Transitioning from film to digital-- what should I look for?

Discussion in 'Mirrorless Digital Cameras' started by lauren_butero, Nov 7, 2011.

  1. Hey everyone--
    I admit, I need some help and am probably going to ask the thoroughly annoying questions.
    I've been shooting film for about 10 years and have recently decided to make the move to digital.
    My trusty film camera is a Pentax K-1000. I have two bodies and generally keep each loaded with different film (speed, ect.). I also have an old Minolta which was passed down from a family member, but I really love my Pentex.
    I generally shoot b&w film and process my own whenever possible.
    Unfortunately, I took a new job in a rural area and no longer have access to a darkroom (nor a lab that will process true B&W film), nor is there any way to accommodate my own equipment. I'm also interested in getting involved with a little freelance travel photography and possibly gallery work and am finding more and more that most publications expect digital submissions.
    I've done a lot of research into DSLRs, but I am still not sure what would be the best for me.
    I live in Colorado at high altitude and often travel to 10,000-plus feet in elevation, which I have found impacts my equipment choices when it comes to shooting film. I find the sun is just stronger here, and I often struggle to work within the range the Pentax w/ a 50 mm lens can handle without blowing out photos when shooting in anything other than ideal morning/evening light. I also often sacrifice a shallower depth of field for the same reason. I learned to shoot in CO, but I noticed the difference when I moved down to 3,000 feet, and I had to adjust my shooting style and how I was metering. Now I am back in the Centennial State.
    On the other hand, I also shoot a lot of low light and time exposures, so that is important to me too.
    I might be considered a borderline adventure photographer. During the summer I spend most of my weekends in the mountains or on other short trips. My camera goes hiking, it goes to the lake. For that reason, I do a lot of hand holding.
    Most of my photography fits into two categories--- landscape and close-ups/macro. I'm having problems understanding how sensor size is going to impact how I shoot these two subjects. I don't shoot much action or wildlife. I know that almost any DSLR is going to out preform my Pentax, especially in those areas. It isn't that I don't want the capabilities, as I would like to be able to experiment and play around, but my main concern is having a camera that is going to do what I want it to do as well or better than the 35 mm I've been shooting, and that the transition from my Pentax to the new DSLR isn't going to throw a complete wrench in my shooting.
    I would appreciate any advice.
  2. What's your price range? Since you already have Pentax lenses a K5 at $1,150 might be your best bet since, with its waterproof body, it works well under all conditions. But if that's too expensive then the Kr at $600 is about the best buy for the money on the dslr market. But any good dslr will work.
  3. mtk


    Hi Lauren!
    I second Mike's respsonse. However...this can rapidly turn into a "Chevy vs Dodge" post. If you are familiar with the Pentax stuff (which obviously you are) I would go down that road. For what type of shooting you mentioned virtually any camera brand will do. If you don't own a tripod, get one. Your budget (and imagination) will be your limit. Also ask questions regarding software for post processing. It is easy to get caught up in the neverending "what camera/lens" should I buy? If you are on a limited budget I would simply start out with a basic camera, a two lens kit and start shooting!
    I would NOT recommend ditching the K1000 yet. I personally shoot film in tandem with my digi stuff. IMHO I personally like the results of TriX and HP5 gives me. Obviously if you have been developing your own BW you know that there is little or no equipment involved.
    I hope this helps and I wish you well!
  4. I can also suggest you don't discount Pentax for a digital SLR. The company continues to have a general commitment to
    compact, rugged gear with good ergonomics and the current K-5 or K-r both have plenty to offer. As for dealing with
    harsh high-altitude sun, at least with digital you'll be able to review the exposure immediately, bracket exposures at little
    additional cost, etc. You can also cut the light with neutral-density filters or circular polarizers. Another factor is the ability
    to change ISO on-demand in-camera. I believe the K-5 has a mode with lower-than-most ISO 80. As far as dealing with
    harsh light/high contrast, digital also opens you up to a number of techniques including multiple-exposure high-dynamic-
    range processing (HDR). While this technique is sometimes used to produce garish surreal effect, if applied with a
    delicate touch it can still look very natural and overcome some of the equipment's shortcomings for recording wide spread
    of highlight-to-shadow.
  5. For landscapes, you might want a lens in the 12-24mm range with a K5, depending on the sorts of landscapes you do of course. For macro, the Pentax / Tokina 100mm is well regarded.
  6. My trusty film camera is a Pentax K-1000. . . . I find the sun is just stronger here, and I often struggle to work within the range the Pentax w/ a 50 mm lens can handle without blowing out photos . . . .
    Definitely follow up on Andrew's suggestion--look into neutral density and/or polarizing filters (just make sure you get a "circular" polarizer, as some cameras won't function correctly with regular ones). Yes, such a filter will also make the viewfinder darker, but if you're in conditions that are that bright, it should not be a big problem.
    Also, am I correct in thinking that the K-1000's maximum shutter speed is 1/1000 s? If so, then some of the good news is that pretty much any DSLR will have a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000 s or faster. So if, say, you were shooting Tri-X in really bright conditions and you could not open up past f/16 because of a 1/1000 s maximum shutter speed, now you can open up to f/8 and shoot at 1/4000 s. And of course, in a moment you can drop down from ISO 400 to ISO 100 (with most DSLR's) and shoot at f/4 at 1/4000 s.
    A Pentax DSLR should allow you to use your existing lenses. However, IMOPO, if using legacy lenses is not a big issue and you want a traditional DSLR, Nikon has the best lineup today. But lots of companies make interesting products, and reasonable cases can be made for Canon, Sony, Pentax, and others, and for interchangeable lens cameras that are not DSLR's.
  7. What Pentax lenses do you own? If you have lots of expensive Pentax glass already, then buying a Pentax DSLR would seem like a no-brainer.
    If that is not the case, I am sure everybody but Dave Redmann will agree that Canon has the best lineup in DSLRs today. Just kidding of course, but as a Canon shooter, how could I leave a statement about Nikon's alleged superiority undisputed? ;-)
  8. I am not concerned about my investment in lenses. Several years ago when I was living on the border I had a break-in in my home and most of my more expensive lenses were damaged by the thief. I had them locked up and I have a feeling he was a bit disappointed when he found all that glass instead of cash/jewelry, ect. I still have two cheaper korean lenses (a Vivitar 35-70mm, and an Albinar 80-200mm) and the two Pentax 50 mms that I had on my bodies. I was on a pack trip when the break in happened and was more worried about the beating my equipment might take strapped on a horse in the mountains.
    Anyway, I guess one of the big problems I am having is figuring out how sensor size is going to impact how I shoot.
    Of course, then we have to get into Nikon vs. Canon vs. ? --- I haven't had a chance to get a feel for manufacturers other than the big two. Honestly, I liked the way the Nikon felt in my hand, but I worry about the extra weight that the bodies tend to have. Most of my photog friends shoot Canon though.
  9. mtk


