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03-27-2010, 05:29 PM   #1
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First DSLR Advice

What a great community for Pentax enthusiasts! My current camera is a Canon PowerShot A95 and I'm looking to finally get a DSLR and would prefer to join the Pentax fanbase for their compatibility with older lenses. I already have an old K1000 with two lenses. One is an SMC Pentax-M 50mm 1:2 and the other is a JCPenny 80-200mm Macro 1:4.5 (Which I've found is a re-branded Vivitar model). I'd like to be able to use these lenses in addition to a kit lens or similar alternative if I purchase a body only. I think that I'll be using it for portraits and landscapes but without any actual SLR experience I'm not sure what I'm going to be spending my time shooting. I've read that many beginner DSLR cameras have more of the controls in the menu and I'd like to keep away from having to look at the LCD to make changes and set up shots.

I'm mostly looking at getting a used camera and am looking at the K10D, K20D (if its cheap enough), and K200D. Should I stick to a specific model or go for the cheapest body and spend more money on lenses as my interest grows?

Thanks,

03-27-2010, 05:47 PM   #2
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The only settings one needs to change on a regular basis while shooting are aperture, shutter speed, and to a *much* lesser extent ISO (with film, you had to change rolls to change ISO). No camera makes you use menus to changes aperture or shutter speed, and even on the cameras that lack direct controls for ISO, it's always no more than two button pressed away, so don't be too concerned about reviewers fussing over needing the menu for settings that most people would never need to change anyhow.

You'd have to get a pretty great deal on a used K10D or K200D to make it worth picking over the K-x new, I think. There are tradeoffs to be sure - and lots of existing threads to peruse discussing these tradeoffs. But unlike lenses, DSLR's have a limited lifetime, and a used DSLR would really have to be a *big* improvement over a new model to be worth it in my opinion. But the K20D is enough of a step up from the K-x in almost every way (assuming you're OK with the fact that is much bigger) that I'd be looking at that option.
03-27-2010, 07:07 PM   #3
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I'll vote for the K20D ('cause that's what I have and know) which is a real deal now. I chose it as my first dSLR because I figured out what my good P&S couldn't do that I wanted to do, which lenses would do what I want, who made the lenses I could afford, and what body for those lenses would keep me happy longest. You'll likely find a K20D quite good to use. If you can get it with the 18-55 WR lens, all the better. That will merge nicely with what you have. Even though the Kx is great for high-ISO shooting, the K20D still does much the Kx can't.
03-27-2010, 07:22 PM   #4
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Welcome here.

I have used all of your options and IMO they'll each be just fine for you.
My vote too is for the K20D, but the K10D and K200D do well also - the K200D not so good for continuous shooting if that may be something you'd want.

All the best with that.

03-27-2010, 07:45 PM   #5
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I would agree with the earlier posts: the K-x or K-20D are possibly your best entry choices. I may add a few pertinent comments.

* If you want/need video, the K-x is your automatic choice, as only the K-x and K-7 have video.

* If you intend to work outdoor, you may consider the value of the weather resistance (WR): the K20D would be your best choice. Generaly, the WR is a key feature of the advanced Pentax dSLRs (K20D, K-7). It is an important feature if you go camping, bushwalking, and more generally outdoor in all weather.

* The selection of the lens(es) is important. I would repeat the 'adage': a lens is worth its price. In other words, it is worth to invest in some good, expensive lenses.

Hope that the comments will assist ...
03-27-2010, 08:50 PM   #6
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I'd agree with the other posts and also wonder what budget you had in mind? I currently havd a K10D, K20D and a K-x. All are a great choice. Another aspect the K-x will offer you is some very similar controls to a P&S as an option. It has the typical Landscape, Portrait,Night time etc type auto settings. Plus it has similar settings to the K10/K20D for more creative control. So it may be easier to get into a DSLR in some ways. Familar to use as you are learning and then advanced for later on.

There are some excellent deals on the K10D right here on our marketplace from time to time as well. It's still a great camera in many ways and if you want to have extra funds for lenses, it might be worth considering if the deal is right.
03-27-2010, 10:30 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
You'd have to get a pretty great deal on a used K10D or K200D to make it worth picking over the K-x new, I think. ... But unlike lenses, DSLR's have a limited lifetime.
Thanks Marc and others,

I've been looking at ebay, craigslist, and the Forum Marketplace. I see that K10's have been offered in the past at $150-$300, and K20's were about $500-$650 on the Marketplace. These numbers are similar to what I'm finding on ebay as well.

