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04-11-2008, 09:44 PM   #1
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Building a new DSLR System - Pentax vs Canon considerations - Help

First of all, I own no dslr equipment and have been wanting to get a new system going for a while. After lurking around various camera forums but without actually handling any cameras, I thought I would be purchasing a Canon XTi, I liked the price, and thought I would invest the real money in good glass.

About a week ago, I handled the the XTi and realized I didn't like the feel of of it in my hand at all. So, I tried handling the next step up in the Canon line, the 40D. I really liked the size and feel of the 40D and it's a much better camera than the XTi. Okay, so I just hold off and save a little extra cash and get the 40D. Budget is a concern, but I'd be willing to stretch if I have a reason to.

At the same time I was handling the Canons, the salesperson asked if I had looked at the Pentax cameras. I had only heard the name and honestly had never taken a look at them. So I handled the K200 and really, really liked the feel of it. Certainly way better than the XTi and very close if not better than the 40D, plus the price was better than the 40D. Also the rep pointed out the shake reduction is built in the body, which helps keeps the cost of lenses down. Also the rep stated that similar quality lenses are typically quite a bit less expensive than their Canon counterparts.

So I'm sold on Pentax right? I'm not sure. For my uses, I'm not sure what I should be concerned about. To me the biggest differences are:

40D
1. The 40D can shoot 6.5fps
2. The 40D has a better AF, especially in low light? (I think)
3. The 40D is cleaner at higher ISO's?

K200
1. The K200 has built in shake reduction
2. The K200 is ~$400 less for the body
3. The K200 lenses would cost much less than comparable Canon lenses

Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong about any of the above.

So I guess my real question here is, what should I be concerned about given the type of photography I want to do. First and foremost, I have two boys ages 3 and 6 that I would mainly be taking indoor portrait type shots, preferably without a flash. Secondly, I'd probably be taking some outdoor sporting event shots like T-ball and soccer, but not nearly as much as the indoor portraits.

My thought is I'll get a really fast prime with either camera to begin with. I'm aware of the Pentax 50mm 1.4 and Canon has well reviewed 85mm 1.8 (~$340). So, what should I be concerned about? Do I need to be able to shoot 6.5fps for these uses? Do I need the better AF system of the 40D? I honestly don't know.

My biggest problem is I'm really intrigued by the 40D and it's 6.5fps and AF quality. I'm just as intrigued by the K200 and it's built in shake reduction and the less expensive but high quality lenses. So, I'm looking to you fine folks for some wisdom on what might suit my needs best and what features would be most utilized by my low light indoor portrait work.

Thanks for reading this wordy post!

04-11-2008, 10:10 PM   #2
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40D nice, fast, good for sports...


you want take portraits get pentax

both lines have excellent lenses, but the sensor in the K200 is much more proven, its coming from a camera that won numerous awards.

but then again if its speed youre after, get the Canon...


Ive shot both portraits and sport in all lines, and I think the canon is definitely fast but IQ go Pentax,

good luck mate
cheers
04-11-2008, 10:14 PM   #3
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First the disclaimer: This is a Pentax forum so the advice is likely to be slightly biased, although I suspect nowhere near as much if you posted the same question on a Canon forum!

To put my remarks into some perspective: I am a ex-Canon user and have owned a Pentax K10D for about 18 months. When I first handled the K10D I knew this was the camera for me. I have also recently helped a friend get started with his new Canon 40D and while it is a nice camera it did not feel as good as my K10D.

Either camera will do want you want and LOTS more.

As you have already pointed out, it is said that the Canon has better low-light AF and has a faster FPS. If either of these are absolutely essential to you then the choice is obvious. However, given your stated use I doubt that these features are essential.

The K20D will save you money upfront and continue to do so whenever you buy a lens (Pentax or third party, new or used) since shake reduction is built into the body. The extra 2-3 stops is a big advantage in low light situations especially.

As far as lens quality is concerned, Pentax has always had a good reputation for producing top-quality glass.

I'm sure others will have lots to say on the subject, but that is my '5-cents worth'

Whatever you decide, enjoy!
04-11-2008, 10:27 PM   #4
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This is not a decision that I can make for you, but here is my take on things. Keep in mind that I am almost 68 years old, and have owned Pentaxes since I was 20. I just might be a little bit biased.

