Early Pentax DSLRs

Discussion in 'Pentax' started by gregg_kawakami, Mar 3, 2015.

  1. Are any of the early model Pentax DSLRs worth buying? I need something that will work with my M42 Pentax lenses.
  2. They are all worth buying depending on how much you're looking to spend and will all work with your M42's... If it were me, I'd go with a K-5... No reason to go earlier than that unless you're looking for a rock bottom dollar price... K-5 is what I'm using, and will be continue to use until the next release.
  3. The original ist D had poor ergonomics (I'm thinking of the tiny display and the 4-way controller). The ist DS was much better in that regard, and would be a good cheap entry point. You'll obviously get better low light performance with more recent models. A lot of the early K10Ds had banding issues that could pop up in certain situations (mine did); I never heard that there was a firmware fix. I would agree that the K-5 is an excellent camera if you're willing to drop a few hundred $$$, however it had sensor stain issues in the early production runs, so you need to do a little homework before buying.
    A K20D will cost about 1/2 as much as a K-5 and I don't think it had the banding problem of the K10D (different sensor IIRC). But I never used one, so YMMV.
  4. The first ones with respectable low-light performance are K-5 and K-r. Earlier ones are fine cameras if you don't need high sensor speed with low noise.
    If you want to use manual-focus lenses, you want one with a pentaprism, not a pentamirror. (Which rules out the K-r.) You'll want to buy a focusing screen suitable for manual focus, like from focusingscreen.com. The standard screens are almost useless for manual-focus.
  5. stemked

    stemked Moderator

    I think the K10D is a very respectable camera and it will work fine with M42 lenses. It was my first DSLR and I can say I got a lot of nice images with it. It's a bit large (for a Pentax) but has nice ergonomics.
  6. AJG


    Within the limits of using manual diaphragm, stop down metering and manual focus, any of the Pentax DSLRs will work with adapted M 42 lenses. Having owned and used the first istD, K10, K20, K7 and K5, I would concur with the recommendation of a K5 if budget allows, but I have had good images with all of them. Stop down metering with K-mount lenses isn't that accurate a lot of the time in my experience, so I would expect similar issues with M42 lenses. The bargain of the bunch may be the K7, which has decent live view and goes for cheap prices used. It accepts the same batteries and grip as newer K5, K 5 II models, so if you upgrade later some of those things would still work. It is also a lot more compact than the K10 and K20 if that is important to you.
  7. M42 lenses will also work very well indeed on any Canon EOS digital camera - though it will take manual stopping down and shooting in aperture priority mode. Perfectly good adapters are well under $20, though I think you don't need the so-called autofocus confirmation chip.
    The "Rebel" line are excellent, and used and new ones are very reasonably priced. The XXD (20D, 50D, etc.) are even better in some ways and the older ones are also very inexpensive.
    Does the automatic aperture pin work on the K-mount and later, if any? If it doesn't, there is not much advantage to Pentax over Canon.
  8. Well, of course, there is no DSLR which works natively with M42 lenses. But the question hammered home to me how severely advances in sensor technology render vintage DSLRs obsolete. Back in the day, you could take advantage of the latest & greatest film technology with your father's hand-me-down SLR body.
  9. AJG


