Replacing Pentax K5 with GXR

Discussion in 'Ricoh GXR Forum' started by Ruhayat, Oct 8, 2012.

  1. Ruhayat

    Ruhayat SC Rookie

    Oct 5, 2012
    Is it wise?

    It's a question that has been asked, but not really resolved to my satisfaction. This is what I intend to find out in the coming weeks.

    What I use a digital camera for
    I use the digital SLR mainly to complement my graphic design, mainly making food and product shots for low budget clients / projects (like brochures and blog entries). Also to cover in-house events for them, once in a while. For clients with budgets, eg billboards and big events with VIPs, I hire real professionals.:tongue:

    My journey is simple:
    now that I have the GXR, can it replace the K5 entirely for what I need a DSLR for?

    I love the K5, the ergonomics and the end results, which require very little post processing. But at the same time I also have buyer's guilt, and can't countenance owning two of more or less the same camera. Especially if selling off the K5 would help fund for a "proper" video DSLR, which would expand my service offerings.

    I intend to do this bit by bit over the coming weeks, posting as I use the GXR in the field for work stuff. Please feel free to chime in with your own experiences and thoughts.
  2. Ruhayat

    Ruhayat SC Rookie

    Oct 5, 2012
    In my case, the decision to "jump ship" from one Pentax model to another is made easier by the fact that I only own 2 lenses for the K5: the kit zoom lens (covering events), and the FA 50mm f1.4 (covering food and product). So along the way I will need to acquire the new GXR A16 zoom and the A12 50mm/2.5 Macro to compare directly against these two lenses.

    I dare say that for others who own more KAF lenses, the decision would be simpler, since the GXR system still hasn't got enough lenses to replicate even the 70mm or 35mm DA lenses, two lenses I have been having my eye on for a while.

    Now, if Pentax comes out with an A16 KAF mount, THEN the choice will become interesting again!
  3. Ruhayat

    Ruhayat SC Rookie

    Oct 5, 2012
    1. Manual Focus Lenses

    To me, the GXR has the clear advantage here.

    Pros and cons of the K5
    I have kitted out the K5 with manual focusing aids, namely the Pentax original 1.25x viewfinder magnifier, and a generic LCD viewing loupe (actually being marketed for video).

    The neat thing about the K5 is the fact that it has onboard focus confirmation that works even with "dumb", non-chipped adapters - unlike, say, Canon, where you have to buy the specific adapter to get focus confirmation. This is a really neat feature that not many people are aware of when comparing which camera system to get for mounting, say, pre-existing Leica R lenses (I have two of them).

    But the focus confirmation is not perfect - sometimes it beeps when the image is not quite in focus. This was the reason why I had decided to get the 1.25x magnifier. Relying on the magnifier rather than the beep alone does help, and with it in place my score rate has improved. The downside is you lose the 100% coverage - it becomes more of an 80% coverage, so for precise compositions of food or landscapes, say, you'll need to switch to the LCD.

    I could, of course, forego the magnifier entirely and focus with the LCD using LiveView. But there were 3 particular disadvantages I came across which deterred me from doing this:

    a. LiveView shortens battery life. This is not such a big deal, however, since the K5 has excellent battery life, and I was able to purchase good third party batteries cheaper than the cost of some SD cards.

    b. Now this is a more serious problem: I can't focus using the LCD while wearing glasses unless the camera was about a foot away from my eyes. Which brings us to...

    c. The K5 with manual lens is quite hard to work on when you're holding it a foot away. The kit is just too heavy to hold steady.

    Manual focusing accuracy
    On the other hand, the GXR's focus peaking feature beats manual focusing by eyesight handily for me. My hit rate with getting sharp images using this feature bests my results with the K5 using the magnifier. Plus, I find that using eyesight focusing, my eyes do get tired after a long day, and the hit rate deteriorates. No such problems with the peaking feature.
    Winner: GXR

    Manual focusing on the move
    The EVF makes the GXR about as bulky as the K5. So for a compact package I tend to not carry it with me when I shoot. The good news is, focusing using the LCD on the smaller and lighter GXR is doable on the move as compared to doing the same on the K5.
    Winner: GXR

    Manual lens flexibility
    The other aspect where the GXR scores points against the K5 for manual focusing is the fact that it can take lenses for my Leica M system. With the GXR, I can use all my M, m42, K and CY lenses on a single platform.
    Winner: GXR
  4. Ruhayat

    Ruhayat SC Rookie

    Oct 5, 2012
    Pentax K5 with original Pentax 1.25x magnifier attached:
    2012-10-08 16.20.28.

