5.31.2008

Old school digital: The Pentax K100D Super

My K100D Super fitted with an old 50mm Vivitar manual focus lens (not a quality item, it's made of plastic): Kitted out like this, nothing is automatic, it's a few steps removed from using a K1000 film slr... I like it.

I bought a Pentax K100D Super camera at around New Years -- the model was a closeout and quite heavily discounted. The K100D was a somewhat contrarian choice of cameras, Nikon (D4o, etc.) and Canon (the various incantations of the Digital Rebel series) dominate the market for entry level DSLRs. I've had the camera for almost 6 months now and have acquired a few lenses to go with the kit lens that came with the camera.

Some of the features that attracted me to the Pentax brand were in-camera (as opposed to in-lens) image stabilization, backwards lens compatibility, and size of the viewfinder.

I must say that my experiences with this camera have been somewhat mixed. On the plus side:
  • Excellent build quality. I didn't buy a Canon DSLR because I thought they felt cheap and plasticy. The Pentax feels solid.
  • I like having a camera with an optical viewfinder, I don't really need 'Liveview' or any feature like that.
  • I'm lazy and have poor technique, I use image stabilization pretty much all the time.
  • The 'only' 6mp K100d Super is an awesome low light camera (with the right lens), it will practically take photos in the dark. Unfortunately this is not something I need to do too often -- though some examples can be seen here.
However there are some cons as well:
  • The menus feel archaic, ergonomically it's not the best setup. The camera as a whole feels kind of old fashioned, it lacks the glitz of some other brands at this price point.
  • The software supplied with the camera is also pretty unpleasant. Unfortunately the assumption seems to be that a copy of Photoshop or Lightroom is close at hand.
  • A potentially handy feature, auto-ISO selection, doesn't seem to work very well.
  • Nothing to do with the camera, but backwards lens compatibility with all Pentax cameras, means that the market for used Pentax gear is very hot, it's discouraging. I really don't have the patience to deal with Ebay especially because anything desirable generates lots of interest.
  • The camera is loud: Taking a photo generates an audible 'clunk' as the mirror retracts.
  • [This has nothing specific to do with the k100D S] DSLR setups are heavy, require specialized (and expensive) lenses, and are prone to environmental contamination. I will keep using my point-n-shoot when hiking/skiing etc. because it only weighs one pound and is a quite flexible setup in natural light.
I'm still learning the ins and outs of this setup, I will keep plugging away at it. I have been reading a Pentax forum online and I must say while I have seen some interesting & quality images posted there... it seems many of the users are more interested in gear as opposed to aesthetics, and I have seen some quite prosaic images taken with very expensive lenses and fully featured camera bodies. I am trying approach things from the other direction, however, and if I can get nice images from a $30 lens from Ebay, all the better.

I have enjoyed learning how to use the camera with manual focus lenses -- it's a throwback for sure -- here are some samples.

These two were taken on a showery Saturday afternoon at my condo complex.


Taken 5/23/08 in Waterbury Center.

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