The arrival of the Pentax K20D on our doorstep last week marked the end of an era - that of the venerable, battle-scarred Pentax LXs and MXs, which have over the last 20 years or so provided faithful service. The world has moved on, though, and once the switch had been made to digital, the K20D offered one crucial incentive: it …
Choosing an SLR
Some of the smaller players produce competent camera bodies, the main problem is lack of lenses. While there's often a good selection from the manufacturer, there's often less available compared to Nikon or Canon.
A serious photographer makes a not insignificant investment in lenses (many times the cost of the camera body) and therefore you're stuck with that system unless you feel up to selling the whole lot and starting again.
I'd always recommend Canon or Nikon for this reason. Sony are making some headway too and with Fuji's SLRs you can use Nikon lenses anyway.
updates and lenses
1) the K20D is not "the end of an era" for most, it's just an update to the excellent Pentax K10D. My wife has one of those and makes good use of it.
All I wanted to know is how the K20D compares to the K10D, price, features and user experience. Sadly the article gives none of that.
2) to Giles Jones: The third-party lenses from Sigma and others that I have looked at all seem to come in Cannon, Nikon and Pentax mount. It's true that you see far more Nikons and Cannons around than Pentax, but the K10D was hard to beat at the £500 price point and Sigma and others supply a good range of third-party lenses.
At the £5000 price point no doubt the Nikon D3 is the business. I'd like to see how the K20D compares to others at £900.
Buying a DSLR system
Giles makes a reasonable point, but I'd like to put in my perspective. I have been a Pentax user for years and had a range of lenses from 28mm to 600mm. I was always put off going digital because of the idea of scrapping those lenses and buying into a whole new system.
I eventually bought a Pentax DSLR and found that I could use all of my old lenses - albeit they're manual focus.
Many digital lenses these days are built specifically to suit sensor sizes which are not as big as a full 35mm film frame (full size sensors are currently restricted to pro cameras). One of these days I imagine most DSLRs will have full frame sensors, which will entail buying new lenses for people who have built up a kit of the current digital lenses.
Funnily enough, if that happens, my old lenses will still be usable.
You can get plenty of full frame compatible digital lenses, but they do cost more - they might just be a better investment in the long run.
Shortage of lenses?
Can't say I've noticed a shortage of lenses, but then I've got a heap of old Pentax glass from 15mm to 400mm. The 18-55mm in the test ( yeah, I've got one of those too ) is okay at the price, but mine mostly gets used as a paperweight.
Seriously though, if you're a pro or want to impress the brother-in-law you'd go for Canikon fullframe anyway. This looks a good bet for the so-called 'prosumer' market though.
Steal my Sunshine
Another benefit of the K20D, and Pentax bodies in general, is that old M42 and other lens mount adapters are widely available; you can use e.g. old Super Takumar lenses easily enough, with infinity focus etc, without having to use an adapter with an optical element. You lose a lot of functionality, but these old lenses are very cheap and unlikely to crash in value unless you break them.
re: Choosing an SLR /end of an era/comparasions
If you want to spend less than £1K per lens, then there is plenty of choice (almost as much as Nikon and Canon) up to about 300mm including some weather sealed version from Pentax - and lets face it how many spend more than £1K per lens ? So for most people lack of lenses isn't a big issue (though Pentax have been a over optimistic on delivery on new lenses)
end of a era - I suspect not, especially as Samsung have got involved in DSLRs cameras which take Pentax fitting lenses - and what ever they do they seem to become pretty big in the field within a few years - so I suspect in 5 years the DLSR landscape may have changed beyond all recognition
if you want to know about K20D compared to K10D etc - then suggest a look on dpreview - http://www.dpreview.com/forums/ where plenty of people still shot Pentax DSLRs
And mine is the coat with both Pentax and Canon straps over the shoulder
You can already get the K20 for below £700 body only if you look. However, as a K10 user who has put mine through the mill, I can't say I'm overly happy with the whole modern Pentax experience. (My twenty year old K1000 is still ticking) I'm reserving final judgement depending how they handle my latest breakdown.
If you want a comparison, a certain photography magazine this month published the results of a challenge; me with my K10, a Canon 1D III (two and a half grands worth of machine, body only) and a D80 at an animal park.
I highly recommend the Animal Park's keepers; they could tell the difference between the monkeys and me, so they let me out of the cage.
