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05-28-2007, 12:52 AM   #1
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Noob needs buying advice for K100D

I guess I'm writing this as a sanity check for the camera I intend to buy. I'd very much appreciate it if you could read it over and let me know if I'm crazy. Sorry if this is in the wrong forum; it's about both camera bodies and lenses so I thought this would be the right place.

I'm a 28 year old who hasn't owned a camera since I bought some dual-lens Vivitar 35mm in 8th grade (which broke not too long after). In high school, I used my uncle's 35mm manual Nikon SLR gear (with stuff like a 20mm lens) to shoot a road trip through the US, and I loved the control you had with manual lenses, etc. I'd like to start taking photos again; I need a productive hobby. Mostly I'll be shooting indoors (concerts, art events), on city streets, at night, etc., so I want a system with good low light performance, even without flash. I'm not looking to spend lots of money, so price is important. I also had some lenses that I'd like to be able to use (see below). With these considerations in mind, I think the K100D sounds just right. The K10D seems to do better at things that won't matter to me. Nikons and Canons seem to cost more and not offer stuff like the in-camera stabilization that seem useful for my purposes.

My father had a couple of broken camera bodies that he still had lenses for. He gave me these lenses, and I thought it would be nice to use them if at all possible. They are:
Pentax-M 50mm f/1.7
Chinon 55mm f/1.4 (M42 mount)
Vivitar 80-200mm f/4.6 (manual, K mount)

Now, the kit lens that comes with the K100D seems like too good a deal to ignore (a $50 price difference). Pentax is offering a rebate bonus that would make the smc P-DA 50-200mm F4-5.6 ED zoom lens effectively cost $139. Again, that seems like too good a deal to pass up, and I could get rid of the Vivitar zoom lens. So the kit lens and the 50-200 would seem to cover just about any situation I might encounter except for what I really want to do: shoot low-light without a flash. I was thinking I could use either the 50mm f/1.7 or the 55mm f/1.4 lenses I have, but given the 1.5 crop factor that seems better suited to portrait photography rather than capturing indoor group shots and the like (based on what I've read about appropriate focal lengths for various uses). So then I heard about the Sigma 30mm f/1.4, and I thought that seemed like a pretty good fit for what I want. But then that's $400, and I think to myself that maybe I can get lucky and find some old wide-angle f/1.4, but there doesn't really seem to be much of anything out there, and what is there seems pretty expensive all the same. I figure I can get the camera, try out the 50mm f/1.7, and then work from there if I decide I want something else.

So, does this all make sense? Is there any reason to think the K100D won't suit my uses? Is there some other lens solution I should be thinking of? Will the kit lens satisfy my needs? Any pointers anyone would care to offer would be much appreciated.

05-28-2007, 02:31 AM   #2
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IMO grab the K100d, its a great cam.. Due to the price grab the kit combo, its a great starting point..

For low light I prefer the FA35/2, I got one off bhphoto for $299, great lens, bright enough for lowlight, excellent optical performance, small and light. For me it gives a better focal length than the 50s did, the 75mm FOV equiv. was just not right.. I have tried a friends Sigma 30/1.4 and it wasn't bad but I wouldn't swap my FA35 for it..

Maybe just make do with the M50 for the time being and see how it works for you before making any decisions. As for better lenses than the kit lenses, I think it is better to just get them and wait and see what focal lengths you prefer, no point spending too much until you know what you really need and use..

All in all your rationale seems sound..
05-28-2007, 05:59 AM   #3
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I concur - I was in somewhat the same boat (except I have not been 28 for quite some time haha). You are actually ahead of where I was as I did have multipe PS digitial cams - never any SLR experiece but had SLR eny.

To jump in I did purchase the K100D , kit lens and it was (and still is) a great camera. In fact I enjoyed it so much I wanted more and found a great deal on a K10D and bought that - selling my K100D and kit lens. I miss the Kit lens.

In the two months I owned the K100D the only flaws I saw were user driven :-) I had done quite a bit of research before hand and looked at Sony, Canon, Nikon. From a Price / Perfromance view I don't think the K100D can be beat.

