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Old Aug 29, 2010, 4:43 PM   #1
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Default Basic Setup

Hello all, I am a newbie to DSLR, but have been in the digital point and shoot arena for 10 years. I ordered a K-X kit and am waiting for it's arrival. I haven't touched a SLR (Pentax K1000) in 25+ years and have spent some time reading your forum to re-acquaint myself.

I have a few questions.

I was surprised to read several posts suggesting not to use a protective filter. I always used a polarizing filter in the old days as an added measure of protection. Several posts I read left me with the thought that the filter would only add another level to shoot through that may cause less than acceptable results. Am I understanding this correctly? Is this a "new" line of thinking in the photo world?

I will be looking for a bag of some type and wanted some feedback about types (backpack, slingbag, etc.). Obviously, I will ultimately need to make and live with this decission, but I am hoping to benefit from everyone elses experiences.

And lastly, if there are any suggestions/necessities I should consider to complete a basic set-up those suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


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Old Aug 29, 2010, 6:45 PM   #2
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Well, first let me welcome you to the best (and friendliest) Pentax forum on the web.
You made a good choice with your K-X. I think you'll be more than happy with it.
As for the protective filter, I won't rehash everything again here because its all been said in previous threads. We all have our reasons for choosing weather or not we want to use them and they all make sense. I'll just say they are not as important as they once were. I do recommend looking up the other threads on the subject and reading them, to help you make an informed decision on there use. The pro's and con's go both ways and it mostly depends on the type of photography you do. Too bad you don't live a little further south, we could hook up and share some ideas in person but, I'll be happy to help in any way I can over the forum.

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Old Aug 29, 2010, 7:23 PM   #3
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On a more Pentax specific note. The SD card I had is only a class 4. From reading other (non pentax specific) forums on Steve's, it seems like everyone is suggesting a min. class 6 but really recommending a class 10. What have been your experiences with class? I do plan on burst shooting, and the occasionaly video.

Thanks again
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Old Aug 29, 2010, 7:46 PM   #4
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I've been using Transcend Class 6 8gb SDHC cards and they have been more than adequate for my K20D. I'd say you would be best served with at least a Class 6 card. If you are going to record video with the camera you'll probably want the fastest you can get for best results.
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Old Aug 29, 2010, 7:55 PM   #5
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If you decide to use a UV filter, don't get a cheap one. I have one that's not the cheapest one in the world that still causes occasional flare problems.

As far as bags - it depends on a number of things, personal preference being the biggest one. Here are my thoughts about them:

Many will tell you to make sure you buy a bigger bag than you think you need, because the bag will fill up very, very quickly. That's not bad advice, but I look at it slightly differently - I think your FIRST camera bag should be a small one that's easy to carry. You WILL outgrow it very quickly, but there will always be times when you'll want to "go light", so you hang on to that small bag even when you graduate to a larger bag. Just go into it with the idea that you'll be buying a minimum of 2 camera bags.

A small bag can be whatever style you prefer. My small bag is a shoulder bag that holds the camera and a couple of lenses with a few small accessories. The big thing to consider with a shoulder bag is how much weight can you carry over a shoulder - it's limited. Be careful not to get a really large shoulder bag - it's very, very easy to put too much weight in one. You can carry more cross-shoulder so the messenger type bags are popular with those who want to carry more.

Personally, I prefer the shoulder bag over the messenger bags as I don't find the strap of the messenger bags provide additional padding, so the weight I can carry in one isn't more than what I can carry in a shoulder bag, and since I also carry a purse, I find it easier to carry one bag on each shoulder.

A backpack is the best way to carry heavy equipment. If I were carrying photo stuff on airplanes or for getting from one place to another, that's a great way of doing it. On the other hand, I do a lot of day-hiking and am used to carrying day packs. The one thing I've found is that anything in the pack is going to stay there until I stop for an extended period of time. And when I'm taking a walk, I find myself constantly wanting to change lenses or grab some other accessory out of my bag for a shot. I'm not going to take off a pack every few minutes.