Info on picture
"but we liked the former's exhaustive list of every parameter for a selected shot, which is nice if you can't remember exactly what manually-defined white balance you used for that particlarly fine image"
I suspect that has nothing to do with the software per se, but I could be wrong. It's probably information store in the EXIF section of the file, and can be opened by any competent software (I don't know whether Photoshop is any good, but I'd suspect they support such a basic thing as EXIF tags). Even in the Linux file managers I know, you can right click on the file name, choose properties and see these things there, for example.
I have a K10D and am pretty happy with it (agree that the kit lens is weak, my old ones for the K1000 do a better job). I also keep looking for a serious review that compares it to the new model (they have identical buttons, as far as I can tell), but haven't found it yet.
Seems a lot of money for MOR performance. You don't even say what the aperture range of the lens is - I assume it's the F4-F5.6 one, which isn't especially fast, yet the 3200ASA shot you show in the review is also pretty noisy, so you can't compensate for one with the other. It doesn't even have a swivel LCD.
I'd rather have a Fuji S100fs with its delicious 28-400 zoom, and pocket the odd £500 change.. :-)
"I suspect that has nothing to do with the software per se, but I could be wrong. It's probably information store in the EXIF section of the file, and can be opened by any competent software (I don't know whether Photoshop is any good, but I'd suspect they support such a basic thing as EXIF tags)."
Adobe Camera Raw supports the K20D so it should read every last scrap of info in the EXIF tags. If ACR/Photoshop can't read the white balance info from the raw file, then nothing will. It's also useful that the K20D has the option of saving to the open source DNG format. Kudos to them for that.
I want one - NOW !!
Have a lot of Pentax glass, starting back in the 70's with my MX. Currently using the K100D Super...
The K20D is superb! I just want one - saving now!
Shortage of lenses?
I also have 16mm f2.8 to 300mm f2.8 covered in prime lenses. Infact a number of them are at focal lengths that aren't available from other manufacturers.
Also keep in mind that Pentax has a long history of backwards lens compatibility and there are over 200 different Pentax lenses, (plus third part offerings), that are useable on the Pentax K20D. Furthermore they all work with focus confirmation and image stabilization.
Lenses / K10 vs K20
I've upgraded right from the Pentax istD digital to the K20D and it's been quite a jolt. I've been reading the K10D manual and the K20D will give you higher resolution and more options for in-camera processing. There's an extensive selection of "tweaks" for creating jpegs: Landscape, Portrait, Vivid, Normal, and Black and White and each of these settings have further adjustments making shooting RAW an option rather than a necessity. It also allows shooting both RAW and jpeg with a touch of a button so you can make that decision later.
One of the sweetest features is the built-in Vibration Reduction which reads the focal length of the lens and allows more clear hand-held photographs. Unlike other cameras, now every lens in your collection is a VR lens.
The worst thing Pentax has done has been to eliminate all film cameras. These were the same people who introduced us to the K-1000. They are now focusing entirely on digital. The K20D is a great contender for Nikon's flagship camera. It's 20% smaller, 50% lighter, and 1/5 the price while producing higher resolution. Rather than the old CCD technology, the K20D switched to CMOS technology to reduce noise. It even has a dead pixel mapping feature and dust detection and elimination built right into the camera to reduce trips to the repair shop.
"making shooting RAW an option rather than a necessity"
That's good to know, although I'd like to do some comparisons myself, to see if it improved from the K10D. (sore excuse to get a new one?) :-)
I did shoot the same scene (with my K10D) using the RAW+Jpeg option (great stuff). The thing is that the sharpness of the Jpeg version, when looking at 100%, is quite lower than that for the unprocessed RAW -- that's due to the "aggressive" in-camera noise reduction algorithm. So when I have important shot, I prefer to decide myself later how much sharpness I can afford to lose when doing noise reduction manually (if at all needed, to begin with).
If the NR algorithm got better for the K20D, that would be very nice...
I did not see the word "noise" anywhere in the review. Sensor noise is one of the most important characteristics of a camera, and is a big determinant of the image quality.
And then there is dynamic range, and possible clipping of highlights. That wasn't mentioned either.
This comment is not meant as a put-down of this camera. It's just that after getting my fingers burned on a noisy range-limited Olympus E-510, I want to hear all about sensor noise and dynamic range on any camera reviewed. That is much more important than how many knobs the camera has.
Oh, and one more thing: Are the metal brackets of the hot-shoe connected to the internal metal frame of the camera? If not, then just mounting an external flash unit on the camera, and doing some walking-around city-street shooting with the camera occasionally banging against your chest will pull the hotshoe brackets out of the plastic case, and now you have a broken hotshoe, like happened with my E-510. I expect more from a thousand-dollar camera.