Considering a pentax system


Link Posted 15/03/2009 - 04:39

Reason(s) why i am posting this to a pentax forum is because obviously i am considering a pentax system and second i think there are more pentax users that have used nikon dslrs than nikon users with pentax dslr experiences.

Right now i am a D200 owner, however there are a few things which irritate me about D200. The rubber on the camera tends to wear off, i have to handle it with care, i cant just grab and use it, i have to watch out the rubber which i held in place with a two-sided tape. Also the front dial takes more finger strength to use than it should, and D200 is quite old technolody in general. I however still enjoy using it, but the little things are starting to take their toll bit by bit. The D300 would be a perfect solution but its really out of my reach, for a cost of D300 body alone i could buy approx. a 3 lens pentax system.

Most of the things i care about are build and external controls, that is why i dont feel like going back to a DXX camera, and the Nikon with weather-seals comes with a price. I mean even K20D's battery grip has seals my MB-D200 doesnt come with any sealing. I also dont feel like owning another D200 as i have had even this one fixed for banding, and now the rubbers are starting to come off.

Now i think the only lens from the nikon system i will be really missing is the 35mm f/1.8 i just received. I know there is the 30mm sigma but according to pretty much every test it only excels in center, and it costs a lot more than a 35mm Nikkor. I know pentax has a load of primes, but im not seeing any 30-35mm f/1.4-8 equivalents. However i do see a lot of other interesting primes, but a 35mm is the one that would get me very happy for a very long time. Talking about lenses for cropped sensors, what is the closest i can get? and at what price.

Then is the high-iso thing. I havent found any good head-to-head tests with K20D and D200 or even D300. Am i wrong if i assume that K20D is noticeably better than my D200?. I always shoot raw, i dont care the default jpg-output. Im not expecting K20D to beat D300 just remain competitive. I also like the idea of 14mpix as it gives me more to play with, and my D200 also doesnt come with 14bit raw option.

Now the one thing i really dont like about K20D is the 3fps, i really like my 5fps. I rarely do a lot of 5fps but when i do, i am so happy i have it. I think its a bit like owning a car that can do pass bys real easy, i rarely have to get past another car but once i do id be really happy if my car could do it with ease.

If there are any previous D200 owners can someone tell how the AF-compares. I have read a lot of bad about it and then some good, i find it hard to believe that K20Ds AF cant keep up with a four year old nikon.

At this point i am mostly toying with the idea, i dont consider myself a nikonian or anyone else in that matter. I think we are photographers (or photography hobbyists) at first and we just pick a set of tools to go with our hobby or profession. Of course then there are people who choose to identify themselves with a sports team or a camera brand, and i have no problems with that.

Changing a system is perhaps a radical move, and it might even be a unneccessary one. Nevertheless i am interested in pentax, mainly because i get a lot of camera for the money and very likely a superior build quality (in a smaller package) even when compared to D300 with compromise mainly in fps. I dont care for high-res lcd that much, id much rather take shake reduction.

I have handled only one pentax in a store (not many stores with pentax dslrs around) it was a K200D, and what i remember was that it focused real fast on AF-C, it was also very noisy when focusing. It felt faster than my 18-70 AF-S in that regard.

So put a long story short.
1. D200 vs K20D IQ
2. Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX equivalent
3. D200 vs K20D in terms of AF

I mostly shoot stuff which doesnt require 5fps, i like weather-sealing because it adds to the build quality and i feel like (and i do take) taking my camera out more, with my D70 and D80 i really hated even the thought of light rain. If my camera had a live view im pretty sure i didnt bother to figure out how to turn it on.


Link Posted 15/03/2009 - 08:18
Welcome to the forum.

I have handled, but not actually used, Nikon DSLRs and although the IQ is excellent I do find them more "clunky" than Pentax The Pentax design is very elegant and efficient.

The IQ of the K20D will not be a problem.

The 35mm lens will have to be the 31mm f1.8 Limited, a lens with a legendary reputation, or the newer 35mm Macro which is rapidly gaining a similar status.

The 3fps you are stuck with, so that's the only thing that might be a problem to you.

