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Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Comments

While we are at it, here is a list of all Pentax-made K-mount lenses and all other Pentax-made K-mount equipment.

Gordon,
The K7 is such an attractive camera, especially for me since I have six Pentax limited primes that I'm itching to use. But, I'm going to hold off and hope for a K8 with better dynamic range at least equal to the two year old APS-C competion.

I apologize for continuing to harp on this point, but I think in all fairness to the other readers, people need to know that the K7 dynamic range is one to one and a half stops less than the competition.

This may not be important to many people and for those that shoot jpegs or don't due much post processing with their raw images it may not be an issue. But in those circumstances where the photographer decides to underexpose an image to hold highlights and then push the shadows and midtones in post processing, the K7 images do not compare to the two year old competition.

I purchased a K7 a few weeks back, and used it on a recent trip to Italy and Croatia. I can't stress enough how versatile and well built it is. I would compare it to a compact supercar, like a Porche 911 Turbo. You may not need the power all the time, but it is there for your disposal if you choose to delve into it. What is always accessible however, is the superb compact weatherproof build and incredible image quality. For what I shoot, which is primarily travel photography and architecture/landscape, I can't give it anything less than a full endorsement.

It's worth noting also that the new "WR" kit lenses are also weather "resistant". Meaning you don't have to go with a relatively expensive DA* lens just to get a lens that will seal to the body.

(Feel free to correct the above, as I'm not a Pentax user, just a fan.)

Thanks for the review Gordon, it's good to see Pentax is keeping their system alive and giving a really nice path to their current users.

I doubt I'll switch to Pentax as I'm already invested in the Canon system, but nice to know the option is there. Unfortunately, not enough pressure to push canikon to follow the small rugged body, though.

Maybe pentax will join the m43s system =)

Thank you for the very balanced review. As a K-7 owner I think you got it completely right. Apart from one (very small) point: there's no such lens as the SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.8. I think you meant to write f/1.7 ;)

Thank you very much for this review. As an istD owner with an itch to upgrade, I've been following the series closely. Finding a balanced, fair review is difficult (as you know!), I appreciate the time & effort put forth here.

I have enjoyed reading your trilogy review of the K-7. It was thorough and, I feel, it captured the highlights of this camera quite well.

In it, you stated:

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"If you’re already invested in a different camera system it’s a different story. The K-7 has sufficient charms some might consider buying one with a prime lens or two as their “small but rugged” travel kit."

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That was precisely the boat I found myself in. I was in the market for a second body. As a long time Canon guy, I looked at the entry level bodies, but they just didn't do it for me. I looked at Nikon for a few moments, but, again, feature and price never intersected.

Then on a whim, I thought I'd check out Pentax. The more I looked at the K-7, the more I couldn't believe it. It was as if they had me in mind when they made it: size, rugged build, performance...it all came together in a package that, frankly was a refreshing surprise. I won't go on to parrot your well done reviews as my findings parallel what you've written. I will say that this camera has invigorated me in ways a "second" body has no right in doing. It's simply one of those investments with a greater than anticipated return.

Thanks again!

I picked up a K7 and Sigma 30mm f/1.4 on Saturday after using a Pentax *ist DS for over four years. The difference is breathtaking. I still forget it has a second dial! It's great to be able to just pick the thing up and shoot off a frame, confident that it will have hit the focus and delivered a usable photo. With the DS I knew how it performed and how to work it and when to not even bother trying. This camera feels like it will do *anything*.

Christine: go for it. f/1.4 WITH image stabilization is a revelation :-)

Gordon, as a K20D owner I followed your review with great interest, already knowing that you are one of the reviewers thats needs and likings are close to mine. I remember your review of the Oly 520 and that you had an eye on the 620.

