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Old Jul 2, 2008, 7:52 PM   #1
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As some of you know I upgraded to the K20D about a month ago. However, for some time I was contemplating if I should go "pro" and switch to Nikon. Having played with the K20D for about a week, I decided to try a Nikon D300 with 18-200VR lens (highly recommended by KenR***.com). Having used it for a couple of weeks following are my observations on the D300 specifically in comparison to the K20D.

It is one complex machine! Many features such as image quality/size, ISO, White Balance, Shooting mode, etc are button driven vs. menu driven on the K20D. This makes access to these features handy: Advantage D300
  1. The top display has a myriad of information/details that I found a bit complicated to decipher without looking at the manual. The amount of data on the display also made it harder to read due to its small type size. The display on the K20D is easier to read and does not appear to inundate the user with data: Advantage K20D [/*]
  2. At 6 FPS it has one incredibly fast shutter (Advantage D300). In the burst mode, the D300 sounds like an automatic weapon! However, to me the shutter sounded noisier than the K20D which is more muffled (Advantage K20D). [/*]
  3. Focusing speed seemed about the same in both outdoor and indoor lighting. [/*]
  4. The D300 has an on-demand focusing grid that simply appears in the view finder. A nice feature that aids in composition and ensuring straight horizons: Advantage D300. [/*]
  5. The overall fit and finish of the D300 appeared to me as cheap and "plasticky". There is also a good sized rubber door that covers several terminal inputs that does not lend to its solid feel. Even though the D300 has a magnesium alloy frame inside, the K20D looks polished and feels solid. [/*]
  6. Image Quality: I know this may be hard to believe, but in my tests, the K20D with the 50-135*DA lens produced sharper images than the D300 with 18-200 VR lens. The tests were done with both units in their default modes (i.e. out of the box). Additionally, I felt that the K20D had a more appealing tone/color balance in its default mode. While the D300 has the capability to fine tune its image characteristics to achieve superior image quality, I think one has to perhaps use the multiple buttons and menu options to achieve the quality images that earned it the 2007 Pop. Photo Camera of the Year Award. The K20D on the other hand, produced better JPEG images out of the box. I did not conduct any tests of RAW images since I mostly shoot in JPEG. If one is a user who enjoys the fine tuning of the camera if one enjoys taking pictures and yet have the ability to optimize the camera settings as secondary operations, I'd say the advantage goes to the K20D.[/*]
So what was my final decision? I returned the D300 and decided to stay with the K20D outfit. Following are some of the reasons for my choice:

1. $700 premium to own the D300 with more additional costs to follow (see item 2 below)

2. Ability to preserve my current Pentax accessories such as flash, remotes, off- camera cords, etc.

3. Ability to continue using my treasured 10-17mm fish eye lens

4. Ease of use of the K20D vs. the complexity of the D300. I figured the added controls would be cool to have, but as it turned out, they were more of a hindrance for my kind of use.

5. While the D300 has tremendous features such as high burst rates, faster shutter speeds, greater noise control, etc., my kind of shooting would use those features very rarely. i.e. I do not shoot in extreme conditions that require rapid fire images, or in poorly lit conditions.

6. Quality of the JPEG images (sharpness and color tone) did not meet my expectations. Out of the box, they were soft and washed out compared to the K20D. At the advice of folks from the Nikon forum, I downloaded and installed settings for the D3 which produced substantial improvement. However, for all its reputation, accolades, and premium price, I expected eye popping images by default. I found that I had to do some significant adjustments from the default mode (vs. minor tweaking) to produce images that the K20 D produced out of the box.

7. I snooped around a bit on the Nikon DSLR forum; We in the the Pentax forum are a whole lot more active and therefore fun to be around!

