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02-14-2009, 05:34 PM   #1
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Opinions/Suggestions Needed: Best Beginner's Camera

Hi, just joined and I gotta say this site is great. I appreciate everyone taking time out to help out people in my situation, i.e. just starting.

I was wondering what everyone's opinion is for the best start up camera. I've heard the K1000 A LOT but wanted to just pick some peoples' brains. The fact that some people feel the 1000 has very few options is somewhat bothersome. I take photography seriously and I really want to delve deeply into it and I would rather not have to buy a new camera soon after a 1000 because I've outgrown it. Any ideas? I don't need a professional level body and I know the lenses are a huge part of taking pictures but I do want some advanced options. I understand this is a Pentax site but feel free to suggest another company as long as it isn't taboo here.

Thanks for any information.

02-14-2009, 05:59 PM   #2
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You can never outgrow the most basic of camera functionalities: Exposure, Aperture and lens selection. That's what the K1000 allows you to do, and it's all you need to take the very best of pictures. Everything else is just convenience.
02-14-2009, 06:06 PM   #3
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So the K1000 is my best bet? I haven't checked out the levels above it in the Pentax family and don't know how they're named but is there a K2000 that's slightly more advanced or do they jump up by leaps and bounds? Thanks for the quick reply.
02-14-2009, 06:51 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by brandontowey Quote
So the K1000 is my best bet? I haven't checked out the levels above it in the Pentax family and don't know how they're named but is there a K2000 that's slightly more advanced or do they jump up by leaps and bounds? Thanks for the quick reply.
There is an absolute HOST of websites devoted to the history and features of Pentax cameras and lenses. Perhaps the most detailed is Boz Dimitrov's K-Mount page Pentax Camera Bodies I linked the camera bodies page for you.

I personally started with a KX - a K1000 is essentially a light-tight box, a meter and film transport and a shutter. The KX adds mirror lock-up, Depth of Field preview lever, aperture indication in the viewfinder, etc. - features you will likely soon want. Both are fully emchanical bodies. A K2 adds an aperture-priority electronic shutter and a few semi-professional features.

All three are essentially indestructible and can be renewed (CLA) for less than $100.

Also study the M section and the A section.

There are as many answers to the "Best Beginner Body" question as there are persons to answer the question.

In my opinion the K1000 is overpriced and overrated because of its long use by school classes - A KX has more features, costs less and is WAY cooler than a K1000.

02-14-2009, 07:54 PM   #5
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Thank you. That's exactly what I was looking for. I was thinking the same thing, that I would outgrow a K1000 quickly and get frustrated because I needed a new body so soon. I'm making my way through that website you linked. Still open for suggestions, though. Thanks again.
02-14-2009, 07:57 PM   #6
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Are you looking for a digital body? or film?
02-14-2009, 08:07 PM   #7
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Film. I don't think digital comes out as well and there's just something...satisfying about a film camera even if it isn't as convenient.
02-14-2009, 08:14 PM   #8
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(Setting the hook, now)

QuoteOriginally posted by brandontowey Quote
Thank you. That's exactly what I was looking for. I was thinking the same thing, that I would outgrow a K1000 quickly and get frustrated because I needed a new body so soon. I'm making my way through that website you linked. Still open for suggestions, though. Thanks again.
Here is the Pentax Discuss Mailing List response to the "Best (of all time) Pentax" body The "Best" Pentax Cameras.

PDML is/was a List_Serve for die-hard enthusiasts started 10 or 12 years ago. Many of the Pentax reference sites we see today are the product of PDML members who (I THINK) took it upon themselves to keep the brand alive through a grassroots effort. PDML might be a precursor to viral marketing.

Anything short of the LX is suitable for a beginner - your choice is a balance between letting the camera do some of the work and forcing yourself to do it all (recommended).

Note that the K1000 is #7 - and the OP questions why such a simple camera should be on the list when a KM or KX is essentially the same camera with a few more useful features.

It's all in the 29 years of K1000 production (versus three for the KM, KX and K2) and a sentimental statement by the sheer number of people whose first camera was a K1000. (It IS a great camera, though - my daughter learned on an SE.).

