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02-02-2013, 06:55 PM   #1
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K-5: Exposure Approaches

I just got myself a K-5 (the original model). I've been wanting one for a while. The $740 price is quite a steal for this camera, I think.

I'm interested in how to get the most out of its great sensor - both at the time of shooting, and later in Lightroom. Having spent the last few years shooting medium format film, I'm a little rusty with DSLRs (though I've owned a K-x, K20D, and K100D in the past). So I'd appreciate some tips ...

1) Pulling shadow detail for maximum DR. From reading others' posts, it seems there's a lot of extra shadow detail contained in the K-5 RAW files. A common approach to maximize DR seems to be shooting at the lowest ISO possible (80 preferably), underexposing a bit, and then bringing the shadows back in processing. Is that as simple as giving the RAW image more "Fill light" in Lightroom - or are there special tricks to this? Share your techniques

2) Taking good advantage of the high ISO. With the K-x, overexposing in-camera to about +1 EV was a good rule of thumb to get ISO 6400 files with little perceptible noise. Is that more or less the same on the K-5?

Thanks!


Last edited by Dubesor; 02-02-2013 at 07:01 PM.
02-02-2013, 07:13 PM   #2
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I find the best way for me is to use the lowest practical ISO, 80 or 100 if possible and expose as far to the right as you can. As long as you are not blowing them out you can do a better job of recovering detail in highlights than you can in the shadows. Not that the shadow detail is not there, but you will get more noise when you pull up shadows than you do lowering the highlights. What I do is up the exposure compensation until I just get a couple of 'blinkies' on the screen then back off 1/3 stop. I want everything bunched as far to the right on the histogram as I can get without losing any detail.

And you can run the ISO up to 800 with no noise issues if you expose properly. On the k-x I never went above 200. But my tolerance for noise is extremely low. YMMV

Also, "Fill Light" is a Lightroom 3 term and has gone away completely in LR4. If you are still using v3 I would suggest you seriously consider the upgrade, v4 works much better where expanding DR is concerned.
02-02-2013, 07:18 PM   #3
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QuoteQuote:
Also, "Fill Light" is a Lightroom 3 term and has gone away completely in LR4. If you are still using v3 I would suggest you seriously consider the upgrade, v4 works much better where expanding DR is concerned.
Can you fill me in? What is the new slider called in LR4? Or is there a whole other workflow?

And what's your approach for recovering detail in the highlights? I always found Lightroom's Recovery slider kind of meh (this is probably also renamed in LR4). Photoshop's Shadows/Highlights tool has been a little better, but not much.

(p.s. awful pun intended)

Last edited by Dubesor; 02-02-2013 at 07:25 PM.
02-02-2013, 07:51 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Dubesor Quote
Can you fill me in? What is the new slider called in LR4? Or is there a whole other workflow?
2 sliders, Highlights & Shadows....so pull back highlights and lift shadows

02-02-2013, 08:41 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Dubesor Quote
Can you fill me in? What is the new slider called in LR4? Or is there a whole other workflow? And what's your approach for recovering detail in the highlights?
Yeah, pretty a much a new workflow. But I think it is more intuitive. Start at the top: adjust WB first, then set the exposure where you want it, even if highlights blow out a bit, then lower highlights to bring back anything, if you can't then either drop exposure a bit or live with it, then pull up the shadows as needed. Blacks and Whites are there but I find I rarely use them anymore. Only if Highlights and Shadows are not enough. Noise reduction has improved to the point that I don't need any plug ins. But I rarely use high ISO so not sure how good it would be at say 6400.
02-03-2013, 02:17 AM   #6
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The best way to get great images to make them just right at the moment off clicking.

Done some repair with a K-01 shot, so the K-5 has even a little more in it:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=137974306364986&set=a.12403958775845...1091927&type=3
02-03-2013, 02:37 AM   #7
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This is based on my experience with the K-5 and LR3. I don't know if LR4 is different as regards what I describe below.

I know that common wisdom is to expose slightly to the right because it should be better to recover highlights than to lift shadows. I've read theoretical explanations of why as well (Jeff Schewe/Bruce Fraser: Real World Camera Raw has lots of this theory stuff and is generally an excellent practical guide to ACR=the development module in LR).

But in practice I've found it better to do the opposite, that is to expose slightly to the left if I have to choose. Why? Because I haven't found the theoretical problem of introducing noise in the shadows when lifting them to be a practical one. As long as you have decent light to begin with I've never had a problem with shadow noise when lifting exposure or using fill light. RAW files from the K-5 are outstanding when it comes to low noise.

On the other hand, I find that highlight recovery affects the tonality of the whole picture in a negative way, and above all that it often introduces horrible ugly colour casts that I can't get rid of. This is especially noticeable when you have blue sky in the picture, it gets a very weird tint.

All this goes for pictures in good to decent light. Night scenes for example would be a different thing, then noise will be a bigger problem.

