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09-21-2010, 08:27 PM   #1
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Possible switch from Canon...recommendations

I am considering a switch from Canon to the Pentax system. I was originally going to go with Pentax but got impatient and bought some camera gear with a BB credit card deal with no financing and then payed it off with an army bonus I got later...long story short, I ended up going with Canon because they had it in the store.

My current kit is in my sig (plus a lot of accessory gear not mentioned...)

I would be going from:
40D (2)
Canon 17-55 IS
Sigma 70-200 f/2.8
Canon 400mm f/5.6L
Canon 50mm f/1.8

to
Pentax K20D (2)
DA 16-50 f/2.8
DA 50-135 f/2.8
Sigma 150-500 os (?)

My main reason for considering the switch, is weather sealing and portability. Being a wildlife and nature photographer, I often hike with my gear as well as a popup blind. I like the idea of the lighter weight lenses and bodies as well as the reasonably priced weather sealed optics. One of the most frustrating aspects of my camera is the lack of "real" sealing. Simply put, I can't trust it in bad weather. This goes for all my lenses as well.

My main concern is with autofocus and having to give up my 400 prime. From what I have heard on here, the autofocus is pretty bad on all of the Pentax bodies with the k-7 being only decent. It seems like none of them are on par with what my 40D is giving me, which is a bit disappointing because it's not even considered that great in the Canon camp. As far as the 400 is concerned, it's just a stellar lens in IQ and autofocus and I feel like I will really miss it if I go with one of the Sigma supertelephotos. I really wish Pentax had a sealed 400mm f/5.6 lens. Are there any long range pentax options even?

09-21-2010, 08:37 PM   #2
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The K-5 has vastly improved AF over the K-7, so if you're concerned about that, I'd definitely consider the K-5. (here is a video showing the K-5's improved AF https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-news-rumors/114977-pentax-k-5-offi...ml#post1187983)

Pentax does have some long lenses, but they're all out of production, unfortunately. They had lots of nice stuff in the past...all the lenses can be viewed here: Comprehensive Pentax Lens Listings - Pentax Lens Review Database

SMC Pentax-FA* 400mm F5.6 ED [IF] Lens Reviews - Pentax Lens Review Database
SMC Pentax-FA* 600mm F4 ED [IF] Lens Reviews - Pentax Lens Review Database
SMC Pentax-FA* 300mm F2.8 ED [IF] Lens Reviews - Pentax Lens Review Database
SMC Pentax-FA* 250-600mm F5.6 ED [IF] Lens Reviews - Pentax Lens Review Database

Shame they're no longer making these, as they were among the best lenses they ever made, and better than the competition's, at the time.

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09-21-2010, 08:43 PM   #3
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Personally, I'd like to see a DA* 400 as well. Having said that, you may be able to squeak by with the DA*300mm f/4 if you need the sealing and toss in a 1.4x teleconverter when the weather's a bit nicer and you need the reach.

I've never used Canon equipment so I don't know what I'm missing. Having said that, the k-7's done me pretty good photographing birds when I had the FA*400 (not sealed) and it's doing fine for other critters ranging from whale tails to some of the tamer birds to moose and that sort of thing with the DA*50-135.

If you can wait a little bit, I'd suggest holding off and trying out a k-5 when it becomes available. I think the performance will be more in line with what you're getting now, or give a k-7 a shot and see if that can get you what you need with AF and FPS (if FPS is a concern).

Cheers.
09-21-2010, 08:56 PM   #4
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Thanks for the info guys. I would prefer to go with a k-5 if I made the switch, but it would probably limit my budget for lenses pretty drastically. I also have gotten used to a two camera setup, but I could adjust or wait and buy another one after a while I suppose.


How hard is it to find discontinued lenses on the used market?

Is it easy to find the newer lenses used at a reduced price? One thing I've liked about Canon is the ease of buying used equipment.

09-21-2010, 09:00 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by str8talk83 Quote
How hard is it to find discontinued lenses on the used market?
It depends on which lens you're looking for. The FA* 80-200mm F2.8, which is good but probably too short for your purposes, seems readily available. The FA* 400mm is much more rare, as is the 300mm/2.8 and the 600mm's. You might want to keep an eye out on our Pentax Marketplace (all the above lenses have been listed there in the past) and on ebay.

You could probably get the FA* 400mm for around $1200, I'd say, but personally, I think 300mm is enough for most applications.

