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04-01-2010, 12:03 AM   #1
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I shoot Nikon, but my mother needs advice about her Pentax...

Background: my mother has been shooting Pentax for over 20 years, starting with an ME Super (which was handed down to me and got me started as a photographer), moving through two more advanced film bodies, and then into digital with the *ist D. She's thinking of upgrading, and asked me for advice. I started by simply suggesting she switch to Nikon, only because she'd then be dealing with a product line I know well, and could advise her better on. Even Canon would be better, since I have friend who shoots Canon, whom I could consult. But she's happy with her Pentax cameras, and sees no reason to switch. Yet, she still wants my advice. So here I am, asking for help from the Pentax community.

Mom's strictly an amateur, mostly shoots on auto (although I'd love to help her take more control of whatever she ends up buying), and likes to shoot wildlife and "macro" (we're not talking 1:1 here, a decent, close-focusing zoom will suit her fine for now), and has a budget of about a grand. One thing that I understand about Pentax bodies is that they have the Pentax equivalent of IS/VR built into their bodies, and I'd like her to be able to take advantage of this, since she is hoping to get to at least 300mm. I don't know what size Pentax sensors are, or what the crop multiplier is, I don't know what the well-regarded consumer lenses are, but I'd like to help her find a long zoom that will get her to at least 300mm uncropped, and maybe a wider zoom that will focus pretty close. I don't think she has the patience for primes.

Sorry for the long post, but I'd rather include too much info than too little, in order to get the best help/advice that I can for my mom. Thanks in advance for any help you guys can offer.

04-01-2010, 12:29 AM   #2
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More info

Update: I think she was looking at this kit, which would fit her needs really well, from what I can tell. The K-X appears to have great reviews, as does the 55-300mm, and the 18-55mm focuses pretty darn close. Plus it's way under her budget, so maybe I could convince her to buy a fast prime to go with it. I'd happily take recommendations in that department as well. Thoughts from the peanut gallery?
04-01-2010, 12:35 AM   #3
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Camera body: Pentax K-x, no doubt. You could get anything else, but you really want to be getting a K-x. It is an APS-C body (all Pentax DSLRs are APS-C size, or what you Nikon guys call "DX") which is roughly equivalent to the Nikon D5000. It has class-leading high ISO quality, much faster AF and framerate than previous Pentaxes, better metering than the *istD, etc. Basically it's the best value in the market, and your mother will probably be very happy with it. It's easy to use like an entry level camera, but gives results like a D90 or D300 -- i.e. pretty much pro level.

While you're at it, get the twin-lens kit. 18-55/3.5-5.6, and 55-300/4-5.8. These are very decent lenses, if a little on the slow side. You're looking at a little over $700 here. Amazon.com: Pentax K-x 12.4 MP Digital SLR with 2.7-inch LCD and 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL and 55-300mm f/4-5.8 ED Lenses (Black): Electronics

If she later wants to move up in lens quality, there's the 16-50/2.8 and 50-135/2.8, or 60-250/4. These are a fair bit more expensive, though. Unfortunately, most Pentax non-macro lenses are a little bit lacking in close-focus capabilities -- the 18-55 is okay though, you can focus close enough for flowers and other stuff at the 55mm end. Consider replacing the Pentax 55-300 with a Sigma 70-300 which does "fake macro" pretty well.
04-01-2010, 12:43 AM   #4
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Your Mom will be likely interested by the new entry level K-x with the 18-55mm lens. It is a great value for money and your mom can re-use her previous lens. The K-x is also available with both 18-55mm & 50-300 mm lenses; that is very likely what your mom needs. (The kit is at US$850 at Adorama.com right now.) The 55-300mm is highly considered by Pentaxians

The level above is the K-7. A major advantage of the K-7 (over the K-x) is the weather resistance (WR), the excellent 100% viewfinder, the continuous shooting capabilities and the top LCD, plus a lot of post-processing functions.

In both cases, K-x and K-7, your mom cannot be wrong. These are very nice cameras. The K-x and K-7 have both in-body image stabilisation and it works great. An appealing aspect is the small size of the Pentax bodies (K-x and K-7) over the Nikkon and Canon, and their lighter weight. This is very much appreciated with you do bushwalking and tracking.

I am sure that you will receive other nice and helpful suggestions: www.Pentaxforums.com is a good place with great people.

Hope that the comments will help...

