Pentax DSLR - Pentax?

Being a fan of direct controls, plus being a fan of optical screens, I've been eyeing DSLRs for a bit.

With these two requirements, the obvious choice is the Nikon Df. A great camera to be sure. Can be had brand new for 1889 € and refurbished ones for 250 € less, but waiting for a preowned camera for 950-1000 € would be the best value for sure.

But as I've been waiting for a good deal to happen, I've been thinking -- I would like to experience the DSLR, but does it have to be full frame? Nikkor lenses tend to be big and heavy. Not to mention I'm still on the fence about the lustre of Nikon gear. And the body itself is a bit bulkier than I'd prefer.

Laxing ourselves into 4/3 or APS-C territory, one obvious contender appears -- PENTAX! 🥳

Totally personal thing but Pentax for sure has more interesting lenses than Nikon.

Something like a 10 years old K-5 can be had for peanuts -- it looks like a pretty smart camera. No direct control like Fuji/Leica/Df has, but then again, Nikon's implementation of the dials isn't perfect anyway.


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I nearly got a Pentax DSLR for peanuts. Didn't though. The idea of using (an APSC/ CCD sensor) front for all my Takumar lenses, which are also available for peanuts, plus those wonderful Pentax Limited lenses with AF, was very compelling.
Are you planning to shoot AF lenses, or Manual focus lenses?

I've had the Df since the day it was sold in stores. It's the only DSLR that I use. I've used it with lenses going back to 1952, using an N-F conversion tube. I use it with AF, AF-D, and AF-S lenses. I prefer the AF-D lenses, work better than ever.

The Pentax K-1 would be tempting IF I owned a lot of K-Mount lenses. I own a LOT of Nikon lenses.
If I went for Pentax, the inclination would be to prefer compact Pentax lenses. This possibly leads to APS-C digital lenses, all of them probably AF.

Nikon Df has that beautiful viewfinder and the factory-standard matte screen is pretty good with helping manual focus. Don't know if that's the case with smaller Pentax viewfinders.

The idea of an IBIS with an OVF camera sounds really cool: with mirrorless cameras it can be jarring to detach from reality when you see the stabilization kick in. With Pentax one wouldn't see it in effect.

Money is a thing -- I believe the Pentax primes are more expensive on the used markets than the usual Nikkors. In this sense Nikon keeps its good budget position.

I don't know a lot about Pentax. It's always been on the sidelines when the usual battles were Canon vs Nikon. Maybe 2 years ago I watched a Mattias Burling video about a cheap Pentax DSLR and thought to myself, "now that's a fresh take on the DSLR". Cool innovations, like the IBIS, like automatic horizon correction using the IBIS, big headroom in the highlights, things like that.

And Pentax lenses are cool and they do more pancake designs than any other manufacturer.
With the downturn in the photography industry, I would wonder how many new offerings Pentax will bring to the market. Nikon is suffering, but I suspect will be around longer than Pentax. Both have many lenses available. Pentax lenses tend to be smaller and lighter than a similar Nikkor, looking at traditional manual focus lenses. I have many, MANY (100) Nikon lenses. They hold up. I do not have enough Pentax lenses to give first-hand feedback. I converted a 50/1.4 Super-Tak to M-Mount, it is very good.


gee aahrr
Los Angeles
A few years ago I scratched the little Pentax limited lenses off my bucket list.
I used a K-70 and sampled nearly all of the APS-C lenses.
15, 20-40, 21, 35, 70. Wonderful but in the end I discovered that I prefer mirrorless bodies.

Sue, Miguel and Gordon should be able to help.
I believe they've been shooting Pentax for a while.


Scott Depot, WV, USA
In my brief experience with Pentax, I owned a *IST-D and a K-30 (twice). Some people love DSLRs, but I have struggled to bond with them. However, one of the best lenses I have ever used was a rented Pentax DA 20-40 Ltd. The IQ from it was excellent, and it was *almost* enough to get me to keep the K-30.


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Jersey Shore
I have quite a lot of APS-C Pentax gear - including all of the DA limited lenses - that I haven't used in years. I really should sell it all but somehow I can't bring myself to do so for sentimental reasons. Everything works well and much of it is in like-new condition. But somehow it's always my second choice when going out to take images.

