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Old Dec 27, 2010, 1:36 PM   #1
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Default Upgrading to a DSLR : d3100 vs. Pentax k-x

I have been using a (non-compact) Lumix with many of the manual controls - like aperture priority etc - and think I am ready for the upgrade to a DSLR.

I take mostly pictures on family trips - backgrounds with people in them, sometimes at night. Some video, though I also have a camcorder it would be nice to take video when I don't carry the camcorder with me.

I eliminated the t2i because it seemed the ~$200 difference to the d3100 was not worth the bracketing and 2 megapixels. That leaves the k-x and d3100.

Which one (k-x or d3100) would you guys recommend as a better starter DSLR ? I will continue this as a 'serious' hobby because of a large and growing family.

While these two cameras are in different ranges $550 for k-x with 2 lenses, $700 for the nikon it seems the k-x has excellent (maybe even better) reviews. But it seems that the d3100 has better high ISO rating and shoots 30fps at 720p (24fps for the k-x) and 24fps at 1080p(which the k-x cannot do at all) but has no bracketing. Auto-focus is not important. The guide mode in the d3100 may be useful as a beginner.

I do not know how to decide! Please help!

Thanks a lot!

Murali
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Old Dec 27, 2010, 2:24 PM   #2
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Good Morning,

Between the two cameras, you really can not make a bad choice. They both take great pictures.

For video with the Kx, take a look at this....
Yes, Ben is a professional photographer, and a video of this quality is expected. However, he could have used any camera he wanted....

Here is a comparison of the two....
The D3100 wins on the following points:
  • Significantly larger screen - you have to judge if this makes a difference
  • Higher resolution movies - again, your judgment
  • Continuously focuses recording movies - I have never taken movies with a dSLR, but this does seem to me to be a significant feature - if you are going to do a lot of movies.
  • Lower noise at high ISO - You are probably going to run noise reduction software anyway - regardless of the camera. That said, Pentax has a wider ISO range and supports a higher ISO top end.
  • Significantly more lenses available - This is a bit of a red herring. All the Pentax lenses are stabilized through the body, however only a few of the Nikon lenses are stabilized and at additional cost. Nikon does have more lenses beyond 300mm and Pentax has no current ones. Nikon does have more lens choices.
  • Higher resolution - Will make a difference if you crop the images a lot. However, Pentax has better image quality, more color depth and better dynamic range to the images.
  • Lighter - you have to judge if this makes a difference
Then you need to compare the items above to the items that the Kx excels at.

Basically - you need to judge and evaluate what each one of these items may mean to how YOU will use the camera. That, will lead you to the best decision for YOU. You are the only one that counts here.

Photography is a compromise. There is nothing that is perfect. Its a judgment in balancing contrasting needs.

However - in this decision - there really is no loosing...

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Old Dec 27, 2010, 4:43 PM   #3
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Default What seems important to me..

First of all thanks for the quick and informative reply.

I will try and give more information of what is important maybe that will help make the decision easier ?

Out of the things you mentioned, the following are important/not important to me. I am not sure how useful these things will be in my usage (family trips).

Most Important :

1. From dxomark comparison the pentax has better color and dynamic range but the d3100 has better ISO/low light. Which is more important in getting good pictures more of the time ? It seems like high ISO pictures are not very good in either case.
http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/en/...brand2)/Pentax

Unsure of importance :

2. Video : At 720p (which is enough for me) k-x has 24fps and d3100 has 30fps. From the quality of samples online I couldn't tell much difference. Is this a big deal ?

3. How useful is bracketing ? the k-x has it but the d3100 does not.

4. Af points - k-x does not have visible a-f points in the viewfinder but seems to have it in the LCD - I think this is enough since I always use the LCD in my current camera.

5. I like the idea of guide mode in the d3100.


Not so important

1. Video : Autofocus on d3100 is so noisy from online videos it is actually louder than the people in the video - so I would never use it.

2. Lens families : I think I will only buy 3 or 4 - all of which I can see in pentax range. They are more affordable from Pentax of course.