04-01-2010, 01:36 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by chris.bersbach Quote
Update: I think she was looking at this kit, which would fit her needs really well, from what I can tell. The K-X appears to have great reviews, as does the 55-300mm, and the 18-55mm focuses pretty darn close. Plus it's way under her budget, so maybe I could convince her to buy a fast prime to go with it. I'd happily take recommendations in that department as well. Thoughts from the peanut gallery?
Oh, I missed this second post of yours when writing my reply. Seems we're all on the same page here re: the K-x with the two lens kit. Good idea. As for a fast prime, something like the FA 50/1.4, FA 35/2 (if you can find it cheap, it's taken ridiculous price hikes for reasons unknown lately) or DA 40/2.8 (a super sharp, super cool li'l pancake lens) will probably do the trick. Otherwise, if she still has primes left from her previous Pentax bodies (even back to the ME Super,) then they will mount and function on the K-x as well. Only gotcha is "M" series lenses will only work with stop-down metering, which might be a little too tedious for the "auto mode" shooter.
04-01-2010, 03:56 AM   #6
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If I was starting off, I would definitely go with the two lens kit mentioned above. Then, add the DA 40. On the Kx it is a perfect lens, small, fast focusing and quite sharp. Combined with the good high iso performance of the kx, you wouldn't miss the fact that it doesn't go to f2 and only to f2.8. The DA 40 is my personal favorite walk around lens.
04-01-2010, 04:38 AM   #7
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It sounds like a K-X would be an excellent purchase, but before you buy the kit lenses, what lenses does your mother already have? If she already has something decent in those focal lengths, this may be a great opportunity to upgrade a lens or two. I have two Tamrons (28-75 and 70-200) which are both macro lenses with constant f/2.8 that I would highly recommend. You might be able to get one of those and a K-X body in your price range.
04-01-2010, 04:44 AM   #8
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Since I have not seen anyone answer, all pentax DSLRs have a sensor that is roughly 24 x 16 mm, and a crop factor of 1.5 but this should not be of any impact to your mother as she already has an *istD

before we go on to bodies, what lenses does she have.

Since she is using an *istD Tell her NOT to sell it. It is one of the few bodies out there that supports true TTL (i.e. no preflash) and is useable with her old film lenses. The *istD is a great camera, the only thing lacking is shake reduction.

If you want similar size and controls, the K7 is good. Perhaps a little expensive, but an excellent camera, otherwise, look at a K-X which performs (from all I have read) better at high ISO.

As for lenses, if she likes wild life, you need to tell us whether she is limited in what weight of camera and lens she uses. If she truely wants to get 300mm, and have a lens that can still attach a TC for added reach, you are looking at something in the 2+ pound range

There are several ways to go about this, but it all depends on the weight of the lens she wants to carry.

I personally have 2 favourites for getting to 300mm and beyond. A sigma APO 70-200F2.8 EX with both 1.4x and 2x TCs, as well as a SMC pentax 300mmF4 and 1.7x AF TC.

the newer HSM versions of sigma lenses are not yet supported by sigma TCs, therefore you need to look for a lens with sscrew drive from sigma if you go that way.

Pentax still makes in limited production the 1.7X AF TC which converts any manual focus lens to a semi AF lens. i.e. you close focus and the AF elements in the TC do the rest. BUT it is 1.7x therefore you loose 1.5 stops and gain 70% increase in focal length. Great really only for wild life.

You can look at slower long lenses and zooms in the 50-300 range but many of these will force youo to shoot higher ISO due to the f5.7 or smaller maximum aperture. the advantage, they are light.

04-01-2010, 04:48 AM   #9
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The only thing that I would add is that if your mother has already been shooting Pentax for the past 20 years then she must already have a set of lens that she owns? These lens will all be compatable with the whatever camera she ends up buying so you may only need to buy a body only option right now and then take your time and look at lens to add to her kit. The KX is a very capable camera by the way I am sure she will be happy with it and set up and account here we are a friendly group here.
04-01-2010, 07:06 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by gokenin Quote
The only thing that I would add is that if your mother has already been shooting Pentax for the past 20 years then she must already have a set of lens that she owns? These lens will all be compatable with the whatever camera she ends up buying so you may only need to buy a body only option right now and then take your time and look at lens to add to her kit. The KX is a very capable camera by the way I am sure she will be happy with it and set up and account here we are a friendly group here.
This is probably something a Nikon user isn't familiar with. Nikon has been all over the place with lens compatibility, so the concept of being able to use a 25 year old lens on a new camera is probably an unheard of concept.
04-01-2010, 07:50 AM   #11
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Can you give us a list of the lenses/glass she already owns?

As far as the 55-300 from Pentax, can it focus as close as the Tamron 70-300? The 55-300 is more than double the price of the Tamron 70-300, and the Tamron provides excellent sharpness for its price. (Its Achilles heel is purple fringing in high contrast.) I used it all the time until I got my Bigma.

