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12-22-2014, 04:31 PM   #1
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First midrange dslr.

Hello guys, I am hoping you will be able to help me make up my mind.
I have been thinking of buying a dslr for a while now however since I don't have too big of a budget I'd like us to discuss few options I have.
Sometimes on eBay (UK) there are amazing deals on stock from USA, so for instance Pentax k5iis + 17-135mm can be found for 650, same price for Nikon d7100 + 18-105mm. For those of you who are not from UK, these cameras sell here for 900-1000. Now the dylema is which one? Yes I know it's a Pentax forum but unlike anyothers manufacturer forum I saw least amount of fanboysm here.
What I want it for, is mainly portrait, and low light shooting. Both have great low light performance but being able to put a pentax prime and benefit from SR seems sweet to me, plus pentax can go to - 3ev to focus without assist lamp. However it worries me how the fucus will work in a bit more dymamicly demanding situations?
To add to the choice, a used k5 can be found for 260 and a tamron 17-50 2.8 - 240. Or Nikon D7000 plus 18-105 for around 500 too. What do you guys think?
Would you advise against buying USA stock in UK? On eBay they say it's with 12 months warranty. I'd like a camera that I can take on holidays and I won't have to worry too much taking it to the beach and worry about moisture and sand.

12-22-2014, 05:02 PM   #2
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Hi, welcome to the forums.

All those cameras are great cameras + lenses (presume you mean DA 18-135 for Pentax) to get you started.

The K-3 is a better match for the D7100. The K-3 has some advantages over the D7100 but arguably the AF on the Nikon might be a little better for sports etc.
Generally Pentax has more of a focus on smaller size systems than Nikon and also does a great job in backwards lens compatibility (basically every Pentax lens can be used on modern cameras). However Nikon has a larger range of lenses available and arguably better AF systems (although the gap has narrowed with the release of the K-3).
I personally like the controls, feel and usability of my K-5 over D7000 say but not everyone sees it the same.

Also how important is WR (Weather resistance) to you? All those Pentax cameras are WR (and so is the DA 18-135) but not the Tamron and not sure about that Nikon Lens. I do find that having WR with at least one lens for adverse conditions is a plus but your requirements may differ.

You need to decide what is most important to you. Have a look at the camera reviews (including on this site) and if you can have a play with both cameras in a camera store. Which do you like the feel of better?

Last edited by kiwi_jono; 12-22-2014 at 05:12 PM.
12-22-2014, 05:34 PM   #3
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Well... I don't know much about other cameras... but it is true that the K5II might have worse low light focus than the Nikon, but the K3 is a different beast

If your only worry is autofocus, but you need all of the other features that Pentax offers... how much will slightly more mediocre autofocus matter for you? For portraits, you would really want to be using manual focus, zooming in with the LCD screen, and nailing it on the eyes.

See if you can try out both a pentax and a nikon. See which one feels better, and go with that!
12-22-2014, 05:45 PM   #4
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I think that you could consider the following Pentax: k-50, k-5ii/iis and K-3. All will provide you a small-size camera body with WR. Neither Canon or Nikon have comparable bodies.If WR is important, you will find Pentax dSLR the best value for money IMHO. If you do not value WR, you may find better deal with Nikon and Canon.

Beware of the costs of lenses. Pentax offers access to great legacy lenses. No need to have image stabilisation in your lenses, because the body has SR. Generallty Pentax is well regarded for its prime lenses, with focal length below 100mm. Nikon and Canon may have a better choice of zoom lenses.

Low light: this is a 'murky' area IMHO and it could mean many things: indoor, outdoor, with or without flash.... Will you use flash? Do you shoot in 'pitch black' conditions? If so, MF is a must. In very dark conditions without a flash, Pentax will work as well as (if not better than) Canikon.

It would help if you could detail your intended use of the camera system, in real situations, more.

My 5 cents....