Pentax is supposed to be bringing out its new flagship APS-C camera this year (Pentaxians have heard that before, haven't they?). Unless it inspires me I suspect that I'll finally move ahead with selling.

But to Mike's original post, if you prefer optical viewfinders then, yes, an inexpensive Pentax DSLR can give you a lot of pleasure. The top-line models (K-5, K-3, etc.) are very rugged and have reliable weather sealing. Battery life is outstanding - with the K-5 series CIPA rated for something like 900 shots and close to 600 for the K-3s. They are also a lot lighter than Nikon's best DSLRs.

And, yes, the DA Limited primes and 20-40mm zoom are excellent, even if not the fastest glass you'll own.


Probably Not Walter Kernow
I've enjoyed my apsc sensor foray via Pentax dslr cameras - K-5 & K-7. Nice feel, dials & menus work the way you expect - they give off that K1000 vibe of being capable, rugged & simple without being overly complicated. I need to pick up some more glass for them - however, as you say, there is a wider selection of Nikkor stuff available and its almost all great.


Top Veteran
Shooting with Pentax digital since 2011 (K-5), with a short intermission. Have been shooting with my K-1 since April 2016.

APS-C stuff - used the 15, 35 macro, and 70 Limiteds.

FF stuff - use the FA Limited trio (31, 43, 77), DA* 200 and 300, DFA* 50. Still have and occasionally use the 28-105. Have used the DFA 100 macro. Looking at the new 10-17 fisheye.

If Pentax becomes my primary system, I'll be getting the upcoming APS-C and a the 150-450. Not sure about the new 85, or other new primes (except a 135 and updated 200 and 300 if released).

Bodies - for me, they fit like Pentax used my hands to develop the ergos. Again, for me, best of any camera I have used. Definitely a YMMV subject. Solid, weather resistant, have had IBIS (SR - shake reduction) since just before Olympus. Some of their models have a feature called astrotracer - uses GPS (built-in or add-on) in combination with the IBIS sensor shift to counter earth rotation and allow slightly longer shutter times for astro work. My K-5 and K-1 have not given me any issues. Negatives - generally not built for speed, they're more of a field camera or generalist camera than being designed for action/ sports/ wildlife.

Lenses - small current catalog compared to other brands. Some lenses need updating. Some older lenses are optically wonderful, but no current AF tech. The Limited lenses are small high-quality gems with about the best optical quality you can fit into a tiny space and have AF. The new lenses (DFA 50 and 85) are minimal-compromise lenses, and it is reflected in optical quality, size, weight, and cost.

Mike - since you're looking at APS-C, I'd consider a used KP and a DA Limited lens or three (depends on the FoV you want to cover). Small, light, capable. EDIT - after looking at prices... nothing wrong with a K-5, especially at the current pricing.

All of the above should be taken with a large dose of IMHO, YMMV, yada yada yada...

Oh - Limited lens production promo...
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Cheshire, England
Martin Connolly
I’ve had three APS-C Pentaxes (K-r, K-30, K-S2) in recent years. The K-30 was by far the nicest to use. I had a variety of lenses, kit 18-55 and 18-50, 18-135, 35/2.4, 50/1.8, 35DA Macro. Also a Sigma 17-70 and 18-200. All good lenses in their way except that collapsible 18-50 which was an abomination. The best were the cheap as chips 35/2.4 and the far more expensive 35DA macro. I would still consider buying another, ideally a KP. The ergonomics are great (small grip on the KS2 being the exception), viewfinders nice and bright, image quality excellent. And there are loads of old K mount lenses around.


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Talent, Oregon (far from the madding crowd)
Miguel Tejada-Flores
I will echo what Gordon ("gordo") said above. If you're open to APS-C (as opposed to full frame), the KP is a truly satisfying camera to take photographs with. It borrows many design and construction cues from its FF big sibling the K-1 - another truly fine camera - but is significantly smaller and lighter, something which gives it a feel close to that of many of the classic analog Pentaxes (both K-mount and before that the M42 screw-mount Takumars) which I shot with for years. And, speaking of lenses---

Yep, the DA Limited series combine being both fine glass- being very compact in size (especially compared to some of the bloated larger diameter lenses from CaNikon) - beautifully built and generally long-lasting. But the size factor is interesting too - since many smaller DA Ltd Pentax lenses seem to fit perfectly with the 'smaller' KP body - which, honestly, is barely bigger than my mu43 Lumix GX8.