Good luck
05-28-2007, 09:41 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by jro Quote
Mostly I'll be shooting indoors (concerts, art events), on city streets, at night, etc., so I want a system with good low light performance, even without flash. I'm not looking to spend lots of money, so price is important.
Well, first, I would warn you to restrain your expectations. What you want to do is difficult, and doing it on a budget is really difficult - sort of like asking what's the best computer available for under $500 that's really good for digital video editing. Success with low-light photography is a matter of pushing the camera's limits, not something you achieve simply and inexpensively by getting the right inexpensive camera. All cameras need light. The less light you've got, the fewer options you've got photographically. I know you know this in theory, but when you get your camera you'll have to face it in practice. Rather than going in thinking "all I want to do is take great photos in badly lit clubs", it's much safer to go into this thinking the camera is for daylight shooting, and then see how far you can go away from that norm. If the light is bad, even with an f/1.4 lens wide open, you may be pushing the ISO up to the max, which will mean digital noise in the photo, and the higher the ISO, the less sharp the pictures are going to seem, too. And that lack of sharpness may be exacerbated by the fact that boosting the ISO is usually not enough, you'll probably also find yourself lowering the shutter speed - not to mention that you're f/1.4 lens probably doesn't do its best at f/1.4 anyway.


QuoteQuote:
Nikons and Canons seem to cost more and not offer stuff like the in-camera stabilization that seem useful for my purposes.
Yes, the shake reduction built into the K100D and the K10D will be very useful to you.


QuoteQuote:
Now, the kit lens that comes with the K100D seems like too good a deal to ignore (a $50 price difference). Pentax is offering a rebate bonus that would make the smc P-DA 50-200mm F4-5.6 ED zoom lens effectively cost $139. Again, that seems like too good a deal to pass up, and I could get rid of the Vivitar zoom lens. So the kit lens and the 50-200 would seem to cover just about any situation I might encounter except for what I really want to do: shoot low-light without a flash.
You're right, this pair of Pentax lenses doesn't take you very far with low-light shooting. However, even apart from low-light shooting, these lenses are not ultimately likely to "cover just about every situation [you] might encounter." They're a good pair of lenses and the price is indeed excellent. But if you get hooked on the new hobby, you'll soon enough find excuses to be looking for other lenses.

For many years, I considered myself a serious hobbyist photographer using fixed-lens (non-DSLR) cameras. When I finally switched to the DSLR world, it took me a little while to realize that I wasn't just getting a new (bigger, heavier) body, I was actually moving to a somewhat different sport with different rules, much greater costs, and a rather different attitude toward taking photos. The watchword of the last fixed-lens camera I owned (a Canon PowerShot S3 IS) was versatility. It really was a grab-and-go camera, ready for almost anything. With the Canon S3, I really thought in terms of shots. Now I think in terms of shoots. When I pick up the camera, I really like to have an idea of the task at hand. That determines the lens I put on the camera or the lenses I put in my carrying bag. I now have too many lenses to take them all with me all the time, so I really do have to think ahead. Sooner or later, odds are that you'll find yourself in a similar situation. The Pentax 18-55 and 50-200 are nice lenses, for the right tasks. But for some other task, you'll want a zoom that covers the range from 50-100. For other tasks you'll want longer, faster, sharper lenses.


QuoteQuote:
I was thinking I could use either the 50mm f/1.7 or the 55mm f/1.4 lenses I have, but given the 1.5 crop factor that seems better suited to portrait photography rather than capturing indoor group shots and the like (based on what I've read about appropriate focal lengths for various uses).
Well, it depends. I'd say, forget about "crop factor" and just think in terms of distance from subject. A 50mm prime is no good for the things it's no good for - getting really close, or going really wide - but if you're the right distance from the subject, it's outstanding. I've done a lot of indoor sports (girls volleyball especially) with my Pentax FA 50 f/1.4. I'm able to stand right at the edge of the court and, due to the nature of volleyball as a sport, I tend to be a fairly good shooting distance from my subjects about 80% of the time. I don't go to music clubs much any more but I do shoot plays, graduations, etc. I pick the lens I use based on how much light I expect to have, on where I'm going to be able to shoot from, and on whether I'm really going to NEED to zoom or not. Light's the first consideration, almost always.

Do you think you'll be standing 12ft from a band and wanting to capture the entire stage? If so, you're going to want a wide-angle (not a 30mm - probably something under 20mm). Until you try it, in various situations, you really won't know for sure.


QuoteQuote:
So then I heard about the Sigma 30mm f/1.4, and I thought that seemed like a pretty good fit for what I want. But then that's $400, and I think to myself that maybe I can get lucky and find some old wide-angle f/1.4, but there doesn't really seem to be much of anything out there, and what is there seems pretty expensive all the same. I figure I can get the camera, try out the 50mm f/1.7, and then work from there if I decide I want something else.
Well, trying what you've got already is definitely smart.

