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Old Jan 18, 2010, 10:40 PM   #1
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Default First DSLR - Consider Pentax K-x model vs. Canon T1i and Nikon D90 "systems"

I'm on the verge ofpulling the trigger on my first DSLR purchase. I've owned a bunch of P&S models over the years but want to up the performance in low light with no flash and to get some better frozen action sports events for my kids. Probably 70% nature and vacation scenery, the remainder low light indoor stage eprformance with no flash, high school basketball and soccer, and the occasional macro of bugs, flowers, etc.

I've narroed down my research to three models: Nikon D90, Canon T1i, and Pentax K-X. I have held and played with all of them at local retailers, but admittedly have no truely rented them or used them for in-the-field shooting.

My dilemma is the usual array of PROs and CONs for each for my specific needs, so was hoping to solicit some opinions. I'm likely a user who would get a body, one small lens, one large zoom and maybe an external flash. At this time I do not see myself with an army of lenses and accessories to carry. The video shooting capability is just icing on the cake, I'd use for the occasional spontaneous clip but not at all the primary feature.

I like the feel of the Pentax K-X best and every review I read glows over low light performance, features for a base model, and great quality kit lenses (18-55 & 55-300). An added bonus is this would be the cheapest of the three. Holding me back here is lack of tethered shooting ability. I think I'd really enjoy this to learn, experiment, and eventually take product photos for my wife's business.

The T1i seems like the middle ground for price, but reviews talk about lackluster kit lenses and modest focus and low-light performance. I just hate the idea of trading ultimate image quality just to gain the breadth of lens and accessory availability and tethering.

Finally the D90 seems to be the best of all worlds. Admittedly a higher tier model so I'd be shooting for pre-owned or refurb from an online reputable retailer. This seems to have all the bells and whistles, great picture quality, tether abillity, and a breadth of lenses and accessories available. I'm just a little hesitant that this model may be overly complex for a DSLR beginner and I might become frustrated with fighting so many settings and features to get great images.

I'd appreciate any feedback, experience, or suggestions on my dilemma. I know I'll have to read past the fanboys for each brand. It seems I'm fighting the Pentax K-X which is the body I like best against the "systems" of the other two big brands. I think if the Pentax could tether shoot then I'd be finished.

Thanks for reading the novel ... and in advance for any comments.
Bob
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Old Jan 18, 2010, 10:55 PM   #2
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Bob-

Welcome to the Forum. We pleased that you dropped by.

The Pentax Kx does offer a lot of bang for the buck. Its the bargain leader in your group of three. I found a Nikon D-90 on sale and went for that camera, as it offered an excellent price and the high ISO capabilities, in a tried and true Nikon format with a wide variety of available lenses.

Things are slow on the Forum this late at night. However, I am sure that you will lot of replies tomorrow.

Have a great tomorrow.

Sarah Joyce
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Old Jan 18, 2010, 11:23 PM   #3
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Quote:
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I'm on the verge ofpulling the trigger on my first DSLR purchase. I've owned a bunch of P&S models over the years but want to up the performance in low light with no flash and to get some better frozen action sports events for my kids. Probably 70% nature and vacation scenery, the remainder low light indoor stage eprformance with no flash, high school basketball and soccer, and the occasional macro of bugs, flowers, etc.

I've narroed down my research to three models: Nikon D90, Canon T1i, and Pentax K-X. I have held and played with all of them at local retailers, but admittedly have no truely rented them or used them for in-the-field shooting.

My dilemma is the usual array of PROs and CONs for each for my specific needs, so was hoping to solicit some opinions. I'm likely a user who would get a body, one small lens, one large zoom and maybe an external flash. At this time I do not see myself with an army of lenses and accessories to carry. The video shooting capability is just icing on the cake, I'd use for the occasional spontaneous clip but not at all the primary feature.

I like the feel of the Pentax K-X best and every review I read glows over low light performance, features for a base model, and great quality kit lenses (18-55 & 55-300). An added bonus is this would be the cheapest of the three. Holding me back here is lack of tethered shooting ability. I think I'd really enjoy this to learn, experiment, and eventually take product photos for my wife's business.

The T1i seems like the middle ground for price, but reviews talk about lackluster kit lenses and modest focus and low-light performance. I just hate the idea of trading ultimate image quality just to gain the breadth of lens and accessory availability and tethering.

Finally the D90 seems to be the best of all worlds. Admittedly a higher tier model so I'd be shooting for pre-owned or refurb from an online reputable retailer. This seems to have all the bells and whistles, great picture quality, tether abillity, and a breadth of lenses and accessories available. I'm just a little hesitant that this model may be overly complex for a DSLR beginner and I might become frustrated with fighting so many settings and features to get great images.

I'd appreciate any feedback, experience, or suggestions on my dilemma. I know I'll have to read past the fanboys for each brand. It seems I'm fighting the Pentax K-X which is the body I like best against the "systems" of the other two big brands. I think if the Pentax could tether shoot then I'd be finished.