Pentaxes have always (in my years of using them) had not only a solid feeling - but also a sense that the controls were and are placed in simple, logical places which they should be --- all of which translates, often, into being very satisfying cameras to take photographs with. The prices on KP's have come down significantly since they were first introduced; they are less expensive than both the Nikon Df (another great camera IMHO) and the K-1.

Some of the older Pentax bodies can be had for a relative song - though many have their relative merits and issues. Many Pentaxians still love their older K-5's and their newer K-3's; surprisingly, though, some of their cheaper bodies tend to fly under the radar of more 'serious' photographers - but are almost every bit as good as their higher-priced siblings. In particular, the K-70 has a sterling reputation, and I briefly owned the 2nd gen K-S2 and found it to be a brilliant camera. Both of the aforementioned can really be found for bargain prices, if one is patient - and both are relatively compact in size, too.

At the end of the day, though, many people think it's all about the glass - the lenses - and in my own limited experience with generations of different Pentax primes and occasional zooms, I can testify that they make great lenses. The one on my want-to-buy-one-day list is the compact DA 20-40 zoom which reputedly has sterling optical qualities, but is significantly more compact than many zooms.

The only caveat is - since we all have different subjective interpretations of what we like or don't like - if at all possible, you should try to either rent, borrow or simply play around with some of the aforementioned Pentaxes --- and see how they feel to you.
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Even the antique Pentax K-7 (2009), which probably can be bought for almost nothing, would be a great place to start, if you don't belong to the "must have the newest camera with the most megapixels and the latest doodah's" crowd.

The design, controls, and feeling is just beautiful. Metal body, weather sealed, IBIS. Access to all the M42 lenses you'll ever need. I'm still using mine.

And I've never thought about selling it. And I've also never thought about buying CaNikon. They are not in the same league, as they are soulless commodities, and Pentax are real cameras. But, I'll have to admit, with worse (non existent) marketing.

I've still got my first Pentax DSLR, and sometimes still using it, a K-100D Super (6 MP CCD, 2007 vintage). It's been dropped on stones, super glued (it's got a plastic shell), and still works perfectly! Now it's got an M42 adapter permanently attached. Wouldn't dream of selling that one either.

Just my five cents...

EDIT: some of you may be wondering where the Nikon D70 I've been using with adapted lenses is coming from, if I don't buy CaNikon stuff.
I bought it on a flea market because I wanted the attached 500 mm T-mount mirror tele lens.
Paid less than $50, and got a Sigma SA-300 with kit zoom thrown in for free. (attachment)


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I have a K-5 and a K200D. The K200 is the second I have had, always regretted selling the first. I have often thought about selling them, and the lenses, and then, I take one or the other out and realise that although I hardly ever use them, I would miss them if they were gone. Agree with Gordon’s remarks about the limited lenses. I still have a 15mm and 35mm, they arent the fastest lenses but they are small/compact and great quality.

Bart J D

When a digital FF came into my budget range an it seemed obvious Pentax was not going to offer that option anytime soon - if at all, I gave all my Pentax gear to my eldest daughter, keeping the Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.4.
She's still using a K5 today.
Had the K1 been on the roadmap at that point, I definitely would still be using Pentax.
When I added a Sony a7ii, I got the A 50mm f/1.2 which she didn't use, back and added a second hand 31mm Ltd because that one, she does use.
Having lived in quite a few countries I've experienced that availability of (and prices for) used cameras and lenses vary wildly.

If money is a concern (and over time we do tend to spend quite a bit on our systems of choice ;) ) I'd look at what lenses are interesting for you and if you can find them in any way in your market...

Going for the more commonly available options can be an advantage (e.g. you might still find a replacement for a lens if you love it but it breaks at some point... or there are more people who repair the brand...)

But picking the less commonly available option can be the right thing too - if it feels right and you connect with it more than with any alternative...

Choices, choices... :)


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I love pentax gear. The K-3 is a dream camera considering it's age. Pentax can handle almost any kind of shooting, of course there are exceptions ie skill level, lens etc.... I found the auto focus system lacking for bird photography , It could have been the lens or my technique. The K-3 was a perfect fit for my hands. And as I said great for most things, not birds never mind birds in flight.

Just my 4 cents as a birder

So I went to NIKON