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Author Topic: K7 - competent, but not compelling  (Read 11611 times)
Jeff Kott
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« on: October 09, 2009, 12:05:42 AM »
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Since my orginal post got wiped out by the server problems, Iím reposting with some additional thoughts.

First of all, I really appreciate Michaelís approach with his handís on reviews. I really like getting his personal opinion without the cumbersome feature by feature comparison thatís otherwise available on other sites.

I am a Nikon and Pentax user. I have a Pentax K10D and six Limited prime lenses. To me the compelling feature of the Pentax system is the ability to use Pentaxís very high quality, compact, autofocus, Limiited prime lenses. Nikon, Canon and Sony aren't competitive in this respect. I really wanted to want to buy a K7 and start using my Limited primes more, but for me the deal killer was the fact that the Samsung sensor used in the K20D and K7 has 1 to 1.5 stops less dynamic range than my two year old Nikon D300. I did not want to go backwards in this regard.

I wonder if Michaelís conclusion would have been different if, instead of the Pentax zooms, he was using the Limited prime lenses and if he also didnít have the choice of using the Pentax or the M9 and Leica lenses at the same time. If I had an M9 and a set of Leica lenses, the Pentax system would probably be less appealing as a compact high quality travel kit. Since I donít, Iím hoping the K8 will have a sensor that is competitive on a dynamic range basis with the better APS-C sensors available today.
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BJL
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« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2009, 10:26:01 AM »
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Quote from: Jeff Kott
Since my orginal post got wiped out by the server problems, Iím reposting with some additional thoughts.
I take it that my reply got wiped out too, so another quick recap:

At to a Unique Selling Proposition for Pentax DSLR's, I nominate "nice small primes lenses", both the Limiteds and the newer ones specifically for DA format DSLRs. But that is likely to appeal to only a small slice of the DLSR market.

As to the 15MP Samsung sensor and its reported shortcomings (I have not studied the tests), Pentax might be moving away from Samsung back to Sony for sensors, but CMOS this time: the new Pentax M-x uses a 12MP Sony CMOS Exmor sensor, making it the least expensive camera with that sensor.
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Jeff Kott
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« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2009, 11:04:27 AM »
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Quote from: BJL
As to the 15MP Samsung sensor and its reported shortcomings (I have not studied the tests), Pentax might be moving away from Samsung back to Sony for sensors, but CMOS this time: the new Pentax M-x uses a 12MP Sony CMOS Exmor sensor, making it the least expensive camera with that sensor.

I hope you're right about the switch to new Sony sensors for the next Pentax top of the line model. If they are able to put an APS-C sized sensor in the K7 body with dynamic range and noise performance comparable to the 12 megapixel sensor that Nikon uses in the D300 and other bodies, I will be the first person in line to buy that camera. I think that camera with the Pentax primes will be very compelling.
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Brammers
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« Reply #3 on: October 09, 2009, 12:11:40 PM »
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Isn't the selling point of the Pentax the weatherproofing?  2nd only to Olympus in this regard - even featuring sealed kit lenses?  A niche market for sure, but there it is.
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Jeff Kott
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« Reply #4 on: October 09, 2009, 01:06:11 PM »
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Quote from: Brammers
Isn't the selling point of the Pentax the weatherproofing?  2nd only to Olympus in this regard - even featuring sealed kit lenses?  A niche market for sure, but there it is.

Pentax has a few things going for it and different ones will be more appealing to different people. I would list the strong points in no particular order:

Pentax high quality compact primes
weather sealed body in certain lenses
in body image stabilization which works with all lenses
compact body with higher build quality (more metal, less plastic and weather sealing)  than similarly sized competitors like the Nikon D90

The negatives as I see them are:

Samsung sensor with less dynamic range and poorer high iso noise performance than best APS-C sensors
autofocus does not seem to be best in class for moving subjects, so I would use a Nikon D300 over this camera for sports, etc.

