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06-10-2013, 06:53 PM   #1
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Upgrade for portrait work - new Pentax, other system?

Hi all! Here's the short version - I have a K-r, it's my best buddy. I'm looking at upgrading and there is the slight chance that down the road I'd get into the portrait business, though for now its personal work. Question is, what do I upgrade to now, or should I be looking at switching systems before I get much more heavily invested? Fish, or cut bait?

Long version:
I've got a K-r that I've had for 2-3 years now, and my most used lenses are a 50/1.4, 35/2.4, and 90/2.8 macro in that order. I have Pentax because it's what my husband's previous camera was before I swiped all the gear and called it my own. My usual uses are shooting my kids and family, portraits, lifestyle work, and maybe some nature and landscapes. Not a birder, and the extent of the fast sports for the next 5-10 years will probably be Timbits soccer.

I'm getting better, however, and there's a chance that down the road I may turn this into profit. Step one, acquire new camera. Step two.... Step three, profit, right?

My first thought is a Pentax K-30, maybe K-5 II, but I've been researching a bit as I want to know why all the portrait pros use Canon or Nikon. Is it just lens compatibility? Popularity of gear and following the crowd (thus resale)? I realize there's the full frame option but that's currently overkill for me, so if Pentax is coming out with one someday, it's not an immediate concern. Is there something else I'm missing?

If not, give me thoughts on what to upgrade to. Points that are important to me beyond the basics are:
- IQ
- dual scroll wheels
- good mid-high ISO (my house has East/West windows and awful light)
- top LCD is a major bonus - the viewfinder is impossible to read in high light
- would love to be able to set temps in Kelvin
- fast, accurate AF (but the K-r isn't horrible, IMO)
- bonus points for a quieter shutter than the K-r, it's loud next to my father's K-7 and my kids hear me clicking
- do any of them have the ability to spot meter off of the selected focus point?
- a fairly beefy hand grip, if possible. Obviously this I can test by going into a store, but I shoot one handed with a baby on my left arm a lot. Between that and back button focusing, I've got quite the uncomfortable death grip on my camera - the grip is almost too narrow, if that makes any sense.

If there is a newer system on it's way and I should wait a few months, that could be considered too. Thoughts, suggestions? Thanks a ton!

06-10-2013, 07:06 PM   #2
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K-5 body has the ergonomics you want and all K-5 cameras are far quieter than any of the other Pentax dSLRs too. You get most of your wish list with the K-5 Classic and the II/IIs meet even more of your needs.
06-10-2013, 07:13 PM   #3
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Get a K5. Its shutter is drastically quieter than the Kr, with far superior ISO performance, dual scroll wheels, best in class IQ, and if you get the K5II you'll have faster/more accurate AF.. You already have a good set of lenses, so why change systems?

I'm in a similar boat at the moment, somewhat grown out of my Kr, and looking quite heavily at the K5 (though need to save for it).
06-10-2013, 07:34 PM   #4
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Get the K5 and a battery grip and that will solve most if not all your problems. One more thing. GET THE GRIP!

06-10-2013, 07:44 PM - 1 Like   #5
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There are a number of reasons, it's not just due lenses and cameras. Canon and Nikon got some serious programs for people registered as pro's which als includes quick repairs and lending of exchange lenses and cameras in case of service needed. This costs a bit extra but for people living off photography it's nothing compared to lost work.

Also things like tethering is very popular in the pro world and many won't work without it. Also advance flash systems are often important in the pro world. These are two areas Pentax is truly lacking in.

Third it's the availability of the gear as pro 'togs may need to rent special equipment for some stuff and smaller camera makers simply are too small of a market for them to have a large stock of equipment. Also many pro's seems to make special deals with local stores but there are fewer with a large selection of Pentax gear.

With that being said I just wanted to point out some of the reasons outside the product lineups and brand names that affects the choice of camera for pro's. However it is no real hard limit and you can work around it in most of the cases. We got a bunch of really success photographers here on the forum that don't seem to be affected by the limitations listed.

