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12-27-2013, 09:14 AM   #1
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Twenties-Something Cameras - "Beginner" Rec Request

As someone into primes with a K-5 myself, I'm somewhat buffaloed as my "grown-and-on-their-own" kids ask for recs for a camera. Don't want to poison their interest with my preconceived ideas, but also don't want to leave them completely clueless... as if there's no benefit to a geezer guinea pig. So here's a challenge (if this isn't the right place to post it... my apologies!) How best to allocate funds - say $500 to make it concrete - to give a decent starter kit? More towards lenses or more toward camera body? Likely interest is use in travel (duh!) and moderate interest in photograpy as a hobby. My recommendation so far has been to put money into one or two decent primes and a body... with a VERY open mind toward buying used vs. new. In fact, I think that is increasingly the way to go... and let time and interest determine whether and how they upgrade.

So to crystalize: What would you recommend looking for in a used camera body and two primes (focal lengths)? Wide and Normal? Would you encourage dealing with manual focus, aperture? or insist on at least having auto exposure? Somehow the technology choices... looking both current and backward... are daunting. Folks who teach are probably a good resource... but most seem to focus on Canon and Nikon rather than Pentax and other brands. They'll have plenty of Canon/Nikon recs... but what works for Pentax? They'd have the benefit of using the old man's glass of course from time to time... that's probably a given... if they're in the area (which they're not) and if they ask (which they probably won't)... but would like to encourage anyway.

Help appreciated! THanks!

12-27-2013, 09:36 AM   #2
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Sorry but I completely disagree with your priorities. Your personal preference is coloring your judgement.

For a beginner, a good quality "kit" or all-in-one zoom is a far better choice than "a couple of primes." For a complete beginner, a non-interchangeable lens bridge camera (Pentax X-5) or small-sized ILC might be an even better choice on which to learn. If you want to stay with a more complicated but more capable DSLR, I'd suggest a K-30, K-500 or K-50 with either the 18-55mm or 18-135mm kit, which can be expanded in time with primes after the beginner learns enough to know the difference.
12-27-2013, 09:38 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by jwmster Quote
As someone into primes with a K-5 myself, I'm somewhat buffaloed as my "grown-and-on-their-own" kids ask for recs for a camera. Don't want to poison their interest with my preconceived ideas, but also don't want to leave them completely clueless... as if there's no benefit to a geezer guinea pig. So here's a challenge (if this isn't the right place to post it... my apologies!) How best to allocate funds - say $500 to make it concrete - to give a decent starter kit? More towards lenses or more toward camera body? Likely interest is use in travel (duh!) and moderate interest in photograpy as a hobby. My recommendation so far has been to put money into one or two decent primes and a body... with a VERY open mind toward buying used vs. new. In fact, I think that is increasingly the way to go... and let time and interest determine whether and how they upgrade.

So to crystalize: What would you recommend looking for in a used camera body and two primes (focal lengths)? Wide and Normal? Would you encourage dealing with manual focus, aperture? or insist on at least having auto exposure? Somehow the technology choices... looking both current and backward... are daunting. Folks who teach are probably a good resource... but most seem to focus on Canon and Nikon rather than Pentax and other brands. They'll have plenty of Canon/Nikon recs... but what works for Pentax? They'd have the benefit of using the old man's glass of course from time to time... that's probably a given... if they're in the area (which they're not) and if they ask (which they probably won't)... but would like to encourage anyway.

Help appreciated! THanks!
I am most familiar with Pentax. I am assuming they are looking at SLR type cameras. I would recommend anything the K5 sensor (K5, K5 II, K30, K50, K500) and for a starting lens the DA 18-135. I usually tell people to wait until they decide what type of shooting they really enjoy doing and what focal lengths they like before they start buying primes.

There certainly are some pretty cheap options with Pentax, particularly if you go with a DA L kit lens, but I think the goal is not to buy lenses that you will replace right away.
12-27-2013, 09:55 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rondec Quote
I am most familiar with Pentax. I am assuming they are looking at SLR type cameras. I would recommend anything the K5 sensor (K5, K5 II, K30, K50, K500) and for a starting lens the DA 18-135. I usually tell people to wait until they decide what type of shooting they really enjoy doing and what focal lengths they like before they start buying primes.

