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02-26-2011, 02:10 PM   #1
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Help me choose upgrade

Hi all,

Warning, kinda long -

I bought a K100D years ago. I was late to the DSLR party, still shooting my F3HP, FE, Pentacon and other older film cameras. It's time for me to finally get a better body - I'd love a K5 but it's not in the cards ($). I'm likely to buy a used K7 or K20D, maybe a Kx. Help me choose, please! Right now I'm feeling it's a tie for me between the K20D and K7.

If you've actually got experience between any two or even all three bodies, please lend me your experience. I'm an amateur, but like to think that I'm skilled. (I have a patent for a 3-CCD beam splitter prism used in high resolution line scan applications.)

Because I'm a bit of a Luddite, I jumped from Nikon to Pentax for the very reason that even the entry level Pentax DSLR supported all the old glass. I have a large inventory of old Nikkor glass that that would be useless unless I started with a pro grade camera.

Anyway, I've been collecting Pentax, Sigma EX and Tamron SP full frame lenses for the K100. Gotta be ready when that full frame CCD camera comes out! Now that I've got enough glass and I'm becoming more of a Pentaxian, it's time for a new body.

I've read the threads about high ISO differences, shortcomings (relative) or great performance between the K20D, K7 and KX. I don't really know which way to go.

What I'm looking for:

I shoot a lot of birds, a quieter shutter sure would be nice.

High ISO performance is nice, but relative, I used to lug around a 4x5 view camera! Also, I have a penchant for fast lenses so much of the glass that I've purchased for the K100 is f2.8 or faster. So performance even up to 1600 is fast for me (and anything above 800 in the K100 is nearly useless)

I'll put a split image screen in the body, if it doesn't already have one. I've not looked to see if one is available for the Kx, but if not - it's out of the race already.

Improved auto-focus would be nice. I shoot wildlife mostly manual focus, but my daughter is a swimmer and with many meets indoors, faster autofocus in sometimes less than ideal lighting would be nice. I do use the camera as an instamatic at picnics and the like.

General image quality. At what for me a reasonable ISO settings, the better image quality...but, that's kind of obvious!

Lastly, I'll likely try to find a well taken care of used camera or Pentax refurb. Price point will likely be the final arbiter in the case of a tie.


02-26-2011, 03:05 PM   #2
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My input: you can't get any better than the K-5 for your needs. Only sticking point may be price.

02-26-2011, 03:19 PM   #3
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If I understand correctly, you have 2 sets of lenses - Nikon & Pentax. How about just sell all Pentax for an used D300?
02-26-2011, 03:49 PM   #4
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As someone who just made the decision to acquire Nikon for my particular needs, I'm not about to suggest that Pentax does not have a place in the world of photography.

That being said, I've migrated through the Pentax line including the K100d. I would suggest that you consider the K20. Arguably the image quality of the K100 is better, but the K20 is not very far behind (if at all) and gives you considerable improvements in focusing speed and accuracy, higher ISO performance (about one stop), write speed etc. Along with the improvements mentioned also consider the next tier body with much more user control including the ability to adjust the ISO in 1/3 stops, dual program wheels and a much more robustly built body, weather sealed and so on.

With Pentax asking a premium price for the K5 to allow the user to get to the performance of the last generation of Nikon and soon to be eclipsed once again with the release of their next generation. The price of a used K20 is very attractive. I would expect to pay somewhere in the $500.00 range for a good used example. If you can live without the better focusing and low light performance of cameras in the K5/D300/D7000 realm then the K20 should be an ideal choice for you.


02-26-2011, 04:34 PM   #5
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Hi PT,

I too have the K100 and upgraded to the K20 when the K7 was announced. I have held off on the K5 due to the price, and just everything - maybe in a year or so... To you questions....

I would think that your decision would revolve around a number of things - for instance..
  • Viewfinder - The K7 I believe has a 100% Pentaprisim view finder. The K20 has a 97% Pentaprisim while the Kx has a 97% Pentamirror (which is not as bright as the Pentaprism).
  • Ergonomics - If you have large hands, then the K20 followed by the K7 and Kx in terms of size
  • Body Controls - Having additional body controls accessible would point you towards the K20 and K7 - and away from the Kx.
  • Warranty - You can still find K7s new and Pentax offers a 2 year warranty extension for a small amount of money. This may be worthwhile (YMMV)....
The K20 and K7 are essentially the same camera - sensor etc. with the K7 being smaller and with a full metal frame, and possibly better ergonomics (depending on your likes and needs).

