Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Pentax K110D Deserves A Better Review At Digitalreview.ca

(updated) Someone anonymously posted the comment here today that there's a new review that compares the Nikon D40, D50, and the Pentax K110D. The comment was in response to my post about T.O.P. comparing Nikon and Pentax. Believe me, I love all comments, I really do, and this is no exception. I was going to reply in the comments section there, but I thought this maybe ought to be a whole item here at OK1000. I didn't think the review was being fair and there was strong bias in favor of the Nikon systems in the way the information was reported. Unlike other websites (like the venerable DP Review), I'm not sure the cameras were demonstrated in a way that can be reproduced, even if that was unintentional.

So, did Nikon's new cameras not get a fair shake last week when Michael Johnston said that the latest offerings look a bit tepid compared to the features in the new entry-level Pentax cameras? Well, the review at DigitalReview.ca is a counter argument of sorts. But I feel it's just a series of opinions centered around showcasing the D40 and D50. It's perfectly acceptable that these cameras can be recommended, but when I read the review, I bristled up. I felt the review discouraged readers from the Pentax by failing to represent its qualities as accurately as it did for the Nikon cameras.

Well, okay, I'm biased towards Pentax. I'm hardly objective. And I'm not a reviewer. But shouldn't "serious" reviews be a bit more impartial than 2 models of Nikon DSLR pitted against 1 Pentax DSLR? Isn't that stacking the deck. Digialreview.ca didn't even choose the K100D with SR, which costs the same as the D50. It's las if they chose the most basic model in the Pentax herd to exert a little bit of ye olde natural selection on Nikon's behalf. The K100D review at DP Review is probably the most fair review I've seen published, and there it's said that the K100D is more than a fair match to the D50, and they reached that conclusion by weighing many different factors that Digitalcamera.ca regrettably ignores. The K110D deserved better than to be a straw man in a review that's essentially a Nikon lovefest, and this is why:

(By the way, because I'm reacting directly to their review, my interpretations will make more sense if you read their review first.)


Most of the problems I have with the review are omissions of Pentax information. First, in their color and exposure test in low light they don't say which mode they used on the K110D that resulted in a slight underexposure, what metering mode, what tone curve (bright probably, which has more contrast) etc. Granted, I'm not contesting that the camera underexposed. But the review does mention more about the Nikons' settings, and it seems they needed a longer exposure (1/5s) and a tripod. Most online comparison reviews usually tend to match up the exposure settings, or at least the program settings, but they didn't do that here. All that's really explained about the K110D is that exposure was 1/20s; the Pentax could have been handheld for the test - we don't know. In which case, the K100D would have been the low-light champ, if it were in their comparison pool. As it stands, I think the K110D tried to keep the shot in an exposure zone that preserved shutter speed, which is not always a bad thing, especially if the purpose of the shot is for museums or school plays, as they say this is what they were testing. If that's the case, the Pentax is the real winner. As for the WB difference, I'm sorry that the Pentax eliminated the tungsten hue and didn't leave a warm cast like the Nikons. I find that reasonable, but if that's unacceptable, I apologize for my bias again.

Next, the same pretty much happens in their flash test, except I think they managed to make the Nikon look underexposed (which they read as a good exposure). My interpretation again is that the K110D didn't make any mistakes, because I see no evidence of clipping in their Pentax image. Then they talk about i-TTL flashes, and there's no mention of the Pentax equivalent P-TTL flash technology, so they make the little K110D look like it came to the party but forgot its pants. And when they talk about the Nikon's matrix metering, and again they say nothing about the metering in the Pentax, which is just as sophisticated. In my mind, the Pentax also has better Spot metering and AF point control, but this issue isn't even discussed. Sure, the Pentax lens AF is louder, but it's also got a sharper kit lens with better flare reduction (though the K110D has a slower AF and sequence buffer, though, I'll give you that).

And they strangely describe the Nikon viewfinders as better, even though they're smaller and less bright according to everyone I know. And these users prefer the Nikon menu system, which is strictly a matter of taste. In fact, so much that they prefer in the article is a matter of taste, it might as well just be stated at the top: "you may not agree, but we like Nikon a lot."

Some other details they downplay are the lens compatibility problems with the D40 and the new format of proprietary battery Nikon just introduced for that camera, while they get little things wrong about the K110D, like about the upcoming SSM lenses Pentax is releasing next year (the K110D doesn't have the right mount for that series of expensive lenses, but otherwise it is compatible with nearly everything ever released as a K-mount or M42 mount from the last 40 years. Uhm, that's sort of a key argument). In my experience, if someone is looking at a low-end system they probably aren't going to rush out to spend twice as much on one lens, which is why the Pentax lens system is probably more suited to their needs.

