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08-12-2012, 12:22 AM   #1
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Black Cat in a Coal Mine

Am I asking too much...doing something wrong...or is this normal operation on a DSLR?

I have been shooting Raccoons on my back deck for a couple of weeks, and have alternated between the K5 and my Fuji X10 in shooting them. I have a tungsten light on the rear deck that is motion activated, and it goes off after 5 minutes, often leaving me in total darkness within a few feet of the Raccoons. When this happens, I can't even make out their outline, and with the Fuji, if I half press the shutter the green assist lights up (every time) and I can see if the pose is worth a full press of the shutter. If not, I wait a few seconds and try again. When I do fire the shutter, the focus is almost always well within the decent to very good range, using the built in flash. .

The K5 is a hit and miss at activating the focus beam, sometimes yes, most of the time no....and the darkness is identical every time. When it does light up, an I fire the shutter almost 100% of the shots are very out of focus, even with a 1.4 lens at 1.4 or 2.8 or 4.0 using the built in flash. In fact, I haven't been able to get one decent shot under these conditions with the K5.

Now I''m not complaining, I did not buy the K5 to shoot black cats in a coal mine, and it is a fabulous camera in almost every regard. However, I would expect a flagship DSLR to perform as well as a small Toy Camera?

If there is some way to force the assist light to light up every time it is needed, I haven't found it? However, even when it does, the results seem to be unusable? Any comments on this or is it just par for the K5 in this situation?

Here is a X10 shot I shot tonight in Total Darkness...couldn't even see my hand in front of my face. I shot several, and all were as good or better than this one for focus.
[IMG] [/IMG]


Again...I'm not bitching, the K5 is superb.....if I am doing something wrong, or even if I'm not, the K5 is the best camera I have ever owned and a joy to use. Not a lot of people shoot Raccoons in total darkness, I realize this...I'm not out of touch with reality!

Regards!

08-12-2012, 01:14 AM   #2
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In utter darkness you'll want to turn AF off entirely on the K-5. It simply will not work in pitch darkness.

The X10 is basically has huge depth of field so is nailing the shot most of the time simply because thats what point and shoots do. This is because point and shoot/compact cameras have insanely small lenses which mean that they have insanely huge depths of field to play with, which means less work for the AF to hunt and peck for the shot. In this kind of situation just about any point and shoot on the market will probably trump even the most expensive DSLRs for results simply due to the way they're built.

For example, I just grabbed my Samsung WB150F (a camera many levels below your X10) and it nailed focus instantly on the beer bottle next to my computer stand about a foot away. It also nailed focus on the wall on the far end of the room 15 feet away in the same shot. This is due to the tiny camera sensor involved in the process.

The K-5's sensor is probably about 6 times as large (or so) as your Fuji's (I don't have the Fuji's specs, so I could be off a bit one way or another), and thus has a much narrower depth of field at equivalent focal lengths then your point and shoot. Put simply, the Fuji doesn't have to actually work to nail focus, where the K-5 does.

Your best bet with the K-5 would be to make sure you have a nice tight aperture (I'd aim for something like f/8 or possibly even smaller) and shoot 'wide' If using the kit lens, go for 18mm. If you have a wider lens then that, use that. The wider the lens, the wider your depth of field, and the less you need to worry about nailing focus. Take a few test shots of the raccoonless spot/area you're aiming for, see if you can nail focus on the porch deck, then lay in wait for the raccoons to come prowling.

Your shots SHOULD come out a lot better that way.'

Again...

1. Turn of AF entirely on the K-5. It's mostly going to be useless in that situation.
2. Preshoot the area stopped down with the widest lens possible.
3. Be prepared to crop the final image, since you ARE shooting wide. Once you get used to shooting this way, you can then try going to a tighter focal length and see how your results go with that to avoid having to crop as much later on.

EDIT: Basically you want to try to make your K-5 imitate the qualities of the P&S. A super wide depth of field is your friend.

