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View Poll Results: If I could do it all again, I'd (still) go for:
Pentax! 8875.86%
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10-19-2014, 01:37 PM   #1
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Going (semi)pro with Pentax - Is it a good call?

I understand this may be a delicate subject for some of you. I also know this has been asked to death, but I'm currently at a crossroads and I could really use your input.

After weeks of research, comparing cameras, features and looking at sample images, I've bought a K-500, my 1st DSLR - and fell in love with photography. That was a year ago. Since then I bought a few lenses/flashes/etc., spent every free moment studying about photography and did a few friendly payed photo shoots. I'm by no means a great photographer yet, but I hope with time and practice I will eventually be able to get great photos on a consistent basis. I'm also planning to take some more payed work soon.
What I've realized while working with the K-500 over the last year is this: The K-500 is an amazing camera, Pentax is an amazing brand, but for pro work I need more. Better lenses, better AF and ISO performance, to name a few.

I'm now at a (very rare) point when I have some money to invest into photography, so I want to do everything in my power to make sure I make the right choice.
My initial plan was to buy a K-3, keep the lenses/flashes I've got and the K-500 as a backup camera, buy 1-2 quality zooms for weddings and events, and take it from there.. However, after researching potential lenses, flashes and general features I would need now or might need in the future, I became more than a bit worried, especially after doing some research on Canikon cameras and comparing them to the Pentax lineup.

So now I'm considering either staying with the Pentax and getting the K-3, or switching brands and going for the Nikon D7100 (or Canon 70D). I would love to stay with Pentax, but only if it really is a viable option for the long run.

The K-3 is an amazing camera. We all know that. Compared to the D7100 or the 70D, it's the best APS-C camera out there ATM. But a camera body is only a small part of the equation, and the more I looked into (semi)pro work with Pentax, the more worried I became. Here are my concerns, perhaps you can help:

1. Lenses - After looking for the lenses I would need right now, and those I might need in the future, I was surprised to find just how few modern AF lenses there are for the k-mount. It's not that there are no quality f2.8 silent zoom lenses for Pentax, but the choices are so few and most are very expensive. It appears Canikon has a lot more choice with a much wider price range, especially used. Am I wrong?

2. Auto-Focus - Although I understand the K-3 has a much improved AF compared to other Pentax cameras, from what I've read online, most still agree the D7100 AF is better. Is there a significant difference and does the K-3's AF work for time-critical work such as weddings?

3. Flash - So far I've been using mostly on-camera flash (Metz 48 AF-1) and I've been very pleased with the results. However, when doing studio/portrait/group shots, the Pentax Flash system is widely considered limited. What exactly are the limitations of the system compared to Nikon?

4. Full Frame - I know Pentax is developing a FF camera. But IMO, it would not be wise to rely on it until it's out. Also, I have no plans to go FF. However, I've heard a lot of photographers eventually take the plunge, and most of them never go back. In your experience, is FF still necessary for pro photography?


As you can see, I've done quite a bit of research on this, as I want to make sure I make the right call: Commit to the Pentax brand or switch while I still have a chance. Ironically, doing all this research made me even more unsure of what to do. I understand my biggest problem is the fact I have no real world experience with either of the 3 mid-range DSLR's mentioned here, but as I can not rent/borrow them, I have to rely on other user's experience/expertise.

So... in your (non)professional opinion, can a Pentax K-3 be used effectively for proffesional work?

P.S. I apologize for the long post, but this is what happens when one tries to condense 2 months worth of research into a single post

10-19-2014, 01:42 PM   #2
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To put it simply: Yes you can do pro work with the K-3. Buy a few good lenses with it and of you go. Maybe invest some in your photographic skills.
10-19-2014, 02:35 PM   #3
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I'd second what Ron said. There are pros using Pentax now. As for lens options, you have everything you need for event photography. You may not have as many third-party options as Canikon, but the options that exist are excellent. The only significant gap I see in the lens lineup is a long zoom, and that really only affects wildlife and maybe sports photographers. And if you really want to see your images start to pop, invest in improving your post-processing skills. I didn't fully appreciate that aspect until I took the plunge into the Scott Kelby tutorials, but that decision has improved my images more than any piece of kit I've ever purchased.
10-19-2014, 02:45 PM - 1 Like   #4
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Pentax.