Comparing Apples and Apples

Towards the end, a statement is made that users can adjust any of the WB and color settings to their satisfaction in each of the cameras, and so all the cameras are pretty evenly matched despite the previous tests... which sort of negates the whole comparison idea. Honestly, all the cameras are perfectly adept for any entry-level user, so it's understandable that this is pointed out. This applies equally well to sharpening, image tone, flash output. But then they go ahead and applaud the D40 as the best anyway. I'm not going to debate their final choice of the D40 as the best camera for people who "prefer to simply concentrate on getting the shot and having the camera control the setting," because the Nikon cameras have some virtues (AF speed and image buffer) but when it comes to a camera that offers the most functional SLR oomph for dollar ratio, I think the Nikon offerings are a bit weaker. If all the user wants is an SLR point and shoot, is that any DSLR sort of camera they really need?

The straw that breaks the camel's back for me is that the links at the bottom of the page for more info on the cameras just link to store listings of Nikon cameras, and the Pentax link is left out. Personally, the state of the technology with all of these cameras makes decision making tedious, because they're all amazing little cameras that should last years and years and they're all capable cameras. But Digialreview.ca only seems to be interested in selling the Nikon system to consumers. I guess that's all I need to say.

So what do you think?

Links: Link: Digital Review.ca: Nikon D40 Compared to Nikon D50
and Pentax K110D / K100D DSLR's


RiceHigh said...

I won't say reviews or articles about a camera model are biased or not. What I would say each of these is just opinions from ONE end-user or reviewer.

What looks important to me is that if the articles can give me some new and useful information for reference, instead of repeated statements which are well-known, or even officially published. In the latter case, I would find those articles meaningless.

In the end, I do find the comments drawn with the quick tests by the Digitalreview.ca are useful and fair enough. Quite some of their comments made actually coincide my own experience with my K100D, too.

bcwhite said...

"Better" means different things to different people. For me, I want lenses. Any digital camera of today is going to be obsolete in about 3 years (maybe 5 if you're lucky). A modern lens will be good for at least 10 years.

(Note: By "obsolete", I mean that it will be eclipsed by new technology. It will likely be functional and take as good of pictures then as it does now, but the standards will have changed.)

Modern digital cameras are good enough to make use of top-quality lenses and Nikon and Canon are the kings of glass.

I have four different high-quality Nikkor lenses that I know will be useable on a camera I buy 10 years from now. It's also fairly easy to rent Nikon and Canon lenses; much more difficult to find other brands.

There is more to a camera system than the body. Be sure to weigh everything when making your decision.

Also, don't forget a small point and shoot so you can have a camera with you all the time.

Anonymous said...

the point in comparison tests is to give equal treatment to all items you're testing.
One simple thing that came to my mind when I looked at the pictures is that they used "Auto" setting only. If you're working with P&S functions only, I believe there are certain P&S cameras that would beat all of the contestants here. (Sony R1 for example)
From my point of view, article is a Nikon ad, where they advertise their new product.
I must say that I liked pics from D50 more than D40, but that is a matter of taste.

Carl said...

I read this comparison before buying the K100D. Since I knew a few things about the CCD types in the cameras, the pictures differences didn't really make any sense. I ideally, all 3 cameras are capable of producing the same result.
They were all bad pictures, so arguing over which one was best seemed irrelevant. I went to Flickr and searched by camera for real world examples.

In the end it came down to AA batteries, shake reduction, CCD cleaning, use of older lenses, better diopter range on eyepiece, 11 sensors for AF (3 for D40, 5 for D50) and finally, the Pentax looks more like a 35 mm SLR and even comes with a nice flower lens hood.
I used to be Nikon, but we all know that although they are great lenses, they are overpriced. I wanted to break that habit. Pentax make equivalent "glass". Given the state of technology today, all of the major companies probably own the same machines that make/process the lenses. It is no different than any other industry.
In the end, I wanted the most camera for the money. As Flickr will demonstrate, after that, it's up to the photographer

Martin said...

I absolutely agree with your comment. When the review compared the outdoor performance, for example, they should have used the same exposure settings for the three cameras; that way you can really do a comparison of how much detail there is in the dark areas, how much in the lighter areas, etc. It doesn't make much sense otherwise, because one picture can be over/under exposed compared to the picture of the other camera, so who knows what they're comparing the way they did it?!
Well, I have just bought a Pentax K110, and so far my first impression is a pleasant surprise at the very good quality of the camera and the lens. I will compare it with my Nikon d50, but I think that the Pentax will be the camera I will be grabbing from my desk...

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