02-14-2009, 08:21 PM   #9
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That's a great link, thanks. I was about to reply that a lot of the technical jargon in the list of cameras on Dimitrov's Pentax page is over my head and confusing. I needed a more personal rating with explanation to gauge what I need. I want a completely manual camera for the most part. I have a P&S camera for regular photos and this is going to be for hobby photography. Would you suggest the level directly below the LX as a body that's not too advanced to screw up a beginner but sufficiently so that it will challenge me to learn more and allow me to do so?
02-14-2009, 08:21 PM   #10
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Just realized it's the same page but this seems to be a better summary. Thanks again.
02-14-2009, 08:25 PM   #11
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I started with an MX, which is a great little camera, entirely mechanical operation (less the meter), LED meters that read exposure -1 to +1 in 1/2 stops, aperture and shutter speed visible in viewfinder (K1000 lacks that), and DOF preview. The cloth shutter is nice and quiet too. It'd be my choice for a take everwhere camera, as it has a small footprint with some of the SMC-M lenses (50mm, 28mm). But you might want something that fills the hand better.

But I bought an LX last fall, and iI can see why it's #1 on that list... but it's the priciest option. But.... wow.
02-14-2009, 09:27 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by brandontowey Quote
That's a great link, thanks. I was about to reply that a lot of the technical jargon in the list of cameras on Dimitrov's Pentax page is over my head and confusing. I needed a more personal rating with explanation to gauge what I need. I want a completely manual camera for the most part. I have a P&S camera for regular photos and this is going to be for hobby photography. Would you suggest the level directly below the LX as a body that's not too advanced to screw up a beginner but sufficiently so that it will challenge me to learn more and allow me to do so?
Here's a link to pdf's of most of the Pentax camera manuals - read them to get a feel for the differences between the models (you didn't think we'd just TELL you what to get, did you?)

Pentax Manuals The Password is always Pentax

I would go to a camera store (if there is one available in your town) that has a used department stocking Pentax. Hold any K body, any M body, any A body and any P body.

Mount a 50mm manual lens (they're all excellent), focus, adjust the aperture, see how the meter works and how the camera feels in your hands and how the functions operate without looking at them.

Compare the viewfinders for brightness and the focusing screen for your eyes. The split-image focusing screen (two lines come together as one - then you are in focus) is preferred by many here over the circular prism ring (OOF image is broken into tiny dots - in focus is clear).

K bodies almost all have the circular prism - split-image was an (expensive) factory retro-fit. ME and MESuper have the brightest viewfinders and a split-image. even today they are in demand (and kept alive by their owners) for the viewfinder.

Fully mechanical bodies require the most work since they are fully mechanical. You have to set everything yourself for each shot. Many here think that makes them the best "beginner / learner" bodies, and why (aside from price) schools used them to teach. You have to learn the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and film speed - Exposure Value - and how to use EV Compensation to achieve your desired effect.

Semi-automatic bodies offer the benefit of doing some of the work for you - set an aperture (Aperture Priority - Av Mode) and the camera picks the shutter speed to properly expose the film. Set the Shutter Speed (Shutter Priority - Tv) - and the camera selects the proper aperture.

Later cameras ("A" cameras with electric contacts to communicate with the lens) will allow you to manage the aperture on the camera rather than on the lens.

I suggest you sign up for a photography course - most Community Colleges have them - to learn this stuff.

Get the fully mechanical body that best fits your hands. Stay with the "X" bodies (KX, MX) so that you are forced to set everything. Being fully mechanical they will last as long as you live or they stop making film, whichever comes first. The electronic cameras are dependent upon circuit boards that are no longer made. When the supply of New-Old-Stock and good used parts runs out, those cameras are finished - well the same can be said for mechanical cameras, but gears aren't circuit boards and parts bodies are everywhere and the K1000 shared most of its parts with the KX - another strong argument for the KX.

Note that the lenses correspond to the bodies - A lenses are most functional on A bodies, for instance. M lenses are cultishly felt to be the best feeling to use. K lenses are claassic, but the coatings are not as modern as the M and A and some people think the newer M and A lenses are sharper (maybe true, but how sharp do you and I need?). If you get an M body use M lenses - you can use them on the K bodies, too - but if you get an A body get an A lens.

