Switching Camera Brands

Thoughts on Why I Left Pentax for Nikon.

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Copyright 2020 Stanley Harper.

Editors Note: While our primary goal at MilkyWayPhotographers is night and Milky Way photography, we occasionally expand our scope to include less obviously connected matters. This article is one of those. Switching camera brands is an issue that many photographers ponder. There are many factors involved, and then they have to face the complexities involved. This article covers one photographers’ move from Pentax to Nikon. So if you’re a Pentaxian, don’t stop reading here. Just mentally substitute another brand as you read it!

Every so often, the photography world goes bonkers when a new camera body is introduced. The talking heads of the photography world immediately head to YouTube to issue “expert” proclamations and reviews without laying eyes on it. Some will even ditch the brand they have used for years just to have the “latest and greatest.”

Lost in all of the noise and my complete lack of promotion, I changed camera brands a little over a year ago. Instead of joining the crowd by jumping to what was trending, I went from Pentax to Nikon, choosing a body that has been on the market for a while, the D750.

So why did I do it?

WHY MAKE THE CHANGE?

Before this article becomes an indictment against Pentax, let me talk about why I went with Pentax. When I decided to jump into photography seriously in the first part of the last decade, I had to research which brand I was going to. At the time, I had no ambition and no drive to do anything other than landscape photography. All I needed was a good starter body. I was familiar with Pentax from the film days as my dad had one. I looked up what people were saying about Pentax, and the opinions were somewhat unanimous, the best bang for the buck camera body on the market.

The Pentax KX was still fresh and was labeled as the best starter body for the price on the market. I made the buy, and I was off and running. Over the next year, I spent all the time I could learn about photography. I also started getting into other genres, such as sports. In no time, it was time to get a new body as I had outgrown the KX, so I jumped to the Pentax K-5 II. As time went by, my photography worldview expanded. Weddings and portraits popped up on my radar. Up to this point, I was happy with Pentax. Reality can be harsh, and in the case of being a Pentaxian, that harshness smacked me across the face hard.

The Pentax K-5 II did good by me and our adventures. Here we were catching sunset at Lake Hefner, Oklahoma. Yes, you read that right, there is a lighthouse in Oklahoma. From "Switching Camera Brands" Copyright 2020 Stanly Harper
The Pentax K-5 II did good by me and our adventures. Here we were catching sunset at Lake Hefner, Oklahoma. Yes, you read that right, there is a lighthouse in Oklahoma.

When Pentax Hit Rock Bottom For Me

I needed to buy a 70-200 f/2.8 in the worst way. At that time, the Pentax brand was lacking one of these lenses. Third-party glass manufacturers had walked away from Pentax. The only 70-200 f/2.8 I could find was the old generation Tamron version, the one with the screw drive autofocus. The lens itself was pretty good, but the AF motor was loud and slow. It did me right as I was able to build a portfolio that has allowed me to open doors.

But I would also be incredibly frustrated by the number of missed shots it would rack up every game. This was no more evident on the rare occasion I would get to break out my 70-300mm for the first quarter of a football game. The sun would go down, and the 70-200 would have to come out. It was akin to going from a Ferrari to a farm truck.

I really would have loved to stay with Pentax, but the final straw was in 2016. I had decided that I needed to step up from a crop sensor to a full-frame. Eagerly awaiting word when the K-1 was announced, the Pentax world rejoiced.

I was saddened. Here was the long-awaited camera body that brought grown men to tears. A lot of those tears were of joy, while others were of sheer disappointment. The K-1 was a 36 megapixel monster just like the Nikon 800, which kind of turned the photography world upside down.

Why Not the K-1?

All in all, the Pentax K-1 is an excellent camera. Our own Aaron Martinez runs one, and you can read his thoughts about the camera here. Several other well-known astrophotographers also shoot with the K-1. The price point beats the equivalent Nikon bodies by a mile, and the Astrotracer function sets the camera apart from anything else on the market right now.

This is a list of reasons why I did not go with the K-1, or its successor the K-1 II:

  • The 36 MP files were going to dictate a computer upgrade. I was doing okay with the 16 MP files out of the K-5 II with my custom-built computer, but it was slow.
  • Even though I shoot a lot of action stuff, I was OK with the lower FPS specs of the K-1. Yet, I wanted that cushion of a higher FPS if needed.
  • And lastly – lens choice.

Back then, lens choice and third party support of Pentax was subpar at best. Pentax finally came around to manufacturing their own 70-200 f/2.8, but there are not a lot of options lens wise. Since moving to Nikon at the first of 2019, I have rented the Tamron 150-600 twice. Once to shoot King of the Hammers and again for the Lemoore Air Show. That allowed me to have a ton of extra reach and create images that I would have had to let go of if I had stuck with Pentax.

Needless to say, the 70-200 debacle burned me, and it was not something I was willing to let go.

Why Nikon

Face it, when it comes to camera brands that have a ton of options across the board for photographers that shoot a variety of things like me, Canon or Nikon was a simple choice. I really had no scientific reasoning with going to Nikon. I have handled several in the past. It seemed like the majority of folks who I shot with or showed up at workshops I held used Nikon. I liked the way they felt in my hand, so it felt like a natural decision to go that route.

The Nikon 750 is my new workshorse. It came out of the gate running with King of the Hammers, and has captured some awesome Milky Way images in Arizona and California. From "Switching Camera Brands" Copyright 2020 Stanly Harper
The Nikon 750 is my new workshorse. It came out of the gate running with King of the Hammers, and has captured some awesome Milky Way images in Arizona and California.

SWITCHING CAMERA BRANDS IS NOT CHEAP

When it comes to switching camera brands, there is probably no cheap way to do it. Not only was I changing bodies, but I would have to get some similar glass to cover the range that I had before. Luckily, I bought a used 70-200 f/2.8 from a friend. I paid what she paid, and it was the same as the Tamron model Pentax mount, but the quality is day and night. I was able to cover the mid-range by going with a Tamron 28-75mm. It is an okay piece of gear, but not of the level of some 24-70 choices on the market.

For the wide-angle, main Astro option, I went with a Tokina 16-28mm, and I am really happy with it. The reason why is not only because of the price point, and it’s a good quality lens, but Tokina has awesome customer service. I dropped my camera in Utah last summer and had to send the lens off for repair. I have been real happy with it so far.

In the end, I was able to save some money by going used, and third party, plus the 750 was on sale at the time of purchase. The only real downer is because of the low resale value of that Pentax; I could not finance much of the changeover. I still have the K-5 II, which I use as a second body. The 70-300 was given away because the resale of that glass was terrible. The only money I got out of the change over was I was able to sell the 70-200 for a little over half of what I paid.

CONCLUSION

I know some in the Pentax world will read this and scoff because I left that world behind. Truth is cameras are just a tool. Depending on brands depends on what options you have available. Pentax could no longer fill my needs, so I jumped. Does that make Pentax a bad brand? That depends on you, the photographer. Pentax still has the best bang for the buck crop sensor bodies on the market, and the K-1 line is also an excellent choice.

In closing, by going with some brands, you might box yourself into a corner if your photography takes you in directions similar to mine. When it comes down to it, though, the camera is just a tool. It is the mind who is operating it that determines the path it takes.

Have you thought about switching camera brands? Why or why not have you switched?

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