There certainly are some pretty cheap options with Pentax, particularly if you go with a DA L kit lens, but I think the goal is not to buy lenses that you will replace right away.
Yeah... I think you're both right. Zooms: 18-135 to me seems more versatile. Thoughts?

12-27-2013, 10:04 AM   #5
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The 18-135 is the most versatile zoom paired with a weatherproof body. Otherwise, there are some good 18-250 lenses out there worth considering.
12-27-2013, 10:57 AM   #6
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I would tailor my recommendations to the person (to some extent) and would try to find out the following:

1) How important is size (e.g., do they want a small, portable camera or they want a bigger camera that fits bigger hands)?
2) Are they likely to have (and want to spend) more $ on adding to their camera system over the next couple of years, or is this investment the limit for the foreseeable future?
3) Proportionately, how much time are they likely to spend photographing indoors (or in other lower light environments) versus outdoors? If outdoors, are they likely to be 'fair weather' photographers?
4) What are they interested in photographing (obviously this will evolve over time but it helps to find out what they're interested in, and not interested in, now).
5) How much time are they willing and likely to spend on learning how to use their camera? Do they learn well by experimentation on their own or with online tutorials etc? Or do they need hands-on training? How mechanically adept are they?
6) Are they likely to enjoy playing with images in Lightroom, Photoshop or something similar afterwards, or is it all about the shooting?

I can use myself and Mr frogoutofwater as example of how these questions would apply to camera recommendations, since we both just started playing with more advanced cameras a year ago (when we gave each other cameras for Christmas).

1)
Me: Size is a major factor. Smaller is better, all else being equal. I have small-ish hands and some issues with carrying weight (back trouble and some problems with my hands). Points toward a mirrorless camera, small DSLR or a compact P&S.
Him: Size isn't a major factor. Medium-sized hands and willing to schlep a fair bit of gear, but is a mountain-climber and sometimes has to consider the overall weight issue. Not determinative.

2)
Me: Very likely to spend more (possibly quite a lot) on adding to a system over the next few years. Points toward a DSLR, rather than an ILC (limited range of lenses) or P&S.
Him: Can afford to, but is unlikely to spend a lot in the next few years. Inherently frugal and would prefer a couple of pieces of versatile equipment. Points toward a used DSLR with a versatile zoom.

3)
Me: Equally divided between indoor and outdoor photography. Tilts more toward fair weather photography but there will be adventure trips every year or so and I'm interested in photographing wildlife, so ruggedness and weather resistance are nice-to-haves. Points toward a Pentax.
Him: Primarily outdoor. Interested in photographing outdoors and indoors at night. Outdoor adventurer so rugged, water-resistant equipment is essential. Definitely Pentax.

4)
Me: Interested: Pets and other animals. Street life - candid portraits. Wildlife. Not so interested: Landscapes, "record shots" (I don't photograph places and friends/family in them just to prove I was there). DSLR (it would be hard to find a P&S with a fast lens for indoor shooting and a long zoom range for wildlife.)
Him: Interested: mountains and other landscapes, cityscapes and urban life. Night photography. Some wildlife photography. Not so interested: people, but does take "record shots" of people (himself and others) in the places he's been. DSLR. Probably should have a good, light wide angle lens, and a versatile zoom.

5)
Me: Willing to spend a lot of time learning photographic skills - I'm a serial hobbyist. I learn best through courses (online or in-person) where there are homework assignments and opportunities to ask questions of an instructor. Not very mechanically adept and not good at figuring out technology on my own. Very experimental with "vision"; less experimental with equipment (i.e. will buy stuff and not get around to learning how to use it). Definitely DSLR.
Him: Willing to spend some time learning photographic skills but not nearly as much time as I am willing to spend. Mechanically and technologically very adept. Learns on his own and through courses equally well but has a hard time getting around to it unless prompted by someone else (i.e., me). Not definitive. Points a bit toward a good quality compact (with a good zoom lens).

6)
Me: I enjoy processing images and experimenting with Lightroom and Photoshop. Points toward a camera that produces RAW images.
Him: Willing to spend a minute or two on an image. Probably willing to spend more time on certain types of images (e.g., HDR). Probably would be really good at LR and PS if he just sat down and learned, but he's very linear and LR and PS aren't high on his to-do list right now. A camera that only shoots JPEG woduldn't be a problem.