Benjikan shoots a lot of impressive fashion shots for Vogue and Bazaar: Search Results - PentaxForums.com
RonHendriks1966 is one heck of a sports photographer: Search Results - PentaxForums.com
Heie is almost the poster boy Pentaxian who even takes his camera to war zones: Search Results - PentaxForums.com

This is just three of all amazing photographers on here proving it can be done!
06-10-2013, 07:44 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by bass3587 Quote
GET THE GRIP!
Definitely.
You won't know how you got along without it, once you use it for portraits.

Unless you shoot squirming kids in low light, the classic K5 will be more than enough; all you wanted from above, minus the custom metering(not sure if any do that).
The classics go cheap right now, and that gives you some budgeting for limited primes.
06-10-2013, 09:22 PM - 1 Like   #7
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Any modern DSLR will do fine for most portrait work. Much more important is to have a second and even a third DSLR sitting around for backup during a paid gig. You could do perfectly wonderful stuff with an old film K1000 and three prime lenses.

Your primes are fine. You will might want something wider for large groups. I like the 21.

For portrait work, lighting is more important than which camera. Speed lights for remote work, monolights for studio work, and some people use flat reflectors and an assistant for fill light outdoors, although I use speedlights instead.

Studio equipment also includes backgrounds and stands and posing benches and so on.

Also important is training in lighting and posing.

More important still is business liability insurance.

If you are doing it for money, then you also need business registration and federal income tax filings and state sales tax filings and all the associated record keeping. And supposedly the sales tax people are nastier than the income tax people.

ppa.com is where you should start looking around.
06-10-2013, 11:50 PM   #8
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I'm not a professional photographer, but I do some portrait work: mainly of my granddaughter and other relative's children. When taking portraits, I use a Nikon D800 with the 85mm f1.8 lens or my Pentax K-5 with the 77mm f1.8 Limited. Despite the large disparity in megapixels, the difference is not as great as you might imagine, and the rendering of the Limited is absolutely superb. Both these cameras are very capable, though the D800 has the edge when it comes to the speed of its autofocus. The flash system is also more comprehensive, but that's not a real concern for me, as I use a studio set up, which works fine with both cameras. In any case, I prefer to work with natural light when I can.

The K-5 has the advantage of size and portability, especially with the prime lenses. I tend not to take the D800 out and about, because the lenses, especially the zooms are large and heavy.

06-10-2013, 11:58 PM   #9
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A Pentax k-5 will be awesome and so will a K-5 IIs. Find a great portraite lens and go to work with your lighting. Great shots are all about lighting regardless of what nice camera body you have. The Pentax top of the line camera is good enough for the best photographers in the world. Check out the work of Benjamin Kanarek. He is a top pro photographer and he uses a K-5. The link below shows a video of a photo shoot he did. The link is from his website. As you get towards the end of the video you will see the black camera strap with the red Pentax lettering swing into the picture frame and at the end of the video you can see him with his camera for a moment. Benjamin is a master of light and is one of the best in the world! He does magazine covers for Bazar, Vogue and others. He is an amazing photographer and he uses a camera body that now sells for under $1000. Pentax is awesome, don't be fooled by the price of a camera. Your K-r is pretty nice too. I have that camera also!

Daisy Lowe by Benjamin Kanarek for Yo Dona Cover Story , Benjamin Kanarek
06-11-2013, 12:45 AM   #10
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If you are on a limited budget, look at the K30 over the K5.
For your use, I think the improved AF (slight and more for accuracy than speed), makes K30 a better choice.

If not, consider the K5II for the better low light AF, which will be handy for events indoors as well as portrait sessions where the room isn't too bright for fast AF on the K30/K5.

I don't think there is any advantage moving to another system if you are considering studio type portraits.
Your usage is almost the same as mine. (family, portraits, odds and ends, some landscapes )
In fact, I think your lenses are pretty fine too and I use lenses of around those focal lengths regularly (35, 50, 90mm)
My suggestion is to step up and learn some off camera strobing if you are considering portraits/family/some paid work.

There are also good photographers using Pentax.
Check this guy out...
Bill Gekas Photography
06-11-2013, 03:02 AM - 1 Like   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by geekkt Quote
I'm getting better, however, and there's a chance that down the road I may turn this into profit. Step one, acquire new camera. Step two.... Step three, profit, right?