The AF is absolutely fine, especially with the new SDM lenses.

Hope that helps!
Best regards, John


Link Posted 15/03/2009 - 08:44
I have owned a Nikon D50,D70s and the D200 before ending up with my Pentax K20D.

The reason I sold the D200 was when my first child came along and funds meant I had to end up selling all my Nikon gear.

I am now getting back into photography and have gone the Pentax route.

Do I regret using Pentax instead of Nikon now, not a chance.

The K20D is the best "bang for buck" camera I have ever used. The controls feel all in the right place, weather sealing, 14mp, low cost (compared to Canon & Nikon) top quality glass.

I have the 35mm 2.8 ltd macro lens. While this is a bit slower than the f1.8 lens you mention above it is an excellent lens with great build quality.

Pentax also do a 35mm f/2.0 lens which while I haven't used general opinion is that it is sharp wide open. My f/2.8 is very centre sharp from wide open by the way.

IQ don't think will be a problem between the 2 cameras (obviously this can be lens dependant) I would say though that I prefer the colours the Pentax produces in it's RAW files than the D200's were.

In regards to AF:

This is an area where the Nikon probably would have a noticable advantage if you were shooting alot of fast moving objects, but I got the impression that because you wouldn't utilise 5fps much this probably isn't the case.

Also I would like to add that the Pentax AF isn't bad it's just not as good as the D200 (if you push it to the limits) but I don't think with your shooting preferences you would notice it.

I don't regret switching to Pentax and I'm sure you wouldn't.

In summary

1) IQ Pentax better (INHO)
2) Pentax 35mm f/2.0 would do the job
3) AF I don't miss it and don't think you would.

K30 & 18-55mm WR.


Link Posted 15/03/2009 - 08:46
Where about's are you located ?

There may be a K20D owner near you that would meet up and let you have a "play".

K30 & 18-55mm WR.


Link Posted 15/03/2009 - 09:33
Its good to hear that K20D doesnt feel like downgrading from a user with a lot of nikon experience. Its important that i can grab the camera and use it, in some way the D200 has lost some of that grab and click appeal. I also dont want to feel like i had to downgrade.

Actually my D200's AF is falling apart quite often when shooting moving dogs, it needs a lot of light to work well when it comes to action. Also more expensive glass could help, but if there is enough light available my cheap Tamron 55-200mm keeps up with almost scary spot-on accuracy, i assume most cameras AF-systems can keep up when there is light and the challenge comes from when there is less light and more crappy lenses. Doesnt K20D af-system have more cross-sensors than D200?. If i remember correctly D200 has one and K20D has five.

I am located in finland. I have seen a few pentax shooters in this town they call city, but strangely last time i saw them none of them were taking any pictures while i was constantly firing away. Perhaps they were actually watching the show.

I definitely need to find a store with a K20D. Changing systems is still a huge leap and the best thing to do might just be to find a pentax user, its also kind of scary going to a new system not knowing what kind of traps there are.

Do you happen to know any links to sample pentax pef or dng files i could play with and try to get some of sort of idea how k20d raw-files work. Also do pentaxes come with any file transfer software?. I need a software that keeps up a running number for the files because the file numbers are always reseted in the camera at some point.


Link Posted 15/03/2009 - 10:44
Nikon may not be as intuitive to use as Pentax. At a recent shoot a friend of ours got in a terrible tangle with his new D300, despite having a D200 for some time. He ended up taking no pictures for a good 45 minutes whilst he tried to get to grips with the new menu system.

The Pentax users were taking pictures with no hassle...
Best regards, John


Link Posted 15/03/2009 - 19:05
Hello jukar and welcome to the forum.

Firstly the lenses:

Pentax SMC-FA 31mm f/1.8 Limited

Tech review
Photo Gallery

Pentax SMC-DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro Limited

In-depth review
Photo Gallery

Pentax SMC-FA 35mm f/2 AL (no longer in production but still available in many places)

Tech Review
Photo Gallery

And don't forget that the K20D will allow you to use any lens Pentax have made since the 1950's (even the medium format and screw-fit ones with an adapter) and give you metering, focus confirmation and shake reduction with all of them.

