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07-25-2014, 02:20 AM   #1
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Upgrading from Canon 350D (RebelXT) - Advice needed

Hi guys, need your help here.

I am beginner photographer, many years ago I purchased a 350D (well, I should say a Rebel XT as I bought it in USA). Never used it too much and never learnt how to really enjoy it, due to lack of time (two young children taking all of it..LOL).
Anyway, now I have some more time to improve my skills and actually this Fall I wanna take also a photography course.

When wanting to upgrade, the first thought was to upgrade to a 700D, in that case I could use the lenses I have. But.. those lenses are not really the best ones...18-55 kit and 28-200 Sigma not really impressive.
After reading a lot of stuff, especially on Dpreview I am not really convinced about 700D, which seems not worth the money. On the other hand, I have read only enthusiastic reviews of Pentax, whatever DSLR. I digged into that a bit more, I found this forum and then I started looking for models, prices, etc.
I am going to sell the 350D on Ebay and get a new Pentax.

So, here is the doubt. Given my skills I am convinced that a K30 or K50 are perfect machines for me, their features are far above my capabilities to exploit them. But...I am thinking also: when making an upgrade which is going to be a final one for at least 6-9 years, why do not invest (spend) more and get a bit higher end product like the K5ii? The point is that the K5 right now is "overengineered" for me, but given my goal to improve it can become a perfect fit within a short time.
But still I am confused. When I look at the machines performances, I am stunned by the K30/K50 at high ISO.
Please see below link to see what I mean:

Studio shot comparison: Digital Photography Review

Many of my pics will be taken in low light, so I want to have a good high ISO performance. I do not care about videos.

So guys, what is your opinion?

Thanks much

07-25-2014, 04:28 AM   #2
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Good Morning and Welcome to the Forum!!

You found your way here - Congratulations! I started out in digital with the Pentax K100D going on 10 years ago. It still is a good camera, but I now primarily use the K5. Bodies depreciate pretty fast, due to advances in technology. Lens are where the investment is made. With that said, both the K30/50 and the K5II/IIs are both based on the K5 and its Sony sensor. There was a fork in the branch based on technology.
  • K30/50 - received an updated image processor that provided the capability for focus peaking - i.e., it shows where the focus is and highlights that area on the rear monitor.
  • K5II/IIs - is the K5 with enhanced auto focusing in very low light and in the IIs model the anti ailiasing filter was removed. Since it was based on the K5, Pentax could not just replace the image processor - so it did not receive the improvements that went into the K30/50 (all of the improvements were brought together in the K3).
Just because the K5II/IIs can focus in near darkness, does not mean that you can get a good image - need to hold the camera still (tripod?), use a flash, etc. Also, as you increase the ISO you will be capturing additional noise. There are ways to help reduce it - noise reduction through dark frame subtraction (DFS) (take a 30 second image, and it takes an additional 30 seconds to do the DFS). You can also take multiple frames and stack them.

The bottom line is that 3 years from now, technology will have advanced that you may want another more capable body regardless of what you acquire today. So, why invest more money in a body? Compare and contrast that with lenses. I use an array of lenses - the oldest is 50 years old. It is still going strong. Yes, the new lenses are engineered and optimized with the latest coatings, etc. This Auto Tak 85/f1.8 still takes excellent images.

Where I am going with all of this is - the K30/50 is just fine (and in some ways a more advanced body than the K5IIs). It will last for years and take wonderful pictures. To take the pictures the light needs to pass through the lens, and the lens will be able to move from body to body - thus a better, longer lasting "investment". So - buy a cheaper body and a better lens is the philosophy.

I took this a month ago. Pitch dark - dead of night, no moon - could not see your hand in front of your face. Three year old K5 at ISO 51200 @ 6 seconds - very little post processing - no DFS - manual focusing. Note - the reason for the image was to see what the camera was pointing at, see if I was in focus, what the framing was, and if I was level. It was a test shot - a throw away.



There is more here if you are interested....

Last edited by interested_observer; 07-25-2014 at 04:44 AM.
07-25-2014, 04:40 AM   #3
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Any one you decide to buy out of what you have mentioned will serve you well. I started with a k50 and within a few months picked up the K5 lls when the prices dropped and decided to sell my K50 after getting to know the K5 lls better. If your going to purchase a K5 ll I would recommend the K5 lls since it doesn't have an anti alias filter and it will render slightly sharper images, of course your choice of lenses will determine how much of a difference. The downside is without having the filter it may produce moire in some circumstances of which I haven't had that problem with mine to date. If you use your link and select the K5 lls and move the box to other various areas such as the ladies eyes you will see the slight difference in sharpness, per that sites examples. The playing card is a poor example. The noise reduction for jpegs for the Pentax camera models you selected can be customized individually by ISO so IMO that difference is negligible. The K5 ll series have a slightly greater dynamic range the k30/k50, all of these do well in low light.

to address your comment about being "over-engineered" and not really understanding what you mean by that I can only address this on the presumption your thinking that due to the difference in buttons and layout. The K5 series has a more professional button layout, they save time from having to go to the menu when making some more often used quick changes such as changing ones metering from matrix to center weighted or spot or by having separate buttons for back button AF & AEL instead of having to select the ability to use either one losing losing the other one of the features in the process.

