Nikon, Canon or (dare I even suggest it) Pentax?

Frequently, in conversation with club members during my talks or in questions at the end, I am asked “Are you a Nikon or a Canon user?”. My answer is usually (with a smile) a simple “No.” The club members will then happily go through 2 or three, or more, other marques that they consider to be “worthy” of good photography, but only after several guesses (or sometimes never) do they ever come up with “surely not Pentax?”. Even then, it is often said in a sort of “OMG, you don’t use Pentax do you?” type of voice. I’ve got used to comments like “Didn’t think any decent photographer used Pentax any more.” Hmmmm. Even kinder comments like…”How much did you pay for that…only £800? Well you can take some very nice pictures with cameras in that price range, but you should consider buying a Canon (or Nikon) full frame camera next time. You’ll be surprised how much better they are.”

Yes? No?

Of course these are usually blokes who are advising me and they do need to justify, to their womenfolk if to no-one else, why they just spent £5000 on their camera…ask a woman what camera she uses and sometimes she doesn’t even know the model number. Many times it is the husband’s cast-off. Then ask if the husband or wife takes the better pictures…

I’ve been a Pentax user since the early 1980’s starting with an S1a, which I still have, and moving along through ME Super, LX and on to an autofocus film camera or two…before waiting impatiently for that first and disastrously named *istD. I mean, really, what WERE they thinking about? I have many times considered whether or not I would be better off changing to Canon or Nikon, but I have all those lovely lenses, you see, and I keep adding to them. So I have kept loyal to the Pentax brand, even though I have wondered sometimes if I am just falling behind the rest of the world.

Now I’m wondering if it is time to upgrade again? Canon, Nikon, or Pentax again?

Pentax have been bought by Ricoh recently and there is always the concern that they may eventually dump the camera division or sell it on again? Please, no!!! But what is the “opposition” like?

It’s very difficult to compare cameras like for like – there are so many variables to consider, such as the features, sharpness of their lenses, ISO and noise, ergonomics, speed and accuracy of autofocus and so on. The glass we choose to attach to the front end is vitally important and, of course, the Pentax lens line-up is less impressive than either Canon’s or Nikon’s, leaving Pentax users sometimes relying on third party lenses for that out of the ordinary focal length. One advantage of Pentax, however, is that it has been true to its lens mount, so it is possible to use their very best lenses from the last several decades and some of the older primes are very good indeed and can be picked up second hand for very little money (there being so few of us Pentax users around, of course).

Currently I use the Pentax K5-IIs and have been scouring the internet for comparison reviews to help me to decide if it is worth upgrading to the new top of the range K3, which has some very tasty features…but would my pictures be any better?…well, probably not…would I be better changing kit?…who knows? Perhaps I’ll spend the money on clothes instead?

Anyway, to the point of this blog…I accidentally came upon some comparison videos on YouTube, where the K5-II and K5-IIs have been compared, for resolution and picture quality, to much more expensive cameras, typically 2.5x or 3x more expensive. For you Canon and Nikon users out there, the “s” signifies the latin word “sine” (pronounced seenay) and meaning “without” or that’s what I think, because it is without the anti aliasing filter of the other model, giving it a little extra sharpness boost in the RAW files at the slight risk or moire occurring.

In the following tests (links below), in order to compare the images, the Pentax 1.5 crop frames have been upsized to match the 24 Megapixel or 36 Megapixel sensors of the Canon or Nikon pixel for pixel. Guess what? In each case, the Pentax images are seen to be as good as, or significantly better than, the much more expensive Canon or Nikon in the test, even when interpolated up to twice the size.

Interesting, no?

For me, there isn’t quite enough technical detail of the testing, but make up your own mind. If you have the time and are interested enough to listen and look, here are the links:

Nikon D800E vs Pentax K5-II Resolution test

Canon EOS-1D X vs Pentax K5-IIs image test

Canon EOS 5D Mark III vs Pentax K5-IIs image test

The Pentax K5-II body currently retails at around £690 and the IIs body is £790.The Nikon D8–E is about £2400. The Canon EOS-1D X body is £4850 and the EOS 5D Mark III body is £2300. Source is – prices at the time of writing.

So, gents, don’t write off Pentax users just yet and don’t write off APS-C. Going forward, the new Pentax K3 has huge qualities to offer at a much lower price than some of its competitors and matched for many of its features. I hope it will mean that many more first time buyers will realise that they only have to pay a fraction of the price of the big name brands to own a camera that will produce image quality comparable to or superior to some of the most expensive dSLR cameras on the market today. If you are thinking of buying your first dSLR camera, you need to think of all the considerations, including the features that you want and the accessories that are available, but at the end of the day, it is the image that counts, not the number of bells and whistles.


© Christine Widdall First Published: 19 Dec 2013