Monday, June 2, 2008

Why I chose Pentax K200D over XSI, D60 and A300

After much deliberation, I finally bought a Pentax K200D. It is my first time owning a DSLR, so I did a lot of research on this, comparing the Canon 450D (XSI), Nikon D60 and Sony A200/A300/A350. In this post I'll summarize my findings and in my next post I will write about my first impressions after playing the the camera over the weekend.

First a disclaimer. This post is not meant to convince you about which camera to buy. It is simply my thinking process. Hopefully it will be helpful if someone is having the same questions as I had.

My requirements for my first DSLR
  1. Low light performance - my primary reason for buying a DSLR is that I like to take pictures of people inside my home (which is somewhat dark). I'm quite tired of the noise from my Fz7.
  2. Dynamic range and color - I understand Photoshop and can find my way around the curves and levels adjustments, but lots of time, either the highlights are already blown out or the shadows have noise that gets worse with adjustments. The colors from all P&S are too blocky and flat for me.
  3. Price - Price is important to me since the body depreciates quickly. I monitor the street price and all deals quite closely.
  4. Kit lens - I don't plan to buy a $1000 upgrade lens any time soon, so I want a kit lens with reasonable performance that can beat my Fz7.
  5. Weight - the lighter the better. I will bring it on travels so weight is quite important for me.
  6. Manual lenses - I like exploring manual lenses when given the chance, since I also like rangefinders.
I already own a film Pentax MZ-M with a Pentax A50/1.7 and a Kiron 28/2, so I admit I maybe slightly biased. I don't have a problem selling them on eBay though if I indeed bought into a new system.

The entry-level DSLR roundup (in no particular order)

1. Canon XSI (450D) - best in class if not for the high price
  • Pros: Lots of features. Somewhat inconvenient live view but it's there. Light. Great autofocus. IS kit lens. Can use lenses from many other manufacturers with adapter.
  • Cons: No in-body IS means higher cost of upgrade lens with IS. Most expensive of the entry levels.
2. Nikon D60 - weakest in class
  • Pros: Very light. Great autofocus. VR kits lens. Cheap.
  • Cons: Somewhat crippled. Confusing information on using manual lenses. No in-body IS means higher cost of upgrade lens with VR.
3. Sony A200/A300/A350 - A300 is best choice in Sony camp overall but viewfinder really is too small
  • Pros: Light. Great autofocus. In-body SR. Cheap.
  • Pros A200: Viewfinder on par with other manufacturers
  • Pros A300/A350: Wonderful live view (means even family members can take pictures of me)
  • Cons: Noise. Worst kit lens among competition (but best range). Sony lenses are expensive. Non-standard flash hot shoe.
  • Cons A300: Tiny viewfinder
  • Cons A350: Tiny viewfinder, possibly higher level of noise
4. Pentax K200D - fully featured, cheap but big and heavy
  • Pros: Good viewfinder. In-body SR. Best kit lens among competition. Lots of features. Cheap.
  • Cons: Heavy. Biggish. Slower auto focus. Cannot try out at major retailers.
I find the Sony A300 and K200D best fit my needs. Each has its own flaw that slightly puts me off (poor kit lens on A300 and weight of K200D) so the price decided which one to buy. During Mother's Day, the A300 was actually available for $600 from SonyStyle and Amazon with a bunch of package deals. I was however put off by the high cost of the 50mm F1.4 and other better lenses. In the end, the Pentax $100 off body and another $100 off the DA 16-45mm F4.0 rebate was the deal maker. My final cost after rebate for the kit was less than $550 and the lens was $223.



Jeremy said...

Hey there,
Great post. You've probably been the most helpful so far in my very similar quest to decide on a dslr. It's been between the K200D, A200, and E-520. We're still not sure we'll go the dslr route, but I think we will go with the K200D if we do. We might go with the SD870is for now. But the Panasonic LX3 looks interesting. Anyway, thanks for the post.

Jeremy said...

Sorry to bother you again, but would you mind replying/emailing me? I noticed SonyStyle has a credit card offer of $150 credit for a purchase. So a $500 A200 would be $350, etc. The A300 is $600 ($450). Now, I'd lean toward the K200D, but at these prices, would you go Sony? I'd like to see the Pentax rebates offered again.

Dan said...

Hi, great post. I've pointed this to friends as a reason to choose the K200D. I have a K10D myself and like it a lot.

One advantage that I would add for the Pentax K200D: water-resistant weather sealing. This is such a valuable feature for a low-end DSLR, and Pentax is the only company that does this. A big asset for me.

Hova said...

I just went through a very similar experience. I bought the K200D. I love this camera. From what I can tell comparing it to my friends canons and nikons it really blows them away if I shoot in RAW. I did go for a more expensive lens however, the DA 18-250mm.