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back to article Pentax K-m entry-level digital SLR

We’ve all been there: you go into a store with a fixed budget in mind then spot a product that makes you think: 'Hmm. If I spend a bit more, I can get an even better model than the one I had planned for.' Well, if you’re setting out to buy a high-end digital compact, you could well change your mind if you clamp your eyes on the …

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Unhappy

why not a bridge camera?

OK - you were thinking of a top-end compact. So already, we assume, that swapping lenses and suchlike is not something you're wanting to do.

So why would you go for this at £350 when you could get, say, a Panasonic DMC FZ28 with a 18x zoom and all the bells and whistles you'd need for about half the price? And you don't have to switch lenses?

In fact - what exactly do you get in a DSLR that you don't get in an FZ28? Please don't flame me - I really want to know.

We need a "?" icon - so many of my comments are actually questions....

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Silver badge

re. Flash Video

If they went to the trouble of making a video, with a person operating the camera help-button controls, then why did they use a synthesised (and jumpy) voice over. Why not have a real person speaking?

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missed a major flaw

I think you guys missed something that the people at dpreview spotted and that's a very weird AF configuration. Quoting from their review:

Five AF points sounds promising (especially in a sector with several 3 AF-point cameras), but the active point is always automatically selected without any indication given as to which one has been used. The only alternative is to lock the camera to use its central AF-point, so you're left either with an AF system that won't tell you what it's doing or a single AF-point camera. While this is delightfully unthreatening to newcomers, it's a system that most people will quickly out-grow and one that is likely to make many experienced users simply walk away.

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Movie Mode

Seriously, who in their right minds would want movie mode on a DSLR? Would have been a complete waste of time, as is liveview, but there we go.

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budget dslr?

sorry guys but sample photos are rubbish. Too much noise on iso 400!!!? how about good old d40 from Nikon?

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it's about the lenses, mainly

Being just an interested amateur, in the film era I switched from Nikon to Olympus when the OM-1 came out. I learned my lesson when Olympus de-committed to the OM system several years later. Canon has switched lens compatibility several times, but Nikon has somehow managed to maintain support for the most ancient of lenses going back to the late 50's. So I've been back on Nikon for many years. Not perfect, but minimal obsolescence, and some fine old lenses available very cheaply.

That's my problem with all but Nikon and Canon. And if it's not about the lenses, then as Martin posted - you might as well stick with your well specced compact.

And Martin, the reason for getting a DSLR is to get better pictures. Many reasons why they are better, but start with the bigger sensor producing less noise and therefore a better image at the same megapixels.

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Happy

@martin - what you get in a DSLR

You get a much, much, bigger image sensor and this has 2 effects:

1. Much, much less noise in pictures, especially low light ones as the pixel density on the sensor is much lower (each gets moire light)

2. Control over depth of field. high quality pics often have focus on a subject within the frame, portraits are a good example, with the rest of the iamge being a nice smooth blur of soft focus. This is easy to achieve on a DSLR by just opening up the aperture, compacts and bridge cameras weith compact sensors struggle to achieve any meaningful DOF effects. So, for e.g. if you take picture of someone in the crown, the entire crowd is in sharp focus not jsut your subject, the image is flat and boring.

3. Ability to use different lenses for different effects, filters, high quality raw images.

The list goes on but 1 and 2 alone will mean that pics on a base model DSLR with kit lens (like a D40) will easily best those on a high end bridge cam.

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Alien

ULU?

Sounds like a martians car to me.

Ulllaaa!

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re: why not a bridge camera?

If you see the ability to change lenses as a curse, rather than a blessing, then you will probably be happy with a bridge camera. A 19x zoom will give you sharp enough shots, just don't look to hard at anything taken with a good prime lens.

DSLRs also give you a bigger sensor, and so have shots of better resolution (I'm not talking about megapixels here) and generally cope much better with noise.

