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12-11-2014, 11:01 PM   #1
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K-01 takes on a serious low-light problem

Out and about with my K-01 this evening. Day turns to night, rush hour, streams of brightly-lit diamonds and rubies on the highway. And I can see all the lights of the cars so clearly, against that night sky. But my camera cannot. Such low light levels, you just end up with streaks of white and red light, as the cars move along during the long exposure you need to get a picture.

But wait a minute, I thought tonight. This isn't film... I've got RAW! So maybe, just maybe... what if I use the fastest exposure I can get away with to freeze motion... like 1/200, wide open at f/2.4 and ISO 200? Click! Well, sure looked almost all black on the playback screen. But I've got RAW, result below...

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12-11-2014, 11:40 PM   #2
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The pic is not clear because of the bokeh of F2.4. You see the shallow DOF from 2.4, the first car is the sharpest. Also, 1/200 is not fast enough for a dark night with a moving road. I would up the shutter higher to at least 1/400 if you want to freeze the frame and increase the ISO a few stops to 1600. I like the pic though.
12-12-2014, 04:09 AM   #3
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So does that just happen to be the intersection (well the T) of Carmel Valley Road and North Torry Pines Road - old highway 1, with the Pacific Ocean coast, the slew/inlet in the background looking south towards La Jolla? Gee, the traffic was always bad, but that looks worse than I remember.

Actually, I had the same realization years ago with my old K100, which got me started with ambient low light photography in late evening/night..... your tripod becomes your friend....

Nice shot! for your first outing. Shots will get better with practice and realizing how to work with the night and the capabilities of the camera. You can also do a lot with some LightRoom...

12-12-2014, 04:54 AM   #4
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Curiosity: how many stops did you push it in post?
I don't know if it's just a prejudice of mine, but I would use ISO in camera up to the 1600 mark (pre the RAW-NR threshold), and only then underexpose on purpose to push it in post. Maybe it's just me.
Nice shot, anyway!

12-12-2014, 05:18 AM   #5
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Cool picture. It may not be technically perfect but I love the effect; very, very nice.
12-12-2014, 08:09 PM   #6
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Lets see... yes to above query, same intersection! But gets very crowded at evening rush hour, and sometimes on sunny beach days. Also in response to above... moved the Exposure slider in LR just about all the way to the right.
Went back tonight; changed lenses from the 35mm f/2.4 to an 18-55 WR (rainy day), zoomed to 26mm, f/6.3, 1/200, ISO 1600... as per your suggestions. But I think the ISO is too high... little speckles on the LR output JPG. And, surprisingly at only f/6.3, getting star diffraction on the car headlights... Painter of Light, here I come! Anyway, will try again Monday rush hour, back to the 35mm lens, and hold the ISO to 400. Thanks for your suggestions... photography is fun, and I love pushing the low-light envelope.
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12-13-2014, 05:28 AM   #7
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Good Morning,

There really isn't just one magical setting for night shots. It varies all over the place depending on what you want to accomplish and actually see as a result. Personally, I would go back out and just experiment with a wide variety of settings:
  • ISO - I would probably vary it between 100 (which I think is the lowest for the K-01) to maybe perhaps 800. That is a bit higher than the 400 you are thinking of, but half the 1600 you tried out. 100 will give you the best quality, but it will extend your shutter time out.
  • Aperture - Again, some experimentation here - especially with the quality of the depth of field that you may be able to capture. Even with f2.4 your depth of field is going to go out to infinity (see the DoF calculator). The resolution of the lens' peaks at f4, but f8 is real close. I would vary it across f2.4 to f8 and just see what you capture, what if any differences in the light star patterns, etc.
  • Shutter Speed - Playing around with something fast as you have to out to something like a 1/2 second - given that the cars are just pretty much sitting there. Also, just extending it out to a couple of seconds, ISO100 and the aperture stopped way down, could result in some nice head / tail light streams as the cars pass by.
Another idea which is not really a stretch since you are right on the beach is shooting down there at sunset all the way through blue hour to night. Especially with the clouds. The difference between your initial shot and the latest, take a look at the clouds. Plus down on the beach you have the lights from San Diego and La Jolla bouncing off them. The camera will pick up a lot that the eye never sees.

You also have a ton of targets of opportunity over there (don't get me started...), but at La Jolla down on the rocks with waves coming in. The various piers along the coast there - let alone just the beaches. The downtown shot across the bay from Coronado Island (the city park there). Then the yacht harbor there across the street from the Hotel Del (try keeping your shutter speed short, since the tide will bob the boats around). I also like the early morning down on Shelter Island - its quite there along the bay, but you get a lot of ship traffic coming in and going out. Just the harbor downtown with the visiting ships. I remember the Argentine square rigged training ship, was a really nice shot tied up down there - several years ago.

12-14-2014, 02:59 PM   #8
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Thanks Interested_Observer ... great advice. Though sadly to say, am ending my K-01 revival, as I left the On-Off switch on by mistake, and the battery ran down, and the camera got pretty warm. Didn't hurt it, but made me realize that the crappy on-off switch, so easy to move, could cost me some photos someday, oops, no battery.

