I bought my first DSLR about a year ago and my choice was a Pentax K200D.
I’ve always been interested in photography, probably because my Dad was a keen photographer and also a keen antiques collector. Not expensive, valuable antiques, but lots of items bought from the local sales rooms including plenty of box cameras and bellows cameras. I quite often saved my pocket money to buy a roll of 120 film to put through whichever of these he would let me borrow, and then spent happy hours in a blacked out bathroom with a little contact printing kit I got for Christmas one year. After out-growing the box cameras I inherited my dad’s Zenit-E SLR (which we called a zenith) and again had many happy hours snapping away mostly with black and white film because I could develop those films myself using dad’s tank and enlarger. After the Zenith I had a Petri, an Olympus OM-20 and then finally a Canon EOS300 (which I’ve still got, although not used for years).
I didn’t get round to buying a DSLR however until last year, mainly because they weren’t really good enough – at least not the ones I could afford. When I did buy one I went over all the specs to see which would suit me best. For a long time I was set on getting an olympus E-520 but in the end I was concerned that the slightly smaller 4/3 sensor could lead to noise problems. I have a panasonic DMC-FZ8 which I’ve always found to give noisy images if used in anything other than bright light. I know the 4/3 sensor in the olympus is much bigger than the standard ‘super zoom’ sensor, but I didn’t want to fork out a lot of money and then be disappointed with the results. In the end I got the Pentax because
- It has an APS-C size sensor.
- It has all the features I could use.
- Shake reduction is built into the body so works with all lenses.
- It has a good view-finder.
- There are thousands of good second-hand lenses available which will work with it
- It is a strong weather-proofed camera
- It had good reviews
At the same time I bought the pentax 55 – 200 mm zoom telephoto lens and I’ve used that for the last year, recently supplementing it with a Tamron 70 – 300 mm macro telephoto zoom which I find particularly useful for nature pictures. It’s not as good as a proper 1:1 macro lens, but it was only £80 so it enabled me to take macro-esque pictures at a fraction of the cost of a true macro.
Since I bought the Pentax I’ve been mostly very pleased with it. Because of the sensor size (and therefore the lens size) I can get good ‘bokeh’ with it in a way I couldn’t with the FZ8. Also the noise performance is very good, although I suspect that any of the good makes (ie Canon, Sony/Minolta, Nikon) would be good in this respect. The only slight disappointment I’ve got is that it doesn’t support Live View. At the time I was looking for a DSLR I discounted live view because I couldn’t see a time when I’d need to use it. As far as I was concerned you look through the viewfinder to compose an image and live view is a gimmick carried over from cheap pocket cameras. However I’ve since found one real use – when you are photographing insects or flowers on a tripod with the camera quite low near the ground. Without live view I have to also get low and that’s getting harder and harder !
Overall I think the Pentax K200D was a good choice for me and I’m looking forward to using it for the next couple of years until I upgrade to a K-7 !