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Paris Hilton

Zogabon

"In fact - what exactly do you get in a DSLR that you don't get in an FZ28?"

In general, a full-blown SLR gives you (a) much better performance at higher ISOs, on account of the larger sensor and larger photosites (b) generally fast focusing, with a full-blown optical viewfinder (c) a faster and longer burst mode (but not always) and (d) versatility. The lens on the FZ28 might be wonderful, but it will never ever give you f/1.4. In my experience most digital SLRs also have faster and more ergonic controls. I am not sure if the FZ28 has a hot shoe; the K-m does, and will fit a range of powerful flash guns, which can be pointed towards the nearest wall to produce more natural-looking light that the typical straight-on flash units on compact cameras.

If all you need is to capture the moment, a compact camera should do well unless you're in a dark party; if you want the pictures to look good, an SLR is a better option.

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Movie Mode

You people seriously need to get over movie mode on a SLR, really.

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re: why not a bridge camera?

Martin you asked: what exactly do you get in a DSLR that you don't get in an FZ28?

Well the main thing is flexibility, as has always been the case with SLRs. With the panasonic you're stuck with the lens it provides whereas with SLRs you have several lenses to suit the subject. The panasonic only starts at 27mm where the pentax is 18mm.

Usually with digital SLRs the biggest difference is that the CCD is much larger than in a compact giving better quality pictures for the same nominal megapixel count.

Plus, shooting in RAW mode is a must-have feature for many as it allows better control of post-processing.

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Coat

Get a Nikon D40

Probably the best bargain DSLR at the moment is the Nikon D40 (about £250 for a body and 18-55mm lens). See this for chapter and verse: http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/d40.htm.

Although this is 6MP compared to 10MP for the Pentax, don't make the mistake of thinking that you will notice the difference. Why? - because sensors are rectangular, pixel counts are measurements of AREA but increases in resolution are LINEAR. The D4 gives you images that are 3000x2000 pixels, the Pentax will give you images that are 3872x2592. This is about 30% better resolution, not 66% like the pixel count is meant to make you believe.

@Martin - a) this is an SLR so you look though the taking lens to see what you are about to make an image of - if you are happy looking at a TFT screen or through a little hole, then a compact is fine. b) this is a system camera - you can change lenses. If you got the D40, you would be able to use almost any SLR lens made by Nikon in the last 50 years on it. This means you can choose the right lens for the type of images you are making.

@ Alistair - you're right, movie mode on an SLR is pointless - you can't look through the viewfinder as the mirror will be locked up so really, what's the point?

Mine's the one with a Leica M7 (film) camera in the pocket - still better resolution on 35mm film that digital, even after 18 years since the first one (Kodak DCS100 in 1991) ha ha ha!

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K-m ? Paah ! Gimme a K-1KD !

5 points AF ? Digital effects on a glorified embeded 486 ? Electronic simulated FOV preview ? What for ?

I want my manual 33 mm (50 mm eq. 24x36) normal lense and match needle cell back !

This said, Pentax is head and shoulders above competitors in the "motivated beginner"'s range. I own an *istDl, which was positionned very much like the K-m when it came out. I'm very happy with it. And, this appreciation is coming from someone you'd have to pry his Olympus OM-1 from his dead, cold, fingers. To name a few pluses I like : no funky proprietary batteries, but AA cells (handy when abroad), robust build, good, uncrippled "advanced user" modes, faithful colors (if the right mode is selected). Icing on the cake : linux support via ufraw, easy to find color profiles, seamless integration with lcms (and anything using it afterward).

(@Martin : a bridge is for taking pictures, a reflex is for crafting images. Gifted individuals can manage the latter with the former, and pretty much with anything else given there's a hole and a black chamber, though, but it helps us common mortals to have the right tool).

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Re: why not a bridge camera?

"In fact - what exactly do you get in a DSLR that you don't get in an FZ28? Please don't flame me - I really want to know."