3.weight/screen/resolution - small enough differences that I think I don't care.
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Old Dec 27, 2010, 5:25 PM   #4
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Quote:
=muralib;1182741]

Most Important :

1. From dxomark comparison the pentax has better color and dynamic range but the d3100 has better ISO/low light. Which is more important in getting good pictures more of the time ? It seems like high ISO pictures are not very good in either case.
http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/en/Camera-Sensor/Compare-sensors/(appareil1)/664|0/(appareil2)/639|0/(onglet)/0/(brand)/Nikon/(brand2)/Pentax
Reviews are great but color can be somewhat subjective, and a matter of taste. Also, cameras do allow some tweaking and adjustment of color to one's taste.

Shooting at high iso's does reduce image quality, but high iso performance is one of the main reasons to get a DSLR, a better performance will allow the camera to produce better output under more conditions


Quote:
2. Video : At 720p (which is enough for me) k-x has 24fps and d3100 has 30fps. From the quality of samples online I couldn't tell much difference. Is this a big deal ?
For casual use, 720p is plenty good. I like having it in my D5k...it's nice to have, but it only gets used for short clips and it is sometimes awkward to use.

Quote:
3. How useful is bracketing ? the k-x has it but the d3100 does not.
Some people can't do without bracketing (especially HDR shooters), some never use it. I'm in the second camp. You have to figure out which camp you are in.

Quote:
4. Af points - k-x does not have visible a-f points in the viewfinder but seems to have it in the LCD - I think this is enough since I always use the LCD in my current camera.
Using the LCD to frame with a DSLR is somewhat clumsy, and can lead to poor technique (camera shake) and poor image quality. Live view is best used in conjunction with a tripod.

Quote:
5. I like the idea of guide mode in the d3100.
It's kind of a gimmick, and from what I've seen not well implemented.


Quote:
2. Lens families : I think I will only buy 3 or 4 - all of which I can see in pentax range. They are more affordable from Pentax of course.
Nikon's current consumer lenses are pretty affordable, of very good quality, and probably easier to find.

Quote:
3.weight/screen/resolution - small enough differences that I think I don't care.
Higher resolution, larger LCD's are a dream to use, and make image review much easier. In terms of weight, lighter means easier to carry and ounces do add up. You should really handle both to see if these issues really do make a difference.
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Old Dec 27, 2010, 5:33 PM   #5
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Well just returned from the feed store for my wife's critters....

High ISO - This is the new megapixel race. Yes, high ISO does help in quite a few cases, when there is insufficient light, however the images right out of the camera do appear to be somewhat un-useable. In many cases, you can recover these images with noise reduction software in post processing. There is a new batch of utilities out that do quite well. So, in my opinion, with post processing there the two cameras are pretty equal. The other question is how often will it be needed?

Personally I go to the other end of the ISO spectrum and mainly stick with the low speeds to enhance the image quality at the sensor. The additional information in terms of image quality, depth of color and dynamic range can not really be added after the image is taken, so that is more important (to me) with respect to selecting a body. Just my opinion and reasoning.

None of my dSLRs (K100 and K20) shoot video, so I really can not say. On the TV at the house, 1080 is better, but I do not complain with 720. Is it a big deal - I can't say. However, dSLRs are not video cameras. I see video as a target of opportunity. I was out on a Navy ship a couple of years ago. If the camera did video, I would have used it - but reached for my little Canon Point & Shoot to get the video cllips I wanted. That is all I can tell you.

Bracketing - this is used for HDR. You take 3 or 5 images - a normal image, then some over exposed, and some under exposed. Post processing software (or in the Kx's case - the camera) will blend them together. You can also do this manually (take 3 images and under/over expose manually). I am surprised that the 3100 does not have it. I would take a look at the D90 which does have it. Personally, I use it quite a bit - but that is me - and might not be you. I do a lot of ambient low light and at times with HDR, at low ISO speeds, so my shutter times are just longer (and I use a tripod / ballhead combination). You can over do the HDR effects, but by taking a natural approach, it does help the image. Here is an overview explaination...
AF points - I really do not use them (as they are intended) a lot. I use them as focus confirmation - however there is the green diamond down at the bottom of the viewfinder for that (focus confirmation). If you have not used them - you will probably not miss them. For folks used to them, then they may be missed.

