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10-18-2010, 02:00 PM   #1
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Dump my *st DL for a better low light Pentax?

Hi all. I have had a *ST DL for 3-4 years now. Really enjoy it but my new gf has a Nikon D90 and really impressed with how a high end camera responds.

I have always been frustrated with the low light performance/image quality of my DL but thinking it is technique and still wonder if I should upgrade to a Kx or K7. I have a kit 18-55 lens, 55-200 and the 50mm manual focus F1.7

Here is my dilemma relating to the D90 comparison. My gf shoots auto and has fantastic, sharp, proper exposed pictures. I went out with my DL, in the woods with her with my 50mm F1.7 lens and shot waterfalls and rivers. I had very few good shots no matter how I tinkered with the camera. She had lots of keepers.

I shot a lot of low light stuff this weekend a band and a pumpkin fest and again maybe technique, frustrated I had to use high iso with a slow shutter and setting below F4 to get shots...very few were sharp...though the band was moving. Shooting pumpkins we would both be at 1600, F4 and hers would have great contrast and sharpness while the DL massively overexposed. I had to dial in -2 on exposure compensation. Frustrated hers was click and looked good and I had to fuss a lot.

In the past I used the DL to shoot a band with the kit lens on a bandstand and it had horrible black dots...loss of information??? in the higher iso images. The ones I shot this weekend looked better and had no dots.

Anyway my questions. With my existing lenses with the KX or K7 produce sharper, less grainy images at higher ISO's than my DL?

I use the top display and occasionally dof preview on my DL, will I really miss that on the Kx? Is the KX as well built as my DL? Are there other features the DL has the Kx doesn't? I can't quite tell.

Nobody local has the KX but I briefly tried without a memory card a K7.

I like the idea of the weather seals, a camera with faster autofocus and a bigger viewfinder so the K7 would be great but a lot more money right now.

Does it make sense to upgrade or just really, really work on my technique? The whole no fiddling, fast focus and get a great photo of the Nikon D90 really bugs me so I am hoping the Kx or K7 might help with the few things.

Thank you for any help. I haven't asked any photo questions in a few years so sorry for the length.

Here is a link to a couple of photos to see the quality. These are the closest I had to keepers with my 50mm F.17 lens.

http://picasaweb.google.com/corvairfan/PentaxISTDlLowLight?authkey=Gv1sRgCJ6Y3bz_vff9IA#


Last edited by Corvairfan; 10-18-2010 at 02:08 PM.
10-18-2010, 03:00 PM   #2
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If low light is a main concern, I would say the K-x will be a big improvement, though it has no grip capability, and no focus-point indicators. Perhaps neither matter to you.

If you get into the 10MP or bigger sensor, then the 18-55 and 50-200 will probably be your limiting factor. The Pentax 55-300 is a big improvement is IQ over the 50-200. One of the Tamron/Sigma/? 1x-50 f2.8 zooms will be a big improvement over the kit, although heavier.

Last edited by SpecialK; 10-19-2010 at 03:11 PM.
10-18-2010, 03:39 PM   #3
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The high ISO performance of the K-x make it a game changer for low light conditions. Your existing lenses will be fine in the venues you describe.

Hang on to your *st for some of the features the K-x lacks, but you'll have a whole new world of indoor available light photography opened by the K-x.

Dave
10-18-2010, 06:28 PM   #4
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If you are concerned that your techniques may be an issue, see if your gf will swap cameras with you for a day and you both go out and shoot the same thing. If the % of keepers stays with the photographer the you know what you have to work on. Otherwise, you are in need of a camera upgrade.

10-18-2010, 06:38 PM   #5
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I agree with other reviews. My belief is that several years of sensor development have made a lot of difference regarding low light noise capability. I believe the DL is about appropriate for its vintage. A number of D90 reviewers on Amazon have noticed great improvement compared to their older D50/D40, which are of similar age to the DL. The D90 is well known for its low light noise performance, and I believe the the k-x can match it. The sensor test results found at dxomark.com would seem to confirm that. Regarding technique, it is always appropriate to use best methods, but at some point better technology does improve things - imho!
10-18-2010, 06:54 PM   #6
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Time for a K-x

