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12-27-2010, 11:21 AM   #1
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Which DSLR to buy (unusual criteria, read)

I started with a Pentax DSLR a few years ago and then got hooked on film after buying some used prime lenses that came with film bodies attached as lens caps. Much of the reason I've continued concentrating on film (except for wildlife and "product" photography) is because the viewfinders on 35mm are generally so much better, and I find the APS-C viewfinders frustrating to shoot through with my 49 year old eyes. I have been determined for some time not to come back to digital until Pentax made something with a 35mm-size sensor, again, because that typically means a better viewfinder. But it looks like that isn't going to happen anytime soon, unless anyone has news that I have missed. I have accumulated too much good glass to want to switch brands now.

Still, what might bring me back to digital now is a surprise xmas gift from my family: a lensbaby. I love this thing, but doubt I'll use it much with film. I want to be able to keep re-trying shots till I get the fiddly focus right. And then, well, good times.



I would like to upgrade from my K100D. Main criteria for me are:

1. Viewfinder. I want a real pentaprism; and the brighter the better.
2. ISO1600+ performance. Low-light candids are really dramatic with the lensbaby. But my K100D needs a lot of postprocessing when shot at high ISO - lots of errant pixels and sometimes blotches in areas of saturation (see above), mostly blue for some reason.
3. Best price - I don't necessarily need something new, just better than I have.

What doesn't matter to me:

1. Autofocus speed or accuracy.
2. In-camera JPG processing. I'm used to working with RAW and don't mind it a bit.
3. Frames per second, video, weather sealing, ubermegapixels etc.

Given the above, what is a good recommendation? My first thought is a used K20D, but I wonder what others think. They are sometimes found used in the ~$450 range. Is a K10D enough of an upgrade to consider, since those are available more cheaply? K200D has a better sensor than K100D but the viewfinder is still based on a pentamirror, I think. Would any of the new models do better for me than the K20D, considering price differences?

12-27-2010, 11:41 AM - 1 Like   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by Sluggo Quote
I would like to upgrade from my K100D. Main criteria for me are:

1. Viewfinder. I want a real pentaprism; and the brighter the better.
2. ISO1600+ performance. Low-light candids are really dramatic with the lensbaby. But my K100D needs a lot of postprocessing when shot at high ISO - lots of errant pixels and sometimes blotches in areas of saturation (see above), mostly blue for some reason.
3. Best price - I don't necessarily need something new, just better than I have.

What doesn't matter to me:

1. Autofocus speed or accuracy.
2. In-camera JPG processing. I'm used to working with RAW and don't mind it a bit.
3. Frames per second, video, weather sealing, ubermegapixels etc.

Given the above, what is a good recommendation? My first thought is a used K20D, but I wonder what others think. They are sometimes found used in the ~$450 range. Is a K10D enough of an upgrade to consider, since those are available more cheaply? K200D has a better sensor than K100D but the viewfinder is still based on a pentamirror, I think. Would any of the new models do better for me than the K20D, considering price differences?
Well thought out already.

For real pentaprism on a Pentax dSLR - then you have to go with K10D, K20D K-7 or the new K-5
(although I think the *ist D, DS, DS2 also have pentaprisms - but they are probably not improvements over the K100D - which in its time was really good)
However suggest actually looking through the viewfinder of any you are considering to make sure the brightness improvement is as you would expect - the K100D although a mere penta-mirror is actually a very good penta-mirror.

Your problem comes with the ISO1600+ requirement - people have got good results with RAW pp with the K10D, K20D and K-7. However the K-5 is the ideal since it is very good at high ISO to begin with - I know it is way out of your price range - but I thought I'd just mention it.

K10D high ISO tops out at ISO1600 - so to get higher, one has to do push processing (ie: deliberately underexpose by 1 stop and bring it up in pp).

So I think the K20D is probably the way to go - just make sure the pentaprism is what you expect.

