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06-17-2019, 02:37 AM   #1
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How do you know before you buy?

Interestingly, I've never bought a camera while knowing everything about what it can do. I decided to buy based on some key features, eventually try the camera for a short while, but never knowing fully what the camera system can do for me. There are camera reviews but they seldom cover all functions and features of new camera models, and even less cover the full system. Most online review cover one product that is only a component of a full system, either a camera only on lens only. Online reviews can also be quite biased depending on the expectations of the reviewer. Given that camera sales happen a lot online these days, how do you figure out what a camera system can do for you before you decide to commit the money?

06-17-2019, 02:46 AM - 6 Likes   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by biz-engineer Quote
Interestingly, I've never bought a camera while knowing everything about what it can do. I decided to buy based on some key features, eventually try the camera for a short while, but never knowing fully what the camera system can do for me. There are camera reviews but they seldom cover all functions and features of new camera models, and even less cover the full system. Most online review cover one product that is only a component of a full system, either a camera only on lens only. Online reviews can also be quite biased depending on the expectations of the reviewer. Given that camera sales happen a lot online these days, how do you figure out what a camera system can do for you before you decide to commit the money?
I don't know about other camera brands. But, if you want to buy a Pentax, you go to PentaxForums.com (you may have heard of it) and ask and any number of members will tell you everything you need to know.
06-17-2019, 03:16 AM - 2 Likes   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by biz-engineer Quote
Online reviews can also be quite biased depending on the expectations of the reviewer.
Fair point, there are certain reviewers who I have observed to have rather fair and balanced views on cameras - if you have been in the industry long enough you learn which voices to listen to and which you can safely relegate to the trashcan.

QuoteOriginally posted by biz-engineer Quote
Given that camera sales happen a lot online these days, how do you figure out what a camera system can do for you before you decide to commit the money?
I have a lot of colleagues who like me, work with different camera systems. If they don't have the gear with them I'll ask for their impressions. If they have the time, I'll ask them to show me what they are working with and how it works for them. I get a lot of requests for this from colleagues regarding some of the higher end cameras I work with, since starting with a new camera system can represent a considerable investment many of my colleagues want to be sure it will suit their needs.

You can spend literally hours pouring over reviews and spec sheets but at the end of the day: There is no substitute for holding the camera in your hand and using it.

I used to pour over reviews and spec sheets. Used to do ridiculous amounts of tests of AF & AE systems and sensor characteristics to see if my gear was up to my standards and and delivered performance that is worth the Money spent. You know what the first thing I do these days when I bring a new camera box home with me? I toss out the manual. If I can't access the basic photographic parameters intuitively the camera UI is fundamentally flawed and is going to cause nothing but distraction.
06-17-2019, 03:34 AM - 1 Like   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by MarkJerling Quote
I don't know about other camera brands. But, if you want to buy a Pentax, you go to PentaxForums.com (you may have heard of it) and ask and any number of members will tell you everything you need to know.
For Pentax, as long as they don't change too much from previous camera models, I know what to expect, the change is only incremental.

06-17-2019, 03:36 AM - 2 Likes   #5
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On the contrary, sometimes I'll download and read the manual before buying, especially if I'm not able to hold and try out a camera because no store in my city, state or region carries Pentax.
06-17-2019, 03:45 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Digitalis Quote
You can spend literally hours pouring over reviews and spec sheets but at the end of the day: There is no substitute for holding the camera in your hand and using it.
Using the camera for a while is the best. Unfortunately, beside rental, it isn't always possible to try.

Reviews are mostly disguised advertising. I've watched reviews of the GFX50s, and I was very positive about it. However, when I tried it, the viewfinder experience did immediately put me off because there was no way I could see the entire frame while wearing glasses. I asked the sales person and he said "you should wear glasses for using this camera", so yeah Ok, but that mean every time I want to compose and take a shot I have to remove my glasses and put them back on after the shot... for the price of the camera, for me it's a no-go. What were designers thinking about, is beyond me. Anyway, that's off topic. Question is how to make the right buy theses day, when we can't really trust online review and trying online isn't an option.

---------- Post added 17-06-19 at 12:47 ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by boblivious Quote
On the contrary, sometimes I'll download and read the manual before buying, especially if I'm not able to hold and try out a camera because no store in my city, state or region carries Pentax.
Yeah, sure. Already owning a Pentax, read the manual of the new models give a good idea of how the camera is going to be like.
06-17-2019, 03:47 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Digitalis Quote
: There is no substitute for holding the camera in your hand and using it.

I used to pour over reviews and spec sheets. ...

... You know what the first thing I do these days when I bring a new camera box home with me? I toss out the manual. If I can't access the basic photographic parameters intuitively the camera UI is fundamentally flawed and is going to cause nothing but distraction.
Your experiences very much meet my experience and opinion. I try to get my hands on a potentially new camera in a shop or at special events. The camera has to offer the functions I‘m used to work with and ergonomics and build quality have to fit my expectations. Today if I want to buy a new body I download the manual from the internet and study it.

When I decided to go the Pentax DSLR route in 2011 I read magazine and internet reviews and articles in the Pentax Forums. But decision between Pentax K-5 and Canon EOS 60D or 7D I made after trying out the bodies with attached 18-135mm lens - K-5 and DA18-135 won! Pentax and Canon were the competitors because from the analog era I already owned some lenses and equipment for both brands.
06-17-2019, 03:47 AM   #8
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Reason why I own Pentax because I bought in new when ME Super was new ( long time ago LOL) & i guess I just on buying Pentax compatible gear.
Reason why now I have jumped ship I couldnt afford it to be honest & at 57 I dont think I would get the value out of it.
I own a K3II & grip a 19/35 3.5/ 4.5 , 28 /80 f 2.8 , 105 2.8 50 f 1.7 80 / 200 f 2.8 120 / 400 f 4.5 / 5.6 & various flashes . If you work it what it would cost to replace with similar gear say a d500 / 7d from Nikon / Canon & then would it make me a better photographer ?