The hint is in the name - FZ28 - widest angle is 28mm. The K-m (and most DSLRs) come with a stock 18mm to 55mm lens. 12mm through to 20mm is great for landscapes. 28mm is great for - well, just general pics of stuff if you have room to step back a few paces, but with a landscape shot, you can't do that. I used to have a Canon S2-IS - it has the same issue - at widest it had a cramped feel - but it has a 12x zoom - great for shots of birds 20+ metres away, crud for landscapes.

I'd say that 80% of my shots with my DSLR with the stock lens are taken at 18-24mm range. It feels less cramped and gives a sense of space.

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Why a DSLR?

> you were thinking of a top-end compact ... What exactly do you get in a DSLR that you don't get in an FZ28?

According to dpreview, the K-m has a sensor size of 23.5 x 15.7 mm and the FZ28 6.13 x 4.60 mm.

If that doesn't result in reduced noise and better low light performance for the K-m, then Pentax are doing something badly wrong.

But I suspect it's more that you might not have been planning to change lenses, but a sufficiently good value DSLR might make you change your mind and decide you want the option in the future after all.

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The upsides

First of all, I'll declare that I'm a Pentax DLSR user already, though I don't have this model. I have used: *ist DS, K10D and K20D. I would be interested in this model as a slightly more portable alternative or addition to my K20D.

Martin, I would go for this instead of, or as well as!, a compact or bridge camera for the decent optical viewfinder (that lets you see through the lens) - that many photographers find vastly more satisfying to use than a LCD or EVF - as well as the ability to use any of dozens of lenses to add a lot of interest to your photography. You don't HAVE to change lenses though. You could use a superzoom to cover a wide range.

DSLRs tend to be better as well in terms of ergonomics and speed of operation, and image quality. This model might be relatively slow for a DLSR, but still it's going to be quick compared to a compact. By the way, apparently this model takes less than a second to start up, rather than the three seconds claimed in this review. I suppose you can interrupt the spash screen.

The price is a little high at the moment, I think, but it's bound to come down during the next few months. Meanwhile, £50 Cashback from Pentax is available now.

Re the AF points: Lack of focus point indication is only an issue when using the Auto selection mode. In manual mode, there is only one focus point (centre). Actually a lot of serious users of cameras with multiple points just stick to the centre point anyway. So it is not a major flaw, it is something you can live with quite easily.

A movie mode would be a fun bonus, but not at all important for this kind of camera. Live view also isn't generally important either, but can be useful sometimes (K20D has it).

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Alert

For a few dollars more... or less...

I'd probably buy the Eos 1000. 7 Point AF (that works) Faster boot, Live View, 3fps, rechargable battery included.. and cheaper. (effects available via included software on PC)

So which DSLR is built like a wet lettuce? Dont All DSLRs feel solid? dont recall a review that said otherwise..

As for Live View it is damn useful! I have used it many times... although I never thought I would! (ideal for overhead shooting) Its also really usful when studio shooting with live view outuput to a monitor/screen. (eos450D)

@Martin

In fact - what do you get in a DSLR that you don't get in an FZ28?

You get to see through the lens! Bridge cameras have no mirror the viewfinder is electronic and as such lacks clarity, the focus is purely software. With no mechanicals and hardly any optics (no optical focus) makes them cheap, in comparison to an SLR. I wont knock the feature set though, they have lots of software!

Interesting how you hide the Car Registration but not the boats waterways licnce No!

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@Martin

There are two things you need to know. Firstly the smaller your sensor chip the worse the camera is in low light (this is a bit of a generalisation but holds fairly true) and the more that any flaws in the lens show up. Bridge cameras use tiny sensors which are about 1/4 of the size of those in APS DSLRs (which are about 1/2 the size of those in 35mm DSLRs). Second the longer the zoom range that a lens has the more it's design has been compromised to make it work (you get distortions in the image, coloured fringing on high contrast edges, lack of sharpness in the corners etc). Profesional grade lenses don't normaly exceed a zoom range of 3x because of this (and the very best lenses tend to be fixed focal lengths). So bridge type cameras are smaller, cheaper and more convienient. DSLRs are capable of higher quality results and can be used in more extreme conditions (more wide angle, more telephoto, lower light, closer focus etc) because you match the lens (or lenses) to your requirements.

