Three cameras: Nikon D200, Pentax K10D, and Canon 5D

Every now and then a camera comes along that interests me. I am happy enough with my Nikon D200 but if I were starting out now, looking for a digital SLR, I might well be tempted by this Pentax. It has dust and weather resistant seals throughout, and that is a big plus in terms of usability. The Nikon has as weather sealing as well, which is good – for dust and digital cameras do not mix well – but they do mix all too easily, so it is a good idea to have a mechanism to keep the one from the other.

pentax K10D

And on the subject of dust, I have read several articles about the lack of sealing on the Canon 5D, which is a full-frame dSLR, and that lack is enough to make me hesitate in even thinking about that camera. And as to why I would be interested in the Canon at all? Well it has to do with image quality – pure and simple. All reviewers seem to agree that the Canon 5D is a step up from the image quality of the Nikon D200.

The Pentax and the Nikon have 10 million pixels and the Canon has 12 million pixels. But the Canon has a larger chip. That is, the physical dimensions of the chip are larger. It is in fact a full-frame chip, which means it is the same size as a frame of 35mm film. And the combination of more microlenses and bigger microlenses (which is possible because the chip is bigger) makes for better image quality.

Multiplication factor and full-frame
What it also means is that all lenses that fit the Canon have to ‘cover’ (cast the incoming light over) that larger chip and that has two consequences. The first is that any given lens is given a harder job to do, because it has to be sharp right out to the furthest edge of that larger chip. The second is that there is no multiplication factor with the lens. As I described in an earlier post, all lenses are described by reference to the frame size of a piece of 35mm film. So a lens that is, for example, 17-40mm, is exactly that on the Canon 5D. Whereas a lens that is 17-40mm on the Pentax or the Nikon has to be multiplied by 1.5 (because the chips are only 2/3 the size of the larger chip), which means the lens equates to 25-60mm.

And this leads us to a conclusion, which is that there is an advantage to the smaller chip if you want longer focal lengths for portraits, and there is an advantage to the larger chip if you want shorter focal lengths for landscapes.

I have a Nikon 12-24mm lens. That equates to 18-36mm with the 1.5 multiplication factor. But Canon makes a Canon 16~35mm f/2.8L, and that really is 16mm at the wide end. That is the sort of wide angle that will capture the telephone wire above your head and the shoes on your feet, all in the same frame. And it can make a beautifully dramatic shot out of a cloud formation; giving all the drama of perspective to a shot.

Back to the Pentax, it also has an in-built method of removing any dust that does get on the image sensor, and it has anti-shake built into the body. And the lenses are good as well, as tested by some expert reviewers. And it works with all of Pentax’s line of lenses (and Pentax has had a big lens line-up over the years).

It is also true that Nikon’s line of lenses works with the Nikon D200, but for some of the older ones you have to ‘tell’ the camera which lens is mounted on the body in order to get the best out of the lenses. But Nikon does not have antishake built into the body, so advantage Pentax.

That ‘something’ else
But while all of these factors affect me, none of these really explains why I want to pick up the Pentax and try it. And to explain that one has to know a little about Pentax as a brand. Pentax has made some very good cameras over the years and there is something about the shape of the K10D that makes me think that perhaps Pentax has made another good camera now.

And then of course there is the matter of price. The Pentax retails for approximately $900 with the kit 18-55mm lens. The Nikon D200 body only is approximately $1,500, and the Canon 5D body only is approximately $2,500, which makes the Pentax even more interesting.

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