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08-14-2008, 10:02 AM   #1
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Why I chose the K200D over the competition (very long)

Greetings, all!
There is always a lot of hand-wringing over the Pentax market share, and I think most who frequent this forum would like to see them doing better (other than the trolls). I think it is important to find out from the people who CHOSE Pentax, exactly WHY they chose them. Different people will have different reasons, priorities and backgrounds, but developing a profile of your likely buyers (perhaps even by Country) should prove valuable to the marketing and development of any company.

After doing a good amount of research, I chose the Pentax K200D over the other guys. Here's why:

My background: I'm a old-school (U.S.) film shooter. I was on the High School yearbook staff and learned darkroom there. We shot with Pentax Spotmatics. When I graduated High School in 1977 I used gift money to purchase my own first DSLR and chose a Canon AE-1. After being unable to shoot outdoors in the winter due to the battery getting cold, I looked for a camera that needed no electronics to fire the shutter and eventually got an Olympus OM-1. Before long, a cousin's father-in-law died and I was presented with a couple of Mamiya C33s with 65mm lenses. I've worked at professional photography studios and then did my own professional photography for a number of years. I'm now in I.T. Services with a small university and you'd have to call me a Mac Guy (having owned Macs since 1989).

I have been longing for a DSLR for a long time, and trying to keep up with developments. I have a son-in-law who is a newspaper prepress guy and a hobby photographer. He's now selling/licensing images from his stock and doing pretty well at it. He shoots Canon 20D. I don't have a lot of discretionary spending money. Three daughters getting married in a 2 year span will do that to a guy.
: )

I did my research. Like the majority of people, I initially was considering Canikon only. I didn't have a real inventory of any lens mount to cloud my decision. That's pretty important, as I think it is a lot harder to get people to completely change their lens inventory, as you all know.

Pentax came onto my "radar screen" thanks to a favorable review of the K200D in a recent issue of MacLife magazine. I remember reading a similar favorable review of the K100D in the same magazine, back when it first became available. As I read it I thought, "Wow. That seems like a lot of features for the money." In fact, I think this is the point that Pentax marketing really needs to get across. Even their entry level camera (K200D at the time of this writing) has features only available on the competition's semi-pro cameras (or they don't offer them at all).

My attention was immediately captured by these things:
The weather/dust resistance (semi-pro feature)
I like to shoot in inclemate weather. Weather/dust sealing just makes sense and is a "peace-of-mind" factor.
The stainless steel chassis and lens mount (semi-pro feature)
I may be a bit different from most people, I don't know, but I really hated the "toy", lightweight, pure plastic-y, FEEL of the Rebels. Nikon's offerings were a bit better, but not much. This camera feels more like a "real" camera and more like a 20D than a Rebel.
The in-body shake reduction system (not available on Canikon, but is on 4/3 systems like Sony/Olympus).
The jury is out on which system is "better" (IS lenses vs in-body) but anybody can tell you which system will cost its owner less money AND work with more lenses. HUGE advantage: in-body shake reduction
Uses non-proprietary (AA) batteries (simply a great idea)
Proprietary batteries mean proprietary chargers and in a pinch you could even use Alkalines and keep shooting. I get to use excellent (and low cost) Sanyo Eneloops and spend way less overall.

As I looked into it even more these additional things were added to the "Pentax advantages" list:
ergonomics (the way it fits in your hand, control layout, and the fact that there are some functions taken off of the menus and put on buttons/switches also not too many buttons/controls to get overly confusing).
the fact that I could use any K-mount lens made over the last three decades, and even M42 lenses with an adapter. (Granted, this is not a consideration for most people, but I saw it as a nice way of adding some focal lengths without breaking the bank.)
spot metering (this is HUGE and not offered in the comparable cameras). Again, most P&S upgraders won't have a clue, but for an experienced photographer understands how useful that can be. A friend with a Canon 20D says if he could add just one feature his camera, it would be spot metering.
a kit lens that you don't have to be embarrassed over (this is such a big competitive advantage for Pentax that hardly seems to get mentioned).
an 11 point AF system, where the others are 7.
the dust alert and removal system
a second (TOP) LCD display (no other entry-level camera offers this).
23 custom-programmable functions

Now for the biggie: The $100 rebate (U.S.). This means that a kit that was priced at $650 would really only be costing me $550. The number of features above (that were important/factors to me) made the Pentax a value-added camera for the same price as Canon XT or XTi (some people say the XTi is actually a worse camera than the XT in most respects) or the Nikon D40/D60. We call that "more bang for the buck".

Image Quality is always mentioned on the Pentax models, and it also gets praise on the noise issue, in general. And just look at the Pentax K200D's Reader Reviews at People LOVE it. 5 stars. This is way more important to me than the reviews of mags like Popular Photography, etc. who appear to be afraid to rank Pentax higher than their big advertisers: Canon and Nikon, even when the Pentax is clearly features ahead (as outlined above).

