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Old Feb 10, 2007, 11:59 AM   #1
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Budget

* What budget have you allocated for buying this camera? Please be as specific as possible.-I should be able to wing about $600 for initial purchase. I do want to get a good portrait lens in addition to the kit lens, but I know I will most likely have to purchase that later. I do have to decide fairly soon, as the return time for my S3 expires in less than 2 weeks. (was 90 days from Target)

Size

* What size camera are you looking for? Or does size not matter at all to you?-Not a real concern. I'm currently running around with a Canon SLR bag to hold my stuff, but I usually carry my current camera in a smaller bag that fits neatly into the main bag. Most of the time, I carry the camera in the smaller bag inside of this duffel-type luggage bag that I carry around everywhere I go.

Features

How many megapixels will suffice for you?-6 should be more than sufficient. My main concerns are image quality, specifically noise levels in lower light conditions, primarily indoors.

* What optical zoom will you need? (None, Standard = 3x-4x, Ultrazoom = 10x-12x, Other - Specify)-While the ultrazoom on the S3 has been nice, I think I'd be happy with something that provides a 4-6X zoom for the time being. I did notice in my few minutes with the Pentax that it autofocused quicker in low-light than my S3, even without using the flash. I also found the single autofocus point of the S3 to be something of a drawback (my camera before the S3 would autofocus on multiple points), so I'd imagine I'd be quite pleased with the Pentax's 11 autofocus points.

* How important is "image quality" to you? (Rate using a scale of 1-10)-9. The main reason I'm considering sending my S3 back has been the amount of noise in the higher iso's with indoor shots. The iso 200 setting for the S3 is just within my tolerance. I took a few test shots in low-light using a K100d in a dimly-lit Wolf Camera using the kit lens in Program mode and I think that the noise at iso800 for the Pentax was a little better than the S3's iso200, and that the Pentax's iso1600 was better looking than shots I took using the S3's iso400 in better light.

Do you care for manual controls?-Sure, but I'm still a spaz when it comes to full manual. I usually leave my camera in Program or Aperture mode

General Usage

* What will you generally use the camera for?-I'm primarily interested in portrait shots of attractive women . A lot of my pictures have been snapshot-style portraits (with some posing) under florescent light (which I have grown to despise), but I've been taking pictures of all sorts of stuff that catches my eye-a pretty sky, an interesting tree, some landscaping, etc. Last month I took about 200 pictures at a coworker's baby shower for her, and last week, I took over 900 shots of animals at the local zoo. I think I'm becoming a general photoenthusiast.

* Will you be making big prints of your photos or not?-I generally won't do anything larger than an 8X10. I do more than a few 4X6.

Will you be shooting a lot of indoor photos or low light photos?-A lot of indoor shots under florescent lighting. I try to shoot in daylight whenever I can. While I do have a monopod and a nice Vivitar tripod, I don't usually carry them with me unless I have something planned. A lot of my shots are handheld, spur-of-the-moment deals where I can't do a lot of prep time, or in situations where I couldn't really use a support. I try to compensate by using a flash bracket that allows me to use something of a two-fisted hold. I can't really use an SLR-hold on the S3 due to the placement of the autofocus lamp. Plus, I have somewhat shaky hands due to tendonitis.

Will you be shooting sports and/or action photos?-No, although I wouldn't mind having that option.

Miscellaneous

Are there particular brands you like or hate?-No. I'm more concerned with capability and price.

Are there particular models you already have in mind?-Well, I pondered the Canon Rebel & Xti, along with the Nikon D40, but I need IS and the only way with those cameras is through expensive lenses. The Sony Alpha is out of my price range, and it's iso performance from the reviews I've seen has been unimpressive. I found a local store that has the Konika-Minolta Maxxum 5D for less than the current average online price for the Pentax I'm considering, but it uses CF cards and a specialized battery. I already have 9 1/2 gig in SD cards and 2 sets of rechargable AA batteries. I'm not sure about the quality of the various SD-to-CF adaptors that I could find, and I didn't want to spend even more money for a spare battery. I briefly considered the Olympus E-500 with the dual lenses, but expensive+CF+li battery=nope.

