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02-14-2011, 12:03 PM   #1
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Best Low ISO Pentax DSLR?

It's pretty clear that the newer models are better high ISO cameras but what if you stay at 400 and below? How would a K20D compare to a K-r for example? I have the K-r but would like the larger weather sealed body of the K20D and I wouldn't want to give up image quality at the lower ISO settings. The K5 would probably be perfect for me but it is out of my price range right now. I usually shoot in good light and keep the ISO as low as possible sometimes going to 400 and rarely 800.

02-14-2011, 12:08 PM   #2
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the best at iso 100 is supposedly the k10 (i can attest it is very low noise at 100 and better than my k7 at this speed) ccd sensors do better at low iso, cmos do better at high iso
at 400 though the k7 blows the k10 away,
for what it's worth even if i shot only 100 and 200 I'd still shoot the k7 because in so many other aspects it's a better camera
the 10 has been used once since the 7 arrived in december
02-14-2011, 12:29 PM   #3
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Eddie,

This is pretty much what I assumed, and I would love to shoot with a K10 (I have a K110 now and am planning to get the K5 by the end of the year). It seems to me that the K10 would be a great body for studio work where you have control over the light, allowing you to shoot at ISO 100 or 200 all the time, and the K5 would be the ideal body for outdoors/available light sports and wildlife photography. It seems like the best all-around dream kit would include both the K10 and K5 bodies, but if you are only going to be a one-body photographer, it's probably best to stick with a newer model.

What does the rest of the community think?

~Jon
02-14-2011, 12:31 PM   #4
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I agree with all that Eddie says, except to add that your get basically the same camera and IQ with a K20D as with a K7 for much less money. As far as comparing the K20D to a K-r, there is no comparison for low ISO IQ. The K20D beats the K-r like a stepchild. It was built for entry-level, high-ISO, auto everything snapshooters. That's not what you do.
The K20D is a good deal right now, and the K10D is even better. Either will give you the rich images you want.

02-14-2011, 12:39 PM   #5
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I believe this would now be the K-5, which has been the biggest game-changer for Pentax IMO.
The K110D/K100D/*ist D series all had the wonderful Sony 6Mp CCD, which they redeveloped into the 10Mp CCD in the K10D/K200D - all of these models offered amazing DR and image brilliance at ISO 100-200. The K20D and K-7 moved to CMOS, which apparently lost some DR but also performed worse in terms of long exposures and had slightly different colour profiles - more blues, less yellows. This is what kept me going with the K10D for so long. Not even the K-x or K-r sensors could compare to the Sony CCD sensor in this way.

But now the K-5 is out, the DR is simply amazing (rivalling the D3X and almost on par with the D700 according to DxOMark: DxOMark - DxOMark review for the Pentax K5) and given good rep here: Pentax K-5 best dynamic range of ANY digital camera!! - Steve's Digicams Forums

My pleasure was in seeing the K-5's noise handling in long exposures. It effectively creates smooth long exposure results easily meeting the K10D's ability to do so. Also the colours out of the 16Mp CMOS sensor are excellent and sharpness also great at 100%.
02-14-2011, 01:05 PM   #6
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I prefer ISO80 from K-5 more than ISO 100, or 200 from K200D which has same sensor as K10
02-14-2011, 01:17 PM   #7
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And for good reason - ISO 80 and ISO 100 on the K-5 offers over 14 Ev of DR compared to just under 12 Ev from the K10D/K200D at ISO 100. A significant difference.
02-14-2011, 05:36 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ash Quote
And for good reason - ISO 80 and ISO 100 on the K-5 offers over 14 Ev of DR compared to just under 12 Ev from the K10D/K200D at ISO 100. A significant difference.

This would seem about right -
taken from the DxOMark rankings -

These are the current top 3 APS-C sensors -

I was surprised to see the (recent) entry of the Sony A-580 -
but then again I think that's the same (Sony)16Mp Cmos sensor that both the K-5 and D7000 use -
so currently the Sony A-580 may be a bargain of sorts.....

Anyway for convenience I pasted together the DxOMarks of all the Pentax dSLRs in ranking order - the orange number toward the top left of each respective panel -

just to see how badly beaten those stepchildren were (great turn of phrase BTW)
- perhaps those stepchildren are a bit too well endowed
since the low ISO attributes of dynamic range and color depth seem to be better than the K20D?


Last edited by UnknownVT; 02-14-2011 at 10:17 PM.
02-14-2011, 06:41 PM   #9
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Thanks for all the information. When I posted the question I was thinking the K20D might be the right camera for me. Now I think the K5 is actually the one I would be most pleased with. I just can't afford it right now. Maybe I should just keep the K-r until I can. I can still return it for a refund right now so I'm also thinking of doing that and getting the K20D. If image quality - especially noise - at 400 and below is as good or better than the K-r then that's probably my best option right now. I know I would appreciate the body size, top panel LCD and weather sealing over the K-r. The last camera I owned that I really liked was the Nikon D300. It was aging so I sold it and my lenses last year. I've always liked Pentax and wanted to give the brand a try but after trying the smaller body realized I was having a hard time getting used to it.

