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03-01-2013, 01:40 PM   #1
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best lens for Autocross

Hello, I have been a Pentax Spotmatic and K1000 user for years or until film and processing became difficult to manage. I set photography a side during the family years until my husband and now adult son took up autocross. They bought me a Kodak EZshare to bridge the gap and I really got involved in shooting their events. Now they have given me my first DSLR, a K30 with kit lenses. I generally like the camera and have become familiar with it. I have just shot my first two weekends with it and have discovered that the Kodak takes better pictures. My 50-200 mm kit lens does not seem to be doing a very good job at 200mm in terms of sharpness. I am using shutter speed priority set at 1/125 to 1/160 of a second which is what I shot the Kodak at. I am not sure if changing to a preferred aperture setting would help much or just go for a better lens. I am looking at the WR version and shopping for a 300mm zoom that is affordable, sharp at full zoom (200-300mm) with faster AF but light weight (a WR version of the 55-300mm would save me a little $$. Any hint that one is in the works?). I saw that the forum ratings are better for the Sigma 70-300 than the Pentax 55-300mm Zooms. I am shooting again in two weeks and also have to combat sensor dust already and have only removed the lens twice. Any advice on any of this?

03-01-2013, 02:07 PM   #2
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The Pentax 55-300mm is great for tele shots (sharper than the 200mm), but if you want fast AF, I'd recommend getting the 18-135mm:

Pentax DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL WR Zoom Lens 21880 B&H Photo
Pentax-DA 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 Review - Overview - PentaxForums.com
SMC Pentax-DA 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 ED AL [IF] DC WR Reviews - DA Zoom Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

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03-01-2013, 02:54 PM   #3
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I've shot a lot of DE Track events and it took a while to find the right combination.

First you'll need to bump up your shutter speed to at least double the focal length (1/160th of a second won't cut it) .

If you are shooting the cars coming directly at you you'll have difficulty getting them in focus - even with AFC. Also bump up the ISO (the k30 has great high ISO so the images will hold up good) and shoot the cars more in profile while following the car while panning with the camera. Also put the camera into "Continuous Shooting Mode High" and take a quick burst of shots as the car goes by (or comes at you). You'll get at least 1-2 shots that are keepers in every burst.

My biggest problem was being an old time film shooter and trying to get one perfect shot. Usually that doesn't work for someone only taking racing pictures once in a while. Just let the camera take as many shots as you can get with every car that passes you.

For a lens I'd get the SIGMA or Tamaron 70-200 f2.8. I use the DA*300 because of the distance they keep spectators from the racing line but for the closer distance to auto crossing I think this would be the perfect lens.

Keep trying different combinations and you'll find the sweet spot that works best for you.

Last edited by mpreston; 03-01-2013 at 05:19 PM.
03-01-2013, 04:43 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Jane Quote
Hello, I have been a Pentax Spotmatic and K1000 user for years or until film and processing became difficult to manage. I set photography a side during the family years until my husband and now adult son took up autocross. They bought me a Kodak EZshare to bridge the gap and I really got involved in shooting their events. Now they have given me my first DSLR, a K30 with kit lenses. I generally like the camera and have become familiar with it. I have just shot my first two weekends with it and have discovered that the Kodak takes better pictures. My 50-200 mm kit lens does not seem to be doing a very good job at 200mm in terms of sharpness. I am using shutter speed priority set at 1/125 to 1/160 of a second which is what I shot the Kodak at. I am not sure if changing to a preferred aperture setting would help much or just go for a better lens. I am looking at the WR version and shopping for a 300mm zoom that is affordable, sharp at full zoom (200-300mm) with faster AF but light weight (a WR version of the 55-300mm would save me a little $$. Any hint that one is in the works?). I saw that the forum ratings are better for the Sigma 70-300 than the Pentax 55-300mm Zooms. I am shooting again in two weeks and also have to combat sensor dust already and have only removed the lens twice. Any advice on any of this?
My advice would be to set aside comparing the Kodak EZshare to the K-30...there is no comparison. You have not mentioned what you are taking photos of but if it's motocross then 1/125 or 1/160 of a second is nowhere close to the shutter speed you will need, unless you want your action shots to come out blurry and OOF. WHAT are you shooting again in two weeks? If it's motocross then perhaps the refurbished Sigma 50-135 that's on sale for $499 might be your ticket. I don't think you are going to find a 300mm lens that "sharp" at it's longest focal length unless you want to spend some serious cash. Of course it all depends upon what you consider "sharp". You might want to also look at the Pentax WR 18-135 but I have no experience using it and I don't know how it can handle action...I just see alot of members owning it and most of them seem happy with it. Good luck.