If a pentaprism does not quite do it, then you either have to stick to the K100D (already pretty good) or look at a K-x which does have very good high ISO..... but it is still a mere penta-mirror.
12-27-2010, 11:44 AM   #3
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For ISO1600+ and low light performance, ~$450,

can't go wrong with a new or used K-x.
12-27-2010, 11:53 AM   #4
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From your post it is hard to determine if k-mount compatibility is a key requirent, or if you would get a lensbaby to fit any body that meets your needs.

I think you would be frustrated by any cropped-sensor body viewfinder over the longer term. There are simply physical limits.

Consider a used Canon 5D. Bigger viewfinder, 135mm format, good iso 1600+ performance & available for $800 used these days.

M

12-27-2010, 11:58 AM   #5
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I would suggest the K100D. My K10D could not do high ISO. Both top out at 1600, but while I could not use anything at1600 from the K10, I would often find images from that ISO from the K100.

The K100 was better at high ISO. And they are not much money anymore. Then take the rest of cash and swap the viewfinder with an aftermarket katzeye or something similar if it's not what you need.

But, the K-x is a nice body as well, though I'm sure the prism isn't what you want.
12-27-2010, 12:07 PM   #6
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If you want to continue using your Pentax glass then K-r would be the way to go. I have a K-20D and K-r, but the differences in the viewfinder brightness of pentaprism vs. pentamirror are really marginal. It depends much more on the light transmission of the glass you use.

K-r is a little gem, coupled with a compact prime it can make wonders happen. Live-View is a feature you will love for critical focus, because no viewfinder can give you such a magnification at an instant. ISO 1600 is where the K-r is warming up, because it delivers outstanding images up to 6400 (and beyond with some PP).

You really can't go wrong with the K-r.

cheers,
d
12-27-2010, 12:09 PM   #7
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May I propose a K-x coupled with a magnifying eyecup?
12-27-2010, 12:23 PM   #8
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Pentaprism rules out a lot of cameras right away. Including high ISO, you can rank the remaining models quickly, best to worst: K-5, K20D, K-7, K10D, *ist D/DS/DS2. The K20D is obviously going to be a serious contender on price.

But... I do think the pentaprism is great and I would not be eager to downgrade. However, I really have to look hard to see the difference between pentamirror and pentaprism. And that's knowing which camera I'm looking through. It's definitely not the difference between a film VF and your K100D. It may not be as important as you think. If you can accept a pentamirror, then you should look at a K-x for ISO performance. If you have a chance, test out a pentaprism VF before deciding.

12-27-2010, 12:32 PM   #9
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I read through and took your “matters” and “doesn’t matters” to mind and have three suggestions, although maybe a touch predictable. Here’s my logic.

Pentax K-5
Pentax K-7
Pentax K-x

Your “wants:”
1. Viewfinder. I want a real pentaprism; and the brighter the better. (The K-5 and K-7 get you this, perhaps one of the brightest for a cropped sensor viewfinder. The K-x only gets you a slightly darker and less covered penta-mirror.)

2. ISO1600+ performance. Low-light candids are really dramatic with the lensbaby. (The K-5 and K-x win here. These two bodies are known for stellar higher iso shooting and 1600 is no problem with either. As much as I’d like to suggest the K-7 here, I’d say it cant compete with the other two as about 1600 is where the K-7 is pushed about as far as you’d like to go. )

3. Best price - I don't necessarily need something new, just better than I have. (Your philosophy about what you want to and can spend are personal to you, but if money is no object, the K-5 should be a great investment versus all around performance and happiness quotient. The K-7 is almost a bargain right now and the K-x is definitely a bargain versus what you get for the buck)


Your “doesn't matters”
1. 1. Autofocus speed or accuracy. (If your 49 year old eyes are as bad as my 40 year old eyes, I think you’ll appreciate a fast, accurate AF system more than you may give credence to. Here, the K-5 wins hands down over the other two with it’s brand new Pentax AF, the K-7 being a distant second followed by the K-x)

2. In-camera JPG processing. I'm used to working with RAW and don't mind it a bit. (Apples and apples here in my opinion, although the higher bit depth and higher dynamic range of the K-5 makes it a class leader right now, with any brand.

