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05-18-2008, 10:06 AM   #1
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K20D - Far From Perfect

I know this thread will result in a barrage of angry comments, but this needs to be said for all those who stand before the decision to purchase their first DSLR. I recently made this choice and ended up with the K20D for several reasons. I liked the idea of being able to make really large prints, which I hade done in the past with my film SLR (also a pentax). I also liked the weather sealing, the digital preview, the ease of use and the neat little features like having an IR receiver on both the front and back of the camera and being able to fine tune the LCD. As I researched cameras I got the impression that Pentax was THINKING about things and creating features that are useful to photographers. This is in some ways true, but after having extensively played with 2 K20Ds (yes - my first one went back!), I feel that this camera is not as well thought out as it could be.

Immediately after purchasing the K20D I became annoyed with several limitations of the camera. Most of these had to do with the implementation of the flash system. One reason I bought a DSLR was for the hotshoe and the ability to use flash creatively and off camera.

1) As soon as I popped my lovely old M-series 28mm lens on the camera, the wireless flash option was disabled. Why, Pentax, why???

2) High speed sync is not available with an off camera flash if the on camera flash is set to discharge. (even when the camera's flash is simply in commander mode). You need another AF360 or 540 on the camera body to do this. Also, high speed sync is only available in PTTL mode, which doesn't work worth a damn. The paltry 180th X-sync speed is surpassed by many inferior cameras.

3) Not such a big deal for me because I like to set everything manually, but PTTL is USELESS. I have tried in numerous situations and consistently get flat underexposed results.

4) When you use the IR remote, wireless flash works great - unless you set the camera to take a photo 3 secs after pressing the remote (so you're not pointing a remote at the camera in your photo). Choose this setting and bam -- no wireless flash. Why, Pentax, why???

5) Bulb with the IR remote. It's great that you now need to attach nothing to your camera to use the bulb setting without moving the camera during an exposure. In the old days every cheap remote release cable had a feature to lock the remote button so that you could walk away from the camera during a long exposure. Unfortunately, when you use the IR remote for this with the K20D you must press and hold the remote while aiming at the camera until your exposure is complete. And this is easier said than done during any exposure longer than a few seconds. Why not have a setting to press once to open the shutter and once again to close? Would that be so hard to do, Pentax??

6) The LCD calibration feature doesn't work so well. I tried and tried, but couldn't get my LCD screen calibrated to match my macbook's calibration.


These things annoyed me and made me think the engineers at Pentax weren't really thinking about things as much as I had originally believed. However from reading about people's experiences with the K10D, I got the impression that Pentax listened to what customers wanted and made changes accordingly with firmware updates where possible. So I decided to stick with this system and let Pentax know about what I wanted changed.

Unfortunately, my first K20D was returned after taking around 5 - 600 shots. This is when I first decided to test the camera's continuous shooting ability. Yes, it did 3 fps, but I was never able to get more than 16 frames in a burst before the camera slowed down. Even at the smallest JPG setting with the lowest quality. (And no, I did not have RAW+ JPG selected). I also felt like the camera was just a little slower than it could be displaying images after shooting. I called Pentax, and the technician said the camera must be defective. So I returned it to the shop and got a new one. At this point I was torn between sticking with the K20D and just shelling out the extra cash for a D300. I tried out a new K20D quickly in the shop, and when it made it to 20 fps I stopped, thinking - ok, the first one was truly defective. At home with the camera I later discovered that its continuous shooting is somewhat erratic, and never able to surpass 25 continuous shots at 3fps. I decided this issue was not really that big a deal, so I kept the camera.

Now for the camera's final and worst flaw: High ISO performance. Here's where people will start yelling, I'm sure. Everyone seems to think this camera is noiseless, but it is extremely noisy above 1600 ISO. This wouldn't be a problem since the obtrusive chroma noise can easily be removed in post processing (Pentax's in camera NR doesn't seem to work very well - firmware update, Pentax???). However, starting at ISO 2500, my new body displays pretty bad horizontal banding. This banding appears even in RAW mode, so no hope for a firmware fix here! I will post some samples. I looked through some of the test photos I took with the first body I had and found it in one of them as well - though not as pronounced even though the shot was terribly underexposed. This shot is the final one in the series.

So there you have it. My complaints about the K20D. Will I be taking it back again and getting the D300 or something else? No. I've decided to stick with it and work within this camera's limitations for two reasons. I have already taken some amazing shots with it and I know it is capable of producing stunning results. I'll just stay at ISO 2000 and below. (with proper exposure, 1600 looks amazingly good!) The second reason is the wonderful lenses available at much more reasonable prices than the competitors' offerings. Try getting a weather sealed Nikon lens for under $1000. OK Pentax, I hope you read this and update the K20D's firmware soon!

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05-18-2008, 10:55 AM   #2
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i dont see banding and iso on d300 not better i think...
All your problems are about pttl and flash... I think pentax is not good in af and flash-system.
And I don't understand why LCD must be colibrated to Mac?
05-18-2008, 10:59 AM   #3
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Try the high ISO with any other cameras (beside the Nikon D3) and I am pretty sure you are going to praise the Pentax high ISO performance. It does have noise, but I find it more manageable than any other cameras with a high pixel count (over 10meg). As for wireless flash, at least it is supported, which is more than most other make. As for P_TTL not being supported with M lenses, how could P_TTL work if the camera doesn't communicate with the lens? Beside, the K20D has more compatibility with older lenses than just about anybody else.
05-18-2008, 11:08 AM   #4
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First rule of high-ISO shooting is to not underexpose. You underexposed your cat. This shot is from a k20d at ISO 6400. Yes, I wrote ISO 6400 and NO noise reduction. The k20d is not "extremely noisy" above iso 1600. You need to learn to use the tool to it's fullest capability before criticizing.



