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02-05-2016, 08:19 PM   #1
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Shall I Stay or Shall I Go?

I've been a Pentax shooter for a number of years now, but I have found the lack of lens availability frustrating. I always thought my images were pretty good, but since I began attending photography school a few months i have been impressed by the sharpness and quality of the images produced by fellow classmates shooting some competing products (Canon and Nikon).

I currently use a K5 with the following lenses.

FA 1:1.4 50mm
DFA Macro1:2.8 100mm WR
DA 1:4(22) 16-45mm ED-AL
F Zoom 1:4-5.6 70-210mm

I want to remain loyal to Pentax, but I'm finding it more and more difficult to do so. I plan to go pro when I'm finished school and want to be able to provide high quality images. Is it possible to do so and remain a Pentax shooter? If so, what equipment would I want to buy when I upgrade? What does Pentax have to offer that can compete with the high quality images that Canon and Nikon can produce?

Would appreciate any advice you can give.

02-05-2016, 08:49 PM   #2
Ole
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You're good with your prime lenses. Your zoom's are consumer grade, you could consider upgrading to DA* lenses or the D FA 24-70/2.8. The DA* 60-250mm is well above the F 70-210mm in contrast and resolution; it is a stellar zoom. Or forgo zooms for more prime lenses.

But there are other factors that plays a role, such as the post processing of the images (contrast, sharpening, etc. if you shoot raw) or the many image quality settings available with the K-5 (if you shoot jpg).

If you otherwise compare apples to apples (i.e. primes to primes, consumer zooms to consumer zooms, APS-C to APS-C) there is no reason that your K-5 can't produce images like the other guys.

My hunch is that they use increased contrast and sharpening compared to your process.
02-05-2016, 08:54 PM - 2 Likes   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by BrianCollins Quote
I want to remain loyal to Pentax, but I'm finding it more and more difficult to do so. I plan to go pro when I'm finished school and want to be able to provide high quality images. Is it possible to do so and remain a Pentax shooter? If so, what equipment would I want to buy when I upgrade? What does Pentax have to offer that can compete with the high quality images that Canon and Nikon can produce?
Of course it's possible. While the Canon and Nikon lens lineup is more mature in terms of sports, telephoto, and low-light lenses, the Pentax lineup has many more compact lens offerings. High-end Pentax lenses are typically more competitively priced. We also shouldn't overlook that Shake Reduction works with all lenses

It doesn't look like you currently own any premium lenses, so that would be a natural place to start. Here's a list of DA* and Limited lenses:
Pentax Lens Search | PentaxForums.com

The Sigma Art lenses are also worth checking out, as is the 17-70mm "C".

In addition, I'd recommend upgrading your K-5 to a K-3 if you plan to stay with the APS-C format. If you want to go bigger, you have the option of going with a full-frame camera (Pentax should be releasing theirs in 2 weeks) or the 645Z.

Pentax cameras are highly-capable when it comes to still image quality. The key areas they're a bit lacking in would be video, tethering support and focusing. Canon and Nikon would be better for you want to be a sports photographer, but for most other use cases you'll be just fine (if not better off) staying with Pentax.

Adam
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02-05-2016, 09:33 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by BrianCollins:
...I have found the lack of lens availability frustrating...
There are Pentax lenses available for just about any task. Pentax is missing some lenses for tilt-shift, ultra telephoto, and other specialties, but most photographers never need that. What particular lenses do you think you need that aren't available?

QuoteQuote:
...impressed by the sharpness and quality of the images produced by fellow classmates shooting some competing products...
Unless you are printing super large (24x30 inches or larger) your K-5 should look similar to the competition. Your zoom lenses aren't the best, but your DFA Macro1:2.8 100mm WR is superb. If that isn't giving sharp images maybe you need to micro-adjust your K-5 autofocus.

02-05-2016, 09:35 PM   #5
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I totally agree with Adam's response. I'd like to add, if you go pro, there are a few more things to consider:

a) Although Reuters is now requiring photo submissions to only be jpeg, 95% of all pros shoot RAW, convert to DNG, and then have developed enough skill on Lightroom or Photoshop to get the most of the image file (without going too far). This is the final step in the entire process and cannot be overlooked when evaluating what or why are some results better than others.

b) Depending on the field/genre that you wish to go pro, beware that some agencies, clients, and others you'll need to network with are more than likely biased to one brand or another.