(If applicable) Do you need any of the following special features? (Wide Angle, Image Stabilization, Weatherproof, Hotshoe, Rotating LCD)-IS is pretty much mandatory for me-it was the reason I got the S3 in the first place. Wide angle would be nice for group shots, but I think I'd have to live with the kit lens for the moment. I have a Phoenix slave flash with a hotshoe mount (one pin in the middle), so I can use that until I can pony up the cash for a better external flash. Weatherproofing would be nice, but I don't take the camera outside when there's a decent chance of rain. I did find the rotating LCD of the S3 to be useful at times, but I'm ready to sacrifice that capability. What I'd probably miss most would be the S3's movie mode-the thing does make a smashing camcorder in a pinch, but I've only really used it when getting a decent still shot meant using iso800, which I find to be waaaay too noisy, even at 4X6 prints.

Thanks in advance to anyone who reads all this and gives advice.
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Old Feb 10, 2007, 1:23 PM   #2
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grimlock-

Thanks for a very detailed post. In my personal opinion, either the Pentax K100D, the Canon XT/XTi,or the Nikon D-40 would be the appropiate choices for you.

The Pentax K-100D currently has a rebate on it, that might or might not be useful to you. The Pentax 18-55mm kit lens is a high quality kit lens. The camera uses AA batteries and SD chips, both of which you have on hand. There are a wide selection of Pentax and third party lenses available at reasonable cost for this camera. The K100D also has the SR or shake reduction, as Pentax calls it,which isthe IS feature that you desire.

The Canon XT/XTi is a popular camera, and as an Digital Camera Instructor I use it in my DSLR workshops, but I personally have aome personla qualms with the camera. Why, you ask? Well, at least for me the grip is far too pinched or inadequate. I never feel that I have 100% control of the XT in all axises of operation. I put a wrist strap on the XT a a bit of insurance. That was a good idea because that wrist strap has saved the XT from a fatal fall more than a few times while I was demo-ing the XT. Optically the XT and its follow-on the XTi are good cameras, and the have good high ISO performance, and a wide selection of lenses. The XT/XTi does not have any form of IS, except in their higher priced lenses, and then it only provides IS for that particular lens.

The Nikon D-40 is the new kid on the DSLR block, meaning that it is a new model. However, it has received a great reception and wonderful reviews. It was very skillfully designed to appeal to folks, like yourself, who are crossing over from point and shoot cameras to the DSLR world. It makes the cross over particularly easy but at the very same time, the very capable D-40 also appeals to experienced DSLR users who are tired of a very large kit filled with multiple lenses, flashes and the necessary accessories. The D-40 is smaller, agile, andmore likely to be used more often by the experienced DSLR user. Nikon with its well integrated TTL flash system even produced a small external and fully automatic flash, the SB-400 that, while it can be used on all Nikon DSLR cameras, the SB-400 is perfectly paired with the D-40 camera, once again dramatically reducing the size of the D-40 and SB-400 when paired together. The SB-400 uses two AA batteries. Performance-wise,the Nikon D-40 is a DSLR leader in handling and photo quality. However, with all this good news, there is one limitation. The D-40 can be used with all Nikkor AF-S and AF-I lenses as well as the Sigma lenses that use the HSM feature.

You might ask, why is that? It isthe fact that one of the things that was eliminated from the D-40 DSLR body was a lens focusing motor. The AF-2, AF-I, and HSM lenses have a focusing motor built into the lenses, that is why they work so well with the D-40. That does not mean that there is a limited number of lenses available for the D-40. In his brand new review,Steve lists all those lenses that the D-40 can use. You will find Steve's reviewat:

http://www.steves-digicams.com/2007_...nikon_d40.html

The Konica-Minolta 5D was a very fine DSLR camera. I have one. However when Sony took over K-M the 5D and its big brother, the 7D, have sort of become "orphans." Sony has not provided very support, good service,or warranty repair for the 5D or the 7D model K-M DSLR cameras. In fact, there is an actual lack of replacement parts for those cameras. So, personally, I would be very hesitant to purchase a new K-M 5D DSLR.