Liking your approach to the matter and thanking you for the efforts as others already did, I hoped that you put more emphasis on the AF performance, and I mean the reliability and accuracy. I don't care about speed or tracking, since speed was always sufficient for me with all cameras I ever used and CAF is something I never used and probably won't do so in the future. Regarding AF I remember that Carl Weese some time ago found the K10D unreliable especially with wide angles, incidentially the 21 Ltd. you also had for testing. That is, if you focus on a subject (usually a person) and there is a background with lines of contrast anywhere near (but often not sooo near) the intended subject then the camera will lock on the background. Sean Reid tested the 21 Ltd. on the K10D and came to the conclusion that the lens had AF issues, not the specific sample, but the 21s in general. But I think he ran into the AF issue of the Pentax bodies, not the lens', and came to the wrong conclusion because as far as I know he never tested the K10D with other wide angles. I found the same behaviour with the K10D and also the K20D, with the 16-50 and also the cheap kit lens, both at the wider focal length. It can also be the other way around, i.e. the camera focusses in front of the subject, but most often it is behind. Mind you, it is no BF or FF problem, but according to the online voices it is the large AF sensors that find contrast somewhere in the frame where you wouldn't suppose them to do. Now, looking at the man on the market, I believe to see what I hoped would not occur any more with the K-7. Can you say something about this? Did you focus an the man, you did, didn't you? ;-) Your opinion would be very much appreciated.

Thanks!
Andreas

PS: and now let's eventually buy these 620s with 14-54 and set the AF points to narrow mode ;-))

The K-7 body only option IS available via Amazon U.K. - it just doesn't appear using their search facility. I found it via a price comparison site (where Amazon was also listed as cheapest supplier).

If you use the Amazon U.K. link above, and then paste B002AKKBX4 into their search box, you should go straight to it.

Bad news - "Only 1 left in stock" - at the time of writing...
Good news - "order soon (more on the way)" - and there are "more buying choices" too.

I am also heavily invested in a Canon system and very pleased with how Canon performs for the type of photography that I aspire to accomplish. When reading Mike's write up after Pentax announced the K7 earlier this year I decided to order one and give it a try. I really wanted something smaller and lighter than my 5D Mark II. What was desirable was a camera that can be thrown in a backpack with an extra lens for a long morning or evening hike. I can attest to what Gordon has said in each of his three reviews. This camera has tons of very good features that I am still learning and it is more than adequate for much (but not all) of what and how I like to photograph. I recently acquired the DA* 55-135mm F/2.8 lens which has proven to be simply amazing as well!

My thanks first to Mike for his post announcing the K7 back in May and to Gordon for well thought through review, commentary and inspiring images. Now I think I am officially a two system fan!

Thanks for the review. I recently upgraded from my 5 year old *istD. I do not have any recent Pentax lenses however, relying on a couple of quality Sigma AF lenses and a whole host of manual focus lenses going back to a Takumar 135mm preset. All work fine on the K7 as they did on the *istD. And even my OM macro gear is utilised with a home made adapter!

I know it's probably done through software, but doesn't the K-7 have a 6400 ISO setting?

I don't think I'd go over 1600 (and maybe 3200 in a pinch) either, but it's worth mentioning.

Pentax have an excellent prime lens offering.

I wish they would consider selling a "kit" with one of those primes instead of sticking to the mediocre kit zooms. Only Oly and Panasonic seem to have the guts to do that these days!

Really, the prices of some Pentax lenses are often significantly higher than Canon/Nikon?

I found exactly the opposite, it's one of the big reasons I use Pentax.

(K7 isn't really worth the upgrade from the K20D in my opinion, so I've skipped this generation)

I'm really lusting after the K-7. My problem is, I have a K10D already and it just keeps going and going; I know it very well by now and I'm getting better results with it than I ever have. I simply have no reason to get a new body as long as my K10 is working fine.

I still want that K-7 though...

I will admit, it's the image stabilization that tempts me most...
Thanks, Zach.

I upgraded from a K10D a little while ago, and I'm so glad I did. The K-7 is a great camera! It meters for the flash so much better than the K10D did -- that itself was pretty much worth the price. But then add the AF improvements, video capacity, and a myriad of other tweaks and features and it's really sweet. This camera has boosted my confidence in my own abilities and Pentax' too. Thanks for the review, Gordon.

@Mr. Lewis
Very good review Mr Lewis, thanks! I'm not going to upgrade to this body (I have the K10D) since I'm still saving for lenses but it is definitely good seeing Pentax is still in the game.
@Rynn
Pentax lens prices have exploded during the last few months. Just check any Pentax user forum and you will find several threads to this issue.
I've bought the DA*55 in June for about 460€. In the same shop the current price is 680€ and I've seen several offers above 700€. The Limiteds have risen about 100-150€ in price, the DA12-24 almost doubled from about 650€ to about 1100€. Some DA* Zooms also went up about 200€. The only lenses I've followed which stayed about the same were the DA14, DA15 Ltd and the DA* 200. All prices from Germany but this seems to be the case all over the world. To be fair though these prices now more or less match their (approximate) Nikon or Canon counterparts.
Well, since it's only a hobby for me I'm now considering the Sigma and Tamron alternatives because (maybe because of the K7) the used market seems to have dried up in the recent months.

