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11-24-2016, 09:15 AM - 9 Likes   #1
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Pentax K-1 as a wedding camera!

While it certainly hasn't been mainstream at all, this year Pentax had a bit of buzz surrounding the release of a much-anticipated full-frame body. On paper, this body looked extraordinarily capable - and I had owned some Pentax gear in the past and was really impressed, but I thought it fell a bit short for professional use.

I finally justified buying one when I purchased my ticket to Burning Man this year. I needed a weather-sealed, beefy camera to brave the playa dust and after watching a guy just trash a couple Pentax bodies while deployed in Afghanistan and see them work just fine, I pulled the trigger.

The problem was, when I actually got the K-1 in hand, I loved it. I started using it for pro jobs right and left. The 77mm Limited was extraordinary for portraits, and I actually rather liked the 31mm as well. Their pro-level zooms were unwieldy, but got the job done. The AF was good, but not blazing fast.

But the files. Oh man, the files! They were as good as or better than my D810, and somehow smaller, and also natively DNG format for quicker importing. Check DxO - if this camera had a lower base ISO, it would be simply one of the best FF bodies out there right now.

So I wimped out. I bought an OM-D EM-1 kit to take to The Burn, which performed spectacularly. (you can check my Instagram for shots from The Playa if you're interested - my Insta handle is at the end of this post) I decided to get the Pentax system a "real" shot. Purchased even more kit, two of Pentax's newest flashes, a couple more lenses. Then finally, a backup body. The K-1 hadn't left me wanting for much in the professional realm, but this was mostly with slow-moving commercial/studio work, and on-location portrait stuff. I was apprehensive at using it at a wedding, but enthusiastic at the same time. I upgrade the firmware in both bodies, customized to my liking....

...and packed my bags for Mexico. This wedding in particular was on location in Playa Mujeres, Cancun. I was slated to shoot a boat trip, candids and lifestyle around the resort we were staying in, and the ceremony/reception itself.



Apologies for the random assortment of photos, but wanted to have a spectrum of different shots to display here. This is what I found about the camera.





In high dynamic range situations, this camera just crushes it. It's so easy to recover shadows (and even highlights, to an extent) and the files don't bog down my MacBook Pro like a D810 file would. I don't know why, but that's the case. On the boat, the camera was particularly awesome in broad daylight with harsh direct sunlight. However, I found myself being frustrated with the AF system, even early on the first day. It just wasn't intuitive, and didn't catch focus very quickly. Another frustration was the camera would enter "standby mode" periodically (I had it set to the longest possible delay going to sleep) and when it woke up, it would take a considerable amount of time. In a fast moving situation, this was just unacceptable and beyond annoying.





In a dark(er) hotel room, I tried my hand at using the DA* 55mm f/1.4 that I'd grown rather fond of for portraits. (I also adore the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G so this was a no-brainer to acquire). The 55mm was essentially worthless in low light. It'd hunt, miss focus, and was just too cumbersome to use. The Limited glass (31mm and 77mm) were indispensable in these situations. However, I began to notice a major annoyance that didn't strike me in slower-paced situations - even though the Limited glass is beautiful in rendering, relatively quick to focus, and all around gorgeous in general - it is 20-30 year old tech and uses the camera's screw-drive mechanism. This is infuriating when shooting quickly on-the-fly with the grip, because occasionally your hand will be against the barrel of the lens and will either hinder the AF itself or tweak the camera in your hands when you activate AF. I became excruciatingly aware of how bothersome this was early on in the wedding day.







The wedding was on the beach that day, with the sun low in the sky - forgiving shadows and beautiful tones. I was excited to be able to dual-wield two K-1's and really capture every moment as it happened.



It's a good thing I had two cameras. The K-1s proved to be subpar in their buffer size and frame rate - to the point of sheer frustration. With fast UHS-1 memory cards, writing was still slow and I'd get 4 frames before the camera locked up and wouldn't take a photo. There were one or two occasions with posed wedding guests that were just straight-up embarrassing as I switched bodies or fiddled with the camera. I blame myself here for not really exploring this prior. I guess I've just been spoiled by Nikon.



The reception continued to be frustrating, as the only lenses that seemed somewhat reliable again were the Limiteds - 31/77mm. The TTL flash performance was also strange, every 30-40 frames I'd get a totally blown out frame when the flash dumped all its power for no apparent reason. I fumbled through the reception and got decent content, but it wasn't effortless like it was with a Nikon system.





In conclusion, (and also before you rip me a new one ) I'm dubious to recommend the K-1 for real wedding work. This was a relatively low-pressure wedding, and I'm not by trade a wedding photographer (I shoot perhaps 3-5 a year for the last half dozen years) so please take what I say with a grain of salt.