Even though my K50 was a fine camera and produced fine photos there were some things I didn't care for. The shutter noise was a bit much for my tastes as well as the noise produced when utilizing the dust reduction feature. Along with needing to go to the menu or info button to make changes I was used to doing via buttons on my previous system, plus I really like having the top LCD. What I gave up was focus peaking, which never really mattered to me since manual focusing the 100% pentaprism viewfinder is good enough for me or being able to use Live View with zoom as the method I have gotten used to dialing in manual focus for years, while on a tripod, so I didn't consider that as a determining factor for me. Another give up was a slightly upgraded Jpeg rendering engine in the K30/50 but I shoot mostly raw so that didn't matter to me either as I gained more bit depth and slightly sharper imagery.

Good luck with your decision and happy shooting with your choice of camera.

Last edited by Oldbayrunner; 07-25-2014 at 05:01 AM.
07-25-2014, 04:51 AM   #4
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Well, thanks so far. Actually I second interested_observer statement about investing on lenses rather than on body. It's a very good "long-term" point I did not think of.

@oldbayrunner well, over-engineered is actually not the right word, I wanted to mean kinda over-featured/over-performing for my poor skills....Sorry, English is not my native language

07-25-2014, 05:17 AM   #5
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Assuming your aging Rebel still functions properly, you could always keep using it as you spend the next few months learning more about photography as you planned, including taking the course you've mentioned. The more you know, the better equipped you'll be to decide which way you should go. Whatever new skills/techniques/tricks you learn with the Rebel will transfer to a new camera for free.

When you do eventually upgrade, I'd also probably not bother selling the Rebel since it's resale value is pretty low at this point. It would be more worth it to me to keep it as a backup, or as a 'danger camera' if I plan to do something stupid, or give it away to a young relative interested in taking up the hobby
07-25-2014, 06:30 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by NuclearWinter Quote
Well, thanks so far. Actually I second interested_observer statement about investing on lenses rather than on body. It's a very good "long-term" point I did not think of.

@oldbayrunner well, over-engineered is actually not the right word, I wanted to mean kinda over-featured/over-performing for my poor skills....Sorry, English is not my native language
The K5 ll/lls has basically the same fundamental features as the K30/K50 with the difference being how you utilize/access a few of them with some additional that can come in very handy on down the road, such as true mirror lock up instead of only with using a 2 sec timer and be able to select from 3- 5 shot Bracketing vs 3 to name a couple. I learned this with my last system when I upgraded from an intermediate to their professional model. I changed to Pentax with what I consider to be a wonderful intermediate camera to begin with thinking it would suffice but I truly missed the similar button/ advanced features & top lcd convenience I had with my other system and am happier now. Although having more Dynamic range and High ISO shooting ability is great and have become an essential factor in today's digital photography there are other convenient camera features usually not mentioned often when suggesting a camera that can enhance ones photography over one model to another. What you may consider too advanced for you now may become a blessing to have later. Don't get me wrong the K30/K50 are great cameras you would do well with either, In the end It's just a matter of what features in a body one wants have and to get used to and I suggest looking at the big picture and what you overall want to grow into.

Last edited by Oldbayrunner; 07-25-2014 at 06:41 AM.
07-25-2014, 08:04 AM   #7
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I consider myself an advanced amateur photographer. When I decided to jump into DSLR cameras I chose Pentax for a host of reasons even though I had some very nice Nikon lens from my film days. I bought a K5IIs and do not regret it one single bit. I bought my wife a K-30, and it is a great camera. I really do feel I could be happy with that choice as my own to. The one feature the K5 has over the K-30 that I would really miss, and that I would gladly pay extra for is the Top LCD screen. I use mine all the time on the K5IIs to check settings as it is easier and more native to me to glance at the top of the camera, and I can leave the rear screen off to save power. Not to mention the K5 feels a little more solid in the hand due to metal construction.

You won't be sorry with either one, but if price is even remotely close, why not go for the K5IIs?
07-25-2014, 09:51 AM   #8
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Pentax has added so much to the mid-level cameras that it is hard to pick out the reasons to get the upper level model. When you find the differences, they can be arcane technical details, like 14 bit RAW vs. 12 bit. Then you have to wonder if those differences will ever matter. In my case, I had no idea but I bought the upper level model anyway. I used it a lot and constantly tried new things. Now I know what all those features do and I'm happy to have them. I think it also helps to extend the life of the camera. My K-7 has five year old technology and the new cameras are much better in some respects, but I still enjoy using it and still plan to keep it for another year.

07-25-2014, 10:40 AM   #9
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Lenses are forever. (At least if you shoot Pentax. Other brands may vary!) Camera bodies are useful because they allow the lens to send the image to something you can view later. I started with a Pentax in 1961 and am still using them. My DSLR is a K10d, and the images I take with it are just fine. I do lust over the K-3, but I don't honestly know if I will ever buy one. My camera bodies, complete list, are an Original Asahi Pentax, a Pentax KX (film), a Pentax SF-1 (for the winder, not the AF), a Pentax MZ-S (replaces the SF-1 that She Who Must Be Obeyed co-opted while I was working out of country) and the K10d. That is six camera bodies over a period of 53 years.