As for AF, the K20D actually has 9 of the 11 sensors as cross-type. AF is slightly slower than Nikon and Canon cameras but tends to be more accurate than either. In the real world it's unlikely you'll notice much difference between them. AF is (relatively) noisy with older style screw-driven lenses but whisper-quiet with the latest SDM lenses. The SDM lenses don't really offer a speed advantage but the lack of noise can sometimes create the illusion that they do.

I'm still using a K10D so my RAW files wouldn't be of interest to you, but I'm sure there's someone here willing to email you one to play with.
Joining the Q


Link Posted 16/03/2009 - 02:20
Those primes look very attractive. My Nikkor 35mm has a very minimalistic and dull look, the build quality is plastic but on the other hand it does deliver optically, however pentaxes seem to come with looks, performance and the nice build quality so its pretty nice. And the price tag isnt that big either.

What zooms people are mostly using. I know pentax kind of specializes in primes, but i assume they havent given up on zooms just yet. 17-70mm f/4 looks interesting, i might take it over 17-50mm f/2.8 Tamron because i appreciate the reach and i really want my general purpose zoom to reach around 70mm. What strengths and weaknesses 18-55 II has?.

About the old lenses, how many of them are useable?. I have seen many unfamiliar to me k-mount (that is the mount right?) lenses on sale around. On the other hand most of them dont cost much, so experimenting shouldnt be a problem.

I bet their cameras were just fine and they were there to actually enjoy the festival and not chimping with their dslr, i was just a bit disappointed that once when i saw people with pentax cameras i didnt see them using them. I had in mind to shoot a candid sequence after every 5 minutes "still not shooting.. still not shooting" . I have actually handled the D300 few times and found it very surprising that i couldnt really find my way around as easily as i expected.
Last Edited by jukar on 16/03/2009 - 03:25


Link Posted 16/03/2009 - 06:06
Ok just a quick mention. I have tried a few .pef files with my raw-converter and i was able to process them with ease. The 4mpix resolution difference is quite noticeable, its actually a quite a leap and i am amazed with some of the detail there is. All the samples were however taken under very optimal conditions, so there was not much of a challenge but i sort of get the idea what i could do with the 14mpix.

Now i try to envision the same pictures with a really nice prime.


Link Posted 16/03/2009 - 09:09
jukar wrote:
About the old lenses, how many of them are useable?. I have seen many unfamiliar to me k-mount (that is the mount right?) lenses on sale around. On the other hand most of them dont cost much, so experimenting shouldnt be a problem.

The Pentax K-mount dates back to the mid-1970's and has been used by several manufacturers. As well as lenses made by Pentax themselves (and third parties like Sigma, Tamron, Vivitar, Zeiss, Voigtlander, etc, etc) you can also use lenses made for Chinon, Samsung and Ricoh SLR systems - although be careful with some Ricoh lenses as they have an extra pin that can interfere with the AF screw and should be removed before placing on a Pentax camera. Additionaly, pre-AI Nikkor lenses will work on a K-mount but won't lock on properly, making them useable but awkward.

Pentax also make genuine K->M42 adapters allowing you to use M42 lenses dating back to the 50's. There are some wonderful M42 lenses out there including Pentax's own Takumars as well as lenses from Japan, Germany and Russia. Some of these M42 lenses are very rare and desireable but most are plentiful and good value for money. For less than 100 you could pick up a 3 lens prime set that will rival some of the best glass available new today - on a tight budget I'd buy a Pentax Takumar 35mm f/3.5, a KMZ Helios 44 (58mm f/2) and a Carl Zeiss Sonnar 135mm f/3.5 and be happy that I had three exceptional lenses without breaking the bank. All with focus confirmation, metering and shake reduction of course!

The features of each lens will be limited to the features offered at the time the lens was new; in other words a lens that was sold as manual focus won't suddenly become AF by placing it on the K20D. Later lenses (Pentax A series from the 1980's onwards) have electrical contacts that "talk" to the camera and allow for the aperture to be set by the body - it is only these lenses that can take advantage of modes such as Program and Shutter Priority; older lenses (and M42 lenses) will restrict you to Manual and Aperture Priority modes only. Depending on your shooting style this may or may not be a problem.