    Lauren, just a casual reminder..... sensor size considerations...FX (in Nikon) Full Frame..DX crop sensor...will mostly impact Telephoto vs Wide Angle. Will get more reach on Tele glass with the DX...Less WAngle and Vice Versa with FX.
    Obviously Full Frame will be bigger coin.....but if you are re-arming yourself with lenses and a new system your lens choice can certainly be impacted by the FX/DX consideration....
  10. If you don't care about your Pentax lenses, you have a clean slate, so why buy a DSLR? The Fuji X10 gives you a faster lens (28-112 film equivalent) with more DOF control than any 18-55 kit lens (27-82 film equivalent). The X10 would be easy to carry, fine for landcapes, and it has macro mode that eliminates the need to carry a separate lens.

    Tests are not in yet, but the F200EXR had about one stop more highlight range (in DR 400% mode) than any DSLR except Fuji's own S5 etc. The X10 should be similar. This might help you at high altitude in Colorado.

    If you have GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) and would miss the joy of buying new lenses and accessories, my suggestion is a bad one, so please ignore. You said nothing about bird and wildlife photography, or sports, which are (if you ask me) the only remaining advantages of the DSLR.
  11. The Fuji X10 gives you . . . more DOF control than any 18-55 kit lens [on a DSLR].
    No. Fuji makes two interesting high-end compact digicams, but only the one with the prime lens (the X100) has the same size sensor as most DSLR's, and the one with the zoom lenx, the X10, has a small sensor (so-called 2/3 inch, actually 8.8 x 6.6 mm). This means that, relative to a DSLR with the common "APS-C" size sensor (23.5 x 15.7 mm), the Fuji at f/2 (at the wide end of its zoom range) has the same depth of field as the DSLR at about f/4.8; and at f/2.8 (at the long end of its zoom range), it has about the same depth of field as the DSLR at f/6.7. So the DSLR can achieve less depth of field with an f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens than then Fuji X10 can with its f/2.0-2.8 zoom lens.
    Don't get me wrong: the Fuji X10 looks like a very appealing camera. Wish I could justify buying one. But unlile the X100, it has a sensor that, while bigger than most compact digicams' sensors, is much smaller than any DSLR's, and the effect of depth of field cannot be overcome by its relatively fast lens.
  12. Dave, it seems counterintuitive but doing the arithmetic verifies it. The X10 lens is 28/2.8 at the long end and reports its CoC as .008 in the EXIF, but let's use .007 to give APS-C an advantage. Using and selecting Nikon D90 or Canon Rebel, the 1 meter DOFs are below.

