Sunday, February 13, 2011

Dilemma: Quality vs Speed

I’ve been shooting Pentax since 2007 and never disappointed by the overall image quality, from colour response to jpeg renderings. I had the opportunity to buy a 2nd hand eos 40d three months ago and inevitably after several hundred shots some comparisons are made. 

Before digging in the systems, the two contenders are completely different cameras by their use, so comparing them isn’t really adequate. The k20d is a robust landscape-traveller’s camera, has a strong resolution of 14,6mp (10mp with Canon) and high quality jpegs settings that allows you to drop the raw format without too much loss.

The weathersealing of Pentax is a blessing in rough climates
Vietnam, Mekong Delta in 2010
© Quiet Leaf
It may sound quite amateur-ish when I say “art filters are a real advantage” when nearly everyone has lightroom or aperture to do all the post processing when back  home. But here’s all the problem, “when you’re back home”! It’s not impossible for some travellers to go away for weeks or months in places with little or no electricity or where computers are completely unknown. So when you come back at home with thousands of pictures and you have to select the good ones or view them in B&W or any other post processing, the amount of work takes days and days to be achieved. When I was in such situations, at the end of the day or between two flights, I frequently used the in-camera processing to preview some effects on the pictures that I liked and it considerably helped me sorting out these huge folders when I had to work out all the memory cards. As I said, it may sound a little bit odd but it spared me so much time that it was a small regret when I saw that the 40d didn’t have all these elements. But nevertheless, it wasn’t a deal breaker at all.

The eos 40d is more a sports-lifestyle camera; 6.5 fps with a silent and quick autofocus. The USM alone is a real advantage against the Pentax counterparts: it’s a mature technology that comes with nearly all types of lenses, the “cheap” ones just as the latest telephoto, and combined with the fast autofocus, it’s a real pleasure to work with such an efficient tool.

The excellent autofocus of the eos 40d helps a lot
© Quiet Leaf

In normal conditions, the autofocus is precise 80% of the time and the rest is slightly out of focus BUT the picture is there and that’s THE huge advantage opposed to Pentax. The 40d searches focus quickly, doesn’t find it but releases the shutter even if it’s not perfectly in focus; the k20d hunts, hunts, ... and locks way too late, when the subject/moment is gone. So on one side we’ve got an OOF picture and on the other side... nothing!
Metering with canon is “spot-on”, you know that the object that you want to be shown will be well exposed, even at the cost of burned skies or blown highlights. Pentax will almost always have an underexposed image. But it turns to be a real advantage for Pentax. And it’s so important for people who post process their images, the Pentax JPEGs can be reworked afterwards so well and handles exposure/colour changes with a greater magnitude than the Canon ones (ok, there’s RAW for that, but for long hi speed sequences it’s not ideal). What you win on one side you lose it on the other side!

In-body stabilisation is a huge plus for Pentax, EVERY lens is stabilized; primes, old lenses, cheap lenses,... but it’s not as effective with longer focal lengths than the IS system. For shorter focal lengths (UWA, 50mm’s,...) it’s PERFECT. IS is a real step over Pentax for long range shooting.

Now the ultimate point, image quality. To be fair, I’m not a great fan of Canon’s IQ. Or at least with the 40d. Colours are good but not always correct and noise suppression is quite heavy. Pentax’s IQ is a real step forward Canon’s, especially with colour fidelity. But as said before, we’re speaking of two different sensors, the landscape one and the “fast” one. Newer models as the eos 7d and the k5 will have certainly changed this situation. 

For a software point of view, the k20d is filled with so many bonuses (built-in intervallometer, micro-adjust, in-body shake reduction system,...) that the 40d seems with nothing more than the customizable “quick menu” that the k20d doesn’t have. But it's so handy and saves you some precious seconds...!

Il’ll achieve here with some rapid thoughts about the overall handling. The grip of the 40d is deep enough and higher than the k20d, and using it with gloves doesn’t make it difficult; I didn’t feel the need of a additional grip to hold firmly the camera. The k20d is smaller but needs a grip when you shoot with gloves otherwise it slips too easily out of your hands. 

The top LCD screen of the Pentax is easier to read/check rapidly. Even if it’s smaller than the Canon, shutter speed and aperture are impossible to miss at a distance of 40cm. The Canon one is overcharged with too many information (even if they’re useful, e.g. WB and remaining shots) and difficult to read. The rear screen of the Pentax is far more accurate than the Canon one (resolution and color rendition)

Pentax k20d
© Quiet Leaf

EOS 40d
© Quiet Leaf

So, speed or quality?

Go Pentax if you travel and if you'll face tough weather conditions, if you have time to compose and to make good use of its 14,6mp. Go Canon if you need a excellent, quiet and reactive camera.

It’s just the beginning with Canon, I’m discovering it, and my judgment will surely change over time but here are the first impressions with the two systems. To be continued!

No comments:

Post a Comment