Thanks for reading the novel ... and in advance for any comments.
Bob
Alright, lets start to answer this question.

First, the D90 while not an entry-level camera does not offer an steeper learning curve than any entry-level dslr. they all have the same functions and the same shooting modes. and the D90 is a very capable camera and would be an excellent choice, and you get the nikon flash system, the best flash system there is.

The information you have on the T1I is just wrong. The 18-55 IS is one of the better performing kit lenses on any entry-level camera, it is sharp, has a great image-stabilization system and focuses reasonably fast for a non-usm motor. (also keep in mind that the kit lenses for most systems are quite good, none are bad, this is just one of the better ones). and actually the autofocus on the t1i is arguably the best on any entry-level system, particularly in tracking moving subjects and in lower light. This camera competes well with the d90 in image quality and functionality, albeit with a more consumer build quality.

the K-X represents the best bargain in entry-level cameras IMO. it offers great image quality, especially at higher-iso where it is the leader (again caveat, most of the entry-level aps-c systems do quite well at high-iso). it can also work with all of pentax's older lenses and there nice selection of prime lenses. overall a good value. but its autofocus and flash isnt quite up to canon and nikon.

really, you can't go wrong with either system. they are all great choices.

i suggest you head down to your local camera store and try each of them out. to get a feel for which camera feels most comfortable in your hand.
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Old Jan 18, 2010, 11:35 PM   #4
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I own a t1i and the review really do not do it justice, It will perform in low light just as well at the pentax. And will be able to get a focus lock where pretty much every other brand can not. It has the best Auto Focus system out there.

The kit lenses are very good actually. It seems most do not like the fact that they have a plastic mount ring vs a metal. Allot of review ding the kit lens for that reason saying the are not that good. I have higher end lenses for a Eos 1, which were allot more expensive then the kit lenses. And to be honest they compare quite well against my ef 28-135mm and my ef 70-300mm lenses. And since I had a chance to compare the kit lens of the t1i to the pentax. And the canon kit lens are just as good and they are very sharp. And to be honest, allot of the reviews out there pit the T1i against the D90, that should tell you something about how good it is actually. It was design to compete against the d5000 not the d90 a higher end camera. Canon made a high end "entry dslr" that can compete with the next tier camera.

My brother has the K-x and it is a excellent camera. He liked the ergo of the pentax the most, and he will be shooting in very low light allot. And I have tested the K-x next to my T1i in low light, and both are very good performers. Only in the extreme cases will the K-x not achieve an AF lock while the canon T1i can. Both camera are 12800 iso camera, only ones in their class to offer it. If you go with the K-x which it seem you are leaning toward, you really should have no buyers remorse as it is a excellent camera.

The D90 is the best camera between the 3 you mention, as it is a higher end camera. And it will have feature that the other will not have. And the price reflects it. Do not need to say more as it is an excellent camera.

In the lens add on department the d90 and t1i are tied, as both canon and nikon have the largest selection of lenses out there. The pentax has good lenses but not as many as the other two to choose from.

If you are not sure you want to commit to the D90 due to price. You can save the money and will have a great camera in the t1i or k-x. And use the saving for a good fast prime and flash. And you will be ready to go.

video is not a biggy for me
T1i is the only one that shots 1080, while the k-x and d90 shots at 720.

But if you plan to travel with this camera, the d90 was a little big for my needs. And since my wife also uses the camera, she found the D90 to large to handle comfortably. It may be a consideration for you look at. The K-x and T1i are lighter and easier to handle.
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Last edited by shoturtle; Jan 18, 2010 at 11:48 PM.
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Old Jan 19, 2010, 5:31 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobTh View Post
... want to up the performance in low light with no flash ...
That means large apertures, high ISOs and/or slow shutter speeds.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RobTh View Post
... and to get some better frozen action sports events for my kids. ...
That means fast shutter speeds.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RobTh View Post
... Probably 70% nature and vacation scenery, ...
That probably means the kit lens and maybe a long telephoto zoom lens.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RobTh View Post
... the remainder low light indoor stage eprformance with no flash, ...
That means a large aperture, medium telephoto zoom lens.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RobTh View Post
... high school basketball ...
That means a large aperture, telephoto lens, and fast shutter speeds.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RobTh View Post
... and soccer, ...
That means a long telephoto lens.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RobTh View Post
... and the occasional macro of bugs, flowers, etc. ...
That means a Macro lens.

You have some wildly different requirements for a camera, and each of the different models you've narrowed your choice down to will do well in some but not all areas.

The Canon, along with the Pentax, can use the highest ISO setting (12,800,) which lets you use slower shutter speeds and/or smaller apertures for the same scene. The Canon also has the best selection of large aperture medium telephoto lenses (i.e.: 85/1.8, 100/2.0, 135/2.0, 70-200/2.8, 50-150/2.8) for shooting indoor sports like basketball. That is something that the Pentax is sorely lacking, unfortunately (70-200/2.8, 50-150/2.8).

