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11-07-2010, 08:23 PM   #1
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Very Specific Dilema

Hi All,

Not to beat a dead horse, but I could use some advice from people who know what they're talking about. I am a theatrical scenic design grad student and got into photography so that I could be in control of my portfolio shots. As you could imagine, capturing the correct white balance and color temperature is important, as is depicting light as it actually exists in the scene. I've gotten pretty good at appropriately exposing shots and adjusting white balance as necessary.

That being said, I've gone and saved up for a new camera. Portfolio shots are taken at what is called a photo call and the company's publicity photographer (outside hire, paid at an hourly rate) is given preference and the shoot moves along at their pace. That means that despite low light, i need to shoot hand held or with a monopod and sneak my shots in as quickly as possible.

A publicity photographer is shooting tight shots of posed performers for posters, brochures, etc. Thusly, shooting handheld at wide aperture is fine since a softened set in the background makes a very pretty picture. Also, no one actually cares if the photographs are an actual representation of the production. A set designer needs photos of the set in the context of various moments in the show as they were. A smaller aperture is preferred since i need the people, scenery, and lighting cue depicted as accurately as possible. In a perfect world I would be able to spend 2 hours walking around the 'house' setting up my tripod at taking .5- 3 second exposures.

So here it is... Right now, I can either afford a k-5 body and keep using my consumer lenses or a K-7 and a DA* 16-50 which is just about the perfect focal range for me anyway. I'm inclined to think that dynamic range is more important to me what with dramatic lighting cues and all, however there is no denying that the better image quality of a top of the line lens would benefit me as well as sets are often quite wide.

Was the high iso really that bad on the k7? can i retrieve usable data from an underexposed raw file shot at a lower iso? With photography a necessary tool for me, what's the best way to spend my money?


Ian G

P.S. If you actually read this whole thing, I thank you for your time and please let your boss know that i'm sorry for keeping you.

11-07-2010, 08:46 PM   #2
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I would go for the DA* 16-50, and add a DxO Standard module from DxO Labs (about $150) if you have the cash for that, too. There is a thread on this site in the lens area with solely how those of us who have them use the 16-50 and the results we can get with this superb lens.

The high ISO with the K-7 is magnitudes better than my K10, and at higher ISO than the K10 supports. It tops out at ISO 1600. I shoot in dimly lit areas with f/2.8 lenses at 1600 and have no real complaints. According to other reports on this site, the K-X is slightly better at high ISO than the K-7, so you might want to check out those threads as well, although the camera may not have some of the more advanced capabilities you want or need.

Check out my Flickr site for what DxO can do for the 16-50. Also see how "bad" ISO 1600 is under real life lighting with the K10. Actually in the case of the fire scene I shot, the gritty effect seems to add to the image's psychological effect. The indoor soccer and hockey pictures were also at f/2.8, using the DA* 50-135.
11-07-2010, 08:49 PM   #3
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How about the K-x with the DA 16-50? It sounds like that's within your budget. The loss of a couple external controls may be worth the gain in image quality at high ISO.

I think the K-x hand-held or on a monopod would be a great theater camera (having never used a K-7.)

Dave

Also see this thread on the Tamron 17-50 vs DA 16-50: https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/120145-tamron-...x-16-50mm.html

Last edited by newarts; 11-07-2010 at 09:09 PM.
11-07-2010, 08:50 PM   #4
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I have the K-7 and am quite happy with it, but once you come to understand the what the K-5 can bring to the table, I think you would kick yourself. This might be one of the situations where better glass will not help you out.
Check out this thread:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-dslr-discussion/121337-k5-low-iso-noise-not.html
There is also another thread bouncing around, where the image was pushed about ten stops. What appears so amazing is the lack of noise and banding with the K-5, something the K-7 is just not capable of. The K-5 would serve you very well with theater/scene shots.
Get the latest generation...

11-07-2010, 08:57 PM   #5
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K-x plus either of Tamron 28-75 f2.8/ Tamron 17-50 f2.8 / Pentax 16-50 and you'd get a great low-light high dynamic range camera, some well regarded low-light zooms, and probably have some change left over for a flash too if you lack one.

Or substitute the K-r for the K-x.