Thanks again for all your help and please add any more info that could help me with this decision.
02-14-2011, 08:03 PM   #10
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Unless the K-r is somehow significantly worse than the K-x, I wouldn't buy the claim that the K20D would "beat the K-r like a stepchild" at low-ISO. I have worked extensively with the K20D and the K-x, and at low ISO the K-x still blows away the K20D for clean, useful image data and dynamic range. It doesn't take much for ISO 100 K20D files to start crumbling if they're at all underexposed or if you need to bring up any detail from the shadows. K-x files from the same ISO are unbelievably clean down to the deep shadows (and the K-5 takes this even further). The only advantage for the K20D is if you prefer the particular "look" and colors of the files from the samsung sensor, which some do. Even resolution is approximately the same (I get higher acutance out of the K-x, so I see no advantage for the extra two megapixels).

So if you want the external controls, or the larger body or the weathersealing, go ahead and get the K20D. But if you value faster fps, less finicky AF, a smaller and lighter body, battery flexibility, video, usable high ISOs, and yes, low-ISO files that are in most ways superior, stick with your K-r and start saving for a K-5.

I can't speak for the old 10mp CCDs, but I've seen nothing to suggest that the "richness" attributed to its files is anything more than an intangible like "olympus blues" or the "leica look..." so whether you feel it's actually "better" or not is going to be entirely subjective and you'd have to try it for yourself.
02-14-2011, 08:11 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by dvest Quote
please add any more info that could help me with this decision.
Some comments if I may.

You already have a very fine camera in the K-r -
see its high DxOMark ranking.

There seemed to be a view that good HighISO performance means that the Lower ISO lag - that doesn't make sense - certainly this is clearly not the case - the top DxOMark ranked cameras are both the top HighISO and LowISO performers.

At lower ISO the differences are obviously measurable as shown by the DxOMark -
but may be difficult to see visually - most of the reviews out there tend to point out there is very little difference at ISOs below 400 -

Of course YMMV - but it may be worthwhile checking the full sized test samples at Imaging-Resource.com to see how the low ISO images of the K-r compare to the K-5 -

I would hazard that below ISO400 there would be very little difference (I know obviously they are not the same size so it can't be a 1:1 comparison - but it is still very educational to actually compare side-by-side).

There will be some who will point out (correctly) that differences are unlikely to be seen with JPGs out of the camera (note that) -
some of the test shots do have RAW versions - so one can download those convert them and compare.

Again it may be pointed out that things like dynamic range are unlikely to be seen with a straight converted RAW to JPG -
but examining things like the shadow areas - especially when one wants to bring up the shadow details, then the difference can be seen - again note that.

If one is going to shoot JPGs
or mostly do straight conversions from RAW without too much pushing up of shadow areas -
one may not actually see much material difference.

There are other very good reasons to have a K-5 over a K-r -
but unless one is going push the boundaries, things like shadow areas -
Low ISO performance may not be one of them?

For a lot of measurements see the ImaTest of the K-5 on Imaging-Resource.com
(there's a lot to take in there...)
however just past 1/2 way down the page is the dynamic range comparison with other cameras - from RAW - the K-5 is the top dog at 10.2 stops DR, along with the Nikon D7000 - the K-r has not been tested yet - but the K-x (similar?) is in the list at 9.33 stops DR.
JPG DR tells a completely different story with several cameras doing better than the K-5.......
BUT looking at the full sized test samples at Imaging-Resource.com one can still tell that the K-5 is a top dog the K-r and K-x images are really good too - yet these are mere JPGs - so DR does not tell the whole story either.

Last edited by UnknownVT; 02-14-2011 at 10:11 PM.
02-14-2011, 09:19 PM   #12
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Thanks UnknownVT and er1kksen for your comments. You make a lot of sense. I really believe the K5 is the camera I want so I think I'll just keep the K-r for now and wait for price of the K5 to come down. I read all the reviews and look at the comparisons but still I do this to myself all the time - second guess the choice I made. I really like a lot about the K-r, image quality being one of them. Thanks for bringing me to my senses!

And thank you to all who made comments. You were all helpful.

Last edited by dvest; 02-14-2011 at 10:20 PM.
02-15-2011, 12:54 AM   #13
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K-5 then K-x, K-r, K10d, K20d are the best at low iso in that order. Due to dynamic range.
02-15-2011, 01:34 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by UnknownVT Quote
Anyway for convenience I pasted together the DxOMarks of all the Pentax dSLRs in ranking order - the orange number toward the top left of each respective panel
I, too, have wondered about these results. It would appear that K-7 is the overall dog out of Pentax DSLR family, hard to imagine that out of excellent Pentax engineering. Should I be glad that I had followed sound advise to avoid K-7 when the reviews were rave? or DXOmark results may have been skewed unfavorably for K-7 ?
02-15-2011, 07:20 AM   #15
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i find it odd actually as i am shooting the k7 and it's not the dog i was led to belieeve. actually in most ways i find it better than my k10
a little (and i mean little) nosier at low ISO, above 400 though it beats the k10 hands down.
I still don't know how it did so poorly in DxO
don't care really either as it is doing the job for me which is all that really matters
jpeg performance i don't care as i don't shoot jpegs just raw. as long as the info is there i'll deal with any issue in post
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