If she already owns a good collection of glass (if she's been shooting Pentax for 20+ years this is likely), then a K-7 may be a better bet than a K-x. She can get a body with WR kit lens for around her budget, and use her existing glass.
04-01-2010, 08:06 AM   #12
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Thanks for all of the replies. It looks like just about everyone is suggesting the same kit, which I think will be good for her. For those asking, her current lenses are (to the best of my recollection) a variable aperture 28-80, which she doesn't use much because it has something like a 4' minimum focusing distance, and an off-brand 100-400 which has, frankly, terrible IQ (and something rattling around inside). Add to that the fact that she she's shooting it handheld, often at full zoom, with no image stabilization of any kind, and she's not getting great images from it.

She's planning to sell her *ist D, and despite the warning from one poster about its TTL abilities, I'm not sweating that. I'll give her a little extra coin to invest in starting a more solid kit, and I don't see her ever shooting much flash work. She also doesn't still own any of her older lenses, which were essentially all kit lenses anyway. The only exception is a 50mm 2.8, which is on her old ME Super, sitting on my shelf presently (and she'll have to pry that old metal beast from my cold, dead hands).
Nikon has been all over the place with lens compatibility, so the concept of being able to use a 25 year old lens on a new camera is probably an unheard of concept.
This actually isn't the case. Unlike Canon, Nikon didn't change their mount when they started putting AF motors in their cameras, so you can still use almost any F-mount lens on the newest Nikon bodies. There are some *really* old AI lenses that won't even meter on new bodies, but nearly all of their old lenses are still shootable.

Anyway guys, thanks again for all the help. I like the sound of that 40mm 2.8; I might look into getting something like that for her as a gift. Either that or a tripod, which she needs to start using desperately.
04-01-2010, 08:11 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by chris.bersbach Quote
The only exception is a 50mm 2.8, which is on her old ME Super, sitting on my shelf presently (and she'll have to pry that old metal beast from my cold, dead hands).

This actually isn't the case. Unlike Canon, Nikon didn't change their mount when they started putting AF motors in their cameras, so you can still use almost any F-mount lens on the newest Nikon bodies. There are some *really* old AI lenses that won't even meter on new bodies, but nearly all of their old lenses are still shootable.
That really is one of the great qualities of Pentax dslrs over anyone - proper metering with any lenses you can mount (older, non-A lenses require an extra step to meter, but are still easy to use).

That 50mm f2.8, is that a macro? The speed of the lens sounds like it could be a macro (at least if it is a pentax lens and not from another company). Check the Lenses drop-down menu at the top of the page to see if it is in the database!
04-01-2010, 08:16 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by chris.bersbach Quote
.....She's planning to sell her *ist D, and despite the warning from one poster about its TTL abilities, I'm not sweating that. I'll give her a little extra coin to invest in starting a more solid kit, and I don't see her ever shooting much flash work. She also doesn't still own any of her older lenses, which were essentially all kit lenses anyway. The only exception is a 50mm 2.8, which is on her old ME Super, sitting on my shelf presently (and she'll have to pry that old metal beast from my cold, dead hands).
PM me if you are serious about selling the *istD do you know how many shutter activations it has had?
QuoteQuote:
Nikon has been all over the place with lens compatibility, so the concept of being able to use a 25 year old lens on a new camera is probably an unheard of concept.
This actually isn't the case. Unlike Canon, Nikon didn't change their mount when they started putting AF motors in their cameras, so you can still use almost any F-mount lens on the newest Nikon bodies. There are some *really* old AI lenses that won't even meter on new bodies, but nearly all of their old lenses are still shootable.
it is only the most advanced bodies that will meter with the older lenses, as opposed to pentax where EVERY body can meter and shoot all lenses that you can snap/screw into place
QuoteQuote:
Anyway guys, thanks again for all the help. I like the sound of that 40mm 2.8; I might look into getting something like that for her as a gift. Either that or a tripod, which she needs to start using desperately.
Note that one of the criteria for a long lens should be one with a tripod mount. long lenses are too heavy to really support with the tripod mount on the camera body
04-01-2010, 09:13 AM   #15
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New KX Owner

I've been into photography for roughly 30 years on and off. I just replaced a Canon SX10is with a KX. I should have bought this a year ago instead of the Canon.
My first DSLR is awesome! I really love it! I was really worried after I ordered it and was hoping that I wouldn't feel the same disappointment I did with the Canon after the first shots. I was really pleased with how easy the KX is to use and how great the photos look!
Your mom would love it!
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