That said, it is a beautiful system that really would excel in many categories. The weathersealed body instills confidence every time you pick it up, it makes the D750 feel like a toy. The level of customization is absolutely fantastic. The dedicated dial is a godsend, especially since you can assign them on the fly. There were a few occasions where the Shake Reduction allowed me to shoot still scenes at an ISO that was just ridiculous given the light, shutter speeds of less than 1/30 of a second with sharp files (at 36mp!)

While I couldn't sing the praises of the Pentax system to anyone who, I'm not sure I'd ever count on it again for fast-paced, gotta-get-the-shot situations. I hope that this is helpful or at least amusing to anyone interested in the system.

This was my kit:

Pentax K-1 with D-BG6 (x2)
Pentax AF 360 FGZ II (x2)
Pentax 31mm f/1.8 Limited
Pentax 77mm f/1.8 Limited
Pentax DA* 55mm f/1.4
Pentax DA* 200mm f/2.8
Pentax D-FA 24-70mm f/2.8 WR
Pentax D-FA 28-105mm f/3.5-5.6 WR
Rokinon 24mm f/3.5 Tilt-Shift

Please feel free to fire me any questions you have an know that although I may seem critical, just wanted to be transparent with how everything performed.

If you'd like to follow my work or support me, I post to instagram regularly with updates on gear and travels: @kevinmsutton

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Last edited by opianstate; 11-24-2016 at 05:49 PM.
11-24-2016, 09:41 AM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by opianstate Quote
While it certainly hasn't been mainstream at all, this year Pentax had a bit of buzz surrounding the release of a much-anticipated full-frame body. On paper, this body looked extraordinarily capable - and I had owned some Pentax gear in the past and was really impressed, but I thought it fell a bit short for professional use.

I finally justified buying one when I purchased my ticket to Burning Man this year. I needed a weather-sealed, beefy camera to brave the playa dust and after watching a guy just trash a couple Pentax bodies while deployed in Afghanistan and see them work just fine, I pulled the trigger.

The problem was, when I actually got the K-1 in hand, I loved it. I started using it for pro jobs right and left. The 77mm Limited was extraordinary for portraits, and I actually rather liked the 31mm as well. Their pro-level zooms were unwieldy, but got the job done. The AF was good, but not blazing fast.

But the files. Oh man, the files! They were as good as or better than my D810, and somehow smaller, and also natively DNG format for quicker importing. Check DxO - if this camera had a lower base ISO, it would be simply one of the best FF bodies out there right now.

So I wimped out. I bought an OM-D EM-1 kit to take to The Burn, which performed spectacularly. (you can check my Instagram for shots from The Playa if you're interested - my Insta handle is at the end of this post) I decided to get the Pentax system a "real" shot. Purchased even more kit, two of Pentax's newest flashes, a couple more lenses. Then finally, a backup body. The K-1 hadn't left me wanting for much in the professional realm, but this was mostly with slow-moving commercial/studio work, and on-location portrait stuff. I was apprehensive at using it at a wedding, but enthusiastic at the same time. I upgrade the firmware in both bodies, customized to my liking....

...and packed my bags for Mexico. This wedding in particular was on location in Playa Mujeres, Cancun. I was slated to shoot a boat trip, candids and lifestyle around the resort we were staying in, and the ceremony/reception itself.



Apologies for the random assortment of photos, but wanted to have a spectrum of different shots to display here. This is what I found about the camera.





In high dynamic range situations, this camera just crushes it. It's so easy to recover shadows (and even highlights, to an extent) and the files don't bog down my MacBook Pro like a D810 file would. I don't know why, but that's the case. On the boat, the camera was particularly awesome in broad daylight with harsh direct sunlight. However, I found myself being frustrated with the AF system, even early on the first day. It just wasn't intuitive, and didn't catch focus very quickly. Another frustration was the camera would enter "standby mode" periodically (I had it set to the longest possible delay going to sleep) and when it woke up, it would take a considerable amount of time. In a fast moving situation, this was just unacceptable and beyond annoying.





In a dark(er) hotel room, I tried my hand at using the DA* 55mm f/1.4 that I'd grown rather fond of for portraits. (I also adore the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G so this was a no-brainer to acquire). The 55mm was essentially worthless in low light. It'd hunt, miss focus, and was just too cumbersome to use. The Limited glass (31mm and 77mm) were indispensable in these situations. However, I began to notice a major annoyance that didn't strike me in slower-paced situations - even though the Limited glass is beautiful in rendering, relatively quick to focus, and all around gorgeous in general - it is 20-30 year old tech and uses the camera's screw-drive mechanism. This is infuriating when shooting quickly on-the-fly with the grip, because occasionally your hand will be against the barrel of the lens and will either hinder the AF itself or tweak the camera in your hands when you activate AF. I became excruciatingly aware of how bothersome this was early on in the wedding day.