So, for those who do not have the funds for a Leica rangefinder system or those who prefer autofocus, weather sealing and in body image stabilization to a rangefinder, Pentax could be compelling for a high quality compact kit
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barryfitzgerald
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« Reply #5 on: October 09, 2009, 03:31:30 PM »
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A few Pentax users are saying it's odd that the same samsung sensor was better in the K20d, no obvious reason why the new version should be worse (last one seemed competitive to my eyes)

On the part about stand out..I was just talking to a D300 owner today, who was complaining that the D300s was a very boring mild warm over session, and not a serious upgrade. Are there any real stand out models nowadays???
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Jeff Kott
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« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2009, 03:44:04 PM »
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Quote from: barryfitzgerald
A few Pentax users are saying it's odd that the same samsung sensor was better in the K20d, no obvious reason why the new version should be worse (last one seemed competitive to my eyes)

On the part about stand out..I was just talking to a D300 owner today, who was complaining that the D300s was a very boring mild warm over session, and not a serious upgrade. Are there any real stand out models nowadays???


I think it has been determined by engineers on the Pentax DPR forum that the sensor in the K7 and K20 perform similarly, except in the K20 noise reduction is applied to the raw data at lower iso value, which is why it does better on pure noise test at the expense of detail.

Nikon does major upgrades every 3 to 4 years. Interim "s" upgrades are always minor. The biggest difference is the addition of video recording in the D300s. Otherwise, the D300s is not much of an upgrade for those taking still photos.
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bobrapp
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« Reply #7 on: October 09, 2009, 07:32:31 PM »
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The Sensors have changed from the K20 to the K7 which includes 4 channels vs. 2 in the K20. Noise difference between the two more than likely have to do with the support electronics. For what it is worth, the latest DPR review of the K7 find that the noise level in the K20/K7 are lower than the competing cameras from Nikon and Canon.

The big difference in noise levels is in the JPG engine that Pentax uses - higher detail and more noise. Reviewers of the DPR reviews have long held that the  Pentax is noisier than Nikon and  Canon because they used the JPG performance as the standard. Only the latest review has looked at RAW data and finally confirmed what Pentax users have known - Pentax RAW images are superb.

The K7 does deserve a close look.

I do agree, the K7 may not appeal to people with large hands - I include my self here. That said, I love my K20 and my prime lenses.

Bob Rapp
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Jeff Kott
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« Reply #8 on: October 10, 2009, 12:19:32 AM »
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Quote from: bobrapp
...For what it is worth, the latest DPR review of the K7 find that the noise level in the K20/K7 are lower than the competing cameras from Nikon and Canon.

The big difference in noise levels is in the JPG engine that Pentax uses - higher detail and more noise. Reviewers of the DPR reviews have long held that the  Pentax is noisier than Nikon and  Canon because they used the JPG performance as the standard. Only the latest review has looked at RAW data and finally confirmed what Pentax users have known - Pentax RAW images are superb.

I still think the dynamic range of the current Nikons is significantly better (1 to 1.5 stops) than the K7 or k20.  DPR's dynamic range testing of raw images is limited in that it only looks at how much "highlight headroom" can be recovered. Dynamic range is limited by both the level at which highlights clip as well as the noise floor. For this reason, I think DXO's dynamic range analysis is better and it shows the K20 and K7 are 1 to 1.5 stops inferior to the current Nikon APS-C sensor cameras. This difference would only be important in instances where one underexposes to hold highlight detail and then boosts shadows and mid tones in post processing to a correct exposure.
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TheLastMan
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« Reply #9 on: October 10, 2009, 06:47:38 AM »
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As a long time casual lurker here, I find Michaels writing and articles very interesting and instructive.  But also as a long-time Pentax user (I learnt my photography on a K1000) I was also looking forward to his review on the K7.

