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05-10-2013, 07:56 AM   #1
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Is K5 Low Light AF Really that "Bad?"

I've been reading the forums a lot and the many posts re the attributes of the K5s, K30 and so on and have to ask, is the K5 auto focus really that bad for the average shooter? I know that "bad" and "average" are very subjective and relative terms, but with the K5 and K30 both now pushing $500 for used and new (K30) I'm thinking about a K5. It will be a great jump from my K200D.

When it came out it was lauded for it's low light capability, now is taking heat for it, relative to the new cameras, but practically speaking for most I bet it's pretty good. No?

I know this question has been asked in many different ways, but I've never shot any of the K5s, or K30, and and thinking about jumping on one of the current used ones, or a current K30 deal.

Many thanks.

05-10-2013, 08:09 AM   #2
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Yes, it's pretty good. Especially if you enable the AF assist beam.

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05-10-2013, 08:11 AM   #3
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I think the K5 is pretty good in low light. A lot depends on the camera. Some people really had problems with weird focus issue in tungsten light, but I never really saw that with my cameras.
05-10-2013, 08:25 AM   #4
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It's bad in blu LED light, because there is no contrast.

05-10-2013, 08:38 AM   #5
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Ive read something about turning off SR will help the focus system in low light. Is this correct?
05-10-2013, 08:57 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Biff Quote
Is K5 Low Light AF Really that "Bad?"
No, it is actually quite extraordinary. Based on all the negative posts there must be situations where it performs poorly (where there is smoke there must be fire, right?) but I've never had any problems. So to answer your question for the average shooter it works pretty much flawlessly. If you work in weird light, dark pubs, or other extreme situations then I'm sure it won't work as well but it has always been very good for me.

However, I should point out I only use center point AF.S and many of the complaints are regarding AF.C which I tried once or twice and could never figure out what it was used for.

Last edited by jatrax; 05-10-2013 at 09:47 AM.
05-10-2013, 09:39 AM   #7
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That's what comes from spending too much time on t'Internet. There are people whose principal hobby seems to be moaning about the perceived inadequacies of their equipment rather than granting themselves the pleasure of enjoying it. So you read (repeatedly) that the K-5 can't focus in low light / tungsten light / is no good for sports / etc.

The reality is: it's fine. If you'd never used, say, a Canon 1DX and you picked up a K-5, half-pressed the shutter and got a focus beep in something like one fifth to one third of a second, you'd think it was perfectly acceptable. There are cameras out there that are better at autofocusing and I'm fairly sure there are plenty worse. You can improve things by using faster lenses, composing so that the focus point is over things with vertical / horizontal contrast and by enabling focus priority and pressing the shutter release firmly rather than half-pressing, waiting for focus and then pressing it all the way down.

The K-5 is an absolute bargain. Bummer for me, whose camera has depreciated by about 200 in a year, but great for you. Damn the naysayers and treat yourself, I say.
05-10-2013, 10:57 AM   #8
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My solution - I carry a hat light I bought at Wal-Mart for $8. It has an IR output array, so you don't see it, but there's light for the camera to focus. Works perfectly out to about 10 feet.(Past that, get this thing called a "Flashlight" or "Torch" if you're from the UK.)

If your subject doesn't mind being hit with bright light though, the built in assist lamp is perfect.


Last edited by Eulogy; 05-10-2013 at 11:03 AM.
05-10-2013, 01:18 PM   #9
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I have used a few times the K5 in very low light: light coming only from candles, a computer screen ... . I do not remember AF problems. The problem is that the pictures were usually crappy because the subject, or I, moved. Or because I do not like the noise of high iso.
I suppose that if you decide to shoot BIF with a very slow lens combo, you will better with the K5II in order to use AF.
05-10-2013, 01:32 PM   #10
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I can only compare my K5 to the K10D and the AF is noticeably better in all light IMO. The high ISO results between the two are huge. I have had usable shots with the K5 at ISO 12800. The noise was there but most could be cleaned up in PP.
05-10-2013, 01:45 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Biff Quote
it's low light capability, now is taking heat for it, relative to the new cameras, but practically speaking for most I bet it's pretty good. No?
The K-5 performs adequately in low-light. But note that it is not always the mere lack of illumination that may cause problems for camera AF - the bigger issue may sometimes be lack of subject contrast, or a host of other scene conditions. For example if you were shooting a black-and-white chessboard in very dark conditions, you may have a easier time with AF than if you were shooting a small white kitten in front of a grey wall under the same dim light.

