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02-13-2015, 10:03 PM   #1
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Improving image quality

I understand that it is generally more important to invest in lenses than bodies. Lenses hold their value because of not becoming outdated nearly as quickly. However I also know that a newer body has a higher resolution, better af, etc... When does it become advantages to upgrade a body... For example would you prefer a K10 with an awesome lens 16-50 2.8 for example or a k3 with a basic lens like an 18-55 kit lens? I ask because while I understand that lenses are more important, the body makes some difference. I have seen suggestions for people to upgrade their body for example even though their lenses aren't great... For example a guy had an ist and was recommended to get a newer body just because bodies have advanced so much. So in that situation keeping a kit lens and getting a better body was probably better... Where would you personally draw the line?

02-13-2015, 10:11 PM   #2
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Yes to both.
It's a choice everyone can make when the point arrives that they need to consider one or the other.
I don't think there are any rules about it.
02-13-2015, 10:25 PM   #3
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- Pentax DSLRs earlier than K100D Super/K10D (e.g. *ist, K100D, K110D) don't support SDM/HSM, so anyone wanting to use one of those lenses would do well to upgrade.
- Low light capability has improved a lot over the years. The ISO range of the K100D Super was 200-3200, but (from memory) it wasn't great above 800, whereas I can get satisfactory results at 6400 ISO with the K-30 (the range theoretically goes to 12800).
- More recent cameras tend to have better AF performance, including more powerful drives. People report big improvements going to the K-3, even from cameras like the K-5.
- Video capability came late, and is still improving.
- The value of various other features will depend on the preferences of the particular user. Anyone weighing this up would do well to use the comparison tool as a start: www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-cameras-compared/ You can see obvious things like ISO range, frame rates etc, but it is worth reading further, because there are often small things that won't necessarilyt be listed that make a big difference to usability. For example, my K100DS wouldn't retain "autobracketing on", so I had to set it every time I turned on the camera. It didn't have lens AF adjustment. Raw photos were PEF only. Neither Silkypix that came with the K-30 nor DxO Optics Pro will recognise raw files from the K100DS. No green button. Many settings required delving into menus. And so on.
- The big question for many people is how much gain is offered by a more advanced sensor? There is a constant debate about this. Of course it depends a lot on what you want to do with your photos. If you crop a lot (e.g. shooting birds/wildlife, where no lens seems too long!) there is an advantage in starting with more megapixels (e.g. 24mp in K-3). I found that aspect a signficant gain in moving from 6mp K100D Super to 16mp K-30. As fine a camera as the K100DS was (I got thousands of wonderful shots with it), that's an upgrade I would recommend to anyone who can afford it - and given the affordability of 16mp cameras like K-5ii or K-30/K-50 now the cost is modest. Others can comment on whether say 12mp or 14mp to 16mp, or 16mp to 24mp, is worthwhile.

Last edited by Des; 02-14-2015 at 06:07 PM.
02-13-2015, 10:31 PM   #4
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Good glass is always good glass. So that decision is easy.

The camera body is harder. Look at the technology of the existing body compared to the technology on the current body. How wide is the spread? Will the increase in pixels, speed, AF and so on make a difference to your photographer? No one can answer that but you. What is the intended use of the image? Do you need 24MP or is 12 OK? Will the better AF in the k-3 help with what you shoot?

I think it is still glass first. If all I had was the 18-55 and budget for only a better lens or a new body I would go better lens. But k10d is getting quite a few generations old, k-5 body, even k-7 I would say glass. Older than that, I'm not so sure maybe the body.

02-13-2015, 11:06 PM - 1 Like   #5
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In terms of image quality, good glass often trumps a good body. However, there's a point where the capabilities of the body will hold you back, so think of it as a balancing act. If you're still shooting with a K10D or older, I'd recommend upgrading the camera.

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02-14-2015, 12:39 AM   #6
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Both camera and the lens contribute to image quality. In short, better camera body will take usable pictures in more conditions - bigger difference in highlight and shadow, less light (less noise present), or faster moving objects. Better lens will have better image quality in conditions in which camera is adequate, this will include sharpness, contrast, color saturation and bokeh.

When you decide what to upgrade, you have to decide what bothers you in your pictures. Is it noise, and blown highlights? Then buy a body.
Is it sharpness, or too large depth of field? Then buy a new lens.

Let me add, another hugely important factor is post-processing.
02-14-2015, 02:48 AM   #7
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I was using a K7. The high ISO performance was poor and the dynamic range wasn't wonderful. Using a K5ii now and both are substantially better. If I didn't do the sort of photography they made a difference to, getting the new body wouldn't have improved the IQ.