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Lens compatibility

Will this accept the old Pentax K manual mount lens?

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Canon 400D user...

Why liveview... occasionally getting a shot from an angle you can't squeeze your head into as well as the camera... but for the most part, to help bridge Compact users across to DSLR's.

Also, the Sony α200 is a very good competitor to to this Pentax, comes cheaper, and has a kit lens that allows for more telephoto than the Pentax (http://camerapricebuster.co.uk/prod609.html)

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Stop

FZ28?! or any super zoom over a dslr?

If you have the money to buy a dslr you would be mad to spend it on a super zoom. The two don't compare.

The image quality you get out of a dslr is night and day compared to super zoom. The ISO abilities also, same goes for the noise. In terms of creativity, you just can't play with depth of field in a super zoom like you can with a SLR.

You don't have to change lenses you know.

If your just wanting to take pictures of your kids then don't spend all the money on a high end super zoom as you don't need to. Get a 7-8x zoom thats all you need, any more its just a "My zoom's bigger than yours" p!ssin match...a bit like the stupid mega pixel race. You don't need more than 6 mega pixels unless your printing bigger than 6x4.

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Bronze badge
Boffin

Re: why not a bridge camera?

I'm no expert in this field so I'm open to correction but having looked at buying a DSLR (Sony A200 would be my entry-level choice) the main difference between a DSLR and a bridge camera after a removable lens system seems to be the size of the CCD / CMOS used to capture the image. The bigger it is, the better the quality of the image.

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@Movie Mode - Alistair

"Seriously, who in their right minds would want movie mode on a DSLR?"

Because the flexiblity of a DSLR gives you the choice of lens to use for your movie - and a very wide choice at that. All kinds of filmic effects are therefore possible. Why be restricted to what you get with a camcorder - though camcorders are good at what they do. It's a bit like the converse of why would anyone want a stills mode on a camcorder. Basically one has the convenience of a 2 on 1 function device with less to carry around. The convergence is inevitable - both systems use CCDs, memory cards, lenses.

Really can't believe the short-sighted, limited and unimaginative comments of readers I've been seen on here and other internet sites and forums.

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From Film to Digital

Well I'm a longtime Pentax Spotmatic (built like a tank!) user and bought a digital compact that goes everywhere with me. But that little camera is very frustrating and not easily controllable. This camera is flexible, controllable and takes my old lenses (with an adaptor). Works fine with my old 300mm mirror lens (used a 2x converter to get past the overhang). I've fallen in love with it already and expect it to give the Spotmatics a run for their money. Movie mode is for a movie camera, not a DSLR

Martin

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Happy

Thanks to all...

So let me summarize.

I think it seems to come down to a matter of quality, mainly due to the much larger sensor. Also, you get the flexibility of the lens exchanging. Oh, and you truly do see through the lens, rather than using an EVF. (And that, I admit, is where my bridge camera isn't quite so good....!)

Fair enough. But it's still currently twice the price. I don't like compact cameras (especially modern ones with no viewfinder). The long zoom lens, tolerable EVF and the flexibility of my FZ5 (12x zoom) which cost me £75 second hand is more than adequate for what I want - mainly family & holiday snaps.

BTW - the 28 on the FZ28 is just a number - not a 28mm lens. They had the FZ8 (which was 12x zoom) then the FZ18 (the 18xzoom) then the FZ28 (which is the next one up from an FZ18). Just marketing guff.

Thanks again!

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Anonymous Coward

Various

@Pete

Cashback is £30 on this camera

@Llanfair

42mm lens with K adaptor fitted fine.