The D90 sensor is made by Sony. The K-x has the Nikon D90, D5000 sensor. You can have the same sensor as the D90 but in a Pentax camera.
Pentax is the best-bang-for-buck brand for a dslr.
In the Marketplace, I recently saw a K-x for 380 plus shipping with low actuations. I would have bought it as a second back-up camera. The shutter rating is rated at 100,000 shots. I already have 17000 shots. You will be amazed at the high ISO shots you will be able to take.
10-18-2010, 07:16 PM   #7
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There are a few issues you have experienced - AF speed and accuracy in dim environments, high iso noise and metering. Since the K-m, AF is much improved. K-x/K-r/K-5 are known to have best high iso noise control, but the K-r seems to have the edge. That leaves the metering which has always been the strength of Nikon. You just have to think harder with Pentax. But if you know how to work spot metering, it should not be difficult either. Avoid underexposure is the key to noise control.
10-18-2010, 08:06 PM   #8
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Good comments have been made here. Do the camera swap, it will teach you a lot about how you both shoot. If you are certqin your camera and/or lenses are your limiting factor, then consider the K-x or K-r. If weather-sealing is a must, then go with the K-5 (or if funds don't allow, the K-7). The K-5 and K-r will have excellent high ISO capabilities, but the K-x won't disappoint either. The K-7 is lacking in good high ISO performance, but you could possibly go up to ISO 1600 without objectionable noise. Your 50mm lens is a decent one, so keep practicing with that, but do some more reading about the exposure triad and creative photography to improve your skills.

All the best in your decision.

10-18-2010, 08:32 PM   #9
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There certainly has been a lot of improvements for APS-C cameras over the last 2 years for low light performance.
IMO, we are seeing a paradigm shift towards photos that can be taken in low light w/o the aid of flash.

This thread sums it up pretty well (with evidence to boot)
Pentax K-5 at Thai Fashion Show, S'pore Oct 16: Low Light, No Flash, High ISO - ClubSNAP Photography Forums
10-18-2010, 08:47 PM   #10
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I used the DL for a fair amount of time before going on to the K100D, K20D, and now the K-7. Each one (especially the K20D and K-7) is a major leap forward in speed. I still have the K100D and it now seems glacially slow to do things like review photos.

That being said - I am, to this day, very satisfied with the quality of photos I got from the DL. Very sharp, very colorful, no problems with exposure or anything like that - and ISO 1600 wasn't all that shabby, either. At the time, I primarily used the 18-55mm, 50-200mm, and 50mm F1.4 (autofocus.) It is not surprising that you are frustrated using your manual-focus 50mm F1.7 - it will be a challenge to get in-focus shots except when it's stopped down a bit, with the DL's relatively small viewfinder.

If you're concerned about price, why not the K-7? It's probably obtainable for about the same price as the D90 and walks all over it in terms of features, though high ISO performance will not be quite as good. The K-x is probably a good fit for you, though, and will seem like a rocket compared to the DL.
10-19-2010, 07:20 AM   #11
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Agree with other posters. My first DSLR was the *ist DS2 which was pretty much just like your camera except for a better viewfinder and more AF points. I never had a complaint about imaging--it was capable of producing great images. I continued to use it even after upgrading because it was noticeably smaller & lighter than the K10D/K20D. Only after getting a more compact K-7 did I finally feel I could part with it. The last time I picked it up (I sold it a few months ago) what I would notice most is speed--reviewing images, autofocus, etc. just feels a bit sluggish in comparison. I attribute the autofocus in part to use of NiMH AA batteries. Possibly the disposable lithium AA cells might improve this a little. The other things that I miss most when using this camera are easy setting of ISO (only settable in full EV steps via rear LCD--you can't adjust with dial and see setting in viewfinder), and the availability of a usable auto ISO--the Auto ISO on these models was crippled with a stupid defect--if you engage exposure compensation, it would disable auto ISO and use the minimum ISO, 200. Really lame but fixed by the time K10D was released. Other notable ergonomic improvements--white balance changes can be previewed on the rear LCD--shows your last shot with the alternate white balance applied. Also, flash comp. has been moved to the flash settings and is adjusted by e-dial instead of being buried in the menu.

The other thing I have done is started shooting RAW. The built-in JPEG engine of these models isn't horrible but rare is the image that I don't want to tweak just a smidge before sharing with anyone else. My tool of choice is Adobe Lightroom. Even without doing this though, the in-camera JPEG engines have improved a lot in the 4-5 years since your camera was introduced in terms of overall quality, tweakability, and features. So even if you don't go RAW, it's more likely that you can tweak your images to make them pop a bit better straight out of camera.