I cannot get my head to agree that holding the button down and taking 36 shots at 6.5 fps will get me a better action picture than practicing with my camera so that I know at the instinctive muscle level when to press the button to get the exact moment. I have taken sports photos at the high school level with an original Pentax, preset aperture and all. Auto nothing. I have taken photos with the Pentax KX - auto nothing, but I didn't have to flick the aperture closed against the preset before taking the picture. I have taken photos with the SF-1, the MZ-S and now the K10D, with which I am getting close to knowing the shutter delay time.

I have only Pentax lenses - see my signature - some of which are decidedly elderly. I read a book back in the dark ages that suggested that using lenses by anyone other than the manufacturer of the camera was a step to be taken only after very careful deliberation. I have ignored his advice a few times, and spent money on things that were too good to be true, and at my loss. If I were to shift to Canon (although Nikon would be a better personal fit) I would use Canon lenses.

One consideration, after all the blather above, that I do not see mentioned is ease of use and speed of use. I have found, whenever I was looking at Canon's controls, that they seem to take more steps to do the same thing as Pentax or Nikon. An example is found in the 1Ds Mk III test in the latest issue of Shutterbug. To set the Canon to live view:
  1. Set the lens to manual focus
  2. Select Live View function settings from second wrench menu
  3. Select Live View shoot from the sub menu
  4. Select Enable
The reviewer compared this to the Olympus E-3 - push one button. Also, the E-3 autofocuses in Live View, the Canon does not.

I don't have live view myself on the K10D, and other than macro at ground level, doubt I would have much use for it - the example is just an example of the complex control maneuvers Canon designers seem to accept as normal. I cannot tell you how a K20D goes into live view. I have read that it appears that having set up the custom menu once, it is as simple as pulling the on/off switch into what is depth of field preview on the K10D. I could be incorrect here. Check it out for yourself, by all means.

If I were you, I would think out the things I want my camera to do, and the things I can do without. I would then explore the way to do this with a representative sample of cameras, and buy whichever felt right to me. My Pentaxes feel right to me. They might feel wrong to you. Feel free to disagree with me and/or anyone else.

04-11-2008, 10:29 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by striker Quote
At the same time I was handling the Canons, the salesperson asked if I had looked at the Pentax cameras. I had only heard the name and honestly had never taken a look at them.


Where did this happen? That a salesman would say "Penatx" when the customer was holding a Can*n?

Are you sure you are not making this story up?

I understand that budget is a concern. But if you have the cash for the 40D, have you considered the K20D?

It has all the plusses of the K200D, with the addition of better user control and the newer, better sensor. It also has the better viewfinder.

Good luck with your choice.
04-11-2008, 10:29 PM   #6
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I'll sum up my personal experiences:

1) AF - both are accurate, but the Pentax system is at a slight disadvantage because of the lack of "affordable" consumer grade lenses with HSM (Pentax equivalent of Canon's USM). This may change, but at present only the DA* ("premium" grade) lenses have HSM. The HSM technology allows for quieter focusing, and arguably, slightly more responsive focusing.

2) For the quality of lens, you usually pay quite a bit more for Canon lenses. Although a slightly unfair comparison (but taking into consideration the IQ), let's compare the DA* 50-135 with the Canon 70-200 lens. The 50-135 can be had for a little under 800 USD brand new, whereas the 70-200 lenses will run anywhere from 580 for the F4 non-IS version to the 'top of the line' 2.8 IS version for just under 2k. Keep in mind that the 50-135 is innately stabilized on the Pentax system, whereas you have to pay a premium for the Canon lenses to have in-lens IS. As far as what I have seen, it is a throw up as to whether in-lens or in-body IS is 'better'

3) Worth mentioning again that all lenses, including 1970s era manual lenses, are all image stabilized. You pay several hundred dollars extra to have Canon lenses in the stabilized flavour.

4) FPS - For myself (I won't speak for others), 3 FPS is plenty for what I shoot. Yes, there are instances where I wish I could have the faster FPS of the 40D or D200, but is it worth the premium? For me, the answer was no. IMHO, the only 'real' application for the extra FPS is if you find yourself shooting sports or action sequences often, and want to have the flexibility of choosing the one perfect frame by virtue of simple probability (more shots = higher likelihood there will be one shot that tickles your fancy)

5) Exotic lens selection (e.g. fast ultra-telephotos) are more abundant in Canon's current lens lineup as compared to Pentax's

6) Third party lens support is not as good for Pentax than Canon, although this is starting to change. However, status quo, this is still true as many of the third party lenses have been announced, but are not yet available to consumers

7) IQ wise, both camera give excellent results. 40D has slightly better noise handling, but in the real world, this may not be necessarily as observable as what is made apparent in laboratory tests.