After reading all this praise of the 35 Macro Ltd. I am again and again tempted to get it as my first prime (30-something being a focal length which turns up relatively often among my kit zoom photos).

However, since the weather here is not always perfect, to say the least, I want a light-rain proof lens to go with my K200d. Does anybody have experience with this lens concerning that problem? I am aware that the Ltd.s are not officially WR, but then I don't want to use the camera under the shower ...

Any thoughts?

Personally i would love to buy one but it's a shame that Pentax don't plan to offer a FF alternative for architecture photographer…

It seems the 645d resurfaced again recently so it means no FF to come i think…

RE: Andreas' question about AF issues with the 21mm DA

The photo you asked about was a "grab shot," which means I snapped it in a fraction of a second without paying much attention to the point of focus. Since the man in the foreground is off-center, it's not surprising that the AF system would lock in on the background. I have a few others in the series where I was more careful where I placed the AF point and these look perfectly sharp. There are a few other shots in different locations where the camera focused on something other than what I wanted, but again, this could have just as easily been due to user error as camera error. So in short, I'll have to give the issue further study. Thanks for the input. I'll let you know what I find out.

I only used my 35 Macro Ltd on my Coast 2 coast walk in England last year. 18 days in weather thats shifts in a second. Im proud to say that I walked with the camera around my neck almost the entire time. Heavy fog, light rain and medium rain was no problem. Lens and camera just keept going. (the K20D)

If it got too rainy I just aimed the lens downward when I walked.

(Equipment is there to be used, its not the end or the world if it breaks)

Who composed that lens product photo? Sometimes a 'lens is only a lens....' But, not in this case.

I was tired of carrying my Nikon D200 with the huge 24-70mm 2.8 and sold all my Nikon kit. After a month using a panasonic LX3 I miss the viewfinder and the IQ of a "big" sensor. My next kit is going to be a K7 with a pair of pancakes (21mm & 70mm). On paper the K7 is everything I want and this review and other photographer's opinions make me feel sure about my decision.

Marcus,

The lens prices have been somewhat more stable in the US but I have noticed others mentioning price increases on the Pentax Forum. That said I don't own any zoom lenses (nor am I shopping for one) so I don't know their prices/increases. My kit consists of the five DA's (15, 21, 35, 40, 70,) and a Pentax 100mm Macro (although I think the Tamaron 90mm is just as good).

I find that the prices for the DA limiteds are a great value given their performance and build quality so I don't have much to complain about. The only one I'm not crazy about is the 40mm. It's so tiny that it's very difficult to manual focus. That said, if you are an auto focus user, it's a great lens.

Next year I plan adding the 31mm and 77mm.

Oh and I am extremely pleased withe K7.

About your user manual issue:

Doing a full-text search on an electronic version of the manual usually works better than the index. Acrobat Reader or Preview allow you to do that pretty efficiently.

Most user manuals tend to have pretty bad indexes anyway.

Hello Salvador,

I wrote this comment in Part I, I think it answers your question.

------------------------------
Great review of a remarkable camera, looking forward to part II! A week ago I bought a K-7 and sold my D700 and Nikon prime lenses. I know, some people will think are you crazy?

After using my D700 for a year I reviewed my Pentax *ist Ds and K10D pictures, owned these camera's before D700, and was stunned...these pictures were great, great color, DOF and detail. I thought I needed full frame, autofocus etc. The quality of my pictures decreased while they should have been increased after spending all that money and a superior camera..what was wrong?

My D700 and Nikon primes were 3 times more expensive....is that worth all the money and does that refexts in my pictures...?

After studying these pictures I found out why they were so great. I took these Pentax camera's everywhere..sand, snow, water didn't matter. And the quality of the old Pentax primes is great, much more character than the new autofocus Nikon primes. And when I bought my D700 I thought the DOF and Bokeh would be soo much better on a full frame camera..what a mistake. The high ISO on the D700 is great....but I rarely shoot above 800 ISO...with not much light the photo will be crap anyway.More and more I kept my D700 at home, it is a lot of money...but above all..it is heavy.

