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Old Jun 16, 2008, 11:00 PM   #1
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Some of you on the Pentax DSLR board may have spotted some my postings elsewhere on this site... mainly on the Olympus DSLR board - but also in the general Q&A section. But the short version is after many years of film SLRs and about five years of digital point-and-shoots and even a lone digital megazoom, I'm in the market for a DSLR. I received a Canon XTi as a gift last year and, for a variety of reasons, I just don't like it.

Because, like many of you, I appreciate a value and also have a contrarian streak, the Olympus E-510 has been on my short list. I hadn't really considered Pentax. It's not that I don't like Pentax, really. But I must admit my brother, who doesn't have a high opinion of the brand (based on what, I don't know -maybe something from the film days 30 years ago), may have subconsciously caused me to cross it off my list.

Never mind. The other day, I was in a local camera shop and picked up both the K10D and K20D. I kid you not when I say that I have never had a camera fit so perfectly in my hands and and be such a perfect ergonomic match for me. The build quality was the next to impress me and then it was the large, bright viewfinder. 14 megapixels on the K20 and full weather sealing on both had me raising an eyebrow and then dropping my jaw. At $750 with the kit lens, the K10 is a smoking deal right now. But I think the new Samsung CMOS sensor may be worth the price of admission to the new camera. These cameras may be the industry sleepers. It looks like two cameras are now on my short list: Oly and Pentax.

Now, some questions. The K20 hasn't been out long. But it appears that, with the exception of the new sensor, more megapixels and a few software upgrades, this is mechanically the same camera as the K10. I'm looking for some solid feedback on how reliable the K10 has been and what I can expect with the K20. Are you K10 owners generally pleased? Is an extended warranty a must?

Now, let's talk lenses. I understand the Mark II version of the Pentax 18-55mm kit lens is an improvement. But f/3.5-5.6 is a bit slow for me. So, I am considering buying a camera body and opting for Pentax's 16-50mm f/2.8 lens. Now, I love this lens on paper, but I must admit I hesitate because I've heard about quality-control issues. What is the general consensus among Pentax people on this piece? Are the chances of getting a bad copy very high? Do you think this is an on-going issue with the lens or is it more likely a case of some early production glitches? If you do get a bad copy, how helpful has Pentax (or your retailer) been in getting needed repairs or a replacement? Outside of price, would a Sigma aftermarket 18-50mm f//2.8 lens be a better choice? Another option might be keeping the kit lens for walkaround purposes and supplementing it with a small number of very fast prime lenses. And, finally, doesn't Pentax offer a longer all-around zoom lens (something like 18-100+mm)? As I recall, this lens is a little on the slow side (maybe f/4-6.3?). Does anyone have any experience with this lens as a general walkaround piece with possible augmentation by a few fast prime lenses?

And, finally, where is the K20/K10 made? Where are the faster lenses made? I'm, talking the 16-50mm f/2.8 and maybe the 50-135mm f/2.8. Ideally, these would be my two primary lenses.

Those are a lot of questions, but if I can get them answered, I'll be very close to a final decision. The Oly E-520 may not be on sale in the U.S. until mid-to-late August, and waiting for it is a bit frustrating. Yes, it's less money than a K20 but, frankly, I still think the Pentax is a great value at a slightly higher level. I could see myself spending $900+ dollars on a K20 body before spending the same money on a Canon 40D.

Any input or advice will be welcome and appreciated.
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Old Jun 17, 2008, 12:16 AM   #2
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Have been a Pentaxian for about 30 years-started in digital with a iST DS & kit lens-last August bought the K10d. Along the way have purchased a quite a few Pentax lenses-some good-some not so good. Many 20d owners have stated that unless you use the Pentax premium lenses you will get the same results as the K10. I own (2) of the Limited lenses the DA 40 and DA 21-used on the K10d their performance is incredible. All my other DA lenses work well also (except the 16-45). So unless you are ready to spend the big bucks for lenses I think the K10d offers the best bang for your buck right now. Last Aug I paid $600 after the rebate-a really good deal IMHO.

I don't shoot in the rain or snow so the new lenses with the weather seal aren't necessary. The longer I shoot the more I learn that the "Glass" is more important than the camera. The Limited DA 40 is about $250 right now-that's a steal-no one else makes a "pancake" lens-and the focusing and color reproduction is outstanding.

Good luck with your choice-you can't go wrong with either camera.