    Enlarges images so it's easier to focus, but you lose 100% frame coverage. So using it really depends on (a) what is more important to you, and (b) what you are shooting. For manual lenses, I found it a worthwhile purchase.
  5. Ruhayat

    Ruhayat SC Rookie

    Oct 5, 2012
    Pentax K5 with 1.25x magnifier, and LCD loupe:
    2012-10-08 16.21.58.

    Actually marketed for video DSLRs. Makes the K5 bulky but is very useful if you (a) use LiveView to focus, (b) is shortsighted like me, and (c) put the camera on a tripod. Excellent aid particularly for landscapes and macro, I find. Works rather well even while you're walking - especially if you are used to shooting video.
  6. Ruhayat

    Ruhayat SC Rookie

    Oct 5, 2012
    Client impression
    The K5 looks like a proper DSLR so with some clients - especially new ones - it is handy to contribute an air of professionalism to what I do. On the other hand, the majority of my clients are returning clients, and most of my clients don't really bother what camera I use since they don't have the budget for proper photography, anyway. So if creating an impression is important, then the K5 may have a (slight) advantage over the GXR. But then you can always educate the client that the camera is not important, as long as you get the end result you want.
    Winner: K5 - especially if you use a battery grip and big-*ss flash!

    The K5 has the edge, especially with larger and heavier lenses like the Jupiter 9 I have here with the metal hood attached. The bigger grip makes it more comfortable to hold the camera - especially for longer periods, and easier to hold it steady. Big and heavy lenses also balance better on the K5. I also like the K5 button placements better than those of the GXR (or it could be I am just more used to using the buttons on the K5 by feel). But for smaller lenses - say typical 50mm sizes - the GXR is quite comfortable to shoot.
    Winner: Tie for smaller lenses, K5 if you shoot long and heavy lenses a lot

    Build quality
    I'd call it a tie. The GXR - like my old GRD - feels solid enough to me.
    Winner: Tie

    Weather proofing
    No contest. The GXR may seem like it should be at least water resistant what with the rubberised bits and all, but I'm not willing to take that chance. I made that mistake with my GRD when I used it after a light drizzle in the middle of a humid rainforest, and the camera promptly died after one and a half shots.

    Then again, I don't have any WR lenses so weather proofing is a nice feature to have but a pipedream on paper for me. I've been wanting to get the 18-135mm WR lens for a while now. I'm beginning to doubt if I ever would. Pentax really should make the kit lens of the K5-II models a WR lens. Plus, there aren't any WR primes that I want. But still, if I need it - who knows, a client might send me back into that rainforest :biggrin: - at least with my K5 weather proofing is there.
    Winner: K5

    I'm obsessed with small but high quality cameras. It's why I ditched my 5D for the K5 - the 5D images are superb, but it's just a pain to carry around with me. I love the K5 - I think it's the best DSLR there is, APS-C or full frame. And the main reason for that is: carryability. What's the point of having a D800E when you're going to leave it at home most of the time cos the thing is so darned heavy?

    With the K5 I carry a high quality digital camera with me 80% of the time. With the GXR, though, I have it with me 90% of the time now. Once I get that compact 28mm module, it'll be with me all the time, as it will fit into my NatGeo belt pouch. Very useful when, like me, you're doing food and travel photography for clients' blogs.
    Winner: GXR

    System completeness
    K5 has the wider lens range. But this doesn't automatically make it the clear winner, if all you need is a mid-range zoom, a wide and a fast portrait. Which is all I need. And which the GXR has (okay, a 50mm at f2.0 at least would be nicer, but for portraits I use manual lenses anyway). K5 offers more lenses (for now - come on Pentax, give us that GXR KAF module!), but GXR has all I want.
    Winner: (for my purposes and needs) GXR - it has all the lenses I need
  7. Ruhayat

    Ruhayat SC Rookie

    Oct 5, 2012
    2. Image quality

    I don't use my own camera for poster or billboard sizes - I hire real professionals for those jobs. As I said, I use a digital camera only for small, low budget, small projects. These are the typical applications:

    Food and product photography
    So far, it looks like the GXR is good enough for me. I really like the exposure, sharpness and tonality. 12MP and RAW is more than sufficient. For the kind of work I do - photos to use in "throwaway" sales catalogues, brochures, buntings, websites and blogs - it looks like the GXR will suffice.