Now I am back with Pentax. A K-7 and 3 manual focus SMC K-mount primes (to Jeff Kott: of course you can use the old primes on the K-7)

The quality of the K-7 images is great! I am spending more time now per photo. Composition...great with 100% viewfinder and while manual focussing you think more of your composition. Manual focussing is easy with the bright viewfinder

Most important I take my camera everywhere..I is in my backpack and almost don't notice it amongst all my other travel stuff. With the D700 it was the other way around...way to heavy and you take it out and everybody thinks you are a pro...the K-7 is much less obstrusive. I can tell you my picture are already improving and most important I have more fun. Less is more! and the K-7 is built like a tank.

"Most important I take my camera everywhere..."

Thank you for the comment Jeroen. As I said in the review, the K-7 isn't for everyone, but for those who "get it" (and you clearly do), it's a delight.

Gordon, thanks again for your efforts. I am really looking forward to your findings, more so because you are used to a Canon 30D and have a comparison.

Gordon,

Thanks! I'm happy to know about you as a photographer and am so glad to see a review the way a non-techno-nerd would go about reviewing it as you do so well. OMG, a real photographer reviewing a camera.

It's also cool to see the comments from photographers happy with the K-7 from other camps. :-)
- - - - - - -
"Personally i would love to buy one but it's a shame that Pentax don't plan to offer a FF alternative for architecture photographer…

It seems the 645d resurfaced again recently so it means no FF to come i think… nlx"

nlx, the upcoming 645D this spring will be the near ultimate FF camera imo. It will be worth the extra bucks! Hope you can afford it.

- - - - - -
"The only one I'm not crazy about is the 40mm. It's so tiny that it's very difficult to manual focus. That said, if you are an auto focus user, it's a great lens.

Next year I plan adding the 31mm and 77mm.

Oh and I am extremely pleased withe K7. JSB"

JSB, (and others out there), don't forget the FA43 Ltd. A real gem, and it's got that lovely max aperture of f1.9 in contradistinction to the f2.8 of the DA40. Besides there is a bit more there to mf with + there is that lovely built in metal hood.

Try not to slip on your drool scrambling as fast as you can to get one. :-)

Nic M

"Thank you for the comment Jeroen. As I said in the review, the K-7 isn't for everyone, but for those who "get it" (and you clearly do), it's a delight."

Sorry, but just a question [regarding value-price].

If you pay, say, 2000$ for a tool you´re not supposed to take everywhere; how comes it is considered as a tool and not as a showcase item?

I might be a tad too usability-concern, but I see no point on buying an expensive item [and all dSLR´s are expensive items]just to take family snapshots under the christmas tree.

Such expensive tools [dSLR´s] should be thought for everyday use; as light as they can, as small as they can, as fast as they can. And resist scratches.

On paper the K7 is everything I want and this review and other photographer's opinions make me feel sure about my decision.

Salvador,

I came to that conclusion even sooner than you did. I was one of the first buyers of the Nikon 100D (paid about £1500). It was so big to carry that it sat on my shelf, I never really learned to use it properly, and I was not too happy with the images. I traded it in for a Ricoh GX-100. I got some good shots with that but missed the flexibility of the DSLR. I was going to buy a Canon or other Nikon but was talked into the Pentax Super 100D. It was great! Compact, easy to use, wonderful photos. I move up to the K20D. Loved that. Bought some prime lenes, and could believe how good they were. I got the K-7. A tremendous step up. Faster AF, 100% view, small, tough, and even better images that the K20. It is a great camera. I do "get it."

Ned Swan

PS: do take a look at the 40mm limited. I use it almost all the time. It is sharp (almost a macro) and super-compact.

Nic,

Now that I think about it, I would rather have the 43mm. I really love the 40mm, but I just don't put it on the camera that often because it's so difficult to focus manually, but I think it's a focal length I would use a lot. Thanks!!!! I probably wouldn't have reconsidered.

JSB

Henrik: Thanks for your comment!

The K-7 is indeed a really appealing package. It is the nicest camera-in-the-hand that I've held in many, many years. But in the end I got an Olympus E620, and the astoundingly good 12-60 zoom (on two previous occasions I bought DSLRs that I did not like, and returned them). Camera and lens cost only a tad more than the K7 body alone. For me the big appeal of the K-7 was its weather sealing, but since the nicest lenses for the camera are not sealed, the $600 premium over the E-620 was not justifiable.