Right now, Canon is the flavor of the decade. Old school tends to favor and respect Nikon. When I was a pro shooter, I started with Minolta and Pentax SLRs, but I got tired of fighting the bias against me and found I could get more jobs and better paid with Nikon (back in the '80s and '90s) in Hollywood. In the 60's, if you were a war photographer, you had to have a Nikon F2. A decade earlier and all the photojournalists had Leica rangefinders. I have a young colleague that produces gorgeous Mamiya 645 wedding photos, but she finally gave in because 90% in that industry shoots Canon 5D Mark III (circa 2012). Same with an ex-student of mine that is now a top surf photographer.

Yes, there will be, and one would only hope, clients, agencies, etc, that could care less what you shoot as long as they love your results. But you should do your homework to see if there is a bias in the type of pro photography work you want to get into. If there isn't, then you just need to up your glass to DA* or Limited primes and only the best zooms. Here's a site that can help determine what lenses are getting what results with specific cameras: DxOMark by DxO - DxOMark

And I'd even suggest considering the K3II. On pro level cameras, you won't find a pop-up flash. A pro will almost always use external flash units or available light. Pentax took a big gamble in not including the built-in flash with the K3II, and I am sure they didn't remove it to save money. Also you'll want to budget or invest in a high end Pentax flash units like the AF540FGZ II Flash.
02-05-2016, 10:12 PM - 2 Likes   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by BrianCollins Quote
currently use a K5 with the following lenses.
QuoteOriginally posted by BrianCollins Quote
DFA Macro1:2.8 100mm WR
QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
It doesn't look like you currently own any premium lenses

Way to go Adam. Throw a Colossal insult at a lens that rivals ( and in some regards beats) the Canon EF 100L f/2.8 macro. Way to go.

Last edited by Digitalis; 02-05-2016 at 10:17 PM.
02-05-2016, 10:27 PM   #7
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nothing gets past digitalis... NOTHING
02-05-2016, 10:42 PM - 2 Likes   #8
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What sort of images of theirs are blowing you away?

The DA15 and DA21 consistently produce wonderful images.
There aren't many better fast fifties than the DA*55.
There aren't many fast thirty-somethings with the image and bokeh quality of the FA31.
If there's a portrait lens out there much better than the FA77 I'd like to hear about it.
Pentax's macro lenses are every bit as good as those from anyone else.
The DA* zooms and the DFA24-70 and DFA150-450 are excellent, and I'm pretty sure the DFA*70-200 will kick arse.
The K-3 is currently one of the best APS-C DSLR's ever made.

If your results aren't as good as your classmates, Pentax is not the problem. But hey, if their grass is greener, and as you are not heavily invested in the Pentax ecosystem, go for it.

02-05-2016, 10:48 PM   #9
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The 50mm and the 100mm should both be really sharp stopped down.

Also check Micro adjustments (in the camera menu) -- your lenses may need to be calibrated to your camera body.

Third, please ensure you're using proper shooting posture. The shake reduction system in our cameras is nice, but only goes so far. Learning breathing technique and anchoring to a fixed object can help. Knowing that the SR system supposedly takes a second to get going (and only is active when the shutter button is half pressed) is worth knowing as well. Also ensuring you're not dragging the shutter needlessly can be a help too. If you're at ISO 100 and 1/10th of a second, try ISO 400 so you can reach 1/40th of a second shutter speed.

Really, your issue could be fixed by minor changes to technique and calibration.. or it could just be the Canon L glass is just that much better.. or it could be that you're seeing processed images with sharpening and microcontrast added in Photoshop or the like.. or any number of things.
02-05-2016, 10:58 PM - 2 Likes   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Sandy Hancock Quote
But hey, if their grass is greener, and as you are not heavily invested in the Pentax ecosystem, go for it.
The grass may be greener, but you still have to mow it.
02-05-2016, 11:01 PM - 2 Likes   #11
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Don't make the mistake of thinking the brand of tool you use has much to do with the results. Put a cheap violin in the hands of a virtuoso, and he'll manage to make it sound great. Put an expensive violin in my hands, and it will sound like fingernails on a chalkboard. The grass is always greener... Or as Ansel said, "There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept."