Martin

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Anonymous Coward

@Llanfair

> Will this accept the old Pentax K manual mount lens?

Yes. My dad got the K-m recently, and can use his old lenses and extension-tubes (for close-up).

The K-m does image-stabilisation by moving the CCD, so you can benefit from stabilisation even with old lenses too.

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Re: Lens compatibility

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentax_K_mount

Pentax DSLRs will take old K-mount lenses, and even M42 lenses with the Pentax adaptor. However, things become progressively more manual with older lenses. With newish lenses that support autofous (KAF mount, mid-nineties or later), everything works. With manual focus lenses, you get focus confirmnation from the AF system, but it can't focus for you. If the lens doesn't have an "A" setting on its aperture ring (Introduced with the KA mount in the mid-eighties), you're limited to stop-down metering.

Opinions vary widely amongst Pentax DSLR users as to the merits of using older lenses. I find it clumsy, but there are vocal proponents of working with everything manual.

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Boffin

Budget DSLR

£400 seriously???? I thought most DSLRs sit around £200 mark?

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@Chris L

The 28 in FZ28 is not actually 28mm .. I think its actually the current model in the sequence FZ8, FZ18, FZ28 :-)

However it does have a zoom range down to 28mm in terms of 35mm SLR lenses ... however the actually focal length of virtually every digital camera is smaller than the equivalent on a 35mm SLR since apart from a few full frame models all have sensors smaller than the size of a 35mm film frame. So to get from actual focal length to equiv 35mm focal length there's always a conversion factor ... for most DSLRs its ~1.5X (though Olympus 4/3rds system has a slightly smaller sensor so its 2X for them). Thus the standard 18-55mm lens is actually 27-83mm in 35mm terms. I've got a Canon SX10 which has a similar sensor size and lens range as the FZ28 and its lens is 5-100mm actual or 28-560 35mm equiv. The fact that theres a 5.6x conversion factor is the indicator of the much smaller sensor so a DSLR will always do better in difficult conditions ... but for many people a bridge is a sensible compromise.

The latest bridges like FZ28 and SX10 have pushed the zoom ranges at both ends so there's now a much wider angle available. I'd agree with you that a decent wide angle is often more useful than extreme telephotos.

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Alien

a.k.a. K2000, in the US

... in case my fellow colonials want to hunt for it in the pricegrabber. Maybe that was mentioned on one of the several pages I skipped...

Seems to start at $560 for a kit with the DA 18-55mm AL Lens & AF-200FG Flash

('cause we fink brits is aliens over here)

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Movie mode, wide angle...

A lot of people seem affronted by the idea of movie mode on a DSLR. Sure, you won't be able to use the viewfinder for video, and the handling might leave something to be desired but the benefit of being able to use the same lenses for video and stills, and not requiring two separate devices with somewhat similar components.

I'm not quite sure why people are directly comparing 18mm kit lens to '28mm' on the FZ28. The FZ28 lens is 4.8mm at the wide end... in the context of field of view the two lenses give on their respective bodies, they are both approximately equivalent to ~27mm on a 35mm camera. It's about time people started learning to talk about actual FOV, rather than '35mm equivalent focal length' so that these confusions can be avoided.

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Stop

Are you sure about the AF?

I've got the older model which uses the same AF system.

In my case the camera does tell you which AF spot it's using because it flashes it red, very briefly, when you half press the shutter button.

I'd be surprised if they've ditched this on the newer model so are you sure you haven't just missed it?

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J

The (mostly) white one

That (mostly) white model looks like a camera that would look good in a Star Wars trooper's hands...

@Chris L

Psychology is an interesting thing. The 18mm stock lenses of our Pentax cameras are actually the same as 27mm in 35mm film camera terms, due to the sensor size crop factor (which for Pentax is 1.5x). So it would be interesting if your 18mm (I mean, 27mm) shots felt less cramped than the ones from the FZ28.

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