    The real test, though, is whether the images pass the clients' muster. So far I have zero complaints about the K5 shots. It remains to be seen if the GXR will pass the same test. Will update on this as I start using GXR images on my jobs.
    Winner: GXR images is - so far - good enough for what I do

    Event photography
    I suspect for small in-house corporate do's - to record product launches or in-house get togethers/functions for newsletters - the GXR with A16 zoom will do just fine. But it most likely won't scale as well as the K5. I have used the K5 in a high pressure environment, shooting stills for a reality TV show here in Malaysia. The K5 passed that test with the client without a problem. I'm not sure the GXR would do the same, but then again I rarely get these kind of jobs - I could always use that video DSLR I intend to get should I sell off the K5.
    Winner: K5 (although GXR will be good enough for shots to use in in-house newsletters)

    Studio shoots
    I sometimes get clients who want to do product shots with live models. I built my own in-house studio for that purpose. Nothing complicated, just the typical 3 lights and a backdrop etc. I haven't got round to testing the GXR in a studio environment, but I suspect this is one area where it will fall short. Again, that's where that video DSLR I intend to replace the K5 with will fill in.
    Winner: K5
  8. Boid

    Boid SC All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    Excellent! To me it boils down to one question really. How badly will you miss the K5 after you sell it?
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  9. Ruhayat

    Ruhayat SC Rookie

    Oct 5, 2012
    Exactly. That would be one parameter, for personal satisfaction. If it were just for personal shooting, the choice for me is already clear: it's the GXR. When I use it with manual lenses, I find that I don't miss the K5.

    However, my digital camera also has to do double duty for work stuff, so the other real test to me would be: how well does the GXR perform under pressure, and would clients notice the difference.

    Looking forward to finding out in the coming weeks. My plan is to use only the GXR for work until the end of October. Will have to get either the A16 or the A12 50mm module, though - would be nice to have both, but I can only afford one for the next few months.
  10. john m flores

    john m flores SC All-Pro

    Aug 13, 2012
    I do some work similar to yours and have used the K-5 for much of it. I've also used a host of other cameras (K-01, Panasonic M43, etc...) and have a couple of thoughts to share...

    Did you consider the Pentax K-01 - nearly the same IQ of the K-5 in a slightly smaller package, with focus peaking, and manual video control? The K-01 works great with the small budget product photography that I do. It takes some work to use it as a photojournalistic-style event camera though - AF in low light is just OK.

    Or the GH2/GH3 - a step behind on still IQ but a big step forward for video? The GH3 is weatherproof and the GH2 is smaller and likely heavily discounted now. The GH2 will struggle a bit in low light PJ style situations though.

    Or the Pentax K30 - it's like a hybrid between the K-5 and K-01, a dSLR with focus peaking and IIRC manual mode for video.

    I guess there is no 1 perfect camera. I am curious about the GXR - how is the AF compared to the K-5? Is it highly dependent upon the lensor used?

    Thanks for sharing...
  11. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    you and I (and most cameraheads) know that the final output image of the Ricoh and the K5 will be roughly equal, but I'd be concerned what potential clients think when you pull out the little GXR for the job they are paying you to do. The DSLR form factor is what people expect "professional" cameras to look like.

    And to answer John's question about AF performance of the GXR, it is state of the art advanced compact speed circa 2009. It can struggle a bit in low light if the focal point lacks contrast. It's not as fast as any of the Pentaxes you use and likely slower than the GH2 as well.....think more like a gf1 if you have any experience with that one.
  12. Ruhayat

    Ruhayat SC Rookie

    Oct 5, 2012
    Hi John,

    I've seen some of your riding pics before. Superb! I tend to travel quite a lot for work, too, mainly backpacking to blog on food and travel for a client, and used to lug the K5 around. The picture qualities are awesome, and the K5 construction inspires confidence.