05-18-2008, 11:32 AM   #5
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High ISO is not for perfect lighting conditions. It's for when you want to shoot in low available light. And I know areas of the cat shot are underexposed- these are the areas of the frame where you see the banding. Not every photo should be in the midtone range all over the photo.
05-18-2008, 11:33 AM   #6
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I don't want P-TTL to work. I want the camera simply to TRIGGER an off camera flash with a manual lens attached. This should not require P-TTL or any info from the lens.
05-18-2008, 11:41 AM   #7
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I want to calibrate my LCD to my mac's monitor so that I know exactly what my photos are going to look like before I put them on the computer. If they are equally calibrated I will know that my white balance setting etc. is just where I want it for the result that I want, just by glancing at the LCD.
05-18-2008, 11:46 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by pinkpants Quote
6) The LCD calibration feature doesn't work so well. I tried and tried, but couldn't get my LCD screen calibrated to match my macbook's calibration.
So what you're saying is that you can't get the back panel to match a crappy laptop display - how exactly is this bad news?
(This is not a criticism of the Macbook in particular but is more addressed to laptop screens in general and their lack of suitability for photographic work)

05-18-2008, 12:08 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by pinkpants Quote
I don't want P-TTL to work. I want the camera simply to TRIGGER an off camera flash with a manual lens attached. This should not require P-TTL or any info from the lens.
The camera can't trigger an off camera flash with a manual lens due to lack of communication between lens and camera. The camera can't tell the flash how much light to emit, since it does not know where the lens is set at. You can get an off camera trigger with a thyristor flash for those situations when you need flash and manual lenses. What you are asking for is a problem without a solution for all the cameras I've seen( some people will say that their flash will work off camera with old lenses, but their old lenses aren't as old as the one you can use on Pentax cameras).
05-18-2008, 12:37 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by pinkpants Quote
High ISO is not for perfect lighting conditions. It's for when you want to shoot in low available light. And I know areas of the cat shot are underexposed- these are the areas of the frame where you see the banding. Not every photo should be in the midtone range all over the photo.
The shot I posted above was not in "perfect lighting conditions" In fact, it was a bit too dark to be comfortable for me to read. Do you know how to use EV? And what "banding" are you talking about? There is no banding in the shot anywhere. The fact is that many people here have taken beautiful shots at iso3200 and above, which is not at all consistent with your "extremely noisy above iso 1600" characterization.

I think the problem is not the camera. You indicate that this is your first DSLR correct? Your post reads like someone who is very quick to complain without first learning how to use the tool, and the reasoning behind the design decisions.

Last edited by PentaxPoke; 05-18-2008 at 01:04 PM.
05-18-2008, 12:43 PM   #11
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I know you're frustrated, but it sounds like you have some good points. Why not make them into positively-phrased suggestions for improvement rather than a list of gripes?
05-18-2008, 12:55 PM   #12
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Flyer- It does not need to tell the flash anything when you are shooting in manual mode, which I always do. I set the flash power before taking the shot. The camera merely needs to tell the flash to fire. It requires no information from the lens to do this. Why should this function be disabled when using a manual lens? And why should it be disabled when the 3 second timer in IR remote mode is on?
05-18-2008, 01:12 PM   #13
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I'm sorry if this post sounds gripey, but I intended it as a list of things that could mostly be easily addressed with a firmware fix. I am pretty happy with the camera. I just feel like for the price it could be a little more polished. I saved for a long time to buy my first DSLR and I think people should have as much information as possible before making a purchasing decision.

On a side note, I noticed in my pre-purchase researching that Pentax users on these forums are very brand loyal and are more concerned with defending Pentax products than they are at having a productive discussion which could lead to improvements in future models. This thread seems to be no exception!

PentaxPoke - I have no interest in engaging in a conversation about my photography skills or lack thereof. As far as the banding I am talking about is concerned- I may be naming this phenomenon improperly, but when I look at the shots I see that the noise is organized in quite obvious horizontal bands. This is always in the darker areas of the frame. These are even more obvious in the original files not resized for posting here. And it's not a pixel-peeping thing either. You can see these distracting bands even when zoomed out. I saw it in another photo posted in the gallery as well. It's a really underexposed shot of a dog posted by Michaelina2 - User Photo Gallery - Personal
Maybe you can see the pattern to the organization of the noise better in that shot.
05-18-2008, 01:20 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by pinkpants Quote
I'm sorry if this post sounds gripey, but I intended it as a list of things that could mostly be easily addressed with a firmware fix.
Yeah, I know. That's why I suggested emphasizing the positive more likely to be noticed in a helpful way, less likely to degenerate into a flame war.
05-18-2008, 01:31 PM   #15
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Pinkpants you are correct the K20D or any other camera isn't perfect. Pentax has listened to a lot of things K10D owners told them. May take some time to work all that into a camera. They have made progress. Before K10D you couldn't use wireless remote with 3 sec mirror lock up or in bulb mode. Now you can. It would be nice to hit wireless once to start shot and again to end it (T mode). My Olympus E330 has it. Good thing because it doesn't seem to have a wired remote.

I have seen high iso banding on a friends D300. Think any camera (digital at least) can have banding. Theres always something - nothings perfect.

You picked an incredible camera for your first dslr. Only a few that can compete with it. Wish I had this incredible camera even a few years ago. Don't forget the Nikon would lose the builtin body image stabilization. Hard for me to take any lowlight camera seriously without that.
thanks
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