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01-12-2014, 04:12 PM   #1
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K30/k50/k500 - focus assist on external flashes

Hi first post! I recently treat myself to my first DSLR, a k500. I've had a couple of opportunities to play with the camera at a couple of family get togethers which have been fairly low light and I've been having a few auto focusing issues.

My set up is k500, Sigma 17-70mm (f2.8-4) and yongnuo 560ii.

One of the issues I have is that in theory the sigma lens should be a better lens than the kit for low light (faster aperture and faster focus motor) but what I'm finding is due to its size it blocks the on body focus assist light. I am considering looking into getting an external flash with a focus assist light built in to overcome this problem, however in doing my research I have come across many reports of issues in the older pentax k cameras not firing up the external focus assist. Do the k30/50/500 having any issues with external focus assist lights?( I'm thinking of going with metz or sigma flash)

01-12-2014, 04:23 PM - 1 Like   #2
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I have no issues with the K7/K5 focus assist in external flash. It works. Try switching off the on board focus assist lamp.

I use the DA*16-50/2.8 and the focus assist is still able to help in focusing.
01-12-2014, 05:02 PM   #3
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Which focus setup are you using? Try using center or single point.
01-12-2014, 06:33 PM - 1 Like   #4
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I know that Pentax DSLRs can use Pentax flashes for AF assist, but I don't know about third-party flashes.


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01-12-2014, 07:17 PM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by DanGleabols Quote
Do the k30/50/500 having any issues with external focus assist lights?( I'm thinking of going with metz or sigma flash)
I just checked my K-30 and a Metz 52 AF-1 flash. Don't have to change anything on the camera, but the Metz' AF assist light has to be turned on in options, and then the flash set to Spotbeam mode if you don't want the flash itself to fire. Putting the flash on the K-30 and turning it on is enough to deactivate the green AF assist light on the camera. The flash's AF light is red, so I can tell which one is being activated. The only issue for me was not realizing that if the AF assist light is turned off on the flash, but the flash is mounted and turned on, I don't get any AF assist light, and if there is too little light for the camera to focus, it won't release the shutter and fire the flash.
01-13-2014, 12:45 AM   #6
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Adam + RGlasel: Thanks guys! Looks like it works - just wanted to check before spending money!

Geru2000- that's actually one of the worse situations- to have more control I tried using center point but it really struggled. I can see the shadow of the lens covers the whole left and center area of the autofocus points. Though you might be on to something with single point... I could select a point on the right hand side that's in the light and use that like center point focusing. The only issue is that the point selection takes over the direction pad and I seem to lose one button access to ISO levels - but it's worth giving it a go! Thanks
01-13-2014, 02:13 AM   #7
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My issue, on the contrary, is switching this AF assist off on my Metz 58 AF-2 coupled with Pentax K-3.
When I had Pentax K-5 IIs, I switched off the camera's AF assist and the flaflight's AF assist, everything was fine. Then I sold the camera and baought Pentax K-3. I put on the Metz with the same settings and now the flashlight's AF assist is always on (when it's rather dark). Now I can't even find a menu option to switch the AF assist off, the menu item is missing.
01-13-2014, 06:58 AM   #8
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In September I attended a Lancaster night run. My K30 would not auto focus so I had to manually focus which ended up with a lot of soft images! My K200 worked fine! I had my 540flash with me but didn't think to use SB mode, I wish I had though.

Tuggie76

01-13-2014, 10:17 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by skyer Quote
My issue, on the contrary, is switching this AF assist off on my Metz 58 AF-2 coupled with Pentax K-3.
When I had Pentax K-5 IIs, I switched off the camera's AF assist and the flaflight's AF assist, everything was fine. Then I sold the camera and baought Pentax K-3. I put on the Metz with the same settings and now the flashlight's AF assist is always on (when it's rather dark). Now I can't even find a menu option to switch the AF assist off, the menu item is missing.
On my K-3 it is the third item in the first menu.
01-13-2014, 11:54 AM   #10
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Funnily enough I had my K-30 already to hand with an old type Sigma 17-70 lens and a Sigma EF-610 DG Super already mounted so I just took a dozen or so snaps indoors at about 4ft and 12ft distance in the pitch dark. AF took about 1.5 seconds with 3 definite lens movements every time and focus was spot on. The Sigma has vertical red stripes for its assist light so you can actually focus on featureless contrastless things like walls unlike with the K-30 assist light.
01-13-2014, 12:48 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by lister6520 Quote
On my K-3 it is the third item in the first menu.
The K-3's AF assist is switched off of course. I'm talking about the flashlight's AF assist here.
01-13-2014, 09:22 PM   #12
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I seem to recall something in the latest firmware 1.05 about added support AF assist light,, but that may have been referring to the camera AFA light.
01-14-2014, 06:24 AM   #13
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[Thanks once again everybody; I think it's cleared that the k30/k50/k500 do work the focus assist lights on flashes!