So am switching to the K-5 IIs to continue this low-light test. Have given up believing I can capture those cars actually moving, without blurs. I wait just until the light turns green to give the illusion that they are moving through the intersection. Found that ISO 1600 can be controlled -- sort of -- with Lightroom's noise reduction... but will use ISO 800 tomorrow evening, at the next rush hour. Will probably take the picture a little earlier, too.

Lenses? Looked them up as per your suggestion... the f/2.4 35mm is sharpest at f/4... the 16-45mm sharpest at f/5.6... and, in the rain, the 18-55mm WR is sharpest at f/8, all through the zoom range.

Stay tuned!

12-14-2014, 06:26 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by jon404 Quote
nding my K-01 revival, as I left the On-Off switch on by mistake, and the battery ran down,
Hi, Jon
That seems wrong as I routinely leave my K-01 switch in the ON position. It goes to sleep until the next half press of the button. The battery lasts more than 1 month like this.

That said,

I have had no success using the K-01 on ISO 3200
The .dng is just sharp enough considering the old zoom lens and my ability to focus it, but really noisy:
(Uploaded as tiff to allow viewing)
https://app.box.com/s/pcjd4thev70mgtyenwv0

The camera .jpg reduces the noise somewhat, but greatly blunts the sharpness in doing so:
https://app.box.com/s/cboz9ny4kqcr8ohm3sv1

The relevant exif data:

[prxxx@localhost XXXSchoolConcert]$ A='*57.dng' ;exiftool $A |grep 'ISO' ;exiftool $A |grep 'Exposure Time'
ISO : 3200
High ISO Noise Reduction : Unknown (255 2)
ISO Floor : 6
AE ISO : 579262
Exposure Time : 1/250
AE Exposure Time : 0.6
AE Min Exposure Time : 1.5

(With no other test photos to illustrate my post, I blocked downloads and will take these links of the school concert down soon.)
12-14-2014, 09:10 PM   #10
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Thanks Wombat -- I probably turned off the Auto-Off setting, will check.

ISO 3200 ... IMHO, you're way over the top. I think all the camera-maker ISO-performance claims are based on bright sunny-day images, not the low-light stuff we're doing here. In the dark, try not to go over ISO 800. For that indoor concert, I'd recommend that you get an inexpensive Pentax DA 50mm f1.8 lens... or an inexpensive older Pentax-A f/1.4 50mm lens (manual focus)... and then also get Adobe Lightroom. Shoot RAW, always a little overexposed, like 1 stop over if you can. This will pack more photons into the shadow areas, and you can always bring that overexposure back to 'normal' in LR... while using the Highlights and Shadows controls to get it the way you want... and the Clarity control, too. LR also has a very good Noise Reduction control -- but don't overuse it -- always leave a little bit of noise to keep the picture looking realistic, not too smoothed out.

If all else fails, give the teacher $20 to move all the kids and their gear outside, concerto al fresco! Oops, forget that, just looked, you're in Michigan... anyway, good luck! When's the next concert?
12-14-2014, 10:39 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by interested_observer Quote
Good Morning,

There really isn't just one magical setting for night shots. It varies all over the place depending on what you want to accomplish and actually see as a result. Personally, I would go back out and just experiment with a wide variety of settings:
  • ISO - I would probably vary it between 100 (which I think is the lowest for the K-01) to maybe perhaps 800. That is a bit higher than the 400 you are thinking of, but half the 1600 you tried out. 100 will give you the best quality, but it will extend your shutter time out.
  • Aperture - Again, some experimentation here - especially with the quality of the depth of field that you may be able to capture. Even with f2.4 your depth of field is going to go out to infinity (see the DoF calculator). The resolution of the lens' peaks at f4, but f8 is real close. I would vary it across f2.4 to f8 and just see what you capture, what if any differences in the light star patterns, etc.
  • Shutter Speed - Playing around with something fast as you have to out to something like a 1/2 second - given that the cars are just pretty much sitting there. Also, just extending it out to a couple of seconds, ISO100 and the aperture stopped way down, could result in some nice head / tail light streams as the cars pass by.
Another idea which is not really a stretch since you are right on the beach is shooting down there at sunset all the way through blue hour to night. Especially with the clouds. The difference between your initial shot and the latest, take a look at the clouds. Plus down on the beach you have the lights from San Diego and La Jolla bouncing off them. The camera will pick up a lot that the eye never sees.

You also have a ton of targets of opportunity over there (don't get me started...), but at La Jolla down on the rocks with waves coming in. The various piers along the coast there - let alone just the beaches. The downtown shot across the bay from Coronado Island (the city park there). Then the yacht harbor there across the street from the Hotel Del (try keeping your shutter speed short, since the tide will bob the boats around). I also like the early morning down on Shelter Island - its quite there along the bay, but you get a lot of ship traffic coming in and going out. Just the harbor downtown with the visiting ships. I remember the Argentine square rigged training ship, was a really nice shot tied up down there - several years ago.

