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08-27-2010, 02:01 PM   #1
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Amateur/Layman observations on the White K-X Kit - And budget lens options

I have nowhere else to post this, and I thought some of the things I mention might get indexed on here for people researching the K-X versus Canon and other offerings.

So I thought I'd put some thoughts and initial observations on here about my new K-X, having just come from a Canon Rebel XS 1000D, previously having had a K100D, and having loved all three. I would've liked to know some of this stuff before buying, and I still would've bought the K-X.

The Backwards Compatibility

To start with, I should mention why I came back to Pentax. I came back to Pentax because of the ability to use 50 years worth of lenses with no adapters and no loss of functionality of the original lenses. Having a nice-ish 50mm 1.7 and a 28mm 2.8 left from my K100D, I had been itching to come back to Pentax for quite a while.

The Stormtrooper

This is completely frivolous, but I love the white finish. One thing I couldn't appreciate from the reviews and pictures online, and even seeing it under store lights was how nice it looks in person. The white parts have almost a metallic, pearl sheen to them. What that does is makes it a little less likely to show fingerprints and smudges, but has the downside that the pieces that make up the body don't always look uniform (e.g. the left side of the flash area). Still, it's striking. Overall the camera looks classy and looks and feels like a quality piece of kit. My wife urged me to get the white K-X, and I was worried it would be too flashy, it's not.

The camera looks good with the kit lens' white accents, but looks equally good with an all-black lens. I imagine it looks awful with silver lenses, but when did silver lenses ever look good?

Mini-Me

The K-X packs a lot of punch in a small package, which is great for traveling (my upgrade was spurred by my upcoming trip to Europe) but that small package can feel a bit cramped at first. I had handled it in a store, but with one of those ginormous anti-theft collars on it.

When my K-X first arrived, I was surprised at how small the grip was. The camera didn't fill my hand when I put my thumb on the thumbrest. It comes down to my ring finger, and it took me a second to readjust my grip. Attaching my hand grip strap helped quite a bit. I'm still working on the ergonomics of hitting the green button without re-hitching my grip on the camera, not to mention my longish fingers overshoot the ev button every time.

Not Seeing Red

Really, no AF confirm lights? Really? I knew about this going in, but I guess part of me didn't want to believe it. I'm living without the lights, but I don't trust my eyes enough to venture out from the Auto-5 AF mode. Using the center point by itself seems to make it hunt a little too much in the AF.

Compared to Canon Rebel XS

It's interesting the different things that you notice when you switch among brands. The controls on the Canon were a little bit bigger all the way around, and you could press the thumb wheel in to select. I can't say that the smaller controls are necessarily a bad thing. They're definitely more logically laid out, and I've yet to hit the wrong button because they're smaller.

One major thing the Pentax trumps the Canon (at least mine) on is LV implementation. 1) A dedicated button. Hitting "Set" to enable Live View was livable, but having a dedicated button makes it more accessible, and leaves the OK button free to perform another function. 2) Live View works in Auto Mode. I could never figure out why they locked that out on the Canon, and it's probably a major reason why my wife never used that camera, as Live View was too inaccessible. For casual shooting, you might be in Full Auto, and if you're casual shooting, you're more likely to want LV. 3) The shutter button auto-focuses instead of using the seperate, and unmaked "*" button. If you've never used a Canon with this setup, you miht not believe me. On the Rebel XS and XSi, if not others, you have to press the "*" button to focus. A button, which, by the way, shares an alcove with another button, and both buttons perform other functions when not in LV mode. So you're likely to hit the wrong one.

The kit lens on the Pentax, while nothing earth-shattering, is about a thousand times better than Canon's offering. The Canon's EF-S lenses have a rotating front element, making a Petal hood useless. More than that, installing a bayonet hood requires you set the lens to Manual Focus, or else you damage the lens' internal Af motor. It's a really poor design.

