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05-25-2011, 03:14 PM   #1
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Pentax K-7 v Nikon D300s - review, sort of.

About 3 months ago I swapped systems from a Pentax K-7 to a Nikon D300s. I have pretty much replaced my Pentax lenses with Nikon equivalents. I was writing up a report on my comparison of the K-7 and the Nikon D300s, saved on a flash drive, which I have now lost! I won't bother doing all that again as I'm not a fast typist. Suffice to say I'm happy with the results, though still getting use to the "Nikonthink" way of menus and doing things, not as good as Pentax imo.

However results-wise, and this is entirely relating to sport-shooting and all of this should be read in that context, I'm very happy. I'm getting lots more keepers, and am actually not bothering to keep some shots that I otherwise would have with the K-7 because I get so many other good shots. This is all down to the focusing and tracking ability of the D300s, purely and simply.

With the K-7 I was using the Sigma 70-200/f2.8 (screw drive) usually coupled with the Sigma EX 1.4x TC. With the D300s I'm using the Nikkor 70-200/f2.8, usually coupled with the 1.4x TC, but also the 1.7x TC. This Nikon lens uses Nikon's SWM in-lens motor for focus. It's very fast(and silent, which I'm still getting use to!). In good weather the 1.7x TC hardly slows the lens down at all, in bad weather, well it's too dark to use it anyway as it steals 1.5 stops of light!

If I wasn't quite so into shooting sport, I'd still be very happy with my K-7.

Things I miss from the K-7:
  • Size and weight.
  • Pentax saying it's weather-proof, Nikon seem reluctant to commit to this.
  • The better utilisation of auto-ISO, the Nikon way is not as sensible.
  • TAv mode - while this can be done on the D300s, it's not a mode, it's manual mode with auto-ISO. To me, if you're in manual you should be the one controlling the exposure, auto-nothing.
  • Shake reduction with the primes I've got (35mm and 50mm).
  • Being the only one sideline with a Pentax! I usually cheer for the underdog.
  • The focus assist light wasn't as bright as the D300s (which is a good thing), and it didn't come on so readily, the D300s one comes on even when the camera can easily focus, so I've had to turn it off.
  • The quiet shutter.
  • Consumer grade weather-resistant lenses.

Things I prefer about the D300s:
  • The AF button, which I always use, is in a much more sensible and comfortable position than the K-7.
  • Focus speed and tracking. Even with the 1.4x and 1.7x TC on I can still shoot rugby.
  • Availability of lenses and peripherals. I picked up a 2nd-hand 1.7x TC straight away, of course it's fully compatible with SWM focusing. They have a choice of 50mm lenses!
  • VR is pretty cool when you see the result through the viewfinder.
  • The TCs correctly alter the aperture and focal length in the viewfinder and exif.
  • Having programmable buttons is good, but then I never felt the need with the K-7 as it was easier to change things.
  • Having a "My menu" giving quick access to commonly changed settings.

I haven't used the flash much yet on the Nikon so can't comment on that, though so far, so good. Their latest flash actually ships with a sto-fen like diffuser and gels, which is nice.

05-25-2011, 03:29 PM   #2
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Thanks for sharing your thoughts on those 2 cameras. The D300s is a pretty awesome camera, especially it's AF. I think if sports is the main use for a camera then it would be hard not to go Nikon. I'm jealous of the free availability of TC's, I can't understand why Pentax doesn't clue onto offering a TC that can be coupled with their long SDM lenses in particular.

Happy shooting
05-25-2011, 03:31 PM   #3
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You are just confirming what some of us know as the good point for / bad point against Pentax and Nikon. (why does it sound like a reproach, even if it's not ?)

It's always refreshing to see some sort of comparison between "our" body and one of other brands.

And you seems quite happy of that swapping from one to another, that's the only things that matter, finally.
05-25-2011, 03:43 PM   #4
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When you say more keepers in sports shooting, I would like to know approximately what percentage of those for each camera. Thanks.

05-25-2011, 05:44 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by twitch Quote
I'm jealous of the free availability of TC's, I can't understand why Pentax doesn't clue onto offering a TC that can be coupled with their long SDM lenses in particular.
Me too, and I got sick of waiting, not that they have any longer glass out that I wanted to use with it yet!

