Help: Pentax Spotmatic versus Nikon 4300 digital?

Discussion in 'Pentax' started by Bill S, Apr 11, 2005.

  1. Bill S

    Bill S Guest

    Can someone here help me compare the quality of pictures taken
    with my old 35mm Pentax with a modern digital camera, which I
    haven't used in years, to a modern digital camera.

    Unfortunately I can't easily arrange to view the results of both
    camera taking pictures of on similar scenes.

    The details of what I am trying to compare are below and my
    question to you specialists here is ... which of these two cameras
    is likely to give the best pictures?

    Thank you for any advice.

    Bill

    ++++++++

    I am an amateur "picture taker". ("Photographer" is too grand a
    word to describe me.) I take "general" pictures - people,
    buildings and streetscapes. The prints I would like are in colour
    and would be about 7x5 inches with maybe a rare enlargement to 9x7
    inches.

    35 MM CAMERA ---- My Pentax is Spotmatic model SP with a 55 mm
    f/1.8 Super Takumar lens. I have an old 75-150 Tamron zoom lens.
    These are 42mm screw-thread lenses. Today I guess I would use
    Fuji 35 mm 200 ASA negative film.

    DIGITAL CAMERA ---- A friend has a modern Nikon 4300 digital
    camera which has a 4 Megapixel capability and is about a year old.
    Looking through his pictures they seem better than I had expected.
    I'm assuming that the Nikon 4300 is a reasonably good choice out
    of the digital cameras at its price.

    ++++++++
     
    Bill S, Apr 11, 2005
    #1
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  2. Bill S

    Chris Down Guest

    You are in real danger of starting the film v digital debate again here, but
    as a former Pentax SLR user, and now 99% digital user I think I can be a
    little helpful.

    As with any photogtaphy the lens is key, so if you go digital get a camera
    with a good lens. I started off with a Canon A40, now I have the
    300D/Digital Rebel SLR.

    The Canon A40 was only a 2Mp camera, that is 1600x1200 pixels. Printing
    at 7x5 this would give a printed resolution of 228dpi x 240 dpi which is
    quite adequate when printed at a lab or on a modern photographic Ink Jet.
    There is no point going above 300dpi printed resolution as you will see no
    difference. So if you plan to print 9x7, ie 2700x2100 then 5.5Mp would
    be as much as you would ever need. Modern digital cameras have wider colour
    range than film and apply a degree of sharpening in software, both of these
    make for a more satisfying printed result. (Film fans please note...I said
    satisfying, which is subjective, and we are talking "amateur picture
    taker". )
    I have done direct comparisons and nearly everyone prefered the digital
    pictures to the film versions of the same scenes.

    Aside from the quality of the lens with a digital camera you need to look at
    the compression applied to the pictures when they are saved as JPG, and the
    noise from the sensor. I was talking to a "Pro" in a retail outlet at the
    weekend and he reported that they are getting unhappy users coming in saying
    they "upgraded" their 2Mp camera to a 5Mp camera and that the prints are no
    better or even worse. It seems the higher resolution chips, which are the
    same size, are in some cases suffering from more "noise" than the lower
    resolution chips. Also to get a reasonable number of pictures on a emory
    card they run a higher default compression ratio when creating JPGs.

    I strongly recommend that you take a few shots with any camera you plan to
    buy and then get them printed. If you like the results whether they are
    "better" or "worse" than something else really doesn't matter.

    In my opinion if you go for a 4Mp digital with a quality lens and a minimal
    file compression option you will be very pleased with the results.
     
    Chris Down, Apr 11, 2005
    #2
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  3. Bill S

    Stan de SD Guest

    Resolution, contrast, and elimination of flare will be much better with any
    semi-decent digital camera these days - BEFORE you drop either camera on the
    ground. Don't count on any non-SLR digital camera (of ANY make or model) to
    stand up to the same type of beating that an old Spotmatic, pre-plastic
    K1000, Nikon F or Leica will take. I have gone through 3 new digital cameras
    in less than one year, while the USED Nikon FM-2 I purchased while in the
    military in Japan lasted for 18 years.
     
    Stan de SD, Apr 11, 2005
    #3
  4. My opinion : they have different pro's.

    Your pentax will take the highest resolution 'pictures', especially if you
    use slide film, colour neg 100, or 400 (don't use 200 - it's a poor
    compromise, generally). However, to the average eye, the digital camera's
    photo will often look better in every way - they appear noise-free
    (clean-looking), bright, clear colours, and also even look sharper than the
    equivalent in film. Due to the decreased latitude of digital, there will be
    less noise than colour negative, especially in the shadows.