The wedding was on the beach that day, with the sun low in the sky - forgiving shadows and beautiful tones. I was excited to be able to dual-wield two K-1's and really capture every moment as it happened.



It's a good thing I had two cameras. The K-1s proved to be subpar in their buffer size and frame rate - to the point of sheer frustration. With fast UHS-1 memory cards, writing was still slow and I'd get 4 frames before the camera locked up and wouldn't take a photo. There were one or two occasions with posed wedding guests that were just straight-up embarrassing as I switched bodies or fiddled with the camera. I blame myself here for not really exploring this prior. I guess I've just been spoiled by Nikon.



The reception continued to be frustrating, as the only lenses that seemed somewhat reliable again were the Limiteds - 31/77mm. The TTL flash performance was also strange, every 30-40 frames I'd get a totally blown out frame when the flash dumped all its power for no apparent reason. I fumbled through the reception and got decent content, but it wasn't effortless like it was with a Nikon system.





In conclusion, (and also before you rip me a new one ) I'm dubious to recommend the K-1 for real wedding work. This was a relatively low-pressure wedding, and I'm not by trade a wedding photographer (I shoot perhaps 3-5 a year for the last half dozen years) so please take what I say with a grain of salt.





That said, it is a beautiful system that really would excel in many categories. The weathersealed body instills confidence every time you pick it up, it makes the D750 feel like a toy. The level of customization is absolutely fantastic. The dedicated dial is a godsend, especially since you can assign them on the fly. There were a few occasions where the Shake Reduction allowed me to shoot still scenes at an ISO that was just ridiculous given the light, shutter speeds of less than 1/30 of a second with sharp files (at 36mp!)

While I couldn't sing the praises of the Pentax system to anyone who, I'm not sure I'd ever count on it again for fast-paced, gotta-get-the-shot situations. I hope that this is helpful or at least amusing to anyone interested in the system.

This was my kit:

Pentax K-1 with D-BG6 (x2)
Pentax AF 360 FGZ II (x2)
Pentax 31mm f/1.8 Limited
Pentax 77mm f/1.8 Limited
Pentax DA* 55mm f/1.4
Pentax DA* 200mm f/2.8
Pentax D-FA 24-70mm f/2.8 WR
Pentax D-FA 28-105mm f/3.5-5.6 WR
Rokinon 24mm f/3.5 Tilt-Shift

Please feel free to fire me any questions you have an know that although I may seem critical, just wanted to be transparent with how everything performed.

If you'd like to follow my work or support me, I post to instagram regularly with updates on gear and travels: @kevinmsutton
Many past threads covering Pentax K-1 AF. Easily located through Pentax Forums search. The K-1 was not intended to compete with the top tier wedding gear.
11-24-2016, 10:01 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by opianstate Quote
The K-1s proved to be subpar in their buffer size and frame rate - to the point of sheer frustration. With fast UHS-1 memory cards, writing was still slow and I'd get 4 frames before the camera locked up and wouldn't take a photo.
Have you checked camera settings? Could be in-camera processing is on for lens correction, etc?
11-24-2016, 10:07 AM   #4
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The buffer is definitely not supposed to be like that. My K5-II does better than 4 shots to a full buffer. Some of the other issues mentioned surprise me but I have no firsthand experience to compare to. Your pictures are good; I hope you can get some improvements with the use of your K-1's.

11-24-2016, 10:26 AM   #5
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According to the results published in the PF review, the K-1 buffer should handle 12-16 RAW file before needing the clear up. If you can't get better than 4, there's clearly something wrong going on... By any chance, do you have the latest firmware ? I remember having heard about this kind of problem with the initial firmware, but not much since then...
11-24-2016, 10:54 AM   #6
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In camera processing like shadow correction, noise removal, etc can slow things down (at least with other models).
11-24-2016, 11:42 AM - 2 Likes   #7
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After shooting for 40 years, I find it amusing that any self proclaimed professional, semi pro, whatever.... would rely on an any auto focus system.

The best system is the photographers own eyes! If you look at the portrait of the bride by the door way. Her eyes are not even in focus. This the result of the photographer, not the camera. Your supposed to be deciding the depth of field, and if you wanted a shallow depth of field then you needed to change the setting to sel and moved the point to the Bride's eyeball. This is lack of photographic education or study, it's operator error. If you read almost any book on portraiture, they almost all agree, focus on the eye closest.


I agree with the previous post! The buffer works fine, and most likely due to cheap cards, or wrong settings. If you have a bunch of filters set and lens corrections, and noise reductions, etc. You can slow the camera down.


