Pentax as first DSLR?

Started 9 months ago | Discussions thread
Ivan Gordeli
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In reply to yardcoyote, 9 months ago

yardcoyote wrote:

I am debating between going with a serious compact, probably the Fuji X20, since I like the optical viewfinder (and yes I do know it isn't a proper rangefinder, just a high quality point and shoot dressed as one), or jumping in with both feet and getting a DSLR.

I went with an SLR myself, though a mirrorless could be a meaningful option. Try both if you can and see what you like.

So what do you think of a K50 or K30 as a first DSLR? ... The cameras are kind of weird looking, but in an interesting way, and I love the idea that I can get one that isn't black. But the lens selection seems to be skimpier than Canon's, and there are disturbing grumbles about declining optical quality. Would you recommend buying into Pentax at this time? If you have experience with both the Pentax and the Canon, which would you recommend to a DSLR newbie who has some basic knowledge of photography?

Personally I got the K-5 in November 2011. If I were to enter the dSLR world right now I would either go for K-5 II or I would get an older Pentax dSLR for $100-200 and play with it while I figure out what I really need. K-7 is probably the best deal right now. Can get it  for less than $300.

K50 IMHO is too new, I would wait longer for more info on it. K30 is a valid option.

I do not think the cameras are weird looking. I like the look of Pentax compared to Canon.

Lenses selection: who cares if your system has 100 available lenses or 200? What matters is if among those 100 you can find what you need. In some ways Pentax does offer what other systems do not have (cheap WR options, compact primes). Furthermore Pentax backwards compatibility with older lenses is the best, if you take that into account Pentax lens selection may be not that skim in fact.

By all means buy into Pentax system if you can find the lenses you want in K-mount.

Where Canon/Nikon really may have an advantage is in AF and how smart the automation is. I found it easier to shoot with Nikon (D80) or Canon (20D,40D), somehow the camera makes more meaningful choice more often than my K-5, YMMV Though I would still go for Pentax despite that for other reasons.

How is the kit zoom to work with, and what are the differences, optically and in daily use, between the WR resistant version of that lens and the standard version?

My personal preference was to skip the kits, get the body and add a higher end lens (by 3rd-party manufacturer). The most meaningful Pentax kit (if you go for WR body) would be probably 18-135 WR for me due to great range.

And finally, how practical is it to use the old manual K mount lenses on a modern DSLR?

It is perfectly practical. I use M42 lenses with an adapter. Fully manual of course. Maybe I will even shift towards all manual in fact. Pentax has some features which help a lot. Like focus confirmation and CIF (Catch-in-focus). Many people get a better focusing screen for manual focusing (easy to change on K-5, not sure about K30/K50). I have the VF magnifier - also quite helpful.

My modest but optically excellent collection predates any kind of autofocus. If there is an easy way to use them to make interesting images, that will be a big boost to choosing the Pentax.

If you already have K-mount lenses, then I strongly recommend going for Pentax (either dSLR or K01 which is K-mount mirrorless by Pentax). Maybe skip all AF lenses, get some cheaper body (<$300) and start shooting! For less than $300 you can have a great system already.

I'm assuming if I am willing to do my own focusing, the camera will take care of the exposure, but I have no idea how that would actually work. If I'm used to using a split image focusing screen, is something similar available on a DSLR?

Camera will be able to do proper auto exposure, for instance in Shutter priority mode, no problems here, you may have to meeter with lens stopped down of course, unless you have a lens that does communicate Aperture setting to the camera. (starting with Pentax A lenses I believe).

Various focusing screens are available from 3rd party. Most popular is the Canon S screen from focusingscreen.com it is not a split screen though. They do offer split screens too. Another option is Katzeye focusing screens (more expensive), and plenty other/cheaper options on evil-bay. There are even DIY instructions how to make a focusing screen out of old 35mm SLR screens (that is what all those companies do in fact).

Thanks ahead of time for answering any of these questions!

Good luck!

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"Notes on Photography" blog http://gordeli.wordpress.com/

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