Learn your lighting, and learn to read shadows. Pay attention to form, texture, and composition. Think in terms of rhythm, motion, and repetition. Concentrate on your artistry. Study the work of master photographers. Develop good color management habits. Think outside the box. Don't be content to shoot the same photo twice. Once you've done all those things, if sharpness is still the limiting factor in your images, get new lenses, or change brands if you can't find something that suits your needs.
02-05-2016, 11:07 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by BrianCollins Quote
i have been impressed by the sharpness and quality of the images produced by fellow classmates shooting some competing products (Canon and Nikon).
As others have noted you have good but not great lenses, excepting the 100mm macro. Again with the exception of the 100mm those are all film era lenses, not bad in their day but certainly not cutting edge. You are also shooting with the k-5, a wonderful camera but again no longer cutting edge. In fact it is now 4 generations behind the newest Pentax gear and soon to be 5 when the FF comes out this spring. I got mine in November of 2010.

Without knowing what "competing products" you are comparing to it is hard to make any conclusions, but unless your fellow classmates are all shooting 5 year old cameras I suspect this is at least part of the problem. However, as noted above it might be a combination of the camera, the glass and your processing. Certainly the k-5 is capable of producing salable images, it did so for years before I moved to a k-3. And when you compare model to model in general Pentax and Nikon use the same sensors and by many accounts the Canon equivalent is not quite as good. So Pentax gear when compared apples to apples is quite competitive as far as image quality goes.
QuoteOriginally posted by BrianCollins Quote
I plan to go pro when I'm finished school and want to be able to provide high quality images.
I would suggest that as a 'pro' it is the image that is important and being loyal to a particular brand or even format is going to restrict you. If you take a job with someone then they might dictate what gear you use. Even if you work for yourself the camera used should fit the job and be used because of that, not because it is any one brand. In other words, the proper tool for the job.

So if you are looking for a sports setup with fast, long glass and excellent object tracking, maybe Pentax is not your camera. But for almost anything else you can most certainly produce "high quality images". Whether you want to use Pentax or another brand is entirely your decision but I can safely say changing brands to comparable gear is not going to make any difference in your images.

Last edited by jatrax; 02-05-2016 at 11:18 PM.
02-05-2016, 11:07 PM   #13
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connecting your photo-envy with equipment is a critical error. sure it's the easy conclusion to make but it's thoroughly misguided.

by suggesting that the equipment of the other users is the difference between your photos and theirs you are setting yourself up for a world of disappointment, and may also indicate that you overestimate your ability.

don't take this the wrong way, it's a simple observation that applies to almost all fields.
02-05-2016, 11:10 PM   #14
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The Pentax 100mm Macro WR is an excellent lens. The fact that the Pentax sells for a third of the Nikon and Canon equivalent macros, makes it a better value, but here are some reasons why one could argue the Pentax, albeit an excellent lens, is not quite on par in terms of resolution, quiet AF, ED glass. Splitting hairs? Yes. Can be ranked as a premium lens? Arguable.....with no insult intended. Is it worth it for Pentaxians to have a marginally better macro at 3x the price? I don't think so. If someone wants bragging rights, however,

Pentax 100mm macro:
elements groups: 9/8
8 rounded aperture blades
DxOmark overall score on a K3: 22
DxOmark sharpness score on a K3: 10

Nikon 105mm macro:
elements groups: 14/12
9 rounded aperture blades
silent wave motor
one ED glass element
DxOmark overall score on a D7100: 23
DxOmark sharpness score on a D7100: 12

Canon 100mm macro:
elements groups:15/12
9 aperture blades
ultrasonic motor
at least one ELD glass element
DxOmark overall score on a 70D: 19
DxOmark sharpness score on a 70D: 13

and a truly premium prime the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM A:
DxOmark overall score on a K3: 27
DxOmark sharpness score on a K3: 16
02-05-2016, 11:20 PM - 5 Likes   #15
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Realistically all cameras are perfectly fine, the lenses are great no-one really makes any spectacular blunders like they used to.

The thing that ultimately limits you is.... you. IF you do things that are easy you're always going to remain what you are. push your boundaries, developing good technique and a well honed photographic vision is going to make you a better photographer will help you more than any shiny new toy.

Do something you have never done before - the results might surprise you.




QuoteOriginally posted by Alex645 Quote
DxOmark
DXO? who the hell are they? oh you mean those morons who "test lenses" and reduce them to a two digit score? if you think a two digit score can tell you everything you need to know about a lens/camera combination you're doing it wrong.

Last edited by Digitalis; 02-05-2016 at 11:29 PM.
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