    28mm @ f2.8 = .057m DOF

    APS-C DX
    55mm @ f5.6 = .097m DOF
  13. Bill, my post was not based on intuition, but on math. The number of stops more or less depth of field, for a given f-stop, based on the ratio of sensor sizes, is:
    stops = 6.64 x LOG(linear dimension sensor 1 / linear dimension sensor 2)
    where LOG is the common a/k/a base-10 log. Given that most decent-size US prints are 5:4 aspect ratio or close to it, it's the short side of the senor that matters, so you have:
    6.64 x LOG (15.7/6.6) = 2.5 stops
    So the Fuji at f/2 will give the same depth of field as the DSLR at about f/4.8, as long as we use the same angle of view and subject to camera distance.
    I'm not sure of the exact source of our disagreement, but in one key respect you are comparing applies and oranges. You are comparing the Fuji's lens at its long end (actually 28.4mm, sometimes reported as 112 mm equivalent) to the DSLR's lens at its long end (actually 55mm, sometimes reported as 84 mm equivalent). At those respective focal lenghts, they don't have the same field of view / angle of view, even discounting the differences in aspect ratio. If you want to frame, say, a head-and-shoulders portrait with a particular composition, with the Fuji at the long end of its zoom range, you have to stand considerably farther away from the subject, which increases the depth of field.
    Also, a lot of depth of field calculators are unforunately imprecise and make unstated (and sometimes unwarranted) assumptions. By my calculations, if we (1) (a) assume 8x10-inch prints (b) with a middle-of-the-road (by tranditional standards) print circle of confusion of 1/150 inch (0.169 mm), and (2) (a) actually use the Fuji at 23.1 mm to give the same field of view as the DSLR at 55 mm, and (b) assume the Fuji's maximum aperture at 23mm is f/2.6, then the Fuji's depth of field is 0.054 m and the DSLR's is 0.049 m. At the more useful (to me) distance of 2.5 m, the respective depths of field are 0.341 m for the Fuji and 0.311 m for the DSLR.
    So I stand by my statement: for equivalent focal lengths, at any given aperture, the Fuji X10 will have about 2.5 stops more depth of field than the typical DSLR. And therefore, because the Fuji's lens only opens 1.6 to 2.0 f-stops wider, for equivalent focal lenghts, using maxumum aperture, the Fuji has more depth of field (by about 0.9 stops at the wide end of the zoom range and 0.5 stops at the longer end). This is considering the Fuji's 7.1 - 28.4 mm f/2.0-2.8 lens and the DSLR's 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. The DSLR can only provide slightly less depth of field with the kit lens, but it is less. And of course, the DSLR can upgrade to a faster lens.
  14. Dave, that's all good math. The .057m versus .097m comparison does seem way more than expected. Anyway, your numbers show the X10 is fairly close even at equivalent focal lengths, and its lens has far better bokeh than any 18-55 I have seen (the Nikon is perhaps worst). And if you move further away (112 instead of 84) you can get even shallower DOF.

    Of course, a 50/1.7 or 50/1.8 lens doesn't cost much, usually has excellent bokeh, and will beat the X10 hands down.
  15. Very much agreed that the Fuji gets you within striking distance of the typical DSLR and kit lens: less than a stop of difference. And likewise, the Fuji's larger sensor compared to the typical compact digital's sensor, plus its faster lens, means it can achieve shallower depth of field by somewhere around 2 to 3 stops or a little more. So the X10 really closes most of the gap. And hey, it appears to be a very interesting camera.
    Agreed that one beauty of a DSLR is the wide availability of 50mm f/1.7's or 50mm f/1.8's for under $100. I just bought another one to replace the one whose iris is stuck open (not being able to stop down from f/1.7 is not so good!).
    However, I cannot agree that [with the Fuji] if you move farther away ([using the lens at the equivalent of] 112 instead of 84) you can get even shallower DOF. The increase in subject-to-camera distance pretty nearly offsets the increase in focal length at any given aperture, and when you consider that you usually have a somewhat smaller maximum aperture at the longer focal length, in the typical situation, moving back and zooming in more means more depth of field.
    Using the previous example of the Fuji focusing on a subject 2.5 m away using 23.1 mm focal length and a maximum aperture of f/2.6 to get 0.341 m depth of field: for the same framing at the plane of focus, with the lens at 28.4 mm (so-called 112 mm equivalent), you'd have to back up from 2.5 m to 3.1 m. All else being equal, increasing the camera-to-subject distance increases depth of field. So now your depth of field would increase from 0.341 m to 0.371 m (that is, by about 9%). The reason is that now you have a maximum aperture of f/2.8 instead (my guestimated for 23.1 mm) f/2.6.
  16. I have seen some jarring bokeh from the X10, but this image shows nice near to far transitions.

    Back to Lauren's question: what I hated about my transition to digital was the lack of highlight detail from digital sensors. This is why I am an EXR fanboy now. With DR400% the results are very film-like: almost as good for highlight detail as was my favorite film, Kodak 400UC, but much more convenient.

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