Now the things that some people might consider negatives:
Continuous shooting/buffer issue. If I were a sports/action photographer, this might put the K200D out of my consideration, but I don't see the 4-5 shots at 3 frames per second (before a short delay) to be a "deal killer".
Supposedly slow and noisy AF. Maybe I don't know any better, but it seems plenty fast and quiet to me.
No Live View. I think this is a weird thing to knock the K200D down for considering it's competition doesn't have it either. You have to go up to the Canon XSi to get Live View and I think comparing those two cameras is apples to oranges. (Comparing it with the Canon XS would probably be fairer, but it wasn't shipping yet when I wanted to order.) I was considering the XSi, but would have had to spend SIGNIFICANTLY more dollars to get the XSi kit, so it really isn't a fair comparison (IMHO). In any event, I think Live View is something that P&S may look for, but if you are a real SLR shooter you probably don't want it or need it, unless it is on a cantelievered screen so you can shoot off the floor or over your head or some other way where you can't get your eye on the viewfinder. Live View requires a CMOS sensor. The K200D has a CCD sensor.
Lens options. This one is a bit of a puzzler to me. It reminds me of the old Macintosh days when people would complain about software availablility on the Mac saying "You only have 3 real word processing packages available on the Mac, while the PC has 10." Well, I'm only going to be using ONE, so as long as I have a great ONE I'm gonna get the job done. Sure more choice is good, but it appears to me that there are good choices out there for almost everything. (if you are a long telephoto shooter, Canon's L series certainly has an edge). And nobody disses Pentax optics.

I've only had my K200D for a couple of weeks, and frankly, I'm still learning how to get the most out of it, but I'm extremely happy with it thus far. It feels very comfortable (and substantial) in my hand, which is really satisfying. I'm very interested in learning post-processing and will almost always be a RAW+JPEG shooter. I like the fact that Pentax gives you the choice of choosing the Adobe RGB or sRGB colorspaces. (again, this is something that the P&S buyer isn't going to know or care beans about, but is a sign of the level of detail and the way Pentax provides for more serious photographers even in their entry level camera.

If they want to offer an even cheaper DSLR to transition P&S buyers into the Pentax line, then a K2000D that removes some of these semi-pro features would probably be the way to do it. I think we'll see that at Photokina. Strategically (marketshare-wise), it is waaaay more important than a FF body (IMHO).

The other place the Pentax needs to make inroads is in the camera stores. I've heard from many Pentax DSLR buyers who (even in stores that carried it) were pushed towards Canikon by the salesperson. I think this is because the salesperson is unfamiliar with the Pentax and risks looking stupid if even asked about it. It is radical, perhaps, but I think that Pentax should make a free (in store) demo camera available to any outlet, as an inducement to carry the Pentax line. They also should have a real program of education that is directed directly at the people who sell cameras for a living.

- - -
My opinions are free and you get what you pay for.

08-14-2008, 10:31 AM   #2
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Long text but great observations!
But I have two comments

QuoteOriginally posted by cheekygeek Quote
As I looked into it even more these additional things were added to the "Pentax advantages" list:
• the fact that I could use any K-mount lens made over the last three decades, and even M42 lenses with an adapter.


Now the things that some people might consider negatives:
• Lens options.
Those two statmentes don't work together
Pentax actually has a lot lenses to choose from. They're not so much available in shops like for Canon or Nikon, but on ebay and other places you can find everything. If it's not problem for you to use manual lens, I guess that one can get more lenses for Pentax than for any other brand! Except maybe Nikon

Live View requires a CMOS sensor. The K200D has a CCD sensor.
Not so. Almost all P&S cameras have CCD and Live View
And Sony α350 has CCD and Live View.
08-14-2008, 10:38 AM   #3
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Congratulations on your choice, now let's see some pictures!
08-14-2008, 10:49 AM   #4
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Hi, Cheekygeek, nice observation and congratulation on your choice. I went through the same exercise as you did to compare before I purchased my K100D and now the K10D.

QuoteOriginally posted by cheekygeek Quote
Uses non-proprietary (AA) batteries (simply a great idea)
I also liked the AA battery option when I chose K100D over XT. OTOH, I also liked the battery option on the K10D as well since it is lithium-ion and also cheap (since it shares the same battery (NP400) with old Minolta model.

OT: nice to hear someone from Nebraska, I went to UN at the Lincoln campus some years ago - I like it there.

08-14-2008, 11:00 AM   #5
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In short, it's better equipped for the job, does it better, and costs less. Why would anyone EVER want to consider anything else?
08-14-2008, 11:06 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by cheekygeek Quote

an 11 point AF system, where the others are 7.
and 99% of people who use K100/K200 are using only one, central, AF sensor... people who tend to use other 10 points are usually equipped w/ K10 or K20.
08-14-2008, 12:04 PM   #7
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Great post and analysis.