Speaking of MF, that rotating front element on the Canon has a 1/8" ribbed front edge that's supposed to serve as an MF ring, and the motion isn't damped at ALL, making MF completely useless. Also undamped was the zoom of the lens, resulting a shlocky and cheap feeling. Overall the K-X's lens is a lot more usable, feels like much higher quality, all while being smaller and lighter than the Canon. This isn't surprising, given that the Canon had an AF and IS motor in it.

Speaking of AF, the AF isn't quite as good on the K-X. Nothing to complain about really, but Canon's One Shot focus was just inimitably fast.

A question, can you have it do contrast af in full-auto Live View? The Phase detect AF sucks so badly, but seems to be the only option when using Live View in Auto?

The main screen menu on the K-X seems to be laid out much better, the font is easier to read, and the color is customizable. I currently have it on a light layout which is nice and visible in the sun. The K-X's Info menu is a God-send, and brings a lot of features to the surface, so you don't have to dig through the menus.

The K-X obviously has a lot more features than the similarly-priced 1000D, including the in-camera HDR, which I haven't gotten to play with properly yet, the cross-processing, digital filters, and so on. I wont' go into that in detail but will mention that I believe the K-X is the cheapest way to do 720p in a DSLR. The video quality is very good with me just twisting the knob and shooting. The sound doesn't seem too bad . . . I won't be recording any concerts with it but for vacation videos, it beats the bulk of a dedicated video camera, and the quality of a Flip.

One difference that is more important than I thought it would be are the sounds the camera makes. The AF motor on the K-X is slightly more high-pitched than the Canon's. The K-X goes ZIIIT ZIIIT, and the Canon went ZERT-ZUCK. But the shutter sound is surprisingly soft and deep. Almost like a rangefinder, but more manly. The Canon had this CLICK-ZEEEEE sound, that almost imitated an auto-wind on an old 35mm camera. It was annoying and loud, and it always startled animals. The K-X rewards you with a satisfying SHUCKA every time you press the button, or SHUCKA-KA-SHUCKA if you're in Live View mode.

Speaking of the button, I had gotten real used to that slight detent in the shutter button that served as your AF/AE, whereas there's no such thing on the K-X. It took all of 1 shot to re-learn that. I'm not sure which one is faster, or better. It's just different.

Compared to K100D

I bought the K100D in 2007, and it was my first DSLR. I bought the body only, and picked up a used Tamron 28-200 f4. It was heavy, dark, and had a spot on the front glass, but I got in real close at some concerts with it. The "best" lens I had for it was an FA 28-80 f3.5, which is comparable in weight to the kit lens with the K-X, but without the damping, quality, and with a rotating front element. The thing I fought with the K100D was all my pictures came out a bit dark. I had to lighten almost all of them in post-processing. Even ones that looked great on the camera screen looked darker on the computer. Now, granted, I wasn't shooting a lot of RAW back then, but I just assumed the crappy optics I had for it were to blame.

When I got the Canon, the IQ seemed to go way up, and I didn't have to compensate with my images. This reinforced my notion that it was the glass I was using.

Even with the kit lens (a DA L BTW, I'm tempted to find a deal on a DA II 18-55 but my money's probably better put toward a super-zoom Tamron or something, right?) the images still seem dark. I'm determined that I can fix this with settings and I'm sure I just need to sit down with the manual and tweak it.

The Shake Reduction on the K-X seems a lot more effective than the K100D, though the THUNKing sensor frame is a little disconcerting (and can really screw up audio on a video).

About the only thing I miss about my K100D is the AF auto-confirm lights when using manual focus, which made using old primes a snap. They're missing, but I'm hoping that the (much) brighter viewfinder will compensate. It's amazing to me how many features they've packed into an entry-level DSLR in 3 years. I'm really glad I'm back with Pentax.