QuoteOriginally posted by aurele Quote
And you seems quite happy of that swapping from one to another, that's the only things that matter, finally.
Exactly, and yes, I am happy.

QuoteOriginally posted by ccd333 Quote
When you say more keepers in sports shooting, I would like to know approximately what percentage of those for each camera. Thanks.
Well I haven't measured, but guesstimating - I'd say I had 50% keepers with the K-7 (but that would be keeping some that I now reject from the D300s), and from the D300s I'd now keep 80%ish.

I get a higher number of photos taken with the Nikon too as it focuses faster, so I can shoot more often. It also does 7fps, but I think the K-5 is up to that now(?), the K-7 did about 5. So I'm getting a series of shots of someone running with the ball, say 5 or 6, and I delete maybe half as they all look similar, but they are all in focus.

MAYBE, if Pentax could produce a 70-200/f2.8, and a compatible TC, the keeper rate would go up using a Pentax for sport, but I really don't think they are interested in that now.
05-25-2011, 05:54 PM   #6
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Or any zoom lens with some type of ultrasonic focusing motor...

That's what I'm waiting for, anyways. Was looking into switching to Nikon simply for that, but then I remembered the limiteds+ ergonomics.
05-25-2011, 06:21 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Arpe Quote


Well I haven't measured, but guesstimating - I'd say I had 50% keepers with the K-7 (but that would be keeping some that I now reject from the D300s), and from the D300s I'd now keep 80%ish.

I get a higher number of photos taken with the Nikon too as it focuses faster, so I can shoot more often. It also does 7fps, but I think the K-5 is up to that now(?), the K-7 did about 5. So I'm getting a series of shots of someone running with the ball, say 5 or 6, and I delete maybe half as they all look similar, but they are all in focus.

MAYBE, if Pentax could produce a 70-200/f2.8, and a compatible TC, the keeper rate would go up using a Pentax for sport, but I really don't think they are interested in that now.
That's very interesting. I wonder how much of an improvement others have had with either the K-5 or K-r? I have a K-r and use the much maligned 50-200 for my kids soccer games. Once I got a feel for how AF-C works (mainly remembering to keep the shutter partially depressed while tracking), I went from an initial rate of around 50% when I first started to a very satisfying 90% (consistently) keeper rate (that is to say shots that are in proper focus, not necessarily my compositions!). One thing that I learned from someone on this forum was to focus a little lower on the action.....I feel that has helped me improve significantly.

The K-r does 6fps and I am very pleased with its burst performance. Also, the 50-200 is much better than I expected. Perhaps not on par with the 55-300, but I am getting some pretty sharp results even in low light.

Here is an album with some shots I took recently (please forgive the sarcastic captions....I was having a little fun). Most of these have little to no PP with minor variances to default settings on the K-r:

Spring soccer, etc. pictures from kids photos on webshots
05-25-2011, 06:27 PM   #8
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My in focus rate (very different from keeper rate though) last weekend with a K-x + 55-300 + AF-C shooting kids soccer would be at least 80% I'd say. A 55-300 doesn't have a wide aperture though so that would help with DOF issues. My keeper rate (as far as good composition goes) is more like 10%.

05-25-2011, 06:41 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by twitch Quote
My in focus rate (very different from keeper rate though) last weekend with a K-x + 55-300 + AF-C shooting kids soccer would be at least 80% I'd say. A 55-300 doesn't have a wide aperture though so that would help with DOF issues. My keeper rate (as far as good composition goes) is more like 10%.
The context I meant for keeper rate is in relation to what the camera is capable of doing with auto focus. This is even including some shots where the camera decided to focus on a distant subject (but is still in focus). If I were to take those out (some probably due to operator error and not in camera), and confined them to just ones that are not in focus (showing some degree of blurring), the rate would be even higher. I usually try to keep within 1/4000s to 1/5000s to help keep the freezing of movement consistent.

BTW, 10%.....I'm sure you're being too hard on yourself.
05-25-2011, 06:46 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by ccd333 Quote
BTW, 10%.....I'm sure you're being too hard on yourself.
We're talking U8's here, it gets pretty crowded and ugly close to the ball, LOL
05-25-2011, 07:11 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by twitch Quote
We're talking U8's here, it gets pretty crowded and ugly close to the ball, LOL
I remember.
05-25-2011, 11:39 PM   #12
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Arpe
Thank you kindly for this refreshing and honest comparison. It is rare to read some unbiased comments.

