More news for the photo set. Well, the proportion who care about DSLRs, prime lenses, and so on. OK, really only the sub-sub-subculture that follows the products from Pentax. With a few introductory remarks as to why you might be interested if you tend to photogeekery. Everyone else move right along.

On Pentax · Pentax’s market share lags far, far, behind the CaNikon duopoly. They were late to the DSLR market and have never had more than a couple of models on sale. They don’t have the most megapixels or frames/second or the biggest telephotos.

Having said that, the Pentaxes, like every DSLR you can buy, take great pictures. And the company has a reputation for being a little eccentric in their product strategies, verging on the frankly weird.

Plus, the cameras have outstanding ergonomics; probably a little ahead of CaNikon.

Plus, and here we’re into otaku territory, the Pentax lens mount hasn’t changed in fifty years or so. Which means there’s this astoundingly wide array of old and new lenses you can fool around with.

I’ve actually written three different ongoing fragments about buying Pentax lenses: Pentax smc P-DA 40mm “Pancake”, New 21mm Lens, and Shinjuku Cameras.

By the way, all the photos in the recent Howe Sound Day were shot with either the 40mm or 21mm prime. There’s something really satisfying about pointing a classic 21mm wide-angle at a bunch of mountains.

As for myself, my Dad and my wife were both into Pentax before I got serious about cameras; so I had little choice in the matter. But no regrets, my camera makes me happy.

New Stuff · Back to our story. Pentax just announced some new cameras and lenses.

They look pretty interesting... what made my little heart go pitter-pat were the 100% crops of high-ISO shots with the K20D, the last four in the PopPhoto Slideshow. More samples and sample-pointers chez Mike Johnston. And by the way, when you’ve visiting The Online Photographer, always read the comments for extra wit & wisdom.

I suspect one of these is in my future. The K200D is smaller and lighter and that’s very important, but then I look at those high-ISO K20D crops and go mmmmm... it’s only a little bigger. On the other hand, having too many pixels these days is grounds for suspicion; Has Moore’s law progressed far enough in four years that you can squeeze 14.6MP into the space where my *ist-D has six, without paying a price for overcrowding?

It’s striking that the K20D represents the combination of Korean brute-force silicon wrangling (Samsung’s new CMOS sensor) with Japanese design sensibilities and aesthetics. Which is kind of a new thing in the world.

You know, if you want to get into SLR photography and be a little different, you might want to snap up a K100D or K10D (cheap!) while they’re still available, or wait for the 200. On the other hand, if you get the usual Nikon or Canon just like everyone else, you’ll be perfectly happy too.

Online Culture · In the course of my meanderings so far, the only Pentax-specific property I’d found was RiceHigh’s Pentax Blog, but it’s weird. You’d think that a blog dedicated to a certain line of products would be written by someone who, you know, likes those products. But RiceHigh does nothing but complain about how awful they are and how everything’s wrong with them. Odd.

Just recently I stumbled across PDML, the Pentax-Discuss Mailing List, and it’s a treat. Maybe a little bit higher-volume than strictly necessary, but erudite, witty, and frequently ribald. With lotsa cool pix. They call that other guy “RiceWhine”. I like it! The Internet’s killer app remains, as always, other people.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Janne (Jan 26 2008, at 01:10)

They've squeezed the non-sensing bits ont he sensor further, so the 14mp sensor actually has the same size sensor-sites as other 12mp cameras. And the sample images look really, really good to me. But yes, I'd suspect your DS probably has about as good high-iso performance as that K20D

I won't get either; my K10D works just fine, and the K200D seems to be pretty much the K10 - weather sealing and all - in a smaller, lighter package. If I was in the market for either one, that choice is pretty difficult. In the end, I think it'd come down to that extra high-ISO performance and having a front finger wheel like the K10.

Oh, "Ricehigh", by the way, is well-known among Pentax-related forums. He only set up that blog once he had gotten banned from just about every photography-related forum in existence because of exactly that kind of obsessive, never-ceasing ranting (we're talking years at a time here). It's quite sad really; it's quite obvious when you engage him in discussion that the obsession is not anywhere near normal and he doesn't seem to have the kind of social support that could encourage him to seek help for it.


From: Alan Little (Jan 26 2008, at 01:16)

Regarding the price of overcrowding: I did read as how Pentax (I presume actually their sensor manufacturer, whoever that mght be) have figured out how to use less of the sensor surface real estate for supporting electrics and more for actual photosites. They say the photosites on the K20d are about the same size as the ones on most 12 MP cameras, and they seem to work just fine. If the claim of usable iso 6400 is true, then indeed they do. (Not quite competitive with the Nikon D3 - but I'm sure there are things one could do with five or six K20ds that one couldn't with one D3)

Me, I'm perfectly happy with my D200. Nikon will probably ruin my happiness in eighteen months or so when they ship the "basically a D3 sensor in a slightly lower end body" model at a price I could just about consider stretching to. I love playing with "available darkness" photography; used to get through quite a bit of TMax-3200 back in the day.

