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03-15-2014, 12:49 PM   #1
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Need some Focus Pocus

Let me start by saying a couple of things. I'm a former SLR film photographer (so I know about Depth of field, I.S.O.'s and the like). I love my new Pentax K-50, lots of features and it looks awesome. BUT.....

I must be missing something. I brought my k-50 to my daughter's band concert last night, and the pictures were pretty blah! Now, I know that the lighting was pretty bad & the color lights didn't help, not to mention that the high ISO wouldn't produce nice photos (grain-wise) etc..., but it put me kind of down & sad about the camera's overall photo quality.

I had before this a point & shoot Canon, that even in those conditions produced some fairly nice photos (for a point & shoot). I was using the Pentax K-50 camera in Manual focus (I'm pretty good with that & other things), and I brought my Pentax 50mm f2.0 "m" lens with a Vivitar 2.0x tele-converter. I took those because I figured even with the converter it's at f4.0, and is supposedly better quality than the 18-55mm Kit lens that the camera came with. I was disappointed. Maybe my skills are a bit rusty, however I retained all of my former photo experience I gained in the past, but I couldn't get excited about my photos. Can you fine people offer me some advice on anything I may be missing in this new DSLR world's features? I have to be missing something. Even in daylight I find my photos are NOT that sharp (focus-wise). I did the auto-focus fine adjustment thing and all that. I read the book and set my camera to what I thought would be ideal, but yet I see some photos on this forum where the focus is WOW...sharp & nice.

Any advice would help greatly...please remember I'm not a beginner in the world of photography, but I'm not a pro.

Thanks,

...Bert

03-15-2014, 01:29 PM   #2
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Manual focus is not easy on standard dSLRs. I've found that one can not rely on the focus confirmation of the camera as it covers a range. With practice you might be able to find the right spot. I try to use DOF to compensate for that.

Have you considered / used focus peaking? I can't judge how effective it is as my cameras don't have that functionality.

You can replace the viewfinder screen by a split prism one (I use them). Alternatively I use live view and magnify.

.
03-15-2014, 02:04 PM   #3
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Unfortunately, accurate focus is not something that generally comes 'out of the box' when you buy a dslr. Lots of info on the forums about 'tuning' your camera.
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/120-general-technical-troubleshooting/252...mm-1-4f.html#8
03-15-2014, 02:05 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Bertminator Quote
the pictures were pretty blah! Now, I know that the lighting was pretty bad & the color lights didn't help, not to mention that the high ISO wouldn't produce nice photos (grain-wise) etc..., but it put me kind of down & sad about the camera's overall photo quality.
You don't mention which lens was used for this, if the kit lens then it is fairly slow and the ISO would need to be high to keep your shutter speed up. But you don't say what ISO, 800 should be no problem, 1600 should be fine above that you will need to shoot in RAW and add de-noising to improve. Without examples (and EXIF) it is hard to really offer an opinion, but I can say that low light concert is very difficult and not something I would suggest you learn on until you understand your camera.

I understand you have some experience, and some film things transfer over to digital, other things don't. There is a significant learning curve and expecting your film skills to automatically transfer might be leaving you thinking you can run before you walk. You need to start with the basics, learn to get good images in good situations, good light static subjects. When you can do that move on to more difficult subjects.

QuoteOriginally posted by Bertminator Quote
Pentax 50mm f2.0 "m" lens with a Vivitar 2.0x tele-converter. I took those because I figured even with the converter it's at f4.0, and is supposedly better quality than the 18-55mm Kit lens that the camera came with.
I would sincerely doubt that an M 50mm f/2 with a 2x TC is going to be better than the kit lens. "Kit" lenses get a lot of bad press because they are often compared to far more expensive gear. The reality is that the Pentax kit lenses are quite good and very capable of good images. After all the M 50mm f/2 WAS the "kit" lens back in the day. Add a TC to it and you have severely degraded the possible IQ. Without the TC, maybe similar to the 18-55 but not with the TC on.

Manual focus on modern DSLRs is far more difficult than it was on film cameras for a number of reasons. The viewfinder and the focusing screen are designed for AF lenses not manual focus. Focus peaking, as noted above, can help but lots of practice is required.

If you want advice, put the kit lens on and start practicing. There is no added cost to shoot as with film and it is a great learning tool as you can try something and look at the results on the computer almost immediately. Your camera / lens is capable of excellent images so if you are struggling, post some examples and ask for a critique it might be something easily spotted.

03-15-2014, 02:08 PM   #5
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It is always fair to those making suggestions to post a photo and indicate what dissatisfies you about it.

