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Old Jun 15, 2007, 9:35 AM   #1
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I have been using a 2MP Canon P & S, and want to buy a new DSLR for general photography. I have been researching the subject for two weeks, and am close to deciding on what I want, but would like some member advice about the matter.

I am new on the forum, so let me first give a bit on my background.

My forum name is Old Engineer. I selected that name because I am OLD, 80 years at last count. Engineer, for that has been my profession for 57 years. I am somewhat handicapped in the body, but I think my mind is still good. My present occupation is writing patents. I just mailed of my latest patent application, some 120 pages plus 49 sheets of computer-generated drawings. I have always had a camera, and can't imagine being happy without one at my disposal. I will be shooting pix of my eight grandchildren, subjects of artistic beauty, my roses, my wife, myself, scenes which I will later produce in watercolor paints, and selections from my 4,000 plus slde collection which I will put on CDs and pass out to my family for their records.

I plan on reproducing the slides by photographing projections of them on a movie screen or white bedsheet using a carousel slide projector. I would appreciate any better ideas on that setup.

I am down to a choice of one of two cameras, either the Pentax K10D or the Sony Alpha A100. I need help on deciding which to buy.

My first thought was to buy the Pentax, as I have four pentax lenses bought about 30 years ago. I thought they would work on the K10D body, but took them to a camera store, tried them, and they won't do the automatic functions. I think too that the Pentax might not produce as sharp an image as I want, and I would like commentary on that subject.

I next settled on a Sony Alpha A100, It has the characteristics I think are important to me, namely: 10 MP, good source of used lenses, sharp images, in-camera anti-shake, sensor dust removal. It apparently has some problems with noise at high ISOs, but I think I can work around that.

The one thing that holds me back on the Sony is the way to process RAW images. I see that the Pentax does this in-camera, but that it is not too successful in improving over the Jpegs. Can anyone tell me the best route to process Raw from the Sony. Can it do it in-camera? I don't have Photoshop, and don't want to lay out the bucks to buy it. Are there any cheap programs for converting Raw to Jpeg?

I really will appreciate your help.

Old Engineer
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Old Jun 15, 2007, 10:31 AM   #2
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Old Engineer wrote:
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...80 years at last count ...
:lol::lol::lol:

Welcome to the forums! We can always use a lighthearted engineer!

Old Engineer wrote:
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I plan on reproducing the slides by photographing projections of them on a movie screen or white bedsheet using a carousel slide projector. I would appreciate any better ideas on that setup.
Even your best efforts won't turn out nearly as well as having them scanned by a professional. It will definitely cost more, but it will be done faster and the results will be much better.

Old Engineer wrote:
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The one thing that holds me back on the Sony is the way to process RAW images. I see that the Pentax does this in-camera, but that it is not too successful in improving over the Jpegs. Can anyone tell me the best route to process Raw from the Sony. Can it do it in-camera? I don't have Photoshop, and don't want to lay out the bucks to buy it. Are there any cheap programs for converting Raw to Jpeg?
Both the Pentax K10D and the Sony A-100 are fine cameras that will serve you well.

RAW image files are not processed, either in the Pentax or the Sony. And there are several great image editing applications that will work with RAW image files from both cameras. I use Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0 ($99 list), but there are lots more. As I understand it, some are even free downloads, though I'm not familiar with those.

In addition to the large market for used Minolta lenses, the Sony also has Carl Zeiss lenses (as a long-timeengineer, you may have heard that name before, and always accompanied by superlatives) which, if you've got the money, are better than anything Pentax has.
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Old Jun 15, 2007, 10:38 AM   #3
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Duplicate post while trying to correct a post that WowBB chewed up and spat out.

Not my day.
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Old Jun 15, 2007, 1:04 PM   #4
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old engineer-

I am also a retired engineer, so I can relate a bit.

