitation on buying another Kx but please do not take your first experience as your final one. Many on here can attest to the superb IQ of the Kx. If I can later I will try to post some photos I took with my Kx that had some of the best IQ I have seen in any camera < $1000. I am not telling you to go buy another Kx but I am telling you to consider it. The Kx is known for its high ISO capabilities that rival cameras 2-4x its price and others on here can attest to that also. Like Adam said, the Kr will have very similar IQ to the Kx so if you did in fact get a normal working copy of the Kx then you will not like the Kr either. I would suggest, if it is possible, to go into a store that has the Kx and Kr and use both. If not try to post some pics taken with your Kx and maybe we can determine if you got a bad copy or not.

12-08-2010, 04:33 PM   #9
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Clearly there was a problem with your first purchase. It could be you, the camera or the lens. The lens is not perfect but the idea is, it works well enough out of the box to make almost everyone happy. My suggestion is to purchase another similar kit, either K-r or K-x with kit lens, and look for better results. If that doesn't work, the problem may be something you're doing. If you try to step up to better cameras or lenses without eliminating you as the problem, you may just waste a lot of money.

Rude or not, as Ira mentioned, you're going to have to add some skill to get the best out of the camera, particularily under these conditions:

QuoteOriginally posted by vegenigma Quote
...Most of my shooting will be in fairly poor lighting, often of moving subjects.
Many beginners are frustrated by those exact circumstances.
12-08-2010, 04:49 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by vegenigma Quote

I think something may have been wrong with the autofocus system, but I'm not exactly sure. Regardless, I'm reluctant to purchase another K-x.
I was just trying to cut to the chaste, because not only aren't you sure that something is wrong with your autofocus, but you're willing to dismiss the K-x regardless.

Plus, if it ISN'T the autofocus, going to the K-r or K-5 sure ain't gonna make any difference. The right move would be to exchange the camera if you have this suspicion, look at your results, and see if it's the camera at fault--or you. For example, did you shoot using the different focus point configurations available to you in the menu--and did you use the right one for what you were actually POINTING at?

Otherwise, you're just guessing.

By the way:

All of the newer Pentaxes--the K-x included--offer something called "Manual Focus," which gives you the same auto focus beep and LED confirmation that the autofocus uses to lock in. So if you had tried shooting in M mode and the pictures were out of focus even with focus confirmation, that knowledge brings you closer to the truth of your situation.

In addition, Shake Reduction isn't active until you see the Green Hand, and if you pull the trigger before that, again--blurry shots.

There's a lot to this, and moving from a K-x to a K-r or even a K-5 isn't going to necessarily fix focus, or other, problems.

What's more, the fact that you mentioned that all of your ISO/shutter speed combinations resulted in the same out-of-focus pictures also throws up a red flag. None of this has to do with proper focus, unless you're shooting at an unacceptably low shutter speed, which you said you didn't.

I could have spent more time writing in my original post and came across warmer, which I often do. But sometimes, that's not the best plan of action, and it's just better to tell it like it is.

Having shot with a K-x for more than a year, I can detect a faulty camera. Since this is your first DSLR, simply stated, at this point in time, you can't.

Last edited by Ira; 12-08-2010 at 04:58 PM.
12-08-2010, 05:03 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by JeffJS Quote
If you think you had a defective K-x then go ahead and try the K-r (depending on how forgiving your local camera pusher is). I would suggest however not getting the 18-55 kit lens but something a little better like the DA17-70. You may be able to get a K-r body and that lens (or a different lens like the Tamron 17-50 f2.8) in your price range.

Could also be you had a defective lens and there was nothing wrong with the camera. That would actually be my bet considering that you say you could get good results close up but not at distance. Even the shitty 18-55 is capable of Decent photos at a distance..

1A_Compare 28 to kit lens - a set on Flickr

It's certainly worth the few extra $$ it costs to get it with the camera.


Thanks! I will look into prices for those lenses.
12-08-2010, 05:15 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by KxBlaze Quote
With that said I understand your hesitation on buying another Kx but please do not take your first experience as your final one. Many on here can attest to the superb IQ of the Kx.
I understand. I had been torn between the K-x and K-r when I made my purchase, and still am. I like the prospect of having a better LCD, faster burst rate, and an AF location indicator, but I'm not sure how much monetary value I assign to those things. I purchased my K-x from Amazon and want to make my next purchase from Amazon if possible because I have some gift credit and an Amazon Prime membership for free two-day shipping. However, given the curious condition in which the first one arrived, I am a bit hesitant to order the same item from the same seller.

QuoteOriginally posted by KxBlaze Quote
The Kx is known for its high ISO capabilities that rival cameras 2-4x its price and others on here can attest to that also.
One of the main reasons I bought it, in addition to the attractive price

QuoteOriginally posted by KxBlaze Quote
Like Adam said, the Kr will have very similar IQ to the Kx so if you did in fact get I would suggest, if it is possible, to go into a store that has the Kx and Kr and use both.
Good idea. I will plan on doing that this weekend, assuming work doesn't get in the way.
12-08-2010, 05:32 PM   #13
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12-08-2010, 05:39 PM   #14
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Just buy another KX, there's nothing wrong with the camera, quite frankly. It's light years ahead of your P&S.

Unfortunately you expected the world out of the kit lens, which is your problem. The best camera body in the world will still take crap pictures with a crap lens, and an old body will take amazing photos with a great lens. The glass matters.

Now you are likely not used to this idea because you have not been buying lenses separately from bodies, so it's really no fault of your own. However there are two things you are going to need to consider:

1) Low light shooting is hard, for a lot of people. You cant just use any shutter speed you want, because even with image stabilization, people, objects and animals move around. A large amount of movement and a long shutter speed can create trails, which is cool. But a TINY amount of movement just creates softness, which never looks good.

2) Bumping the ISO works wonders, but it will make your images soft at 100%. This is just a fact of life.

There are two culprits here: 1) the kit lens is mighty slow (often above f4), and 2) you don't want to use a flash.

Guess what, you need to use a flash.

Even with an ultra fast lens (a 50mm 1.4, as fast as it will ever get) for example, your DOF will be barely existent, which will lead to a soft image, ESPECIALLY if your subject is moving. The sweet spot IMHO is f2.8.

But if you are trying to capture action, your overall flexability at f2.8 and high ISO is going to be very hit or miss. It has little to do with autofocus, it's just physics. You really need a flash so you can lower your iso and stop down your lens.

For 1000:

Buy a KX body only, and a Tameron 17-50 2.8, or the 28-70 2.8, which is supposed to be a brighter lens. They are good, fast, and only run you about 500, which is a very good deal for a fast lens.

Welcome to the sinkhole that is lens buying... it's addictive!
12-08-2010, 05:59 PM   #15
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A K-x with a bunch of awesome lenses > A K-r with a few semi-good tolerable lenses

imo
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