As for noise/grain - the K-50 will trounce any film - ISO 3200 will look like 400 ASA film. Most film shooters are scared to bump the ISO up - but do it - applying noise reduction on RAW files can have excellent results. Even my Kr shot well to 3200/6400 ISO - and that is two generations of sensor behind your K50.

I default my camera to 80-6400 ISO range. In many cases, shooting at lower ISO's and risking slow shutters hurts sharpness and defeats the benefits gained with modern sensor technology. Using CIF for manual focus lenses works to make sure you actually hit focus. Make sure you have your SR set to an appropriate F/L (in the case of a 50mm prime + TC you would be setting for 100mm). And when shooting with this combo, look for the SR logo to make sure that it is active. Of course you will know adding a TC will diminish image quality too.

Finally, don't pixel peep. When you shot film, you would print 4x6 / 5x7 / and more rarely 8x10. In most cases when you Peep you are looking at the equivalent of say a 24x30 print just inches away - its not realistic.

Last edited by mattt; 03-16-2014 at 05:03 AM. Reason: Snipped photos.
03-15-2014, 02:17 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Bertminator Quote
Pentax 50mm f2.0 "m" lens with a Vivitar 2.0x tele-converter. I took those because I figured even with the converter it's at f4.0, and is supposedly better quality than the 18-55mm Kit lens that the camera came with.
No and no.

Firstly, that 2x teleconvertor is, well, trash. I've tried it on better lenses than the 50mm f2. It's optically bad, and it will make an average lens like the 50mm f2 darker and even more average. And I hope you weren't using any UV or protection filters on the 50mm f2 either, since they can kill image quallity on even the best lenses.

Secondly, the Pentax 18-55 kit lens is actually very decent. Look at any lens test for it. It's only 'failing' is that it's not faster. I'd use the 18-55 kit lens any day instead of the horrible lens combination you put together with that 2x teleconvertor and the M 50 f2. Use the 18-55 kit with a hood, don't use garbage UV filters on it, shoot with good technique, and everything should be fine.
03-15-2014, 04:41 PM   #7
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I have used that combo: M50/2, Vivitar MC 2X TC with my K-50. I can get sharp focus with it, but the colors are muted and contrast is poor. And that's in bright sunlight. Indoors under colored lights at probably 12 feet away, I bet you're a better photographer than your photos are showing you. The 18-55 isn't a prime, but neither is your 50mm on the Vivitar TC.
03-15-2014, 04:52 PM   #8
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@Bertminator, the previous posts are excellent advice. With current digital cameras, you are typically better to crop an image than resort to teleconverters.

Back in my film days I grudgingly used a TC only when I HAD to because I mostly shot slide film, which is often the FINAL image... and even if I shot negative film, if processed and printed by a lab, cropping wasn't an option. With digital, cropping is at your fingertips using darn near any image software. With few exceptions, cropping has far less negative impact on image quality than adding any additional glass surfaces.

Something you might also want to consider is shooting RAW (or RAW+ where both jpg and RAW files are saved). Shooting RAW does require post processing on a computer and is the digital equivalent of running a custom darkroom. You can manipulate jpg images, but your capabilities are much broader when you work with RAW images.

03-15-2014, 06:34 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Bertminator Quote
Let me start by saying a couple of things. I'm a former SLR film photographer (so I know about Depth of field, I.S.O.'s and the like). I love my new Pentax K-50, lots of features and it looks awesome. BUT.....

I must be missing something. I brought my k-50 to my daughter's band concert last night, and the pictures were pretty blah! Now, I know that the lighting was pretty bad & the color lights didn't help, not to mention that the high ISO wouldn't produce nice photos (grain-wise) etc..., but it put me kind of down & sad about the camera's overall photo quality.

I had before this a point & shoot Canon, that even in those conditions produced some fairly nice photos (for a point & shoot). I was using the Pentax K-50 camera in Manual focus (I'm pretty good with that & other things), and I brought my Pentax 50mm f2.0 "m" lens with a Vivitar 2.0x tele-converter. I took those because I figured even with the converter it's at f4.0, and is supposedly better quality than the 18-55mm Kit lens that the camera came with. I was disappointed. Maybe my skills are a bit rusty, however I retained all of my former photo experience I gained in the past, but I couldn't get excited about my photos. Can you fine people offer me some advice on anything I may be missing in this new DSLR world's features? I have to be missing something. Even in daylight I find my photos are NOT that sharp (focus-wise). I did the auto-focus fine adjustment thing and all that. I read the book and set my camera to what I thought would be ideal, but yet I see some photos on this forum where the focus is WOW...sharp & nice.

Any advice would help greatly...please remember I'm not a beginner in the world of photography, but I'm not a pro.