So for me, a sling bag is the perfect solution when I want to carry the kitchen sink. I have easy access to everything in the bag by swinging it around, but still can carry the weight on my back/hips. I've had 2 Lowepro Slingshot 200 bags - the first one died because I habitually over-stuffed it and the stitching on the zipper finally gave out. I still have the second one and use it occasionally, it's a well-built bag that I found comfortable to carry.

I now have the Kata 3N1-30 bag. It's a great bag IF you have a ton of equipment, but unless you have a lens as big as the DA*300, I would recommend getting the -10 or -20 bags. The thing I like about the Kata is that you can use it either as a backpack or as a sling bag, the shoulder straps are configurable. Also the Lowepro can only be carried over the right shoulder while the Kata can be configured to be carried on either shoulder. Tamrac now has a bag that's very similar to the Kata, and has the advantage of coming with straps for a tripod (Kata sells an optional tripod carrier for the 3N1 bags).
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Old Aug 29, 2010, 9:05 PM   #6
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Hi Osnap,

Welcome to the forum! It must be mentioned that it's kind of a convention for members of this forum to include their general location. We like to know where our members are from. . .and we definitely like photo posts!

Actually, I think the protective filter thing has been an ongoing controversy for a long time. I think it has come to the forefront with digital SLRs because the instant feedback and ability to closely examine images on computers has resulted in an increase in the general level of awareness for image quality -- at least among those who read and participate in photo fora like this.

Now, I have to say that I'm in the no filter camp. I've got quite a few lenses, and there are only protective filters on the lenses that came supplied with them from the factory (most are not removable).

I do use hoods all the time to physically protect the front element, except when they interfere -- as when I'm shooting with a macro flash that attaches to the lens, or when I'm shooting flash with a wide angle. If I were to buy high quality multi-coated filters for each of my lenses, it would probably cost me as much as another good lens, and I'd rather have the lens. . ..

I must say that if I were shooting in a lens-endangering environment (blowing sand, a muddy motocross track, at a food fight, or at a little kid's party), I'd want a filter on the lens. . .

As far as bags go, If I'm going to carry a lot of gear, I like a sling pack, otherwise, I go with either a soft attache or tool bag that doesn't look like a camera bag. For the latter, I use lens pouches that I've collected from the used bins at old time camera shops to protect the lenses from banging together. For the sling bag, I chose a Kata 3N1- 20 as the sling bag for the carrying versatility, even tho it won't hold my biggest lenses, and I shoot long tele stuff mostly. If I need to carry the 300mm f2.8 class lenses, they are usually on the camera while I'm moving around, so they don't have to fit in a bag.

As far as accessories go, I always have more than enough batteries -- for the Kx I'd probably go with Eneloops or some other brand hybrid rechargeable NiMh. I'd have two sets, and a set of Lithium disposables as a backup spare set since they're so lightweight.

For SDHC cards, I like Sandisk Extreme III 20 Mb/sec since I use Continuous High bursts on occasion, and want the write speeds of the card to be at least good enough to keep up. This choice is dependent on what you shoot. If you mostly take single shots and take your time, write speed is not as important. You do want to be able to trust your memory cards though, so get a quality brand of whatever speed. For me, it's better to have more speed than you need than to be limited by a slow card when you need performance to get the shot.

An external flash is a nice accessory. Even with the Kx's great high ISO performance, there are still times when a flash is the better alternative. I like P-TTL (meters with a pre-flash through the lens with the camera's normal light meter). Depending on the model and brand of gun you choose, you can use the Kx's pop up flash to fire a wireless remote TTL metered flash. For me, this is a very important feature.

Flash modifiers keep the flash shots from looking like flash shots. There's a learning curve to using them, but the Demb Flipit w/ diffuser is the most versatile and easy to adjust and carry for me.

Most people now seem to require a tilt and swivel head, but I've found with the high megapixel counts on the newer DSLRs, I can shoot everything in landscape and crop to vertical for portrait type shots of people with resolution to spare, so a tilt is all I really need. Though I have swivel head flashes, the tilt only AF 360 FGZ is lighter and more convenient for a lot of events.


