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Old Oct 19, 2009, 11:21 AM   #1
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Default Looking for a "good DSLR + better lens" deal

Hi everybody,

So, here's my situation. I've had a Pentax K100D for about three years now. I have been satisfied with it up until around January when it began to malfunction. The repairs looked like they might be costly and I refrained from repairing the machine, thinking that I would just get a new body instead. Now, it will soon be a year since the beginning of the malfunction and I have not yet bought another body. It has not been a bad decision as my photography has continued to grow despite this. That said, about a quarter of my images are still unusable due to the sensor malfunction, and there are a few other respects in which the K100D no longer satisfies me. These are:

The raw buffer filling up too quickly. (major)
Slow low light autofocus. (minor)
Not the greatest ISO 800 image quality. (sometimes major)

I have also been slowly experimenting with printing larger images in recent months. I cannot say that I've done it enough to honestly claim that the camera is really limiting me in this reguard... I believe that my ability to evaluate the quality of a large print needs to catch up in order for me to make these kinds of judgments. Still, more megapixels sound like they would certainly be beneficial to me from the point of view of printing large.

All the above is to say that I am looking to buy another DSLR.

Since purchasing the K100D kit, I have bought no brand-name items to supplement it, so commitment to a system is not an issue here.

Really, I am looking to buy a good body with a very good to excellent lens at this point (knowing me, its doubtful that I will spend major money on a quality lens later...). The amount I am willing to spend is in the $700-$1200 range.

As far as the body goes, at first, I was only looking at the 15 megapixel cameras believing that this was what I needed to get that extra edge for large printing. However, having read some of the reviews, I am no longer sure that this is the case. My current understanding is that these cameras actually produce worse than their lower-megapixel siblings unless you have a very pricy lens to go with them. Furthermore, one review seemed to imply that a slightly lower-megapixel camera with superior detail might actually blow up better than its high MP counterpart. (To experts and people who make large prints, what is your opinion on this issue?) Therefore, I am now considering the 12-15MP range.

The lens is probably the bigger issue though. The more I read, the more I hear the opinion that it is far more important than the body. In terms of the range, I have never felt restricted by the 18-55 and would certainly hate to lose the wide angle. I would, however, like to experience what people mean by a very sharp lens.

So that's it then - are there any particular deals around which might satisfy what I am looking for?

Thank you for your time,

- Bpp

PS, I currently only shoot RAW and don't see myself going back to JPGs any time soon.

PPS, I am not in a terrible hurry and could wait a few months if that's what it takes.
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Old Oct 19, 2009, 11:36 AM   #2
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couple of quick things that came to mind as i am sitting at work.

sony a700 with sigma 17-70. good piece of glass and sony body give it image stab.

pentax kx or k20 with same lens. for same reason.

both give good high iso performance. and will shoot approximately 15 raw (5x that of your k100) images before filling up the buffer.

edit- sorry for briefness, at work, will add more later. or weigh in on others incoming opinions.
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Old Oct 19, 2009, 12:12 PM   #3
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That is excellent input, Hards, thanks-

There is developing a whole new observation: the 15mp imager has been observed to demonstrate some pixel density/reduced photo site size problems. The hypothesis is that the new Sony 12mp imager, might indeed produce a cleaner/better image quality.

We will have to watch DSLR cameras using that new Sony 12mp imager:it is found on the Nikon D-5000/D-90, the Pentax KX, and the Sony A-500. That new imager is currently being favored for its numerically higher ISO capability, perhaps there are added advantages.

Sarah Joyce
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Old Oct 19, 2009, 12:34 PM   #4
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I agree with Hards80, but I'll add that the A700 is discontinued and is getting harder and harder to find. If you don't hurry, you might miss it.

The Sigma 17-70 that he mentioned is reasonably priced, fast, sharp, a good range, and a 1:2.3 macro lens to boot. It will give you good results whatever body you hang it on. But it will only be stabilized on a Pentax or Sony body.

You didn't mention the types of photography you like to do, so there's no way for us to know if image stabilization would help you or not. You've had it with your K100D, but if you've always had reasonably fast shutter speeds then it doesn't matter as much.

The Pentax KX and Sony A500 that mtclimber mentioned are new and look very promising, and the other cameras she mention are also good choices.

If you're looking at printing large images and you're able to keep the ISO down, a larger image sensor will work well for you. The noise problem only occurs when useing higher ISO settings, and even at that, the more pixels you've got, the less impact a few errant pixels have on the quality of the entire image. That is, even if an image sensor that's 25% bigger than another produces 33% more noise, that noise isn't as apparent because each individual pixel contributes less to the whole image. And again, the issue is only of concern at higher ISOs.
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Old Oct 19, 2009, 6:26 PM   #5
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Hi guys,

Thanks for the advice! That Sigma 17-80 looks pretty sweet indeed. I might just get it even if I decide to wait on the body. Are there some inexpensive online retailers that have it in stock? Also, has anyone had the chance to try both it and the Tamron 17-50?... both seem quite nice.