03-01-2013, 05:12 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by treebeard Quote
You have not mentioned what you are taking photos of but if it's motocross...
OP is taking photos of cars, "autocross"



For the Autocross events I have attended, the 18-135 would be excellent, for the budget. But, those events allowed spectators to basically act as the pylons

If you are not allowed to get close, then the 55-300 is great, but sometimes the AF hunts, especially in lower light... which they probably would not be racing in low light anyways
03-01-2013, 05:23 PM   #6
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I thought it was motocross! How could you shoot autocross at 1/125 or 1/160 and not get a blurry shot. Aren't the cars moving? I still think the refurb Sigma 50-135 is the better deal if one had the money.
03-01-2013, 06:47 PM   #7
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Last time I shot autocross was with a program plus, loaded with 400 color film and SMC-A 70-210 F4.
Jumping to modern times, I would think that the 55-300 with it`s quick-shift feature should be fine for the task on hand. If the budget allowed, the DA*60-250 F4 would be even better.
03-01-2013, 08:50 PM   #8
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Can you post two examples, one from your EasyShare, and one from the K-30?

Since you are shooting both at the same shutter speed, the only thing I can think of is that you may have a focus problem. The depth of field is shallower on the K-30, so nailing the focus will be harder. Post some photos and we can tell.

03-02-2013, 07:51 PM   #9
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Best lens for autocross

Thanks for the feed back and I'll try to address all your reply's in one message. I am shooting autocross and often get confined by the safety stewards to certain areas but at some events the 18-135 would be great and I am rethinking the 50-200 WR; although, it is more in my budget. I do see the need to stop comparing the two different cameras its like comparing apples and oranges but miss the magnification of the Kodak so I am still toying with the 300mm zoom Pentax vs Sigma idea. I can try the higher shutter speed but yes I am getting some clear, sharp shots that in some cases show blurred backgrounds and wheels with sharp cars and sometimes the drivers expressions and this is what I am getting compliments on. Granted higher shutter speeds may give sharper stop action but I am after the motion effects so in that respect I am at my own mercy. I am set for continuous shooting mode high and shoot bursts but find that a 16 gig card is too small for that. It takes nearly all week to sort them all. I may need a 32g card! The one thing the Kodak taught me was to pan fast, focus in on the right shot and then shoot bursts; it only gave a max of 4 burst shots and the processing time meant no more shots for the rest of that cars run so this is where I really like the Pentax! I may have to do some f-stop tests to see if I can find a sweet spot but shutter speed testing will have to wait for the next race. There seems to be times where things are really sharp and other times, say with one car, the shots are all preternaturally soft despite refocusing and yet the same car the next day could be sharp. I shoot with late morning through late afternoon light so it shifts. Would this have any affect on the "AF"? I'll see if I can collect a few samples tomorrow to post so you can see whats going on. Is there a limit on size or number of samples? I know it may take time and experimentation before I am happy again and I appreciate all your advice. Stay tuned! Jane
03-02-2013, 08:49 PM   #10
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Hey there, I've done a few autocrosses. Hopefully my advice will help you next time you do an autocross:

For your panning shots, you're using probably leaving shake reduction on, right? I've done some low shutter speed panning (think 1/90 to 1/180) and I've found that I get more keepers if I turn shake reduction off. It may not be your technique, rather it might be the camera attempting to compensate for a desired movement. I've used a 200mm f4 for events I've attended and have not had trouble with distance, though this will vary with each event.

Here's one of the images that I've taken:

Super Takumar 200mm f4 @ f8, 1/180 shutter speed

This car was approximately 150 ft away from my position.

Hope this helps!