I have to say I was disappointed, not so much with his opinions or conclusion, just with the way the review was done.  I really feel he did not give the time and effort to find out about the cameras strengths and weaknesses.  He says himself that he had three other cameras to review at the same time - and clearly he tended to pick other cameras rather than the K7.  It seems for a "hands-on" review he barely laid his hands on it after the first day!

He would have done better to wait until he had a bit more time to evaluate it - or not bothered frankly. I have handled the camera in a store and was very taken with it. It does everything I want of it, and a lot more besides.  I also like the fact that it is small and light.  It will be great with the DA35 Macro Limited I already own - and obviously the other pentax zooms I have as well.

As to his conclusion, my main reply is that the K7's USP is precisely that it IS an all round competant camera.  Most of us do not have the resources to buy more than one camera system and do a wide variety of work with the one we do have so it has to fit pretty well all roles "competently".  It is the ideal travel camera.  Small, light, weather sealed, the sort of photographic tool you need when resources, or luggage space, is limited.

Sorry Michael, this was not your best bit of work.  I am looking forward to your next issue of the video Journal though!  Keep up the good work
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michael
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« Reply #10 on: October 10, 2009, 08:17:49 AM »
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The issue may be that people are used to typical web reviews that list specs and features and do comparisons. I don't do those any more. I find them boring, and ultimately they don't tell me what I need to know when I read them elsewhere.

I therefore write my reviews the way that I would chat about a new piece of gear with a friend, telling him my impressions and thoughts.

In the case of the K7, while it is obviously a competent camera, it just didn't excite me, and that's why I seem to have treated it in an offhand manner.

Something to keep in mind is that the marketplace in DSLRs is a tough one, and we're in a lousy economy. Products of a discretionary nature have to be more than competent to succeed, they have to catch the potential purchaser's imagination by offering them something that has a special appeal. The K7, for me at least, had nothing of that sort to offer.

Kind of reminded me of a Toyota Camry. A nice competent car, good value, well built, but boring.

Michael
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viewfinder
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« Reply #11 on: October 10, 2009, 09:08:45 AM »
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I don't understand the furore over this, not can I work out why pentax enthusiasts are so put out by anything other than a rave review.

The man said it like it is;....a camera basically like all the other half frame DSLR's which does take photographs but is fiddly to use and over complicated.    Anyone who has had a good look at the k7 can only agree.   Any camera where one inadvertantly changes a control while using others has effectively lost it's design integrity, and needs to be re-thought.  All experienced photographers, both amateur and pro know this.     On another site the review mentioned an owners manual similar in size to a paperback novel which does NOT have all of the information on how to use the miriad functions!!!  This puts a new meaning to that irritating phrase seen in UK photo mag reviews;  "has lots to enjoy".

The k7 is an amateur camera intended for weekend warriors, so simplicity would have been a good design target.   Judging by the constant questions I get asked by friends and aquaintances, virtually no amateur with a DSLR has much idea how they actually work because of the mind numbing complexity and memory lapses from Sunday evening to the next Saturday morning, so having to memorise a paperback novel is giving them no chance!

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barryfitzgerald
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« Reply #12 on: October 10, 2009, 03:19:51 PM »
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I see nothing wrong with the article, it's a personal opinion of a camera, and nothing more or less. I guess most people agree it's better for an upfront "honest" article/opinion, than one that is pulling it's punches. As it is, I didn't read it as negative as some might have.

One thing does puzzle me, what makes a standout camera?? And which recent ones fit that criteria, and why?? If the pentax has had the best image quality, would that have made it a winner? Or the fastest AF v it's rivals?

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Jeff Kott
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« Reply #13 on: October 10, 2009, 04:25:19 PM »
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Quote from: barryfitzgerald
One thing does puzzle me, what makes a standout camera?? And which recent ones fit that criteria, and why?? If the pentax has had the best image quality, would that have made it a winner? Or the fastest AF v it's rivals?

I agree that I liked Michael's article and his way of doing his "hands on reports." What I really want from him is his personal opinion uncluttered with a feature by feature comparison.

