Saturday, August 25, 2007

Pentax K10D

Up until recently, my digital SLR was a Nikon D50: a basic, but basically functional DSLR. I liked it, and liked it well enough to take almost anywhere – right up to the point where I took it up Mt. Adams a month ago, and then like an idiot (a lot like an idiot, according to my wife) left it in the trailhead parking lot. Once I gave it up for lost, our deal was that I couldn't buy a new one until I made all the arrangements to get our roof replaced, but then Caedmon began showing signs of arriving early, and I took advantage of "unexpected circumstances" to acquire a new camera in time for his birth. I'd initially been planning to go with the Nikon D80, but at the last minute I decided to go with the Pentax K10D instead. My father is a longtime Nikon aficionado, and honest to God, we spent more time discussing my switch to a Pentax camera than my switch to a Presbyterian church. Priorities, you know.

So now that I've had the camera for a couple weeks, and have mostly put it through its paces, I thought I'd give some initial thoughts on it.

Likes:

  • It's got a weatherproof body. Since most of my photos (so far) are taken in situations where the camera might indeed get wet, and I already lost my first D50 to a leaky water bottle, this is a major plus.
  • The vibration reduction (built into the body itself!) seems to work pretty well. I can take pictures at 1/10 second or slower and have them generally show up clear. From what I can tell, this is even better than the results I got from my very expensive (and now lost) Nikkor VR 18-200 lens. And as a result, I plan on using the Tamron 18-250 lens, which is about $300 cheaper than the equivalent Nikkor, and is a tad more powerful.
  • It's about $100 cheaper than the D80. Not a huge price differential, but worth noting.
  • It has a dust-removal system on the sensor that seems like a pretty cool idea. Can't say that I ever noticed the lack on the D50, but it's a nice thought.

Dislikes:

  • The automatic white balance setting needs a ton of work. My Dad swears by setting the white balance manually, but I never noticed much of a need to do so on my D50. But indoors with the K10D, if you leave it on the "automatic" setting, the resulting pictures end up way too warm. You can address this by setting it manually, of course, but then you have to remember to change it again when you switch lighting.

    As an example, this picture was taken using the "automatic" white balance setting. Notice how yellow everything is.

    Just a second later (after I'd realized the white balance was wrong), this was taken using the "Tungsten" white balance setting:

    And this is (of course) what you get when you forget, leave it on "Tungsten" and use the flash:

    You can override all of this, of course, if you shoot RAW and fix it on your PC – but that's rather a pain.
  • The built-in flash is very uneven, and doesn't work as well as the Nikon. Pictures that I've taken with the flash, even at short distances, tend to be badly underexposed.

    For instance, this picture was taken with my Dad's Nikon D200, with the built-in flash:

    And this one was taken with my Pentax K10D, again, with the built-in flash:

  • Pentax doesn't have anything like the same "depth" in their accessories that Nikon has. None of the stores around here have anything but the barest selection of Pentax lenses. If I want to get anything decent, it's gonna have to be off of Amazon. Given that I'm probably only going to need a couple of basic lenses, this isn't a huge problem for me. But it's worth noting.

So would I make the same decision now? Hard to say. Possibly. If I can find workarounds for the problems I've noted, I would be very happy with it. As it is, I'm only moderately pleased. Anybody out there have any suggestions for me?

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