So what kinds of recommendations to do these factors lead to?

Camera type:
= Both of us: ILCs (rather than P&S cameras)
- System for him: Pentax (obviously) - I got him a K-30 last year and he loves it.
- System for me: Initially I chose a Sony NEX (good image quality in a small package) but as I discovered that I was really interested in photography, I found the system limiting and decided to get a Pentax system as well. When I started shopping for a new system half-way through the year, I knew that I wanted a top-of-the-line prosumer camera, so I got the K-3. I use both NEX and Pentax now.
- Lenses for him: The 18-250 lens he got mid-way through last year almost never leaves his camera. I got him a 50mm f/1.8 but he doesn't use it much.
- Lenses for me: Lots. I got the 18-135 with the K-3 and picked up the 55-300 WR zoom at the same time. I like walking around with a fairly versatile zoom, so I like having two lenses with overlapping ranges. I also poach Mr frogoutofwater's 50mm f/1.8, and I acquired a 77mm f/1.8 and the Tamron 90mm f/2.8 macro as well.
- RAW/JPEG or both: For me, a camera that produces RAW images is essential. For him, either JPEG or RAW would be fine (but since other factors pointed toward an SLR, this wasn't an issue. But if I were advising someone else who was deciding between a P&S and an ILC, the person's willingness and ability to use software to process images afterward would be an important factor in deciding which camera to recommend. Relatively few P&S cameras enable you to shoot in RAW.)

Looking back on the year, I think I should have played with the K-30 more and I probably would have concluded that it was a better choice for me overall from the outset. I should have realized that I should get a camera system with more potential to grow with me, and I had the $, time and motivation to invest in buying and learning how to use a more complex system. I then probably would have picked up a high quality, compact P&S camera with a fast lens for my 'carry everywhere' camera.

Last edited by frogoutofwater; 12-27-2013 at 11:09 AM.
12-27-2013, 12:58 PM   #7
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I am a newbie to digital slr's - and I just got a used mint condition k10d with the kit lens for xmas. That would leave you with $250 or so for primes. Or I just noticed a sigma 18-250 zoom in the marketplace section for that amount. I lack the experience to offer any suggestions really, but I can say that combination would make me happy.
12-27-2013, 09:05 PM   #8
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If your budget is ~$500, the perfect used traveling kit would be K-x ( or K-r) with Sigma 17-70 2.8-4.5 Macro original ( non HSM) , small ,light, compact ,fast and can use AA batteries.
This kit served me well , took around 30k photos, still with my family.
Mid 2012 replaced it with K-30 and recently with new Sigma Contemporary 17-70 2.8-4 Macro HSM, again perfect traveling kit , 17mm is very convenient for landscapes, narrow streets architecture and is fast enough for indoors + has great Macro

12-28-2013, 08:38 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by i_trax Quote
If your budget is ~$500, the perfect used traveling kit would be K-x ( or K-r) with Sigma 17-70 2.8-4.5 Macro original ( non HSM) , small ,light, compact ,fast and can use AA batteries.
This kit served me well , took around 30k photos, still with my family.
Mid 2012 replaced it with K-30 and recently with new Sigma Contemporary 17-70 2.8-4 Macro HSM, again perfect traveling kit , 17mm is very convenient for landscapes, narrow streets architecture and is fast enough for indoors + has great Macro
Thanks to all of you for your wisdom here. I am passing your comments along to my kids. Great response! Thanks... let me add that this list is one of the reasons that drew me to Pentax... the passion and engagement of the group of readers and posters here. Thank you!
12-28-2013, 08:44 AM   #10
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Most people who want to take pictures of vacations and kids would be perfectly content with a k30 and 18-55 kit lens. It is enough camera to grow into and not so much they can't use it out of the box.

While I dislike all zooms and prefer primes most people don't agree with us.
12-28-2013, 09:01 AM   #11
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Colbyt: Seems you're right. And you nailed my Pentax rec, too. Been thinking that since before asking here... but glad to see thinking processes and added options. Plenty of folks must be wired easier than I... and so don't find zooms confining... or that they stimulate lazy photo shoots... the way they do for me. But then I'm presuming folks step up into a "real" camera from their phone cams because they want to do more than take snaps.... or snaps with better pixels. Snaps are good for learning our equipment, but my legs get me better shots than my zooms.