The question of what makes a standout camera is a good one. I think the answer is that what makes a camera a standout would be different for everyone. A poster above said he knew someone who was disappointed with the Nikon D300s and was expecting more of an upgrade. I have a D300 which is obviously similar to the D300s, except for the video. This is one of the best APS-C sized sensors out there, with many parts from Nikon's professional D3 and D3x, and a two year old APS-C sensor that is still best of class. It's hard for me to imagine how someone could be disappointed with that camera.

To me, the K7's appeal would be the ability to use those awesome Pentax primes for a compact high quality camera. If you've already got an M9, Leica lenses, a Panasonic GH1 and GF1 like Michael, that criteria would not be important and he would need some other feature of the camera/system to make it standout.
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TheLastMan
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« Reply #14 on: October 12, 2009, 12:25:41 AM »
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Quote from: michael
The issue may be that people are used to typical web reviews that list specs and features and do comparisons. I don't do those any more. I find them boring, and ultimately they don't tell me what I need to know when I read them elsewhere.

I therefore write my reviews the way that I would chat about a new piece of gear with a friend, telling him my impressions and thoughts.

Fair enough, I completely understand.  However a lot of us who admire and respect your opinion maybe feel a little short changed with such a casual dismissal of a clearly excellent camera. I would say it takes at least 3 or 4 days to get reasonably familiar with a camera.  There will be many aspects of any camera that won't be discovered in a single days shooting.  

Your work and site have changed their emphasis in the last 5 years, and I suspect don't have that sort of time available to devote to even a relatively brief "hands on" with a single camera - or at least to give all the cameras you review an equal crack of the whip - unless it is one that suits your particular needs or is somehow just "fun". And, I hope you will admit, your need is for cameras rather higher up the scale than the K7.

Quote
In the case of the K7, while it is obviously a competent camera, it just didn't excite me, and that's why I seem to have treated it in an offhand manner.

Something to keep in mind is that the marketplace in DSLRs is a tough one, and we're in a lousy economy. Products of a discretionary nature have to be more than competent to succeed, they have to catch the potential purchaser's imagination by offering them something that has a special appeal. The K7, for me at least, had nothing of that sort to offer.

Kind of reminded me of a Toyota Camry. A nice competent car, good value, well built, but boring.

For you, Michael, a new camera system of this type would be a "discretionary" purchase.  You have all the cameras you need to do your job and maybe that is why you fail to get excited by this class of camera and are probably not the best guy to evaluate the appeal of the K7 to its target market (or the low end Nikon, Canon and Olympus DSLRs for that matter), and should leave that rather dull task to the other sites dedicated to the job.

I, and many people like me, consider a decent camera an essential - not just as a hobby but also to record the lives of our family and friends. However, our budgets are stretched and we only have one shot at buying the right system.  If we end up with a camera that is not competent in an area that we need it to work well, then it will be an expensive mistake that we probably won't be able to rectify.  To me, the fact that you think it is an all round competant camera means that it may be more suitable for most people than almost any other camera at its price point.

In a lousy economy people buy "safe".  If they can only buy one car, they want reliable, practical, versatile and inexpenisve cars that will, take them to work, cope with all the shopping and carry the kids and all the baggage on holiday without breaking the bank in fuel costs.

The nippy sports cars, luxury sedans and SUVs stay in the showroom, the cars that get sold are the reliable Japanese all-rounders.  You only have to look at the car market in the USA today to see that.

Of course those who already have a car or cars that cover the basics are not going to be buying a Camry.  I have an accountant friend with a VW Sharan to cart the kids around in, a Range Rover for excursions and a Porsche for fun. His fourth car, if he buys one, won't be a domestic all-rounder!

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to reply.
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DarkPenguin
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« Reply #15 on: October 12, 2009, 12:31:39 AM »
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What?!?
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pegelli
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« Reply #16 on: October 12, 2009, 12:33:13 AM »
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I don't understand why some people (especially on DPreview) are so put off by this hands-on report. My reaction after reading it was : "gee-whizz, if I wasn't so heavily invested in A-mount lenses and was looking for a new camera I'd seriously consider the Pentax K-7". Seems the old saying that Beauty is in the eye of the beholder still rings true.

