15 Beginner FAQ's for Pentax DSLR Users

By PF Staff in Articles and Tips on Oct 25, 2014
15 Beginner FAQ's for Pentax DSLR Users

Our troubleshooting forum helps dozens of beginner photographers and new Pentax users every week.  We see some questions more often than others, so in this post, we wanted to provide you with a list of the most common questions and solutions.  We hope you find it helpful!

Note that questions all assume that you're using a Pentax DSLR camera.  The answers may not apply to film cameras.

1. My lens has an aperture ring.  What should I set it to?

If your see an "A" setting, keep your lens set to this at all times.  If there is no A setting, follow the steps in answer #2.

All older lenses have an aperture ring, as it was once the only means for controlling the aperture.  Pentax DSLRs aren't able to sense the position of the aperture ring, so it cannot be used in the traditional way.

2. Why does my camera show "F--" when I mount a manual lens?

In order to use manual lenses with Pentax DSLRs, you first need to configure a few menu settings.  Then you need to follow a procedure called "stop down metering" while selecting the desired aperture using the aperture ring.

Follow this guide to configure your camera and learn how to stop-down meter

3. Why can't I take a photo with a manual lens?

Your custom function settings may not be configured properly, or you may be in AF mode.  Remember to set your camera to MF and focus manually.  If you've already done this, see this guide to learn about the aperture-related custom function you need to change to allow the user of manual lenses.

4. Do I need an adapter for my manual lens?

If your lens has an M42 screwmount, then you will need an adapter such as this one, or the genuine Pentax adapter, which is more expensive but higher-quality.  Be wary of cheaper adapters, as some have a protruding flange which makes infinity focus impossible.

Any K-mount lens (genuine Pentax K, M, A, F, FA, FA J, D FA, DA and some third-party lenses) does not require an adapter- even those that date back to the 70's!  The K-mount looks like this:

K-mount Lens

Some lenses, such as Tamron Adaptall, can be mounted with a universal adapter.

Modern Canon EOS or Nikon F mount lenses are either not adaptable or cannot be used reliably due to limitations in focusing.

5. What are the different Pentax lens series?  Is there a list of all lenses?

This page provides an overview of all Pentax K-mount lens series.  A complete listing of these lenses, along with user reviews, can be found in our lens database.

6. What lenses can I use with my camera, and which ones will autofocus?

Just about any K-mount lens will work fine with a modern Pentax DSLRs.  This includes all genuine Pentax lenses produced since the 70's.  M42 lenses, 645/6x7 and third-party universal lenses can be mounted using an adapter.  Refer to our Pentax lens database and third-party lens database for a listing of compatible lenses as well as user opinions.

Pentax DA, D FA, FA, FA J, and F series lenses provide autofocus support.  Current Sigma and Tamron lenses can also autofocus.

Some Pentax lenses have in-lens focusing motors.  This is denoted by the presence of "DC", "SDM", or "HSM" in the lens name.  In-lens AF is supported by all Pentax DSLRs except for the very first bodies (i.e. the K100D, K110D, and *ist D series).

7. My viewfinder has a fuzzy texture.  Do I need to get my camera cleaned?

Optical viewfinders have a component called a focusing screen, which is lined with very small grooves.  These can become visible in your viewfinder when you have a F4 or F5.6 lens mounted, or when there's very little ambient light.  This is perfectly normal and there is no remedy other than using a faster lens, or turning up the lights!

8. I hear a clunk sound when my camera is off.  Is something wrong with it?

No; this is perfectly normal.  When the camera is off, the Pentax sensor-shift Shake Reduction system is off, and thus the sensor can float semi-freely inside the camera.

9. I hear a humming noise from my camera in video or live view, even when SR is turned on.  Can I get rid of it?

This noise is the shake reduction system keeping the sensor locked in place.  There is nothing you can do to eliminate the sound, as otherwise the sensor would float all over the place!

If you have a Pentax K-5 or K-7, the humming noise in video mode can get loud enough to become audible in your videos.  If this is the case, disable Shake Reduction.

10. Why is there a strange rattling noise when I power my camera on and/or off?

This is the Pentax Dust Removal System.  We recommend that you keep it on at startup and/or shutdown.  If you don't like the sound, you can upgrade to a more advanced Pentax body such as the K-3, K-5, or K-7, which have the ultrasonic Dust Removal II system.

11. Why does my K-30/K-50/K-500/K-S1/K-01 camera indicate TAv rather than M mode?

You have enabled auto ISO.  Set your ISO manually and TAv (shutter speed and aperture priority) will become full manual.

12. I see dust spots on my images.  What can I do to get rid of them?

Generally speaking, start with your in-camera dust removal system.  If this doesn't help, try a blower (but not a compressed air canister). If this still doesn't do the trick, either physically clean your sensor using a kit, or get a professional cleaning.

Here's our guide to sensor cleaning

13. How do I update my camera's firmware?  Do I need to update?  What's the latest firmware version?

Updating the firmware requires you to download the update file to an SD card, insert the card into your camera, and then start the update via your camera.

See our firmware update guide and tutorial video for instructions.  The latest firmware news is posted on our firmware homepage and all downloads are available via the Japanese Pentax support site.

Generally-speaking, feature-enhancing firmware updates are only released for high-end Pentax bodies, as opposed to entry-level DSLRs.  Nevertheless, we always recommend that you update to the latest firmware for the best possible stability and compatibility.

14. What's the best lens for portraits?

There is no single "best" portrait lens, but even entry-level primes such as a DA 50mm F1.8 are vastly superior to the 18-55mm kit lens for portraits.  See our portrait lens guide to find out why, and to see a list of lenses that we recommend.  Portrait lenses generally have focal lengths between 50 and 85mm.  Primes are favorable over zooms for portraits.

15. I have the 18-55mm and I find the autofocus to be too noisy.  What lens can I upgrade to?

The Pentax 18-135mm is an upgraded kit lens with silent autofocus, weather sealing, and a longer zoom range.  We highly recommend it as a multi-purpose carry-everywhere lens.

We also recommend the Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 C for those who do not need the weather sealing and want a faster aperture.

Pentax 18-135mm

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