What is/are the best low light APS-C Camera/s?

Started Jan 15, 2013 | Discussions thread
Heie2
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Re: What is/are the best low light APS-C Camera/s?
In reply to mike703, Jan 15, 2013

mike703 wrote:

The Nikon D7000 Chris mentioned - and the Pentax K5 series (k5 / K5ii / K5iiS) share the same sensor, as do some of the Sony NEX series (Nex5N I think). The Pentax K30 and K-01 have a near-identical sensor which is also excellent in low light.

Best wishes

I second the above.

You can remove Canon from your list, as they have lagged in sensor quality and high ISO is not a forte of any Canon APS-C, especially compared to what Nikon, Pentax, and Sony offer.

It should be noted that all three of these (Nikon/Pentax/Sony) use the same original sensor (supplied by Sony), however they have adjusted and tweaked them differently. I am a Pentax user, and I will try not to be biased in this post, however it is a 100% objective measure that Pentax engineers have surpassed Nikon and Sony with milking the sensors for all they are worth.

The two best families of cameras to consider are the Nikon D7000 and the Pentax K-5, both of whom use the same sensor and 14-bit RAW processing. The K-5 (original/classic) edges the D7000 in image quality (not by much, but it does), however had a lot of issues with autofocus, especially in very dim and artificial light.

The new K-5 II and K-5 IIs are essentially the same as the original K-5. I've been using a K-5 almost everyday for over a year and the *only* way I'd be able to tell is the "II " on the front, as well as the LCD, which has been improved to be an air gapless model. Other than that, the external physical construction of it is 100% identical. What has changed, though, is the internals. The K-5 II offers an entirely new autofocus mechanism that focuses down to -3eV of ambient light. What that means to you, is that that will focus in damn near pitch blackness, and anyone that owns a K-5 II can attest to that (mine is in the mail, so you will have to take others' word for it as I have). The only other camera in existence that can rival the K-5 II in low light autofocus is the Canon 6D, which is in an entirely different class of camera (both in price and format). The K-5II/IIs also boasts f/2.8 sensors, which allow for incredibly accurate AF. Again, I haven't personally tested it, but I haven't read even the slightest complaint about the new K-5 AF.

Tracking very fast moving subjects, however, is best left to the D7000, which is superior to Pentax's offerings. It can be done, but it is easier with the D7000.

Also, the K-5IIs is different from any other APS-C DSLR because it lacks an AA filter, providing unbelievable resolution and sharpness. In effect, it's a Full Frame camera in an APS-C body with 16 mpx (save for the crop factor). However, it does increase the chance for moire, but the general consensus is that you will find moire in less than 3% of your shots. One guy I know just found his first instances of it after 2000 shots.

Lastly, you might be interested in my personal field test of the D7000, which I will post below.

This was taken from my Deployment to Afghanistan Update Number Sixteen:

Also, this is the first update of this entire deployment series that has images that have not been taken with a Pentax camera. The reason for this is because I had the opportunity to "branch out" and evaluate Pentax's competition, and because this was not a demanding mission in terms of weather and dust sealing, I thought I would take up a friends offer to use his Nikon D7000. He is the PAO (Public Affairs Officer) for my battalion, which is basically the journalist/reporter/photographer of the unit, charged with documenting key events (reenlistments, VIP visits, ceremonies, etc). He had the body as his own personal camera, along with a few lenses that were TPE (Theater Provided Equipment), which means that they were provided by the Army to units during a deployment. Basically a 9-12month loan (depending on the length of the deployment), and if the equipment is still good, then the equipment gets passed on to the unit to replace the current one, and so on. Anyway, these are my first impressions and are by no means a comprehensive review.

AutoFocus: In bright daylight, it did not seem any snappier than my experiences with K-5/K-30, however I found that it seemed more decisive in its lock, but I do believe that this is just purely psychological because the OVF has a lot of activity occur very rapidly until AF locks with different AF points lighting up, which gives the impression of decisiveness. At least to me it did. I did not do any tracking, though, so I cannot comment, however I have no doubt that it will be superior to Pentax's current AF offerrings, again in continuously tracking moving subjects only, not actual speed in AF-S. I had no way to validate accuracy, but seemed no different than any Pentax I have used in bright light - very accurate. Did not experience any issues of inability to lock, false locks, or Back Focus/Front Focus.

AutoFocus Points: The greater amount of points (39 I believe) is definitely a plus and you can immediately see where the 11-point system currently implemented by Pentax is very limiting and dated. The one thing that I found to be superior on the Pentax, however, is that the points go further to the extremes of the frame, which can be a boon for some creative applications of depth of field isolation and composition. I have at times found myself putting the AF point in the far top/bottom of the frame - see image 14 as an example of what I mean by this. What I did like about the D7000's points, though, was that they are far easier to see in bright daylight.