Last edited by tackyat.2; 03-02-2013 at 08:55 PM.
03-02-2013, 09:11 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Jane Quote
Hello, I have been a Pentax Spotmatic and K1000 user for years or until film and processing became difficult to manage. I set photography a side during the family years until my husband and now adult son took up autocross. They bought me a Kodak EZshare to bridge the gap and I really got involved in shooting their events. Now they have given me my first DSLR, a K30 with kit lenses. I generally like the camera and have become familiar with it. I have just shot my first two weekends with it and have discovered that the Kodak takes better pictures. My 50-200 mm kit lens does not seem to be doing a very good job at 200mm in terms of sharpness. I am using shutter speed priority set at 1/125 to 1/160 of a second which is what I shot the Kodak at. I am not sure if changing to a preferred aperture setting would help much or just go for a better lens. I am looking at the WR version and shopping for a 300mm zoom that is affordable, sharp at full zoom (200-300mm) with faster AF but light weight (a WR version of the 55-300mm would save me a little $$. Any hint that one is in the works?). I saw that the forum ratings are better for the Sigma 70-300 than the Pentax 55-300mm Zooms. I am shooting again in two weeks and also have to combat sensor dust already and have only removed the lens twice. Any advice on any of this?
Congrats on the camera and welcome to the forum! I am new to Pentax myself but I mainly shoot motorsports. I have owned the Sigma and have the Pentax and can assure you the 55-300 is a better lens in every way. It is also much smaller and lighter.

I would make sure that your 50-200 is focusing properly. Even if that isn't the best lens in the Pentax line, it should put that Kodak to shame. Make sure the set the AF point to the center. Your shutter speeds are about right for panning depending on light conditions and distance. Obviously, the lower you can go, the better. Lower apertures can have a dramatic affect on your photos... not good or bad, just different effects. Stopping down the 50-200 should help with the sharpness and you still have a lot of ISO headroom with the K-30. I have never have autofocus issues shooting motorsport. The great thing is if you miss a shot, wait a minute or so. Of course that's a little different with autoX but once you find the shot you are going for, you should be able to nail it over and over.

Minor dust will come and go. The in-camera dust removal will take care of the vast majority of it.
03-02-2013, 09:16 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Jane Quote
I am set for continuous shooting mode high and shoot bursts but find that a 16 gig card is too small for that. It takes nearly all week to sort them all. I may need a 32g card! The one thing the Kodak taught me was to pan fast, focus in on the right shot and then shoot bursts; it only gave a max of 4 burst shots and the processing time meant no more shots for the rest of that cars run so this is where I really like the Pentax!
Try not to "spray and pray" too much. I think you will find that you have better results by framing, focusing, and pulling the trigger where you want the capture.
03-03-2013, 02:18 PM   #13
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Best lens for autocross

I have attached 3 shots. One a red Miata, my son driving, taken with the Pentax full 200mm Zoom 1/125 shutter speed which represents what I would get from the Kodak. The other two are the Kodak vs Pentax with 200mm zoom. They show a topical shot from a moderate long distance but taken from the exact spot. You can tell the difference in zoom and although there seems to be a difference in speed between the two shots, the poor focus represents the general focus problem. I wonder if I am actually getting 1/125 with the Kodak and It may have been set at 1/160 at that time. I like the idea of turning off the shake reduction.
Attached Images
     
03-03-2013, 06:33 PM   #14
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If you share the rest of the EXIF, I could tell more. Check to make sure the lens is focusing properly. There are several threads on how to adjust the focus if there is an issue with the lens.

Without seeing the exact shutter speed and aperture, I really can't tell you much. There appears to be much more in camera processing on the Kodak photo as well. The shutter speed is also higher on the Kodak photo.

I know it is difficult at times, but try to keep the sun over your shoulder. Buying a longer lens will open up more opportunities. Also, once you get the focus issues sorted, you can try to drop the shutter speed on the photos you posted.
03-03-2013, 08:51 PM   #15
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And as bullitt_60 said, the EXIF data would really help. But if you can't load that, just a simple question, which of the shots of #97 is done with the Pentax, and which with the Kodak? I'd say that middle shot (with the longer zoom) clearly looks better than the last one. Also, I'm guessing a lens hood would have helped the first shot, as there seems to be some lens flare, appearing as a general haze or lack of contrast over the image that is not present in the latter two images..
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