What I suggest, especially to folks like yourself who (a) have limited budgets and (b) have something of a clear idea what sort of photos they want to take, is to consider buying the camera body only, and then going right for the lenses best suited to the type of photos they want to take. If you buy the K100D body only - without the two Pentax lenses - you're half the way to the price of that Sigma f/1.4.

One last point: focusing. Focusing in bad light is difficult. It's difficult to do manually, and it's difficult for the auto-focus mechanism, too.

Sorry to have blabbered on so long. Basically, it's impossible for anybody to give you the advice you want, because ultimately, you'll have to decide for yourself whether the lenses you've got are right for the kinds of photos you are actually taking. What I try to do is make people aware that it's a complex subject with lots of variables, lots of options - and the possibility for spending lots of money. The K100D will be a nice camera. The real issue is, what lenses? If you simply want to get a pair of decent
general-purpose auto-focus zoom lenses at the best price, then get the Pentax deal for the 18-55 and the 50-200.

Hope something I said makes sense.

Will


05-28-2007, 10:12 AM   #5
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What Will said ... humbles my "I miss the Kit lens" ...... well thought out response for your specific requests.
05-28-2007, 10:33 AM   #6
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Buy what you can afford. If the K100D with the kit and 50-200 are in the mix - then go for it.
Next - take the time to read the manual and learn the software. PPL (Pentax Photo Lab) is not a very intuitive program - but it will get your feet wet in trying to shoot in RAW. There are a multitude of PP (Post Processing) software packages out there for reasonable - to ridiculous - prices. Don't expect to have to purchase everything at once. The camera addition builds over the years.
Sit down with some good books on composition - you will be surprised to learn that the basic elements of image composition have been with us for thousands of years - it is not new. Read about the techniques of the masters - look at images --- large numbers of images - start here in the galleries.
Don't be shy with questions - just read the manual first.
And here is the clinchers - once you buy a camera - stop looking at the price of similar systems. When you are ready to look for a new camera - start looking at prices again.
Don't expect your images to be Adams, Weston, Cartier-Bresson, Capa, "fill in your favorite photographer" out of the box. Welcome to the fold.
Oh - I have both lenses (kit and 50-200) and two DSLR's the *ist Ds (a K100D without SR and a slightly more primitive JPEG engine) and the K10D. (I also have 4 35mm SLR's too). The focal range covered is quite nice - they are light and with care take really great images (I have a 20x30 image taken with the Ds at 118mm that is very nice - hangs in my wife's office) - so do not worry about the 6MP of the K100D - it works.

Edit: the 50mm f1.7 is quite a find. Old glass is good glass for the most part.

PDL

Last edited by PDL; 05-28-2007 at 10:36 AM. Reason: added 50mm comment
05-28-2007, 11:16 AM   #7
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Sounds like the K100D would be a great camera for you.

A word of caution since you seem to be very interested in low-light, flash-less photography. If you see the Auto ISO feature as something you would be using regularly be aware that it does not work the same as other manufacturers' cameras (e.g. the Nikon D40). I would go so far as to say it doesn't work at all. See this thread for more details.

Also, SR is great for low light, but keep in mind your subject needs to be motionless as well. So if you plan on taking pictures of people in low-light, for example, SR is not going to save you from "soft" looking pictures. You need a fast enough shutter to stop their motion, and you get that from more light, a fast lens or high ISO.
05-28-2007, 02:51 PM   #8
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Not that I want to throw anything else into the mix, but Sigma has a 30mm F1.4 for Pentax which from what I've read gets great reviews but seems to never get mentioned. I actually just bought one, should be here soon enough, I'll see if I like it.

05-28-2007, 03:39 PM   #9
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Original Poster
Thank you all for your replies! I'm delighted with the depth of the answers given here, and the speed with which they showed up. A special thanks to Will Porter, who has reminded me of the importance of a long-term approach to meeting my shooting needs, rather than just trying to buy a system that solves everything right from the start.

I did some sniffing around for prices and it seems like I could resell the kit + zoom lenses for more than what they would cost me when buying the camera. So I think I'll get the two of those, see how they fit my needs, and try out the 50mm f/1.7 (and maybe the 55 f/1.4 if I feel like hunting down a genuine Pentax adapter). If I find that they're not suiting my needs, I'll start looking for other lenses.