With the Pentax K-mount you probably have a wider selection of useable lenses than all the other systems combined. Of course some of them are very poor (I had a Prinzflex 100-200mm f/5.6 zoom from the 70's that was little better than holding a milk bottle in front of the camera, but then it only cost me 1 so it was worth trying) but generally anything that was actually made by Pentax themselves will be in the good to outstanding range.

jukar wrote:
What zooms people are mostly using. I know pentax kind of specializes in primes, but i assume they havent given up on zooms just yet. 17-70mm f/4 looks interesting, i might take it over 17-50mm f/2.8 Tamron because i appreciate the reach and i really want my general purpose zoom to reach around 70mm. What strengths and weaknesses 18-55 II has?.

I haven't used the 17-70 as it's a relatively new lens but others on here have and the reports are all pretty positive. The 18-55 has some weaknesses (some barrel distortion at 18mm, some softness wide open, comparatively slow) but for the money is hard to beat! If you close it down to around f/8 it will produce wonderful images (Gallery Link) and will also focus quite close - not true macro but around 1:3 which makes it a very useful all-rounder.

If you like wide angles then the Pentax DA12-24 is probably the most prime-like zoom I've ever used and is almost without fault - a fantastic lens. In fact, I don't think there's a single "bad" lens in the Pentax line-up, whichever you choose should serve you well.
Joining the Q


Link Posted 17/03/2009 - 17:19
Thanks for the very informative reply. Now i really need to find a store where i can touch that K20D. How the camera feels has a lot of do with my decision, im looking forward how it lives up to all the praises. I really like the idea of a solid and compact dslr. What ive seen from pictures its noticeably smaller than rest of the gang, but it packs a lot of things others dont.


Link Posted 17/03/2009 - 20:11
The build quality of all the current Pentax range is easily on a par with the more expensive Nikons and well ahead of most of the others. I guarantee that part won't disappoint you, but I agree it's best to handle a camera before buying - what suits one person's hands in terms of weight and ergonomics may not be to another's taste.
Joining the Q


Link Posted 25/05/2009 - 22:22
Sorry to bring up an old thread but this K7 addresses all the problems i had with the K20D, it even has an AF-lamp. Also its amazing how compact the K7 is, my D200 is on the limits of being too big for me so i wasnt that impressed when handling a D300 which felt even bigger.

If K7's IQ holds up and its quirk free (no banding, reliable), i think i will be definitely going pentax by the end of this year.

Now i know that pentax cameras comes with a raw-converter software. However is there a nikon transfer like software for pentax, which handles transfering images from the camera and renaming them.

I know camera keeps a running number but that is not very reliable as it tend to reset as with my D200, D70 and D80. So using a software to transfer and rename is much more reliable. Nikon has nikon transfer for this.

Now there might be a perfectly good 3rd party software for transfering and renaming images, but it would be very simple to use the software in the package.


Link Posted 25/05/2009 - 22:47
For your raw files you can use Adobe DNG converter, it converts RAW to DNG and pentax software should open that I believe.

I'm not aware of Pentax software to adress this problem, with the K20D it's silkypix based software so with some luck it might even open NEF files... but that is a very maybe.

K10D, K5
DA* 16-50, DA* 50-135, D-FA 100 Macro, DA 40 Ltd, DA 18-55


Link Posted 26/05/2009 - 00:51
I am using a 3rd party free raw-converter to work my raw-files. So NEF-compatibility with my old raws is guaranteed. However the converter doesnt update often, i am very sure that once i get the K-7 i cant work the raw-files with my favorite software for about a month. But its not a big problem since pentax comes with software to handle raw.

My question was about software used to transfer images from the camera to the computer. Nikon has nikon transfer i use it, does pentax have something equivalent?.

Nikon transfer program keeps tracking the running numbers and renames the images as they are transferred, by using a transfer program i will never have two images with the same file name and no matter how i mix my pictures they are always in correct order ie. in the order i took them.
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