I will be brief, as I'm still a n00b with cameras, and moreso with dSLR's.
I've been dragging around an old Canon S110 Digital Elph 2.1MP, from around 2000/2001.
I work in the travel industry, so I thought I'd treat myself this Christmas, and get a REAL camera, to save those moments and places, that I may never see again.
My candidates were:
Nikon D80 - $749 at Costco.com
Olympus E-520 dual lens kit, $549 at Costco.com
Canon XSi - Dual lens kit $749 at Costco.com
Pentax K200D - Dual Lens kit $599 at Costco.com
I had almost settled on the K200D, when I saw blips of the K20D:
Best Buy listed it body-only at $899, found Gordon's review, and a few others, and they were more than favorable. I was able to play touchy-feely with most of the above, but couldn't find the K20D conveniently close to home or work to actually hold, so i'd be purchasing blind, if i got it.
Surfing around some more, I found that the K20D had a 14.5MP CMOS sensor, in-body shake-reduction, Live View (although kinda' crippled, or as an afterthought), but went to ISO 6400, etc... The reviews were good.
Did a little more shopping, and found it for $699 with the DA 18-55 AL II lens at Adorama.com, and that pushed me over the edge - ordered on 12/14, arrived 12/19.
The manual is nicely sorted out, as I have limited dSLR knowledge, but I was able to charge the battery, attach the lens, and after reading 10 minutes, was immediately able to start snapping pix. When I needed to find something, the manual was very useful, like how to turn on Red-Eye Reduction
I like how the left wheel controls the different modes on the camera, ie, user/shutter priority, shutter priority, etc.. and there's two wheel on the right, one front and one rear, to change the variable settings for the mode. N00bs like me need these 'assists,' where you only have 1 or 2 variables, and the camera figures out the rest. I have noticed it is a little slower to focus, but it hasn't really BOTHERED me, per se. Because I'm still learning, the top LCD has been a help, as I can see quickly what choices the camera has made when in fully automatic mode, and I can look around and see the circumstances. It helps me to understand how the variables relate to each other. The info button is a nice one-push info screen on all current settings, although real-time changes would be good, ie, push info in full auto mode, and if shutter changes from 1/60 to 1/30, show the change. You'd have to go BACK into the info screen again to see that it changes. The Live View needs work - many changes can't be made, and it makes a bit of racket while in that mode. The shutter is a bit, um, LOUD
for my tastes, but I can live with it. The only other thing I'd like to see, is a REAL body cap included, instead of nickel-and-diming for an accessory cap. But that's nit-picking...
After a few hundred photos the first 24 hours I started to get the hang of the camera, and I would take 20-30 shots, pop the card in the laptop and see them, and continue doing that. Overall, I was pleased with the results. When I didn't goof, the images were sharp and clear, nice colors, contrast was great, and once I learned how to use the RedEye reduction, my Husky no longer looked like satan's pet in photos! The software it comes with is a little whacky, so I used my wife's (academic) copy of Lightroom, which is a whole other learning curve, but it's easy enough to get around in, and sort of figure out. In lightroom, the images were great. I changed to RAW DNG on the camera, and started shooting pix like that. I think it was neat to include DNG INSIDE the camera. From what I've read, not many do - you have to import or export, and basically add another step. For my, just popped in the card, LR saw it, opened up, and went to the export screen. I tried Pentax' Photo Lab, but the interface is just, well, wrong. I didn't like it very much, but I think it would suffice to do basics that a n00b like me would need. I was able to get pix into it (RAW PEF), do simple cleanup, and export to JPG. I haven't tried any of the advanced functions, or in-camera processing because, well, frankly, I don't understand them yet - I'm trying to do this review as the n00b that I am, so another n00b perusing the K20D would know what to expect.
Overall, I am extremely please. This is a very advanced (for me, at least) camera that I can use in simpler modes now, and can grow into later, and use it's more advanced features and settings as I learn. That was number 1 on my list. iI did not want a camera I'd outgrow in a year, only to have to buy again later, so I went as high up as I could afford, to have a bit of grow-in room. I'm not a professional, hardly even an amateur, so spending an obscene amount on a high-end or low-pro camera would've been counter-productive to my goals.
The only issue I've had, is a hotpixel or defect area near the center, and Adorama sent a replacement before I could really explain it - kudos to their staff, as they have been OUTSTANDING. You would think I bought a $5000 camera, the way they are treating me. In all fairness, I also received super excellent pre-sales service from B&H Photo, as well, but Adorama.com was the lowest price, and even free shipping.
Overall, so far, I'm pretty satisfied with the purchase, I think it was a good decision, and Pentax is even offering a 2yr warranty extension through 12/31, and that was another factor in the purchase. I need to maximize my $$, so 3 years through Pentax, and a 4th through AmEx has me covered for a while.
I just need to keep digging in the manual, and online resources, to learn more about dSLR's, and the relationship between shutter speed, aperture, and ISO settings, and what they mean to the final product, but I think this K20D will get me where I need to go.
many thanks to Gordon, who took the time to answer emails from me, and pushed me over the edge to purchase.
Gordon, folks like you are doing a great service to the community, and your unselfish distribution of information, such as these forums and your reviews and articles, are MUCH appreciated. Without your assistance, I don't know if I would have gotten this camera, and I am glad that I did!