In terms of shutter - the K20 is much quieter than the K100 by a factor of about 10. The K7 is suppose to be even better.

You can go to the katzeye website and see the body versions that it supports. The autofocus on the K20 is better than the K100 (by a noticeable amount - but its not a quantum improvement) and others would need to comment on the K7. My K20 still hunts but not as much as the K100

The sensor on the K20 and K7 is CMOS while the K100 is CCD, so the sensor noise characteristics are different between the two.

On my K20 I have been able to obtain very usable ISO 3200 with a noise reduction utility in post processing (shooting RAW).

... so that may help a bit...
02-26-2011, 04:52 PM   #6
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For your particular needs:
1) quiet shutter - both K-7 and K-5 have shutter quiet as much as it gets with SLR.
2) AF performance - K-7 might do, but K-5 is simply great. Tracking fast action is not a problem. I had 7D in my mind before I went with the K-5 but Canon is not much better with AF and loses a lot in:
3) ISO and general IQ - K-5 is now the best in APS-C class and it is not only lab testing. The DR in RAW is marvelous. I was disappointed with K-7's IQ. It was not bad or unusable, but not much of an improvement over K10D.
02-26-2011, 05:31 PM   #7
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You already received some very good advice. I may add a few comments.

First all these cameras K20d, K7, Kx are good cameras and you wil not be disappointed.

Second I have a K-7 and I tried the K-x; I would not comment on the K20d since I did not try it.

If you shoot outdoor, the WR of the K-7 is definitely a bonus. Further the K-7 is good as any others at low ISOs. Like you I shoot outdoor and I am glad that I have the K-7. I considered seriously the K-x, but I am convinced that it would not have lasted in the foul weather conditions when I shoot.

For outdoor, a weakness of the K-7 is the low-light conditions. Some talk about high-ISO but what matters is the light (not the ISO). Really you want to be able to shoot at dusk and dawn. I bought a fast prime (Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f1.4) especially for these occasions and the results are astonishing. One year ago, I was shooting at sunrise with other colleagues using Canon and Nikon (+kit lenses). I was first out to shoot even in the very low light with my Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f1.4 and the others could not shoot decent photograhs until 20-25 minutes after I started. Similarly, I was shooting at sunset with a colleague using Nikon. At 19:30, he had to stop while I was able to shoot until 20:00 with my K-7 and fast prime. When I stopped at 20:00, I was shooting with up to ISO1600 and did not reach yet ISO3200.

In terms of high-ISO, the general consensus among this Forum is centered around two main techniques with the K-7:
- shoot without in-camera correction (I use up to ISO3200) and post-process with a noise reduction software (I use Noiseware), or

- use Adam's solution based upon in-camera High-ISO noise reduction that is very effective (

I prefer myself the former and I am very happy with Noiseware outputs.

You may also read the threads:

Ultimately, I think however that a good prime lens is a simple way to shoot in low-lights with the K-7 and it works.

I hope that the comments and experience will assist and add to the earlier posts.
02-26-2011, 07:21 PM   #8
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I'd say it sounds like a K-7's the ticket, barring a K-5 purchase (I wouldn't buy some claims that's a generation behind the Nikon competition: they're about the same, and Nikon's had to undercut on price to compete that way: anyway, no fuss there. You'd have to evaluate each on strengths and weaknesses and preferences and purposes. I wouldn't buy into the grousing and brand wars on this: a lot of the gaps are just closing, anyway. )

Depends what glass you have there, choosing between brands, though: it seems you're sitting on a perfectly-good stable of both. Nikon's lack of compatibility with older glass unless one bought a sixteen-hundred dollar body is probably a big reason I'm here: a K20d came along for a grand less than a D300: by the time the K-5's price comes down within reach,, that'll probably be all the performance I personally need. (And then cause I mostly prefer low-light, anyway. )

The K-7 shutter is quieter, by all accounts, (To me, 'Quieter than a Canon FTb' is quiet, so what do I know. ) and there's a slight edge in AF and high-ISO there over the K20d, so it may be an option, Not being a bird shooter, (unless you count occasionally stalking around my backyard with a cheap old manual zoom or a 135 ) it mightn't be enough difference to trouble with for me, compared to a K20d, but it does sound like a K-7 might be a decent choice for you. They've already done the lion's share of their depreciating, so you could upgrade later without taking too much of a hit.

