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First post on here so I'll try and put a bit of background. I'm brand new to taking "proper" photographs and want to get started in landscape photography as a hobby after seeing some great pictures online. I need to select a DSLR to use and I have a few options. This is because I have a few Pentax lenses and an extender [Pictured here: http://pho.to/8xety ].

I am unsure whether to:

  1. Buy an Pentax DSLR and use the lenses with that (But I have heard Pentax DSLRs aren't too great compared to Nikon or Canon - they seem to have worse specs and features) e.g. Pentax K110D / K-m or top-of-my-budget: K2000 / K-X / K10D / K200D

  2. Get a Canon DSLR and use the lenses in that with an adapter (I have been told Canon is better for this than Nikon but I would have to manually focus, would that be too difficult for a beginner?) e.g. Canon D1100 or D450.

  3. Not use the lenses and just buy a whole new camera and lens (But would have to get a lower spec camera to fit the price of the lens into my budget) e.g. Canon D1000 / D400 or Nikon D3100 / D5000 (Would all come with an 18-55mm lens)

  • 4
    Not sure where you heard that Pentax cameras aren't too great, comparatively, but I might suggest that you ignore their advice in the future because it's almost a polar opposite at the same price point. The list of cameras you have there are quite old, current Pentax cameras are amongst the best going. – John Cavan Mar 5 '15 at 1:38
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So, there a couple of basics to get out of the way first.

  1. Pentax DSLRs are just fine compared to Canon and Nikon; they're solidly built, have a decent but smaller following, and in fact often have better features at the same price level (because they need to, to compete). That's not to say blindly that "Pentax Is The Best!"; in fact, they're all great and I wouldn't worry too much about tales of woe. Canon and Nikon do dominate the market, and for some people that's a factor (either a pro or a con, depending on personality!)

  2. You'll have to manually-focus these old lenses on any camera, as they predate autofocus.

  3. Sadly, none of these lenses are very exciting. Pentax has made a number of great 50mm lenses over the years, but the 50mm f/2 is not one of them. The 35mm f/3.5 is generally well-regarded for what it is (it's very sharp) — and in fact might be fine for starting landscape work — but it's also quite slow (at maximum aperture of f/3.5). I don't think any of the bunch here is worth over $50.

So, #3 is kind of a key here. If you get a Pentax camera, you'll be able to use these, and that can be fun and useful and interesting, but you'll also want some better lenses. Don't base your decision on that. Instead, take a look at:

...and others, and don't hesitate to ask new questions to help clarify your understanding.

Going back to the basics to conclude, though:

  • This is kind of an expensive hobby. As you get more into it, you'll find that you'll want to spend quite a bit more on lenses than you do on a camera body. Although the various different brands are all excellent and at one level it doesn't matter too much which one you commit to, it can be a commitment. Rather than worrying about initial savings, look at the bigger picture. On the other hand, the even bigger picture isn that it's less important to worry about all of this than to get something that will get you out taking photographs. Once you've spent some time doing, you'll have a feel for what is holding you back. For now, basically anything decent will do, and just about anything you choose will give you plenty of room to grow.
  • Thanks for the reply and the all the help in making my choice, gave me a lot of info and things to read, think I will opt for a Pentax in the end, probably wont get much use out of the old lenses considering what I've now read but at least I have the option – KnutPunt Mar 6 '15 at 9:45
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I started out much the same way, choosing Pentax DSLR because I already had Pentax lenses. While I'm still with Pentax (now on my 3rd: ist-D; K-10D and now K-5), to be honest I barely ever used my original lenses. Absolutely no offense intended but your existing lenses don't look anything particularly special, just as mine weren't - they look perfectly fine lenses, but it doesn't look as though they are auto-focus, and they just look like regular lenses (i.e., no big zoom or very wide aperture lenses) - pretty much exactly the same as mine.

I found that the kit lenses that I bought with the camera were easily as good as my previous lenses, but also gave me the option of auto-focus (or sticking with manual).

So I wouldn't let the lens dictate the camera as long as your budget can stretch. Usually there's bundle deals on lens+body that work out cheaper than buying the lens later. That said, you can normally pick up the kit lens pretty cheaply on eBay if you decide to get that afterwards.

If you do want to keep using your existing lenses, then one advantage of the Pentax (with all current and recent DSLR models) is that image stabilization is done in the camera body, so can work with any and all lenses - including your original lenses, which helps with keeping steady in lower light or longer exposures. Canon and Nikon require buying image-stabilizing lenses to have this feature, which cost more than the non-stabilized lenses, although the results from having stabilization in the lens are slightly better.

For your option 2, personally I wouldn't consider using your existing lens with an adapter on a different make, unless there was something special about the lens. It's just adding another complexity and generally the adapters don't pass [all of] the connections through so may end up having to manually set aperture and so on.

Knowing what I know now, I wouldn't have let my old film camera lenses tie me to choosing Pentax, but I certainly have no regrets in doing so. I've stuck with Pentax since, even though I've bought new lenses with the new bodies although it would have cost about the same to switch to Canon or Nikon.

All of the main makers have strengths and weaknesses, at the moment I'd say the Canon generally has the edge, but does cost more - and different models vary. But the Nikon and Pentax are pretty close and they all leapfrog one another. All I can really recommend is finding some detailed independent review websites that have reviews and comparison photos from the cameras you're considering and pay close attention to the pros and cons of each.

  • The lenses the OP has are so old there are no connections to pass through. – Mark Mar 5 '15 at 5:06
  • Not even a mechanical aperture connection? – Michael C Mar 5 '15 at 21:33
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I'm far from an expert on Pentax legacy lenses but the kit you have doesn't appear to be anything I would let drive future purchases. In other words, unless you have a strong personal tie to the equipment or are working with a very limited future budget, I would recommend not adding in those lenses to the equation.

As for the statement "Pentax DSLRs aren't too great", I am of the opinion that quite the opposite is true. Pentax is not the market leader and typically offers high end features on budget friendly models. I often recommend Pentax DSLRs for a variety of reasons.

Overall, Pentax is a fine option but you could certainly consider other competing brands.

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The lenses you have all appear to use the original Pentax K-mount. Modern Pentax cameras lack the mechanical stop-down coupler the K-mount lenses were designed for, meaning the camera cannot detect the lens's aperture setting, limiting the camera's ability to perform auto-exposure. I believe all current-generation cameras have a "stop the lens down and meter to set the exposure time" button to deal with this, meaning it's not a big deal, just one more thing you need to do before each shot.

On the plus side, Pentax has in-body image stabilization, meaning even the old lenses you've got will be stabilized, something you won't get from Canon or Nikon.

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The lens compatibility got me interested in the idea of a Pentax DSLR: when the *ist-D came out in 2003 I was still using a Spotmatic F and screw-mount lenses from the early seventies, because they did what I needed just fine.

However, the handling of the Pentax was what sold it to me: it just seemed natural to operate. I found I didn't use the old lenses, since operating them just didn't merge naturally with operating the body.

So I wouldn't worry about your old lenses. Try a variety of DSLR bodies in the store, and see which one suits you.

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