I'm not concerned with video capability, I don't have kids yet and I think I'll want a dedicated cam for that when the day comes. I'd like to take the camera with me on backpacking trips so the WR is an important feature. Weight is also important as I consider myself an ultralight backpacker (the difference between the K10D and K-X is a half-pound!) but you get either lightweight or WR so I think I'm leaning toward the WR. I could be wrong but the K10D at the prices I'm finding seams like a great way to get me into a DSLR. I can spend the extra money on better lenses which will follow me through to my next DSLR.

As for the life of the camera, is there an actuation count that would indicate that it has little life left?

Thanks again,
03-28-2010, 02:03 AM   #8
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The K200D is lighter and smaller than the K10D/20D and is still WR - so with an 18-55 WR and 50-200 WR you have a great package at a bargain price for a weather sealed dSLR & lenses, compact and easy to carry around even with a small shoulder bag.

03-28-2010, 03:36 AM   #9
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Actually the K200D is the mostly the same camera as K10D, with more control abilities. In K20D I dislike the ISO performance, but it has a advantage in DR against K10D. K20D is better choice i think.
03-28-2010, 05:22 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Eugene-S Quote
Actually the K200D is the mostly the same camera as K10D, with more control abilities. In K20D I dislike the ISO performance, but it has a advantage in DR against K10D. K20D is better choice i think.
I'm surprised you would say that about the K20D. The main limitation of the K10D is after ISO800, you get banding and other high ISO noise issues. It's the main reason I bought 2 K20D's when they came out. ISO1600 is pretty good and you can get away with 3200 in a pinch. The K-x is clearly superior to either in this department. ISO6400 is good on this body.

The K10D is sharper at ISO100-200 than the K20D. It's slight but there. Even today, that is a very good camera. I wouldn't make a purchase based on DR. With good technique and some decent software skills, you can do a lot more in software to recover shadows etc than the camera can while shooting.

For shutter count, you can have the seller send you an unedited Jpeg from the camera and download the free version of PhotoMe and check the shutter count. There's no set upper limit but history and conventional wisdom says that the shutter life is approx 100,000 actuation's. That also would depend on how the camera has been treated to some degree (IE shooting in extreme temperatures a lot, Proper storage etc.).

Really when it boils down to it, you can't make a bad choice between these 4 bodies. The K-x and K200D have only one control dial (I've never handled the K200) but with the K-x it's really not a big issue with the layout.

The K-x was assessed by Dxo which is the most stringent measurement of camera performance (image quality etc not features) and it ranked 19th in the top 100. That's incredible considering the other cameras in the top 20 are either full frame or medium format sensors. The only APSc (which is the smaller sensor that all the Pentax's use and most other bodies from Canon/Nikon/Sony use) were the Nikon D5000 (rank 18) and D90 (rank 17)


Dxo image quality ranking:
K-x 19th (ahead of the Canon EOS1DmarkIII and 5D - both full frame bodies)
K10D was ranked 30th (very good considering it came out in 2006)
K20D 34th
K200D 42nd
K-7 58th


As a reference the new Canon 7D wiz bang body came in 32nd.

So the way I see this from some very basic parameters:

K200D: WR, Price, Lighter, Sharp low ISO sensor
K10D: WR, Price, Dual control dials, Sharp low ISO sensor
K-X: Lightest, High ISO, Performance, AF speed, Fps speed
K20D: Dual control dials, WR, good High ISO up to 1600

How's the confusion level now?

Last edited by Peter Zack; 03-28-2010 at 05:29 AM.
03-28-2010, 05:25 AM   #11
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I think Ash his suggestion is a good one. I chose the K200D over the K20D as my first DSLR to use on my hiking trips. Although the K20D has advantages over the K200D like the better viewfinder, two wheels for easier control, more megapixels and the possibility to shoot over the 1600 ISO limit on the K200D. Being outdoors I am not that much concerned with the hight ISO capability's though.

The K200D is 110 grams lighter, it is smaller and it uses AA-batterys. With the lithium AA's Energizers you can take about a 1000 pictures (without flash). According to Pentax the rechargeable battery cell of the K20D is good for 740 shots. If you are not able to recharge batteries on your hiking trip you can take either a extra battery cell with you for the K20D or a set of Energizers for the K200D. And AA's can be bought locally although alkaline AA's are not recommended. I deliberately left out the option of a extra grip because of the weight issue. In normal use I do use the grip and Eneloop rechargeable AA's.