I've always owned mostly Nikons, but I used to notice how cheap some of those excellent used Pentax lenes were. I guess they aren't any more?


From: Ged (Jan 26 2008, at 05:28)

Hi Tim,

I liked the article about Pentax DSLRs. Pentax is an old school Japanese firm like Denon who believes that quality and sensible innovation will shine through. The reasons why I purchased mine were:

- Pentax uses AA sized batteries, I have been stuck on three continents and had no problems with batteries

- Pentax supports the SD card format, compact flash and some of the other formats are quite hard to get hold of unless you run into a specialist store

- Pentax cameras are built on stainless steel frames, electronics can only count for so much failings in mechanical design

- Pentax has really good anti-shake characteristics

- The 18-50mm lens that Pentax bundles its entry level DSLR with is ideal for most non-specialist photographers like me

- My Pentax was cheap enough that I am not afraid to bring it with me everywhere I go, I use randomly taken shots to liven up my blog

- At the same time my Pentax doesn't look cheap like some of the graphite grey metallic Nikons that you see about

- I didn't need to read the manual to get it taking reasonable looking pictures, despite the fact that I am a crap photographer


From: David Magda (Jan 26 2008, at 06:22)

Why do people say "dSLR"? Digital has almost entirely taken over the industry, in both P&S and SLR models.

Perhaps we can simply say SLR and assume that it's digital, and if we want to refer to non-digital, film cameras, we use fSLR, for "film single-lens reflex".

It's one character, and it may seem silly, but it's just something that I've been wondering about.

Can we start a movement for this new term? :)


From: Mike Hamilton (Jan 26 2008, at 09:07)

I agree that the PDML is a bit verbose! You might check out for some quality information at a bit slower pace.

Pentax certainly does express its quirks (really, who makes a 21 or 43mm prime lens?), but you really can't go wrong with them. Using a 45 year old lens (Takumar 50mm 1.4) on my K10D is wonderful.


From: Anthony B. Coates (Jan 27 2008, at 02:23)

For Pentax discussions, you might also tried dpreview's Pentax SLR Talk Forum:

I've found their forums OK for various SLRs I've been interested in (including the k10D, although I ended up buying a second-hand Fuji).

Cheers, Tony.


From: Marcus Ramberg (Jan 27 2008, at 02:54)

I really found this announcement interesting as well. I have a k10d today, and the main things that made me drool for the k20d is the increased iso you mentioned (which would be really useful in my concert photography), the increased dynamic range (one of my pet peeves with shooting digital landscapes) and the bigger screen.

Have to say tho, after switching from Canon to Pentax last year, I'm finally really happy with my gear. The k10d with a battery grip and the 2.8f 50-135 really suits my style of photography. The biggest annoyance with Pentax is that they don't use a mini usb plug to connect to the camera, and that transfering off the SD cards seem slow compared to CompactFlash.


From: Alex Waterhouse-Hayward (Jan 27 2008, at 22:52)

Tim you wrote:

Plus, and here we’re into otaku territory, the Pentax lens mount hasn’t changed in fifty years or so.

That is not quite the case. Until 1975 Pentax cameras had a thread mount. In that year (in Vancouver perhaps a year or two later) they introduced the K mount bayonet system. You can perhaps buy I had one and gave it to my eldest daughter) an adaptor that was made that fit into bayonet mount Pentaxes that then enabled you to screw the old lenses (but rendering all automatic aperture settings useless). I had Pentaxes because around 1966 I bought my first camera, an East German (Jena) Pentacon F that had the thread mount that Pentax adopted. My second camera was an Asahi Pentax S-3. In the late 70s I switched to the Pentax MX. Perhaps the best Pentax, Pentax ever made was the ME-Super. This camera had a full automatic and a manual setting. On manual, the camera still told (few other cameras did this then or perhaps even now) you what the settings would be if you wanted that to be the case. The built-in galium arsenide meter was one of the best ever made for cameras.


From: David Williams (Feb 04 2008, at 10:56)

Thanks for the pointer that solved my obscure problem: I've loved my *istD except for the focusing screen. The link to The Online Photographer led to a comment about Katz Eye Optics replacement focusing screens. I'm a happy manual focuser again. Thank you.


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