Last edited by Sagitta; 08-12-2012 at 01:24 AM.
08-12-2012, 07:39 AM   #3
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Thanks for that sensible explanation! I will give your advice a try tonight. It really doesn't matter which camera I use in these situations, as long as I get a shot, but with what you provided, I may get better shots with the K5 now.

Thanks!
Rupert
08-12-2012, 08:52 AM   #4
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I agree 100% with Sagitta it would be relatively easy with a P&S to lock focus in that situation.

One thing I have noticed with the k-5 is that the AF assist beam is up and to the right of the focal point of the lens. Depending on how far away you are that can be a big difference, or not so much. But I have noticed that in dark situations the red AF LED that lights up in the view finder tends to be the one closest to the spot of the AF beam. Which makes sense since that area is the best lit. I just did a test with my k-5 in a dark room with the target centered in view finder using 11 point AF. The camera locked focus on the background 4 - 8" behind the target on almost every shot, exactly in the center of the AF assist beam.

Not sure if you were using multi-point or center-point focus, but you might want to test this and see if you get similar results.

08-12-2012, 12:05 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by jatrax Quote
I agree 100% with Sagitta it would be relatively easy with a P&S to lock focus in that situation.

One thing I have noticed with the k-5 is that the AF assist beam is up and to the right of the focal point of the lens. Depending on how far away you are that can be a big difference, or not so much. But I have noticed that in dark situations the red AF LED that lights up in the view finder tends to be the one closest to the spot of the AF beam. Which makes sense since that area is the best lit. I just did a test with my k-5 in a dark room with the target centered in view finder using 11 point AF. The camera locked focus on the background 4 - 8" behind the target on almost every shot, exactly in the center of the AF assist beam.

Not sure if you were using multi-point or center-point focus, but you might want to test this and see if you get similar results.
I tried this with my K-5 and got the same result.
08-12-2012, 12:12 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rupert Quote
Am I asking too much...doing something wrong...or is this normal operation on a DSLR?

I have been shooting Raccoons on my back deck for a couple of weeks, and have alternated between the K5 and my Fuji X10 in shooting them. I have a tungsten light on the rear deck that is motion activated, and it goes off after 5 minutes, often leaving me in total darkness within a few feet of the Raccoons. When this happens, I can't even make out their outline, and with the Fuji, if I half press the shutter the green assist lights up (every time) and I can see if the pose is worth a full press of the shutter. If not, I wait a few seconds and try again. When I do fire the shutter, the focus is almost always well within the decent to very good range, using the built in flash. .

The K5 is a hit and miss at activating the focus beam, sometimes yes, most of the time no....and the darkness is identical every time. When it does light up, an I fire the shutter almost 100% of the shots are very out of focus, even with a 1.4 lens at 1.4 or 2.8 or 4.0 using the built in flash. In fact, I haven't been able to get one decent shot under these conditions with the K5.

Now I''m not complaining, I did not buy the K5 to shoot black cats in a coal mine, and it is a fabulous camera in almost every regard. However, I would expect a flagship DSLR to perform as well as a small Toy Camera?

If there is some way to force the assist light to light up every time it is needed, I haven't found it? However, even when it does, the results seem to be unusable? Any comments on this or is it just par for the K5 in this situation?

Here is a X10 shot I shot tonight in Total Darkness...couldn't even see my hand in front of my face. I shot several, and all were as good or better than this one for focus.
[/url] [/IMG]


Again...I'm not bitching, the K5 is superb.....if I am doing something wrong, or even if I'm not, the K5 is the best camera I have ever owned and a joy to use. Not a lot of people shoot Raccoons in total darkness, I realize this...I'm not out of touch with reality!

Regards!
Yes, I too have found the body assist light to be inconsistent and not that useful, It isn't bright enough, gets partially blocked by certain lenses, and has no stripe pattern to create contrast for the AF to lock on to.