Of course, I wouldn't really want these lenses if I decided to go for Nikon or Canon, which is not entirely impossible. The Xsi, for example, seems nice and affordable and not much worse than the Xti. Does anyone know anything about its RAW buffer rate as compared with the competition?

Also, I am curious why people are recommending the Sony in particular. Is it because it is currently in the same price-range as the Xti/Xsi but is actually a quality grade higher (though also a generation older)? I never actually investigated this camera until today.

Finally, the kind of shooting I am doing now is the following:
- street photography
- portraits
- parties
- landscapes
- occasionally flowers or other smallish objects

Thanks again,

- Bpp
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Old Oct 19, 2009, 7:07 PM   #6
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I had the Tamron 17-50/2.8 and was very pleased with it. The Sigma 17-70 isn't as fast at the long end, but it's longer, focuses closer, and it's about $100 cheaper. And both of them work just as well on a Nikon or Canon as they do on a Pentax or Sony. I'm intrigued by you're comment. Why wouldn't you get either of these lenses for a canon or Nikon?
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Old Oct 19, 2009, 7:08 PM   #7
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i did not suggest the xsi because your stipulation on raw buffer. as it will fill up after 6 or 7 shots. otherwise its a great camera.

the nikon d5000 does a little better at 11 frame. but i have trouble to recommend the nikon's without a built in focus motor. probably for most its not an issue, but i am uncomfortable with it.

i made my recommendations of the sony and the pentax based on your price point, your shooting requirements and because both cameras have a rather large RAW buffer, which was important to you.

and yes, with the sony a700's current prices, you really get a semi-pro camera for price that competes with the upper entry level dslrs.
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Old Oct 19, 2009, 8:21 PM   #8
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Thanks for the explanation, Hards.

As for the reason why I wouldn't want to use the Sigma on the Canon or Nikon - image stabilization; hard to picture life without it.

- Bpp
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Old Oct 20, 2009, 3:12 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ballpointpenner View Post
As for the reason why I wouldn't want to use the Sigma on the Canon or Nikon - image stabilization; hard to picture life without it.
I'm a big fan of image stabilization myself. But if you've been able to keep the shutter speeds fast enough in the past, there's no reason to think that you won't in the future, especially with a faster lens. So there's no reason to think that not having image stabilization will be a handicap.

But both Tamron and Sigma have stabilized larger aperture standard zoom lenses. Tamron just released a stabilized version of their very popular 17-50/2.8 lens, and Sigma has a stabilized 18-50/2.8-4.5. They're relatively new, so there haven't been any in-depth tests of them, but they promise to be very good, and they're faster than the kit lenses.
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Old Oct 20, 2009, 5:52 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hards80 View Post
sony a700 with sigma 17-70. good piece of glass and sony body give it image stab.

pentax kx or k20 with same lens. for same reason.

both give good high iso performance. and will shoot approximately 15 raw (5x that of your k100) images before filling up the buffer.
If performance is a big concern, the Sony A700 is a much faster camera, with much faster write speeds to memory cards (it can take advantage of newer UDMA Cards).

For example, if you look at the Performance (timing and file sizes) section of their reviews over at dpreview.com, the Sony can shoot cRAW (compressed raw) at 4.9 frames/second for 28 frames before slowing down to 3.1 frames/second with a full buffer *if* you use a fast card (the results they got with a Sandisk Extreme IV).

If you don't want to shoot in cRAW (compressed RAW), which is how I normally shoot, you can shoot in RAW (larger file sizes) for 20 frames at 4.9 frames/second before slowing down to around 2.1 frames/second with a full buffer using a fast 300x (45MB/Second) card.

In contrast, the Pentax K20D was limited to 16 frames (even with a fast Sandisk Ducati SDHC card) at a slower 2.9 frames/second before slowing down to slightly less than 1 frame/second with a full buffer.

You can see some user reported write speeds with the Sony A700 using various CompactFlash cards here. With newer 300x UDMA cards, it can write raw files at approximately 37MB/Second:

http://www.dyxum.com/reviews/cfcard/index.asp?cam=a700

I'd also check out the A900 results at rob galbraith's site (the write speeds to media shooting raw are going to be as good or faster in MB/Second with the A700). Both cameras can write at >30MB/Second to a fast 300x UDMA card when shooting raw.

http://www.robgalbraith.com/bins/cam...?cid=6007-9652

He hasn't updated the tests lately with newer cards, but I suspect the new 600x UDMA mode 6 cards (600x CF cards are now available from Sandisk and Transcend) are going to let these cameras shoot even faster with a full buffer.

But, unless you're taking lots of bursts shooting raw (for example, taking bursts of of race cars moving or something similar, where you may be taking lots of bursts of cars going by, allowing a buffer to fill up), you probably don't need that kind of performance.

P.S.

If you do need to shoot action with lots of bursts, I think you'll find that the AF performance is much better with the Sony, too. Here's one discussion about it (including comparisons with the K20D and popular models from Nikon and Canon):

http://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/p...good-info.html

Here's a "field test" of the a700 that includes some discussion of it's AF performance at 5fps.

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/re...%20-A700.shtml
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