With each DSLR purchase I've made, I was sure I'd keep the camera for years. But each time, I had gotten a good deal and a year later I was able to trade up to a new model with better features and IQ by spending less than $100. With the K100D, I bought the body for $399, spent ~$100 on lenses, and sold it all off for $450, and bought the Canon kit for $450. With the Canon kit, a year later I sold with a bag, tripod, and 4GB SD card (all of which I needed to replace or upgrade), for $435, and bought the K-X at Sam's Club for $450 with free shipping.

So here I am, looking at my K-X and wondering what I can expect next year. 1080p with external mic port? That's about all I could ask for above what the K-X does.

Oh, that and red autofocus lights.


Last edited by Ryan Trevisol; 08-30-2010 at 11:06 AM. Reason: Change Title
08-27-2010, 03:01 PM   #2
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Great post! Be aware that we do have a Pentax K-x review page, though!

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08-27-2010, 04:58 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
Great post!
+1
There are often some posts from new members who wanders the pros and cons of Pentax dSLRs over Canikon. It is rare to read an objective story from someone who has both Pentax and Canon and loves both.

Well done mate...
08-27-2010, 05:10 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ryan Trevisol Quote
............. I imagine it looks awful with silver lenses, but when did silver lenses ever look good?
..........
Great post, enjoyable read !
Must contest the above statement though
Tell me this baby ain't beautiful ?!
Pete


08-27-2010, 06:24 PM   #5
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I also have the white K-x. I'm glad for what you said about 'black' lenses because I've been a little concerned over how they'd look on the white body. The white camera is as you mention, beautifully awesome. I think it's quite a sight to behold. Proof of that might be the fact that a couple of younger Chinese guys I ran into at a KFC (one of them holding a Canon Rebel Ti), actually stopped me, asked to borrow my camera, one of them then held my camera while his buddy snapped a shot of him just holding my camera.

Last edited by slr_neophyte; 08-27-2010 at 06:26 PM. Reason: grammar
08-27-2010, 07:22 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ryan Trevisol Quote
The Backwards Compatibility

The Stormtrooper
1. Yes the backwards compatibility is good, especially with pentax A glass- but pentax M glass works just as well on any mount, I use pentax M on canon and it works even better than it does on pentax! Because closing down the aperture closes down the lens directly, so when you're on AV mode it meters automatically when using M glass!

2. Yeah it does look awesome in white, no argument there



and as for audio, i'd strongly recommend picking up the zoom h1- it's like $100, has fantastic audio quality, can be used as a standalone device or on a hot shoe mount
the only thing is syncing the audio/video can be a bit of a pain, but if you get someone to clap in the frame it makes it much easier
not as convenient as on camera audio, but more flexible and better quality
08-28-2010, 06:10 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ryan Trevisol Quote
1080p with external mic port? That's about all I could ask for above what the K-X does.

Oh, that and red autofocus lights.
A nice perspective on a clever little camera. Maybe I will share my own soon. The AF overlay is sorely missed but as for a mic input... it is much better in all cases to have the mic off-camera. Simply get a separate digital recorder and experience an exponential increase in audio quality. It's a bit more bother, but people use off-camera flash without complaint.
08-28-2010, 06:21 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ryan Trevisol Quote
The Stormtrooper
That was an interesting post, thanks. May I ask how long have you had the stormtrooper by now? Because I'm just wondering if it'll turn to Darth Vader over time like my white MacBook has done.


Last edited by emr; 08-28-2010 at 10:02 AM.
08-28-2010, 09:59 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ryan Trevisol Quote
I'm living without the lights, but I don't trust my eyes enough to venture out from the Auto-5 AF mode.
If you're gong to let the camera choose where to focus, that's the mode I'd be using too. But I'd much rather choose where to focus myself, and...

QuoteQuote:
Using the center point by itself seems to make it hunt a little too much in the AF.
Assuming you're pointing directly at the subject, it should be the other way around - less hunting when using center point only.

