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04-22-2012, 01:14 PM   #1
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How to maual focus K5 for nightclub images

Hi:

I am not sure if the K5 forums was correct, but please let me know if I should post elsewhere.

I have been shooting in nightclubs lately, always very dark. And, my K5 autofocus does not work well. I often am at f2 or wider, though I try to get above f2 if I can. I usually am only about 10 feet away from the musicians, so there is no room for focus error with such a small depth of field (I use the 31 Ltd or the DA*55).

Is it possible to accurately manually focus without a third party focusing screen (I know the AF will indicate if I am in focus when focusing manually, but that would of course rely upon the accuracy of the autofocus, which I am trying to avoid).

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Thanx so much.

04-22-2012, 02:25 PM   #2
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Use live view?
04-22-2012, 06:13 PM   #3
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Use a higher ISO and stop down more at least f4.
04-23-2012, 02:01 AM   #4
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Hi:

Thanks so much for the replies. I can try live view and have thought of that, though it makes it hard to shoot quickly and change positions easily.

I have contemplated getting a 5d MK3 with a 50 1.4 and maybe an 85 1.8 just for nightclub use. I may hold off luntil later this year to see what Pentax brings out in their (hopefully) K5 replacement. I love my K5, but low light autofocus and pictures at 6400 and above are lacking. This never was an issue for me before, as I generally did studio work.

Thanks so much again.

04-23-2012, 02:23 AM   #5
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You could try a more precise focusing screen (there's another long-running thread around somewhere) or (the horror) an LCD loupe so at least you can hold the camera properly when you're using live view for MF.
04-23-2012, 03:33 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by lawjbm Quote
Hi:

I am not sure if the K5 forums was correct, but please let me know if I should post elsewhere.

I have been shooting in nightclubs lately, always very dark. And, my K5 autofocus does not work well. I often am at f2 or wider, though I try to get above f2 if I can.
But focusing is performed with the lens wide open - if your's is f2, then that'a what it will use to focus; stopping down to a smaller aperture will increase depth of field when the shutter is pressed.

Personally, I would have though that LV would be pretty ineffective under dimly lit situations & would suggest that the time honoured method using MANUAL focus would be your best option - that's what I would do, but then that's just my suggestion.
04-23-2012, 04:11 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by lawjbm Quote
Hi:

I am not sure if the K5 forums was correct, but please let me know if I should post elsewhere.

I have been shooting in nightclubs lately, always very dark. And, my K5 autofocus does not work well. I often am at f2 or wider, though I try to get above f2 if I can. I usually am only about 10 feet away from the musicians, so there is no room for focus error with such a small depth of field (I use the 31 Ltd or the DA*55).

Is it possible to accurately manually focus without a third party focusing screen (I know the AF will indicate if I am in focus when focusing manually, but that would of course rely upon the accuracy of the autofocus, which I am trying to avoid).

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Thanx so much.
QuoteOriginally posted by lawjbm Quote
Hi:

Thanks so much for the replies. I can try live view and have thought of that, though it makes it hard to shoot quickly and change positions easily.

I have contemplated getting a 5d MK3 with a 50 1.4 and maybe an 85 1.8 just for nightclub use. I may hold off luntil later this year to see what Pentax brings out in their (hopefully) K5 replacement. I love my K5, but low light autofocus and pictures at 6400 and above are lacking. This never was an issue for me before, as I generally did studio work.

Thanks so much again.
Light is everything. Yes, you can take images in the very dark, but then you need to increase your shutter time in order to collect the light, and / or increase your ISO, making the sensor very sensitive - but that also increases the ambient noise. You really can't get any better sensor sensitivity than with the K5 (in an APS-c sensor - see the DXO ratings). And ISO 6400 is already nominally high, however there is additional head room above that level (to 51200). Early in the run of the K5, some folks here did some experimenting with the K5 at ISO 51200 coupled with some excellent noise reduction software.In the above threads, a lot of the images are without any post processing noise reduction. Some do reflect post processing noise reduction. Some of the images are comparisons of right out of the camera - showing that unprocessed images are not too bad. The images at 51200 compared to 100 or 80 look pretty noisy, however, there are a couple of threads, and you might need to look for more that have shown (and I was not able to find them all, by any means) of what some good noise reduction can do. I might take several passes through the utility to get things to an acceptable level. You also might try a couple of utilities in series, since different utilities use different techniques and approaches. YMMV greatly here....