This and the price difference made me choose the K200D. But looking back I am not that sure anymore if the weight/size/price differences should have trumped the advantages of the K20D. Choosing your first DSLR can be tough! Anyway I hope this helps you come to a good informed decision.
03-28-2010, 09:42 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Eugene-S Quote
Actually the K200D is the mostly the same camera as K10D, with more control abilities. In K20D I dislike the ISO performance, but it has a advantage in DR against K10D. K20D is better choice i think.
I'm confused by this too. For one thing, the K200D may have the same sensor as the K10D, but it's mostly a very different camera - with *fewer*, not more controls It's the K20D that is more similar to the K10D in terms of controls, although it uses a different sensor. I'm also confused by the statement about K20D at high ISO. I'm not sure what is setting your expectations, but the K20D was actually the best high ISO performer among Pentax cameras (and among the best of *all* APS-C cameras) until the K-x came along. Perhaps you meant you don't like the K200D high ISO performance? While it's true it is not quite as good as the K20D, I've been on a bit of of a kick lately of pointing out that these differences tend to be overstated. Check out this image I posted recently, showing ISO 1600 images from the K-7, K20D, K200D, and K-x (L-R, top to bottom - the K200D shot is highlighted lower left), shot RAW with no NR and viewed at 100%:



I realize it's just one image, but I just don't see a huge difference between the K20D, K200D, and K-x. Of course, the K200D gets a slight advantage here because being only 10MP, it is viewed a little smaller than the others, but even downsizing the others to match doesn't really make them look a ton better.

Anyhow, bottom line I wouldn't be making this choice on image quality, as there just isn't enough difference to trump your other concerns about weight and WR. I'd say the K200D does make a lot of sense given those priorities. Anyone selling a used camera should be able to provide you with a recent image that you can examine using the free PhotoME utility to get the shutter activation count.
03-28-2010, 10:02 AM   #13
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besides what's already been discussed

More on K20D pros and cons (and mehs):

PRO- Tethering. For some kinds of studio and astro etc work, this is a definite advantage over K7 and Kx.

CON- Unable to choose focus point when using manual lenses. I haven''t yet had the nerve to diddle with the firmware. But I'm not sure the newer cams allow this either.

MEH- Video. If I wanted to shoot vids, I'd use a vidcam. When I had one, I mostly used it for stills. Depends upon one's desires, eh?

PRO- Megapickles, more than all but K7. One of my decision points was, will I want to 'upgrade' to a higher-resolution cam anytime soon? IMHO 6-10-12 mpx would just be too entry-level, too prone to the gotta-get-the-next-Rebel syndrome.

MEH- Weight. I sympathize with backpackers, but an extra 110g isn't much of a factor considering the set of lenses I usually carry.

CON- Manual WB. I find it impossible to set this in-cam with dark filters (IR, blue-violet, anything plus NR, etc). But I don't know if the others are any better.

MEH- Speed. I understand that I'm not going to shoot Vanity Fair covers above ISO 1600. I couldn't have with film, either. I live with it. Like Dirty Harry said, "A man's gotta know his [camera's] limitations".

I'd think of some more, but I'm only halfway through my first cup of coffee. I'm still brain-dead. Better hook up the electrodes and jump-start me.
03-28-2010, 05:28 PM   #14
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Having had only the K100D and K-x I can't speak from broad experience, but can tell you what the numbers say.

For hand-held photography at extremes of distance/brightness an appropriate numeric speed parameter to consider for a camera/lens combination is:

ISO/(F-stop)^2

ie. A factor of 4 increase in useful ISO will compensate for a factor of 2 increase in F-stop.

The K-x's ISO performance appears to be about 2 stops better than the others which means that a K-x can use an f:5.6 lens when the rest would require an f:2.8.

F:2.8 and faster lenses are quite expensive (or not available) in long zooms or wide angles so the K-x opens a wide range of possibilities for indoor sports, theater, social circumstances, twilight wildlife shots, etc for those with a limited budget.

Dave in Iowa
03-29-2010, 09:41 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by newarts Quote
The K-x's ISO performance appears to be about 2 stops better than the others
That's specifically what I am saying I don't really buy, though, despite the fact that people often claim this. Any time I do an actual comparison of similar images (same scene, same lighting, same exposure), I see differences of somewhat under a stop at best. The example I posted above is just one such comparison I have performed.
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