I think if you are curious about how the K-5 performs in low-light, browse a thread like UnKnownVT's 'K-5 in Use' thread. He shoots extremely low-light with the K-5 all the time, for example, and extensively discusses his experience doing so.
05-10-2013, 02:24 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by top-quark Quote
That's what comes from spending too much time on t'Internet. There are people whose principal hobby seems to be moaning about the perceived inadequacies of their equipment rather than granting themselves the pleasure of enjoying it. So you read (repeatedly) that the K-5 can't focus in low light / tungsten light / is no good for sports / etc.

The reality is: it's fine.
I had a K-5 and that was fine in natural and fluorescent light, but showed severe front focus in tungsten light. Here's the proof vs. my K20D and K-x, which do not have a problem with tungsten AF: https://picasaweb.google.com/bonhommed/TungstenLightTest?authkey=Gv1sRgCLf74sWxotSUfA#

The store where I bought the K-5 had a restrictive return policy. I did not want to end up with a dud, so I sent the K-5 back, while I still could. I was never tempted to try another because there were too many reports of wonky AF.

Pentax says the K-30 has improved AF under coloured light and improved tracking vs. the K-5. The K-5 II/s has these improvements, and focusses reliably at -3EV vs. unreliable focus at -1EV for the K-5. I would buy either of those before a K-5.

Last edited by audiobomber; 05-10-2013 at 02:33 PM.
05-10-2013, 02:54 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Biff Quote
I've been reading the forums a lot and the many posts re the attributes of the K5s, K30 and so on and have to ask, is the K5 auto focus really that bad for the average shooter? I know that "bad" and "average" are very subjective and relative terms, but with the K5 and K30 both now pushing $500 for used and new (K30) I'm thinking about a K5. It will be a great jump from my K200D.

When it came out it was lauded for it's low light capability, now is taking heat for it, relative to the new cameras, but practically speaking for most I bet it's pretty good. No?

I know this question has been asked in many different ways, but I've never shot any of the K5s, or K30, and and thinking about jumping on one of the current used ones, or a current K30 deal.

Many thanks.
It all depends on what you're shooting. I have a K-5 that does noticable front focus in tungsten light. I've taken to dialing in a -10 focus adjustment when I'm shooting in tungsten light. If I don't, all my pictures will be somewhat soft because they are focusing in front of the target.

How important is this to you? Well, if you are shooting fast primes at close to minimum focusing distance, it's very important. One thing that bothers me is if a headshot I take does not have the eyes sharp. The focusing with the K-5 was so unpredictable that I've taken to shooting these shots with my K-01 instead. But again, I'm shooting a very narrow depth of field at a relatively close focusing distance. If you are shooting outdoors with natural light or wider apertures, you're not likely to have an issue.
05-10-2013, 03:15 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
I had a K-5 and that was fine in natural and fluorescent light, but showed severe front focus in tungsten light. Here's the proof vs. my K20D and K-x, which do not have a problem with tungsten AF: https://picasaweb.google.com/bonhommed/TungstenLightTest?authkey=Gv1sRgCLf74sWxotSUfA#
I've personally never had a problem, but I guess others have. Has it been addressed in a firmware update, maybe? Then again, I'm not even sure that I shoot in tungsten light. In the UK now you can only get eco-friendly bulbs (which I'm guessing are basically fluorescent), LEDs and halogen lights.
05-10-2013, 03:18 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by top-quark Quote
Then again, I'm not even sure that I shoot in tungsten light. In the UK now you can only get eco-friendly bulbs (which I'm guessing are basically fluorescent), LEDs and halogen lights.
They are doing a phased elimination in the US as well. No more 100watt at this time and I think 60watt go away next year or maybe it is later this year. I foresee a generation of photographers looking at the white balance settings on their camera wondering what the heck a 'tungsten' is......
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