So, a few questions. What and how are you currently shooting? JPG or RAW? This makes a difference. When you say that 6400 and above are lacking - in what way, and are you doing any post processing? You essentially have two separate problems:
  • Taking the picture - You also have a couple of problems that you are dealing with here. 1) autofocusing and 2) manual focusing.
    • In terms of autofocusing - Getting sufficient ambient light in order to auto-focus adequately, along with sufficient depth of field in order to keep a reasonable amount of the target in focus, is pretty difficult, especially in dark situations. Do you have the focus assistant lamp on? I know its distracting, but the camera - any camera is going to need to have sufficient light and time to determine the contrast and focus. There are also physical limits to this. The higher end cameras do have additional capability, but that is reflected in their costs. There is no such thing as a free lunch here - especially when shooting in the dark. Canon and Nikon do have better autofocusing systems. There is a physical limit to what the K5 is able to do.
    • On the Manual Focusing area - The K5 has one of the brightest viewfinders available. Another focus screen may help here. My old Spotmatic split screen is incredibly good, when compared to the current dSLRs. Katseye is one of the third part focus screens, plus there are some threads here on adapting an older Canon (I think) focus screen to the K5. Stopping down will give you better depth of field and will result in you not needing to be perfectly focused. That comes at the expense of needing to push up the ISO speeds, especially when hand-holding.
  • Processing the pictures - If you are going to shoot in JPG, you do give up a lot of capability in post processing. Shooting in RAW (or even JPG+RAW), makes the RAW image available for additional processing. That coupled with better noise reduction software, can pull additional and preserve the information better while cleaning up the images. The K5 sensor with its great dynamic range can help here even at the high end ISO levels. In order to process that, you need to take the time to process, and retain the RAW information necessary for the additional processing. The post processing noise reduction utilities are always improving, so you are going to need to find a few and try them out. You need to see what fits into your workflow and will provide the best overall processing for your shooting environment.
Shooting in a nightclub is very different than in a studio. In a studio you have control of your environment - i.e., the light. In a nightclub, you have control of essentially nothing. Keeping a sufficiently fast shutter so you can handhold, even at a relatively fast f stop, pushes your ISO up. You only have three items that you can vary - aperture, shutter and ISO. Your environment is dictating the first two, leaving only the ISO for you to play with.


Last edited by interested_observer; 04-23-2012 at 04:24 AM.
04-23-2012, 04:53 AM   #8
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Hi:

Thank you all for your relpies, especially interested_observer for your detailed post.

I should have stated I do shoot in RAW, in manual, and almost never shoot JPEG. I use CS5 and Noiseware for noise reduction, though I lately have been doing noise reduction in Camera Raw.

Part of the issue is that I often underexpose, though not intentionally, so I need to correct that with better technique. Having said that, I find the focus to be off in the very low light of bars and nightclubs. A couple of months ago I did some playing around with the autofocus micro adjustment while shooting at a barand the autofocus seemed off by a couple of feet (using center point autofocus) at f2 and wider. I really tried to focus carefully, trying to make sure my focus point was not off the mark. My sense is that the center point focus is not as small and "center point" as it might suggest. I think it is a bit wider than center point--so I often miss focusing on the intended point--and with such a small depth of field the images are usually, though not always, soft or really out of focus.

I may shoot again this weekend and will try to expose a bit to the right at 6400 or a bit above to see if I can improve my results. I always seem to have to add fill or exposure in Photoshop, which makes things worse.

I will take a look at the links you provided, perhaps to have greater confidence in upping the ISO a bit.

Thank you again.

04-23-2012, 05:23 AM   #9
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Focus screen to improve focus and manual focus through VF, and shoot manual to improve exposure. ISO5000 on k5 is good.
04-23-2012, 06:09 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by lawjbm Quote
My sense is that the center point focus is not as small and "center point" as it might suggest. I think it is a bit wider than center point--so I often miss focusing on the intended point--and with such a small depth of field the images are usually, though not always, soft or really out of focus.
You've got this absolutely right, the point is bigger than one might expect.
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