I had thoughts about trying CaNikon from time to time.. And once I did it, I have absolutely no thoughts about changing. I tried canon 70D, Nikon 7100, D610 and I find the grip is absolutely ridiculous on those cameras. The build quality is mediocre too, button layout is weird too. Yeah, AF is really nice, but... I am super happy with my Pentax gear (Sigma too!) and I find it very capable

Also, have in mind that no other camera brand has such an awesome forum I also find Pentaxians to be nice and friendly people, even though I'd like to see more of them


Last edited by Apapukas; 10-19-2014 at 02:57 PM.
10-19-2014, 02:52 PM   #5
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Take a look at the photos on this forum from the likes of RonHendriks 1966 then ask yourself are they good enough for you? Then go off and buy your K3 and some quality glass.
10-19-2014, 02:53 PM   #6
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Take a look at the photos on this forum from the likes of RonHendriks 1966 (apologies to all the other great Pentax togs) then ask yourself are they good enough for you? Then go off and buy your K3 and some quality glass.
10-19-2014, 03:05 PM   #7
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You can spend more with Canon or Nikon, but you can spend enough with Pentax. You can get what you need, maybe not what you want. Some decisions, 16-50/50-135 or 15-31-43- 77 100, 200.Prime or zoom, speed or flexibility. There's more choice with other systems, but you probably aren't going to buy every Pentax lens you'd like. For most of us, we still have to plan carefully to be effective.

Last edited by normhead; 10-19-2014 at 05:58 PM.
10-19-2014, 03:27 PM - 2 Likes   #8
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Good questions, and kudos for doing the research. Some of the great photographers in history used very few lenses, but got to know their capabilities exceptionally well. The equipment is just that, a set of tools, you also have to know what you plan to mostly use it for. Once you know that, the specs will tell you what may work best technically, but in the end your connection with the tools may bring better results that a few more megapixels or a faster autofocus. Those aspects only matter in a limited no. of cases, and that's not where most of your photos will be taken. I remember a photo shoot many years back (before digital, and I may have told this elsewhere) where a bunch of club members visited a village (in South Africa) with permission to shoot images of the locals, and people were blasting away with all sorts of cameras, including motordrive shots, using a range of lenses. My LX worked overtime. The next month we all got to show our best slides and the clear winner was a senior club member (RIP, Piet) who had used a battered K1000 and one lens. He knew how to wait for a perfect moment, knew how to compose immaculately, and knew what his equipment (that he obviously knew back to front) could and could not do. I love the way Pentax engineers put the photographer first, and I'm sure that's also why most members on this forum are not on some Canikon forum. I believe Ricoh has great plans for the Pentax brand, but if you get to know your tools of choice well so that you take responsibility yourself for bad images, rather than blaming the tools, you'll be a quality photographer, regardless of the name on the equipment. I chose Pentax.

10-19-2014, 04:02 PM   #9
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loaded question. If I had all the resources I could ever want it's not a matter of 'brand loyalty' to me.

I would have a K3 with all the trimmings. Probably 2 or 3 bodies.

I would also go with a medium format camera with all the bells and whistles.

One thing I do like though is Nikon's prime lens lineup...

I would though hire some really good photographers to let me hang out with them.

The last thing on the list is probably the most important over any and all gear.