    However, many of these advantages are mostly due to the ability to process
    the image from the CCD (all images need to be, even RAW files). What is
    wrong with that? For your friends who look at the photos, it's only a good
    thing. But actually, you'll notice that distant objects disappear (due to
    lower resolution), near objects often have halo's due to
    slight-oversharpening, and textured objects end up looking like they're made
    out of plastic with scattered sand (this is very noticeable with grass in
    the distance). Also, while we may not be able to easily see see artefacts
    now, a few years down the line and we might be quite averse to these
    artefacts, and the photos may compare poorly with photos taken with film
    around the same time. Particularly in terms of realism.

    There's no real way of improving the apparent quality of photos taken on
    film, because the grain is completely random, and doesn't neatly fit into
    pixels (computing being the most sensible way of editing them). This means
    no proper noise reduction, and sharpening is not as effective, either
    (sharpening the grain is easy, sharpening the form is much harder). Colour
    and contrast can be adjusted quite easily in photoshop. With film you've
    only really got the one chance to get the sharpness and grain under control,
    and that is before you take the shot.

    Conclusion : You'll have a harder time with Pentax, because film is less
    forgiving, but the Nikon will have these artefacts I mentioned (all digital
    cameras have), which may grate with you after a while, particularly as you
    realise that it reduces the realism of your photos. With film you'll know
    that it's captured more detail, and if you can ignore the grain, you'll have
    pictures that are more true to life.

    In my opinion.

    Duncan.
    P.S. I'm ignoring all the other obvious benefits of digital, which are not
    related directly to quality.
     
    Duncan J Murray, Apr 11, 2005
    #4

  5. A compact zoom lens on a 4mp P&S digital camera having more resolution,
    contrast and elimination of flare than a 55 mm f/1.8 Super Takumar lens?!?
    Really now!
     
    Chris Loffredo, Apr 11, 2005
    #5
  6. Bill S

    Stan de SD Guest

    I will concede that I should have compared zooms with zooms, and fixed
    lenses with fixed lenses. However, as good as the Takumars were for their
    days, newer glasses with better homogeneity do have better curvature, and
    aspheric lenses reduce chromatic abberation. In addition, the coating
    technology has improved greatly, and flare is better controlled than in the
    past. What is lost with the fixed lenses is better control of distortion, as
    well as overall sturdiness - most of the newer lenses won't take the
    abuse...
     
    Stan de SD, Apr 11, 2005
    #6
  7. Which newer glasses? Top line (and extremely expensive) lenses in many
    cases might be better than older models, but that isn't the type of
    equipment the OP seemed to be asking about.
    Many lenses of not extreme aperture or length (not talking about zooms
    here) WERE better in the past: A lot of supposedly "improved" modern
    glasses are simply cheapened.
    So which modern prime lenses actually do control flare better than
    decades old Pentax SMC, Zeiss T* or Rollei HFT? Also, lens geometry
    plays an important role in flare reduction.

    Comparing a zoom equipped 4mp digital P&S with a good Pentax + original
    lens (even if vintage) is a no-brainer (at least quality-wise)

    All that said, the OP's requirements, "7x5 inches with maybe a rare
    enlargement to 9x7", can be met by just about any decent camera, 4mp
    digital or not...


    ___________________________________
    "Daddy! Daddy!! A nice man at the market took our old Leicaflex and
    180mm Apo-Telyt and gave me a MAGICAL camera with 20x digital zoom and
    anti red-eye function!!!"
    "Well done Jack! YeeeHaw!! Now we can take some really good pikkers!!!"
     
    Chris Loffredo, Apr 11, 2005
    #7
  8. If both cameras are working properly and operated properly, you'll see
    sharper, better exposed images from the Pentax.

    However, for the proposed print sizes and uses, you won't actually see
    much of a difference.
     
    Scott Schuckert, Apr 11, 2005
    #8
  9. Bill S

    Paul Mitchum Guest

    You can use your M42 lenses on just about any digital SLR, with an
    adaptor. If you can afford a DSLR body, that's the way to go.
     
    Paul Mitchum, Apr 11, 2005
    #9
  10. Bill S

    Peter Irwin Guest

    Either should do fine for your purposes. I'm a film
    person, but you should use whatever you feel more
    comfortable with.
    I've got a Pentax s3 with an SMC Takumar 55/1.8, and it is
    about as good as 35mm cameras come. There's no reason to
    expect anything less than first class results.
    This should probably be ok, though I would be surprised
    if it were anywhere near as good as you super-takumar.
    Film, exposure, developing and printing are big variables
    in quality you can do something about.