12-22-2014, 05:58 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Hefa Quote
Hello guys, I am hoping you will be able to help me make up my mind.
I have been thinking of buying a dslr for a while now however since I don't have too big of a budget I'd like us to discuss few options I have.
Sometimes on eBay (UK) there are amazing deals on stock from USA, so for instance Pentax k5iis + 17-135mm can be found for 650, same price for Nikon d7100 + 18-105mm. For those of you who are not from UK, these cameras sell here for 900-1000. Now the dylema is which one? Yes I know it's a Pentax forum but unlike anyothers manufacturer forum I saw least amount of fanboysm here.
What I want it for, is mainly portrait, and low light shooting. Both have great low light performance but being able to put a pentax prime and benefit from SR seems sweet to me, plus pentax can go to - 3ev to focus without assist lamp. However it worries me how the fucus will work in a bit more dymamicly demanding situations?
To add to the choice, a used k5 can be found for 260 and a tamron 17-50 2.8 - 240. Or Nikon D7000 plus 18-105 for around 500 too. What do you guys think?
Would you advise against buying USA stock in UK? On eBay they say it's with 12 months warranty. I'd like a camera that I can take on holidays and I won't have to worry too much taking it to the beach and worry about moisture and sand.
I've used the k5iis and the k3 in low light social environments with dancing and singing and the AF works great even in very low light situations. It's a bit lens dependent, but most primes are fast focusing. I think the Nikon is rated at -1EV vs the Pentax at -3EV - a pretty substantial difference. I never want the low light focusing lamp to come on as it takes away candids. Also, the shutter sound on the k3 and k5ii is very very quiet - easy to stay stealthy. One other thing that I find important is that the buffer of the Pentax cameras is much larger than the Nikon - it fills up after about 5 shots. For social stuff, I find that as friends are interacting, I like capturing that sequence of shots that tells the story to those who look at the photos later - I mean that's what candids are about; telling the story of how people are enjoying each other's company.

Here's a friends B-day party from a couple months ago - without flash, I was shooting around f2.2, 1/80th, iso 3200 to give you an idea of light levels. And yes, we really do dress like that all the time :
https://www.flickr.com/photos/55038128@N00/sets/72157648740320699/

And this set was taken in Cambodia where there was a circus for at risk kids - some pretty serious acrobatics - hit the right arrow button to advance through the pics. But I was shooting iso 4000, f2.0 @ 1/250th or so.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/55038128@N00/11379982085/in/set-72157638106397144
12-22-2014, 05:59 PM   #6
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When I first bought I received the advice "you are not buying a first camera, you are buying into a system". The person who gave me that advice went on to explain that you will change your body but will keep your lenses. And I see much validity in it. I'd strongly recommend researching that. Saving $100 and regretting your choice for the next 10 years is not much of a deal.....
12-22-2014, 07:17 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mistlefoot Quote
When I first bought I received the advice "you are not buying a first camera, you are buying into a system". The person who gave me that advice went on to explain that you will change your body but will keep your lenses. And I see much validity in it. I'd strongly recommend researching that. Saving $100 and regretting your choice for the next 10 years is not much of a deal.....
There's not a lot to choose from. People who actually did some tests on the AF said, the K-3 was marginally faster focusing, the D7100 was marginally better tracking. Saying the D710 was better is just wrong. It wasn't. Not only that in the past, Pentax has had a better keeper rate than other camera systems. So you could shoot faster with other systems, but their AF accuracy was not as good.

So hopefully that dispenses with some common fallacies that get repeated as fact. Beyond that. To me the best thing to do would be get to someplace where you can handle them both and see which one you like. Why people might prefer one camera over another can not always be anticipated. I'm happy with my K-3. An old friend who couldn't wait for the K-3 bought a D7100 6 months before the K-3 came out. He seems happy with it. I'm not sure there's a bad choice here.
12-22-2014, 08:46 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mistlefoot Quote
When I first bought I received the advice "you are not buying a first camera, you are buying into a system". The person who gave me that advice went on to explain that you will change your body but will keep your lenses. And I see much validity in it. I'd strongly recommend researching that. Saving $100 and regretting your choice for the next 10 years is not much of a deal.....

