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Old Dec 17, 2004, 8:54 PM   #1
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Hello everyone! My first post, but I have been lurking around here for quite some time pouring over the reviews, following links, and generally enjoying myself.

Good job Steve, wonderful site!

So I finally found a store with the *ist DS *and* the Canon 20D that I could play with side by side before making up my mind on which to buy. Neither of these cameras is cheap by any means, so the decision had to be made via a long drawn out process of rating the points on a speadsheet (a very anal tendency of mine).

Never the less, just to let anyone else know who may be interested, I considered the Canon 20D, Nikon D70, EVOLT E-300, Canon DigRebel (even the black one and the complex rebate system), Minolta Maxxum D7, and the *ist DS. For me it came down to being between the 20D and the *ist DS. The others were eliminated either due to size (D7 and D70), features (DigRebel, although the firmware hack was an interesting investigation all on it's own), or crop factor (E300 - 2x, you have to be kidding, right?).

I must say that I came into this investigation somewhat biased, but the things I learned are amazing (thanks Steve for your much detailed info). First, I have had several P&S 35mm Pentax cameras in the past. I then graduated to my first SLR, the ME Super. Several years ago that was replaced bya very capable ZX-7. So I am familiar with the Pentax methods for several years now, and I have some auto focus lenses and a flash that will work on an *ist DS. But, after reading about the Canon 20D and the Nikon D70, I was ready to potentially jump brands.

At the store today I examined the *ist DS first. I played with it for several minutes looking out through the windows, the counter, the floor, and the various racks of the usuall camera store stuff. I then played with the 20D doing the same things. First (Steve, you may want to verify this somehow in the way you test stuff), the *ist DS seemed faster to focus than the 20D. It was certainly a quieter focus motor. It may have something to do with the 18-55mm kit lens on the 20D. The 18-85mm USM would probably be the ideal match for this camera, but that puppy is 575 all on it's own! Second, the shutter on the Pentax sounds 'normal,' whatever that means. The 20D is a pretty loud one. The viewfinder seemed brighter on the Pentax as well. The 20D appeard to be either darker or maybe greener or something. Last but not least, the *ist DS feels dinky compared to the 20D (yes! I like small).

So I ordered an *ist DS tonight. For me it will work out for the following reasons:

* Smaller, lighter

* I have a 'ton' of Ni-MH AA batteries already powering gadgets galore

* My 3CCD camcorder uses SD cards for photos too so I have lots of them

* My iPAQ has an SD slot where I can look at the pics without a laptop

* I have some Pentax 'stuff' already

* The *ist DS with kit lens was 899, the Canon 20D with kit lens was 1389, but I was not going to let *cost* be the only deciding factor. I was considering value value points.

What I learned, however, about this little intense trip is that Canon *owns* this market! What happened to Pentax??? I walked into several camera shops that don't even carry Pentax accessories anymore. When I bought my ME Super, Pentax was the one that seemed to own the market. When I bought my ZX-7, it was *the* top rated consumer level SLR and these cameras, and the AF lenses to go on them, seemed to be everywhere. Now there are stores carrying 3rd party lenses from Sigma and Tamron only for Canon or Nikon. Wow. Also, when comparing the D70 and the 20D in one store (where they laughed out loud when I asked about the *ist DS - "hey Mike, this guy thinks he wants to look at a Pentax dSLR! Ha ha ha...") the salesman cautioned me on the D70 insinuating the shutter is not robust and may not last too long. The camera was way too big for me anyway, but I never read anything like this online.

The Canon value is immense. With accessories up the wazzo and availability seeming to be everywhere, it is difficult to consider that everything else (except maybe Nikon) is an 'off brand' now. That alone is worth a considerable amount when you are 1200 miles from home and you need a part, or you want to upgrade to the 8.5MP model and try to sell your 20D body. Look at ebay: the used 10D bodies are going for what the used D70 with 2 Sigma lenses are going for. Also, IS lenses are available as well where they are not for the Pentax. Again, hard to argue *for* anything else since the expansion possibilities are endless with the Canon 'system.'

Never the less, I just voted with my hard earned cash. So the ZX-7 will be officially 'retired' soon to go to that shooting ground in the sky where the old ME Super is. The decision is over for me, I just hope it works out!

Dan Eggert
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Old Dec 18, 2004, 8:25 PM   #2
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Thank you for the informative post. I'm in the same dilemma.

Where did you purchase your camera? I'm in Orlando and only Ritz Camera has both Pentax and Nikon. The only Ritz I found with the Pentax had only the D and not the DS.

From what I understand the 18-55mm kit lens on the 20D is only a so, so lens and that the 17-85mm lens is much better. Ritz's prices are $1599 and $1999 for the two kits respectively.

In comparison to the DS or D70, I don't think the Canon is really worth $800-$1000 more.

