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After many years of shooting pics with my phone, I have finally decided to step up my game and buy a decent camera. After a lot of research, and considering my budget and my ability to take pictures, I have narrowed down the options to two cameras.

  1. Fujifilm X-T20 with 18-55mm lens
  2. Pentax K-3 II with 18-135mm lens

Both cameras with their respective lenses are sold on amazon.com for about 1200$. The things I am most interested in shooting are landscapes and also portraits (for which I'll buy a 50mm prime lens in the future probably).

Here are the reasons why I'd get the Fuji over the other camera:

  • It is a mirrorless camera, which means the EVF can show me changes in exposure instantly when in manual mode.
  • It is lightweight, I'll buy this camera while in San Francisco cause it is cheaper in the USA (I live in Italy), and I'll be doing a road trip of two weeks, so having a light compact camera is a big plus for me.
  • I kind of like videography too, and the Fuji can shoot 4K videos.
  • It has a touchscreen display, and it has waaaay more focus points than the Pentax (325 vs 27, although I am still unsure to how much this matters, because I am kind of a noob in photography).

Here are the reasons why I'd get the Pentax over the other camera:

  • It is weather sealed, which I think will be valuable since I'll be using the camera a lot while hiking.
  • The lens I'd buy for this camera is a zoom 18-135, so it is way more versatile than the 18-55.
  • Pentax, from what I was able to see, has way more lens choices than Fuji (not as important anyway, cause I won't buy any other lens yet, except for the 50mm).

I only know some differences in the specs, but... Has anyone actually tried them both? How good do the pictures look on them? (Cause that's what matters...).

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First things first: you close with

How good do the pictures look on them? (Cause that's what matters...).

Both of these cameras are capable of amazing, grade A+++, top-notch, award-winning, superlative images. This is in fact true of any mainstream brand-name largish-sensor camera today — review sites that try to tell you otherwise do so largely because they'd have no readership if they didn't stress important crucial differences to agonize over.

My advice to you is to stop agonizing and pick one. You've got the basic differences down. I've used the Fujifilm X-T10 (as well as the X-T2) , and the Pentax K-5II (and many of its predecessors) extensively, and I can very confidently say that you can be extremely happy with either.

You've got the differences down pretty well. There are two more worth mentioning, both in the Pentax column.

First: in-body image stabilization with Pentax, which can be quite a boon especially with Pentax's lovely prime lens lineup. You've spec'd out the Pentax with an 18-135 lens — if you switch to the 18-135mm Fujifilm lens, you get OIS, but raise your initial cost by a full 50%, and there's just no way to get OIS in a portrait prime. So, there is that to consider.

Second: battery life. This is an inherent disadvantage of mirrorless (since the sensor and an LCD screen need to be active much more often), and Fujifilm has chosen a rather small capacity battery. This isn't crippling, but I'd recommend at least one spare battery for a Pentax setup and three or four spares for Fujifilm.

All in all, I understand the problem deciding, because there isn't a clear single winner when you add everything up — but again, that's because both are winners. As full disclosure, I switched from Pentax to Fujifilm myself, but if someone waved a magic wand at me and compelled me to switch back, I wouldn't be devastated or anything. They're both great systems.

If you're really not leaning one way or another, and won't be satisfied taking a coin flip, one option is to rent each for a couple of weeks to really get a feel for each. (I recommend two weeks rather than one, because otherwise you'll be caught in first impressions, which sometimes differ from familiar use.) LensRentals.com is basically the industry gold standard here (not affiliated, just a happy occasional customer), and you can rent the either setup (including a charger and an extra battery for Pentax and two extra for Fujifilm) for about $250. That's not an insignificant outlay, but if you're worried about having "grass is greener" regrets after your purchase, it might be worth it.

The one final bit of advice I'd give is that to get the most from either, you really will want to move on from the kit-style zoom lenses. Both systems have beautiful prime lenses that, really to me, are key reasons to pick these over other systems. In fact, personally, I'd suggest skipping the zooms entirely and starting with, say:

  • Pentax DA 21mm f/3.2 AL Limited + DA 50mm f/1.8 + DA 70mm f/2.4 Limited

  • Fujifilm XF 23mm f/2 R WR + XF 50mm f/2 R WR + maybe (see note below) XF 80mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro

— or even stretching for one the fancier primes in the system you choose. You'll almost certainly grow beyond the kit zooms you're looking at now, but these lenses you'll be happy to keep forever.

The 21/23mm lenses will give you a field of view similar to what is typical of cell phones, and then you have the other lenses when you want to "zoom in" for more close-up detail. (Unfortunately, Fujifilm does not currently have anything like Pentax's 70mm or 77mm lens — it's kind of a gap in the lineup from my point of view; there's a nice 80mm but it's large and expensive.) This advice may seem a bit limiting, but in practice it's not really important to have smooth coverage of every focal length, so a setup like this can be just as versatile and you get faster aperture and lighter smaller lenses with higher optical quality for the price level. And it's not just me with this kind of recommendation — see the (in)famous "Letter to George" article from Michael Johnston.

But even with this advice, the real last word is the same as the first: stop worrying and, as the metaphor goes, pull the trigger (or, perhaps we should say, click the shutter). Pentax or Fujifilm, zoom or prime, it's all great and the better thing is to get started.

