Which SLR? 500D vs D5000 vs E620 vs GH1 vs K-x

The arrival of the Pentax K-x is really exciting news and if I'm going to get an SLR, which one will I get?

Canon EOS 500D Nikon D5000 Olympus E620 Panasonic GH1 Pentax K-x
Sensor Size 22.3 x 14.9 mm
3.32 cm²
23.6 x 15.8 mm
3.72 cm²
18.0 x 13.5 mm
2.43 cm²
18.0 x 13.5 mm
2.43 cm²
23.6 x 15.8 mm
3.72 cm²
Pixels 15.1 million 12.3 million 12.3 million 12.1 million 12.4 million
Pixel Density 4.5 MP/cm² 3.3 MP/cm² 5.1 MP/cm² 5 MP/cm² 3.3 MP/cm²
Pentax K-x has the best pixel density which translates to excellent image quality and great low light performance. The Nikon has the same low pixel density, but lose out on low light, based on reviews.
ISO 100-3200,

Pretty even for all cameras. If a camera lets you take ISO12800 photos, it does not mean that it's usable or clean (noiseless).
Image stabilization No No Yes, Sensor shift Yes, LensYes, Sensor shift
Canon and Nikon does not have image stabilization (IS) built into the camera, which means that you have to buy lenses that have IS, thus generally more expensive lenses.
Auto Focus 9-point
phase detect
11 point
phase detect
phase detect
11 point
phase detect
Min shutter 30 sec 30 sec 60 sec 60 sec 30 sec
Max shutter 1/4000 sec 1/4000 sec 1/4000 sec 1/4000 sec 1/6000 sec
Pentax K-x has an extremely fast shutter at 1/6000s meaning you'd probably be able to shoot fast actions.
Flash range 13 m 17 m 12 m 10.5 m 16 m
Exposure compensation ±2EV
0.3/0.5 steps
0.3/0.5 steps
0.3 steps
0.3 steps
±3 EV
0.3/0.5 steps
Canon has only ±2EV compensation, not as good as the rest which has wider exposure compensation, especially useful when you want to capture multiple exposures for High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos.
Metering 35 Area Eval, Center-weighted, Partial, spot 3D Matrix meter II, Center-weighted, Spot ESP multi-pattern, Center-weighted, Spot Multi-segment, Center-weighted, Spot 16-segment Multi, Center-weighted, Spot
Continuous Drive 3.4 fps 4 fps 4 fps 3 or 2 fps 4.7 or 2 fps
Movie Clips 1920 x 1080 20fps
1280 x 720 30fps
640 x 480 30fps
1280 x 720 24fps
640 x 424 24fps
320 x 216 24fps
No 1920 x 1080 24fps
1280 x 720 60fps
848 x 480 30fps
640 x 480 30fps
320 x 240 30fps
1280 x 720 24fps
640 x 416 24fps
The inability of the Olympus E620 capture video is a deal killer. While Canon and Panasonic can produce full 1080 HD videos, the rest can capture 720 HD which is sufficient for me.
Uncompressed format RAW RAW RAW RAW RAW (PEF / DNG)
LCD 3 " 2.7 " 2.7 " 3 " 2.7 "
A larger LCD screen is always preferable, but 2.7" is not a deal breaker either.
LCD Resolution 920,000 230,000 230,000 460,000 230,000
Canon wins hands down with it's high resolution screen. Will it be enough to convince me to buy a Canon? We'll see.
LCD Type Fixed Tilt & Swivel Tilt & Swivel Tilt & Swivel Fixed
The ability to tilt and swivel your screen is definitely helpful, but bear in mind that these are SLR cameras, and except for the Panasonic GH1, live view is pretty slow, so you'll be looking through the viewfinder most of the time.
Live View Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
HDMI Yes Yes No Yes No
Battery Lithium-Ion rechargeable Lithium-Ion rechargeable Lithium-Ion rechargeable Lithium-Ion rechargeable AA (4) batteries
There have been reports that the Pentax K-z are eating batteries for breakfast and sooner rather than later you're going to get rechargable batteries for it. Good Rechargable AA batteries don't come cheap, and it requires a good slow charger to maximize power and battery life.
(inc. batteries)
520 g 590 g 500 g 385 g 580 g
Dimensions 129 x 98 x 62 mm 127 x 104 x 80 mm 130 x 94 x 60 mm 124 x 90 x 45 mm 123 x 92 x 68 mm
The Pentax K-x have the smallest dimension and is my favourite.
Review Links Full Review Full Review Full Review Full Review Full Review

All of them are good cameras but how much do they sell for?