My preference is the Nikon D-40 as your best budget choice from this group. Keep in mind that with a DSLR camera you are buying into a system. So you have to look closely at the system. Canon and Nikon are the two major systems. For me, my choice was Nikon.

Another thing that is very important part of this selection process is actually visiting a camera store and physically handling these DSLR camera. As youmight recall from my Canon XT/XTi comments, the camera grip is a very personal thing. Get the one that works the best for you. Please don't bypass this "physically handling step, as it is very important.

Shooting under flourescent lighting is difficult with a point and shoot camera, but very easy with a DSLR camera, like the Nikon D-40 where you can either rather easily set a custom White balance, or use that small handy SB-400 flash in the bounce mode.

Iapologize for being solong. I hope this helps.

MT/Sarah
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Old Feb 10, 2007, 4:37 PM   #3
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I happen to have the K100 and love it. You sound like it might be a good camera for you - it sounds like you'd do well with the kit lens and the DA 50-200. There are various rebates going on right now, it would be worth checking out exactly what they are offering right now.

I found that the SR meant far more "keepers" than I had been getting with 200mm focal length (I had previously owned a DS). It isn't going to work miracles - it won't allow me to handhold a 300mm lens at 1/60 sec shutter speed, but it does make a difference (I couldn't reliably handhold a 200mm lens at 1/125 shutter speed, but can with the K100).

I found that I used the custom white balance feature more than the camera pre-setswhen it came to interior available light (non-flash)photos. It does reasonably well at ISOs through 800, and 1600 is useable, certainly better than the p&s cameras I had had owned before it.

Any Pentax lens ever made will work (screwmount lenses require an adaptor), though you won't suddenly have auto focus on a manual focuslens. I've been happily using 2 lenses that I bought in 1980, which can be found either on ebay or from second hand shops quite inexpensively. That really saved me money when I decided to buy a dSLR.

The only downside to the K100 is the downside to a dSLR - they are heavier, bulkier and will end up costing more if you decide that you just HAVE to have that fancy macro lens, that lovely old long telephoto, or _____ (fill in the blank with some lens that sounds fabulous to you). For your purposes it sounds like the kit lens, the DA 50-200 and perhaps a fast prime (there are several out there, the 50mm 1.4 or 1.7 being popular and not that expensive) is about all you would need. I'd opt for the kit and DA 50-200, then see if you feel a need for a faster lens for shooting indoors.
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Old Feb 10, 2007, 5:31 PM   #4
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It sounds to me like the K100D would be a very good choice, given your buudget and shooting needs.

For indoor work, you will want to use the custom white balance when possible to really get it right. Though the auto WB seems to do a decent job with florescent, the Pentax cameras tend to have a warm cast in indoor lighting (and I think sometimes outdoors) using the auto WB.

The biggest drawback seems to be the lack of higher end lenses available, but there are several new high end zooms coming out this year, and if you are operating on a budget right now, they will probably be available before you're ready to consider spending that kind of money anyway.

For portrait work, which is your main interest, there are some very good prime lenses available which will give outstanding results. On a budget, pick up one of the more recent 50mm 1.4 lenses used. The affordable 40mm 2.8 pancake lens also works well for portraits. And the 77mm 1.8 is very good but pricey. That also starts to get a bit too long for indoor portrature, but may be good for the glamour type look I think you want. You'd likely be better off though with a fast 70-200 2.8 type of zoom in that range for when you do have the room to use it (when it's in your budget). A zoom would also be more flexible than a prime.