Thanks,

...Bert
It would be nice if you'd post a couple of Photo examples.

"Blah" is such a subjective term. What do you mean by that?

There are many adjustments you could make to change the initial appearance of the photograph.

Did you use the camera's Auto WB?

Did you use shake reduction?

What adjustments do you have set for noise reduction (ISO), sharpness, noise reduction (slow Shutter Speed)?

Without seeing a photo with the exif it's really difficult to make informed suggestions/recommendations.
03-15-2014, 08:38 PM   #10
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I shoot a lot of shows like what I think you are suggesting. Whatever lens you are shooting with test it in good light to see if it is front or rear focusing often the focus screen is not shimmed properly and you have to compensate mentally or send it for adjusting or shim it yourself if you can.

I always shoot in manual mode. here's my suggestions
get yourself a takumar 135mm 2.5 (bayonet) and shoot a couple shows with it to start its super cheap and very sharp at the apertures I suggest below:

raw,1/90s,f3.5-4,iso 1000-3200 no flash .... adobe Lightroom is awesome and can turn throwaways into keepers
Let the Lighting be what it is'..take some test shots before the show starts when they are doing sound check. set your camera to fast multiple shots and check them frequently.

These are in very bad lighting with that lens on a KX when I started shooting with the lens and I did not have a good post processing software.(used preview)







Last edited by Sliver-Surfer; 03-15-2014 at 09:10 PM.
03-15-2014, 09:28 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Bertminator Quote
Any advice would help greatly...please remember I'm not a beginner in the world of photography, but I'm not a pro.
I agree with the others about the TC. The extra glass is not an asset. If you want the wider aperture of the manual lens, just crop pictures to "zoom" size. As for focus, just estimate, set and forget. Increase ISO to get you the picture at the proper speed you want.
03-15-2014, 09:45 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by rawr Quote
No and no.

Firstly, that 2x teleconvertor is, well, trash. I've tried it on better lenses than the 50mm f2. It's optically bad, and it will make an average lens like the 50mm f2 darker and even more average. And I hope you weren't using any UV or protection filters on the 50mm f2 either, since they can kill image quallity on even the best lenses.

Secondly, the Pentax 18-55 kit lens is actually very decent. Look at any lens test for it. It's only 'failing' is that it's not faster. I'd use the 18-55 kit lens any day instead of the horrible lens combination you put together with that 2x teleconvertor and the M 50 f2. Use the 18-55 kit with a hood, don't use garbage UV filters on it, shoot with good technique, and everything should be fine.
I agree with you about the Vivitar 2x converter. I never found it to be outstanding, but after reading several posts about how much "garbage" the kit lenses are, I thought, perhaps the combination I used would be better. I tend to also agree with you that I should've just used the kit lens, and I believe I learned my lesson about that now. Question (s) for you. What is your opinion of the older "m" lenses? I have the pentax 50 mm f2.0, pentax 35mm f3.5 and a Pentax 80-200mm f 4.0. Are any of those worth my time using? I was also kicking around the idea of getting the 50-200mm WR lens from Pentax. It's $150.00 CDN, and I was wondering if it's any good?

...bert

---------- Post added 03-15-14 at 11:49 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by geru2000 Quote
It would be nice if you'd post a couple of Photo examples.

"Blah" is such a subjective term. What do you mean by that?

There are many adjustments you could make to change the initial appearance of the photograph.

Did you use the camera's Auto WB?

Did you use shake reduction?

What adjustments do you have set for noise reduction (ISO), sharpness, noise reduction (slow Shutter Speed)?

Without seeing a photo with the exif it's really difficult to make informed suggestions/recommendations.
God, I'm ashamed to show them they're so bad. Let me find one worth posting.

...Bert

---------- Post added 03-15-14 at 11:50 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by johnyates Quote
Unfortunately, accurate focus is not something that generally comes 'out of the box' when you buy a dslr. Lots of info on the forums about 'tuning' your camera.
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/120-general-technical-troubleshooting/252...mm-1-4f.html#8
I did this and it did help, Thanks.

...bert
03-15-2014, 09:56 PM   #13
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The 18-55 is great kit lens, the early examples may have had problems, the copy i got with K-01 is great little lens really surprised me the IQ and i was trying to get the 40mm XS with the K-01, but was out of stock. For what it is worth.
03-15-2014, 10:02 PM   #14
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what part of Canada are you in?
03-15-2014, 11:37 PM   #15
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In my experience, the M50/2 is soft wide-open, but is pretty sharp by f/8. That's f/16 on a 2x TC, which is going to be pretty useless for the type of shots you were taking. Soft indoor portraits, or outdoors in good light is where the M50/2 shines.
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