QuoteQuote:
Even with the kit lens (a DA L BTW, I'm tempted to find a deal on a DA II 18-55 but my money's probably better put toward a super-zoom Tamron or something, right?
Depends on your goal. If it''s just to get more range but no better IQ and no larger a maximum aperture, then sure, a superzoom makes sense. But if the goal is to improve IQ or maximum aperture, you'd need to look elsewhere. Given you already have the DA L 18-55, the only reason to get the II version would be for quick shift - they are optically identical.

QuoteQuote:
the images still seem dark. I'm determined that I can fix this with settings
The only settings that you need to be concerned about are the trio of exposure settings - aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Read up on how camera metering works so you know which situations are likely to require adjustment from the suggested exposure (eg, scene brighter than average, backlit scenes, scenes with light sources or bright reflections in them) and how to perform that adjustment in the various exposure modes. Pretty much any basic book on photography will explain these concepts.
08-29-2010, 07:18 AM   #10
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Thanks for all the replies! Sorry, I had seen the K-X review page, and when I have a more comprehensive review of the camera, I'll post in there.

QuoteOriginally posted by hcc Quote
It is rare to read an objective story from someone who has both Pentax and Canon and loves both.
Thanks. The Canon had a lot of great features that made it easy to get great photos, but I never really bonded with it.
QuoteOriginally posted by slr_neophyte Quote
I also have the white K-x. I'm glad for what you said about 'black' lenses because I've been a little concerned over how they'd look on the white body.
Yep, they look fine, especially shorter, smaller lenses. I'll snap a picture (with my P&S ) of it wearing one of my primes.

QuoteOriginally posted by clark Quote
I use pentax M on canon and it works even better than it does on pentax! Because closing down the aperture closes down the lens directly, so when you're on AV mode it meters automatically when using M glass!
Yep, it does do that. It's something else to futz with but it's cool. Kinda neat how when you put on a lens that it can't sense the aperture for, it automatically defaults to Av mode on all the *v modes.
QuoteOriginally posted by clark Quote
and as for audio, i'd strongly recommend picking up the zoom h1- it's like $100, has fantastic audio quality, can be used as a standalone device or on a hot shoe mount
the only thing is syncing the audio/video can be a bit of a pain, but if you get someone to clap in the frame it makes it much easier
Great idea! Probably won't happen on the vacation, but I do some work with still and video for a small business, and he's very excited about my new HD video capabilities.

QuoteOriginally posted by emr Quote
That was an interesting post, thanks. May I ask how long have you had the stormtrooper by now? Because I'm just wondering if it'll turn to Darth Vader over time like my white MacBook has done.
Oh, like a week. Not that long. But I am something of an Apple expert and I can tell you that the body feels like much higher quality plastic than the Macbooks, shiny but also more solid. I've been very careful, even paranoid with my cameras, and they've never gotten a scratch on them, so I don't plann on scuffing it up. Still, the plastic is more like the outside shell of the MacBook (which, unless you scrape it around your desk, or expose it to extreme heat, generally holds up well. It's nothing like that inside shell which attracts all manner of grime.

FWIW, toothpaste (believe it or not) will clean the keyboard bezel of a Macbook.

QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
If you're gong to let the camera choose where to focus, that's the mode I'd be using too. But I'd much rather choose where to focus myself, and...
Assuming you're pointing directly at the subject, it should be the other way around - less hunting when using center point only.
I'd think so too, but


QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
Depends on your goal. If it''s just to get more range but no better IQ and no larger a maximum aperture, then sure, a superzoom makes sense. But if the goal is to improve IQ or maximum aperture, you'd need to look elsewhere. Given you already have the DA L 18-55, the only reason to get the II version would be for quick shift - they are optically identical.
Thanks for the heads up about the DA II and the DA L. I've been hearing bad things about the DA L vs the II, thanks for clearing that up.