3. Frames per second, video, weather sealing, ubermegapixels etc. (For pure value, the K-x has it all…in a matter of speaking as the leader in “having it not”, versus the other two.)


If you have Pentax glass and want to stay in K-mount, the current lineup with Pentax aint that bad right now! I used the three above models as example in my opinion, no offense about not mentioning the K-r as I am sure it is a fine camera, perhaps the best new amateur/novice class body out right now.

If it were my money, I’d opt for the K-5 and happiness prevails.

Jason
12-27-2010, 12:32 PM   #10
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I'll second looking into the 5D. It fits the bill of the things you want, and also avoids the things you don't want. If you want to stay with Pentax, then pretty much all you've got is the K-x and the K-r but they don't have the nice viewfinder you desire.
12-27-2010, 05:21 PM   #11
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I got a chance to play with a 5D Mk II for a bit.

My K20D + DK21M magnifying eyecup (ironically, a Nikon..) just about matched the unmagnified VF of the 5D Mk II. Of course adding a magnifier to the Canon would make it even better..

Then there's the 1D Mk II. APS-H crop, 8MP only. A pretty old design, not sure how it'd do at ISO 1600, but the photosites are huge, and the Canon 1-series has the best viewfinder in Canon-land. Not to mention there's a (stock) split-image screen available. Best of all, you can get one in the $500 range (cheaper than a 5D Mk I).
12-28-2010, 02:26 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by orly_andico Quote
I got a chance to play with a 5D Mk II for a bit.

My K20D + DK21M magnifying eyecup (ironically, a Nikon..) just about matched the unmagnified VF of the 5D Mk II. Of course adding a magnifier to the Canon would make it even better..
This magnifying eyepiece discussion is a bit OT, but anyway... with K-r I am using Pentax O-ME53, which is a fine piece of equipment. Initially I bought it for K-20D, but never needed it, because magnification is sufficient there.

I also use a Canon 5D, but adding the original EP-EX15 eyecup extension results in a dramatically distorted picture, which makes it completely useless for studio stills and architecture shots.

cheers,
d
12-28-2010, 02:49 AM   #13
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that EP-EX15 is worthless (it's a 0.7X "magnifier" !!!)

so the image gets smaller. I don't know why anybody buys it (I did...)
12-28-2010, 05:35 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by orly_andico Quote
that EP-EX15 is worthless (it's a 0.7X "magnifier" !!!)

so the image gets smaller. I don't know why anybody buys it (I did...)
It's not a magnifier, it's a extension to enable more comfortable handling (in theory) and to keep your nose off buttons & LCD. But it is practically useless because of strong image degradation.
01-19-2011, 07:44 PM   #15
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Result: I got a used K20D that turned out to be in great shape. It seemed like a sweet spot of price vs. improvements -- at least the way I had them prioritized; from the posts here, it's obvious others have different priorities and/or don't get mine, but that's cool. For what it's worth, to my eye the viewfinder is quite a bit more "present" than that in the K100D. Pretty much everything else about the camera is a step up as well, including the AF, although that was a small consideration since most of my favorite glass is manual focus anyway.

I didn't get a chance to test the viewfinder difference before buying, as a couple of you had wisely suggested; but I was aware from collecting film cams how the viewfinder type can make some 35mm bodies less fatiguing to use than others (e.g., how nice it is to pick up an MX or ME Super after spending time with the pentamirrored ZX-M).

Thanks for all those who offered advice and reflections.

Time to get out and shoot.

Last edited by Sluggo; 01-19-2011 at 07:50 PM.
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