One more thing on the filter subject -- the newer DA series Pentax lenses have a new protective coating that is more scratch, fingerprint, and water resistant, in addition to be easier to clean --

Last edited by snostorm; Aug 29, 2010 at 9:39 PM.
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Old Aug 29, 2010, 10:31 PM   #7
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Welcome to the site Osnap !

You have some great advice already if I was going to add to it I'd say :

Flash - a must for indoor photography where you'll want to 'bounce' the light off of a wall / ceiling for more natural looking lighting. This is where a swivel head comes in handy. The Pentax models are quite expensive but there is a fantastic new flash out from Yongnuo (yes, it is Chinese) whose older models were so-so but whose latest is being much lauded. It is the Yongnuo YN 560 speedlite (fits Pentax) and has features to match Canon's best the Speedlite 580ex. Do a Google search for comments and comparisons but for ca. US$70 that's an unbeatable price for a modern design flash with swivel head, auto zoom head, sync, slave mode and goes all the way down to 1/128th power for great flexibility (with 8 micro stops in between each fraction setting) - it also has a large GN number too so it's very powerful and includes diffusers !

Bag - I use a LowePro Offroad. This comes with two sets of straps so can be carried on the shoulder or more usually around your waist (those straps are non-detachable unlike the shoulder straps). The first time I went to the zoo (before I bought the Off-Road, I was using another LowePro - combined camera & laptop backpack that can be carried on one shoulder too) I was frustrated that, with the multiple lense changes required, constantly swinging the bag around became a real pain - especially since it wasn't stable. With the Offroad sitting on my hips I can swivel it around in a second and change lenses inside it, fast and efficient. It has two detachable lense pockets and the main body takes a camera and two lenses (e.g. up to 300 zoom and a 50). So depending on your need it can be a 2, 3, or 4 lens bag. Something like that is worth a second look.

Tripod - an absolute must. I've graduated from the cheapest I could buy that would stand up straight to a just ordered Benro 550ex carbon fibre with ballhead BH-1. Over here that pair costs just US$85 - I've no idea in the USA, however it is at least 4 times cheaper than a Manfrotto equivalent and I've read comparisons from people that actually say they are now as well made, and not just better value than the British owned, Italian made products ! Definitely if you are going to be shooting on a tripod then the ball head makes sense. I have just ordered mine because I grew increasingly frustrated with not being able to easily make the micro adjustments needed when on even slightly uneven ground.

Just a quick word on Chinese made accessories from someone who now lives here in China, since you'll see many disparaging remarks from people who have bad experiences in the past or who have bought very cheap equipment.
Traditionally the Chinese made any product as cheaply as they could, with huge compromises on quality and quality control, because that is all the Chinese people could afford, and because their technology lagged far behind.
Nowadays through the incredibly fast growth of the middle class, and the amazing numbers of super rich, it means that people are now demanding the very best (when I go down to the famous Bund in Shanghai in the evening there are always rows of Canikon & Leica shooters sporting the very best and most expensive cameras & lenses !). Which means higher & higher quality products from some manufacturers distinguishing themselves from the rest of the pack. The likes of Yongnuo in flashes and Benro in tripods and ball-heads are good examples. There are others but the improvement in quality has been, and continues to be, exponential.

Last edited by Frogfish; Aug 29, 2010 at 10:38 PM.
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Old Aug 30, 2010, 9:55 PM   #8
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Welcome Osnap -- Others have already given you excellent advice, so there's no need to repeat it. I'll just share my opinions, for whatever they're worth.

Filters: I used to use them all the time, to protect the front element. Now I use them only if I'm doing something that could seriously damage the lens -- hiking in very rugged terrain, scrambling over rocks, etc. For every day use, I remove the filters, but I always use shades, which provide good protection.