Also don't understand why people have so much trouble with the difference between a "Hands-on report" and a "review" In my mind it's a big difference.
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pieter, aka pegelli
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« Reply #17 on: October 12, 2009, 02:23:09 AM »
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If the K7 had had an articulating LCD, I would have bought it, I think. I was seriously in the market for a camera system that would sharply reduce the weight I carry, and the size. The Pentax does that somewhat. (I had a K10 and bought the pancake primes at that time; I later sold the camera, but kept the primes, hoping for a better body.) But it doesn't do it as much as the new m4/3 systems -- and the change to the m4/3 is radical enough that I decided to go in that direction. I can carry an m4/3 *system* including two bodies and a range of zooms and a fast prime in a bag that used to hold one M8 and five lenses...and it's lighter. The Pentax, while small, isn't especially light, and I need at least a couple of zooms, and while the pancakes are tiny, the zooms don't match the Panasonic and Olympus m4/3 zooms for size. (And the Panny zooms are really pretty good.)

I have some pretty specific uses for my cameras. They need to be *good enough,* rather than great, and they need to be small and easily carried and I need to have a backup body. That's why I looked at the Pentax, and looked at the m4/3s, and in the end, the features of the Pentax were not, to use Michael's phrase, compelling.

As to what now makes a compelling camera, that's an interesting question, and I think it's possible that we may have passed the time when cameras will be routinely compelling. In the earlier days of digital, every new camera was such a leap that it was hard not to buy in; but now, a fairly large number of people will tell you that, say, a D3 or a D700 is a better camera for them than a D3x or the expected D700x -- that is, they really don't need the extra resolution, but they do need the speed. It'll be interesting to see what happens with the next Canon 1DsIV, or whatever they call it. If it's 30mp, with about the same ISO range as the 1DsIII, will people decide they can't live without it? Or would they prefer, say, a really fast 18mp?
« Last Edit: October 12, 2009, 02:30:41 AM by John Camp » Logged
TheLastMan
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« Reply #18 on: October 12, 2009, 06:10:50 AM »
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Quote from: pegelli
I don't understand why some people (especially on DPreview) are so put off by this hands-on report. My reaction after reading it was : "gee-whizz, if I wasn't so heavily invested in A-mount lenses and was looking for a new camera I'd seriously consider the Pentax K-7". Seems the old saying that Beauty is in the eye of the beholder still rings true.

Also don't understand why people have so much trouble with the difference between a "Hands-on report" and a "review" In my mind it's a big difference.

I would much rather read a single hands on review from Michael than any number of full reviews on other sites. The interminable pixel peeping image noise comparisons, the endless descriptions of functions, menus and displays (yaaaaawwwwnnn).  Which is why I, and many like me, were keen to see what Michael thought of the new Pentax.

In a very refreshingly honest admission, Michael put the following in his review:
Quote
The first was as I was choosing which camera to take out on a shoot each day (I had four different new cameras to test in a one month period). After a full day of initial familiarization I rarely found myself reaching for the K7 by choice. Not because of any particular failing, but simply because there were features or capabilities of other cameras available that simply were more compelling and which I felt would help me take better images more effectively.

If he had come to the conclusions he did after 3 or 4 days of solid use in the field, alongside his usual kit, I would have been less disappointed.  However, it is clear it did not give it much more than a day.  If this is a wrong imprerssion, Michael, I apologise, but that is the way it comes over.

As and when funds arise I will likely as not buy the K7 (or the K8 at the rate I am currently saving!). That is because it has everything I need in a camera. About the only thing missing is an articulated screen, but I have had that on two P&S cameras and I don't think I have ever used it in anger.  And of course after over 30 years with Pentax SLRs (K1000, ME Super, K100D), I have a reasonable investment in some very nice lenses that I would like to continue to use.

