Friday, July 27, 2007

Pentax K10D

I suppose I should start things off with a run down of my gear; I'll start with my DSLR since it's my main camera.

I finally jumped into digital a few years back when I purchased a Pentax *ist DS (yes, I know it's a stupid name) because I had plenty of old Pentax lenses, they were the smallest DSLR's out there, and they had the best viewfinders. I wasn't disappointed and I got along great with the camera. Earlier this year I decided to upgrade when Pentax came out with the K10D. The biggest reasons for the upgrade were built in image stabilization, dual control wheels, larger buffer, semi-pro build quality, weather sealing, and more customization. It also had 10mp over the 6mp of the *ist DS but this was way down on my list of reasons for an upgrade.

Overall I'm very happy with the camera. It's a little bigger then I'd like but it still fits my hand well and I don't have a problem lugging it around. As with pretty much every DSLR out there image quality is fantastic and I've found nothing there to complain about. Because of the increased number of pixels they crammed onto the sensor noise does seem a little worse at higher ISO's then the *ist DS but it's still acceptable for me; though I do try to stay away from ISO 1600 when possible.

Having dual control wheels is great and I love being able to customize their functions how ever I want in the different modes. For instance, in manual mode I have it set up so the rear wheel controls aperture and the front shutter speed. In AV mode the rear still controls aperture but now I have the front set up for exposure compensation. If I wanted I could set up the wheels to do any number of things. There are plenty of other nifty modes like TV, SV (sensitivity priority), Auto, etc, but to tell you the truth I don't think I've ever used them; I do all my shooting in either manual or AV (Aperture Priority).

I done very little testing of the image stabilization system but I've gotten some very good results at low shutter speeds so it seems to be working as advertised; no complaints there.

One thing I wasn't too crazy about with the K10D was the move from AA batteries to a dedicated rechargeable battery (D-L150). I liked the idea of using AA's with the *ist DS (actually I used CRV-3's) since you could always pick up a set no matter where you were if you found yourself with dead batteries. As it turns out though I get along great with the dedicated battery and like it better then AA's. The solution for me was to pick up a spare battery from EBAY; it's much cheaper then spending $40-60 on one from Pentax. As it turns out the K10D shares a battery with the Sony/Minolta line of DSLR's (they call it an NP400)which have been out for quite a long time and it's a battery that's readily available on-line. I bought one for about $12 off EBAY (that included shipping and a charger) and it works great. Each battery gives close to 1000 exposures, so with 2 of them I'm pretty much set for everything. If I know I'll be traveling for a long time (like on this trip) then I'll bring the charger too knowing that somewhere along the line I can find a power source to plug into to recharge the batteries. So far I've had no issue at all with the batteries and find them easier to carry and keep track of them multiple AA's.

Of course there are some negatives to the camera and I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about some of them. The biggest one is the lack of high quality lenses and accessories for Pentax in general. It's never been a highly popular brand so there aren't many after market companies that build good gear in the Pentax K mount, instead focusing more on Canon and Nikon (even my spell check doesn't recognize 'Pentax' but has no problem with 'Nikon'). There are tons of slow, consumer zoom lenses out there. But if you want something along the lines of a professional zoom lens (like a 28-80/2.8) then it's going to be hard to find either new or used, and when you do find one it's going to be really expensive because they're so hard to come by. Even Pentax doesn't build many of these lenses so you can't even buy them new from the manufacturer. They're supposed to be coming out with some professional quality zoom lenses later this year but still, Nikon and Canon have had them available for many years. Same goes for dedicated flash units and the like.

Couple that with the fact that for the last year or so most Pentax lenses and accessories have been unavailable due to low supplies can make owning a Pentax camera and wanting to outfit it very frustrating. The second a large supplier would get in a shipment of Pentax lenses word would spread like wild fire through the internet forums and they'd be sold out again within a day or so as people bought them up. This seems to have been resolved to an extent but after just checking I see there are still some really good lenses being listed as “out of stock” at B&H. One thing Pentax does have going for them though is unique lenses. They seem to have devoted themselves to high quality prime lenses more then any other manufacturer with quite a few different “pancake” lenses, so named for their amazingly short physical length, making them very small and light.

Another problem I have with the K10D is the low flash sync speed of 1/180. That wasn't a big deal when I bought it but not that I'm getting more into off camera flash with small strobes thanks to I'm wishing many times that it had at least 1/250 and I'm totally jealous of even the low end Nikon D70 with an electronic shutter that can sync at well over 1/500. Other then those two things I don't think I have any real complaints about the K10D, though I'm sure I could find some more small things if I really thought about it. It's a great camera overall and gives a lot of bang for the buck.

I've gotten rid of most of my old manual focus K and M lenses for convenience sake and now primarily shoot with the 16-45/4 DA and 100/2.8 DFA Macro lenses from Pentax. I'd shot nothing but prime lenses (fixed focal length) for years so it was kind a tough swallow to break down and buy a zoom; but I must say I've been very impressed with the 16-45. The quality seems to be excellent even wide open and it's gotten me shots that I never would have gotten had I been carrying around primes. It's also handy to have one zoom lens take the place of 2 or 3 prime lenses when it comes to lugging it all around. There are times I wish it had a longer maximum focal length but for a general carry around lens it's perfect.

The 100/2.8 macro was a tough decision because it was more then I really wanted to spend but it really fit the bill for me. I needed a lens in the 100mm range with a wide aperture for some of the theatre shooting I was doing for a local community theatre and I also wanted something that would go down to 1:1 for my macro work. At the time I had both an old 100/2.8 M and 100/4 M macro (only 1:2 magnification) lenses that worked OK but it was a pain to carry them both so I decided to consolidate by selling them.

Since getting the 100/2.8 DFA it's become one of my most used lenses and I really love it. Some people complain that the build is too light but that was my biggest reason for getting it. It still feels plenty substantial to me and the small size/light weight makes it perfect for carrying around in the back pack or over the shoulder. It's smaller/lighter then any other macro lens I looked at. And the picture quality? I can't imagine anything being any better. Along with being an excellent macro lens it's done great as a portrait lens and I'm also finding it a focal length I get along well with when it comes to landscapes. Although it was a tough decision I'm very happy I went ahead and bought it.

I also have an old 50/1.7 A lens and a 70-210/4 A lens that get occasional use now and then. Both are good quality and fill a niche for me but are a bit more of a hassle to use then their newer, electrified companions.

That pretty much covers my most used equipment. I'll write more about my flashes, bags, tripods, and little P&S cameras later.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

NOW you're talkin'! I was always curious about what gear you are using but didn't want to take away from the travel blog by bombarding you with questions about the technical stuff. The Vegabond Photographer fits the bill. I'm curious how you meter and set your white balance with the digital. I just parted with my Pentax K1000 but still have 5 other film cameras that I'm reluctant to let go of.My d70 is slowly dying so an upgrade is in the works. I'll stick with Nikon since I've got the lens investment already. Your images are very creative and the blog rocks! Take care!