QuoteQuote:
The Sigma has vertical red stripes for its assist light so you can actually focus on featureless contrastless things like walls
That sounds a really useful feature... how is the compatibility with the other features of the k30 (p-ttl and HSS)?

QuoteQuote:
I just checked my K-30 and a Metz 52 AF-1 flash. Don't have to change anything on the camera, but the Metz' AF assist light has to be turned on in options, and then the flash set to Spotbeam mode if you don't want the flash itself to fire.
That sounds another pretty cool option!

QuoteQuote:

My issue, on the contrary, is switching this AF assist off on my Metz 58 AF-2 coupled with Pentax K-3.
When I had Pentax K-5 IIs, I switched off the camera's AF assist and the flaflight's AF assist, everything was fine. Then I sold the camera and baought Pentax K-3. I put on the Metz with the same settings and now the flashlight's AF assist is always on (when it's rather dark). Now I can't even find a menu option to switch the AF assist off, the menu item is missing.
I'm not really qualified to comment on this but isn't the Metz firmware updateable via USB? I think the current firmware was release before the k-3 so maybe they'll release a future firmware update to fix it - it might be worth contacting them to see if they are aware of the issue. Having said that I would have though quirky behaviour of the flash (p-TTL/HSS not working or generally not doing what the flash or camera options say) would be indicative of compatibility issues rather than a menu option on the flash dissapearing.


I did want to quickly mention that I may have been unduely harsh on using the sigma lens and the k 500 focus assist light - a lot of the issue is also my inexperience. I had a go using the set up again in virtually pitch black settings and out of about 20 shots I had focus issues on 2. One of these issues was a failure to focus on anything on the first attempt (it managed it on the second attempt) and in the cameras defence it was a random shot of a wardrobe with very little for the camera to focus on (i.e. not really a shot you would aim for in the real world). The second the camera focused on the wrong thing but I had the aperture wide open and had a short DOF. In my experimenting/researching/learning; if that was a shot I only had one attempt at, I would never have set the DOF field so narrow and so I would have still made the shot!

Also my experiementing last night suggests that I was wrong that the lens blocks the focus assist lighting the central focus point - but it's pretty close. I was trying to use center point focusing but looking back I think the "focusing on the wrong thing" issue suggest I might have had it set on the automatic 5 point setting.
01-14-2014, 11:18 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by skyer Quote
The K-3's AF assist is switched off of course. I'm talking about the flashlight's AF assist here.
Ok I see what you mean. However that option should turn off the focus assist light on the flash as well. There was never such an option on the flash itself. The only related option on the flash is the 'SB' mode but what it does is to disable the actual flash so you can use only the spot beam for focusing and then shoot without flash. You would probably want to do that because the focus light on the flash is more powerful and lets you focus further.

I would have sworn that the AF assist light option on the camera did turn off the light on the flash as well but I've just tried it and to my surprise it still lit up. The same on the K-30. Could it have perhaps worked properly on previous firmwares?

There are only two ways I can think of that work to disable the light. One is to set the focus to AF.C, as in AF.C the focus light does not turn on (even on the flash) or else just stick a piece of adhesive tape over the light.

In my book this behaviour can only be called a bug, hopefully something they will fix in some firmware update.
01-14-2014, 11:29 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by DanGleabols Quote
[Thanks once again everybody; I think it's cleared that the k30/k50/k500 do work the focus assist lights on flashes!
....
I'm not really qualified to comment on this but isn't the Metz firmware updateable via USB? I think the current firmware was release before the k-3 so maybe they'll release a future firmware update to fix it - it might be worth contacting them to see if they are aware of the issue. Having said that I would have though quirky behaviour of the flash (p-TTL/HSS not working or generally not doing what the flash or camera options say) would be indicative of compatibility issues rather than a menu option on the flash dissapearing.

...
As far as I can tell everything works fine with the 58 AF-2 and the K-3 except for this focus light issue (The fact that it cannot be switched off). However I'm quite sure the issue is with the camera and not the flash. The same issue occurs even with the K-30. I say this because it is the camera that sends a command to the flash to turn on the AF assist light - it is not something the flash decides to do based on some criteria or other. So if the light is turning on it is only because the camera is telling it to do so - it cannot just turn it on of its own accord.

The 58 AF-2 had needed an update to work with the K-30 as some things didn't work correctly, in particular the HSS mode did not work at all. However from the K-30 to the K-3 nothing seems to have gone wrong

Still I'm curious to know how a Pentax flash behaves. I'm pretty sure it does the same but would love to hear from someone trying it out to see what it actually does.
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