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09-21-2010, 09:01 PM   #6
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I made the switch from Canon two years ago, and now shoot with a K-7 and K20D and a small assortment of lenses.

In all honesty, I am still mixed about the decision and occasionally think of going back to Canon. I love using the Pentax gear but sometimes get tired of having to work around its eccentricities.

First off, you're not going to find a match in Pentax land for that 400L lens you've got. That's a dead sharp lens, and Pentax offers nothing similar in that length. Off brand lenses are available, but not of that quality.

Pentax autofocus is a serious issue. I was on the verge of abandoning Pentax altogether because of frustrations with the K20D autofocus before I bought the K-7 earlier this year. You often can't even catch focus on a person standing in front of you at a well lit party with the K20D. Lately I've noticed the reason may be that the K20D demands a very fresh battery -- meaning you essentially get 50-100 shots per charge before the AF starts to go wonky.

The K-7 autofocus is much better. I went out the other day with my K-7 (with 16-50/2.8 DA*) on one shoulder and my son's Canon 50D (with 16-35/2.8 L) on the other and shot side by side handheld landscape comparisons for an hour.

I came away convinced that there was essentially no difference, for my style of shooting, between the two cameras in terms of image quality or autofocus speed. Note that I was not shooting birds in flight.... and your mention of the word "blind" makes me think you are.

So why Pentax for me?

The bodies are smaller (though not necessarily lighter: You might add up the total weight of your proposed and existing kits before switching). I like their compact feel.

Weather resistance is great. I am just back from two weeks of backpacking in Oregon, and I carried the K20D (the K-7 was in the shop) with the 16-50 around my neck full time on trails that alternated between corrosive volcanic dust and pouring rain. No problems.

I like the in-body shake reduction (IS in Canonland).

I absolutely love the small Limited primes. Put the 21/3.2 on the K-7 and you have a camera as small and unobtrusive as an old Pentax LX.

But after two years I haven't been able to make myself sell off my Canon L glass. Sometimes I think I should go back to a system that is less charming and more competent. I haven't, yet.

If you jump, I'd advise passing on the K20D and getting the K-7 or wait a month for the new K-5, which sounds like a K-7 with improved AF and image quality.

Good luck with the decision.
09-21-2010, 09:01 PM   #7
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Depends on the lens. Some of the longer lenses (400mm+) can be pretty sparse, though they do come up from time to time. The problem is that those lenses tend to go for pretty high prices.

I'd suggest checking out the market place on this forum and have a look at what's there to start with. For the long glass though, I think you'll also want to look at ebay.
09-21-2010, 09:03 PM   #8
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Update: I checked ebay, no 400mm's. Found this, though: Sigma 120-400mm f/4.5-5.6 APO DG OS for Pentax SLR - eBay (item 300468085002 end time Oct-14-10 14:04:16 PDT)


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09-21-2010, 09:03 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
You could probably get the FA* 400mm for around $1200, I'd say, but personally, I think 300mm is enough for most applications.
From personal experience, the FA*400 isn't quite as sharp as the 400 he has right now, though it's quite good. But $1200 would be on the low side, I'd imagine....like say, a well used and slightly beat-up version .
09-21-2010, 09:09 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by bkpix Quote
I made the switch from Canon two years ago, and now shoot with a K-7 and K20D and a small assortment of lenses.

In all honesty, I am still mixed about the decision and occasionally think of going back to Canon. I love using the Pentax gear but sometimes get tired of having to work around its eccentricities.

First off, you're not going to find a match in Pentax land for that 400L lens you've got. That's a dead sharp lens, and Pentax offers nothing similar in that length. Off brand lenses are available, but not of that quality.

Pentax autofocus is a serious issue. I was on the verge of abandoning Pentax altogether because of frustrations with the K20D autofocus before I bought the K-7 earlier this year. You often can't even catch focus on a person standing in front of you at a well lit party with the K20D. Lately I've noticed the reason may be that the K20D demands a very fresh battery -- meaning you essentially get 50-100 shots per charge before the AF starts to go wonky.

The K-7 autofocus is much better. I went out the other day with my K-7 (with 16-50/2.8 DA*) on one shoulder and my son's Canon 50D (with 16-35/2.8 L) on the other and shot side by side handheld landscape comparisons for an hour.