If I had a pile of old Nikkors and a trusty F3HP and FE, I might bide my time with Pentax a while and see what a D700 costs in four years. (Or I'd just be starting to look at used D300's about now instead of having a few years of K20d. Me, I was a Canon FD holdout with a Lumix FZ-7 having mad fantasies about them throwing us a 'Digital Back FN' or a 5d with FD mount. Nikon got a fair shake, especially considering I had a line on some old Nikkors: I just couldn't make the numbers work out, and ....Pentax glass. )

As of now, it seems a lot of the tech gap is just closing, for anyone used to film's purposes, anyway. Pentax glass is somewhat pricier than it was a few years ago,, and some of Nikon's useful bodies are starting to trickle down within reach of the plebians: it's down to what you need and like. Nikon would have a hard time dislodging me from here, now, (Especially cause FA Limiteds, something to put behind them, and a truly stellar/precise focusing screen are about all I'd really ask. )

Anyway, I ramble, but you could just get a bit more current and be on your way for the time being. If you're still shooting a K100d, you're *probably* not impressed by 'who's winning' various marketing races.

02-27-2011, 03:01 AM   #9
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My opinion, go with the K7. The K20 probably has a tad bit of an advantage at low ISO but in every other category that you mentioned, high ISO, shooting birds (fast FPS), and better AF, the K7 beats the K20. You can also get some video of your daughter swimming if you ever want to. The K7 is not known for its high ISO performance but will be better than the K20.

Just to cover all your bases though, the Kx is known for its high ISO performance and if that is really important or the most important feature to you then I would go with the Kx. The Kx will be the best performer of the 3 for your indoor shots and gets only 0.5 FPS slower than the K7. I suggest doing a comparison of the Kx to the K7 and decide which features are more important to you and also consider the $300-$350 you would save over the K7. Good Luck!
02-27-2011, 04:02 AM   #10
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Had enough advice yet?
I might add in this curve ball - the K-7 and K20D are similar in IQ, but for a little more you could get the K-r (if you don't need weather sealing). It has even more high ISO performance, faster AF and nifty features that make it quite advanced for an entry level model. Hope this hasn't made things worse for you.
02-28-2011, 11:21 AM   #11
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Thank you one and all for advice!

I really do appreciate the opinions and thoughts. I do also appreciate the fact that this hasn't slid down to another one of those mud slinging threads!

I am really thinking the K7 might be the cat's pajamas for me. I will likely be buying used, I've had good luck with other purchases and I hope it will extend to this one! The strike price on the used K20 is not that much less than the K7.

The performance differences between the K20D and K7 don't really seem that large to me and I think that most of them will not really be that noticeable. It really seems from the comments made so far that that is the consensus as well.

I will most likely use an Asian after market focus screen in what ever I end up with. The Katzeye focus screens appear really nice, but by the time I put options on it, they get pricey. I don't know how much more additional performance I'd gather from the Katz screen over my asian one in my K100, but the order of magnitude price keeps me happy with my choice!

Thanks again for the input, I've not purchased yet - but I am approaching the front of the queue and when I get to the box office I'll put my money down!

03-03-2011, 07:18 AM   #12
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Don't discount the k-r

It is a fantastic camera! There are lots of incremental features over the K-x that make shooting easier (better LCD, focus adjust, AF points in VF, etc). The camera has unfortunately been over-shadowed by the FF problem, but I have read all over the web about similar problems with A LOT of cameras from all manufacturers (think D7000, 7D, even the preciuous K-5)

The K-r is the sleeper here I think, and you will be missing out if you discount it.

Fantastic High ISO
Great build quality
fast AF
very accurate metering
very accurate WB
incredible amount of user options

03-03-2011, 03:01 PM   #13
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Let me ramble a bit. Before buying a dSLR, I did extensive research, especially tracking user reviews and ratings. I learned to dislike the word 'upgrade' as applied to cameras. It reminds me of Canikon user bitches and whines about their plastic fantastic bodies, and how they need to 'upgrade' soonest.