As far as the zoom, my budget has a large constraint on the type of lens I can buy, and the fact that I'm not what you'd call a "serious" photog limits how many different lenses I can justify (to myself and to my wife) buying. I'm the kind of person who would take a maximum of maybe 3 lenses on a trip: the kit for light walkaround shooting (think Florence Duomo, downtown Nice, or general city shooting), the zoom if I knew I was going to be in location needing zoom (driving on the Riviera, hiking above Cinque Terre, or a concert), and my 50mm f1.7 (for low light, arty razor-thin DOF shots, video (the nicely damped MF is nice)).

Higher IQ would be great, to be sure. But as I understand it, there's no ONE perfect lens that I could spend presumably a boatload of money, that would replace the above lenses. From what I've seen of higher end lenses, you've got the replacement for the kit at f2.8 ranging from $450 to 700 or more. If I were happy with the range of the kit, and only wanted to buy one lens for a year or two period, that might work.

For zoom, I'm seeing a lot of higher-end telephoto, but no aspherical zooms. And I'm assuming that's because of the unorthodox (inferior?) design of the aspherical lenses.

Then you've got Autofocus primes that carry astronomical prices, and seem (to me at least), to have somewhat limited versatility (I just read someone's trip report about the K-X who carried 3-4 primes with him). Personally I'm not big on switching my lens every other shot, but that's just me, and again, I'm not a pro, and I don't have the budget for 3-4 lenses at $400+ a pop.

So it's not that I'm unconcerned about IQ, I'm just feeling limited in what I can afford and/or justify.

And I do know, that at least for this upcoming trip, that I'm going to want more range. When we went to Italy on our honeymoon, we had a 10x zoom P&S and I got some fantastic shots, many of them at the long end of that lens. So I know I wouldn't be able to take the shots I want if I don't have something with some legs.

I'm going to rent the Pentax 18-250 f3.5 for that trip. I'll see if that gives me quality I can live with.

QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
The only settings that you need to be concerned about are the trio of exposure settings - aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Read up on how camera metering works so you know which situations are likely to require adjustment from the suggested exposure (eg, scene brighter than average, backlit scenes, scenes with light sources or bright reflections in them) and how to perform that adjustment in the various exposure modes. Pretty much any basic book on photography will explain these concepts.
Well that's just it. I'm well versed in the Holy Trinity of camera settings. That's not the issue. The issue is, in broad daylight, I take a picture of a fertilizer spreader on f8 and let the camera choose the shutter, I'm on ISO 400-800, and I get a shot that looks fantastic on the screen review. Get it into Aperture, and it looks a bit dark, a little too contrasty, and even the highlights are on the dark side. When I play with the levels to compensate, I'm noticing some of the shadows are blown out. I haven't shot in RAW yet but I was just assuming it was something with the JPEG processing.
08-29-2010, 07:18 AM   #11
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Oh and BTW that lens that was posted does look very nice! I retract my sweeping silver lens generalization.
08-29-2010, 12:56 PM   #12
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This part was great:
QuoteOriginally posted by Ryan Trevisol Quote
One difference that is more important than I thought it would be are the sounds the camera makes. The AF motor on the K-X is slightly more high-pitched than the Canon's. The K-X goes ZIIIT ZIIIT, and the Canon went ZERT-ZUCK. But the shutter sound is surprisingly soft and deep. Almost like a rangefinder, but more manly. The Canon had this CLICK-ZEEEEE sound, that almost imitated an auto-wind on an old 35mm camera. It was annoying and loud, and it always startled animals. The K-X rewards you with a satisfying SHUCKA every time you press the button, or SHUCKA-KA-SHUCKA if you're in Live View mode.
Did you manage to get one of these to wear with your new K-x?
08-29-2010, 02:09 PM   #13
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No, all they had were mediums at my Macy's.
08-29-2010, 05:32 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ryan Trevisol Quote
Oh and BTW that lens that was posted does look very nice! I retract my sweeping silver lens generalization.
Thought it might sway you
08-29-2010, 06:57 PM   #15
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My experience mainly consists of this:

It was better than my Tamron 28-200 f4, but it stuck out like a sore thumb
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