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Pentax K10D
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Chris Miller
(chrisdm) - F
Pentax K10D on 12/31/2006 08:12:05 MST Print View

Hi all, I am a professional photographer and amatuer backpacker, and usually backpack for the sake of photography, among other things. I was getting "dragged down" by the weight of my 5D/24-105L when backpacking, but not satisfied with the performance of my G7 for making large prints (I usually print 24x36" on my Designjet 130).

So, my quest for a lightweight high-quality backpacking camera ended when I discovered the K10D and its ultralight "Limited Pancake" lenses. The camera body itself weight less than my 30D, even with builtin image stabilization! And the image stabilization in the body means that these ultralight, ultracool Limited primes lenses become stabilized as well. The Limited lenses weight 3.2 to 4.9 ounces each, so I have been packing a couple, and hardly notice the weight of my camera compared to my Canon rig.

Here are a few photos:

With the 70mm 2.4 attached:

With the 70mm f2.4 attached

The 21mm and 70mm Limiteds:

The 21mm and 70mm Limiteds:

And a few from Joshua Tree:

JT 1

A self-portrait:

Self Portrait


Edited by chrisdm on 12/31/2006 08:14:50 MST.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Pentax limited lens -vs- Sigma 17-70 [K10D -vs- Canon Rebel XTii] on 12/31/2006 09:59:14 MST Print View

Hi Chris:

I can understand you disappointment with images from the G7 and not wanting to carry the weight of the 5D/24-105L. I have been struggling with the same issue. I used to use a Leica system backpacking and loved the image quality... but over the last few years I have been seduced by the ease of 100% digital workflow. I ebayed my remaining Leica gear a year ago when I realized I hadn't touched it in more than 2 years. Since then I have wanted to reinvest that money into a good travel / backpacking / carry anywhere camera. I have been disappointed with all the compact P&S... the image sensor is too small for quality images. The Sigma DP-1 looks promising... maybe that will be the ticket.

I have considered the traditional "canon" approach since I have a fair amount of canon glass: pick up a lighter Rebel body which I can use as a carry around / backpacking camera and can also be a backup body for the main rig, and go with a light weight travel lens, say the Sigma 17-70. This combo would only be 50grams more than your Pentax kit, and could be interchanged with my existing Canon system. Total cost would be approx 1/2 the cost of picking up the Pentax + two pancake lens.

You haven't taken the "traditional" approach. Can you share more of your thinking an experiences? Have you found the image quality significantly better and worth losing compatibility between your components? From the raw physical specifics, the K10D it still looks like a big, heavy modern SLR. I long for something the size of the old OM-1, or better yet, my Leica CL which was less than 1/2 the size, and 1/3 the weight of the K10D. How have you found the size and handling of the K10D?

Edited by verber on 12/31/2006 10:01:30 MST.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Pentax limited lens -vs- Sigma 17-70 [K10D -vs- Canon Rebel XTii] on 12/31/2006 12:35:29 MST Print View

Hi Chris,

Thanks for posting, and for the great sample photos. The K10 is an interesting alternative to the "big two" and the weatherproofing makes it doubly attractive to outdoor photographers. Please keep us apprised as you gain more experience with the Pentax kit!


I'd keep an eye out for Olympus in the new year. They should be introducing in-camera IS, possibly in a US market version of the E-400--at present the lightest, smallest dSLR body available. I'm holding out hope for four thirds being the backpacker's SLR format.

I'd love to see a downsized digital rangefinder system, but I'm not holding my breath. The M8 is intriguing, but at $5k a dream for most.

Chris Miller
(chrisdm) - F
Mark... on 12/31/2006 13:21:57 MST Print View

Mark, although I am a "Canon guy", I am first and foremost a gearhead (cameras, backpacking equipment, car parts, whatever...). So I'm not loyal to Canon if the competition comes out with a superior product. The K10D is less expensive than my old 30D (sold it), yet trumps it significantly in features and capability. I did have to invest in a new set of lenses, but once again, if Canon had come out with these ultralightweight limited primes, I would have bought them from Canon anyways.

Regarding the size (and weight), the camera is comprable to my old 30D. But, of course the K10D has greater resolution and builtin IS. Add an IS lens to the 30D, and your packed weight goes up significantly, and will be much heavier than a K10D rig weight. I rely on IS, as I don't usually backpack with a tripod...