I'd start with the KX or MX (a clean MX is about $50 more than a KX) in chrome (black is a premium - don't believe the goofs who tell you black cameras take better pictures) and an M50/2.0 - they're only $20 or $30 dollars in pristine condition, and accept the fact that you will quickly want a $100 M50/1.4 - then a $200 A50/1.4. And zooms. That's part of the culture, too. Someday you might sell one of your first lenses - but then you might not, for sentimental reasons. I still have my first, and second cameras, though they don't come out to play much any more, and most of the lenses I got when they were new.

The most important thing is to get something, go to class and take pictures. Pentax is so good that there isn't enough difference between the best and the very good to make a difference to most of us - and almost nothing Pentax eveer made is downright bad.

Many people say 3 lenses will allow a hobbyist to do everything he needs to do, such as:
24 / 35 / 80
24 / 50 / 100
28 / 50 / 100
35 / 50 / 100

Blue were the most common sets for a long time - now most people use zooms, but primes are sharper and more fun.

I had 28 / 50 / 135 for a very long tome because 100 is an expensive focal length. In M lenses, those three can be had for less than $150 if you get the M50/2.0, and less than $200 if you get the M50/1.7. (M28/2.8; M50/2.0; M135/3.5)

And don't fret about outgrowing your camera - you will outgrow it and won't sell it anyway, you'll just get the next one - it is part of the Pentax culture, too.

Oh, and we haven't even talked about Screwmount -

Here's another unbelievable website - I hope you have Monday off!!

Photoethnography.com - Photoethnography Equipment

.

Last edited by monochrome; 02-14-2009 at 09:32 PM.
02-14-2009, 09:54 PM   #13
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Yea, I've got a lot of research to do. I've got the basics down but there's so much it's a little daunting. I'm curious about the second number in the lens sets you mentioned, i.e. 28/2.8, 50/1.7, etc. What does it refer to?

I also checked out that Super you linked me to. I'm a little worried there's no DOF. Is that huge deal? Considering my lack of knowledge and skill, will I waste a whole lot of film because everything's out of focus and I can't check it? Or will that happen even with a DOF?

Thanks a lot, Monochrome, you've definitely helped a brotha out.
02-14-2009, 11:16 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by brandontowey Quote
Yea, I've got a lot of research to do. I've got the basics down but there's so much it's a little daunting. I'm curious about the second number in the lens sets you mentioned, i.e. 28/2.8, 50/1.7, etc. What does it refer to?

I also checked out that Super you linked me to. I'm a little worried there's no DOF. Is that huge deal? Considering my lack of knowledge and skill, will I waste a whole lot of film because everything's out of focus and I can't check it? Or will that happen even with a DOF?

Thanks a lot, Monochrome, you've definitely helped a brotha out.
The price is certainly right, but it is not a mechanical camera. The lack of a DoF lever is only important if you think you need it. I have an MESuper and I love it for what it is. EVERYTHING will not be out of focus - only some of the image. How much is what you decide. You will learn to estimate the DoF with practice. You can take three shots of the same scene with adjacent settings and you know one will be correct. That's called bracketing your shots.

If you take a photography course the instructor will likely want you to have a manual camera (but here's an online course at our Community College http://huckfin.org/art172/index.html ) . An MESuper will probably be OK, but JUST. It has a limited manual ability that you could use. Take a course and you will be less frustrated by not knowing this stuff - and you will be forced to take a LOT of pictures, which is what you want to do!!

50mm f/1.7 =

Focal Length = 50mm, the (effective) distance from the front lens element to the film plane (there's more to this than simple mm - lens design is complex and depends on the physical properties of light as it passes through curved glass) but the Focal Length can just be considered a relative value anyway. Once you get accustomed to a 50mm lens (called a "normal" lens since it approximates what the eye actually sees) everything else is relative to it.

f/1.7 - the f/stop - roughly, the size of the hole at the back of the lens that the light passes through on the way to the film. The hole is called the aperture. The aperture is made larger and smaller by turning the aperture ring on the outside of the lens. The smaller the hole, the less light passes through and the longer the shutter must stay open to properly expose the film. The size of the hole is controlled by moving aperture leaves inside the lens. The assembly is called the diaphragm. When you look through the lens from the front with a strong light you can see these leaves. They are usually grey in color.