IMHO, if you have a chance, I would check out the K10d over the K200. If not, the K200 is still a very fine camera that effectively packs a K10d into a slightly smaller package.

Hope that helps some!
04-11-2008, 11:17 PM   #7
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I have never owned anything but Pentax, but I used to work at a camera store and had the ability to buy any brand I wanted, direct from the manufacturer for less than wholesale. Canon and Nikon made cameras with cool features, but when it came down to image quality I never saw anything that was as good as my Pentax system. I still have connections at that store and have been able to handle just about every major camera out there and I still haven't changed from Pentax.

I used to have this 35mm camera called the Pentax PZ-1P. It did 5 fps. I loved that camera. Hated the stupid 5 fps. Wasted film and never got me a better shot than just shooting one shot at a time. I think in the digital age people like fast fps because there is no film so there is no waste. Well, it still doesn't do much to get you the right shot. Even in sports I can only think of a few instances where burst modes are all that useful in the hands of a competent photographer.

With my K10 and K20 I have SR on my old FA* 85mm f1.4 (legendary), weather proofing (I have actually shot in the rain so this matters to me), and can still afford to put food on the table. No other camera company can offer me this. I have been shooting professionally for about ten years and while I have used several different medium format cameras, all of my 35mm and digital work has been on Pentax. I actually have thought about switching several times, but when I see my options I remember why I shoot Pentax.
04-12-2008, 05:30 AM   #8
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Honestly, they really did suggest Pentax, probably because I wasn't at a big box store, but an actual camera store with knowledgeable employees.

I handled the K20 and the salesman basically said the same thing you did about why the K20 is better than the K200. Granted I've never used an SLR but the K20 seemed usable to me, especially when compared to the digital Rebel.

Other than more pixels, what about the sensor is better over the K200?


QuoteOriginally posted by KungPOW Quote
Where did this happen? That a salesman would say "Penatx" when the customer was holding a Can*n?

Are you sure you are not making this story up?

I understand that budget is a concern. But if you have the cash for the 40D, have you considered the K20D?

It has all the plusses of the K200D, with the addition of better user control and the newer, better sensor. It also has the better viewfinder.

Good luck with your choice.


04-12-2008, 05:57 AM   #9
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Thanks for the thoughtful response. I'm curious about the K10D vs the K200, I hadn't heard about the K10D but after your suggestion I looked it up. It looks like the K10D was the flagship Pentax until the new K20? But now the new K200 is basically the same as the K10D? Is there nothing else different about the K200? It looks like the K10D has similar controls as the K20D, which others have stated is better than on the K200. If I go Pentax, I'd probably go with the K10D then.

QuoteOriginally posted by Fireball Quote
I'll sum up my personal experiences:

1) AF - both are accurate, but the Pentax system is at a slight disadvantage because of the lack of "affordable" consumer grade lenses with HSM (Pentax equivalent of Canon's USM). This may change, but at present only the DA* ("premium" grade) lenses have HSM. The HSM technology allows for quieter focusing, and arguably, slightly more responsive focusing.

2) For the quality of lens, you usually pay quite a bit more for Canon lenses. Although a slightly unfair comparison (but taking into consideration the IQ), let's compare the DA* 50-135 with the Canon 70-200 lens. The 50-135 can be had for a little under 800 USD brand new, whereas the 70-200 lenses will run anywhere from 580 for the F4 non-IS version to the 'top of the line' 2.8 IS version for just under 2k. Keep in mind that the 50-135 is innately stabilized on the Pentax system, whereas you have to pay a premium for the Canon lenses to have in-lens IS. As far as what I have seen, it is a throw up as to whether in-lens or in-body IS is 'better'

3) Worth mentioning again that all lenses, including 1970s era manual lenses, are all image stabilized. You pay several hundred dollars extra to have Canon lenses in the stabilized flavour.