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Old Jun 17, 2008, 12:58 AM   #3
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I'm rather biased - my K10 was an early production model and it developed AF problems. It started to have them while the camera was under warranty, but I didn't figure out that was the problem, since it was intermittent and I use manual focus lenses quite a bit. Later K10 models seem to be more reliable (there are plenty of people who report no problems, and even the person who has my old K10 reports that his Sigma lens work much better thanmy Pentaxdid). At least one person here sent theirs in for repair and were very pleased with the results, so I wouldn't count the K10 out completely. It's quite a lot of camera for not much money right now.

On the other hand, I really love my K20. It has none of the AF issues my K10 had, and has the ability to adjust the focus point for specific lenses, too. I haven't had to adjust any of my 3 AF lenses, so I'm a happy camper.

The Samsung sensor (in my opinion) produces more saturated colors than the Sony sensor in the K10 did (that's shooting raw - you can adjust the amount of saturation if you are shooting jpg). It has better resolution, and not just because it has more mp. To give you an example, when I first got the K10, I took it out and shot some comparison shots with the K100. The K10's resolution/sharpness looked very similar to the K100, only it was bigger (the more mp). I took some comparison shots with the K100 and the K20 when I first got the K20. Using the kit lens, I noticed pretty much the same thing - the K20 pictures looked about the same sharpness and amount of detail as the K100, just larger (by the way, I've always been pretty happy with the kit lens - I don't really need a fast lens in this range). However, the shots I took with the DA*50-135 showed a significant amount of extra fine detail and sharpness, not just the same thing larger. If you plan on getting good glass (and it sounds like you are) then the K20 would make a difference. And I'm still learning and playing with the K20, I haven't come close to truly mastering the camera yet (but that's OK - I'm having a blast experimenting with it).

As far as lenses go - Pentax seems to be very willing to replace or repair faulty cameras and lenses. If you are considering the Pentax 16-50 f2.8, make sure you buy it either locally and check it out carefully before buying or make sure you buy it from somewhere with a good return policy. I haven't been following whether the problem lenses are still cropping up or not - but those who have gotten good ones seem to be quite happy with theirs.

Pentax sells a Pentax 18-250 that's a rebadged Tamron. For an all-in-one lens, it looks pretty good (at least from the examples I've seen posted). Not sure its worth the extra money over the Tamron, though, and its not a fast lens. However, if you add aprime or two fast lenses with it, it might work quite well. And Pentax has some really awesomefast primes - look for lenses with a "*" in thename or Limited afterwards - those are all top quality lenses.

Pentax is coming out with a 17-70 that sounds like a good upgrade to the kit lens, but it's going to be f4, not f2.8. I'mpossibly thinking of getting this one, depending on the reviews it gets. The biggest drawback for me is that the lens only has SDM focusing- so I'd lose AF with the K100 (mine isn't a Super). I may go with the Sigma 18-50 f2.8 instead, but I'm in no rush - I have an SMC 24mm 2.8 lens that works quite well for low-light wide angle, an M 50mm 1.7 (and an M50mm 1.4 that I never use and really should sell one of these days),along with the DA*50-135 and the DA 12-24, so I don't need a fast wide-to-normal zoom.

I love the DA*50-135 - it's an awesome lens and works very well with the K20. I highly recommend it.

I read that Pentax has a (relatively) new factory in Vietnam - up until then I thought their products came from Japan (but I could be wrong about that). Hoya recently bought Pentax, so it'll be interesting to see what they do in the future for production, and what lenses they come out with. Hoya and Pentax have been collaborating on lenses for a while (several Tokina lenses are the same as Pentax lenses).

Good luck with your choice.
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Old Jun 17, 2008, 11:52 AM   #4
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There are many people on this forum who know a lot more than I do, but I'll toss out my 2 cents worth anyway. I suspect you'll be happy with either camera. I have no first-hand experience withthe Olympus, but I've read excellent reviews. The Oly and the Pentax K20D both get very high praise on the just-posted "Top Ten Cameras" list on the Online Photographer. (I hope it's not a violation to mention other web sites; if so, I apologize.)

One thing to keep in mind: Pentax has a good selection of lenses available today, and Pentax cameras are backwards compatible with earlier generations of lenses. This means that there are literally millions of used lenses that will fit on the K 20. Olympus uses the 4/3 rds system, which was introduced only a few years ago, and none of the old Olympus lenses will fit. Their current lens selection is limited. I'm sure Oly will add more lenses in the future, but right now there are gaps in what's available.

Another consideration: this may not matter, but the K 20 (and the K 200D) are weather-sealed. If you shoot in nasty weather this could make a big difference. I have a K 100D, which is not weahter sealed, but it is built very well. Last fall, I had a little kayaking mis-hap, and my K-100 was fully submerged in lake water for a few seconds. After drying it off for a few hours it worked perfectly. And remember, Pentax did not market that camera as "weather sealed."