My first thought is a Pentax K-30, maybe K-5 II, but I've been researching a bit as I want to know why all the portrait pros use Canon or Nikon. Is it just lens compatibility? Popularity of gear and following the crowd (thus resale)? I realize there's the full frame option but that's currently overkill for me, so if Pentax is coming out with one someday, it's not an immediate concern. Is there something else I'm missing?

If not, give me thoughts on what to upgrade to. Points that are important to me beyond the basics are:
1 IQ
2 dual scroll wheels
3 good mid-high ISO (my house has East/West windows and awful light)
4 top LCD is a major bonus - the viewfinder is impossible to read in high light
5 would love to be able to set temps in Kelvin
6 fast, accurate AF (but the K-r isn't horrible, IMO)
7 bonus points for a quieter shutter than the K-r, it's loud next to my father's K-7 and my kids hear me clicking
8 do any of them have the ability to spot meter off of the selected focus point?
9 a fairly beefy hand grip, if possible. Obviously this I can test by going into a store, but I shoot one handed with a baby on my left arm a lot. Between that and back button focusing, I've got quite the uncomfortable death grip on my camera - the grip is almost too narrow, if that makes any sense.

If there is a newer system on it's way and I should wait a few months, that could be considered too. Thoughts, suggestions? Thanks a ton!
Well this is a load off questions, and luckey you I feel for answering them.

The thing that makes pro's a pro is not only the gear, but mainly the skills. The question is never wich camera comes out off the bag (unless someone is paying more then $1000 for a portraitseries). The question is can that photographer make an interesting or even better amazing portrait in a convenient time. Wheater that is no more then 5 minutes or making all the works and spending several hours to make something beautifull for some presentation or publication. You don't find any pro with just one camera (mostly, but it can be done, running around with just one camera fitting a perfect portraitlens).

1 IQ is something that has to do with your ability to control your environment when making your portraits. If it comes to shooting portraits on Streets, congresses or whatever then yes you will benifit from a Full Frame sensor with a better performance under lower light conditions. The sensor that Pentax uses currently in K-5 (II(s), K-01, K-30 and K-50 is capable for delivering images to print large.
2 Dual scroll wheels: I know they do come in handy, but this is off no importance if you know your gear. I make lots off portraits with my K-01 and it has only one scroll wheal.
3 What is mid/high iso? I had a portrait in a magazine made with iso6400, so maybe some off the skills are coming from post processing. When it comes to your home, you can turn that into a nice studio area without braking it down. For a portrait you need a nice sweetspot with light and you can create that in your home. Sometimes it is just about having one spotlight at the right place.
4 Again, yes it is. But you have to learn that you know what your doing and don't need to read what the figures are telling you.
5 That is possible with Pentax and even better is to learn how to set your white balance in post processing or how to make a good preset in your camera. There are helpfull options availabel. Most pro's don't take the camera setting for granted, since they all will work on a portrait in photoshop.
6 For portrait you need accurate AF, but fast isn't needed always. But that also depends on your discription for a portrait. If your subject is running around then maybe make sure it is on the right spot for your image. The K-5 II is better for this then your K-r, but there are better systems for fast AF, but the question is what kind off portrait are we talking about.
7 The most silence in this respect are K-5 II, K-01 and Leica M.
8 This is a very much amateur question, where you started off to become a pro. Yes it can, but no you shouldn't. Go and learn to to controll your camera settings and you know that this wasn't the question that a pro should ask.
9 Put the baby down when it comes to making images.

Lenses:
You don't need them all, but they are all different and usefull when it comes to making portraits:
- one size fits all zoomlens: DA*50-135mm.f2.8
- short portraitlenses for singles or doubles: DA40mm, FA43mm, FA50mm or DA*55mm
- short portraitlenses for groupes: FA31mm, DA40mm, FA43mm (or large groupes with DA21mm, but that is limiting)
- portraitlenses: FA50mm, DA*55mm, DA70mm, FA77mm and FA*85mm
06-11-2013, 04:01 AM   #12
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Are you planning on shooting candits, i see you didn't mention any lighting?
06-11-2013, 06:35 AM   #13
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Original Poster
Docrwm, Kona, bass3587, manacho2005, and Racerdrew, thank you. It sounds like the K5 variety with a grip is the consensus and I'm good with that.