Finally, the images from the K10D are impressive. I have been spoiled by the amazing noise characteristics of my 5D, but as I primarily shoot landscapes with the K10D (hence low ISO), this is not an issue for me. I do shoot weddings and portraits professionally, and wouldn't recommend this as a wedding/action camera. But as a landscape tool, there isn't a better DSLR on the market at any price. The weather sealing, sensitivity modes, dedicated bracketing button, builtin IS, light weight, limited lenses, etc, make this system irresistible (to me) as a bakpacking rig.

It also handles skin tones well, and images have a warm, filmlike feel. Hard to explain. Here's a recent candid shot from a photo shoot a couple weeks ago that may give you a sense of what I'm talking about:

Dondo .

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Mark... on 12/31/2006 13:59:59 MST Print View

Chris, since you don't bring a tripod, how do you handle low light (magic hour), low ISO landscapes. Is IS really that good?

Chris Miller
(chrisdm) - F
Re: Re: Mark... on 12/31/2006 14:12:44 MST Print View

IS is good for 2 to 3 stops, which is fine around dawn and dusk. But as it gets darker, I will often use a rock, stump, or the ground. Not only are natural elements more stable than the heaviest tripod, but they can provide a unique perspective. The photo above, where the moon is "starred", was a 30 second exposure, well before dawn, with the camera sitting on the ground. This shot would have had much less character and lost its unique perspective if I had had the camera at eye level on a tripod. Of course this approach has its drawbacks as well, and I do shoot with a tripod often also, but the point is that they often aren't necessary, especially if you have IS (or a nice rock).

Dondo .

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Re: Re: Mark... on 12/31/2006 15:43:46 MST Print View

Thanks for that, Chris. I'm considering carrying a DSLR, but am cringing at the thought of the additional weight. Leaving a tripod behind, or carrying a SLR Gorillapod instead will help.

Chris Miller
(chrisdm) - F
Re: Re: Re: Re: Mark... on 12/31/2006 16:25:28 MST Print View

Sure, dondo. Here's another new product I'm going to try, suits my backpacking support strategy well! Apparently you can fill "The Pod" with sand etc out in the field:

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
camera gear and backpacking on 01/01/2007 12:01:29 MST Print View

Thanks for your response Chris:

The K10D sounds like a nice body but is still a bit too heavy / big for what I am looking for. The Olympus E-400 mentioned by Rick is approach the specs I was hoping to find depending on what lens are available for it. I will have to do some research.

I appreciate your commitment to go with a superior product. Several years about I switch from Nikon to Canon for this very reason. At this point, I have enough of an investment that going with a different system will only happen if something is significantly better or the switch be close to cost neutral (after ebaying old gear) to make a switch. Since photography is only a hobby for me, I can't really afford to have multiple full blown systems.

I would love to go back to using Leica, but I just can't justify the cost. The M8 looks quite nice once they fix the problems with sensor that throughs of color balance and is too sensitive to UV sources.


Elliot Lockwood
(elockwood) - F
Re: K10D, Sigma 17-70, tripod, etc. on 01/09/2007 19:16:21 MST Print View

I've also been using the K10D - indeed an excellent performer all around.

My primary lens is the Sigma 17-70mm. It has an ideal range and excellent image quality. Seems to fair well in rain too, despite not being weather sealed.

As for support, I use the smallest carbon fiber tripod on the market: the Gitzo G0057 with Really Right Stuff BH-25. While not a cheap setup, it's light yet sturdy enough for any lens I'd take backpacking.

Nikolas Andersen
(nsandersen) - MLife
White balance on 03/20/2007 18:06:15 MDT Print View

Hello, I wondered if I could ask a late question:

I saw a review of its little brother, the K100, just 2 things that bothered me: Lack of cleaning system and - importantly - the white balance seemed very yellow.

This doesn't seem to be the case on your pictures - is that true in general?

Elliot Lockwood
(elockwood) - F
Re: White balance on 03/20/2007 23:55:23 MDT Print View

If you shoot RAW then white balance is a non-issue as you can adjust it in the RAW editor.

If you shoot jpeg, the new K10D has very fine grained white balance adjustment not only via presets but also via Kelvins. You can adjust the white balance in camera on top of a photo you took (default to the last frame captured) to see the effects immediately.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
White balance on 03/21/2007 10:33:13 MDT Print View

The Casio EX-Z750 and its successors have custom white balance in two button pushes (hold a white card in front of the lens, push two buttons.. done). They also have a three color histogram so you dont clip one color, and 999 user modes. But I think i'm intruding on an 'adults' conversation, and me and my pocket camera belong over here at the kids table. ha.ha..