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The digital camera market has been dominated by two brands for years: Canon and Nikon. If you have a camera and you’re looking to upgrade, you are more than likely to choose either one of these two brands. Now, the choice of brand is somewhat important, although not as much as buying a high-quality camera and a great lens(like those of Tamron). Choosing the wrong one could mean that you’re stuck with a camera that simply doesn’t suit your needs.
I recently got my hands on a Pentax K-70 DSLR, and even though I’m a beginner photographer and a Canon user, I have to admit that Pentax positively surprised me. In this article, I’ll compare Pentax, Canon, and Nikon to help you decide which brand is best for you. Keep in mind that I am not going to talk much about the lenses because, let’s be real, most of them are interchangeable if you simply have a lens mount adapter.
Pricing & Value for Money
Pricing is a big factor when purchasing a digital camera. It is important to know what you are paying for. The cost of a camera largely depends on the features, quality, and options that it offers. Many mid-range cameras on the market today are equipped with advanced features and specs that are often considered to be “high-end,” such as fast autofocus, in-body image stabilization, a large viewfinder, or an articulating screen.
Pentax is often overshadowed by its big-name rivals. You probably didn’t know Pentax until recently even though the brand is literally more than 100 years old(founded in 1919). The expense of the equipment is more heavily invested in the gear since Pentax sells its products mostly online and through a small number of specialized outlets, with little to no promotion.
One would think that Pentax has plenty of low-budget options to choose from. However, this cannot be further from the truth. The cheapest one has a price tag of about $700, which is not ideal for beginner photographers who want to spend less than $500. Nevertheless, in the mid-range and high-end spectrum, getting Pentax gear offers greater value for money since they offer superior features at the same price point.
Currently, Canon is the most widely used DSLR manufacturer. With the idea that the photographer would later upgrade to a better Canon product, it has continued the habit of luring novice photographers(like me) with affordable, easily accessible, low-end cameras for youngsters. Let’s be honest, if you want an entry-level DSLR, you are possibly going with Canon(or Nikon). I certainly did! Additionally, Dual-Pixel Auto Focus is available for most models.
The best-known characteristics of Nikon cameras are their crisp images, build quality, and simple menus. Not necessarily because of their affordable solutions. However, some of the manufacturer’s more inexpensive products have subpar focusing capabilities, and in-body image stabilization is frequently only offered in the most costly models.
Build & Image Quality
As far as build quality goes, Pentax cameras have large and bright optical viewfinders. With weather-sealed lenses being both ever-present and inexpensive, all modern versions are pretty much waterproof. That’s the big advantage that they have over Canon and Nikon. I am not saying that I can’t do nature photography with my Canon 800D. I certainly can. It will just cost me more to purchase a rain cover or a waterproof casing.
The majority of Pentax cameras have features like dual-wheel controls that are only available on more expensive Canon and Nikon models. That’s where the value for money of Pentax comes in. A second control wheel makes menu scrolling easier and makes it simpler to browse images while in playback mode. Finally, every Pentax camera comes with in-body sensor-shift image stabilization, which means that you can stabilize any lens. It’s very often that lenses without a stabilizer are better since the manufacturer only uses the resources on the quality and sharpness of the lens.
Even with all of that said, I don’t think that Pentax image quality for everyday life stuff is there just yet. Now, I don’t have a bunch of cameras to compare so let’s take a look at some image comparisons from The CameraVille. Make sure you check his channel on YouTube for even more detailed comparisons.
As you can see, the image quality and sharpness are almost identical. When it comes to the colors, however, Canon is much warmer in the first and second images and slightly overexposed while the Pentax is much more saturated. The Nikon seems to be something in between. The third image looks like it’s shot on the same camera for some reason.
These results are just an indication so it might not be true for every camera. Nevertheless, I have noticed that my Canon photos are also quite bright and they lean towards the warm temperature side so it could be just a thing of Canon. For landscape photography, you can go with either of these brands and you’ll most likely be satisfied.
Low-Light Photography and Dynamic Range
These images from The CameraVille were shot in low light and then the exposure was pushed to see how much detail remained in the image. It’s the classic dynamic range test you can perform on your camera. This is probably the nightmare of Canon, especially if you make a direct comparison with Nikon. In general, the latter has a much higher dynamic range in every single camera, whether it’s a DSLR, compact, or mirrorless. As for Pentax, I was shocked by how well it did in that scenario. The final result is actually superior to both Canon and Nikon.
However, in the last image, a similar experiment is performed in a landscape shot during the day with a shutter speed of 8000/1. Nikon is the clear winner here, while Pentax seems to completely fall apart and start to turn everything into magenta. On the other hand, Canon retains most of its color balance but still has a ton of noise to clear in post-production.
I am not completely sure why the Pentax performs like that. While it does have less noise than Canon, it seems like the high shutter is too much for the camera to handle. Maybe it’s better to get it up to only 4000/1 to avoid the color shift. If there is an experienced Pentax user, I would like to get some insights in the comments section.
Pentax for Astrophotography
The Pentax brand is the perfect choice if you want a simple way to take some stunning pictures of the stars and the galaxy in general. This is most likely their strongest feature, especially for people who are interested in astrophotography. ASTROTRACER is a feature that moves the camera’s image sensor in time with celestial body motion, creating photographs in which stars and planets appear to be stationary.
Don’t expect it to replace a real tracking mount, but on the other hand, the fact that it simply requires a tripod to work is unquestionably a plus. You can definitely do astrophotography with Canon and Nikon, but I believe(correct me if I’m wrong) it’s going to cost you more to get the same results.
The Bottom Line
It’s a bit of a cliché, but there is a reason why Canon and Nikon are the go-to camera manufacturers for professional photographers(alongside Sony since mirrorless cameras get more and more popular). They offer excellent products with a huge amount of research and development behind them, in addition to fantastic customer support. When it comes to choosing between them and Pentax, your choice will likely come down to budget constraints, as well as your own personal preferences regarding specifications and the purpose of the camera.
If you are interested in not only photography but also videography, then you should choose Canon or Nikon. The former has, in my opinion, better and more natural colors, while the latter has a significant advantage in low-light scenarios due to the higher dynamic range. However, if you plan on getting into astrophotography or simply doing outdoor landscape photography where you know that the camera is going to get dirty and there may be a lot of rain, then getting a weather-sealed Pentax might be exactly what you need.