    Films are uniformly pretty good, but it is worth trying
    out some of the fancier colour negative films such as
    Fuji Reala 100, and Kodak High-definition 200.

    Colour negative films all show finer grain when exposed
    a little more than the meter reading at the ISO speed.
    This is particularly true for the faster films. You
    might try setting the meter to 125 for 200 speed films,
    or to 250 for 400 speed films. You should do your own
    experiments, but you may be surprised at the difference
    it can make. (The speed rating system for colour negative
    films hasn't changed much since ASA 80 was fast for
    a colour negative film. The higher speed and greater
    overexposure latitude of modern C-41 films makes it a good
    idea to derate them by about 2/3 of a stop or so.)

    Some D&P places will do a much better job at printing
    your pictures than others. This doesn't always bear
    a strong relationship to the prices they charge: it just
    requires someone running the machine who knows and cares
    about doing a good job. It is very much worthwhile trying
    out different places to have your developing and printing
    done.

    Peter.
     
    Peter Irwin, Apr 11, 2005
    #10
  11. ["Followup-To:" header set to rec.photo.digital.slr-systems.]
    Dear God no. (Nothing personal.)

    Since your performance requirements are modest, I suggest that you
    go for the camera that you most enjoy lugging around with you and using.
     
    Ben Rosengart, Apr 11, 2005
    #11
  12. Bill S

    Bandicoot Guest

    There's plenty of currently produced lenses with coating that is less good
    than the oldest version of SMC, including from the 'big players'. Current
    SMC remains at the top, especially in its ghostless incarnation, with T* and
    Fujinon EBC probably the closest rivals, and the oldest SMC is still
    entirely competitive with the best now produced.

    I'd be extremely surprised to find a P&S digital with a significantly better
    coated lens than an SMC Takumar, and still more so to find any with better
    overall flare performance and contrast, given the wide range zooms they
    stick on these things.

    That's not to say that it couldn't be done, just that no one seems to be
    doing it currently - maybe the little Contax digital with the fixed lens
    might be in the running here, but that's hardly a mainstream product: cost
    is the issue. The digital P&S market is simply not sufficiently quality
    conscious to for such things to be economic.


    Peter
     
    Bandicoot, Apr 12, 2005
    #12
  13. FYI: The average 35mm film camera using 100 speed film is roughly
    equivalent to a 22 megapixel digital camera. But rarely is the full
    resolution of a film camera used. A good 4 to 6 MP digital will
    deliver 8x10 prints that are almost indistinguishable from those made
    with film.
     
    Stefan Patric, Apr 12, 2005
    #13
  14. I think I agree - I've heard that Pentax SMC's coating on compact cameras is
    not meant to be as good as on their K mount lenses. Also, I compared a
    Pentax Espio SMC zoom compact versus a Pentax SMC-A 35-70mm zoom against a
    sunset in Hong Kong. The results were completely different, with more flare
    and less contrast in the compact. However, it wasn't a fair test, as the
    multisegment metering of the compact resulted in a more exposed photo than
    from the centre-weighted of my SLR.

    Duncan.
     
    Duncan J Murray, Apr 12, 2005
    #14
  15. Bill S

    Bill S Guest

    On Mon 11 Apr 2005 17:46:43, Chris Loffredo wrote:
    I am the Op and I am not, as you suggest, comparing my old Pentax SMC
    55mm lens with a lens from a modern digital SLR.

    Instead I would like to compare the old lens with something like a
    Nikon Coolpix 4300 which I think was very recently discontinued but
    which ended up at approx $250 in the US and about £200 in the UK.

    The Nikon Coolpix 4300 has a 3x zoom lens with 8-24mm coverage
    (equivalent to 38-114mm in 35mm).

    Is anyone familiar with the Nikon 4300?

    -- snip --
    Ah, not quite. I was recently browsing some supermarket specials
    which included a Vivitar (2 Megapixel??) at a very reduced price from
    an original £100 plus. However I later found that the results were
    widely thought of on the Net as being utter crap and opinion
    suggested that this Vivitar be firmly placed in the domain of toy
    cameras.

    The problem I have with reading a review of the Nikon 4300 is that I
    have no comparative yardstick except for my old Pentax. So a review
    saying it is a "great camera" means very little to me. Great for
    whom?

    When I briefly saw the results of my friends Nikon 4300 I was more
    amazed that it took half decent picture at all. I didn't think to
    compare it to the results I used to get on my Pentax. For me, it was
    a bit like observing the dog in the saying which is walking on its
    hind legs: It may not be done well but you are surprised to find it
    can be done at all. Similarly with the Nikon. I have been out of
    photography for so long that I was amazed that the fairly cheap Nikon
    4300 didn't take awful smudgy foggy blurry pictures.
     
