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12-29-2010, 12:21 PM   #1
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Which Pentax for high ISO?

I've searched the forum and didn't find an answer, but I'm a relative newb. If I missed a relevant thread, please point me to it.

I have read many users extolling the virtues of high ISO shooting with the latest Pentax models. But I can't find any direct comparisons of the various models' noise levels (except one user who did a magnificent job of showing that the K-R is only slightly better than the K-X).

I'd love an excuse to buy a K-5, but it's 3x the current price of a K-X. Would it give me significantly better low-light performance?

Lately I've had to photograph school concerts and other activities with very poor available light. I have been using the K20d in RAW mode and performing PP with Noise Ninja.

Thanks for your help.

12-29-2010, 02:16 PM   #2
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Save yourself the time and effort, just go buy a K-5, it is definatly the high ISO king
12-29-2010, 02:24 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by jblocher@mac.com Quote
I'd love an excuse to buy a K-5, but it's 3x the current price of a K-X. Would it give me significantly better low-light performance?
There is some confusion among several posters between Hgh-ISO and low-light photography. While I appreciate you want an 'excuse' for buying a new body, let us not confuse the real issue.

For low-light photography, you need a lens with a large aperture to get maximum light onto the camera sensor. That is, you want a fast prime lens, where 'fast' = large aperture (low f) and 'prime' = single focal length. There are several nice fast primes and a classical example is around 50mm & f1.4.

Do yourself a favor: if you buy a new body, make sure that you save enough mony left to buy also a fast prime lens (f1.4).
12-29-2010, 02:27 PM   #4
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Care to suggest a long f1.4 prime? School concerts sounds like something that a 50mm lens will be too short for.

12-29-2010, 02:39 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by jblocher@mac.com Quote
I have read many users extolling the virtues of high ISO shooting with the latest Pentax models. But I can't find any direct comparisons of the various models' noise levels (except one user who did a magnificent job of showing that the K-R is only slightly better than the K-X).
In price order lowest to high

K-x
K-r
K-5

be grateful for your reference of the K-r being slightly better than the K-x -

Please see: anyone did Kx to Kr?

specifically these side-by-side direct comparisons:

All sizes | high-key_ISO_elevator | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

All sizes | low-key_ISO_elevator | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

All sizes | grey_ISO_elevator | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

These comparisons were from devorama's thread:
K-r vs. K-x ISO samples (or return of the ISO flower!)

There was very little difference even when pixel peeping -
if anything the K-x seemed slightly better than the K-r from these comparisons.

The K-5 is a fabulous camera -
BUT at HighISO - even though there may well be measurable differences -
I don't think it makes that much difference in practical real-life photos:
Using dpReview's comparisons from the Canon 60D review -
I compared the current top of the heap 16Mp dSLRs - Pentax K-5, Nikon D7000, and the Canon 60D with the 12Mp K-x - I know it is not a 1:1 comparison but this gives me an idea of whether there is substantial improvement at HighISO over the K-x - best to judge for oneself.

ISO 6400 -






For grins I also compared at
ISO 12800 -


These new 16+Mp dSLRs are amazing with relative image quality that are visually matching the "best" 12Mp at High ISOs - the Nikon D7000 JPG engine appears to do well especially when comparing the Martini label - with the K-x a kind of second - but at ISO 12800 one really ought to be working in RAW and reduce the noise using a more specialized program.
12-29-2010, 02:46 PM   #6
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My wife has the K-r and I have the K-5. The K-r (or K-x) is no slouch and should be fine if you can't afford the K-5.

Regarding some of the comments, I'm not sure that a faster lens will always help. My 50 1.2 on my K-7 was no match for a f2.8 lens on my K-5. Using a lens wide open can cause issues with DOF, which is further compounded by the use of longer lenses.

You can now choose a more optimum F stop on the lens for sharpness and DOF, and set the sensor to accept more light, without the noise (or reduced noise) typically seen with high ISO.
12-29-2010, 04:40 PM   #7
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I have a K10 and the wife a K100, and her camera beats mine hands down at higher ISO. not sure where K100 fits in now a days as far as megpix etc (k100 is 6mp)
just a cheap thought
12-29-2010, 05:55 PM   #8
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Thanks for all the extremely valuable help.

Vincent, I didn't know the dpreview comparisons were so versatile. It's interesting trying out various scenarios. In some portions of their standard studio setup, it looked like the K-X has a slight edge on the K-5, but as David said, the K-5 is the current high-ISO king.

I have a Pentax A 50mm 1.4, but as was mentioned, I need something longer for school concerts. Maybe I should have tried my old MF 135mm f2.8, but most of the best shots were between 200mm and 300mm. Depth of field was still too shallow at times, even at f5.8.

My wife also has a K100d, which she loves. Maximum ISO is 1600, though, same as my K10d.

It looks like a new body is in my future...


Last edited by jblocher@mac.com; 12-29-2010 at 05:59 PM. Reason: error correction
12-29-2010, 06:44 PM   #9
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K-5, sadly we all know of the K-7's difficulty with high iso's.
12-30-2010, 09:23 AM   #10
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Hi guys, concert shooting is a lot of fun and a real challenge. I use the KX with either the DA*50-135f2.8 or the Sigma 24-60f2.8. Any shallower than 2.8 makes accurate focusing too difficult. In small clubs, it's not uncommon to shoot at ISO 5000 or higher.

Have fun.

Some samples
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12-31-2010, 11:45 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by jblocher@mac.com Quote
Vincent, I didn't know the dpreview comparisons were so versatile. It's interesting trying out various scenarios. In some portions of their standard studio setup, it looked like the K-X has a slight edge on the K-5, but as David said, the K-5 is the current high-ISO king.

My wife also has a K100d, which she loves. Maximum ISO is 1600, though, same as my K10d.
The K100D max ISO is ISO3200 - I know I have one....

K100D ISO3200, f/4, 1/8, 50mm (50-200 zoom)

on the humble 18-55 (Mk 1) at wide-open aperture - 6Mp K100D

ISO400, f/3.5, 1/40sec; 18mm, 6Mp K100D (hopefully EXIF still attached - PhotoBucket can mysteriously drop metadata)

Last edited by UnknownVT; 12-31-2010 at 12:08 PM.
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