@Interested_Observer ... we might have seen the same square-rigger tied up in san Diego harbor, or maybe not... pix below, from 11/2/2013, show a Colombian training ship... early AM, had just dropped off a relative at the airport, with a small Sony camera in my shirt pocket... sorry, no Pentax for this one. Bet we're a prime stopover place for these ships... US Navy hospitality, dances, food, not so bad!
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12-15-2014, 12:16 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by jon404 Quote
ISO 3200 ... IMHO, you're way over the top. I think all the camera-maker ISO-performance claims are based on bright sunny-day images, not the low-light stuff we're doing here. In the dark, try not to go over ISO 800.
Disagree, Jon. I can get quite usable images at 3200 in very low light with the K-01, honest!
With the K-50 I can shoot in even lower light where I can barely see detail myself and damn the AF still snaps in. I've even shot at ISO 6400 and got usable photos easily.
Shot as RAW, pulled into LR5, enter +25 on the Luminance NR slider and I'm good to go.

Hot off the press samples just for this post to prove to myself that I'm not recalling a dream!
(Sorry, not very interesting photos, but it's the darkest room on the house - the laundry)

K-01 iso 3200
https://www.flickr.com/photos/sledger/16024001811/
K-50 iso 6400
https://www.flickr.com/photos/sledger/15840200957/
Setup showing dark laundry.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/sledger/15406332243/

You can download the full size originals from Flikr.

Last edited by Steve.Ledger; 12-15-2014 at 12:25 AM.
12-15-2014, 12:48 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Steve.Ledger Quote
Disagree, Jon. I can get quite usable images at 3200 in very low light with the K-01, honest!
With the K-50 I can shoot in even lower light where I can barely see detail myself and damn the AF still snaps in. I've even shot at ISO 6400 and got usable photos easily.
Shot as RAW, pulled into LR5, enter +25 on the Luminance NR slider and I'm good to go.

Hot off the press samples just for this post to prove to myself that I'm not recalling a dream!
(Sorry, not very interesting photos, but it's the darkest room on the house - the laundry)

K-01 iso 3200
https://www.flickr.com/photos/sledger/16024001811/
K-50 iso 6400
https://www.flickr.com/photos/sledger/15840200957/
Setup showing dark laundry.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/sledger/15406332243/

You can download the full size originals from Flikr.
I'll try that, tomorrow evening at rush hour... your ISO 3200 pictures look just fine...

EDIT -- just tried it under dim interior lighting... same results as yours. I guess I'm just pushing it too far, trying to freeze those headlights in the dark... can't have it all, a fast shutter speed and a deep DOF and a low ISO. We'll see. Have an old manual 50mm f/1.4 lens which I'll use tomorrow; that might help.

Last edited by jon404; 12-15-2014 at 01:14 AM.
12-15-2014, 08:38 PM   #14
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OK! Figured it out. That first try, with a high shutter speed, resulted in a very dark image, hard to bring back. So tonight I went back a little earlier, when there was more light than before, but just dark enough for the cars to have to turn on their headlights. And, I cheated. Took the picture just when the light turned green, which gives the impression that the cars are moving through that intersection. Pentax K-5 IIs with an old Pentax-A 50mm f/1.4 manual -focus lens, on Av, 1/30 sec, f/6.3 for reasonable DOF, and ISO 800... gave the first image below. Focus point was the small red van in the row of cars.

Then, in Lightroom, a little cropping... and these changed settings --
Exposure, -1.55, Highlights, -67, Shadows, +48, Whites, +60, Clarity, +38, Vibrance, +42, Saturation, +2, Sharpening, 62, Noise Reduction > Luminance, 25. Result is the second image below, which I like... and here, we get into personal-preference time, since there are so many ways to mess with reality in LR!

Note -- realized when I got there that the bright f/1.4 lens aperture was meaningless for me... since I needed the deepest DOF possible to get all those little headlights sharp... stupid of me, any lens at all would work just fine for this. Also, used the K-5 IIs today, forgot to take the K-01, sorry. But they both take the same image, same size sensor, etc.

(@Interested -- see edit to above post; we might have seen the same sailing ship in San Diego...)
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Last edited by jon404; 12-15-2014 at 08:47 PM.
12-15-2014, 09:30 PM   #15
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Good Evening Jon,

I woke up this morning at oh dark hundred - way too early. Got a drink of water and decided to surf the web for a few minutes and saw your post. I was going to respond then, but I had another 2 hours until I really needed to get up - so going back to bed won out.

That could very well be the same ship, I need to go down to my other computer and dig out the images. It was however a few years earlier in 2008, when I was over there doing a lot of work for the Navy.

I like the shots. It looks like you are getting the hang of it, and with that understanding, your can work it any number of ways.

You have the "red trolly" over there. I tried somewhat of a similar shot - but wanting the motion...
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