So experimenting has led me to expose (slightly) to the left in demanding situations. Experimenting is easy to do with digital so why not try yourself? Take three shots of a motif with high dynamic range (with tripod), exposed for example at -1EV, 0EV and +1EV. Then adjust them all to your liking. Which works best for you?

Btw, there are other ways than fill light for recovering shadow detail. Experiment with blacks, lowering the value will give more shadow detail (it's a very powerful adjustment so small changes are called for). Same thing with lowering contrast. Of course lowering blacks or contrast will give less "punch" to the image but there's no free lunch. And try adjusting curves, parametric sliders are very useful. I learnt lots from the book I mentioned above (there are different editions for different versions of ACR).
02-03-2013, 04:35 AM   #8
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I always underexpose 1EV sometimes even 2EV. I use Corel PaintShop Pro X5 which has the advantage over LR to use layers.

02-03-2013, 04:43 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by pero Quote
But in practice I've found it better to do the opposite, that is to expose slightly to the left if I have to choose. Why? Because I haven't found the theoretical problem of introducing noise in the shadows when lifting them to be a practical one. As long as you have decent light to begin with I've never had a problem with shadow noise when lifting exposure or using fill light. RAW files from the K-5 are outstanding when it comes to low noise.

On the other hand, I find that highlight recovery affects the tonality of the whole picture in a negative way, and above all that it often introduces horrible ugly colour casts that I can't get rid of. This is especially noticeable when you have blue sky in the picture, it gets a very weird tint.
This makes sense to me intuitively. I've never managed to make corrected highlights look great, if they were blown at the time of the exposure. The detail hardly comes back in Lightroom, yet I've definitely seen the unsightly color casts and tonality issues you mention. This is based on my experience with earlier Pentax DSLRs, but it sounds like it's similar on the K5. Anyway, I'd be much happier if slight underexposure was the "textbook" approach instead of ETTR.

Any other people? Do you overexpose and correct highlights or underexpose and pull shadows?
02-03-2013, 05:19 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Dubesor Quote
This makes sense to me intuitively. I've never managed to make corrected highlights look great, if they were blown at the time of the exposure. The detail hardly comes back in Lightroom, yet I've definitely seen the unsightly color casts and tonality issues you mention. This is based on my experience with earlier Pentax DSLRs, but it sounds like it's similar on the K5. Anyway, I'd be much happier if slight underexposure was the "textbook" approach instead of ETTR.

Any other people? Do you overexpose and correct highlights or underexpose and pull shadows?
I definitely underexpose a bit, with the K5 the shadows can be pulled up a great deal without noise becoming obtrusive to my taste. I shoot a lot of steam locos, and the white exhaust can be a devil to capture without blowing. I actually find RawTherapee has very good highlight recovery options though it can't work miracles.
02-03-2013, 09:54 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Dubesor Quote
I've never managed to make corrected highlights look great, if they were blown at the time of the exposure.
No one has. Blown highlights are lost forever. The ETTR technique is about getting as much light as possible on to the sensor just short of blowing the highlights.

I agree that on the K-5 that noise in lifted shadows isn't really a problem.

I do like to see shadow detail in the shadow areas of my shots though. My inclination, when determining "correct" exposure is to look at both ends of the histogram. Ideally there'll be a gradual slope at each end. I give the least exposure possible that'll give me this.

If the the luminance range of the scene is excessive and I need to sacrifice one or the other, I will expose to preserve the highlights.
02-03-2013, 10:52 AM   #12
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I do a lot of swimming and diving photography in usually poor lighting, so I am stretching for every bit of shutter speed I can get. I have found that it's OK to be underexposed by 1-2 stops with the K-5. I correct it all in Lightroom using the techniques already mentioned.
02-03-2013, 10:55 AM   #13
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It really depends on what you are shooting. I find that blown low light as much as a problem as highlights, since I crop most of the time. Sure there is detail to bring out but it is noisy.

Most of the dial configurations let you have quick access to ev adjust. I wondered why but find tv with ev adjust works very well.
02-03-2013, 03:21 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by klh Quote
I do a lot of swimming and diving photography in usually poor lighting, so I am stretching for every bit of shutter speed I can get. I have found that it's OK to be underexposed by 1-2 stops with the K-5. I correct it all in Lightroom using the techniques already mentioned.
Are you dragging the '5 along when diving? If so, what UW housing are you using?

I'm - still - using a Oly 720 SW in an UW house for when diving, but I'd love to UG to something serious....
02-03-2013, 05:33 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by tclausen Quote
Are you dragging the '5 along when diving? If so, what UW housing are you using?

I'm - still - using a Oly 720 SW in an UW house for when diving, but I'd love to UG to something serious....

I should have explained better. I shoot high school kids swimming and diving competitions at a pool. For the most part, I and my K-5 stay dry.

Last edited by klh; 02-04-2013 at 06:24 PM.
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