  • Here's a link to opticallimits.com where they show how sharp each lens is: opticallimits.com/pentax. OL also has similar reviews for Fuji's lenses, too. – frank Aug 19 '18 at 20:00
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    That's a fun site, but, again — it's carefully picking at the difference between A+ and A++, and only in the "technical merit" category. – mattdm Aug 19 '18 at 20:13
  • Good point about Fuji's battery! Love my X-T2, but I always take a spare battery. A power bank gets me through longer trips. – Belle-Sophie Aug 20 '18 at 12:32
  • Thank you mattdm for your extensive answer. Unfortunately I don't think I can afford to buy so many prime lenses yet, that's why I was (at least initially) leaning more towards the zoom lenses, plus maybe a 50mm lens. For Pentax I saw that it costs very little (like around 100$), for fuji it costs way too much for my current budget (in fact, I was thinking that if I bought the X-T20 I will buy a canon adapter and buy the 50mm f/1.8 from Canon, would that be okay?). – Andrea Angella Aug 20 '18 at 21:35
  • Also, one important thing that perplexes me is this: when I look on the internet for pictures from both cameras, I can find a lot of great pictures taken with the Fuji, but not as many taken with the Pentax! It might be personal taste, but I believe the Fuji has more realistic colors and an overall better look. However, I assume that the majority of people that use these cameras nonprofessionally shoot in jpeg. I read that Fuji's jpeg come out better than other cameras. My question is: if I shoot RAW on a Pentax and then edit in LR, can I make a picture indistinguishable from a Fuji's? – Andrea Angella Aug 20 '18 at 21:40
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The other answers have some good points. I have one more that you may be forgetting: how does it feel holding it?

You're comparing two excellent camera's. You can't go wrong with either. Now stop worrying about minor differences, go to the shop and pick both up. Compare how both feel to you. Change some settings, press the shutter, pretend you're out and about taking photos. You may find yourself drawn to one or the other. Or not. But make sure you don't buy a camera you hate the feel of.

  • Thank you Belle-Sophie for your answer! The main problem I have with this is that my idea was to buy the camera in the USA, but I live in Italy... My plan is to buy the camera on amazon.com and use an amazon locker in San Francisco to pick it up in a small time frame of 2 days that I'll be there. So I won't really have time to try the camera with my own hands (and I live in a small town in Italy that does not have any camera store). – Andrea Angella Aug 22 '18 at 13:13
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Have not used any Pentax cameras, but do have the FujiFilm X-T20 and X-E2. Some other factors to consider:

FujiFilm

  • All of the FujiFilm lenses are top-notch. The number of lenses for other mounts shrinks significantly when lower-end and duplicate lenses are removed from consideration. FujiFilm also has an 18-135mm/F3.5-5.6 lens. FujiFilm prime lenses, so far, have lacked image stabilization.

  • X-Trans sensors have different noise and color characteristics compared with the standard Bayer array. Some people love them. Some people hate them.

    After using X-Trans cameras, I have been unimpressed by Bayer sensors in cameras I've tried recently (Canon, FujiFilm, Sony). Sony cameras particularly puzzle me because Sony makes the sensors for the FujiFilm cameras.

  • Film Simulations. Some people love them. Some people simply don't care. There are CLUTs to match the FujiFilm film simulations that can be used with RawTherapee. Results can be pretty much indistiguishable (except for improved detail, highlights, shadows, etc).

  • The short flange-focal distance allows use of manual-focus lenses with adapters. Recently, a number of "smart" adapters for Canon EF mount have been released. Performance with supported lenses is very good. Lenses not specifically on the supported list can be expected to perform miserably. The Canon EF-S 18-135mm/F3.5-5.6 IS USM is supported by the Fringer adapter.

  • You may consider a previous generation X-Series camera, such as the X-E2S or X-T10.

    • The latest X-Trans cameras seem to be more temperamental than the last generation. My X-E2 nails proper exposure every time. The X-T20 can be more variable.

      Whether it's even noticeable depends on how picky you are. When I view unedited images from the cameras at the same size, one after another, it is difficult to tell which camera was used for most of the images. A majority of those that are significantly different get cut. The rest become indistinguishable after routine post processing.

    • The X-T20 is more power hungry than the X-E2. I can take a "completely" drained battery out of the X-T20, and continue shooting with the same battery in an X-E2. (I use five batteries between the two cameras.)

Pentax

  • In-body image stabilization is considered to be not as good as image-stabilized lenses. Some also consider it to be less effective at longer focal lengths. However, FujiFilm prime lenses have lacked image stabilization, so far. So if you intend to shoot mainly with prime lenses, you might be better off with Pentax.

  • Pixel-shift technology potentially eliminates Bayer array color artifacts with still subjects shot with a tripod.

General

  • Having an increased number of autofocus points does improve autofocus performance. The significance of this depends on personal tolerances and photographic subject.

  • As noted by mattdm, battery life with mirrorless is a significant weakness. Typically, they get about half as many shots per charge when compared with DSLR.

    The LCD and EVF on mirrorless cameras can use a significant amount of energy. Also, the EVF of some older cameras may have significant lag. (There is no noticeable lag on my FujiFilm cameras.) DSLRs use a technology that is able to update the viewfinder at the speed of light using only solar energy. Some ancient cameras with similar technology did not even require batteries.

  • Unless you specifically enjoy using prime lenses, you are unlikely to use them when their focal length is already covered by a zoom lens (because it's easier to just use the zoom than to switch lenses).

  • When using multiple lenses, you will need to look ahead to determine which lens you will need next. Keep a compact camera in your pocket for when something unexpected happens that you can't otherwise capture because you have the wrong lens attached to your camera.

  • Raw processing is quite a different skill from basic post processing. Getting the results you want straight out of camera is typically preferable.

  • I'm fairly confident that in Live View, the Pentax has just as many "focus points" as the Fuji does. Comparing PDAF points in one camera to imaging sensor based AF "points" in another camera is an apples to automobiles comparison. – Michael C Mar 7 at 20:37

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