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Old Mar 18, 2008, 9:32 PM   #1
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Which one would you guys dive for? I'm not a pro obviously. Just going on some trips to sunny beaches and exotic places looking for a SLR that can be a good walk around camera with a nice lens or two to go with it. I've been researching for some time and have narrowed it down to these units. Of course always open to new ideas.
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Old Mar 18, 2008, 11:26 PM   #2
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I have the Pentax K100 (and the K10)and love it. Any of these three cameras will give you excellent results. No matter what camera you get, you'd probably want to buy 2 lenses (at least). Optically it is hard to make a lens that will do everything well. Pentax and Sony have the best selection when it comes to used lenses - Pentax can use any lens that they've ever made (along with a large number of thirdparty lenses) while Sony can use the Minolta Maxxum lenses. Only caviat with buying used lenses - make sure you understand what the capabilities are of the lens you are buying. Pentax lenses will retain whatever capability they were made with - if they were originally auto focus/auto exposure, they will continue to be so. However, if they were manual lenses to begin with, they won't suddenly become auto focus lenses (though they will work quite nicely and can be a low-cost alternative).

The biggest differences between these three cameras is the size and weight. Make sure you have handled all three cameras - you might find that one will be more comfortable for you, while another one might be too small/big/heavy/light etc. Also check the viewfinders - you'll be spending a fair amount of time looking through it (especially if you end up doing macro or have manual focus lenses). If your primary use is travel, imagine carrying that weight around your neck or on your shoulder/backall day.

One nice thing about the K200 is the weather sealing. I have it on the K10 and find it's very useful for taking pictures when its snowing, or dusty.
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Old Mar 19, 2008, 9:27 AM   #3
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Yes the weather sealing on the K200D is something I'm interested in. What about the lens though? How great are they for staying clean and do I have to spend an arm and a leg for one of those that will? All three of these cameras are roughly the same size. One might be .3 smaller in one area but then .3 larger in the other. The E-510 is a nice camera but I've started hearing how some wish they had the larger sensor, better AF, and I think they say it has a tendency to over expose. So now I'm tossing up between the A200/A300 and the Pentax.
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Old Mar 19, 2008, 11:48 AM   #4
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ToiletDuck wrote:
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The E-510 is a nice camera but I've started hearing how some wish they had the larger sensor, better AF, and I think they say it has a tendency to over expose. So now I'm tossing up between the A200/A300 and the Pentax.
Most E-510 owners like their cameras. But, a camera using a smaller sensor does tend to have a few drawbacks, compared to the lastest sensors from some of their competition.

Even though you need to take each camera on a case by case basis (versus looking at sensor size alone), the 4/3s system does lag behind some of the others, probably because of photosite size. But, Olympus has made a lot of improvements in this area with the new E-3 model. Hopefully, that trend will continue with newer Olympus models being introduced (for example, the new E-420).

As for the Olympus E-510, it's Dynamic Range is somewhat lower than some of the other models around, like the A200/A300 models you're looking at, and it's Autofocus System is slower.

The Sony A200 tests much faster. Dave over at imaging-resource.com got a full Autofocus Lag of 0.189 seconds for the Sony DSLR-A200. The Olympus tested at 0.35 seconds. That means the Sony is roughly twice as fast in the light Dave tested in. Here are how some of the under $1000 models compare in this area now:

Full Autofocus Lag:
Sony A200 0.189 second
Canon XTi 0.20 second
Nikon D40x 0.243 second
Pentax K10D 0.254 second
Olympus E-510 0.35 second

But, that's good light. If you look at some of the AF speed tests at places like popphoto.com for the E-510, not only is it slower than most other DSLR models, it slows down more as light drops off, giving up sooner.

In contrast, even the old Sony DSLR-A100 (which is slow compared to the new DSLR-A200) could focus down to EV -1 lighting (twice as dark as a number of DSLR models), and the new DSLR-A200 is roughly 1.7 times as fast as the A100, with a nice 9 point Autofocus System with better tracking algorithms compared to the old A100.

Others have noticed it, too. For example, Jeff Keller over at dcresource commented on the E-510 being slow in low light with the flash closed, and mentioned it giving up too soon. Dave Etchells over a imaging-resource also commented on it. For example, note the "has trouble focusing in low light" in the E510 review cons section there.

The imatest results I've seen for the E-510 over at imaging-resource.com show it's DR is considerably lower than the new A200 (you'll see both cameras in the A200 reviews' DR tests there using imatest). It's got the lowest Dynamic Range of any camera they've ever tested. That means if you expose the midtones properly, you may get blown highlights in harsher lighting sooner than with many other camera models (i.e., it can't retain detail in areas as bright as some of it's competitors).