The Nikon can only go as high as ISO 6,400, but it has a better selection of large aperture medium telephoto lenses (i.e.: 85/1.8, 70-200/2.8, 50-150/2.8) than Pentax, but it's not as good as Canon's.

For soccer, they all have a reasonable selection of reasonably good long telephoto zoom lenses (70-300mm f/4.5-5.6), and they all have good kit lenses (18-55/3.5-5.6), though Canon's is the best. For indoor stage performances, they also have good large aperture, medium telephoto zoom lenses (70-200/2.8) available.

For macrophotography, they all have a good selection of lenses, but on the Pentax, they're all stabilized. Nikon only has two stabilized macro lenses and Canon only has one. While image stabilization isn't a substitute for a tripod when shooting 1:1 macro, having it is better than not having it when shooting 1:2, 1:3 or even 1:4 macro.

I think the Canon is a better choice for most of what you want to do, but any of them couuld do what you want with a little compromise and possibly a little scaling back on your expectations.
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Old Jan 19, 2010, 7:04 AM   #6
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So, just to add on to TCAVs post.

You will NOT be shooting indoor basketball with any kind of quality with the kit lenses or budget zooms from ANY of the cameras you're considering.

You will NOT be shooting indoor plays with HIGH quality with the kit lenses or budget zooms from ANY of the cameras you're considering. You can get some pictures because you can take shots at high ISO when subject is relatively still. But you don't want to use those high ISOs if you don't want to.

A DSLR is NOT, repeat NOT a magic point-and-shoot camera that suddenly allows you to shoot whatever you want after spending $200 on a single additional lens.

Soccer is another matter. Is it all day games? If so, your biggest issues are reach (you'll want at least 300mm if it's full field soccer, 200mm if it's small field). AND, focus speed matters. Focus speed is partly the camera body - the brains, but it's also the lens. Not all lenses are created equal when it comes to focus speed. So that's a consideration. People that don't actually shoot sports don't consider this - it's not that important for stationary subjects. But when tracking moving subjects when the lens is constantly focusing / re-focusing it becomes very apparent. This same focus speed issue comes into play for basketball too. But not so much with plays. A lot depend on what your expectations of quality are. If you just want some snapshots then you can make compromises. But if your expectations are higher then you have to use the right lens for the job.
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Old Jan 19, 2010, 8:23 AM   #7
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Thanks all for the GREAT feedback and observations. Good stuff to digest.

Are the apparent benefits or "coolness" fun-factor of tethered shooting exaggerated? I'd imagine this would be a great learning method as well as just a fun way to have a huge preview of your shots for still subjects. I understand that only Canon and Nikon offer this functionality. Are there homebrew solutions for Pentax?
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Old Jan 19, 2010, 8:41 AM   #8
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i started out with a pentax k20d, it was a great camera in many respects except one, the auto focus let it down badly, and as i started to shoot more and more action photography i decided to switch to a nikon D90, im much happier, auto focus is great and to be honest, it just feels nicer to use.
my advice to you if your considering sports would be the nikon
however ive never used a k-x or T1i, so i cant comment on those
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Old Jan 19, 2010, 9:04 AM   #9
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Quote:
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Are the apparent benefits or "coolness" fun-factor of tethered shooting exaggerated? I'd imagine this would be a great learning method as well as just a fun way to have a huge preview of your shots for still subjects. I understand that only Canon and Nikon offer this functionality. Are there homebrew solutions for Pentax?
There are some other models with tethered shooting ability. My Sony A700 is one example. Sony's software allows you to control camera settings, take a photo and display it, and automatically store it on the PC's hard drive if desired. But, there's no Live View with my Sony. So, you can't use the software for framing or anything like that.

One way to approach it with models that don't have that feature (assuming you don't actually need to transfer the images via USB to the PC as they're taken) would be to use a monitor or TV hooked up to your camera's video output, combined with a remote shutter release. But, the quality you'd get would depend on the resolution of the output and the monitor or TV it's being used with (some cameras have an NTSC or PAL output designed for a standard TV, whereas some models now offer HDMI type outputs, too.

Then, you'd see whatever shows up on the LCD with most models using an attached display. Of course, if you wanted Live framing of your subject using the display, you'd need to use a model with Live View to get that feature (and that should include the models you're looking at now).
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Old Jan 19, 2010, 9:17 AM   #10
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P.S.

In addition to the camera manufacturer's software, you can find third party products that allow tethered shooting. For example, Breeze Systems offers software for many Nikon and Canon dSLR models. See these links:

For Canon dSLR models:
http://www.breezesys.com/DSLRRemotePro/index.htm

For Nikon dSLR models:
http://www.breezesys.com/NKRemote/index.htm
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