Those of us who have the Pentax systems, particularly the K10d, have been eagerly awaiting this week's announcement of new cameras and lenses, hoping desparately that Pentax would give us options that would overcome some of the technical limitations that have plagued us in trying to use our otherwise excellent cameras for sports.
The result is a somewhat mixed bag for sports shooters. Concerns of sports shooters with Pentax included:
1. Better high ISO performance--Pentax appears to have met this criterion with its new 14.5 MP sensor co-developed with Samsung. Initial reviews at ISO 3200 are excellent, and the camera will go up to ISO 6400, although I haven't seen enough to know how much of a noise problem there will be in low-light environments.
2. Higher burst rate--No help here. The new K20d has the same 3 fps burst rate as the K10.
3. Faster auto-focus system--Initial reviews are mixed on this count. My gut feeling from what I have read is that any improvement is negligible.
4. More long, fast glass--Two new lenses of interest to sports shooters are included in the announcement, both primes.....the DA*200mm f2.8 and the DA*300mm f4.0. Both of these are weather sealed lenses designed to mate with the K10-K20's weather sealed bodies. However, the lens that had caused the most buzz among those of us who were interested in a Pentax sports lens, the rumored DA*60-250 f4, has evidently again been put off and was not included in the announcement.
The best lens news for Pentax sports shooters, however, came a week earlier when Tamron announced it would begin shipping its 70-200 Di LD f2.8. This is particularly welcome news since neither Pentax USA nor Sigma was marketing a 70-200 f2.8. As a result, pent-up demand had forced prices for used lenses to skyrocket out of reason. (Used Sigmas were selling for 300-400 dollars above their published list price new.) The Di LDseries from Tamron has an excellent reputation for clarity and quality of lens build. I have the 70-300 f4.0-5.6 in this series and love it. The only drawback is the lack of an HSM or similar focusing motor in the lens, so no help onAF speed. The list price on the Tamron is similar to the Sigma HSM lens at this range ( $ 1245), but Amazon and Adorama have apparently bought up most of the initial production run and are marketing it at $ 699. Where it winds up remains to be seen, although I suspect it will remain in that ballpark. With soccer season coming on, I jumped on this lens and placed my order immediately. Shipping date is in early February, so we'll soon see whether the lens can deliver on its promise.
All in all, Pentax hasn't given us everything that those of us who love our cameras had hoped, but at least they're moving in the right direction. Is the improvement enough for me to upgrade my camera body? I'm not so sure--definitely not immediately for a couple of reasons--I want to see how the K20 performs in the field and secondly, my budget has to recover from the 70-200 lens. Does the new camera pull Pentax even with its Canon/Nikon competitors in the sports arena? Definitely not, but it narrows the gap.