That said, and while I'd like to find a long prime... I'm thinking with a 50-200mm in the closet... that ought to do for now. Most primes seem to be inside the 135mm mark. Just acquired a 31mm... and now it's time for Homer Simpson sound effects ... the sort he reserves for bacon. Truth is creativity gets unlocked for some of us at some level... while others have tighter locks I guess and need more.
12-28-2013, 10:35 AM   #12
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I would personally tend to agree. If they are 'new' to SLR photography, using primes would be great, yet, may be something that the 'average joe/jane' may not ever get use out of, or become frustrated if they've used P&S/Superzoom cameras.

K-30/K-500/K-50 + a general zoom would be a great start.

If they are active outdoor/travellers, then a 18-55 may suffice to get them started until they want 'better' shots, and start to look for faster/better quality zooms or primes.
I was in this spot myself.

I came from a Fuji Finepix 11x zoom to a Pentax K-x 18-55mm.

The standard kit lens is fine for many shots - but a bit on the 'slow' side (f/3.5-5.6) and short on range (again - coming from a P&S camera!).
I wanted some extra reach and came close to 70-300mm Sigma / 55-300 Pentax / 50-200mm Pentax but in the end chose a 18-200mm Sigma as a general 'walkabout' lens used for most purposes - especially outdoors.

I guess in the end it comes down to a few items:

1. What their photography interests are from the start (I.e. Do they really want to get into photography, or have a camera better than an iPhone for Facebook)
2. Keep it simple - Going from nothing or a P&S to primes with aperature / ISO / exposure may be more than some may want to take in (thank goodness for 'auto mode') - I personally like TAv.

Starter kit K30/K-500/K-50 with 18-55 would suffice to get them going.... if they want more - they can upgrade.
12-28-2013, 08:52 PM   #13
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For the money and info. you gave, I would actually suggest for them a micro-4/3rds body, one super-zoom lens, and one normal to wide fast prime.
12-29-2013, 06:29 AM   #14
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Something to take into consideration is whether or not you think your kids have any interest in shooting video with this new digital camera. That could eliminate some of the older bodies. Even though it may not seem like a lot to those of us on this board, the average person thinks that $500 is a lot of money to spend on a camera, so they're liable to have fairly high expectations about what their money buys them. Those expectations could go unmet if a camera isn't easy to use...or is too large and heavy...or maybe focuses too slow. I always have a hard time recommending cameras because everyone's priorities are different and often times the person seeking advice may not have enough experience to know what's important to them. I think a Pentax 18-135mm lens is a great lens, but it would eat up most of my budget so I'd have to be happy with whatver DSLR body I could afford with my leftover money. For me, that would be a dandy starter kit. However some folks might think that's way too heavy and the body's too old...and might have been happier if they had taken their $500 and bought "his and hers" Qs or X-5s. I was going to suggest that you let them borrow your set-up for a week or so to see how they like a full-blown DSLR, but the way you talked about them coming to visit made me think that perhaps they live too far away to make that a reasonable option.
12-29-2013, 07:05 AM - 1 Like   #15
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As a late-20-something myself, I just have to put a shout out to the primes. Though I have a few zooms, they hardly ever get used, because the manual primes I have are just more fun and special to me.

And as a thrifty person, I'd rather buy prime after prime at <$30 each than have to save up the hundreds it would take to buy a zoom that could match the IQ I'm after.

Primes also made exploring and learning photography more engaging for me, because they felt like something of a legacy, tied to the past and still going strong. My generation is weird like that, having nostalgia for things we never had to begin with...

Primes are easy to find, affordable to buy, a pleasure to use.

That said, you know your kids. You know if they're curious to play with things or if they don't have the patience to mess with M mode and green buttoning and manual focusing. You know if they're looking to expand a system or just have one or two reliable, all-purpose lenses. Would they like trawling thrift shops and craigslist and KEH for new toys, or are they more of the B&H or Adorama persuasion?

Let us know what you decide!
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