One factual error: Sony isn't 4/3 (maybe you're thinking Panasonic).

Anyway, much of what you were thinking went into my own decision.

--fellow mac guy, since 1987
08-14-2008, 12:24 PM   #8
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Nice post cheekygeek.

I went for the K100d Super a bit less than a year ago because I could use all the K-mount lenses from the past. I'm a student with not much money, so that was a huge plus. Reviews were good and the price was ok. After getting the body, I've bought 12 lenses with only one costing more than 100€, that being the FA50/1.4. Others have been used lenses, mostly manual focus and less than 100€ each. I've also gotten many film bodies and started shooting film and I love the fact that I can use all my lenses on my dslr and my film slrs.

Many dslr shooter that I know use Canon/Nikon and keep asking me why I'm using Pentax. Many of them don't have any lenses besides the kit lens their body came with and that's a shame. They can't mount a 50/1.7 lens from the 80's and use it with shake reduction

08-14-2008, 12:46 PM   #9
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cheekygeek. Very good post. I got my K10D because pentax quality and my experience with K1000 and the ZX-10. I laso agree, my local store pushed me over the connon/nikon. I have the chance to try it in another store and I was sold. I have few months with it but loving every minute.
08-14-2008, 01:10 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by deejjjaaaa Quote
and 99% of people who use K100/K200 are using only one, central, AF sensor... people who tend to use other 10 points are usually equipped w/ K10 or K20.
Actually, I kind of doubt that. I suspect most K200D owners leave the AF settings at their defaults, meaning the camera chooses from among all 11 AF points. I find that too inconsistent to put up with, so I do use center point only. If I had the K10D/K20D, I *might* use the user-select focus point mode, assuming a single button press could always return me to center and it wasn't a button I needed for something else. On the K200D, you can configure a button for this - but it's a button I depend on for something else. Even so, when I experimented with setting the camera up this way, I found it more trouble than it was worth to have to remember to keep moving the focus point around. Focus-recompose-adjust felt very natural from the beginning; selecting my own AF point didn't.

Anyhow, not to say that there is anything wrong with using the user-select mode, or even relying on the camera to pick a point for you. But I have to imagine I'm in the minority in ever having moved this setting off the default. Meaning I think most K200D users *are* getting the advantages - and suffering the drawbacks - of multiple focus points.

I would agree it is likely that far more K20D owners than K200D owners use the user-select mode, though.
08-14-2008, 02:00 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
Actually, I kind of doubt that[...]
I have a K100D and almost NO settings are set to default. Central focusing point always; and spot metering.
08-15-2008, 09:28 AM   #12
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Great observations. The thing that caught my eye last January as I read a nice review of the K100D Super was the shake reduction. I am an old guy and not as solid as I once was. As I read on, I seen all of the capablities that don't exist in the other brands inexpensive models. The great part was the I got the K100D Super body for only $329 after rebate. WOW! I am very pleased with my decision to swith from Nikon film SLR's to Pentax digital.

08-15-2008, 09:46 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Spex Quote
And Sony α350 has CCD and Live View.
sony's a300 and a350 use a unique method of shifting the pentamirror assembly, and transmitting to a smaller sensor for liveview, so that contrast detection AF still works. the shutter and mirror stay closed during liveview.. it provides currently the fastest AF during liveview on the market, IIRC
08-15-2008, 10:00 AM   #14
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When I bought my *istDL I bought it on mainly price point and secondly on name recognition. My father has an old Program Plus 35mm still with a couple lenses and I also had an IQZoom P&S 35mm camera. I've always respected the Pentax brand and paired with the decent price (for a DSLR at the time) I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity. I'm not a professional photographer, never taken any formal instruction on photography, I do it purely for a light hobby. So it all depends on what you want to do with your camera and how much you are willing to spend. This can be an expensive hobby for sure. My main hobby is computers so most of my money goes in that direction. I can't say that I put as much research as cheekygeek did into my decision, but having respect for the brand sure made a difference.
08-15-2008, 10:15 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
Actually, I kind of doubt that. I suspect most K200D owners leave the AF settings at their defaults, meaning the camera chooses from among all 11 AF points.
Not for me, after going thru the manual the first thing I did was to change using centre AF point and spot metering only. It is more intuitive for me to focus then recompose than a sequence of button pressing choosing the best focus points.

Back to the original post, I don't have a long histroy in photography. It is a newly acquired hobby for me but I found my "thought process" of choosing the K200d is very similar to yours. I did tons of research on different brands and they seem to be lacking in either price/features/ergonomics and the K200d has the best balance of all.

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