There’s a marvellous new DSLR (digital SLR) out soon, that promises to be the most fully-featured yet released; not only that, but it is coming out at the same price of others that don’t have even half its features. And no, for once it’s not a Nikon or a C*non. The beautiful creation I speak of is the forthcoming Pentax K10D, one of the only such cameras on the planet to have both a 10 mega-pixel sensor and built-in dust-protection and anti-shake technology (signified by the SR red SR logo on the body). This means that you can take shots with a longer shutter speed, such as in twilight conditions, whilst hand-holding the camera, especially using longer lenses that accentuate camera-shake more. True, you can also use a tripod or even a monopod, but who wants to bother with that when there is a way around it.
This camera follows hot on the heels of Sony’s A100 Alpha, converting a Minolta camera when they bought the company up, which has similar features but, fatally in many people’s eyes, has a tacky, plasticy body that’s unpleasant to hold (IMHO) and lacks the weather-seals of the Pentax. In reality, this particular battle, for the share of the DSLR market that isn’t controlled by market-leaders Canon and Nikon (very much in that order), is becoming a tussle between Sony-Minolta, Pentax-Samsung and a limping Olympus, whose innovative yet noisy 4/3 mount offers little in quality gains.
All this leaves me in a very frustrating position. I have invested in loads of very high quality Nikon and Nikon-mount third-party lenses. Yet my D70 body, despite being little over a year old, seems quite dated compared to the newer Nikons and especially the aforementioned ‘dream’ Pentax. I currently shoot in 6 mega-pixels, which has been fine, but it won’t print very large if I wish to, doesn’t leave any room for cropping and, more importantly, is considered insufficient for many stock-houses, who insist on at least 8 (though this was really to keep out all the amateurs when all the consumer models were 6-meg.) I want 10 meg, pretty badly and Nikon has the D80 with good features but a plasticy body and the much more satisfying D200 (with a similar quality to the k10d, but at one and a half times the price) in this- but without anti-shake, without dust-cleaning (which is a very annoying necessity on my class of camera). The anti-shake is a really attractive feature as in the Pentax cameras this will stablise all the lenses, including fixed lenses like the 35mm, whereas with Nikon you have to choose from a few extremely expensive lenses to have this feature.
So what to do? Get the D80 and hang on? Invest in the D200 and forget about the new features in Sony and Pentax, even though I’m paying more? Or make my second camera a Pentax, sell off some of my Nikon lenses, and gradually build up a collection of Pentax lenses to use with it? I am sorely tempted to do this, extravagant though it may sound. With all the money they make on VR/IS lenses, Nikon and Canon are unlikely to offer in-body stabilisation any time soon. Which means a choice between either paying the big bucks for the lenses, or continuing to miss shots that with the VR would be fine.
Another advantage with Pentax is that they (unlike Sony-Minolta) have been working hard to produce a range of lenses that are uniquely tailored for high-quality digital use, i.e., the ‘DA’ digital primes. One of these is the soon-to be released 70mmDA pancake, a small and portable lens perfect for digital portraits at the equivalent 105mm that people were using on film cameras, almost as good as their already-acclaimed 77mm, with it’s beautiful bokeh. These are the type of lens I want very badly, but Nikon has yet to make as they are focussing on their zooms.
Pentax’s prime lenses are very attractive in themselves. They have an affordable and compact 14mm (no-one else does), a small 21mm, a (large) 31mm, the 40mm pancake, the forthcoming 70mm pancake and then the gorgeous 77mm. Many a photographer is dreaming of just what they could do with all of this, as with prime lenses less is certainly more. They’ll also have a new batch of special-for-digital zooms coming out next February. They really are serious. And so am I- baring any unforseen problems with it I will for sure be getting one, along with the following lenses- 35mm F2, 77mm F1.8 Limited, a Tamron 90mm macro (to replace my Nikon one) and the Sigma 17-70mm for general useage. all this will come to less than a nikon with a similar level of features and of course I’ll have that stablisation with all my future lenses!
There was a time when I was eagerly awaiting the successor to the Fuji S3, with it’s superior high dynamic range, hoping for a higher megapixel version when they started using the Nikon D200 body. yet like many I was very disappointed to learn that they’ll stay with the 6 MP Super CCD sensor, even if they will be refining how they read its data. So you could say that all my anticipation for the Fuji was suddenly transferred to the Pentax. I won’t be leaving Nikon just yet, though, keeping it for the excellent zooms and so I have a two-camera system. Yet if many more feel the way I do, that even after years of loyalty they aren’t properly catering for their prosumer (neither strictly amateur or professional) users, they they should be quite worried. Because by not moving quickly enough with emerging technologies such as in-body stabilisation, and charging too much for the kind of pro features that prosumers would very much like to have too, they are becoming harder to recommend to first-time users. Probably, in time they’ll introduce this at an affordable level, so I’ll partly be keeping my excellent 2.8 aperture nikkor zooms for this day- and also using them in the meantime as the superb portrait lenses that they undoubtedly are. Hello Pentax, but not quite bye-bye Nikon.
The Pentax K10D will be released in Japan on November 30th. Friends of mine have already bought or are considering the K100D, its 6-megapixel, stabilised baby-brother and one of the most popular of the budget DSLRs now.