4) FPS - For myself (I won't speak for others), 3 FPS is plenty for what I shoot. Yes, there are instances where I wish I could have the faster FPS of the 40D or D200, but is it worth the premium? For me, the answer was no. IMHO, the only 'real' application for the extra FPS is if you find yourself shooting sports or action sequences often, and want to have the flexibility of choosing the one perfect frame by virtue of simple probability (more shots = higher likelihood there will be one shot that tickles your fancy)

5) Exotic lens selection (e.g. fast ultra-telephotos) are more abundant in Canon's current lens lineup as compared to Pentax's

6) Third party lens support is not as good for Pentax than Canon, although this is starting to change. However, status quo, this is still true as many of the third party lenses have been announced, but are not yet available to consumers

7) IQ wise, both camera give excellent results. 40D has slightly better noise handling, but in the real world, this may not be necessarily as observable as what is made apparent in laboratory tests.


IMHO, if you have a chance, I would check out the K10d over the K200. If not, the K200 is still a very fine camera that effectively packs a K10d into a slightly smaller package.

Hope that helps some!
04-12-2008, 06:06 AM   #10
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Sell cameras at work. Get to play with lots of brands (except Sigma, Fuji, Sony). Actually had a Canon film system ( EOS 10s, 70-300 ultrasonic, Sigma 28-70 constant 2.8). Did not like the Canon digitals at all. Don't like the look of the pics, nor the controls. Bought the Pentax DS. Now have K10 & 20D too. love them.
I agree with those who say high fps won't usually get a pic that couldn't be captured other wise. It just takes some practice. Great sports photos were taken way before 6.5 fps. Recently demoed the K20D to a Canon 40d shooter. Thought he was going to cry. Put the camera on burst and proceeded to shot at 21 fps! This was at 1.6mp. He didn't care. It made no noise while shooting, then all the little thumb nails showed up, and we had over 80 frames! So much fun.
Get the Pentax and be happy. Be different than the flock.
thanks
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04-12-2008, 06:15 AM   #11
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Thanks to everyone who responded so thoughtfully, it is appreciated. I've got a better understanding of the differences between the two and I feel I'm getting closer to being able to make an informed decision. In the back of my mind I really didn't think 6.5fps is anything I would really care about, I think your responses have confirmed that.

Unfortunately, I'm still a little fuzzy about what I actually should be concerned with as far as features when searching for a dslr system aimed at low light indoor portrait work.

Would anyone be willing to take the time to point out what features are most important for this type of use, regardless of brand? When I'm done deciding I'd really like to be able to say: "I bought company xyz's camera because I want to do low light indoor portrait work and the dslr system has this or that feature over the other brands, which, when working within a budget, made it the best choice for me."

Maybe that's just a dream, but I'd like to think I'm getting an informed decision.
04-12-2008, 06:44 AM   #12
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Hmmm, for portraits tome it would be a combination of great IQ, great high ISO performace, and great fast glass. Pentax obviously has great IQ, legendary IMO. Pentax has great fast glass, the FA31LTD come say is the best lens ever made and performs at f/1.8. FA43LTD f/1.9 is a magnificient lens buts comes in third only behind the FA77LTD f/1.8 which in many opinions is THE portrat lens. As for the high ISO quality, Pentax does fall behind. I never go past ISO800, and if I had f/1.x to work with, I am pretty sure that I never would to go past 400. There are plenty of people on here that do nothing but take pics of their kids and they seem to to do alright.
04-12-2008, 06:51 AM   #13
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the lens is the most important thing for me, and pentax have plenty of primes for potrait photography.but i'm sure canon do too.as a body i bought a k10d because i trust pentax (if for nothing else than the fact that lenses made since god knows when still work on their newest cameras), because they offered the best value for money at the time, and because at the end of the day when i held the pentax it just felt right in my hand - far better ergonomics and build quality than the then 30d.

but, as implied before, pick a system and get on with worrying about lenses. of course if the pentax is cheaper you have more money left over to spend on lenses, which was an important consideration when i bought my k10d.
04-12-2008, 07:21 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by striker Quote
40D
1. The 40D can shoot 6.5fps
Yes. But normally 3 fps is adequate for most users, I bet.

QuoteQuote:
2. The 40D has a better AF, especially in low light? (I think)
Yes, its true. Pentax's AF at just lower lighting levels is just pathetic. It has been heard that the K20D has improved AF accuracy though (unlike the K10D which has poor AF accuracy). For more details, you can read:-

RiceHigh's Pentax Blog: Improved AF Accuracy of the K20D (Under White Lights Only)

Nonetheless, I have seen a few new K20D users reported that their K20D were off in AF and all lenses of theirs required the same amount of focus correction in the custom menu. So, I suspect these are just off-calibrated units out of the Pentax factory, instead of a design flaw, luckily.