    Two main things bugged me about the K5 as a travel camera: one is the weight. Pound for pound, I think the K5 gives the best image quality to weight ratio, but it still wasn't a lot of fun to carry around all day even with the plastic 50mm/1.4. I could definitely still feel it inside my bag. Whereas with the GXR, sometimes I have to check my satchel thinking I'd left it behind on a cafe table or something. No exaggeration: this happened a few times already.

    Secondly, every time I take the K5 out to take pictures of people at, say, a marketplace, people stiffen up. Or they get annoyed. Or they turn their faces away. The K5 is a small DSLR, but it's still a DSLR. When you take it out people immediately think you're shooting for a newspaper, or they wonder what you're going to do with their photo.

    That's one of the main differences between shooting a DSLR and my Leica M7. I can't afford the M9, don't like the M8, and my client wants digital pictures to use on their website blog. Luckily for me, the GXR has the same effect on people as the M: meaning, not much. I take out the GXR these days and people either just continue with what they are doing, or they start posing in a more fun way that they would have with the K5.

    I did check out other cameras before getting the GXR. My first choice was actually the Pentax Q, which has an IQ good enough for web res and probably "throwaway" marketing collaterals like leaflets, too. But in the end I preferred the GXR for the ability to use M lenses natively.

    Next on the shortlist was the Olympus Pen Mini with 35mm pancake - I'd used the Pen EP-1 with this lens before and I liked the results and breezy handling. In fact, I would've gotten this combo if I didn't happen to stumble upon the shop selling the GXR with A12 M unit for a bargain price.

    The OMD EM-5 was another serious contender but I decided it cost too much. I'm still looking at the GH2 or GH3 for video, but for stills I'm not a fan of the plasticky sheen of Lumix processing (I've owned a handful of them over the years).

    The K-01 was fine, I thought, but the size and weight wasn't that far from the K-r, which wasn't that far from a K5 (ditto the K-30 - which is also too costly to boot). Plus, oh God, the colours were just... Not my taste, anyway. :p If I didn't already have the K5, I would have gotten the K-30 - great camera in an even more compact form factor.

    As mentioned, I haven't yet explored AF on the GXR. Only in the shop. Hoping to get the 50mm Macro unit and try it out for a few weeks. I've read some people are happy using their GXRs with just that one unit, so I am intrigued.

    But as you say, in the end, each camera is about making a compromise. I would love to maintain both the K5 and the GXR, but more and more I find I'm not picking up the K5 as much. So I'm curious to see if the GXR can indeed be used to replace a K5 for semi-professional work.

    Sorry for the lengthy response. I'm just still excited abut the GXR, you see. :)

  13. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee SC All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    I preferred the K5 output for B&W conversion over the GXR/A12 50mm. But the GXR is good enough.
  14. Ruhayat

    Ruhayat SC Rookie

    Oct 5, 2012
    Yep, that's what I intend to find out in the coming weeks. Also, most of my clients are not present when I do my photography, so that could help.

    That's good to know. I did have the GF1, with the 20mm(40mm) pancake. The AF on that was rather slow, but for static scenes it was doable. The K5 is so much better for events and moving scenes, of course, so I'd be interested to find out how the A12 or A16 modules would perform. I don't shoot sports, mostly food and the environment surrounding the outlet, so my demands for AF is not as high. We'll see how it goes.
  15. Ruhayat

    Ruhayat SC Rookie

    Oct 5, 2012
    A recent travel pix I took with the K5. This is more or less typical of the kind of thing I shoot for this particular client:
    Pasar Siti Khadijah, Kota Bharu by Ramayana X., on Flickr

    As I said, it's really not high end stuff. :p

    50mm/2.0 Leica Summicron on Pentax K5.
  16. john m flores

    john m flores SC All-Pro

    Aug 13, 2012
    Then I would glue a little red dot on the GXR and let the client think it's a Leica!
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