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01-14-2012, 01:09 PM   #1
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Pentax K? and Nikon D800

I am mostly thinking outloud here and invite others who are in a similar place, or who have been here, to join the conversation. I don't have any sacred cows here, so please no goring.

First the preamble. I bought Pentax after leaving 4x5 and medium format (Pentax 6x7) because I had first used a Pentax Spotmatic many years ago. The camera always just felt right, especially as I knew nothing about photography and it managed to take some good photographs in spite of me. The second reason was that it made sense given the large number of excellent quality lenses that are available at very reasonable prices (compared to the top quality of other makes). I have shot some with my K20d since moving from 4x5 film but have not found it very satisfying, mostly because of the inability to print as large as I could from my scanned 4x5 transparencies. I have tried stitching some with mixed results but find it pretty compromising to have to "think stitched" while in the field. I would rather spend time in the field than in front of the computer. And, as you will see, while not totally inappropriate, I don't have the best lens(es) for doing that. So, the idea of moving to a K-5 has some appeal but not enough to make me commit to it and the better lenses (for my purposes) than I currently have (DA 50-135, DA 300 and the 18-55 - I know, not exactly a landscapers dream kit). I am willing to do some stitching of larger files, which would require fewer individual captures to piece together. Also, I have been unhappy with how much hunting the camera seems to do in low light conditions. Here are some of my thoughts and questions:

1. While still primarily a landscape and fine art nature photographer, I would like the option of shooting birds that require faster focusing bodies and lenses. Not the most important criteria. In fact, if I could afford the 645D I wouldn't be making this post. I already have lenses that could be used on it. I was able to capture some bird images with my 67, but it was pretty spotty and I would have needed to invest some serious money in longer lenses.

2. I want to be able to print consistently to at least 20x30 inches on my Epson printer (at 240dpi), and preferably higher. That means the capture, be it from a single shot or a stitched shots must result in files of at least at least 34mb (4800x7200 resolution).

3. Like everyone else, I want to be able to do this at the lowest price possible. I thought about going back to my Pentx 67 but don't want to for the reasons I left it - too much hassle working with the film. High end drum scans are expensive, the wait for processing just seemed to drag on interminably and the lengthy feedback loop just became more irritating. Chemical sensitivites rule out processing my own film.

Potential solutions (that might be within my price range). I'm really looking for some fresh ideas here:
1. Purchase a yet to be released Nikon D800, strongly rumored to have a 36mp sensor. Assuming the price point is $4,000 I might be able to swing it and one quality lens, and add other lenses as it becomes possible. A longer lens, one for shooting birds, might be a fair piece down the road. Sell all my current Pentax gear to pay for the aforementioned. I know that not all pixels are created equal, and I would need to see at least some early reviews to discover if the "pixel quality" was sufficient for my purposes.

2. Wait for the maybe rumored/maybe not Pentax full-frame or APS-C upgrade and commit to stitching some but not as much as I have to now. Huge advantage in being able to keep my current lenses for the APS-C at least, and use the wonderful DA300 on the FF (I have heard others say it would work on a FF, right?).

3. Buy the K-5, which can probably be had for $1,000 for another week at least, and commit to stitching for the larger print images. This would be the least expensive option. If final print size wasn't as important to me I would have long ago moved to the K-5 as based on the user reviews here it appears to be a great camera for my purposes otherwise. (I don't see staying with the K20d as an option.) Buying the K-5 would make adding a longer lens (should one become available) more financailly possible.

4. I don't have much brand loyalty except as there appears to be a "creative" or "thinking" culture associated with Pentax gear to which I have been attracted. The camera and lenses all just "feel right". Whether that culture survives two changes of corporate ownership in a relatively short time is not yet clear. For a short while I had used a 35mm Minolta camera and it always felt awkward in my hands. Hence, I have not seen Sony, heir to the Minolta system, as an option. Canon does not appear to have anything currently nor on the horizon that might fill the bill. But, maybe I'm wrong about that.

5. It does not appear that the 645D (or other suitable mf digitals) will be available on the used market at prices within my reach in the near future.

