Today is a good day to mention Pentax. Read on to find out why.
When most people think of dSLRs (digital Single Lens Reflex cameras, the brands that come first to mind will be Canon, Nikon and maybe Sony, though there are other brands that produce dSLRs, like Pentax. Pentax existence was wrongfully neglected in the last few years in my opinion especially in the United States.
It has been almost 2 years Pentax has released a camera (Pentax K-5) which is considered the best in its class by most reviewers. One can roughly define this class as mid-range dSLRs (if one looks at Canon’s line up this would correspond to their 3rd (60D) and 4th (7D) level dSLRs, or 3rd level in the Nikon’s line up (D7000)). This class includes the most advanced APS-C sensor dSLRs, so the next most advanced will be already Full Frame cameras.
Skip that though and look at it in this way: this class corresponds to the price range $900-$2000! That’s a very wide span indeed! So the Pentax K-5 is considered by many to be the best camera in that price range. That is quite impressive! I repeat the Pentax K-5 is considered to be the best dSLR in price range $900-$2000! (“!” is not in this case the sign of the factorial). Not only that, it is also the cheapest camera in that price range! (The price is close to the price of the Canon 60D which is considered to be of a lower league). An on top of that it is also (as of now) the latest released cameras in that class (if we leave out the Sony A77). Should I add it is also the most compact and lightest of the bunch? Oh yeh, it features the quietest shutter and it is the only system to fully support all the SLR lenses previously released by Pentax.
I have just realized I can keep adding to this list, so I’ll stop here.
My point is. Those of you who are on lookout for heir first SLR, do not disregard Pentax – it does deserve your attention.
Of course Pentax doesn’t stop at having the best mid-range dSLR. It is the only brand to offer an affordable medium-format camera, the smallest interchangeable-lens system as well as the only mirrorless which is compatible with all Pentax SLR lenses. It is also the only brand to offer an entry-level weather sealed dSLR (just released).
Having praised Pentax so much I do need to add some criticism.
- Of course (as any brand) Pentax does have its quirks. For me it’s a minor issue though. I believe that reasonably skilled photographers rarely encounter the situation when their camera starts to be quirky (at the edge of its limits). And know to avoid these situation. A good photographer will not attempt to shoot empty white walls or using AF on transparent fences etc or take portraits in pitch-dark rooms. Though it may happen that your particular photography falls within that range where the camera malfunctions.
- Pentax has not been doing well as a company in the last few years. It has been bought twice by other companies, just recently by Ricoh (which in fact gives hope). This has had its consequences. You decide if that matters to you. It didn’t matter to me, though I’m sure it would matter to a Pro expecting an expensive pro-support from the company. (Now Pentax is working on getting that back on track).
- User base. The biggest concern for me was a much thinner user base for Pentax. It may mean you have no other Pentax users around you. It may also mean third-party manufactures limited interest in providing accessories for Pentax.
So why does this post appear today: today Pentax lowered prices on its amazing lenses (more or less back to the level where they were before the recent price increase). Which reinforces the image Pentax has: a brand that is offering an affordable, top-quality, user-friendly and feature-rich system. Did I mention Pentax has a unique line of top-quality compact lenses?
So how did I come to own and love my Pentax K-5. I have been “spoiled” by film (i.e. Full Frame format), so I started by looking at Full Frame options. Back then the only “affordable” option was Canon 5D Mark II, though even that was way too expensive for me. So I had to look at the APS-C sensor options. I’m almost completely not brand loyal. Nevertheless I definitely do listen to what most people use and think. There is a consensus that Nikon is the best SLR brand and in particularly in November 2011 when I was choosing my first dSLR Nikon did rule in the price range from $1000 to $2000. Canon’s plastic 60D just didn’t make the cut, while their 7D did seem overpriced, big and too heavy (slightly outdated too). I quite liked the line 20D-30D-40D-50D though the split to “cheaper” 60D and more expensive 7D just didn’t seem right. On the other hand Nikon had the D7000 which not only was the most popular dSLR at that time, it also had great reviews and cost noticeably less than the 7D and just a bit more than 60D. The Nikon D7000 did look like a clear winner! The while reading Nikon D7000 reviews I have learned about the Pentax K-5 which was consistently rated higher (it features the same sensor as the Nikon) and was being offered at about the same price. I was still leaning towards the Nikon, though an extra $230 discount on the Pentax K-5 did tip the balance for me. And I have never regretted this!
One extremely important Pentax advantage (that I was not aware of at the time of buying) is great compatibility with various non-Pentax non-K-mount lenses. For instance it works very well with my Soviet M42 and M39 lenses. Unlike Canon or Nikon, just with a simple adapter you can use the lenses and enjoy things like focus confirmation and metering.
Even though Pentax user base is not as wide as Canon or Nikon ones, Pentaxian community is a very nice and tight group. There is a dedicated and very active Pentax website which provides loads of information and a great user-forum.
P.S.: You can read my review of Pentax K-5 on Amazon.