Why I shoot Pentax
At a client meeting recently, I was asked (and not for the first time) “Do you shoot Canon or Nikon?”.
Actually, I did. I shot my first wedding using two Canon bodies. However, when it came to time to upgrade them I jumped ship and went to Pentax. Specifically, Pentax’s then-flagship body, the K-3 (the K-3 ii has recently been released).
Changing camera systems is a lot of hassle. You can’t just buy a body from a different system. It involves replacing a full set of lenses, not to mention spare batteries, flash triggers, remote controls – and some of the cases that fit specific items. What was it that enticed me?
10. Shooting Modes
These are only at number 10 because they are, basically, a bit gimmicky and there are other ways of achieving these results. But my Pentax can achieve in-camera effects that otherwise require extra hardware (an intervalometer) or post-processing. My favourite is the interval shooting, and in particular the ability to produce a time lapse movie in-camera. The ability to use multiple exposures is great too – you can even produce an interval multiple-exposure and produce star trail photos without any post-processing – something I plan to put to the test very soon.
9. Weather Resistance
It’s reassuring to know I can keep shooting in the rain without worrying about the safety of my camera (as long as, of course, I also have a weather-resistant lens fitted). I’ve even seen at least one reviewer on YouTube dunking the K-3 into a bowl of water and demonstrating that it still works. (Nice to know, but not something I’m going to deliberately test).
The older Canon bodies I was shooting on had sensors of 10.1 and 15.1 megapixels. The Pentax K-3 has 24 – something that back in November when I bought it, Canon couldn’t match. This gives you a huge ability to crop after-the-fact, if necessary, or to produce huge prints with fine detail.
7. Sensor Stabilisation
Unlike Canon or Nikon – where you have to buy specific lenses if you want optical stabilisation – Pentax have it built right in on the sensor mount. That means any lens I use on my Pentax benefits from the ability to keep taking sharp shots handheld in relatively dark conditions. (Of course, stabilisation doesn’t help freeze fast-moving subjects, but that’s true whatever the method).
6. Colour and Shadow Capture
One aspect I found disappointing with my Canons – and saw persisting in new Canon bodies – is a relative lack of colour detail in darker areas of the image. While shooting in difficult light conditions, this drastically decreases the options for producing a pleasing image in post-processing. The Sony sensors used by Pentax, Nikon and (of course) Sony cameras have much better behaviour in this regard.
5. Easy Handling, Controls and Menus
I always found my Canons really easy to use, but the Pentax control layout is a step better still. (I’ve briefly tried handling Nikon and found several placements disturbingly counterintuitive). I want to concentrate on creating great images, not on how to use my camera – and the K-3 puts very little impediment in my way. One particularly nice thing is the number of options you can reach simply by pressing the ‘info’ button while in shooting mode. Many options, in fact, that in most cameras are buried within the menus and take several steps to reach.
4. Dual Card Slots
I had a scare after a wedding when the Compact Flash card containing all of the group images wouldn’t read in my computer. Fortunately I eventually managed to retrieve all of the images, but I’m never taking that risk with a one-off event again. Like top models from Canon and Nikon, the Pentax K-3 can write to two SD memory cards at once while shooting. The chance of losing vital, unique images to a card failure plummets to infinitesimal when the images are on two cards.
3. Low-light Performance
Yes, there are cameras that perform better in low light conditions than the Pentax K-3, but its high ISO performance is light years ahead of my (aging) Canon bodies, and meets my needs. I’ll take images that require plenty of detail up to ISO 3,200 and portraits at up to ISO 12,800 without fear.
Granted, Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Sony all have a very good range of lenses at different levels from entry through to professional, so why is this an advantage for the Pentax? As mentioned above, any lens I put on my body benefits from optical stabilisation – something that is often a premium on Canon or Nikon. This also opens up a world of vintage lenses – many of which are available in a Pentax mount, so can be used on my camera body without an adapter.
Yes, the Pentax K-3 is the most user-friendly camera I’ve experienced. Yes, it has a great range of lenses. But one of the biggest reasons I jumped ship from Canon is Pentax’s value for money. If you want something with all of the important features of the K-3 (which, to me, include weather-sealing and dual card slots) then the equivalent Canon or Nikon models – and the accompanying lenses – will set you back a LOT more.
Any problems? Well, I find it slower to change the active focus point on my Pentax than I did on my Canons – but I can honestly say that is the only disadvantage I’ve found so far.