10 November 2014

ch' cha' changes

Apologies to mr. Bowie!
Changes are coming to the kit, big time!
Sorry mr. Gabriel!

So it occurred to me after scouting the K-s1 that a few new features were worth waiting for that it did not have.  High on that list was on-sensor AF and a tilt screen, and others say cameras like it need WiFi options too.  At the same time I find that I'm not at all happy with the photo chaos within my hard discs: I have several programs now (ps elements, LightZone, AfterDark.. others?) a redundancy which actually adds to the clutter!  What to do??

Go shopping?  Really?

Let's talk about Samsung and cameras, and how little I knew a week ago!
  • they make very popular phones (we owned some long ago, they were .. OK)
  • An electronics giant, at least as large as Panasonic and Sony 
  • once partnered with Pentax & supplied K20 and K-7 sensors
  • now a big player in compact/mirrorless cams
  • use their sensors on their own NX-mount cameras
  • a line with viewfinders, and one without
... er that's about it.

Somewhere on the network I bumped into some commentary about Samsung cameras including Lightroom software.  Most LR users really like it as a tool for both organization and  image improvement.  While every camera comes with software to work on images, each company does something different; for example Pentax has a light version of SilkyPix for their cameras.  Well Samsung was giving out the complete v4 of LR with several of their cameras (and now v5) - that's a nice bonus that one can set against the price of their cameras if one chooses.

And so I met the NX300, a slightly-aging camera with LR4 and no finder.  Reviews indicate that it is a large step up from their previous models in several ways:
  • sensor with PDAF layer for very fast 'hybrid' focusing
  • tip screen for odd angles
  • touchscreen controls but with redundant controls elsewhere
  • 20Mpixels for more resolution and crop-ability
  • decent noise performance at high sensitivities (better via raw, as always)
  • multiple WiFi connection tricks like view and xfer via phone
  • video with multiple recording options and full-time AF
  •  NX300 gets 4-5 stars (yes, out of 5!) in almost every review
  So it has the K-s1 "missing" features, adds many the Pentax cam lacks, matches the 20Mpxl pixel count, includes great software tool to clean up my photo-centric clutter, and it can use my classic K-mount lenses with an adapter.  NX-mount lenses are pretty scarce yet review well and are fairly inexpensive, so if/when the time comes to grab more native-mount gear the pain will be minimal; their 50-200 OIS would be a good choice as it provides stabilization for long shots.

Going deeper into the reviews it seems that Samsung learned many things during their Pentax days, as many of their features feel familiar to me.  Some like the i-function lens control are very much their own though.  Several Pentax features are definitely not here though, so I will have some learning to do.

Checking the dxOmark data shows the sensor to be slightly behind the K-5 series and essentially a match to the K-s1 and K-01.  Samsung made the K20 and K-7 sensor several years back which was well behind the Sony equivalents in several areas; those days are now behind us, it seems.  And its body is smaller than the K-s1!  I confess that a big part of the new Pentax' appeal for me was APSc imaging in a smaller body size.

OK, nice - but what does it cost?
A bit more searching shows $500 is common with the stabilized 18-55 or the smaller, no-OIS 20-50 zoom.  A browse on the Global Auction Site (GAS) found a demo body for $250 * (silver with warm brown 'leather' grip!), $60 for a well-used 20-50 and $14 for a basic PK adapter.

 For $325 I can have this setup:
  • Stylish NX300 body w/ a very good 20Mpxl sensor
  • 20-50mm DX lens
  • Adapted PK 17, 28, 50, 85/90 and 135mm primes
  • Adapted PK zooms up to 300mm
I can sell most of the Pentax gear and put a lot of funds elsewhere.. or I can grab a bargain K-01 and have two good systems!  I will miss weather seals and SR stability on every lens by doing this, but both my camera bag and budget will be lighter burdens for a while.

Also of note is that my wife might be happy with the nx300 as she is with the Pentax Q - maybe even more so with the tippy screen.  Small is big for her so Q and NX are nice options.

* turned out this great bargain was truly 'body only' = no lens flash or battery.  Also no CD with Lightroom :( yet the camera is worth keeping at this price especially with the bargain I made on the 20-50 lens.