06-17-2019, 03:59 AM   #9
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I think there are two use cases here, the complete novice who hasn't used a camera (as opposed to a phone) before and the experienced user.
For the novice it's difficult because asking existing experienced users risks being influenced by their bias although I must say the members of this forum are pretty good in that respect.
For the experienced user it's more a case of what's missing from my current set up and checking reviews to see if there is any improvement in a new model.
The classic in the Pentax world might be faster autofocus or (at the risk of being flared) better video capability.
This mainly because the Pentax UI suits me well, others I've used have not felt so convenient.
This means I'm sticking with my KS-2 because I don't yet see a new model which offers improvement in the capabilities I find important.
And I will rely on the detailed reviews on Pentax Forum to inform my next buying decision.
06-17-2019, 04:46 AM   #10
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unless you live in an area ( like the US ) where you can rent equipment,

Information on Businesses that offer cameras and lenses for rent - PentaxForums.com


the only other option is if you can find a retailer who has a good return policy which would allow you " hands on experience " with the equipment before the sale is final

[ good luck with that ]

in the US, Ken.com offers such a deal ( 14 days ) on " experienced " equipment:

FAQ at KEH Camera
06-17-2019, 05:45 AM   #11
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I think that for many or most people who live in an area without a convenient camera dealer the answer is you don't. Where I live it's a 90 minute drive to the only camera shop in a five hour radius that carries some Pentax gear. Within 45 minutes the only cameras I could pick up and hold and play with are those on the shelves of big box retailers like Best Buy and Target. The display models there sometimes work, and are usually tethered to the display case with a cable.

I don't know this for sure, but I'd guess my experience is not unique: Wanted a "real" camera in 2012. Did research, including reading reivews and DPReview and other places. Looked for features I thought I would like, ended up picking a K-30 because of the features/price ratio. I'm guessing that I differ from most in that my decision tree didn't include "is the brand small and/or idiosyncratic?" For most that would disqualify Pentax, they want to go with what's seen as a safer and better supported choice.

And since I picked there's been little real thought of switching brands because of the costs and hassle involved. Unless there's something really missing from your kit that your brand can't satisfy switching teams is too hard and annoying and expensive. I'm at least curious about things like tracking autofocus from other brands, but not curious enough to spend $hundreds on rentals or $thousands switching.
06-17-2019, 05:54 AM   #12
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Honestly, today's advanced digital cameras are so complex, I don't see how anyone can claim to really know what EVERY feature of the camera can do especially when it comes to all the possible lenses and accessories.

Thus, buying on key features is the only feasible strategy. By ensuring that a candidate camera has the list of gotta-have and wanna-have features, I know the camera will do what I want. But I also expect to be surprised by features I did not know about.

The possible by combinations of modes, settings, or workflow tricks with all the types of photography and subject matter mean that no one has every used every possible setting under every possible condition. It's impossible to know it all before you buy these days.


P.S. A good example of an unexplored/unknown feature (I've never heard anyone describe using it on PF) is using the K-1's pixel-shift mode on a tracking mount for astrophotography. I've done one quickie experimental test (without a tracking mount) that shows the PS could produce much sharper stars, finer grain, and hugely improved color accuracy.
06-17-2019, 06:12 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by photoptimist Quote
P.S. A good example of an unexplored/unknown feature (I've never heard anyone describe using it on PF) is using the K-1's pixel-shift mode on a tracking mount for astrophotography. I've done one quickie experimental test (without a tracking mount) that shows the PS could produce much sharper stars, finer grain, and hugely improved color accuracy.
Wow - gotta try that. Does PS work for time exposures?!
06-17-2019, 06:32 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by photoptimist Quote
Honestly, today's advanced digital cameras are so complex, I don't see how anyone can claim to really know what EVERY feature of the camera can do especially when it comes to all the possible lenses and accessories.
But if i can't pick it up and find the basic features I know use on a regular basis intuitively that's a disadvantage. I don't need every feature to be intuitive. In fact many I expect to memorize. Format a K-1, 6 left , two up after pressing the menu button. But in AV mode, I want things to be as close as possible to the operation of a film camera as possible.

This is what I want, AV mode, I want set my ISO when I pick up the camera, set my f-stop before putting the camera to my eye and adjust the +/- EV setting. I want those feature available without going into the menus, from dials and button I can reach , using muscle memory only, without taking my eye out of the viewfinder.

If it doesn't meet that basic standard, I don't care what it is. I'm not buying it. My Pentax XG-1 Mirrorless with EVF does not meet those standards, but I probably paid less than what it cost to manufacture it, so I' suffer with it from time to time. Honestly, the menu diving on the XG-1 to set the +/- EV is truly irritating, and if I haven't used the camera for a while, I may even forget how to do it and have to go on a menu exploration extravaganza. When you're out in a buggy field doing a few flower images, that is really irritating.

You definitely can't assume all cameras are equal in this regard.

Last edited by normhead; 06-17-2019 at 06:57 AM.
06-17-2019, 06:42 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by AstroDave Quote
Wow - gotta try that. Does PS work for time exposures?!
Only in M-mode up to 30 seconds. B mode, even in timed-Bulb disables PS.
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