In the long term, because of the availability of a good number of used Minolta lenses that will fit the Sony A-100 and offer fully automatic focusing and exposure, IMO I would give the A-100 a little more priority than the K-10.

Make it a bit easier on your self and get your feet wet and become comfortable with DSLR cameras by first using the .jpg format and honing your skills before moving to using the RAW format which has a much more complex worflow.

All RAW processing is done in your computer, rather than in the camera.

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Old Jun 15, 2007, 6:05 PM   #5
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I disagree with those that give the Sony an edge over the Pentax K10. I love my K10 and have a great time using my old lenses (bought in 1980) on it - it's saved me quite a bit of money and most of my old lenses are really sharp (sharper than some newer lenses). Granted, an M lens is still an M lens - something that was made as a manual lens won't suddenly have capabilities that it wasn't made with. I think that Minolta lenses are much the same way, plus from what I heard when I first looked at dSLR cameras, you needed to make sure you buy Maxxim lenses, ones earlier than that won't work (while all old Pentax lenses work on the K10). It used to be easy to pick up used Pentax lenses for very little, but unfortunately Pentax dSLR cameras are so popular that the prices for good used lenses has gone through the roof! I think that does speak volumes about the quality of the K10.

What automatic functions are you going to miss with old lenses? While I like auto focus, I've discovered that it pays to practice "seeing" the focus manually - any AF system can focus on the wrong thing if you aren't careful (they aren't fool-proof).AF is themain thing I miss when using my old lenses. My M lenses aren't a big deal when it comes to exposure - set the aperture on the lens, then push a button for the camera to meter, focusand take the picture. Pushing an extra button isn't that big of a deal to me - today I switched to an A lens for a bit and found myself automatically pushing the button even though I didn't need to.

While I use the full version of Photoshop, just about everything I normally do can be done in Photoshop Elements - that would be my suggestion for software. The most recent version comes with a raw converter that works quite well. Another suggestion when it comes to Pentax is to use the software that comes with the camera. I've used it and while the raw converter is a bit complicated at first, it does allow you to make all kinds of adjustments to your picture if you want. I don't have any experience with what software comes with the Sony, but I would imagine that it has something useable too.

Noise is a personal thing - it bothers some people more than others. There are a number of either free or not very expensive programs that work very well (I've used Neat Image fora couple of years, many love Noise Ninja). If you don't want to take the extra step of using noise reductionsoftware, then the Pentax would have the edge. If you are always shooting outside in bright light, then perhaps it won't matter.
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Old Jun 15, 2007, 6:20 PM   #6
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To all who have or will reply to my call for help, many, many thanks.

I have decided on the Sony A100 over the Pentax K10D. My reasons: I believe I will be getting sharper images with the A100 when using comparable lenses. The wide availability of minolta lenses is important to me. Pentax was recently acquired by the Hoya company, and, although Hoya is a major player, and has been for a long time, one cannot be sure about their long-term intentions for Pentax. Sony has bought rights from Konica-Minolta, has added some of their expertise in systems, and, because the KM line was top notch I think the future under the Sony banner will be bright,

I plan on buying the body in a body-only package, maybe adding the 18-55 kit lens, but probably not. I will look for a used 50mm x 1.4 or 1.7 prime AF lens to start out. Then, as I learn more about the camera I will add one or two zoom lenses. I would also like to do some really close-up work, but I don't know what I will need to do that.

Can I use extension rings for close up work? I suppose that will eliminate AF on such shots? If you can give me answers on that subject, or recommend a different lens approach, please let me hear from you.

Many thanks to all,

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Old Jun 15, 2007, 7:25 PM   #7
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Old Engineer wrote:
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I have decided on the Sony A100 over the Pentax K10D. My reasons: I believe I will be getting sharper images with the A100 when using comparable lenses. The wide availability of minolta lenses is important to me. Pentax was recently acquired by the Hoya company, and, although Hoya is a major player, and has been for a long time, one cannot be sure about their long-term intentions for Pentax. Sony has bought rights from Konica-Minolta, has added some of their expertise in systems, and, because the KM line was top notch I think the future under the Sony banner will be bright,
I'm sure you'll be very happy with your decision.