It is not my intent tolabel the D300 as a bad camera especially since it was selected as the Camera of the Year in 2007. Additionally, I've seen some great shots from the D300. It just did not work for me. For my kind of usage, it simply did not give me the kind of images I was expecting. I enjoy shooting pictures as much as I enjoy fiddling around with the controls. The K20D's ratio of "shooting to fiddling" suited me better than the D300. If you are interested in seeing the sample images from my tests as well as feedback from some D300 users, check out this posting : http://forums.steves-digicams.com/forums/view_topic.php?id=592999&forum_id=58. Based on thefeedbackfrom this posting, it did not appear that my camera was defective either.

This has been a long posting, but I really wanted to share my experience with the D300 compared to the K20D. The key point is for one to reallyand truly understand and compare a units features and capabilities and match them to one's one usage patterns and habits. While the D300 certainly would have elicited more oohs and aahs from the general public, I would have been walking around knowing that for me, the K20D is what really belongs around my neck.


PS. I have since returned the D300 am back with the K20D. Here is a pix of the K20D and her stable mates (I added the DA*16-50mm).

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Old Jul 2, 2008, 9:56 PM   #2
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Thanks for the write-up! Not everyone can get along with every camera, as you pointed out. Igot rid of a Panny FZ30 after a month because I couldn't get what I wanted out of it, while othersloved theirs.

Your experience tracks with someone I know whohasthe D200. While he loves the camera in many ways and has takenexcellent shots with it, hegot tired of dealing with such a huge, heavy camera and went looking for a compact camera. He ended up buying a D40 and hardly ever uses the D200 any more.

I think your post should be read by anyone whothinks that they need thenewest, greatest, mostfeature-filled camera.They come with someBIG disadvantages, and not everyonecan deal with them.You are so lucky you had the opportunity to try before you committed some really big bucks to it!
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Old Jul 3, 2008, 1:40 PM   #3
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While I can understand your choice, I must say that you were not really conducting a fair test for the images.

As has been mentioned several times here and elsewhere, you must use comparable lenses to test the image quality.

Not too put too fine a point on it, you have used one of the best and sharpest Pentax lens against a mediocre at best Nikon lens. Lets' be honest - if you put an 18-200 on a Pentax, the picture quality is going to suffer.

I definitely agree about the costs though - this is one of the things that keeps me chained to my K10D. It would cost me over £2,000 just to get the Nikon and a couple of kit lenses - before I go for the flash, flash leads and assorted other bits and lenses I have for the Pentax. If I were to make money out of my hobby, I could justify, but as it is....

I will stick to the K10D and try and improve my picture taking.


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Old Jul 3, 2008, 5:24 PM   #4
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Dal1970 wrote:
Not too put too fine a point on it, you have used one of the best and sharpest Pentax lens against a mediocre at best Nikon lens. Lets' be honest - if you put an 18-200 on a Pentax, the picture quality is going to suffer.


You hit that right on. While we are happy that Pentax has gained another user (jelpee), it should be pointed that he was very likely been biased towards the two more capable Pentax* zoom. His turn around tells very little about the superiority or otherwise of either system. But we are happy that jelpee has found what is best for him.

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Old Jul 4, 2008, 10:58 AM   #5
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Nice write-up and I did not think that you were in any way bashing the Nikon. I am curious about your considerations of going "pro," though. As I have reached the point that the remaining lenses I want are all pretty expensive I have been looking into ways to let photography supplement the photography fund. If you don't mind sharing, I was wondering what direction you were considering going with it?

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Old Jul 4, 2008, 1:53 PM   #6
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Enjoyed reading your write-up. Testing the cameras based on what your needs are should be the deciding factor. One thing, cost is also for most is the number one consideration. The availability of what one needs for their preferences is another consideration.

Pentax is capable for those who have "Pro" considerations for most types of shooting except maybe "Sports". There is one who makes a case for it being a sports camera as far as his surfing photos (Mark Dimalanta).

Ben Kanarek was sponsored by Pentax for his creative portrait shots. He still shoots Pentax, a K20D now.