The K-5 would be the ultimate solution body-wise. Maybe K-5 plus the Tammy 17-50? would still come within your budget? Or maybe just see what you can do with the K-5 plus the kit lens? You might not need anything else after all if you get great results.
11-07-2010, 09:05 PM   #6
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I won't wanna touch the K-7... just look at the number of people trying to let go of their K-7 cameras. Not that the K-7 isn't good but the K-5 is just better... a heck of a lot better. I'd go with the K-5 directly if I were in your shoes.
11-07-2010, 09:48 PM   #7
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One thing that may be an issue to consider the kx or kr is the sound and sound level of the shutter. The k5 and k7 are both much quieter.

But dynamic range and iso wise, the kx and kr are both excellent alternatives. The handling may not be as nice with fewer controls on the body, but many members here are quite fond of the k200 with similar (actually less) controls and take very good images in all types of conditions.

If I were in your shoes, I'd consider high ISO capabilities one of the most important issues. I've shot low light w/ the k7 and the kx having to use iso3200 and would choose the kx most of the time (really, this is the only condition I'd use the kx over the k7).

And if you were to go with the Tamron or Sigma versions of the 17/18-50 f2.8 lenses (which I think are quite good), you would have enough money to get a fast 50 or some other lens that would give you even more shooting options.
11-07-2010, 09:58 PM   #8
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+1 on the k-x
The k-x rocks the low light.
Maybe the k-x + Sigma 18-50 2.8 + Used FA* 24 F2 from KEH that will put you at about $1500.

11-07-2010, 10:19 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ian G Quote
Hi All,

Not to beat a dead horse, but I could use some advice from people who know what they're talking about. I am a theatrical scenic design grad student and got into photography so that I could be in control of my portfolio shots. As you could imagine, capturing the correct white balance and color temperature is important, as is depicting light as it actually exists in the scene. I've gotten pretty good at appropriately exposing shots and adjusting white balance as necessary.

That being said, I've gone and saved up for a new camera. Portfolio shots are taken at what is called a photo call and the company's publicity photographer (outside hire, paid at an hourly rate) is given preference and the shoot moves along at their pace. That means that despite low light, i need to shoot hand held or with a monopod and sneak my shots in as quickly as possible.

A publicity photographer is shooting tight shots of posed performers for posters, brochures, etc. Thusly, shooting handheld at wide aperture is fine since a softened set in the background makes a very pretty picture. Also, no one actually cares if the photographs are an actual representation of the production. A set designer needs photos of the set in the context of various moments in the show as they were. A smaller aperture is preferred since i need the people, scenery, and lighting cue depicted as accurately as possible. In a perfect world I would be able to spend 2 hours walking around the 'house' setting up my tripod at taking .5- 3 second exposures.

So here it is... Right now, I can either afford a k-5 body and keep using my consumer lenses or a K-7 and a DA* 16-50 which is just about the perfect focal range for me anyway. I'm inclined to think that dynamic range is more important to me what with dramatic lighting cues and all, however there is no denying that the better image quality of a top of the line lens would benefit me as well as sets are often quite wide.

Was the high iso really that bad on the k7? can i retrieve usable data from an underexposed raw file shot at a lower iso? With photography a necessary tool for me, what's the best way to spend my money?


Ian G

P.S. If you actually read this whole thing, I thank you for your time and please let your boss know that i'm sorry for keeping you.
ian,

As one who did not buy the K-7 because my K20D out performs it in low light ... I would go with the K-5 and not look back.

The K-5 has the best DR of any APS-C sensor out there and matches the Pentax 645.

I think if you got ANYTHING else you would be kicking your self in the b#tt.

Check out a couple of the post shot at 80 ISO and exposure raised 10+ stops ... this is outstanding image quality given those parameters, and unheard of performance with any APS-C sensor I'm aware of. On top of that all reports state that the noise in the K-5 is unlike other Pentax models and manages very well using noise reduction software !

Get the K-5 and shop around for a used 16-45mm in good condition....if I were in your shoes, with your particular requirements, that's what I would do, IMHO ;- )

Good luck !


wll
11-08-2010, 06:05 PM   #10
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I own a K-7 and as much as I like it, noise at high ISOs is not its strong suit. I'd research any newer body, and if needed look at used lenses offering as large an aperture as reasonably possible.
11-08-2010, 08:49 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Canada_Rockies Quote
I would go for the DA* 16-50, and add a DxO Standard module from DxO Labs (about $150) if you have the cash for that, too. There is a thread on this site in the lens area with solely how those of us who have them use the 16-50 and the results we can get with this superb lens.
Albert-

I really liked your shot of Fort Steele School room.

