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01-27-2015, 02:42 PM   #1
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Impressions of the Pentax system

I am using a K-50 for almost 1 year now. I took it for it's selling points: big - bright - 100% coverage viewfinder, weather resistance and attractive price for a student. Having browsed the forum for a while, especially the lens database, I have now a mixed very subjective and personal impression of the Pentax system which I'll detail below.

Things that seemed good and remain good:
+ The lens selection is really great for the most part because of the backwards compatibility with all K, M, KA, F, FA, KAF etc. lenses
+ Pentax seems to have been always concerned with system size (M lenses & cameras, DA limiteds) and great build quality (DA & FA limiteds, current DSLR build)
+ good framerate for relatively little money
+ (this is very subjective and probably not so important but) I sort of like the rectangular look of many Pentax body designs


Things that seemed good but don't seem that good now:
- The viewfinders are big and bright in most Pentax cameras. However, the included focusing screen of my K-50 is really bad for manual focusing. This means that I need to spend another good 100-120$ for a proper focusing screen like the KatzEye or from focusingscreens.com
- Pentaprism design seems attractive at first, especially with such a presumably nice viewfinder but the weight adds up. Without lens, K-50 has 650g, K-5iis has 680g and K3 has 800g. Fujifilm X-T1 has 440g, Sony Alpha 7 has 470g, Olympus OM-D E-M1 has 500g etc. Some people may not like the electronic viewfinder, I can understand that, but no matter how compact Pentax tries to get, it just can't get there without going mirrorless. I like the idea behing DA limiteds but the pentaprism somehow defeats their purpose. On top of that, the mirror slap of my K-50 is extremely noisy I think for most applications. I had problems with it at public events and bird shooting. This issue is resolved in K-5iis and K-3 but Pentax is notorious for not adopting leaf shutters, not even in its medium format cameras. Fuji has some cameras in which they had to add a speaker to simulate a shutter sound! That's how far mirrorless & leaf shutter can go.
- WR was a selling point for me. Looking at the lenses I have or sold, the only WR lens is the kit one which I don't use anymore. Also, if I wanted to invest in Pentax lenses I would probably ending up with 2-3 limited primes that are not WR anyway so why bother about WR in the first place?
- I never thought about proper video support until recently. Pentax cameras are just not right for video!
- SR is simply not as effective as it seems in theory. You can feel it, sometimes I wonder how did that 1/20 photo came out sharp. But going mirrorless with leaf shutter alone can compensate for the Pentax SR I think.
- I remember thinking of what and advantage dual rotative knobs will bring me instead of just one. Although it is great to be able to modify the aperture & shutter from their dedicated dial, my K-50 fails quite badly in terms of usability. For example, changing ISO always turns on the screen which can be especially annoying and painful for my eyes at night. Also, some useful shooting options are in the menu which is really not pleasant. I'm thinking of the nice design of X-T1 with those dedicated knobs for shutter speed/exposure compensation/ISO on top of the camera. It's a more expensive camera than mine but K-3 is in the same price tag and doesn't give me that.

I'm actually glad I did not invest alot in Pentax. I am now thinking of jumping over to either Fuji (X-T1, X100T/S) or Sony Alpha 7. I would be using any of them mostly for landscape and street photography.

Sony seems attractive because it's full frame and cheap for that matter. Fuji seems even more attractive because of size, impressively fast and qualitative lenses, little to no shutter sound and probably the most important - size. Who said that fast doesn't go well with lightweight? Fuji 23mm f1.4, 35mm f1.4, 56mm f1.2 is one heck of a set of primes. On Sony side, Zeiss lenses seem somewhat heavy.

Please don't take this too seriously, it's just subjective thoughts that arise from my shooting style and preferences most of which I developed while learning photography (as much as I could) by using my K-50. I'm curious if I share any of the pluses or minuses with anybody around here.

01-27-2015, 02:57 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by misomosi Quote
- SR is simply not as effective as it seems in theory. You can feel it, sometimes I wonder how did that 1/20 photo came out sharp. But going mirrorless with leaf shutter alone can compensate for the Pentax SR I think.
I'm not sure what you mean by this. How does mirrorless or using a leaf shutter effect camera shake?

QuoteOriginally posted by misomosi Quote
Also, some useful shooting options are in the menu which is really not pleasant
All entry level camera are made for noobs to pick up and not have to touch the controls. The K-50 builds on that by giving you more physical controls, like the dual control wheels. The K-3 expands even further giving you the stuff like the ISO button that lets you change ISO without going into any menus.
01-27-2015, 03:06 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by enoeske Quote
I'm not sure what you mean by this. How does mirrorless or using a leaf shutter effect camera shake?
No mirror slap, no vibrations - or at least, much less.
01-27-2015, 03:10 PM - 2 Likes   #4
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You've mentioned SR a couple of times re: Pentax (and I find it to be quite effective) but remember that Fuji's only SR is in a handful of zooms.