Found that I was encountering artefacts in images from the 55-300 lens, took a gulp and got a 60-250 and a few test shots the day it arrived showed how much better the IQ was.

Of course the artistic merit is a completely different matter. I have some lovely images taken with my Canon A70. And wonderful though the 60-250 is, it's a beast to carry up hills for example.
02-14-2015, 06:21 AM - 1 Like   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by soycory Quote
When does it become advantages to upgrade a body
I will echo what other posters have said, but I will point out that much will depend on which specific older body you are upgrading from, and which features you use. Some newer features can greatly improved your shooting experience, though they may not improve image quality directly.

In my own case, about 2 years ago, I upgraded from a K200D to a K30. Both are mid-range bodies, and they both cost me about the same amount of money.

What 'gains' have I noticed in going from the K200D to the K30 ?
- higher resolution
- better low light performance
- better autofocus ( not sure - I don't push AF to the limits )
- larger image buffer and faster write speed
- 2 control wheels
- better viewfinder
- TAv mode

What does the K200D offer that the K30 doesn't?
- top LCD display
- better DOF preview implementation

Note that for most of those differences, only the first 2 have any direct impact on the actual image, and depending on the kind of shooting you do, they may or may not have a big impact. The rest are "usability" factors, and of them, 2 of the big advantages of the K30 ( viewfinder and dual control wheels ) are available on the K10D, which is older than the K200D.

If you look at some of the older and/or lower tier models, you would find some bodies that don't include in-body SR, or that don't have WR. So it very much depends on the cameras you are comparing, and how important those various features are to you and the type of shooting you do.

If you ignore these "usability" features of the camera bodies, the quality of the glass becomes more important because it has a more direct impact on image quality.

For the kind of shooting I do, my K200D creates almost as good images as my K30, but in low light, it's no contest. However, all those other features, especially the better view finder and 2 control wheels, improve my shooting experience, and may indirectly result in me getting better images than I might get otherwise.

02-14-2015, 07:22 AM - 1 Like   #9
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I upgraded from the K-7 to the K-3. I still only have the 18-55 WR and the DA*50-135. My question before upgrading was much like what you are asking here.

What I decided was that the better sensor of the K-3, along with autofocus, would be worth the upgrade. Even if I upgraded the 18-55 to the 16-50, I would be wouldn't be gaining that much in terms of low light performance. According to DXO's tests, the K-3 at ISO 800 has almost the same dynamic range as the K-7 at ISO 100! I figured I could simply boost my ISO for both lenses in low light situations rather than sacrifice the same amount of money on a new lens. The K-7 + 50-135 produced some nice images as well, but 2.8 + ISO 400 for decent dynamic range just isn't the same as 2.8 + 3200.

The 18-55 barely delivers on the K-3. I've taken some good photographs with it, but it doesn't inspire the same way as the 50-135. I know it isn't living up to the potential of the K-3. I want microcontrast and character without having to head to post. Each shot from the 18-55 takes more work in post processing simply because it doesn't have the resolving power, contrast, and oomph that the 50-135 delivers at every focal length. Still, I can pull from shadows so much more information than I ever could on the K-7. It is sharper on the K-3 as well without the AA filter. So the results, although just delivering, are overall much much better than I ever could manage on the K-7.

Of course, it also doesn't hurt that the choice to upgrade a lens isn't so easy. I chose Pentax for their WR and price. The prices are a bit higher- no big deal- but I simply don't want to purchase any lens without WR at this stage. Pentax doesn't offer a WR wide angle prime, so it has to be a zoom for me.

The options are:

18-55 WR
20-40 Limited with variable aperture
16-50 AW 2.8 with an AF motor that is hit or miss
16-85 WR also variable aperture, but very few reviews so far. Could be an option, though not at 750ish euros.
then there is the "large aperture wide angle" zoom on the roadmap that I am eager to see...

I am wavering back and forth between the 20-40 and the 16-50. The size of the 20-40 is very appealing, as is the price (its a little cheaper than a new 16-50). I think I'd miss the 4 mm on the wide end as well as the constant 2.8- which, even if you aren't shooting at 2.8, you benefit from the brighter viewfinder. But my mind is far from made up. I'd love to be able to rent both lenses, but it isn't possible in Finland. And it would be a bit unfair to purchase one, try it for a month, then return it and buy the other. Either way I go, one lens would go from being "new" to being "used" for no good reason.