I'm looking forward to reading and posting more on these forums. Thanks again!
05-28-2007, 10:12 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by jro Quote

My father had a couple of broken camera bodies that he still had lenses for. He gave me these lenses, and I thought it would be nice to use them if at all possible. They are:
Pentax-M 50mm f/1.7
Chinon 55mm f/1.4 (M42 mount)
Vivitar 80-200mm f/4.6 (manual, K mount)
Even a basic kit lens will by far outperform these older lenses.

Current zooms are better than even fixed focus lenses fifteen years ago. (this doesn't apply to kit lenses).

I would say don't worry about the kit lens. It is a good lens. Not an excellent lens. But a good lens.

More expensive lenses not always are worlds better. A lot of the high price you pay for these lenses being faster. It is not necessary to spend much money for faster lenses like in the times of a film SLR.

Bottom line: too much tech talk gets in the way of photography.

If you'd knew what lenses the classic masters of photography worked with...

I see more problems with the still very limited contrast range of DSLRs (a joke, compared to slide film) than in problems with kit lens quality.
05-28-2007, 10:53 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by The View Quote
It is not necessary to spend much money for faster lenses like in the times of a film SLR.
Dont think that could be any further from the truth.

Faster lenses are just as important these days as they were 20 years ago. Try telling a wedding photog or a band photographer that fast lenses arent important, they would probably take a swing at you or laugh at you.

The thing is, that the same situations where someone would need a fast lens years ago still exist today. Yes shake reduction etc is all good, but it cant freeze a moving subject. Only a fast shutter speed can achieve that and in some cases you only get that shutter speed if you are using fast glass.

Then there is the need for limited DOF, which can only be gotten by using larger apertures...
05-28-2007, 11:20 PM   #12
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@The View,

Yeah, the kit lens is pretty good - certainly when comapred with other kit lenses - but I wouldn't go as far as to say they're better than older faster lenses.

Taking shots with my kit lens and a Centon 50/1.7 lens I got from eBay, I must admit the Centon comes out on top. But it depends what you're shooting. AF is great, esp. with kids, but not everything. Good quality glass + wide aperture, though, is fantastic, and I've caught myself chimping, in the true sense of the word, when seeing the awesome shots that my FA50/1.4 captured.

Kit lenses and faster lenses just don't compare in my mind. Even modern standard zooms in the budget price range don't excite me very much. There have been at least a few times when I've been disappointed for not carrying my faster lens, and I don't think it's just because I'm not using the right settings.

Standard zooms can only do so much in low light. Would have to agree with -spam- on those points. Faster lenses are worth the money, but if the budget is tight, stick to the kit lenses and work your way up to faster glassware with time. (That's what I'm doing....)
05-29-2007, 12:21 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by The View Quote
Current zooms are better than even fixed focus lenses fifteen years ago. (this doesn't apply to kit lenses).
I would gladly accept that challenge, my (17 year old) F*300/4.5 versus which zoom???
05-29-2007, 12:37 AM   #14
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Fifteen years ago I had five Nikon primes, and a friend had two zooms.

His photos looked like he had taken them under water.

Not what you could say of even the simple ones of today's zooms.

That's what I wanted to get at: today's zooms are workable lenses, not the glass junk most of them were before.

Everybody wants to have top of the line-lenses. But they are not necessary for great photography. (it sure helps). But I guess the original question was about the two basic kit lenses and how they would figure as a first buy. I think they are fine.

I really wonder how much difference you can see between a very expensive lens and a basic lens in real life photography, not in test chart photography.

If one of you had a link to a website, that shows such test, this would be interesting.

Last edited by The View; 05-29-2007 at 12:55 AM.
05-29-2007, 05:32 AM   #15
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Just another post disagreeing with The View.... My SMC-A 50mm f/1.7 is leaps and bounds better (optically) than the kit lens at 50mm. Not to mention the difference between f/1.7 and f/5.6. How does the kit lens perform at f/1.7?

As for not needing fast lenses, ummmm, sure you can up the ISO, but in dim light even at ISO3200, the kit lens at f/5.6 would give me 1/5s. If you want blurry pictures in low light, then sure, you don't need a fast lens! Also, f/5.6 is very limiting for low DOF shots (especially at shorter focal lengths)

Not to say that the Kit lens doesn't do well in low light (and it's cheap and a "zoom" )
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