Canon EOS 500D Nikon D5000 Olympus E620 Panasonic GH1 Pentax K-x
Price Kit Lens $759.95
18-55mm F3.5-5.6
18-55mm F3.5-5.6
14-42mm F3.5-5.6
14-140mm F4-5.8
18-55mm F3.5-5.6
The Olympus E620 is out of the question as it does not capture movies. The Panasonic is way too expensive for me. This leave me with the Canon, Nikon and Pentax. On paper, the Pentax wins in specifications and has received great reviews. It's the best performer in it's class at low light and still new (as of this writing), so the price is expected to drop further. If I were to consider nothing else, it'll be the camera I'll buy.
Twin Kit Lens $899.98
55-250mm F4-5.6
(29-400mm 13.8x)
55-200mm F4-5.6
(27-300mm 11.1x)
40-150mm F4-5.6
(28-300mm 10.7x)
14-140mm F4-5.8
(28-280mm 10x)
55-300mm F4-5.8
(27-450mm 16.7x)
Because I own a Panasonic FZ28 now with it's 27-486mm (35mm) lens, I would definitely like to have more or less the same zoom when I get a SLR. Nowadays, many SLR kits comes with twin lens, but the Pentax K-x wins hands down with it's zoom (16.7x) and it's unbeatable price. Again, if I would consider nothing else, it'll be the camera I'll buy.
Prime Lens $479.95
Canon 28mm F1.8
Nikon 35mm F1.8
Zuiko 25mm F2.8
Lumix 20mm F1.7
Sigma 30mm F1.4
To get a feel of lenses that I may want to buy later on, I've also listed a fast prime lens that's good for portraits and indoor shooting. Here the Nikon wins hands down with it's low cost yet excellent quality prime lens.

If you're already a SLR owner, it make sense to buy a camera from the same manufacturer, so that you'll still be able to use your older lenses. But I don't, so I'm not tied to any manufacturer. For this reason, it makes sense for me to research a manufacturer more, so that once I'm tied to them, I will not regret getting tied.

The story with Pentax is that they are one of the world's largest optical companies, and made the first Japanese 35mm SLR. I'm guessing that when everyone switched from film to digital, like Konica-Minolta (bought over by Sony) it's facing great difficulties in competing because of it's inability to produce a digital sensor internally. All this is past, as Pentax has been working with Samsung from 2005 to recapture market ground from Nikon and Canon. As of March 2008, it merged into Hoya and is now a division of Hoya. (Full story at wikipedia).

The thing is, I don't want to be tied to a manufacturer and later on, wanting to buy extra lenses, find that they don't exist or are too expensive to afford. Therefore, I dig deep into eBay (where cheap lenses are to be had) to find out more about lens availability and pricing.

eBay Statistics Canon EOS 500D Nikon D5000 Olympus E620 Panasonic GH1 Pentax K-x
Lens available 5385 5349 1719 1272 2300
Avg. Price, Units
(last 30 days as
of 29 Dec 2009)
Fisheye $74.34, 1208 $90.85, 986 $80.56, 59 $56.51, 56 $173.49, 74
Macro $108.49, 1919 $98.41, 1368 $116.00, 157 $176.49, 29 $124.82, 255
Prime $172.87, 108 $146.83, 108 $158.40, 23 $849.00, 1 $74.70, 89
Telephoto $292.23, 1199 $156.52, 524 $79.28, 99 $56.15, 58 $200.23, 94
Wide Angle $152.69, 1357 $84.30, 882 $63.26, 134 $58.31, 131 $102.8, 114
Zoom $240.23, 2312 $307.11, 1607 $173.06, 223 $265.10, 45 $93.31, 359

Because Canon and Nikon are the top 2 camera brands worldwide, they have the most lenses on sale at eBay (5385 & 5349 respectively, they fluctuate but is accurate the the time of this writing). Please bear in mind that this is not an objective nor scientific study, I just clicked on the lenses category in eBay and filter for SLR lenses. Using other tools, I was able to obtain average prices and units sold for different lenses using keyword search (e.g. canon fisheye lens). The data is tabulated on the table as shown above.

Based on the specifications, reviews and prices, I was ready to purchase a Pentax K-x, but when I dig into eBay data, it's clear that Canon and Nikon has more lenses available, with Nikon generally more affordable. The thing is, Pentax may be cheaper initially, but if you're going to build up your lens collection, you're gonna have less choice and may end up with less money.

Now I'm just torn between the Pentax and the Nikon. Guessed I've narrowed it down and it'll have to boil down to how I feel when I hold the camera in my hands if I get a chance. Plus, there's the matter of getting a purchasing license from the Mrs., but that'll be another long post.


  1. To Ken Hayashi, Sorry I accidentally got your comments deleted.

  2. Interesting. I currently have a FZ-18 and I'm tempted to upgrade to a SLR (for better DOF control and low-light shooting). My current top pick is the Pentax k-x, I'm looking forward to hearing what your decision will be.

  3. Matt, logic and resoning be damned, I want a K-x. Comparatively, the Nikon is almost boring. The K-x is selling like hot cakes and Pentax owners say there are cheap lenses to be had.

    Plus ... Pentax has just offered a $50 rebate (last till Feb. 12) and prices for the twin lens kit (18-55 & 55-300) has just dropped to an all time low of: $653.17 at Amazon.

  4. While this is an old post, i have a few repairs to do...

    Canon prime 50mm F/1.8 II can be found for 100$ new...

    GH1 is the smaller of all 5 in volume and overall size, however the 14-140mm kit lens is quite big when compared with body

    Even if we compare with the new cameras (550D) i think Pentak K-x is still the winner in photography, the quality/price is quite hard to beat...

  5. Yes, Zeca, I think this post is still valid and the K-x with it's very capable sensor, package and pricing is still hard to beat. However, I am monitoring the current news, exciting times these as Nikon 3100 is out, and there are rumors of more Sony and Pentax cameras. Personally I would like no mirrors but the package has got to be competitive too. Thanks for reading.