I do not know the Nikon but I share for interest some thoughts against yours. I add that I work mostly outdoor and often in bad weather.


QuoteOriginally posted by Arpe Quote
Things I miss from the K-7:
  • Size and weight. - Oh yes, the K-7 compact size is so nice when you are bushwalking
  • Pentax saying it's weather-proof - Definitely a great asset when working outdoor.
  • Shake reduction with the primes - Definitely an asset that yields smaller & lighter lens, making the body+lens system more balanced in your hands
  • Consumer grade weather-resistant lenses. Yes
  • I would add the compability of old Pentax lenses
On the negative side, it is a pity that Voigtlander and Zeiss stopped to manufacture K-mount lenses.

Food for thought....
05-26-2011, 01:25 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Arpe Quote
[ ... snip ... ]
However results-wise, and this is entirely relating to sport-shooting and all of this should be read in that context, I'm very happy.

[ ... snip ... ]
Things I miss from the K-7:
  • The better utilisation of auto-ISO, the Nikon way is not as sensible.
Interesting. I was under the impression that Nikon catered specifically to sports shooters with their shutterspeedlimit auto-ISO system. Can you elaborate here?

Sincerely,
--Anders.
05-26-2011, 01:56 AM   #14
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Arpe,
I'm wondering why you didn't go with the D7000 vice the D300s. I'm not sure, but i thought it was out 3 months back. I considered the D7000 but eventually went with the K5. For the authorized live theatre shooting that i do, i needed the low iso performance of either the 7000 or the K5. And the quiet shutters of either are a plus.

Best wishes,
05-26-2011, 05:34 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by twitch Quote
My in focus rate (very different from keeper rate though) last weekend with a K-x + 55-300 + AF-C shooting kids soccer would be at least 80% I'd say. A 55-300 doesn't have a wide aperture though so that would help with DOF issues. My keeper rate (as far as good composition goes) is more like 10%.
My keeper rate with a 55-300 would be about 2%, if I ever used it. Towards the end of the games in winter I'm shooting at 1/500s, f2.8, ISO 1600, and some games under lights I'm at 1/320, f2.8, ISO 3200. Don't think a 55-300 would cut it. I had a 55-300 too, and its focusing was way slower than my Siggy combo too.

QuoteOriginally posted by hcc Quote
Arpe
I never had any "old" Pentax lenses and didn't want any, so that was irrelevant to me, but very relevant to others here I appreciate.

QuoteOriginally posted by asp1880 Quote
Interesting. I was under the impression that Nikon catered specifically to sports shooters with their shutterspeedlimit auto-ISO system. Can you elaborate here?

Sincerely,
--Anders.
They have a minimum shutter speed that can be dialled in, but it takes no account of your focal length! So I'm ranging between FL of 100mm-280mm and I have ONE min shutter speed. While this isn't quite so bad so sport, as you always set a highish speed anyway, it is a pain at other times. Penatax take account of the FL before moving the ISO. Also can't set a min and max ISO, just max. The auto ISO will not use its Lo1 and Lo2 settings (equiv of down to ISO 100), that's dumb. And if your manual ISO is set at, say, 800, auto-ISO will try to use that evne if it means a ridiculous high shutter speed, it prefers you to use 1/8000s rather than change to ISO 400! TAv mode and Pentax's auto-ISO is just more common sensical, to me at least (not to some Nkonians thought hat I have "discussed" this with!)

QuoteOriginally posted by philbaum Quote
Arpe,
I'm wondering why you didn't go with the D7000 vice the D300s. I'm not sure, but i thought it was out 3 months back. I considered the D7000 but eventually went with the K5. For the authorized live theatre shooting that i do, i needed the low iso performance of either the 7000 or the K5. And the quiet shutters of either are a plus.

Best wishes,
With no testing whatsoever and relying on the internet buzz, the word on the street is that the D300s has the faster focusing, better sealing and build. Plus, as it's sort of due for replacement, its price is good. With a bit of luck I'll be able to afford its replacement and keep this as a 2nd, so it's nice to have 2 cameras very similar in operation. Though that may just be a dream!
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