QuoteQuote:
3. The 40D is cleaner at higher ISO's?
You may wish to have a look at the Popphoto test results and compare them. I have made a comparison summary for the results previously:-

RiceHigh's Pentax Blog: First K20D Production Camera Formal Test

Do note that those noise test is actually not quite meaningful alone if the signal level is not measured, i.e., the amount of image details retained. In the video and audio world, what is done is to measure the Signal-to-Noise ratio which should be the way to go for those measurebations, unfortunately, it seems that no people has done that so far.

QuoteQuote:
1. The K200 has built in shake reduction
Yes, its surely a cheaper solution and we can have any lens IS-ed.

QuoteQuote:
2. The K200 is ~$400 less for the body
In the city where I live, the price of K20D and 40D is more or less the same.

QuoteQuote:
3. The K200 lenses would cost much less than comparable Canon lenses
True, but whether you can get a Pentax lens you want is the real problem.

QuoteQuote:
So I guess my real question here is, what should I be concerned about given the type of photography I want to do. First and foremost, I have two boys ages 3 and 6 that I would mainly be taking indoor portrait type shots, preferably without a flash. Secondly, I'd probably be taking some outdoor sporting event shots like T-ball and soccer, but not nearly as much as the indoor portraits.
For both of the above applications, it will reveal the weakest spot of Pentax DSLRs. It is just because their AF will be ridicuously slow at dimmer light and they are infamous for the poor AF tracking ability for moving objects and are sluggish to response for action photography. The K20D has been reported to have better continuous AF tracking, though. But then whether it is up to the par of the 40D, which is proven for the AF, would be another problem. Here is the report on the improved AF-C of the K20D:-

RiceHigh's Pentax Blog: Improved Continuous AF Tracking of the K20D

QuoteQuote:
My thought is I'll get a really fast prime with either camera to begin with. I'm aware of the Pentax 50mm 1.4 and Canon has well reviewed 85mm 1.8 (~$340).
I think you have compared an Apple to an Orange. You should compare 50mm to 50mm and 85mm to 85mm. If you shoot portrait, I think the 85mm lenses are just a bit too long with the 1.5/1.6X APS-C crop multiplier.

QuoteQuote:
So, what should I be concerned about? Do I need to be able to shoot 6.5fps for these uses? Do I need the better AF system of the 40D? I honestly don't know.
As I have mentioned above, you may not need the 6.5 fps machine gun rate but I'm sure that a faster, more responsive AF with better low light AF ability will surely help and the Pentax AF system is just a pain to use with for those situations.

QuoteQuote:
My biggest problem is I'm really intrigued by the 40D and it's 6.5fps and AF quality. I'm just as intrigued by the K200 and it's built in shake reduction and the less expensive but high quality lenses. So, I'm looking to you fine folks for some wisdom on what might suit my needs best and what features would be most utilized by my low light indoor portrait work.

Thanks for reading this wordy post!
You cannot have the best of both world. Just consider you own application and more importantly to consider which *system* suit you better. But for what you have told, I think the Canon system should suit you better.
04-12-2008, 07:50 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by RiceHigh Quote
Do note that those noise test is actually not quite meaningful alone if the signal level is not measured, i.e., the amount of image details retained. In the video and audio world, what is done is to measure the Signal-to-Noise ratio which should be the way to go for those measurebations, unfortunately, it seems that no people has done that so far.
@RiceHigh: I have seen you get many negative feedback for your postings in general but in this particular case let me give you positive feedback here...

I am as well very annoyed by so-called "noise measurements" which aren't. By averaging over pixels, one can always reduce noise by sacrificing detail and Pentax does less "averaging" than most of the competition.


@OP: Pentax K20D, Canon 40D and Nikon D300 images at high ISO are about as clean as the other at the the same level of noise reduction.

But with Pentax, noise reduction is only done by the camera when shooting JPEGs and is adjustable (in camera) only with the K20D. For RAW or not K20D, you must do it during the RAW processing with noise reduction explicitely switched on. Most photo magazine tests don't get this and publish misleading noise figures.

K20D has better high ISO noise properties than K10D/K200D.
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