I currently use 6 lenses in my take everything kit and the DA lenses are my light kit. I have two M lenses (400 and 100 macro) and three DA lenses (12-24, 16-50, 55-300) and one FA lens (24-90). The sixth lens is my Takumar 55/1.8 with a screw mount adapter. I also have the AFA 1.7x AF adapter that Pentax provided for sale when the SF-1 came out so that the manual focus 55/1.8 became an 82.5/3.2 with AF.

Please note that the lenses have hung around for a very long time. The camera bodies are changed like my jeans, when they wear out. The less expensive bodies will get you going. As with the rest of the posters, my advice is to go less expensive on the body and get the best lenses you can afford.
07-25-2014, 11:39 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by NuclearWinter Quote

when making an upgrade which is going to be a final one for at least 6-9 years...
Probably not likely for the body. Possible for lenses, though.
07-25-2014, 12:02 PM   #11
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Why not for the body? I bought mine in 2007. It still takes good images.
07-25-2014, 01:54 PM   #12
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As someone who was once a total beginner and has gone through college-level photography courses) I understand your concerns regarding getting a camera with which you can grow into as your talents improve. The key with the body is that the better bodies give the user more control over more aspects of the picture-taking process. And by doing so, it allows you to take pictures easier, the way you want to in more difficult and varied situations. Once you understand exposure, shutter speeds, aperture and other technical stuff about photography, I think you'll come to realize that there are just a few features that you'll use on a regular basis.

I think these features, in no specific order, are for the most part the most important features that you should be looking for:

1. Manual settings in 1/3 stop increments. Sometimes shooting in snow, for example, overexposing the value of the snow by 1.5 stops can be too little while +2 stops over can be too much and you end up blowing out your highlights. For me, since I learned how to expose while using slide film where you had to be within 1/3 of a stop, I think having this kind of control is very important in many, but not all, situations.

2. Spot metering. I wouldn't buy a camera without it. Being able to meter the highlight off a small area of the frame (e.g. child's cheek at normal shooting distances) is invaluable. Multi-point is fine for when you don't want to think or the lighting is changing very sporadically such as on partly cloudy days where the sun is popping in out from behind the clouds.

3. Flash sync speed of 1/250 sec. When shooting in doors, having a high flash sync speed is not terribly important. However, when trying to balance the flash output with daylight, then not having 1/250th sync speed can be a real problem for those who regularly shoot outdoors with flash.

4. 100% of the captured area viewable in the viewfinder. This is more on the nit-pickity side, but I paid a lot for those mega pixels, and quite frankly I don't want to waste them by not being able to see that there's a street light in the corner of the frame. Being able to 100% of what the sensor sees is important to me now.

5. Mirror lockup - to get the most out of any camera, being able to lock up the mirror is important and will provide sharper pictures. This isn't an absolute must have, but it's important enough to me to be on this list.

6. Anti-shake systems are awesome and will free you up to take more pictures.

7. RAW mode most every DSLR can shoot RAW these days. I wouldn't buy a camera that didn't shoot RAW.

8. Interchangeable focusing screens. I changed mine to one that has a grid which helps with leveling the shot. Not a game stopper, but a very nice feature to have.

9. ISO that goes up to 6400 is probably a minimum number to shoot for. But make sure that it's a usable 6400, otherwise what's the point of it? A lot of cameras have ISO 112,000, but the image quality is unusable.

10. Color bit depth of at least 12-bits. JPEGs are 8-bit files (2 to the 8th power = 256) while a 12-bit camera (2 to the 12th power) will produce 4,096 shades from pure black to pure white per RBG channel. Having 12+ bits provides for far better tonal and dynamic range. You'll be able to bring up/down shadows and highlights to a much higher degree. I personally would avoid a camera that had a bit-depth less than 12.
07-25-2014, 03:09 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Canada_Rockies Quote
Why not for the body? I bought mine in 2007. It still takes good images.
People like to upgrade every few years :-)
07-25-2014, 04:16 PM - 1 Like   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by SpecialK Quote
People like to upgrade every few years :-)
Some of us have no money to do that. Given a lottery win (unlikely because I don't buy tickets ) I would snap up a DA 560 and K-3. There are some shots on this thread taken with that combination that are absolutely stunning, stunning because of the photographer, and not compromised by the equipment. Meanwhile, I get some really quite nice images using a K10d + M 400/5.6, sometimes with the AFA 1.7X.
07-25-2014, 04:39 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Canada_Rockies Quote
Some of us have no money to do that. Given a lottery win (unlikely because I don't buy tickets ) I would snap up a DA 560 and K-3. There are some shots on this thread taken with that combination that are absolutely stunning, stunning because of the photographer, and not compromised by the equipment. Meanwhile, I get some really quite nice images using a K10d + M 400/5.6, sometimes with the AFA 1.7X.
We all know it can be done. Some people shoot with all sorts of stuff. Even manual.
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