Like most Pentax users I have been tracking the progress of the new full frame for awhile. Every few weeks I'd type "Pentax" into my news feed just to see what popped up, hoping some of the rumors swirling about had coalesced into something a little more substantial. So, as you can image, I've been pretty excited lately. Ok, very excited. At the same time I've been a little apprehensive too. You see, for a long time (well, ok, at least since I started focusing on photography and learned that there even were different sizes of camera sensors) I have felt that the arguments between full frame and crop sensor cameras tended to be a little, well, exaggerated. Yes, I realize there are technical differences that affect the way the cameras perform in regards to field of view, depth of focus, focal length, etc. But I'm talking about real world, "out there on the street" kind of differences. If I slap on a SMC Pentax-DA 1:2.8 35mm Limited on my Pentax K-3 crop sensor camera am I really experiencing something substantially different than someone with, say, a Nikon D610 and an Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 28mm f/2.8D? Both cameras possess 24MP sensors, excellent color depth and dynamic ranges, a plethora of focus points (Nikon having more in total while the Pentax has a greater number of more accurate "cross type" points), and well regarded low-light performance. So while there may be significant differences between the two on paper would I ever find myself out on a shoot thinking "man, if only I had a full frame" while looking longingly at my friends Nikon or Canon? It's a test I always wanted to actually do. Sadly, I never got around to it and instead formed my opinion reading reviews, comparing a few RAW images, and just conversing with other photographers which, more than a few times, ended with someone saying "when you are ready to step up to being a professional photographer you'll know what I mean." Whatever. It reminded me of the old "ask the man who owns one" ad campaign, which works if your talking about 1949 Packards but, seriously, were talking about a camera here. Comments like that just solidified my opinion that "full-frame" really meant "I spent more" and had little to nothing to do with a real world experience.
So, here I am, pre-order in hand, with the Pentax K-1 full frame just around the corner. And I'm torn. On the plus side it looks like one hell of a camera. I read an excellent article on the K-1 from Tech Republic detailing some of the cameras impressive list of features and giving us a glimpse at the long road it has traveled to get here. As quoted from one of the members on the K1 design team (via Kevin Lee at Tech Republic):
"The development goal was not to follow the industry camera design trends, but to be unique, yet universal and simple... The design concept was to meet the expectation of Pentax enthusiasts who are accustomed to high quality."
And I must admit as a full fledged, card carrying Pentax fan-boy that quote is right up my alley. Pentax has always appealed to me in some intangible way. Somehow the features, build quality, history of the brand, and virtue of not having everyone and their brother carrying one added up to something greater than the sum of it's parts. The K-50 was not just a capable camera... it was fun! And so is my K-3. Not so fun when it goes into "machine-gun shutter freak-out mode" or inexplicably decided to rack it's focus but those quirks are few and far enough between to be easily overlooked.
So here I am, back to my original question at hand. Will my inauguration into the elite club of blessed full-frame users be a revelation or just an incremental upgrade? Will it transform my photography, revolutionize my art, and make me more popular at dinner parties? And, much more important to me, will it bring in more business, land me more clients, and help me generate more revenue? I don't know, and that's kind of exciting in and of itself.
I still feel that crop sensors and full-frames each have their place. They are slightly different tools meant for slightly different jobs, and each have their merits and deficiencies. The biggest difference between the Pentax lineup and the Canon/Nikon full-frames may not be sensor size at all. When you get right down to it, if I was to make a wish list of the top 3 "upgrades" I'd want to see to my current Pentax K-3 kit it would be tethering support, focus speed, and video performance, none of which may be significantly different in the upcoming K-1. It's those kind of real-world features that I think make the difference between a "professional" tool a "pro-sumer" device. My RAW files look fine, but why can't I show them to the creative team on my computer in the middle of a shoot instead of just showing them the back of my camera, Pentax? Hmmm?
I'll just need to wait and see. The draw of continuing my Pentax experience with a full frame outweighs the gentle nudge at the back of my brain telling me I really should be looking for a camera that supports tethering, etc., even if it means jumping platforms. Maybe that's what the Pentax 648z is for, right? My next, next upgrade? With a sensor the size of a credit card, or something like that. Anyway, I'm excited to see exactly how different the experience will be, with everything else being equal. Same lenses, same flashes, same photographer at the helm, will I really see any difference? I'll let you know. :)