I came away convinced that there was essentially no difference, for my style of shooting, between the two cameras in terms of image quality or autofocus speed. Note that I was not shooting birds in flight.... and your mention of the word "blind" makes me think you are.

So why Pentax for me?

The bodies are smaller (though not necessarily lighter: You might add up the total weight of your proposed and existing kits before switching). I like their compact feel.

Weather resistance is great. I am just back from two weeks of backpacking in Oregon, and I carried the K20D (the K-7 was in the shop) with the 16-50 around my neck full time on trails that alternated between corrosive volcanic dust and pouring rain. No problems.

I like the in-body shake reduction (IS in Canonland).

I absolutely love the small Limited primes. Put the 21/3.2 on the K-7 and you have a camera as small and unobtrusive as an old Pentax LX.

But after two years I haven't been able to make myself sell off my Canon L glass. Sometimes I think I should go back to a system that is less charming and more competent. I haven't, yet.

If you jump, I'd advise passing on the K20D and getting the K-7 or wait a month for the new K-5, which sounds like a K-7 with improved AF and image quality.

Good luck with the decision.
Thanks for the info and insight. The DA 300 and tc might get me in the territory of my 400 lens, but analysis has shown that the Canon 300 f/4 IS and 1.4X tc doesn't quite touch it. It really is an excellent lens and the main thing holding me back. It's a lens that isn't offered at its price point by anyone. Doesn't have IS, but I have worked around that.

As far as using a blind, it kind of caters to my style of wildlife. I like to go out into the wild and am using techniques that I used when I grew up deer hunting. I've found that the real world isn't like the park and that you can't just walk around taking pictures of animals. It's just hard to get close enough (as I'm sure you know). I set up a blind in a location that I think will deliver results. I haven't had my 400 long, so not many birds in flight yet. I have found this to be pretty challenging so far though....
09-21-2010, 09:12 PM   #11
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The Sigma super teles are pretty good performers at a great price. I could probably get a 120-400 or 150-500 for less than I can sell my 400 prime for (goes for around 950 on the used market). How are the older FA lenses on focus speed compared to the newer DA lenses?
09-21-2010, 09:15 PM   #12
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From my experience, the 400mm is underrated. I think the relatively slow aperture (F5.6) is what's stopping people from saying "holy shit this is sharp" in their reviews, simply because the lens is more prone to slower shutter speeds than other FA*'s. I got mine pristine for $1100 a few years ago, so you might be right.

I also have the F* 250-600mm, which I must say, is amazing optically. It's so big that take the 300/2.8 over it almost any time, though I also have a feeling that the 300/2.8 is Pentax's sharpest tele.

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09-21-2010, 09:23 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
From my experience, the 400mm is underrated. I think the relatively slow aperture (F5.6) is what's stopping people from saying "holy shit this is sharp" in their reviews, simply because the lens is more prone to slower shutter speeds than other FA*'s. I got mine pristine for $1100 a few years ago, so you might be right.

I also have the F* 250-600mm, which I must say, is amazing optically. It's so big that take the 300/2.8 over it almost any time, though I also have a feeling that the 300/2.8 is Pentax's sharpest tele.
What's the weight on the Pentax 300 2.8? I've always wanted the Canon version because it was insanely sharp. Seems like everybody makes a good 300...
09-21-2010, 09:24 PM   #14
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Another vote for the K-5... with the K-7 as a back-up choice. Now, I don't want to chase you away from Pentax... but have you considered a Canon 7D? Body only (which has weather sealing) runs about $1500 and you can keep your current lenses. But, of course, you won't get a nice, friendly crowd like us to hang around with.
09-21-2010, 09:33 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Biro Quote
Another vote for the K-5... with the K-7 as a back-up choice. Now, I don't want to chase you away from Pentax... but have you considered a Canon 7D? Body only (which has weather sealing) runs about $1500 and you can keep your current lenses. But, of course, you won't get a nice, friendly crowd like us to hang around with.
I have been considering a 7D actually. I've tried one out and it is indeed a fine body. I also spend a lot of time on Canon's photography on the net forum and while there are A LOT of great photographers over there, there are also A LOT of people who are keypad photographers and are more obsessed with gear than actually taking photographs. It doesn't seem to be as bad that way here and I appreciate the people here not wanting to be in the "in crowd" and going with Canon and Nikon because everyone else does.
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