I still can't make up my mind though between the DS and D70. I held the D and I assume it's the same size as the DS. I'm wondering if the D70 is just too bulky and would end up not being carried. I have a Nikon Pronea S that I purchased when it first came out (must have a record for camera depreciation) and love it because of it's size and I wasn't embarrased to carry it everywhere. For this reason, I have a feeling the Pentax DS would end up travelling with me much more than a D70. I do plan on buying a 35mm f/2.0 prime for the D70, however, so that would help reduce it's overall bulk.

On the other hand, I have had two sales people chuckle and smirk when I asked about the Pentax vs the Nikon. It seems the Pentax has no respect whatsoever.

I'm really looking forward to Steve's and Phil Askey's final reviews on the DS. I need help making this decision.
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Old Dec 18, 2004, 9:10 PM   #3
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Taylormade,

For a very interesting perspective, check out http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/d70.htm

Ken feels just about everything is inferior to the Nikon D70, especially for the price. The biggest item he feels the Nikon is the best thing you can get is due to the 1/500 flash sync speed. Anything less is a waste of time. Of course, the DS is 1/180, and the 20D is 1/250 so neither one is worth it in his opinion. It is a good opinion and a very good justification. I think, however, in one of his other articles he mentions that all of the techno gobble-d-goop is nothing to pay attention to. Everything in this price catagory is pretty good. I also saw another article (I cannot remember what site it was on) that refered to 'pixle hunting' or something to that end. The sharpness and/or darkness of most sample pictures can be manipulated with the settings. So unless each camera takes the same pic with the same exact settings, comparisons are difficult.

As far as size goes, here is the ranking smallest to biggest: *ist DS, *ist D, 20D, DigRebel, D70, and Maxxum 7D. I *know* that I would have trouble carrying the D70 around. I wanted to like the D70. I wanted a D70! I fiddled with it for 15 minutes and compared it to a 20D over and over again and just plain came to the conclusion it would become a cabinet queen for me. The 20D is about the same size as my ZX-7, and the D70 is bigger. I was looking to downsize, or at least, keep the same size. I too was waiting for Steve's conclusions on the *ist DS before making the purchase for the DS. But seeing it in person and comparing it to the 20D made my mind up.

As far as where I looked at it, I compared the 20D to the *ist DS at a local Ritz. As far as purchasing it, I ordered it from zipzoomfly.com. I have bought memory from these people before and they have the best prices, hassel free ordering, and free 2-day shipping. The 20D with the 18-55 kit lens was priced out at priceritephoto.com. I dread ordering from one of these 'new york' photo places though because the memory cards are a good indication as to why the camera is so cheap (260 for a 512 mb CF! Are these guys kidding? At zipzoomfly it is 80. Less for the slower style.). They call you on the phone and harrass you to buy filters, bags, memory, batteries, etc. If you don't buy something, like I tried to do in 2003 for a video camera, they don't ship it until you get angry and call and cancel the order. I am not sure if this place is like that or not, but the memory prices certainly made me hesitate.

As far as the 20D goes, the price for the camera body is about the same that the price is gravitating down to for the kit with the 18-55mm. I think Canon must be providing some incentive. On ebay, there are foreign versions of this lens going for about 160. The foreign version is supposed to have the USM motor for faster quieter focus. My intent was to buy the kit, buy a foreign 18-55, then put the original kit lens up on ebay. The 17-85 is a much better lens, but for 675 most places, and about 575 the cheapest on the internet, this is a big investment with the 20D at the same time. Maybe in a year after the first purchase is forgotten...

Dan Eggert
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Old Dec 18, 2004, 9:30 PM   #4
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I've had too many closet queens. My first two SLR setups, a Minolta Maxuum 7000 and 7000i, sat in the closet for years. Finally, I sold both and bought a Contax G1 Rangefinder setup. I thought with the diminished size, I would use it more. I didn't realize, however, the rangefinders have their own quirks and with the slow focus, it again ended up in a closet.

Now with the Contax G1 on ebay, I want a digital SLR.

I too have read comments from reviewers that essentially stated that all the cameras in the $1000 price range were excellent cameras. Even so, why couldn't Nikon have made the D70 is a more compact body? Arrrgghhh
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Old Dec 21, 2004, 5:43 PM   #5
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Thanks for posting your research, Dan! I'm leaning toward the DS. I saw it at my local shop ($999 w/ Lens) the other day and it is small! The D70 is a beast, relatively. The sales lady responded with horror on discovering that it took AA's. I thought it was good, and asked how you'd get an emergency proprietary battery in Prague-and I thought they made rechargeable CRV-3's to boot.

If you would have time when you're not shooting, could you post your thoughts/experiences with your new DS?