5. I am ready to move pretty soon to the next step and am reluctant to wait any longer than necessary. Lead time from announcements to availabiliy seems to be quite lengthy. And if Nikon and Pentax announce something in February that met my needs I would want to commit early in order to get in the queue. Even then, we are talking months out before I could get on with the new kit.

What are your thoughts?

Don Boyd - Ancient Artists, Southwest Gallery 1, Southwest Gallery 2, For the Love of Trees, Southwest Gallery 3, Grand Canyon & Zion National Parks

01-14-2012, 01:39 PM   #2
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You must be a lot more critical than I am, or you are overstressing the need for sensor pixels. I've seen a number of stunning 40x60 prints from the Leica M9, which (while 24x36 sensor) is only 18 MP. I've done 20x30s from both the Leica M9 and the Pentax K-5. While the pixel count isn't that different (18 vs. 16 MP), the Leica prints hold up better. I don't think the difference is in MP count, but in lens quality, and the better focus I get with a rangefinder. Perhaps a FF Pentax print would come closer (less magnification), but I think the quality of Leica glass still has an edge for large prints from 24x36 sensor size. Regrettably, new Leica lenses are now priced out of my reach too.
That's where the Pentax 645D would likely better even the Leica M9 - the larger sensor size (not MP count) places lower demands on the lens quality. If you stick with 24x36 or APS sensor size, more pixels won't get where you want without very good glass. 18 MP is plenty, with the best glass and technique.
01-14-2012, 02:02 PM   #3
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I also think you are way too critical. with my K-7 I can make 20X30 prints without problems.

And the rumor of a D800 with 38mp sensor is not true I think. They just came out with their flagship DSLR which only has 16 or 18MP (don't remember which of the two). So the D800 should have around the same amount.
01-14-2012, 02:07 PM   #4
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If you're willing hold out for a D800, then you might as well hold out to see what the K-3 will have to offer as well.

Having said that, I wouldn't rule out the advantages of a 36MP FF body either. Which has me salivating! Then again... as with everything else in life... I simply can't affort to build a FF kit due to my shooting styles(aprox. $11-15K). Whereas someone like yourself may not end-up in this predicament with one or two lenses.

01-14-2012, 03:06 PM   #5
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Well I'm currently using my Pentax for birds and landscape like you; I'm pretty happy with the excellent results I get wth the K5 - so happy that I just have bought a second body, catching the opportunity of the 100 euros cashback program. The K20D was a good camera, let me say that the K5 is really a big step forward : dynamic range, no noise at pixel level up to 400 to 800 iso.
For me APS-C is the ideal format for birding; full frame will not give any real advantage - bigger lenses, narrowed depth of field; I'm using both DA*300 and FA*600 sometimes - that's why there are 2 K5 in my gear
I'm salivating when I see the landscape images from the 645 D - see on the dpreview forum the images taken by Dominique (tcom) during his trip in Namibia or in switzerland. I hope when a 645 D replacement the 2nd hand prices will make this body within my budget. If I was you I would make the upgrade to the K5 - K20D has a good value on the used market - and save for the 645 D.
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01-14-2012, 03:10 PM   #6
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Tom - I think I understand that there are qualitative differences between pixels and that, in general, as more pixels are crammed into a given size the more their light receptive qualities are likely to diminish. I also understand that sensor size is a factor as well. I hadn't thought about the need for higher lens quality as pixel density increases. Thanks. Which of the Pentax lenses do you think fit your criteria for "best glass" that would fit a FF Pentax or K-next APS-C, " FA 31 and the FA77 are the ones I most frequently hear about? Sounds like you prefer your M9 versus the K-5. When would you use the K-5 over the Leica?


Although my post may have sounded like it, I am not really a pixel peeper. I think I'm just looking for as much latitude as possible when in the field. While sharpness is only one quality of a good print, it frequently is a very important one.
01-14-2012, 04:07 PM   #7
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I just printed 5 giclee canvases from recent K5 images and they came out great with lovely sharpness and character, 4 were 20"x30" and 1 was 16"x24". the images were enlarged from LR to 30" max dimension and 300 dpi.