It seems incongruous to me that you are comparing an entry-level body from Pentax with high-end bodies from Fuji and Sony which cost 3 to 4 times as much.

Pentax will never get "there" in terms of body size compared with other brands because of the K-mount. So if that is of critical importance to you, time to dump Pentax. That said, when comparing apples and oranges - (Pentax) APS-C to (Fuji) APS-C - what advantage in terms of lens size do you gain with Fuji?

While it would be nice to have a selection of WR primes, how often do you shoot in adverse elements? You could have a WR Pentax body with the WR 16-50 (or WR 18-135 or WR 16-85) and WR 55-300 (or WR 60-250). AFAIK, there isn't another camera brand that offers an advantage over Pentax in that regard.

The most important thing is to find the camera system that works best for you, and a large portion of your reasoning should be subjective. If you attempt to be objective and list the pros and cons of any brand versus Pentax, much of it will be fairly easily refuted or countered by other aspects of the system. Buy what makes you happy!

01-27-2015, 03:10 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by misomosi Quote
No mirror slap, no vibrations - or at least, much less.
You know it does more than just reduce mirror slap, right?
01-27-2015, 03:20 PM   #6
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Everyone has there own priorities for sure and only you can determine what is best for you.

Personally I'm very happy with the size + weight of my K-5 and would find lighter cameras more difficult to hold steady and comfortably. The K-5 feels so much better than the smaller / lighter K-x (which I still use occasionally when I have to pack very light).
01-27-2015, 03:26 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by luftfluss Quote
You've mentioned SR a couple of times re: Pentax (and I find it to be quite effective) but remember that Fuji's only SR is in a handful of zooms.

It seems incongruous to me that you are comparing an entry-level body from Pentax with high-end bodies from Fuji and Sony which cost 3 to 4 times as much.

Pentax will never get "there" in terms of body size compared with other brands because of the K-mount. So if that is of critical importance to you, time to dump Pentax. That said, when comparing apples and oranges - (Pentax) APS-C to (Fuji) APS-C - what advantage in terms of lens size do you gain with Fuji?

While it would be nice to have a selection of WR primes, how often do you shoot in adverse elements? You could have a WR Pentax body with the WR 16-50 (or WR 18-135 or WR 16-85) and WR 55-300 (or WR 60-250). AFAIK, there isn't another camera brand that offers an advantage over Pentax in that regard.

The most important thing is to find the camera system that works best for you, and a large portion of your reasoning should be subjective. If you attempt to be objective and list the pros and cons of any brand versus Pentax, much of it will be fairly easily refuted or countered by other aspects of the system. Buy what makes you happy!
@luftfluss: My experience is based on using K-50. I wrote in the original post here and there that some issues I dislike were addressed by K5iis or K3. But even if I got the K3, it is in the same price tag as the other cameras I mentioned with the disadvantage of twice the weight for more or less the same output quality.

Now, regarding WR, I have a few manual focus primes and I realized I enjoy using them much more than zooms. Firstly because they can get fast and secondly because they can be unobtrusive and small in size. This is essential when shooting people. I hate being pointed at with a big zoom. Therefore, for people that have no problems with the zooms you mentioned Pentax WR is not just a marketing thing. But for me who would just grab the DA21, DA40 and DA70 for their small size for example, WR would be useless.

---------- Post added 01-27-15 at 11:29 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by kiwi_jono Quote
Everyone has there own priorities for sure and only you can determine what is best for you.

Personally I'm very happy with the size + weight of my K-5 and would find lighter cameras more difficult to hold steady and comfortably. The K-5 feels so much better than the smaller / lighter K-x (which I still use occasionally when I have to pack very light).
K5iis seems to be the closest to what I'm looking for from Pentax offerings.
01-27-2015, 03:43 PM - 1 Like   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by misomosi Quote
- Pentaprism design seems attractive at first, especially with such a presumably nice viewfinder but the weight adds up. Without lens, K-50 has 650g, K-5iis has 680g and K3 has 800g.
K-50 = 590 g (body only)
Product page of Pentax K-50 - RICOH IMAGING UK LTD.

I have to say, I completely disagree with your appraisal. But I understand that Pentax is not for everyone.
Personally, I cannot stand 'lightweight' cameras. I like heft and heft helps with stability as well as a giving sense of quality, value and security.
These reasons and more are why I like Pentax cameras.

01-27-2015, 03:45 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by misomosi Quote
On top of that, the mirror slap of my K-50 is extremely noisy I think for most applications.
I doubt it is bad as the K100D. Now that was embarrassing :-)
01-27-2015, 03:53 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Steve.Ledger Quote
K-50 = 590 g (body only)
Product page of Pentax K-50 - RICOH IMAGING UK LTD.