So I'll stick with my 18-55 for now. I'll continue playing to its strengths. I know that the K-3 is a fine camera- the results paired with the 50-135 attest to that. I don't see camera sensors adding another 3 stops of EV anytime soon, so my K-3 is safe from any thoughts of upgrading.

Hope that makes some sense...
02-14-2015, 07:23 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
In terms of image quality, good glass often trumps a good body. However, there's a point where the capabilities of the body will hold you back, so think of it as a balancing act. If you're still shooting with a K10D or older, I'd recommend upgrading the camera.
I think if you have a K-7 then it is worth it to get a K-5 II or the K-3 or perhaps the K-S2. I really like those Sony sensors.
02-14-2015, 08:10 AM - 1 Like   #11
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Depends on what you've currently got, how it's limiting you, and who you ask.

A year ago I moved from a k100d I'd had for 7 years to a k5iis. My k100d was starting to show it's age, buttons not totally responsive, a couple broken things on it, and the k5iis was recently discontinued so it seemed like a fine time to upgrade. The main advantages for me have been controls (more dials, customization, etc). Having an auto-focus worth a darn is also nice, but I'm still not used to it.

From an image quality standpoint, the extra stop or two of iso performance is great though I rarely went above iso400 or 800 on the k100d. I still try to keep it low but with the k5iis I don't mind 1600 or 3200 or even 6400 depending on what I'm doing with the image. I almost never crop- 6mp was generally enough for me (I probably need to start printing bigger), so I'm not fussy on the extra megapixels but they certainly don't hurt. The extra dynamic range of the newer sensors is pretty startling though.

My most used lenses at the time were a DFA100mm and an FA50/1.4. If I was still using the kit lenses and had the financial restriction between a k5iis or buying another used k100d as backup (~$125)+DFA100mm, I would have gone with the k100d+DFA100mm in a heartbeat. I also already had a modest but functional off camera lighting setup. If I didn't, that would also have been given priority over a new camera (or new lenses for that matter).
02-14-2015, 08:45 AM   #12
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I think of digital camera bodies as specialized computers (since that is what they are hah). I think a lot of older folks still see them as film bodies.. buy it and use it for decades. Which doesn't work too well in a digital world.

In that train of thought, perhaps it is better to upgrade when one needs more 'computing' power? One can skip generations of processors and still have a decent setup (I'm typing this on an 8 year old Athlon64 x2 system as an extreme), but once the system no longer meets your needs, its time to upgrade.

Actually, also with this in mind, it is way more cost effective to wait to buy camera bodies in that since the lenses don't seem to waver much in price, one can get those while waiting for the body to drop in price (which they will, dramatically). I suspect the K-3 will be 500-600 this year at BF. And K-5II around 350-400 used. Not bad for 2-3 year old camera technology that was 900-1200 when new.

You'll rarely see lens prices drop that drastically. Usually only when discontinued and they want to blow out stock quickly. Which is very rare.
02-14-2015, 09:30 AM   #13
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My body upgrade gap is 4.5 years: *ist DS in 2005, K-7 in 2010, K-5 IIs in 2014. I had to resist some new features until there were too many features to resist. New models at $1300 make that easy. I think a good rule is to use the heck out of any DSLR you have currently. It is probably not going to wear out before you want a new one.

Lenses last longer but you can spend a lot on quality that you don't use. Sure, a DA 100mm f2.8 WR macro is better than a Pentax-M 100mm f4 macro, but if you never shoot in weather and shoot subjects larger than 45mm wide, you don't need the better lens.

Last edited by Just1MoreDave; 02-14-2015 at 04:05 PM.
02-14-2015, 10:47 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by soycory Quote
When does it become advantages to upgrade a body... For example would you prefer a K10 with an awesome lens 16-50 2.8 for example or a k3 with a basic lens like an 18-55 kit lens?
I would say its better to have a "basic" or old camera with a good lens than a great camera with a poor lens. That being said, the Pentax kit lens is not that terrible, and even the budget Pentax camera (K-500) still has a good imaging sensor and all the basic photo modes you would need.
At what point to upgrade the camera? When you notice that it is limiting you. You can notice this in two ways. First is: it is missing features that you need, has defects/bugs that you cannot deal with. is not compatible with gear you want to use. Second is: you get your hands on another camera and notice that it is giving you significantly better results. This second one can be tricky, even misleading sometimes, but if it works it works.
02-14-2015, 11:27 AM   #15
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upgraded from a K10D to a K3 last year. I had a few lens that never were quite right on my K10D. On my K3 they really shine. With the more advanced auto focus and higher ISO ability it just made sense to finally upgrade. Although glass is very important, in the digital age there will come a point were the body will hold you back.
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