P-FA 50mm 1.4 samples:
http://www.pbase.com/image/68456298
http://www.pbase.com/image/59749245
http://www.pbase.com/pablof/image/52495005

P-DA 40mm f2.8 limited samples:
http://www.pbase.com/image/70608125
http://www.pbase.com/image/60989985
http://www.pbase.com/leirong/image/64505118

P-FA 77mm f1.8 limited samples:
http://www.pbase.com/carpents/image/73740316
http://www.pbase.com/shien592/image/68244869
http://www.pbase.com/image/49032716

Sigma 70-200 f2.8 samples:
http://www.pbase.com/image/70168021
http://www.pbase.com/image/68280836

You will also be interesed in good lighting and post processing. Those will probably make even more of a difference than the lens.

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Old Feb 10, 2007, 5:59 PM   #5
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Thanks for all of the detailed responses so far, folks.

Mt-I did consider the Nikon D40 for a long time, as it's iso 800 & 1600 performance was better than the Pentax, and it used SD cards. Its menu system also looked more neophyte-friendly. If it wasn't for my need of IS and the absence of a AF motor in the body I'd get it instead.

Mntgal-It's like you read my mind. That's precisely what I was thinking about doing.

Kenbalbari-I love those shots. They are precisely the type of shots I'm hoping I can make once I get the hang of this stuff.


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Old Feb 10, 2007, 10:46 PM   #6
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Well then, grimlock-

Can we assume that you are headed toward a Pentax K100D? You could hold down the $$ if you wanted to get bywith the Pentax DS kit at $399, with all those inexpensive Pentax and third party lenses.But then you would not have the IS that you really desired.

Oh well, I was trying!

MT/Sarah
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Old Feb 11, 2007, 2:23 AM   #7
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Mt-Indeed, I've just about decided on the 100d. IS is just too important to me due to my hands, and I can't afford the Nikon IS lenses. To elaborate: when I first started trying to take pictures, I was using a Canon A620, and I was getting lousy shots because of my hand jitter. Using a flash bracket or a monopod didn't help, and my Vivitar tripod is too burdensome to carry about everywhere. I was getting so unhappy with my results that I almost gave up when I got a deal on the S3 after Thanksgiving last year. While I only took about 600 shots in 6 months with the A620, I've taken close to 1800 in 3 months with the S3 since I got it because its IS allowed me to get more keepers than I could have ever done with the A620. The only real reason that I want to go SLR is noise levels at higher iso's on the S3. Heck, I'd keep the S3 and get the Pentax, but my finances simply won't allow it. However, I've become too serious about photography not to step up at this point. To be honest, I still doubt that I can properly handle (even) an entry-level SLR at this point, but I doubt there's a P&S camera that'll come out in the next several years that will have decent noise without horrid noise reduction artifacts (like Panasonic, for instance) because of the "more megapixels is better!" crap (that I, admittedly, had initially fell for). Now, while higher iso's would allow me to shoot at faster shutter speeds without IS, I'm frankly too worried that not having it, even on an SLR, would be too detrimental considering the way I take shots (mostly handheld indoors while trying to use ambient light). Frankly, if I had the bankroll, I'd grab a high-end Nikon and a few IS lenses and go nuts, but my financial situation definitely won't allow that short of a lottery win. My choice for the 100d is what I feel to be the best compromise for my situation.

On to a related matter, I think I've found a couple of inexpensive lenses that might be a good compromise of quality and price, since I think it might be better for my budget to get the K100d body and pair it with them until I can build up more savings for better lenses. I didn't think it would be appropriate to ask about the lenses in this particular forum, so I made this thread in the Pentax Lenses forum. Again, I appreciate any advise in this regard.
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Old Feb 11, 2007, 6:21 AM   #8
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Grimlock-

Many thanks for sharing with us your situation and the wonderful advances that you have made in getting better and better photos. When considering the facts,it surely does seem that the SR feature found on the Pentax K100D will certainly be a big help to you. IMHO that is a good move for you and the K100D is an excellent consumer level DSLR camera.

Best of all, it seems that you most probablyhave physically handled the various consumer level DSLR cameras, checking the grip and the feel of the camera in hand to ascertain that the K100D fits your needs nicely.

Enjoy the K100D and post a photo or two to further share with us all, your continued progress. Congratulations!

MT/Sarah
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