In other words, I would have tools for jobs. And you can bet your bottom dollar that Pentax would have a solid place in the tool box.
10-19-2014, 04:23 PM   #10
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Personally I wouldn't be a wedding or sports photographer with Pentax where there are "mission-critical" events you simply have to be able to cover with your gear. Not unless I had two or three backups of everything -- the support just isn't there. Then again, I would never be a wedding or sports photographer for lots of other reasons too...
10-19-2014, 04:42 PM - 1 Like   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rayn Quote
1. Lenses - After looking for the lenses I would need right now, and those I might need in the future,
What lenses do you need? Yes, other brands have larger portfolios. So what? if the glass you need is available then you are good. If not, then look elsewhere. Outside of exotics Pentax has most focal lengths covered although someone will always complain about something that is missing.
QuoteOriginally posted by Rayn Quote
2. Auto-Focus - Although I understand the K-3 has a much improved AF compared to other Pentax cameras, from what I've read online, most still agree the D7100 AF is better. Is there a significant difference and does the K-3's AF work for time-critical work such as weddings?
Actually I thought the real 'tests' (not opinions) showed the k-3 superior to the D7100. In my experience the only area Pentax seems to be lagging in is tracking AF such as for birds in flight, though some have shown excellent results on this forum. For rather simple tasks such as weddings the advantage would seem to go to the k-3 due it's ability to focus in very low light. In practical terms the lens used might be more important than the body though. Unfortunately SDM lenses that I have used are not all that fast and that is an area that could be improved.
QuoteOriginally posted by Rayn Quote
3. Flash - So far I've been using mostly on-camera flash (Metz 48 AF-1) and I've been very pleased with the results. However, when doing studio/portrait/group shots, the Pentax Flash system is widely considered limited. What exactly are the limitations of the system compared to Nikon?
None really. If you are using studio strobes then it is manual flash and the power set at the flash anyway, all you need is a simple trigger. If you are talking multiple speedlights then, yes the Canon system has abilities Pentax does not have. However, I have worked with several wedding photogs and none of them used any of the advanced flash capabilities anyway. They used their flash the same as you would use a Pentax. If your need is more complex and you have the $$$ and skills then other systems do have advanced capabilities.
QuoteOriginally posted by Rayn Quote
4. Full Frame - I know Pentax is developing a FF camera. But IMO, it would not be wise to rely on it until it's out. Also, I have no plans to go FF. However, I've heard a lot of photographers eventually take the plunge, and most of them never go back. In your experience, is FF still necessary for pro photography?
Some would argue that APS-C is actually better for a pro. But you really need to define what you are trying to achieve. Some things are easier on APS-C, some on FF. I can say with certainty you do not need FF to be a working photographer. Many on this forum earn some or all of their income using Pentax APS-C gear. And NONE of the wedding photogs I have worked with used FF.

Bottom line: yes you can use Pentax to earn money. Would another system work just as well? Yes. Image quality is going to be similar at just about any reasonable print size so that's not even a factor. If you are going to do this as a job then the things that matter most are return on investment and ergonomics. What gear can you get at the least cost that can do the job and what gear feels good using it all day.

Hobbyist: Spend anything you want on gear it does not matter.
Working photographer: You will be bidding against others, if your costs are higher than theirs then you lose the bid (or go broke). If your gear wears you out before the job is done, you lose.
10-19-2014, 04:58 PM - 1 Like   #12
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I'm going to make Pentax the camera for my team, and others too.
We should start buying something like 5 or 10 kits in the coming months.
Sure I've been shooting with Pentax for years, but when you start putting kits together, and see the relative costs, the Pentax K3 is an attractive option.

No apologies either.
10-19-2014, 06:28 PM   #13
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Going over to "pro" or "semi-pro" level is not determined by the camera gear you are using, it is the photos you can capture that makes people think that you are a "pro". I have been using Pentax since I first bought a k-100D, and I have not find a need to switch to other brands because of commonly conceived as inadequacy in flash or AF system. It is the ability to make great photos that will make you a pro or not.
10-19-2014, 06:58 PM - 7 Likes   #14
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You're going to get loaded advice asking on a website called "pentaxforums.com" but here ya go anyhow...

