Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Story of My Pentax Digital SLR System

I started learning photography a number of years back with Pentax equipment and I have always liked their equipment. Back then, I was using film like everyone else primarily with K1000, MX, and LX bodies. They all worked very well and I especially liked the size of the MX and everything about the LX. Later, I used a ZX-5 and ended my film career with the MZ-S. I entered the digital era with a little Pentax Optio S point-and-shoot. It worked well but just does not have the capabilities I am used to. Three years ago, I finally decided to jump to a digital SLR with the Pentax *ist D. The name was terrible but the camera was pretty good. It was a six megapixel semi-pro level camera. Its biggest flaw was probably the exceedingly slow speed of writing to compact flash. The *ist D has been the only Pentax digital SLR to use compact flash. Everything else uses SD cards.

Earlier this year (2006), Pentax surprised everyone by bringing out the K100D. The K100D really fits into the slot filled by the *ist DL and *ist DS. The interface is essentially like the *ist DL but its claim to fame is SR or Shake Reduction. The K100D is the first Pentax SLR to have any type of Shake Reduction (Pentax term), Image Stabilization (Canon term), or Vibration Reduction (Nikon term). At around the same time, Pentax also brought out the K110D which is a K100D without Shake Reduction.

Early in 2006, I was frustrated with the lack of progress that Pentax was making in the digital arena. The *ist D had many pro features. The *ist DS slimmed those down and then the *ist DL really slimmed those down. Because of the state of Pentax digital SLRs at that time, I jumped ship and bought two Canon EOS 20D digital SLRs. Along with the cameras, I also bought some very expense Image Stabilized lenses such as the EF 70-200/2.8L IS USM lens and the EF 24-105/4.0L IS USM lens. All in all, I acquired nine very expensive Canon lenses. I had a range from 16mm to 420mm.

I took this kit to both Belize in March and Egypt and Cyprus in May. The Canon kit worked pretty well but I was disappointed in the optical quality of many of the lenses and the physical size and weight of the kit made hauling equipment a major hassle.

During the summer, the Pentax K100D surfaced and made me regret getting out of the Pentax system. Fortunately, I did not totally leave my system behind. Over a number of years I had accumulated almost fifty Pentax lenses. Many of these I was not using on a regular basis. Realistically, you will not use very many lenses most of the time. Lens upgrades also make your former lenses shelf bound. Early in 2006 I sold off all the lenses I was not using. The only three I somewhat regret selling are the SMCP-FA 31/1.8 Limited, SMCP-FA 43/1.9 Limited, and SMCP-FA 77/1.8 Limited. They were such nice lenses that I never took them on any major trips because I did not want to damage them.

Anyway, I did not sell my most-used favorites. I was planning on selling off the rest of the Pentax equipment that I owned when the K100D information suddenly surfaced. That did it! I started using the Pentax *ist D again and all the great memories of using my Pentax gear started flooding back. I also became aware of how slow the *ist D wrote to compact flash cards after using the Canon EOS 20D. When the K100D came out, I immediately ordered it. The Shake Reduction was amazing especially since, unlike Canon or Nikon, it works with all your old lenses because Shake Reduction is in the body, not the lenses. I very much enjoyed using the K100D but it was definitely a step down from the Canon EOS 20D from a specifications standpoint. The smaller size and weight as well as supreme optical quality of the Pentax glass more than made up for the slight inconveniences.

Soon after the K100D came out, rumors started surfacing about a new Pentax body in the 10MP range. This had my attention. After all, this would give me a resolution upgrade from the Canon EOS 20D as well as the capability of using all my Pentax glass. Once I found out a little more about the Pentax K10D, I realized that this would be an amazing and groundbreaking camera for Pentax as well as a serious competitor to Canon and Nikon offerings at the prosumer as well as the lower-end professional level. Because of this, I decided that it would be worthwhile to add Pentax digital camera sales to my current ISP and consulting business. The town I live in is quite small and has no camera store besides Wal-Mart and Staples. Of course big retailers like those two have no real motivation to help their customers and the employees often know nothing about digital cameras at all. Also, no one carries digital SLRs except for the Canon Digital Rebel series and its kit lenses.

On November 21, 2006, I finally received my first shipment of K10D cameras. I am keeping one K10D and so I immediately set upon getting used to the camera. This camera is better than I could have imagined. I am once again firmly committed to Pentax as my digital SLR system. That was a short (or maybe somewhat long) history of my photographic odyssey.


Anonymous said...

I've followed a similar track to yours but started with a Pentax spotamatic, and then to a K2 before getting a superprogram, and then an zx5-n. then a istD
and now a K-10D. The k10 is a good thing, but I bemoan the loss of flash compatibility. My old ring lite -an F080C is a non starter on the K10.

Bryan said...

Thanks for your comment. I understand what you mean about the loss of flash compatibility. I have an AF-500FTZ flash and I think I also have an AF080C ring flash. Neither works except in manual modes as I recall. I wish the upgraded ring flash, the AF140C, had some manual modes. I wish Pentax would make a P-TTL ring flash and some modern Pentax teleconverters that keep all functionality including autofocus and metering along with modifying the focal length value for Shake Reduction.