The Nikon offering is an amazing complex camera. The D200 is much the same except for its low iso noise control and FPS. It took me quite some time to learn the nuances of the camera to my liking since I too shoot mostly jpeg and don't like to spend alot of time post processing.

Best to your choice in going "Pro".


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Old Jul 4, 2008, 7:03 PM   #7
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I am in the same situation as you. I've had the k20d and some really nice pentax lens and sold them when I was offered a d300 at a price I could not refuse. I've had buyers remorse ever since. The d300 is a great camera with great features and I've taken some low light photos that have been impressive (at least to me). But . . . . .
I think I will be selling the nikon stuff and getting a k20d again. My reasons are just personal preference. Both camera have great IQ and each has its own set of pluses. I understand why a person would love the d300 for sports and low light events but for me the following is what I miss from the Pentax

Ease of use
Size of the camera
Size of the lens
Shake reduction in camera (this is a biggie)
Price of camera and lens (I'll be getting k20d, DA 12-24, 16-50, 50-135, 77mm, bigma, tamron 90 macro and a flash) and I'll still come out ahead after selling Nikon equipment.
Jpeg out of camera shots -- I like Pentax better
And of course this community

What I will miss from the d300:

Low light shooting
the 70-200 2.8 vr lens (I will not miss the weight)
high ISO shooting

Well, misery loves company -- so thanks for your post - it said a lot that I've been thinking.
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Old Jul 6, 2008, 4:38 PM   #8
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Hello all: thanks for the comments and feedback on my posting. Let me try to respond tothose of you who had questions and othercomments with some additional detail/explanations:

Dal & Daniel: I completely agree with your comments on doing a true apples-to-apples comparison. The Nikon 18-200 VR lens was a $700 lens (comparable to the price of the DA* series) and has received some decentreviews (better than Dal's description of "mediocre" I would say. Therefore, I thought the comparisons were reasonably fair. Part of my tests that I did not mention was also a comparison with my (t)rusty DL and the DA 50-200 mm lens which produced the comparison below. To my eyes (and on my monitor), the DL with the DA 50-200 mm ($199 lens) has a better IQ than the Nikon D300 with settings imported from the Nikon D3. Let me know if you see it different...I'd hate to think I passed on the D300 due to a bad monitor or the need for new pair of glasses:lol:! FYI, both images have had no PP or color or sharpening adjustment. I think working with the D300 requires some serious post processing to get the "stunning" pictures that it is claimed to produce.

Tim: Thanks for your comments. You read my intentions spot on: it was not my intention to bash the D300 and my apologies to anyone who read it that way. I just wanted to relay my experience and perhaps my inability to get the D300 to work for me. Re. going "Pro"--I just wanted to own "pro" equipment vs. actually making money of my hobby. My wife tells me that my Nikon experience was almost my mid-life crisis!!

Tom & Pastorbbc: The D300 is an amazingly versatile camera and has some nice features. But as you have pointed out as well, the K20D meets my needs handsomely and leaves me $ to invest in more DA* glass. The only feature I wish that Pentax had was button access to White Balance (vs. the menu). I was taking some pictures on a trip this weekend and due to varying conditions of clouds and sunshine, I realized how much more convenient it would have been to have had the D300's WB adjustment. I have realized the value of moving away from AWB and actually adjusting the WB for conditions such as clouds, shade, and flash. Hopefully, Pentax will feature it in an upcoming model. Many of the competitors such as Canon, Sony, etc allow for WB to be accessed via a button/dial combo.

Enough yapping...here's the comparison between the D300 (with the D3 settings installed) and the Pentax *ist DL:

First the D300

And now the DL with the DA 50-200 mm

Cheers, Jay

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Old Jul 6, 2008, 5:18 PM   #9
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Hi Jay

Looking at both. IMHO, i agree with you. The picture from the DL is to my Eye a much more pleasing shot.

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Old Jul 6, 2008, 5:18 PM   #10
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Sorry duplicate post
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