I bought an Olympus OM-1 back in the early 1980s, and it served me well forseveral decades. I have a great fondness for both brands you are considering.As I said earlier, I suspect you'll be quite happy with either camera.
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Old Jun 17, 2008, 11:58 AM   #5
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Oops -- correction to my earlier reply: The Online Photographer speaks very highly of the Olympus E-3, not the 520. Sorry about that mistake. I still suspect you'd be happy with either one. Good luck.
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Old Jun 17, 2008, 11:28 PM   #6
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I think you're probably right: I can't go wrong with either camera. Although, truth be told, they are quite different from one another - and, really, may actually be in two different classes. As I mentioned in my first post in this string, my appreciation of a good value and contrarian nature have created a warm spot in my heart for both Olympus and Pentax over the decades. I'm not down on Canons and Nikons in general. But, if we were talking about cars, the Canons and Nikons would be the Toyota Camrys and Honda Accords. Highly competent. Reliable. And the darlings of the masses. Olympus and Pentax would be the Subarus and Mitsubishis. Not perfect and a tad more difficult to understand for mainstream customers. But, oh, so much more interesting and fun for those enthusiasts who can appreciate them. Does that make sense? I really like both cameras. I'm trying to make my purchase before the end of the month and it may just get down to what I can afford. An Olympus with two better zoom lenses will got for quite a few hundred dollars less than the K20D similarly equipped. But it's not a done deal yet.
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Old Jun 18, 2008, 1:57 AM   #7
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Just so you don't fool yourself: you are not soon buying a camera. You are about to start building system. A cam body will be replaced in a few years. Two zooms will be three, a prime lens, a flash, another prime lens... So when you make your decision, try to look a few years ahead. What will there be in the market? Your choice now will decide your choices tomorrow.

And I'm not the one to tell which horse will last longer. Like you I have always fancied Oly, being a die hard Pentaxian.

Kjell
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Old Jun 18, 2008, 11:03 AM   #8
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I certainly can understand the reference to cars (having almost bought a Subaru and ended up going with my heart and buying a second Wrangler).

What did you think actually handling the cameras? A k10/K20 is much heavier than the Oly E-510 (which is one of it's main attractions as far as I'm concerned). There is nothing worse than having a camera that is too heavy/light/small/large for your hands. It'll spend more time in the closet and the best camera in the world can't take good pictures when it's there.
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Old Jun 18, 2008, 1:03 PM   #9
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Kjell, having owned film SLR systems in the past, I have no illusions about what I'm getting into. I even used to have a darkroom. What's bringing me back to SLRs in the digital world is the fact that I can now have a "darkroom" on my computer - for a fraction of the price. But I have to somehow make my plans work within a budget that will have to coverthe cost of replacing a washer and dryer - plus acentral heating and air conditioning system - in the next year.

If I consider ONLY cost, then the Olympus E-520 is the obvious choice, as I can buy the camera body, two goodzoom lenses and a good flash for several hundred dollars less than a Pentax K20D withthe same equipment. Of course, there's always the Pentax K200D - which is an option. In fact, the K200D is probably more of a direct competitor to the E-520. But it's the K20D that felt SO good in my hands and impressed me so much in so many other ways in the store.

Which brings us to mtngal's question: AsI mentioned in my first post above, I have NEVER had an SLR feel so perfect in my hands than the K20D. Ergonomically, it's a perfect fit for me. The shape is perfect, the weight is perfect, even the texture of the finish is perfect - for me.

The E-520 is intended to be smaller and lighter - and should be thought about and judged in that context. Of course, the E-520 isn't in stores yet, but I have spent quite a bit of time with the E-510, which reportedly is physically identical to the E-520 (at least externally). The Olympusexudes an aura of quality and robustness. I really like it. In comparison, the Canon XTi feels less substantial to me. The shape, size and smooth plastic finish all contribute to that - even though we all know the XTi is a solid camera that works well. The size difference between the E-520 and the Xti isn't much - but the Olympus falls more-readily into hand and feels morerugged. I'm always worried about the XTi slipping out of my hands when I hold it. Maybe it's just me.

Hey, here's a solution: Get the K20D now and - months down the line when the price fallsjust before a new model comes out - pick up an Olympus E-420 with that little 25mm pancake lens for pocket work. Then I can sell my Canon S3 IS. Sound like a plan?









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Old Jun 18, 2008, 3:19 PM   #10
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Now that's a GREAT idea!
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