The main question you pose is "I will continue this as a 'serious' hobby because ...", is the real question to your posting here.

There are 2 systemic problems that Pentax has that Nikon solves to some extent (just bring money).
  • Autofocusing - Nikon has a faster auto focusing system that Pentax currently does not have. For instance - action photography (football, soccer, etc.). Things that move quickly.
  • Specialty lenses - Lenses that cater to professional uses, like long telephoto (beyond 300mm). Pentax does not have any currently - they have older lenses out to 1200mm. Glass over 300mm is quite expen$ive. The Pentax 1200mm lens - it went for $10K used - and Nikon is even more expensive. Third party lenses (Sigma and Tamron extend past 300mm for all the major makes - including Pentax), but you are talking about $1,000+ per lens regardless of the camera make.
I bring this up, in that if you invest in some lenses (either Pentax or Nikon), then you are somewhat stuck with that particular system. It is expensive to sell off and to buy into another system.

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Old Dec 27, 2010, 7:13 PM   #6
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Default Future budget + question of how to compare ?

Wow, this is a great community where I can so quickly get very knowledgable replies! Thanks for the replies.

I can't forsee spending >$1000 on a lens for a while. I think lenses with a total budget of $1000- (max) $1500.

For an image comparison, I went to the dpreview RAW image comparisons between k-x and d3100. I strongly felt that the k-x was much better at a range of ISOs from 200 - 1600. Colors were better and blacks were clearer.

However, the final dpreview comparison (the sliders) said d3100 had better image quality. Is there something in particular I am missing ?

If I go to a store to compare these two cameras how do I test the following :

1. metering : supposed to be better on the d3100 - this seems very important. How do I check this in store ?

2. as interested_observer said (which I had not thought of at all and is missing from all reviews) - Autofocusing - Nikon has a faster auto focusing. How do I test speed of auto-focus ?

3. Finally, again something interested_observer said : in terms of image quality, depth of color and dynamic range - how can I compare these ? Purely from the dpreview RAW images the pentax seems better to me personally.

Thanks for all the replies!

Murali
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Old Dec 27, 2010, 9:48 PM   #7
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Evening muralib,

Handling the cameras is very important. The one that you like to hold will get used, otherwise it will decorate the kitchen table. A number of years ago when I was looking to get back to photography after a long absence, holding the units was one of the key items. The Nikon unit is everywhere. Pentax on the other hand is a real hunt, depending on where you are located. Pentax currently appears to be selling primary over the web. If you are in the NYC area B&H, Androama, etc., carry them. If you have a Fry's Electronics near by is another option. Amazon does have a very liberal return policy.

How to test them - given that you get your hands on both.
  • Metering - This is going to be difficult because of the variables involved. Both cameras meter through the lens, so the quality of the lens enters into this. I can put the kit lens on one and a high quality lens on the other, guess which one will do better? Then there is the question of AWB - automatic white balancing. This depends on the type of light being used to take the picture of the object. If for instance, its an incandescent - then the image will be yellow. Setting up AWB on each camera should level the playing field here. Using each with their respective kit lenses, I would take a image of an object at the same time (quick succession), in the same light, same distance, etc., with each camera. Take the SD card home and see which camera has the better image that is more pleasing to you.
  • Autofocusing -This is somewhat dependent upon the lens. The Pentax kit lens has a AF clutch in it so that you can just turn the body to manual focus any time. Other lenses you need to put into manual focus to manually adjust the focus. Anyway, I would set each camera to infinity focus, aim them at the same object and depress the shutter half way so that each would autofocus on the object, comparing the time and if they hunt or immediately lock on.
  • image quality, depth of color and dynamic range - This is the toughest of all as its subjective and you need a rich target environment with a good set of colors, and a range of lighting, etc. For this - I would punt and go to the dxo website along with the dpreview's standard images, and use what they have.
Then there is the type of image. Both cameras do both RAW and JPG. However, Pentax tends to under process their JPGs and Nikon tends to over process their JPGs. So out of the camera, the over processed tends to look better at the initial glance. Both camera's JPGs can be adjusted to your desires, but out of the box - there are usually differences.