My local pro camera equipment supplier will loan out the K7 - the first time it has offered a Pentax in this way.  I might fork out for a week's use for my own "hands on" rather than a cursory look over in the shop.  If nothng else Michael's review has made me realise that I need to try it for longer before investing my hard earned cash.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2009, 06:18:08 AM by TheLastMan » Logged
TeeKay
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« Reply #19 on: October 14, 2009, 07:26:30 PM »
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Dear Michael,

Quote from: michael
The issue may be that people are used to typical web reviews that list specs and features and do comparisons.
I think the true reason is that readers have the feeling that the camera never had a chance to light your fire. It was in competition with other gear you had to evaluate at the time and while we do not know what that gear was, clearly it was more up your alley than the K-7. Perhaps because it was better tailored to your preferences, perhaps it was sitting at a much higher price point. We have no idea.

But what any reader can easily infer that the whole report smacks of "This isn't the type of camera I'm interested in and I won't try to put myself into the position of a reader who might be in the market for such a camera".

Now if you only ran your private blog, your opinion piece that obviously lacks determination to try and evaluate the camera from a perspective and situation that is different from your personal one wouldn't be a problem.

However, you run a widely respected and widely read site where people expect to receive information. Information useful to them, which implies that most of the time money will be a concern and they won't be surrounded by gear that drives circles around a camera in the class of a K-7.

Because of that, I believe when publishing a review or hands-on you have the responsibility to either fully disclose that you don't normally use cameras like the K-7 and doing the hands-on for the K-7 was very low on your priority list, or try to put yourself into the position of a reader who is in the market for a K-7.

As I see it, by stating to have a "weak spot" for Pentax but then failing to get excited about their best DSLR ever, you practically creating damage for the brand. No beating around the bush about that.

I believe you haven't explored the camera sufficiently to justify the conclusion you came to. Here are some unique selling points:
  • Availability of the Limited lenses
      (elsewhere your site praises these a lot; your hands-on ignores the fact that the K-7 is the best camera to use them)
  • Access to millions of old Pentax lenses
  • Electronic horizon (correction)
      (how many of use have to frequently correct crooked horizons in PP?
       This feature is a godsend for people like me.)
  • Rotational shake correction
       (try asking Canon/Nikon to implement that...
        you might be a tripod user only, but not everyone is)
  • Composition adjustment feature
      (this is for tripod users...)
  • Cold resistant (to 14į F or -10į C)
      (any other manufacturer guranteeing that?)
  • Hyperprogramme shooting mode
Did you know about all of these and tried them? We cannot read anything about most of these unique features in your report. I'm not suggesting a "hands-on" should be feature list run down, not at all. But there are some unique features of the K-7 you seemed to have ignored.

The following properties can also be found in other models:
  • magnesium alloy body
  • 100% viewfinder
  • top sensor resolution
      (I believe only the Canon 7D has neglibly more resolution
       but lacks body-based shake reduction).
  • very quite shutter
  • weather-sealed body and weather-sealed kit lens
  • in body image stabilisation
  • lens correction
  • HD-video
  • mirror-lock up function
  • embedded copyright feature
  • DNG support
but what other camera offers them all in on package at this price point???
No unique selling point???

In his LL "istD" review Mike Johnston wrote:
"While it may not do any one thing the absolute best, it does everything well, in a simple, straightforward, ergonomically sound, and conservatively designed package.'"
Apparently, this way of thinking is no longer applied.

What would the K-7 would have done to excite you? Be bigger? Be a rangefinder or medium-format camera?

I believe given your situation it would have been better to decline writing a report.

Various comments made in other forums:

http://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-...-k-7-prove.html

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat...0482&page=1

show how many feel that the K-7 hands-on report doesn't meet the standard luminous landscapes editorial level.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2009, 07:39:29 PM by TeeKay » Logged
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