I really like this camera. It has a crappy little finder that is good enough, just. With the USM in the 12-60, it focuses like lightning and, more importantly, it does so silently. The focus-exposure cycle is perceptually far, far, far quieter than my (returned) K20D was, particularly with the non-usm limited lenses. I hated the focus noise with the Pentax kit. At the most important focal length for me, 35mm equivalent, the 12-60 is nearly free of distortion, it is as fast as the DA21, and it is considerably crisper when used wide open. The E620 is so light that even with the 12-60 it is not perceptibly heavier than the (rather heavy) K-7 with a prime.

The only thing that I truly regret about going Olympus is that I cannot run the 31 Limited on it. That may be the sweetest lens currently produced that can be fitted to any DSLR. But for about the same price I can get the Leicasonic 25mm Summicron. The lens itself is not so pretty but the images should be reasonably comparable, and it's even a tad faster...

One last thing: I love, love, LOVE the color in the jpeg files that this little Oly produces. Much more than the files that I got from the K20 while I had it. The reds look like Kodachrome, the yellows and greens like Provia...

Response to Andreas' question re: K-7 AF performance with 21mm DA

My own tests and a discussion with Pentax tech support confirm that the K-7's AF system looks for the area of highest contrast. When the camera is set to automatic focus point selection it will choose the AF point that offers the highest contrast.

I've discovered that in practice this is almost always toward the center of the frame, even when there are similar levels of contrast toward the edges. For example, if I focus on a page of text that is at a 45-degree angle to the focal plane, the K-7 will focus on the center of the page. Given the same situation, my Canon EOS 30D will focus on the side closest to the film plane.

The main exception is when the center is low in contrast. For example, if you are aiming at a blank wall or floor with a higher contrast subject located off-center, the K-7 is much more likely to select whichever off-center focus point covers the subject. For whatever reason, this tendency changes when the camera is set to continuous focus, in which case it's more likely to focus on whatever is closest and highest in contrast.

I've found this tendency to be true regardless of which lens I'm using, however, because the 21mm covers a much wider angle, there's a greater chance that the center won't be anywhere near the optimum point of focus. In this situation, automatic AF-point selection can be a hit-or-miss affair. Keep in mind that in all fairness, my EOS 30D doesn't have a 100% AF hit-rate either.

The good news is that the K-7 allows you to manually select any of its 11 AF points or to adjust focus manually. This is obviously slower than letting the camera do all the thinking for you, but it's also more accurate overall, especially with stationary subjects.

JSB,

If you find that you miss the closer focus of the 40 after you enjoy the 43 Ltd, don't forget the 35 Ltd - amazing all around lens, with real macro and simply lovely rendering. :-)

Nic M

Gordon:
Thanks for the thoughtful review of the K-7. I think this body will eventually earn wider recognition among serious photographers as a platform for Pentax's prime lenses, many of which have great quality and character. (Zeiss and Voigtlander primes are also available in Pentax mount.)

We shouldn't just compare this camera to Canon and Nikon mid-range DSLRs. A K-7 with one of the pancake primes weighs about the same as a Leica M9 plus lens, and is also comparable in terms of size and modest street profile. When I put black tape over the lettering on the body and use a wrist strap I pretty much disappear into a crowd. The K-7 is remarkably quiet for an SLR.

There's no comparison in terms of flexibility, features or toughness, though--the Pentax is miles ahead.

If you gotta have a rangefinder, then you gotta. No argument there. I used to use Leica film cameras for some kinds of shooting. But I'd love to see how the K-7 and M9 stack up in terms of image quality at different print sizes, using their best lenses and optimal digital processing.

My educated guess: Leica lenses would probably have an advantage shot wide open, even at moderate print sizes. But in other situations, especially at middle apertures, you'd have to go pretty damn big to challenge a K-7 and Pentax's best glass.

Nic,

I have the 35mm, it's my absolute favorite lens.

Don't worry I will not be getting rid of the 40mm. :-)

I was surprised. I found the 43mm on Amazon for under $600. I thought it would cost much more.

I'm probably going to try and squeeze it in this month (how much is Spam at the supermarket....?) :-)

JSB

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