PS. Here's a tip to increase your ability to manual focus quickly. Get a little doggy, let him loose out in the yard to run around, and chase him with your camera. Do this until focusing a camera on a moving subject becomes effortless!
11-24-2016, 11:59 AM   #8
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Thank you for the honest opinion. As far as focusing goes, I wonder if all the lenses you carried would have had the newest DC motors would the outcome have been different.
I almost bought a *55 but now I have a reason to hold off
BTW that bride has amazing looks.

Randy

11-24-2016, 12:27 PM   #9
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Randy

QuoteOriginally posted by slip Quote
Thank you for the honest opinion. As far as focusing goes, I wonder if all the lenses you carried would have had the newest DC motors would the outcome have been different.
I almost bought a *55 but now I have a reason to hold off
BTW that bride has amazing looks.

Randy


The 50 Macro is a very, very sharp lens. It rivals my Zeiss lens! Check the reviews. Although with any lens, you have to know how to select the proper autofocus mode for your subject matter.
11-24-2016, 12:29 PM - 8 Likes   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by opianstate Quote
after watching a guy just trash a couple Pentax bodies while deployed in Afghanistan and see them work just fine, I pulled the trigger.
11-24-2016, 12:32 PM - 1 Like   #11
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Great honest first hand experience review and feedback.

Sooner or later Pentax is going to have to address the focussing capabilities of its cameras, as they are significantly behind in that regard now.

Nice pics and I enjoyed the read. Thanks for sharing.
11-24-2016, 12:39 PM   #12
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I can understand that it is fair assessment coming from a previously non-Pentax user. Just curious, are you taking JPEG instead of RAW out of the camera? With those flash-shots shown here, I am not sure if you are comfortable with using flash especially in a situation like wedding. Although it is publicly known that the AF quickness in Pentax DSLRs have lots of catch-up to do compared to Canikon system (yes, k-1 included), but that does not mean that it can not be overcome even in wedding photography, that of course just IMHO.

Yes, thank you for your honest opinion.
11-24-2016, 01:18 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by opianstate Quote
It's a good thing I had two cameras. The K-1s proved to be subpar in their buffer size and frame rate - to the point of sheer frustration. With fast UHS-1 memory cards, writing was still slow and I'd get 4 frames before the camera locked up and wouldn't take a photo. There were one or two occasions with posed wedding guests that were just straight-up embarrassing as I switched bodies or fiddled with the camera. I blame myself here for not really exploring this prior. I guess I've just been spoiled by Nikon.
Wonderful post- thanks for sharing!

As for the buffer, this definitely isn't normal. Check to see that you have clarity enhancement, skin tone correction, and geometric distortion correction disabled, as these add significant processing time and thus slow down writing. These only apply to JPEGs, anyway, so it should be fine to turn them off.

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11-24-2016, 01:27 PM   #14
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Good photos and write up. I am a little surprised at some of the struggles. My wife shoots weddings with Pentax gear and has had no particular difficulties. Maybe that is because she is used to Pentax and knows how to make the auto focus system work for her. As to the buffer size, the only way it should be that low is if you have a bunch of stuff turned on -- lens corrections, etc. When shooting RAW files, there is no particular purpose to that and it definitely does slow down writing to the card a lot.

Be that at as it may, certainly there is a learning curve as well coming from another brand. I haven't shot a D810, so I have no place of comparison there. The K-1 is good enough for me, but if you are used to something else, it probably feels a little on the slow side.
11-24-2016, 05:45 PM - 4 Likes   #15
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To answer everyone's questions - yes, I had the profile corrections and noise reduction turned OFF, and I've never used the filters in this camera. I did a good amount of research in what could possibly slow the camera down in the months prior of owning it, and set them both up as such. And yes, both bodies had the firmware update. I was using only Lexar and SanDisk UHS-1 64GB memory cards and shooting in RAW (DNG).

To the user who commented about relying on AF....that's horses for courses, I guess. I see autofocus performance not as a crutch but a necessity. There are situations where the action pauses, and you can really dial things in, but there are also beautiful candids that require good AF to capture on the fly. If you'd like I can post a full resolution photo of the brides' eyes - they are both most definitely in focus - I checked (because in another, they aren't) but these files are downsized to work on the forums. It's hard to judge focus on a photo that's 1200px on the long end!

But to some degree, I do agree with those who said I shouldn't have counted on the K-1 for AF performance. I just was surprised - I'd used it for half a dozen professional shoots in the months prior and it had held up great. Not sure what I was doing wrong on the fly.

I hope that you all know I posted this not to bash Pentax or the K-1, it's a great camera. I simply wanted to provide some value to you all on how it performed in this particular situation. No discourse necessary here!
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