Bags: I have several, but those I use most are a Tamrac Velocity 9, and a Tamrac Adventure 9. The Velocity is a sling bag that's quite comfortable considering that it rests on only one shoulder. It has enough room for a camera body and several lenses as well as smaller items such batteries, memory cards, etc. The Adventure 9 is a backpack with 2 compartments -- the top one holds anything you want -- a rain jacket, food, first aid kit, whatever. The bottom compartment is well padded and, just like the sling pack, holds a body, several lenses, and accesories. The backpack also has a separate zippered compartment that holds a laptop computer.

Mtngal is correct -- I am much more prone to changing lenses when using the sling bag, since it slides forward, allowing access without taking the bag off. When I'm hiking with the adventure backpack, I have to take the pack off in order to swap out lenses, and I am therefore that much less likely to take the pack off and unzip the camera compartment. I should mention that I always hike with me camera already out from the bag, around my neck, so I never have to open either bag to access the camera itself.
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Old Aug 31, 2010, 6:18 AM   #9
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A belated but heartfelt welcome to the forums!
Not much to add to all the great advice here. I too used to use UV filters, but now only on rugged off-trail hikes. Do use a circular polarizer for landscapes...

Another very necessary tool for me is plastic bags! May sound obvious, but even the best pack can leak in heavy rains, and an assortment of strong plastic bags can save your equipment!

You might also consider getting one of those "smart chargers" for your eneloop batteries. Can signficantly prolong battery life, and improve charge.
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Old Sep 1, 2010, 8:16 AM   #10
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Hi and welcome! Some very good advise above. I've shot film over 50 years, electronic (analog and digital) for 15 years, and a dSLR for a couple years. When I got my Pentax K20D and its first lenses, I bought these accessories:

* UV filters (which I quickly stopped using)
* flash and diffuser, extra batteries, charger
* lens pen, sensor cleaning kit, dust blower
* tripod, and wired and wireless remotes
--- (and I use a collapsible Trek hiking staff as a monopod)
* Transcend 16GB class-6 SDHC card and tiny USB cardreader
* 2TB external disc in RAID-1 configuration for instant backup

The next batch of accessories included macro tubes, mount-reversal rings, screwmount adapters, old manual primes for macros and character, etc.

I soon got a small Tamrak backpack and a large Domke shoulder bag. Those now mostly travel behind my car seat, not on my shoulder. I carry a large teardrop-sling Ameribag, which isn't a camera bag but has many advantages: comfort, capacity, security, anonymity, etc. Back in my film days I carried a large shoulder bag, and it was always too full. My Tamrak and Domke are always too full also, and the backpack is a real pain when changing lenses. The Ameribag won't let me carry too much -- 6-8 primes, and camera+zoom or mini-laptop, as well as the usual P&S's, 6x6 folder, pills, tools, notepad, kite, commo radio, candy, etc.

Filters (1): Common filters have been discussed, yes. UV's are useless. Skylight adds a color cast. Clear glass is protective in a grubby environment. PL (polarizer) and CPL (circular PL) reduce glare and reflections. A PL+CPL or 2 CPL's become a variable ND (neutral density). ND's let you use slower shutter speeds. GND (graduated ND) lets you shoot both a bright sky and darker foreground. Split diopters seemingly extend your depth-of-field (DOF) -- half is magnified, half ain't. Simple +diopters are the cheap and dirty way to do close-ups.

Filters (2): Colored filters are for specialty applications. Try a Yellow filter to shoot glaring color neon lights at night. In B&W, use a Red filter for increased contrast and detail. Film color-correction filters are mostly useless, except that various Blue/Violet filters can emulate early B&W film emulsions. IR-pass filters are necessary for InfraRed photography. All other colored and optical-effect (prism, sunburst, softness etc) filters can be simulated in-camera or in PP, to much better effect.

Some truisms: You can never have too many batteries. You'll always try to carry too much stuff. A stiff hood and careful handling are the best lens protection. The best lens is the one you use. The happiest photographers shoot macros. Amateurs worry about gear; pros worry about money; artists worry about light. Cameras and human eyes don't see the same stuff. There's always a better lens.
Too many film+digi cams+lenses, oh my -- Pentax K20D, ZX-M, M42's, P&S's, more
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Last edited by RioRico; Sep 1, 2010 at 8:27 AM.
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