If the biggest concern you have is improved high ISO performance, then the K-x or K-r is probably a better bet than K-7 which isn't bad but doesn't offer the same boost as the slightly newer models. The K-7 is better in just about every other way however, and if build, sealing, handling, and viewfinder are important to you, then K-7 is a better bet. If the wallet is too weak and you don't mind a slightly larger body the K20D is almost as much camera as a K-7. Even a K10D will feel like a significant upgrade vs. your DL in many ways. I think the K-r is probably your best bet though as it will give you the high ISO and AF speed boost you want without a few of the K-x annoyances like elimination of AF points--has dual battery capability, and incorporates the excellent high-res 920K rear LCD from the K-7.
10-19-2010, 01:57 PM   #12
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Thank you all for your feedback. I was looking at the Kx manual and lots of impressive features compared to my DL. But it seems to be just as menu intensive as that camera, though I am used to it enough to move back and forth quick enough. I tend to change ISO and use bracketing so lots of menu presses in use. Hoping a new camera would eliminate all that but not the KX in addition to the low light/slow focus stuff.

But the KX seems in photos to be as good a build as my DL(which feels substantial even compared to the D90 believe it or not), and it certainly is priced right.

It seems that there aren't many dealers of Pentax around anymore. 3 dealers in the Boston area that sold Pentax 3-4 years ago no longer do, and I found one and they only have a K7 in stock at full price, and only in the box, not on the shelf.

But I like the idea of using my gf's D90 the way I shoot, and see if I get similar results. I have had some nice shots over time with my DL over the years but it takes lots and lots of work while my gf shoots auto on her D90, doesn't even process and has blown up some really nice nature 8x10's around her house. I have very few keepers like that from my DL hence my wonder if I need a camera that is less work to get it to look ok beyond my technique.

I will do some more thinking, some more techniques and make a decision what to do. I appreciate the feedback.
10-19-2010, 03:15 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Corvairfan Quote
But it seems to be just as menu intensive as that camera, though I am used to it enough to move back and forth quick enough. I tend to change ISO and use bracketing so lots of menu presses in use. Hoping a new camera would eliminate all that but not the KX in addition to the low light/slow focus stuff.
Not so great at ISO 1600, but the K20D has a dedicated bracket button, and ISO is changed with the OK button and rear wheel.
10-19-2010, 08:16 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Corvairfan Quote
Thank you all for your feedback. I was looking at the Kx manual and lots of impressive features compared to my DL. But it seems to be just as menu intensive as that camera, though I am used to it enough to move back and forth quick enough. I tend to change ISO and use bracketing so lots of menu presses in use. Hoping a new camera would eliminate all that but not the KX in addition to the low light/slow focus stuff.
I recently upgraded from K100D Super to K-x and I can tell you I had similar thoughts as you. I really wanted to upgrade to something that has two dials and dedicated buttons because I was sick of digging through K100D's slow menu. I was therefore leaning towards K-7, but I couldn't swallow paying more for a camera that has inferior sensor to K-x. If it had the same sensor as K-x and retained all the other features, i would have gone for K-7.

Now that I have K-x, I can tell you that even though it doesn't have the second dial and dedicated buttons, you don't really miss them much. The menu system is a huge improvement over the older Pentax cameras and you can change most settings very easily via the LCD screen. I have never missed the LCD Top screen either, which K100D had.

I can understand your frustration as I decided to upgrade after taking photos on day out at an aquarium and massively struggling with the low light capability of K100D especially with metering and AF.
K-x can be had really cheap now and I would really recommend that you upgrade. Normally people say it's better to upgrade the lens, but I don't think that applies in your case or mine. K-x is such a huge improvement in every aspect over K100D or your *st DL. You will definitely feel that it was money well-spent.
10-19-2010, 08:49 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by pinholecam Quote
There certainly has been a lot of improvements for APS-C cameras over the last 2 years for low light performance.
IMO, we are seeing a paradigm shift towards photos that can be taken in low light w/o the aid of flash.

This thread sums it up pretty well (with evidence to boot)
Pentax K-5 at Thai Fashion Show, S'pore Oct 16: Low Light, No Flash, High ISO - ClubSNAP Photography Forums
Impressive stuff.
I'll bookmark that forum too.
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