For professional work (there's no semi-getting paid for it, is there?) it is more about showing up on time, doing what you say you will, and delivering the images in a timely manner. The only decisions about gear are where it limits your ability to do the aforementioned, which is what you're trying to figure out (for the future, before you've even hit a limit).

That said, knowing how (and what) to shoot, with any camera, is more important for your happiness and profit than buying a pile of gear and handing out business cards. Trust me, a D750 or 5Dmk3 has been slung around the neck of many a noob with no more effectiveness than an iPhone in the hands of a 10 year old.

QuoteOriginally posted by Rayn Quote
1. Lenses
Pentax is limited, so buy the ones that say "Limited" on them! Truly, if you find you're in need of unusual lenses that other brands offer (tilt/shift, ultra-telephoto, a 200mm f/2) then go to that brand. Pentax glass is no better or worse than Nikon or Canon, but Sony is arguably worse. I used to be a Canon shooter with a pile of L-glass and a 1Ds, so this isn't entirely based on my love of tiny primes.

QuoteOriginally posted by Rayn Quote
2. Auto-Focus
Prior to the K-3, Nikon was the answer to this question. Today, even a Sony mirrorless will shoot faster and have more in focus than most DSLRs. I've used a K-3 for almost exactly a year, professionally, and it does not disappoint. AF is not a concern for Pentax shooters anymore (like it was with the K-5 and earlier), at least for your type of shooting. I've also recently used a Canon 5Dmk3 and a Nikon D800, and their AF is pretty much equal (but actually worse in low light - go figure).

QuoteOriginally posted by Rayn Quote
3. Flash
The difference is 1/180 vs. 1/250 shutter speed and a whole mess of 3rd party TTL options. No contest here, Nikon and Canon win. However, if you know how to use flash off-camera (ie: manual), then the difference starts to fade. Still, if you intend to do a lot of events with flash or portable studio work, strong considerations for Canon or Nikon. Let's not even mention Sony...

QuoteOriginally posted by Rayn Quote
4. Full Frame
Like I said above, I've been using a Canon 5Dmk3 and a Nikon D800 off and on for the past month (thanks, Clicker!) and the image quality, which is what everyone talks about for FF vs. anything else, just didn't pop up as a huge differentiator to me (to me!). Files are bigger, less noisy at very high ISOs, and you can miss focus with shallower depth of field - yay! Personally, I won't be buying a FF Pentax any sooner than I'd buy another brands FF. My work and style doesn't fit with what little it brings... including the huge amount of weight to sling around.

However, if you go Canon or Nikon, they cripple their APS-C DSLRs specifically to protect their FF lines and encourage "upgrades." This is also part of the reason the K-3 is still a better camera than a new 7Dmk2 or.... wait, Nikon doesn't have a current "pro APS-C!"


Oh yeah, one other thing about charging people money for photography... always have a backup. A backup camera body, a backup lens that can cover what you really need, many backup memory cards (and a way to back them up!), and then backup your files on the computer as soon as you load them or change them. Even arrange a backup photographer in case you get sick! Seriously... nothing toasts your bacon more than telling a client (even a friend who pays you is a client) "sorry, but X just happened and I'm done here." If you think some event/ client/ job is "too small to need all that" then you are not ready to go pro, IMHO.

Last edited by panoguy; 10-19-2014 at 07:17 PM.
10-19-2014, 07:08 PM - 4 Likes   #15
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I would say that almost every modern DSLR is capable of professional quality photographs. Every manufacturer has some excellent lenses in their line up. There are some gaps in the Pentax catalog but that may not even matter depending on your needs. If you are getting good results and are satisfied with what you are using, then stay with it. If what you are using isn't working out, then by all means look at moving on. If you aren't sure or don't know what you need, then you should really hold off on buying anything. Learn how to get the best out of what you are using.
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