VisualDarkness - Thank you. I knew there was some advantage to the repairs and exchanges and I suppose I was aware of the tethering too. It helps to hear it laid out though. Truly, I like my Pentax cameras, but as all the portrait photographers I have encountered locally are using one of the big two, I was unsure. Most of what I find in researching is just accounts of picking one of those brands because that's what others had picked rather than any serious comparison. The links didn't work, but I'll look up those names, thank you for the assurance that there really are Pentax using pros to be found.

bdp1 - Agreed on all points. I currently just use a few reflectors and bounce an off camera flash. At this point I'm not doing studio work and as my subjects are friends and family I'm able to pick and control timing of a shoot to when I know I have adequate light. I need to work on my posing technique quite a bit, and if it does become a business then insurance, taxes, etc will be dealt with. I'll check out ppa.com. Oh, and my plan is for my K-r to hang out as my backup and second body, and I do need something wider than 35.

Cynop Ap Brychan - thank you for the account of using both. I also prefer natural light and especially shooting outdoors, but I live where it's cold way more often than I'd like so a studio setup is probably something I need to consider. Size and portability are also important to me - I'm usually out and about with a three year old and a 4 month old and only have so many hands.

pinholecam - Thanks! Budget is a consideration but not a huge one. The improved AF was the reason I had considered going the route of the K-30, but I think low light AF gives the K5II some edge for me. Working more on learning strobing is on my summer to do list. It's an area I'm admittedly weak.

RonHendriks - Thank you for putting so much time into your response. I don't think I disagree with any of your points, and if I wasn't clear, I do enjoy my K-r and likely wont get rid of it. I can get great images with it. Things like dual scroll wheels, silence, top LCD, Kelvin, etc are definitely wants - I am getting along fine without them, but if I'm upgrading, then they're on the consideration list. I'm trying to be cognizant of where I may go in the future, but I'm very much at a bridge point right now, which is why fast AF and grip are important to me. While I do use my gear for some more formal work, I also use it as a mom running around taking quality candids of my kids and their friends, which often includes the baby in one arm and no chance to place a perfect speedlight. Your lens suggestions are great as well, I'll look into them.

Anvh - for now, it's mostly candid and outdoor work, which I am accomplishing okay with some reflectors. I need to put some more thought into lighting, though.

Thanks to all of you again for the suggestions. I hope I cleared up that I'm not in a hurry to jump the Pentax ship, and I find camera bodies fairly replaceable, but I was a bit nervous about putting any more into Pentax glass if there was a solid reason that I shouldn't. I don't believe it's going to be an issue. I think I might start watching for good deals on the K-5 II, it sounds like it will be a good fit for where I'm at right now. Capable enough of quality work, but also more comfortable for my day to day shooting.
06-11-2013, 07:54 AM   #14
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I work together with and he uses a 5d mkII and i the K5.
There is a differnce but not so much in quality though, one of pentax weakneses is that it has no tethering, that is quite crippling they really need to sort that out.
For the rest, my pentax gear cost half of his gear and it's all weather sealed so i'm less worried when something breaks so i take more risico and it's smaller and lighter to carry.
So if you're on the run, Pentax is better but for static shots in the studio i prefer the Canon.
But this is beacuse of the features not because of the quality.
06-11-2013, 10:54 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Anvh Quote
There is a differnce but not so much in quality though, one of pentax weakneses is that it has no tethering, that is quite crippling they really need to sort that out.
Given film can't have tethering not sure how not having it can be construed as 'crippling' - It's like live view only less so - of limited use (due to a theft I'm limited to using a Q at the moment and keep wanting to use the - absent - view finder!!!). Even for studio portrait work (which I haven't done a lot of) I honestly don't see the point.

At an event recently a Canon user was using tethering and honestly I looked and shrugged - just so pointless "Yey lets tie the camera to a fixed point and shoot off the laptop" - Remote release if on tripod does the job just fine.

While don't do portraits I do do studio style work - still life in effect - so tripod etc.
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