Old Engineer wrote:
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I plan on buying the body in a body-only package, maybe adding the 18-55 kit lens, but probably not. I will look for a used 50mm x 1.4 or 1.7 prime AF lens to start out. Then, as I learn more about the camera I will add one or two zoom lenses.
KEH.com has a really good selection of used Minolta lenses, and Adorama.com and BHPhotoVideo.com are also good sources. The 50mm f/1.4 is still in production under the Sony banner, but the f/1.7 is only available used.

Keep in mind that, with the 1.5 crop factor (a 35mm film exposure is 50% larger than the image sensor in the A100), a 50mm lens will have the same field of view as a 75mm lens on a 35mm film camera. So a 50mm lens won't be the kind of "standard" lens you might be expecting.

Old Engineer wrote:
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I would also like to do some really close-up work, but I don't know what I will need to do that.

Can I use extension rings for close up work? I suppose that will eliminate AF on such shots? If you can give me answers on that subject, or recommend a different lens approach, please let me hear from you.
In addition to the wide selection of Macro lenses available for the A100, Kenko makes Auto Extension Tube Set [.]http://www.thkphoto.com/products/kenko/slrc-04.html]. Extension tubes greatly diminish the amount of light that enters the camera, and AutoFocus stops working at f/8, so you should start with the brightest lenses possible. Or forget the extension tubes and go with a conventional Macro lens [http://www.sonystyle.com/webapp/wcs/...tegoryId=32332]. of course, none of these are going to focus as close as a conventional lens on an extension tube or two.

Good luck with your choices, and let us know how you do.
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Old Jun 15, 2007, 7:53 PM   #8
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While there are some models that will allow in camera processing of RAW files (some of the Olympus models do), it's not really all that practical for regular use. For the most part, if you want the benefits of RAW, you want the benefits of more powerful software for processing. Otherwise, you'd do just as well, with less trouble, most of the time shooting jpeg.

But even shooting jpeg, it can be useful, at least some of the time,
to do some postprocessing. If you don't want to pay for Adobe or the equivalent, there are other free or inexpensive alternatives. I use a free program called the Gimp:

http://www.gimp.org/

It's perhaps not the most user friendly, but most of what you would want to learn would involve only a few commands, like levels, and unsharp mask, and a couple of more obvious ones like saturation and contrast. And there are plugins available that will read RAW files.

As for image sharpness, it really isn't impacted that much by the camera, if you are talking about current DSLRs. It depends mostly on the lens. The other big factor will be processing. Some models may do more in camera sharpening by default when shooting jpeg, but you can normally set that in camera. The drawback of too much sharpening in camera is that it can cause some artifacts, and software may do a better job in postprocessing anyway. So those who postprocess regularly often actually prefer softer jpegs. But I don't think anyone prefers a soft lens.

Apart from all that though, I think the A100 may still actually provide a bit sharper jpegs than the K10D for one other reason--less agressive noise reduction. So there's a bit of a tradeoff there at higher ISO, where you get more noise, but also more detail (and sharpness).

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Old Jun 16, 2007, 2:36 AM   #9
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If you are looking for just one piece of software for all your photographic needs you should give Adobe Lightroom a look.

Any of the DSLRs will give decent results. Just make sure you handle the camera before you buy, as you may well find a preference on the ergonomics of one over another.


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Old Jun 20, 2007, 11:06 AM   #10
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BTW, I don't know if this will have any affect on your decision, but you mentioned that you were interested in Macrophotography, and for that, I think Sony has better options for flash (http://www.sonystyle.com/webapp/wcs/...tegoryId=32340 ) than does Pentax (http://www.pentaxslr.com/flashes )

Edit: Moot.
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