Thanks again!
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Old Dec 21, 2004, 8:33 PM   #6
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Absolutely! It is due in via FedEX tomorrow. I plan a short trip soon after Christmas to photo document some city areas and I will post my first impressions when I get back.

Dan Eggert
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Old Dec 22, 2004, 5:52 PM   #7
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I was in the same exact situation.
Looked at everything. Then a good friend of mine bought a 20D a few weeks ago and I got to play with it for a couple of hours.
The shutter wasn't as loud as I thought it would be from reading about it.
I thought some of the functions weren't that easy to figure out. Like setting manual white balance. Not quick or that easy.
And it was big and heavy.
I know, it handles great because of it. But I wanted something I can carry around without thinking about it twice.
Then I looked at the pictures on my computer, and I was surprised by the amount of noise at 800iso.
Basically, it didn't look like it was worth $500 more than the DS
I agree about Pentax. It took forever to find a store that carries it.
But I loved the weight and feel of the camera.
Iam expecting it tomorrow from Adorama.com
It was $836 for the body. And I chose the sigma 18-125 for my 1st lens, and that was $255.

Thanks to Steve and the forum again.
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Old Dec 29, 2004, 11:10 AM   #8
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dceggert wrote:
Quote:
Absolutely! It is due in via FedEX tomorrow. I plan a short trip soon after Christmas to photo document some city areas and I will post my first impressions when I get back.

Dan Eggert

Well?:-)
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Old Dec 30, 2004, 9:48 AM   #9
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Panzergnome wrote:
Quote:
Well?:-)
Panzer' and all interested....

I have not had a chance to do the building documentation trip yet, but I have played withthe DSa bit here at the house. I do have some first impressions, but first, some background so you can tell where they are coming from:

My photo experience is *not* from a professional level. Any comparisons with the DS come from my Pentax ZX-7 film SLR, my 3.1mp Olympus C-730UZ, and my Panasonic 4.0mp GS-400 video camera which also takes still shots (but a bit clumsy at it).
First, it does exactly what *I* wanted it to do. That is, it is a perfect 'replacement' for the ZX-7 in that it seems to be all that camera that the old ZX is but in digital form. That is what I wanted. It is a bit heavier than the ZX, but smaller at the same time. Other than that, the functions are very similar and I have taken a handful of test shots with the DS so far without even opening the manual. Easy stuff. It turns on fast and has no apparent shutter lag (like my Olympus). The 18-55mm kit lens is light and seems to work OK with fast focus time and quieter operation than the 28-80mm lens for the ZX. At the 18mm setting, it has a wider angle than the Olympus. In playing with photos of the Christmas tree (which all looked great except for what I will point out next), I was surprised to see the 'marks' on the wall behind it so blazingly obvious. I am in the middle of some construction work and there is a white wall with some white primer on it. If you look at the wallwith the naked eye you can just barely see the difference between the two areas. With the 730UZ it looks just like what you see the wall with the naked eye. Not so with the DS. The primed areas stand out horribly so in the pics with the DS (LOL!). So much so that when you look at the pictures your eye is immediately drawn to these horrible geometric shapes on the wall following the roller marks. Wow, does it really look like that? Hmmm, I better finish the construction!

In addition, I also purchased a new Tamron 28-300mm XR Di lens. Heavy puppy! The zoom ability with this lens is on par with the 730UZ, but the resolution is much better. It is a good all around zoom and it is what I plan to use when I make my documentation trip. When I zoomed in on the tree at the full 300mm setting the photo is made up entirely of the star at the top of the tree...taken from the back of the adjacent room. On the computer I could digitally zoom in on one of the tiny bulbs inside the star. I could also 'read' the manufacturers marks on the base of the star. That is incredible given that with the age of my eyes I cannot read this info while I am holding it in my hands and this camera can capture it from the back of the adjacent room! Power!!!

I purchased a Quantry '2467' Deluxe Large case at the local Ritz yesterday. In it I put the DS with the 18-55mm kit lens attached, 28-300mm Tamron lens, GS-400 video camera, all the cables for the camera, all the cables for the video camera, the video camera charger and extra battery, extra rechargeable AA batteries for the camera, and the old Pentax flash for the ZX. I would have needed a bigger bag if I bought the 20D instead! I think I may still have room for one more lens (but it will be a tight fit) and I have decided to not use any of the old ones that I have with the ZX (all are f3.5 or more). Instead, I will likely buy one of the new Sigma 24-135mm f2.8 lenses for inside museum shots. That should work better than the f3.5 of the kit lens or the 28-300 Tamron.

I hope this helps although it isn't much of a professional review!

Dan Eggert
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Old Dec 31, 2004, 9:31 AM   #10
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Dan:

Thanks for the reply! I like your writing style, you describe things that wouldn't be covered in a review! Did you have any problems with zipzoomfly?

Let us know how things are "developing"

Ted
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