D7000 Body Ergonomics: I tried very, very hard to find a comfortable way to carry the D7000, and I must say, it is without question the most uncomfortable shooting experience I've ever had holding a DSLR. Granted I've only shot with a few DSLR's outside of a camera stand at the electronics store (D7000 and Canon Rebels). Also, it didn't seem to be too much larger than my Pentax's (not much more than the obvious), but the grip (on the body, not the additional grip attachment, which I did not get a chance to try) - just....awful. The Pentax K-5 is smaller, and yet the grip is "larger," "deeper," contoured, and ultimately far more comfortable due to the superior attention to detail to the ergonomics of that absolutely critical piece of the camera. If Pentax could get have gotten their bodies in stores side by side with the competition, the D7000 would never have been as successful as it is.

D7000 Body Construction/Weather Sealing/Ultimate Durability: I did not get a chance to test the weather sealing like I have thoroughly done so with Pentax (scroll down to posts 4 and 5), however except for the fact that it is advertised as such by Nikon, I honestly would not have guessed that it was weather sealed just by picking it up. The body is incredibly "plasticky" (whoever claims that it is just as "all-metal" as the K-5 is seriously off their rocker) for such a caliber of camera and one that claims to compete with the K-5. Also, were I the owner of the camera, I would NOT be comfortable using the camera in any situation that called for true weather/dust sealing. The rubber flaps on the ports were embarrassingly flimsy and lacking of any staying power. A drizzle, sure, but the things I have done with my Pentax's? Absolutely not.

Lenses: the lenses from Nikon that he had with him were the 18-55 VR kit lens, the 10-24, and the 24-120. The lenses were nice, not terribly large, but nothing about them impressed me. I know they are not Nikkor's best lenses, however they just weren't anything to write home about. It is clear that Pentax leads when it comes to kit lenses, especially when you factor in that the kit lens is weather sealed. But AF was snappy enough and I had no issues with any of them. Maybe it's because I am used to DA* quality as of late, however the construction of the lenses seemed incredibly cheap. I know Pentax has cheap lenses and "Plastic Fantastics," but these felt...I don't know - "adequate" is the best word I can describe them as.

Menu System: I consider myself a very advanced DSLR photographer. Not necessarily an incredible photographer (I don't), but I understand the fundamentals and basic technicalities that elude my iPhone wielding generation. More importantly, however, I take to technology very easily and intuitively. Despite all that, I had an incredibly difficult time sifting through the menus to find critical options to change. After coming from Pentax's menu system (which I understand I am used to and will naturally find "more intuitive"), it seemed that there might be some logic to all the menu options were put individually on separate pieces of paper and then how they fell from a shaken bucket, is how they were organized. I don't mean to seem dramatic, but I absolutely could not find a single thing simple about it, and I tried. Hard. The D7000's menu system doesn't hold a candle to that of Pentax's.

RAW Conversion: I had no problem importing and processing the images in Lightroom 3.6. I only shoot RAW, so this was nice to see. I didn't expect to see any issues, but it was nice to validate that assumption. I found the RAW files just as easy to work with in LR as I did with my Pentax K-5's, and I was not in demanding enough situations to push the D7000 for optimal Image Quality regarding Dynamic Range, Noise, etc. I find Pentax in the better position with natively supporting Adobe's .DNG format, however for my purposes for this shoot, there was no issue with Nikon's RAW format.

Overall: I know I did not use the camera very extensively, however that first impression was all I needed to know that I made the right choice despite the sometimes nagging feelings of lacking any full frame upgrade path (do I really need one though? I can't find any legitimate reason to trump the portability and lack of sacrificing any IQ by staying with APS-C), worldwide availability of accessories and services, etc. It is my assessment that unless tracking AF is needed (which I have not tested personally, but every account speaks on behalf of Nikon's superiority here), then the Pentax K-5 family, especially the new II/IIs series, are far superior cameras by themselves, and then especially when you factor in the much, much more enjoyable shooting experience. I could probably go in depth more, but this is from simply one day of use, and what I remember from three weeks ago (I don't have the camera anymore).

Also, of note is Pentax's In-Body Image Stabilization, where Nikon's are in the lenses. What this means, is, Pentax has it for every lens, whereas Nikon doesn't, especially in the shorter focal lengths. This will allow you to use longer shutter speeds and drop your ISO, effectively lowering noise in addition to the superior sensor image quality.

Let me know if this doesn't help you with your dilemma.

-Heie



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* *_Need affordable /weather sealing/ in a /DSLR/ you can trust?_*
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eo61t5fH6Qw&feature=player_embedded

* *_Think there aren't any opportunities to shoot in poor weather, and thus no benefits to weather sealing?*
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1036&message=42338261

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