Completely agreed here. You aren't just buying a camera you are truly buying into a system. The Pentax will only use lenses and flashes made to be used on Pentax camera bodies just like Nikon cameras only use for-Nikon lenses and flashes. Once you buy a camera body, you are locking yourself into whatever system that brand uses. I did NOT think about that when starting out into SLR photography and sort of wish I had. But ah well.. here I am, 3 pentax bodies and 4 and a half years later still here. haha

I'd research the flash system in each camera if you are into portraiture mostly. I think the Nikon is superior in this category, but you may want to look into it more yourself. If I was more outdoorsy (which I am), I'd pick the Pentax as well as generally wanting to stick with an APS-C system since the Pentax one at this point is more robust. Nikon has a healthy full-frame option though. So there is that.

Personally, if I was just starting and only into portraiture (and between Pentax and Nikon), I'd grab a Nikon d5300 and use the difference in cost from the d7100 on a portrait-friendly, fast prime lens such as the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 and also spend some money on a hot shoe flash with a head that swivels and rotates (so you can bounce the flash). Once you get the hang of it, you can upgrade to better bodies and already have a nice set of lenses and flashes (as well as being comfortable with the system as a whole) later on.

No need in buying the Ferrari (D7100 or K3) to learn to drive manual.

12-22-2014, 09:02 PM   #9
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I don't think anyone should own a WR camera without at least one WR lens (especially in the UK ) .

The 18-135 is a good choice is this budget range, it is reasonably fast to focus and almost silent (which is a great feature for not scaring birds and disturbing people).
There have been almost no reliability issues with this lens. Also, it is reasonably sharp, but not like a prime. If you want to really see how sharp the k5iis is, get an old M or A series 28,35 or 50mm lens, there should be plenty around at bargain prices.

The camera body itself may be (IMHO), the best Pentax has ever made. There are times I think it actually out does my K-3.

The Nikon is also a great camera, but has no built in image stabilization, That is a big down side. The k5iis can do composition adjustment using the IS and astroimaging with the O-GPS1 add on module.

Another big downside are also the limitation on what old Nikon lenses that will work. Basically almost all pre-1977 lenses won't function unless you modify them, The Pentax can use any Pentax lenses ever made as well as any other M42 with a little adapter. So you basically end up with a massive selection of great lenses at bargain prices if you go with the Pentax. That was the basic reason I switched from Canon. All my beautiful FD lenses became useless when they came out with the EF mount.

The final big downside is the lack of focus confirmation on manual lenses. You won't need to chip an adapter or lens to take advantage of this feature. Simply put the old lens on, focus until you hear the beep or see the box light up in the viewfinder and you're done.

The advantage of the Nikon is the speed and accuracy of their auto focus system. This is where Pentax is way behind the times. If you take pictures of sports, the Nikon is excellent. The K5iis is acceptable, but you have to use continuous AF and burst mode to get keepers. Technique can overcome some of the disadvantage.