In 2009 I sold 6 - 12"x36" crops from my K10 camera for up to $180 apiece, framed before the recession hit. I've never understood why some folks worry about printing large, IMO its less of a concern with today's printing and enlarging software.

The only concern i have in printing large is to do it with K5 low iso images. I have noticed that high iso images do not look so good at 30" or larger sizes because of the inevitable application of NR, which loses so much detail. (This concern is not specific to the K5 of course, as its files are so much better to deal with in general than any camera i've had previously)

But you sound like you know what you're after with your large film experience. Why don't you wait until the K? and D800 are out there and have been tested before you make a choice. I would think there will be some K5's still out there, perhaps at a slightly larger price.
01-14-2012, 04:50 PM   #8
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I doubt that the D800 will have 36MP now, but no-one really knows....

Have you considered picking up a FF 24MP Sony A850? You can get them used for $1400, and a lot of landscapers seem to love them.

.

01-14-2012, 04:54 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by jsherman999 Quote
I doubt that the D800 will have 36MP now, but no-one really knows....

Have you considered picking up a FF 24MP Sony A850? You can get them used for $1400, and a lot of landscapers seem to love them.

.
The A850 is a very nice body, picked one up a few weeks ago
01-14-2012, 05:03 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by dgaies Quote
The A850 is a very nice body, picked one up a few weeks ago
Really!
How does it compare to the D700?
I was under the impression that it sucked on the high ISO end of things. But I never checked it out myself.
01-14-2012, 05:11 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by JohnBee Quote
Really!
How does it compare to the D700?
I was under the impression that it sucked on the high ISO end of things. But I never checked it out myself.
Sucks might be a bit harsh

It's not as good as the D700 (nor the K-5) at high ISO, but it's not horrible either. Maybe it's time to pull the duck and $20 bill out of retirement
01-14-2012, 06:17 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by dgaies Quote
Sucks might be a bit harsh

It's not as good as the D700 (nor the K-5) at high ISO, but it's not horrible either. Maybe it's time to pull the duck and $20 bill out of retirement
Sounds exciting!
I just filled in my own terms to describe what I read on the subject. Though I never gave it as much as a look myself.

My wife shot an A900 for a few years but I rarely got any time to play with it(belonged to someone else). Though I recall liking the way it handled spacial detail at lower sensitivities.

What about lenses?
How versatile is the mount with regards to older glass2?
IMO. FF makes people want to shoot like they did in their film days. However, one of the downfalls with the D700 for me was with the limitations that came with many of my M42 lenses. Which turned-out to be a real bummer.
01-14-2012, 06:52 PM   #13
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I reckon the D800 will be 24mpx and a new D3 will go 36 or 40. I have done stiched pano's up to 150mpx and they're absolute amazing (well the detail is) and I can see the slobber value in that.. the more mpx the better AFAIC. I wish I'd bought a FF system with fewer lenses because I'm a painter and work up my ideas from photo's in LR & PS and then move to canvas. Some of my better pictures are heavily cropped as well so It'd have been nice to have more pixels to play with.
01-14-2012, 06:53 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by dgaies Quote
Sucks might be a bit harsh

It's not as good as the D700 (nor the K-5) at high ISO, but it's not horrible either. Maybe it's time to pull the duck and $20 bill out of retirement
Pull the Duck?
01-14-2012, 06:58 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by JohnBee Quote
Sounds exciting!
I just filled in my own terms to describe what I read on the subject. Though I never gave it as much as a look myself.

My wife shot an A900 for a few years but I rarely got any time to play with it(belonged to someone else). Though I recall liking the way it handled spacial detail at lower sensitivities.

What about lenses?
How versatile is the mount with regards to older glass2?
IMO. FF makes people want to shoot like they did in their film days. However, one of the downfalls with the D700 for me was with the limitations that came with many of my M42 lenses. Which turned-out to be a real bummer.
I don't have any M42 lenses, but my understanding is that you can run M42 lenses with an adapter without any major limitations. I don't believe the same is true for K-mount lenses, which you can't easily use on an A850 body. Here's a thread from last week that kind of touches on it.
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