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Sound Advice: The dog ate my camera

Don Lindich, Tribune News Service on

Published in Tech Advice

Q. My dog chewed off the front grip and rear viewfinder of my Pentax K-70 digital SLR. I have three pro-quality lenses for the camera, so I’d like to stick with Pentax. I am considering buying either a used K-70 for $450 and swapping the parts to fix my camera, a new K-70 for $850 or a new K-3 III for $1,700. I would like a Pentax mirrorless camera to the point where spending more money might be palatable, but they do not make one. Or, is it finally time to jump ship and change to a different brand? I mostly use the camera for a few travel trips per year and my kids’ soccer games.

--N.E., Minneapolis

A. I used Pentax film cameras for years, then Pentax digital SLRs for a while afterward when I transitioned to digital. Eventually I “jumped ship” and moved on to mirrorless.

I had no problem with the Pentax cameras or the beautiful images they produced. When the mirrorless Micro Four-Thirds Olympus E-P1 came along, I found I greatly preferred the mirrorless user experience and the smaller and lighter camera bodies and lenses, especially for travel. In many cases I was also getting better images out of my Micro Four-Thirds cameras despite the smaller sensor.

The preference grew when advanced mirrorless cameras with viewfinders became available, especially the groundbreaking Olympus E-M1. Then Panasonic introduced Micro Four-Thirds cameras that provided outstanding still images paired with video quality good enough for motion picture production. After my digital SLRs sat unused for years I parted ways, and only looked back once. Now I use mirrorless Micro Four-Thirds and full-frame Panasonic L-Mount camera systems exclusively.

 

The time I looked back was when I had a few Pentax Limited lenses but no camera bodies. I bought two used bodies so I could play with the lenses, mostly out of nostalgia. Both bodies had problems undisclosed at the time of sale. One had faulty autofocus, the other had dead pixels and other image defects. Both cameras were several generations old, so it does not reflect negatively on Pentax products. It is likely the sellers were selling to get rid of their problems, hopefully to someone less experienced who would not have quickly found the issues and returned the cameras.

But using the digital SLRs made me realize some things are best left in the past, and I quickly remembered why I switched to mirrorless to begin with. Now if I want to feel nostalgia I go all the way back to film and my twin-lens Rolleiflex.

If you switched brands I do not think you would see a dramatic picture quality difference unless you moved to a full frame sensor. This would be quite expensive when adding new lenses to match the camera. I recommend buying a new K-70 body, available direct from us.ricoh-imaging.com for $649.95.

I also suggest adding a mirrorless camera to your camera bag so you can get your feet wet with mirrorless systems, just as I did as I gradually switched over from digital SLRs. The Panasonic Lumix G7 is currently available in a 14-42mm and 45-150mm lens bundle on Amazon for $614.95. You will be especially fond of the G7 for travel given the small form factor and outstanding video quality. This Pentax-Panasonic combination will provide a second camera body and new capabilities, and the total price for the two-lens G7 kit and a K-70 body is $1,264.90, well under your $1,700 limit. Besides, if you decide to eventually change systems it is easier to jump ship when you already have a foot on board another boat!


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