Underprocessing is done to preserve detail, while over processing is done because most folks will not do anything on their own, and thus out of the camera it tends to look better.

Like I initially said, both cameras take wonderful images. You are now picking through the entrails of the carcass looking at the details of the differences.

Since I use a Pentax, I will say that I have watched folks leave Pentax and other folks come to Pentax for several specific reason.
Leaving Pentax - They want a full 35mm sensor rather than a cropped sensor specifically for depth of field, or for specific product types of photography. Also, folks leave in order to get specific focal length lenses 600mm, 800mm autofocus or specific aperture lenses, not offered by Pentax. They also leave for fast autofocusing or focus tracking, particularly in sports.

Coming to Pentax - Folks come to Pentax for the prime lenses. Small, excellent optics - the FA 31, 43 and 77 Limteds along with the DA*15, 20, 40, and 70. Also, the small semi professional fully weather sealed bodies that are only available for 2x the price in other brands. Also, Nikon folks like to use old Pentax M42 manual lenses (with an adapter) on their Nikon bodies.

So, that some answers to your questions along with some additional information. Not trying to convince you one way or the other.

One other suggestion - scroll down to the dslr sections and ask some question in both the Nikon and Pentax forum areas. The folks most familiar with each of the model cameras will be happy to answer your questions about each.



Last edited by interested_observer; Dec 27, 2010 at 9:51 PM.
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Old Dec 27, 2010, 11:34 PM   #8
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about differences in scores in reviews - consider even from the same site might not be the same person allocating scores for specific cameras and very unlikely to be conducted at the same time with the reviewer comparing the same cameras you are - so discrepancies should just be ingoured - if the image looks better to you then go with your eyes not a number
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Old Dec 28, 2010, 9:11 AM   #9
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Default My decision

I ruled the Nikon 3100 out early in my camera search as the price performance ratio just didn't cut it for me.

I have agonized over the T2i and K-X for a few weeks and after deciding that the T2i is the better camera have finally pulled trigger and bought a?......

Pentax K-X!

The reason?

Price and realizing some of the advantages the T2i didn't really matter that most. I am a fierce bargain hunter and would have bought T2i with 2 lens kit for $750 from Amazon last week if available at that price again, but when the white K-X 2 lens kit dropped to $543 at Amazon I decided to hell with it. I won' t be buying a ton of lens and if I do, I will need to look for good deals on old glass and the K-X gives me what 30 years of peoples used lens to shop for? No brainier.

Some of my initial concerns about K-X and my realizations that they are not that big of a deal...

720P VS. 1080P Video... My biggest want still, but amount of actual use?
No HDMI... My Plasma TV has a SD card reader.
Interface.... Sure I like the T2i more cause I was able to play with that camera more, My one time holding K-X not enough to get familiar with. Videos reviews showed me it was very intuitive.
Batteries... AA heavier sure, but when my batteries die, I will be able to get AA's anywhere in a pinch.
Smaller screen of K-X....2.7 vs 3 inch not that big of a difference.
12 MP plenty big for any enlargement I will ever do.

Pluses of K-X
Build quality of lens feels much better, focus ring, use of rubber, etc.
Bigger sensor (same Sony as the Nikon you are looking at I believe)
Great low light performance. Which are most shots I will be taking.
$300 less than comparable kit for T2i

The biggest difference was I compared photo samples at dpreview.com and found out that hey the K-X looked as good or better in most of the shots I compared from the T2i.

Just my 2 sense on one of the cameras you are looking at.
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Old Dec 28, 2010, 5:27 PM   #10
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Thanks for the replies.

Thinking about it I would like to leave open the upgrade path to better bodies. I spoke to some friends who own DSLRs and they either just upgraded or are planning upgrades to more expensive bodies because they have found limitations of their mid or entry level DSLRs.

This narrows it down to Nikon d3100 or (for more money) Canon t2i.

As jagardener said from the dpreview pictures (not the final ratings) the d3100 is worse than the k-x even. The k-x is only slightly worse than the t2i from the images for $200 less. However, some of the improvement seems to be from some kind of processing even in the raw images.

So I am going to try out the t2i and a nikon in store. Unfortunately, no stores nearby carry the pentax.
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