    Bill S, Apr 12, 2005
    #15
  16. Bill S

    Bill S Guest

    On Tue 12 Apr 2005 04:42:22, Stefan Patric wrote:
    That is a useful rule of thumb. Thanks.

    But what about the lens on a modern convenience-oriented digital
    camera? How good are they? It is clear to me they are not all crap
    but when I see the size of the lens in the Nikon Coolpix 4300 then it
    almost seems amazing it can take pictures at all!

    And yet its results seems half-decent.

    Is there any more objective (or well-observed subjective) view on the
    Pentax Spotmatic + Super Takumar 55mm f/1.8 and the Nikon Coolpix
    4300?
     
    Bill S, Apr 12, 2005
    #16
  17. Bill S

    Bill S Guest

    On Mon 11 Apr 2005 22:20:49, Ben Rosengart wrote:

    Heh! I think you are right about my requirments and that is why I
    am not looking at some super-duper digital SLR.

    However what surprised me more than a little was the very low
    prices my old Spotmatic + lens is fetching on eBay.

    I had fondly thought I might have sold the Spotmatic + lens and
    been able to buy a Nikon Coolpix with the income. However I see
    that the selling price of the Spotmatic is lower than the
    secondhand price of Nikon 4300s!

    It hardly seems worth selling the Spotmatic but in truth I use it
    very little but I would use a digital camera a lot (mainly to load
    pictures onto my PC).






    ["Followup-To:" header reset]
     
    Bill S, Apr 12, 2005
    #17
  18. Bill S

    Chris Down Guest


    Sad to say that film camera prices have dropped through the floor recently.
    I bought my Pentax ME in 1981 for £115.00. For almost the next 20 years I
    could have sold it again for about the same money. I actually bought a
    second body myself about 7 or 8 years ago so that I had a home for my lenses
    if the old body died.
    I just looked on eBay and ME Supers are going for about £25.
    This shows just how far prices have dropped. Until recently just about every
    photography student in the UK had was told to get the ME Super or the manual
    equivalent (ME has aperture priority Auto in addition to manual) as their
    first camera.

    Dream of a camera to use.. ahem...

    Just looked at Spotmatic prices... just a bit more than the cost of a
    roll of film.. Suggest we hang on to our kit for 50 years then try selling
    to a museum.
     
    Chris Down, Apr 12, 2005
    #18
  19. I realised that, and mentioned that you probably weren't interested in
    the top line & expensive lenses.

    Which is also what I said; it is very unlikely that a compact zoom on a
    4mp P&S digital will do better than you 55mm lens.

    If you want speed and convenience, go for the digital. If you want
    maximum quality, stick with the pentax (and maybe get a good lens or two
    for it).

    Since you mention that you probably won't exceed 9x7 inches in your
    prints, the quality advantage of the Pentax is very unlikely to show
    itself - excepts in extreme (i.e. against the light or time exposures)
    situations.
    The Coolpix 4300 is certainly not a toy. Up to 9x7 inches in most
    conditions, you'll probably find the results good or even very good.
    The Pentax has the edge on posters and dodgy light situations.
    YMMV!
     
    Chris Loffredo, Apr 12, 2005
    #19
  20. 55mm lens with a lens from a modern digital SLR.


    I realised that, and mentioned that you probably weren't interested in
    the top line & expensive lenses.

    Nikon Coolpix 4300 which I think was very recently discontinued but
    which ended up at approx $250 in the US and about £200 in the UK.


    Which is also what I said; it is very unlikely that a compact zoom on a
    4mp P&S digital will do better than you 55mm lens.

    If you want speed and convenience, go for the digital. If you want
    maximum quality, stick with the pentax (and maybe get a good lens or two
    for it).

    Since you mention that you probably won't exceed 9x7 inches in your
    prints, the quality advantage of the Pentax is very unlikely to show
    itself - excepts in extreme (i.e. against the light or time exposures)
    situations.
    The Coolpix 4300 is certainly not a toy. Up to 9x7 inches in most
    conditions, you'll probably find the results good or even very good.
    The Pentax has the edge on posters and dodgy light situations.
    YMMV!



    ___________________________________
    "Daddy! Daddy!! A nice man at the market took our old Leicaflex and
    180mm Apo-Telyt and gave me a MAGICAL camera with 20x digital zoom and
    anti red-eye function!!!"
    "Well done Jack! YeeeHaw!! Now we can take some really good pikkers!!!"
     
    Chris Loffredo, Apr 12, 2005
    #20
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