Did you use the 16-50 for that one?

-Matt

11-08-2010, 09:07 PM   #12
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I'm one of two people shooting publicity photos for our local community theater, the other PhilBaum also uses a K20D. I do a lot of my shooting with a used F 50mm 1.7. You can pick those up for a very reasonable price. The 75mm equivalent is pretty good for theater work. Some other options. The Tamron 17-50 2.8 is optically at least as good as the DA* 16-50 and hundreds less expensive. It has more consistent resolution over the zoom range. Tamron's 28-75 2.8 is what Phil uses and it's also much less than the DA*, which honestly has real problems with CA as well as not spectacular resolution for the price. The only real advantage of the DA* is weatherproofing, which is irrelevant for theater work. Sigma's new 17-50 2.8 OS lens has some spectacular resolution numbers and is still less than the DA*.

I run up against the ISO limit of my camera all the time. 1600 is decent, but to catch any movement on the stage I have to shoot at 3200 ISO. Just shoot a play and you'll realize how much good actors move about the stage. 3200 on a K20D/K-7 is sort of okay for an 8x10 but not much more. And my camera is about a 1/2 stop better than the K-7 for low ISO. My next camera will be the K-5. Generally I would say go for the better glass, but the numbers on the K-5 are too good and the posted photos too clean at high ISO. There's a thread over at DPReview that shows a K-5 image under exposed a full 10 stops that can be recovered in post. It's simply amazing.

If you want to save on the camera, look at the Kx, which is a good stop to stop and a half better than the K-7 in high ISO performance and very inexpensive. That and the Tammy 17-50 will cost about a grand, US.

One more option, which is sacrilege to propose on a Pentax forum is that you consider the Nikon D7000 and the Tamron 17-50. That will be about the same cost as the K-5 and the kit lens, and the Nikon has similar ISO numbers to the K-5. The K-5 is a more capable camera, but not in ways that would show up in your situation. The downside of that is that long term cost of ownership is lower with Pentax because you won't have to buy optically stabilized lenses. Nikon lenses are more expensive.

Last edited by mysticcowboy; 11-08-2010 at 09:46 PM.
11-08-2010, 09:29 PM   #13
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Thanks for your advice everyone. I guess it's worth mentioning that I currently own a KX and it performs exceptionally well. The biggest limitations of it that I have noticed are that I often have to shoot MF in darker scenes and with (what seems to me) a rather dim viewfinder, I'm not always positive that I actually got the shot that I wanted. When I do use AF, I can only rely on the center focus point because I know where it is.I do know getting a faster lens would make the viewfinder brighter. So just getting a DA*16-50 is the third and potentially most logical choice.

However, the interface seems kinda clunky as compared to the K7s that I've played with which means that I'm using the time allotted for each shot in a less than efficient way. Besides weather sealing, build quality, and higher res screen all seem nice.

Do i need a new camera... I guess, no probably not; but I've got the bug and been saving. What can I say.
11-08-2010, 09:37 PM   #14
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Thanks michael, I havent really handled those sigma or tamron models but for my longer shots I use an old tamron adaptall a19sp (I think) 70-200. Its almost easier to use than the dal18-55 and I certainly see more clearly. I might have been put off by the third party lenses because of my sigma 18-200 which obviously distorts at extreme focal ranges. but maybe I should think about the fast third party lenses.
11-09-2010, 12:08 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ian G Quote
Thanks michael, I havent really handled those sigma or tamron models but for my longer shots I use an old tamron adaptall a19sp (I think) 70-200. Its almost easier to use than the dal18-55 and I certainly see more clearly. I might have been put off by the third party lenses because of my sigma 18-200 which obviously distorts at extreme focal ranges. but maybe I should think about the fast third party lenses.
You're welcome Ian. Mostly I prefer Pentax lenses but I'm underwhelmed by the DA* 16-50, especially for the price. The DA* 50-135 on the other hand is simply brilliant. I've used the Tamron 17-50, not the image stabilized version, and really like it. Till the end of the year, Tamron is offering a $40 rebate, so it's worth considering. It isn't as well built, but the optics are very good.
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