If you look at the DIWA labs tests using DXO Analyzer, the E-510 even had lower Dynamic Range than any point and shoot model they've tested so far, and it's nowhere near as good as most other DSLR models they've tested. Click on a model here and you'll find a Dynamic Range chart in the list:

http://www.diwa-labs.com/wip4/test_result.epl

Fortunately, the new Olympus E-3 is much better in the Dynamic Range and Autofocus Speed areas. Hopefully, this trend will continue with other new Olympus models.

If the A200 and E-510 are the around the same price, it would be a "no brainer" to me. With the Sony, you'd get a camera that's faster focusing, with better dynamic range.

Even if you don't shoot subjects like moving kids, or sports, or shoot much in lower light (where the Sony's better Autofocus system and available ISO 3200 setting could be a big benefit), you'd benefit from the better dynamic range in many lighting conditions, and you'd also have the benefit of being able to use any Minolta Autofocus lens ever made.

Note that I'm biased since I'm shooting with a Sony A700 now. :-)

Keep an eye out for Steve's Conclusion and samples soon in the Sony DSLR-A200 Review here (currently in first look status).

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Old Mar 19, 2008, 2:15 PM   #5
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Pentax lenses vary a great deal in price and capabilities, just like any other camera manufacturer's lenses do. I'm not sure what you mean by "staying clean" - are you talking about the anti-dust capabilities? If so, that's built into the camera and doesn't have to do with the lenses.

The Pentax kit lens is one of the better ones, and very inexpensive- I still use mine though I've had opportunities to buy more expensive lenses to replace it. I just don't feel any need to do so. It isn't the greatest in really low light (like in a mission built in the 1700's), but I have a fast wide-angle lens that I bought in 1980 for situations like that. If you are going to be doing a lot of things like that, there are several modern offerings from Tamron, Sigma and Pentax that are quite a bit more expensive, but would be more convenient.

If you want something that will "magnify" more than the kit lens, there are several choices that aren't expensive. The DA 50-200 is quite reasonably priced, generally well liked and is often sold as a second kit lens. Again, it isn't a fast lens so would be less capable in low-light, no flash situations, but faster lenses can quickly get very expensive.

My recommendation for a Pentax camera would be to get the D200, the kit lens and the DA 50-200. Later on you might feel a need to add something specific, but this is a good way to start off, and won't break the bank.
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Old Mar 19, 2008, 11:11 PM   #6
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Most of my shots are actually in very bright conditions. I fly a lot for an airline and when at 37,000ft in mid day you HAVE to have sunglasses on. When our radar shows another aircraft coming close by I want to be able to whip out my camera and shoot it! I'd also like to be able to shoot night approaches into airports and large cities like NYC. Nothing fast though. While a plane does move fast it seems slow relatively.
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Old Mar 20, 2008, 8:04 AM   #7
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In that case, I'd probably change my recommendation a bit - I'd still get the kit lens, but would probably look at either the Sigma 70-300 APO or the Tamron 70-300. I think you would find the DA 50-200 a bit short for aircraft in flight. Again, both lenses are reasonably priced (and also available in other mounts besides Pentax, by the way). Another option might be to get the Tamron 18-250 lens - it seems to be a reasonable lens for do-it-all. It won't give you top quality, but the samples I've seen posted are really pretty good for a one-lens solution. It's more expensive but could be something to check out as you would only have one lens.
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Old Mar 20, 2008, 8:14 AM   #8
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That's a good point on the Tamron 18-250mm as an all in one. It could be a bit more flexible for some of the photos while flying, without worrying about changing lenses, and it's available in popular camera mounts.

If you decide on a Sony, I'd get their 18-250mm instead. It's got the same basic optical design as the Tamron 18-250mm. But, Sony has regeared it for faster Autofocus (with only 12 turns of the focus screw from closest to infinity, versus 21 turns with the Tamron), added rounded aperture blades for better bokeh and improved the external finish a bit.

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Old Mar 20, 2008, 8:22 AM   #9
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P.S. The Tamron version of it is also well liked for this type of lens, and it costs a little less than the Sony version (and it's available for popular models including the Pentax you're looking at, as mtngal pointed out).
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Old Mar 20, 2008, 8:31 AM   #10
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I didn't know anyone had any stock of the Pentax K200D here yet. But, Dell is showing them in stock now. They're also showing it on sale at $719.99 for the kit (you can see the lower $80 off sale price for it on their web site). Here's a price search:

http://www50.shopping.com/xPC-Pentax...h-18-55mm-lens

So, we should start seeing some feedback from new owners soon (if they really have them now).

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