    As to JDM's point about auto diaphragm operation, the K mount adapters don't link to that mechanism at all. They just provide a way to screw an M 42 lens into a K mount body and focus to infinity without any cheesy optical components, but don't provide any mechanical linkage. Previous comments regarding getting a body (from Pentax, Canon or anyone else) that has a pentaprism vs. a pentamirror are absolutely valid in my experience. I would disagree with John's comments about screens--I never much cared for split image rangefinders or micro prisms, and when I purchased my first Pentax MX years ago my first purchase for it was a matte screen with a grid. This is obviously a personal choice, and if you are using manual focus lenses exclusively and are accustomed to focusing aids like that then you should replace the native screen. A friend of mine had a Pentax istDS and the finder was noticeably dimmer and harder to manually focus than my istD, although the LCD screen was a definite improvement.
  10. If you don't need in-body image stabilization, something like a Sony NEX-6 might work better for M42 lenses. You'll use stop-down metering on anything you get, and the EVF of the Sony will brighten up as you stop down. Plus, the ability to magnify the image at eye level for fine focusing has been a game changer for me (I have the NEX5n with the optional EVF).
  11. JDM is right, the stop down pin doesn't get supported by k-mount cameras. - He does overlook the fact that his Canons offer no Shake Reduction.
    John is right about the pentamirrors. - This kind of rules out the K100D. - *istD produces more data junk than the K series and uses more expensive CF cards.
    The focusing screens (optimized to look "bright" behind the dim kit zoom, not to enhance manual focusing experience) & the nastyness to remove m42 adapters don't make the Pentax DSLRs the perfect "must have!" choice to shoot digital with your lenses. - I own a Spotmatic and a bunch of k mount film bodies too. The shooting feels different on cameras made for manual focusing and even on the bigger screen of the early AF bodies it seemed a bit easier then with DSLRs. - You can use the AF module for focus confirmation via beep (optional) and green light. - That might work well enough for a landscape shot or such and also allows slow paced journalistic work. Its just: All in all the DSLR will constantly remind you: it wasn't really made to do this, while Spotmatics give a more streamlined shooting experience.
    What is your reason to go digital and desire to get there?
    If you need a fistful of pixels for the web and an odd postcard print once in a while you are fine with the older 6MP bodies and should get one with kit zoom for less than Euro/$150.
    If you need more pixels get a K20D - Nice Camera I own 2 of them now. Drawback: proprietary Li** batteries that should die soon & need replacement.
    When I had gotten hold of my *istD; I felt a clear urge to repurchase "the lens line" with AF. - YMMV.
    You should post a question: "Have Takumars, want digital - DSLR or which MILC?"
    Since annoying ebay vendors don't accept my prefered payment method I have no real answer to that and am still lacking inexpensive M / M42 / K / LTM to X-mount adapters.
    The Fuji X-E1 is surely lighter and generates probably better JPGs than my DSLRs. It might have a tiny edge in low light that gets eaten by the lack of SR and doesn't matter since the EVF lags a lot and turns the camera pretty unpleasant to use indoors... I suppose I might prefer the EVF magnification for manual focusing over the Pentax screens.
    Hin Man, this forum's wildest old lenses explorer, uses a Sony Nex, if I am recalling things properly.
    If these (still Euro/$300?) bodies are out of your reach; Maybe get an old Pentax first & for now.
    Disclaimer: I bought a 4K screen. So I really want 10MP or more to get it filled with the pixels I captured. If your realm (including friends & family) will stick to lower screen resolutions for a while, 6MP DSLRs should capture sufficiently great pictures' RAW data. (You'll have to tweak these a bit though.)
    I am not sure what to say as a final word in a the "where shall I start with digital today?" debate.
    - Pixelcount wise the K10D was the 1st Pentax to meet my (current & personal) requirements. - I skipped it due to low maximum ISO (1600 instead of the old 6MPs' 3200) and bought the horribly user interfaced (for an AF lenses shooter - the single wheel doesn't bother you with your Takumars, you need no AF spots selection mode dial either) K100D as my 2nd body. - Today I might stuff it into a bag with the *istD and worst kit zoom + some old manual primes and take it on a high risk vacation or such, to wager low.
    All these cameras are still doing their job as back in their days. Old Pentaxes were a bit limited by their image buffere size and writing speed: *istD takes 5 frames in a row and a minute to write them, K100D only 3 but writes faster. Does this "firepower" matter for your work?
    I don't know where digital will end for you. - I did shoot 35mm film for fun in Leica M too, during my 6MP days & would have used MF for quality, if needed.
    A3 laser prints of K20D pictures look good enough. - Silver prints from LF negs should look better. MF can look better too.
    I disagree with Dave on vintage DSLRs being "obsolete". The comparsion to film bodies limps. - Dad's hand me down comes with a freezer full of ORWO NP 27 or worse.
    The big questions only you can answer are about your concept and goals. - There are bad & better tools for every job. And owning 3 camera systems means taking the wrong one(s) out on that daY when you #LL face the shot of your life.
  12. I picked up a like-new K100D Super for less than $100, and I really can't complain. It does fine with manual lenses, including M42. The 18-55 DA lens is also pretty darn good. It may only be 6MP, but is still capable of making nice 8x12 prints.
  13. Thank you for all the wonderful responses! It looks like there are many digital bodies for me to choose from. I appreciate your expertise and input.
  14. I second Mark O'Brien. I find the k100D Super's jpegs spectacular and second to none.
  15. Several years ago I used my DS on a trip where I didn't want to carry any substantial amount of gear. Just the DS (because of it's size) and an FA 35mm 2.0 lens. I reverted back to my film days with one lens and shot carefully and slowly. Bottom line is that the DS performed beautifully and produced files that printed very nicely, including available light shots taken inside cathedrals. If you are looking for a low cost entry body, a good DS would be a choice. I actually prefer the way that the DS renders jpgs versus the later cameras. Another advantage is that it can use two different types of batteries.
  16. You don't have to get an old Pentax to use M-42 lenses. All will need an adapter but all will work. If you ask an old DSLR for old sake I think the original IST-D (not the L version) is nice

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