You combine the shutter speed and aperture settings to produce the image you want on your film - larger aperture and faster shutter admits the same amount of light as smaller aperture and slower shutter, but the images produced are decidely different.

Confusingly, the lower the f/stop number, the larger the hole, referred to as a wide aperture; the higher the f/stop number the smaller the hole, referred to as a narrow aperture. The f/stop number used to describe a lens (50mm f/1.7 or 50/1.7) is the widest aperture possible on that lens, which determines the maximum amount of light able to enter the lens.

That's important for several reasons
  1. Modern cameras meter and lenses and are focused with the widest possible aperture (wide open) so you have the most light to actually see what you are focusing on. When you release the shutter the camera briefly closes the shutter to the selected aperture (correct size hole to properly expose the film) and opens again.
  2. Whatever you focus on will be in focus - your cat's eyes, the rose petal - whatever. The wider the aperture the less distance in front of and behind the point of focus will be in collateral focus. The area in focus front to back is the Depth of Field (you check the focus area with the Depth of Field lever - get the KX!). Sometimes you want everything in foucs, so your Depth of Field is infinity. Sometimes you want a blurry background to emphasize the subject - that's a narrow Depth of Field. The wider the maximum aperture possible on your lens (lower f/stop number) the shallower a DoF is possible. Again, this is complex and involves physics. The principle of light is called collimation.
f/stop link:

A Tedious Explanation of the f/stop

Another link:

Aperture - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

You can keep everything simple by always shooting at f/8 and changing your shutter speed to suit the amount of light (f/8 and be there is an old news photographer's expression - it is more important to get the shot than to worry about the settings.)

Many people have spent an entire lifetime taking great pictures using the simple guidelines formerly printed on the inside of film boxes (When the sun is out use f/16 and 1/125 shutter speed using ASA 100 film - the Sunny 16 Rule, for instance).



The f/2.0 lens is less expensive because it is easier to make and because it's brightest setting is somewhat darker than the f/1.7 and f/1.4 lenses. You won't be able to take a picture inside a bar without a flash, but so what? Maybe you'll need a flash for your living room whereas you wouldn't with a 1.4 - not a probelm, get an inexpensive flash, too! Or don't take indoor pictures at first until you can afford one.

See why lots of people start with automatic cameras? There's photographs and taking photographs. You want to take photographs, they want photographs to be taken for them. Nothing wrong with that - as long as everybody has the right camera to do what they want to do.

Last edited by monochrome; 02-14-2009 at 11:34 PM.
02-14-2009, 11:50 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by brandontowey Quote
Yea, I've got a lot of research to do. I've got the basics down but there's so much it's a little daunting. I'm curious about the second number in the lens sets you mentioned, i.e. 28/2.8, 50/1.7, etc. What does it refer to?
The maximum aperture of a lens. Sometimes it's written f1.7, sometimes 1:1.7. The smaller the number, the more light the lens will allow in. (Also the larger hole the lens willl create in your wallet.) At the maximum aperture, the lens will also have its minimum depth of field (distance from the camera in acceptable focus). Overall performance also falls off a little.

QuoteOriginally posted by brandontowey Quote
I also checked out that Super you linked me to. I'm a little worried there's no DOF. Is that huge deal? Considering my lack of knowledge and skill, will I waste a whole lot of film because everything's out of focus and I can't check it? Or will that happen even with a DOF?
It's not a huge deal but it is a nice feature. If you don't have it, you'll soon learn to work without it. However, film cameras have lost so much value that there's no reason to give up a feature that you think will be useful. A camera with that feature won't cost much more.

Although Pentax has excellent film cameras, you may consider a different brand. Brands like Canon and Minolta changed their camera mount when they switched to making autofocus lenses. This means there are millions of good Canon FD mount lenses that only work well on old Canon film camera bodies. The old Pentax lenses are still in demand because they work on Pentax digital SLRs. If you're sticking with film, it will be cheaper to acquire many lenses for Canon FD than Pentax. But if you move to digital, a bunch of Pentax lenses would be handy.

A library usually has lots of books on film photography just waiting to be taken out. You might want to include them in your research.
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