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Old Feb 21, 2008, 3:53 AM   #1
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I am just getting started on the process of searching for a DSLR camera. For the most part, I am a total novice at photography, but I have dabbled on and off. Most of the time I am taking miscellaneous "typical vacation" photos (buildings, landscapes, people). I am also an archaeologist and sometimes take photos of excavation units, artifacts, and rock art for documentation as well as aesthetic purposes, often with a macro lens or a magnifying filter. Ideally, I would also like something that I can use to copy documents on occasion as well.

My main camera is an old Pentax K1000, which I like because there is so little to go wrong with it when I am out hiking somewhere. However, I've always hated the focus finder (is that the right term?), as I find it very hard to tell when an image is sharp, especially in lower light conditions or when using the macro lens. Carrying film around is also starting to become a pain, as is finding decent yet affordable places to have it developed. Also, after some disappointing results on a recent research trip, I am really warming to the idea of having the ability to look at my photos on the spot and/or download them to a laptop so that I can go back and correct problems while I am still in the field, instead of taking multiple trips. I have two ultra-cheap point and shoot digital cameras, but they aren't really adequate for serious work.

I have a number of very nice lenses for the manual Pentax, some of them given to me by my uncle who is a professional photographer. I'd like to be able to use these on any camera I buy, and I'd also like to be able to control everything manually when necessary.

Ideally, I'd like something that is rechargeable or uses standard batteries, has anti-shake integral to the camera body, has a short lag time when pressing the button, isn't too heavy, isn't too expensive, and is suitable for both the novice and more advanced user.

The Pentax DSLRs are one obvious avenue, but they seem expensive to me, and I am wondering what other makes I should be looking at so that I can get a realistic idea of price. I've not yet found a simple and quick way of looking at all the possible options that I can use my old lenses with--that's really the limiting factor at the moment. The research so far is exhausting and I'm getting frustrated.

Can anyone point me to a simple list or something similar?

Thanks.

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Old Feb 21, 2008, 5:03 AM   #2
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Well, if you want to be able to use your Pentax lenses, Pentax will be your only choice. Pentax bodies are competively priced (if anything, they are a bit cheaper than similiarly spec'd competitors)and have in body stabilization, so those points are covered. None of the DSLR's have viewfinders as bright or as suited to manual focus as your old manual camera. You may want to look at the used market in order to save a few bucks. Getting price info should be easy through the internet. B&H and Adorama are two of the best online vendors. To compare price, look at Nikon's D40, or D40x, or the newly released D60, or Canon's 400d or 450d. Neither has in body stabiliaztion. Sony has the A100 or A200 which is stabilized in body.
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Old Feb 21, 2008, 6:13 AM   #3
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Just to elaborate on rjseeney's reply, Pentax makes cameras for Samsung, so your lenses will also work with Samsung dSLRs. That doesn't expand your choices very much, but you might find a Samsung on sale somewhere for a price that is lower than an equivalent Pentax.

And while dSLRs don't have the kinds of focusing screens that help with manual focusing, they should, at least, provide you with focus confirmation as you manually focus.

Also, if you want to search for used equipment, KEH.com is probably the best place to look.
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Old Feb 21, 2008, 6:59 AM   #4
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I'm surprised that there aren't a lot of makes that use the k mount. Weren't there several 35mm cameras made that could use that style of mount? I seem to remember my Dad's camera being a Canon, and it uses the same mount style.

Thanks for the tips.
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Old Feb 21, 2008, 7:20 AM   #5
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Mander wrote:
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I'm surprised that there aren't a lot of makes that use the k mount. Weren't there several 35mm cameras made that could use that style of mount? I seem to remember my Dad's camera being a Canon, and it uses the same mount style.

Thanks for the tips.
There are certainly adapters for mounting any lens onto any camera body, but they mostly won't support autoexposure (not to mention autofocus) and many won't even support the focus confirmation I mentioned. Because of the lack of focusing aids inthe focusing screens used in today's dSLRs, you would almost certainly want focus confirmation.

Early Canon and Pentax SLRs both used a common screwthread for mounting lenses to bodies, but I don't think a K-Mount lens could be mounted to a Canon SLR body without one of the adapters I mentioned.
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Old Feb 21, 2008, 7:37 AM   #6
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Mander wrote:
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I'm surprised that there aren't a lot of makes that use the k mount. Weren't there several 35mm cameras made that could use that style of mount? I seem to remember my Dad's camera being a Canon, and it uses the same mount style.

Thanks for the tips.
My first SLR was a Ricoh that used the K mount. I'm sure there were others. There used to be quite a few fringe companies that made SLR's back in the day..some used Nikon or Canon or Pentax mounts. There are significantly fewer companies making DSLR's, and thus fewer choices.
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Old Feb 21, 2008, 2:14 PM   #7
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As was stated above, your only choices, really, are Samsung and Pentax. There aren't that many companies that have dSLR cameras out. The Pentax cameras do tend to be a bit cheaper price-wisethan their direct counterparts, but not because they are poorer quality. I have both the K10 and K100 and love them, they work well for me and I was able to use my old 1980 K mount lenses (I think you'll probably have a better selection than I did). That, in itself, made it a whole lot cheaper for me to buy a Pentax over another brand.
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Old Feb 22, 2008, 6:46 AM   #8
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Mander wrote:
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Ideally, I'd like something that is rechargeable or uses standard batteries, has anti-shake integral to the camera body, has a short lag time when pressing the button, isn't too heavy, isn't too expensive, and is suitable for both the novice and more advanced user.
You make several points here that would, in my mind, point you strongly to looking at the new Pentax K200 or the K10. You mention that your primary use would be archeological in nature. I would think that the ability to use AA batteries would be an advantage, especially if AC power for a charger might be in question at some archeological sites. You could buy two or three sets of rechargables, but then lay in a supply of non-rechargables, or even pick them up in the field, if necessary.

The K200 integrates all of the features you want, plus a couple of others that would be handy for this use, particularly weather sealing. Full weather sealing is only possible when also using a weather-sealed lens such as the DA* series, but even with the older manual lenses, having the body sealed, especially against dust, is a major plus.

The K10 has all the features of the K200, plus a few. It is a slightly, larger, heavier camera and uses a proprietary battery. As long as AC power is available, you can keep one on the charger and always have a fresh one. An additional advantage is the price drop on the K10 with the introduction of the new K20 and K200.

I have a K10 and routinely use the older manual focus lenses with it. It is difficult to beat the quality level of some of the older primes.

Good luck with your search, and be sure to stop by the Pentax forums to share your photos with us if you decide to go in that direction.

Paul
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