Just use the hotshoe mounted AF540 in SB mode. It seems to be far more consistent, projects a centered and much more useful beam with striping.

I can shoot in complete darkness and get good focus using the 540 SB.

Ray
08-12-2012, 06:49 PM   #7
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I almost posted my raccoon shot as a response, but it is of my wife skinning one, and figured it would just get moderated. Lots of detail in it... good Leica lens.
(By the way - it just crawled up next to our house and died last winter.)
A few years back we rescued a small one out of our pool, while the rest of the litter looked on from the tree overhead. Maybe I can find that shot instead.
OK - these don't relate to the nightime issues, but to show we aren't really ogres:
Name:  Lifeguard Duty.jpg
Views: 1100
Size:  90.2 KB
Name:  Is he OK.jpg
Views: 880
Size:  161.9 KB

Last edited by TomB_tx; 08-12-2012 at 07:09 PM.
08-12-2012, 07:09 PM   #8
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Rupert try aiming a small but bright flash light by the side of the camera in the general direction you want to focus in. The camera's AF will follow it and you might find it will help. Night shooting trick one of my teachers taught me. I keep a bright LCD one in my kit. When I can't quite see my subject outside at night but I know generally where it is I try that. It won't actually light the racoons much but it will sometimes help the camera sensor locate the direction you want to go and focus a bit better sometimes.

08-14-2012, 11:12 PM   #9
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Pentax does seem to have a problem with AF assist light.
They seem to have some sort of reluctance to use the AF assist light, as if using it is an insult to the AF 'prowess' of Pentax cameras.
This is not only in the K5, but in the Q as well.
Sort of like the AF system is saying to the AF assist light "I have everything under control.... just leave it to me..... hmm... let me try this again"

Even lowly HP cameras or cheap pns just keep screaming "AF assist! Help me!... help me!" and such cameras constantly have the AF assist light turn on in many situations to help in the AF.
The result of this can be quite embarrassing to the Pentax user, who finds that Tommy boy's handphone camera managed to AF and snap a photo at baby Amy's birthday barbecue at night, while Uncle Tim is left cursing at his Pentax.
Not that Pentax AF was poor, but due to this stoic denial that the AF light needs to be turned on.

I simply have no idea why Pentax can't have it as an option in the menu as :

AF assist lamp :
a) Always on (in all situations)
b) ON (operates as is now)
c) OFF



rant over....
08-15-2012, 04:37 AM   #10
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I find the same thing when using the OVF, the AF light only flashes and rarely stays on long when in total darkness, in Low light it seems fine and stays on as long as focus takes, must be a software glitch, and as you say diss-appointing, but......If you are in total darkness (or near to it), use Live View, I find the AF light stays on the entire time and the focus is perfect. This also works the same on my K-7
08-18-2012, 02:44 PM   #11
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As others have said the P&S will be way better at this than a big sensor camera.

If you really want to use the DSLR use the kit lens at 18mm and f5.6. Everything from 3 meters on will be in focus.

My suggestion, leave the DSLR at home when going for black cats in coal mines.
08-18-2012, 06:48 PM   #12
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I agree that the Pentax assist light is virtually worthless. I just use the X10 when I know I need an assist light, it is always on and always bright.
Last night in total darkness...
[IMG] [/IMG]

Doesn't render the K5 a bad camera by any means, just bad in this type of situation, which is also not a common situation. I do like the idea of having options for the assist light in the menu, Pentax should implement that.

Regards!
08-20-2012, 03:50 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by pinholecam Quote

I simply have no idea why Pentax can't have it as an option in the menu as :

AF assist lamp :
a) Always on (in all situations)
b) ON (operates as is now)
c) OFF

rant over....
Even better

AF assist lamp :
a) On @iso XXXX
b) Auto (operates as is now)
c) OFF

Pentax's AF illumination algorithm is a complete mystery to me, why it doesn't come on when the AF is obviously failing I don't know.
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