I hope this helps give you more info to make the best informed decision
12-22-2014, 11:44 PM   #10
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Hello and welcome.
It isnt easy making a decision is it. I have a k-30 and I find it ok for my low light shooting. Arguably the k5ii and k3 are better.
I will rather comment on the 18-135 in low light. I have found this lens to very slow at focusing low light conditions. So if you are shooting mainly lowlight I will not suggest this lens.
My tamron 70-300 performs better at lowlight. If my observation is wrong then i might have a bad copy of the 18-135. Apart from that the lens is excellent.
12-23-2014, 12:28 AM   #11
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Thanks for all your responses, I too agree that everyone in the UK should have at least one WR lens . Talking about it is a major factor I'm taking into consideration. To start with, yes I would be on a budget, but as many of you pointed out when purchasing more lenses in time I hope to be able to get DA* lenses and these are just like the camera body smaller than the opposition. I don't think I will use the flash and for what I need it for a good Metz would do. It would be more like a very good quality traveling camera/family photos plus some night shots and landscapes. I don't intent to go pro or even full frame. However speaking about it Sony' A7 went down to 1k during black Friday and that was an amazing deal, and that's where the future lies quite frankly. As if making the choice wasn't hard enough ;/
12-23-2014, 04:34 AM   #12
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To be honest I love my Pentax systems to death since I got a Pentax in mid 80s But here in Oz if I had nothing I would go either Canon or Nikon . Only reason here in Oz hard to get gear for Pentax where Canon & Nikon more spoilt for choices with both Orginal manufactures & 3rd party
12-23-2014, 06:41 AM   #13
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I'm not entirely certain mirrorless will be everything Sony hopes it will be. Perhaps it will, but a true DSLR has a lot of advantages.

I can share experience from my Nephew's exploration of my kit. He's a semi-pro using the Cannon Mk5 series. He likes the small size of the pancakes and the manual setup of Pentax. We do very different styles of photography, he does weddings and sports plus some portraiture. I do field photography, macro, and wildlife. Both cameras can do probably 70% of each other's work. He has better sports zooms and I have better macro, but those are lenses not cameras. He's better at flash and has the radio controlled setup for his work. I can use the GPS module for long exposure astrophotography, which I currently suck at and don't live anywhere dark enough to take full advantage of.

If you're a technical shooter or want to be, the Pentax system has a lot of advantages. They make it easy to drop into full manual operation, and it's just like shooting manual film bodies at that point with some modern twists.

I picked up a DA21 for a great price in the spring, and wow is it nice. I'd like to get the DA300mm if I ever get ahead budget-wise, I could really use that with our visiting ducks on the river. I have no need for the DA40 or 70 pancakes, or so I tell myself but I'm sure I'd use them if I got them. And with our huskies I use the 18-135 frequently, I think they're half duck sometimes...
12-23-2014, 07:15 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Hefa Quote
Thanks for all your responses, I too agree that everyone in the UK should have at least one WR lens . Talking about it is a major factor I'm taking into consideration. To start with, yes I would be on a budget, but as many of you pointed out when purchasing more lenses in time I hope to be able to get DA* lenses and these are just like the camera body smaller than the opposition. I don't think I will use the flash and for what I need it for a good Metz would do. It would be more like a very good quality traveling camera/family photos plus some night shots and landscapes. I don't intent to go pro or even full frame. However speaking about it Sony' A7 went down to 1k during black Friday and that was an amazing deal, and that's where the future lies quite frankly. As if making the choice wasn't hard enough ;/

In your original post, you mentioned wanting to take portraits.. now you are saying you want a traveling cam and to take landscapes. These are very different subjects calling for different gear. With this in mind, you might be fine with the Pentax system. You'll want a fast lens for night shots and family photos but a wide angle for landscapes. I'd look into the 18-135mm WR for a travel lens and the DA 50mm f/1.8 for a night/portrait starter lens. The 18-135mm isn't great on the long end but will do well enough I think. Especially stopped down (which if you're shooting during the day on travel shouldn't be a big issue).

Later on, you might be interested in the DA 15mm, 21mm ltd, or one of the ultra wide angles for landscapes though (Sigma 10-20mm, 12-24mm or the Pentax 12-24mm) and one of the faster limited or star primes for portraits/night shots. But that is wayyy down the road from beginnersville.

The K-3 is sort of overkill still for starting out. But if you can swing it then why not?
12-23-2014, 08:16 AM   #15
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It is interesting that you mention the Sony A7. That is a very nice camera.

It's drawbacks for me are:

Limited lens selection that are expensive. Viewfinder difficult to use in low light. AA filter. Slower burst rate. Shorter battery life. No image stabilization.

Pluses are:

Lightweight. Tilting screen. Better video.
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