In my film days, I didn't 'upgrade' from 135/FF VF to RF to SLR to 6x6 MF TLR, nor 'downgrade' to 135/HF VF to RF to SLR. I supplemented my new tools with other tools, more tools, each for different purposes. (**) Just like one doesn't 'upgrade' from a ball-peen hammer to a clawhammer. They're different.

Ah, but with film, to get different recording capabilities (speed, spectral range, tonal qualities, etc) one merely inserted a different roll or cart or sheet of film. With digital, the camera *is* the film. Going to ISO 64k or native IR or noiseless images means using a different camera. Those are physical basics. Nice-to-have's include tethering, improved AF, WB, FPS, etc, better control layouts, stuff to make shooting easier or at least better controlled. And thus we have and need camera upgrades. Bother.

When I bought my first dSLR ~2.8 years ago, I deliberately chose the K20D because I thought it the least likely to impel me to 'upgrade' anytime soon. It had the megapickles, ruggedness, controls, features... and the least user gripes, in its price range. I have no discretionary income except what I make on eBay. I can't afford to 'upgrade' regularly. I picked the camera that I thought would satisfy me for the longest time.

Which is my long way of saying: Get the K5. It's the most advanced offering and should stay current for a few more years than the other possibilities.

(**) The film cameras I referred to above:

135/FF VF:: German 1934 Kodak Retina 1, the very first 135 camera
135/FF RF:: Yashica Electro35 GSN, great rangefinder, still active
135/FF SLR: Minolta SRT-101, because it's solid, good, reliable
6x6 MF TLR: YashicaMat 124G, because it was affordable and great
135/HF VF:: Canon Dial35, small and weird -- looks like a light meter!
135/HF RF:: Canon Demi EE17, still one of the best small cameras
135/HF SLR: Olympus Pen-FT -- carry a whole lens system in 1 pocket!
03-03-2011, 03:35 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
When I bought my first dSLR ~2.8 years ago, I deliberately chose the K20D because I thought it the least likely to impel me to 'upgrade' anytime soon. It had the megapickles, ruggedness, controls, features... and the least user gripes, in its price range. I have no discretionary income except what I make on eBay. I can't afford to 'upgrade' regularly. I picked the camera that I thought would satisfy me for the longest time.

Which is my long way of saying: Get the K5. It's the most advanced offering and should stay current for a few more years than the other possibilities.
I agree with RioRico - you might as well go for the ultimate dSLR you really want - and the Pentax K-5 is it for now.

Don't change for years then the price although may seem intimidating initially - won't matter in the long run.

I'm at the other end of the spending spectrum -
I have a K-x -
"upgraded" from a K100D (after 3 1/2 years) -
mainly because I could easily see the HighISO improvement
(and the K100D was no slouch up to ISO1600)

I shoot a lot at a very dark jazz venue where the light is so low in some parts
that it is below the limits of both the exposure metering and AF
(I only have the two humble kit zooms)
but my results are satisfying to me,
of course YMMV - I may have low standards

K-x ISO5000

ISO5000, f/4.5, 1/25, 40mm

Currently I have no intention of "upgrading" further -
the K-x will last me until I can see a marked improvement in HighISO -
yes, the K-5 is an improvement for the higher MegaPickles (thanks RioRico) -
but not enough to make a difference for my usage.

One may think that ISO5000 is for geeks, and only applicable for indoor venues -
imagine my surprise at this shot:

ISO5000!! f/5.6, 1/160, 160mm
I am shocked that the sensitivity was ISO5000! - I mean it's daylight - and the scene was very strongly back-lit - I actually had to brighten the main subject despite already having +2/3 stop compensation.

If you have Nikon lenses - why not sell some of those -
the market for Nikon lenses probably is much better and wider than for Pentax lenses -
that way you may make up the difference and be able to afford the K-5.

Good luck
and yes, I will be jealous if you get the K-5......
03-03-2011, 05:36 PM   #15
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yep, what Nikkors do you have? If they were suited to a D7000 (it can use some manual Nikkors, post Pre-Ai so Ai/Ai-s, etc I think, but do you want/need AF?) then I'd say get that and sell anything Pentax related to fund it. If you're wanting the Pentax body to suit your Pentax compatible lenses you've accumulated, then sell the Nikkors and buy a K5. I have a K10D and K7... the K7 is light-years better in AF, image quality is much a muchness IMO.

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