I have to say, I completely disagree with your appraisal. But I understand that Pentax is not for everyone.
Personally, I cannot stand 'lightweight' cameras. I like heft and heft helps with stability as well as a giving sense of quality, value and security.
These reasons and more are why I like Pentax cameras.
All weights I quoted are for camera body + battery + sd card. And I agree, for most people it's not nice to have something that feels like a toy in-hand. But that toy is so small you can carry it anywhere with little effort; that's something I can only dream of right now. Couple it with a Fuji 23mm f2 pancake (kit lens) and you have a pocketable toy. It's again subjective and also depends on many factors such as owner hand size, or finger length and so on. But I tried my long fingers on Sony a7 and on Olympuses and they feel very well in my hand.
01-27-2015, 03:56 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by misomosi Quote
@luftfluss: My experience is based on using K-50. I wrote in the original post here and there that some issues I dislike were addressed by K5iis or K3. But even if I got the K3, it is in the same price tag as the other cameras I mentioned with the disadvantage of twice the weight for more or less the same output quality.

Now, regarding WR, I have a few manual focus primes and I realized I enjoy using them much more than zooms. Firstly because they can get fast and secondly because they can be unobtrusive and small in size. This is essential when shooting people. I hate being pointed at with a big zoom. Therefore, for people that have no problems with the zooms you mentioned Pentax WR is not just a marketing thing. But for me who would just grab the DA21, DA40 and DA70 for their small size for example, WR would be useless.
So, which system gives you the WR primes that you desire? If you're dinging Pentax's WR as being "useless" for you, what about Fuji's WR?

If you take a Fuji XT1 + 23/1.4, 35/1.4 & 60/2.4, and compare that with a K-3 + 21/3.2, 35/2.8 & 70/2.4, the Fuji kit will be about 10% lighter and have faster apertures. The Pentax kit will be stabilized. Neither will have WR lenses.

Also, the Fuji XT1 is 50% more expensive than the K-3 (at least in the USA).
01-27-2015, 03:58 PM - 2 Likes   #12
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I use to own a Pentax k3 and switched to Fuji as I liked the focus aids of the EVF and the Fuji primes.. After owning the Fuji XT1 for near a year now using it I'm almost ready to switch back to the Pentax. The reason for going back to a dSLR for me is the EVF is difficult to use for fast moving, unpredictable subjects due to the EVF blackout/delay in continuous mode. The XT1 is a small body which works well with the primes.. After getting the new 50-140 f2.8 zoom I quickly discovered that long quality fast glass makes the XT1 very front heavy and awkward. I tried the grip, which helps with being able to get all your fingers on the camera but the camera is still very front heavy..

The other issue is post processing fuji RAW files. In order to extract all the amazing detail the xtrans sensor captures you need to use something other than LR to de-mosaic E.g Iridient, Capture One , Photoninja.. This adds an extra step in post processing before I can import them into LR. I found PEF files from the K3 to be very easy to process without all the extra work the Fuji files require.

The XT1 is weather sealed but just like with Pentax the primes on the Fuji are NOT weather sealed... Fuji have 3 WR lenses the 18-135, 50-140mm and the new 16-55.

Optically the Fuji lenses are amazing, bright, sharp and nice bokeh, but lack character compared to many of the Pentax lenses.. I can't quite put my finger on what the 'character' is, but the images have a different feel/look which i prefer to the what i describe as sterile look of the fuji images.

I would recommend you try a few mirrorless cameras and with bigger lenses so you get a good idea of the feel and balance. The EVF is another important consideration especially if you shoot 'action'.
01-27-2015, 04:23 PM   #13
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Regarding WR - let me put it like this: I am not saying Pentax WR is useless for everyone. It is useless for people who want to have 2-3 fast primes, that's it. Apart from that, I'm not expecting some other system to offer WR with their fast primes(that would be nice though). But no dumping Pentax WR - it is just something that I learned out in this year, after realizing that those WR lenses don't fit me.

@atomx, interesting thoughts. Comments like yours are what I'm looking for actually - the goods and bads of going mirrorless. I'm not decided for any camera yet. I just feel that the rangefinders might suit me (I have to try them first!) because they have both EVF and optical viewfinder. I'll try to find some to test, keeping in mind all you said here about EVF and usability.
01-27-2015, 04:46 PM   #14
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I haven't used any of the Fuji range finder cameras but i have read comments that the OVF starts to get parallax errors above a certain focal length (i think its about 60mm). So there are limitations on the OVF..

If you think Pentax video isn't good you will be horrified by the Fuji video quality.. My HTC smartphone takes much better video than my XT1. If you want good video in mirrorless you will have to look at Panasonic or Sony.
01-27-2015, 04:51 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by misomosi Quote
Regarding WR - let me put it like this: I am not saying Pentax WR is useless for everyone. It is useless for people who want to have 2-3 fast primes, that's it. Apart from that, I'm not expecting some other system to offer WR with their fast primes(that would be nice though). But no dumping Pentax WR - it is just something that I learned out in this year, after realizing that those WR lenses don't fit me.
You might want to check out this site (if you haven't already): Fuji vs. Fuji It offers comparisons of various Fuji models, and has also has comparisons of how various RAW development programs handle X-Trans files.
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