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11-04-2013, 08:08 PM - 13 Likes   #1
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My K-3 AF experiences

This is my experience, not some lab report. I shoot mainly long lenses, and have been shooting with the K-5 with a variety of manual focus and autofocus lenses for a couple of years. I have been using the DA*300 for the most part, excepting the bright summer days when I use a Sigma 150-500 OS. I have had great success with these combinations, but have also run into situations where the limits of the equipment either cause frustration, make it difficult to get a sharp photo, or don't even bother because I don't want to waste time. I can get birds in flight with my manual focus lens, but not very many. The conditions that I shoot in range from perfect to utterly miserable. If I wait for the perfect day, I would shoot maybe half a dozen days a year. This isn't lab or studio conditions, but real conditions that I shoot in, and if I may, get some very nice shots from time to time.

There are some situations where I've run into problems

1. Low light focus. It was a regular occurrence, even during the summer, to have the K-5 and DA*300 not focus at all. There wasn't enough light, enough contrast, and it would either try and fail, or not even try. In good light with sharp contrast it worked fine. Some particular situations where this was an issue was when trying to focus on wildlife in the trees or bushes.

2. Another situation where it was difficult to acquire focus was when shooting a small subject on a horizontal plane. For example, last week I ran across an American Pipit that sat obligingly in the middle of a gravel road. The K-5/DA*300 would either focus on a detail on the gravel, or the grass and bushes behind. The same thing happens when shooting water birds at a distance. The contrast of choppy water or the far shore would get focussed, and not the desired subject. I believe the cause was a combination of the low light inadequacy and the large focus points.

3. A third situation is what I call threading the needle. This is where a subject is in a busy scene with many contrasty elements in the fore and back ground. Not an uncommon situation in many contexts; for me it was a bird in the bushes. The large focus points and the inconsistency or unpredictable focus logic made it an exercise in frustration to try to thread the focus point in between obstacles to find and home in on what I wanted. A longer focal length helps, magnifying the subject so that the camera has a better chance of focusing on it, but that wasn't the only problem.

4. Moving subjects were very difficult to focus on. Many things conspire to make this difficult. A large focus point, the inability to pick out low contrast subjects from a busy background, as well as the speed of the focus-mirror-open shutter timing gives you lots of out of focus shots. There are quite a few discrete challenges here. For example, a bird flying against the sky is not difficult to focus on, but the speed of the image capture train will cause a problem if the direction of movement is towards out of focus. If the bird is flying against a tree or mountain background, then the low contrast as well as large focus point makes it probable that the background will be in focus. If the subject is moving towards the camera the speed of the adjustments is critical. The K-5 is a challenge to focus properly in these circumstances.

5. Using live view had its own challenges. Focusing my DA*300 mounted on a tripod using the CDAF in Live view was unsatisfactory, most times unsuccessful. Using a manual focus lens, the magnified Liveview screen was helpful, but the delay in updating the screen meant that it was easy to overshoot the focus adjustments.

First impressions? The limits of focus are the obstreperous subject or inept operator. The DA*300 felt slow and clumsy on the K-5. It feels lightning fast and accurate on the K-3. The shutter noise is different, not louder. The buttons feel more positive than the mushy K-5 feel.

The center focus point is small. I took these shots with spot focus, afc. I followed the bird around, and when I was able to get the point on the bird, it focused. It was a technical challenge, but a positive one; if I point it at something, it will focus quickly. Here are some shots. They are processed in Darktable, compiled from the development branch. There is no profiling of the K-3 coded as yet, but I had no problem reading the files or doing corrections. They are cropped, some substantially to frame what I wanted to shoot, often the limit of cropping before losing quality. Some exposure and contrast adjustments were made, as well as noise reduction.

This is the fourth shot I took with the camera. 1/400, iso 200 f4.


This is what it was doing. Note that the focus is on the background. 1/800 iso 400 f4


This was a long way away. I've shot this site numerous times but the K-3 was able to focus on what I wanted. iso 1600 1/2000 f4. Cropped.


The focus point on this shot was about the size of it's head. Cropped, 1/320 iso 160 f4.


Easy shot, especially when the focus mechanism ignores the intervening brush. 1/640 iso 1000 f4, cropped. Nice and sharp.


This is where I was impressed. Not a great shot, but illustrative. There were a bunch of chickadees, brown creepers and rather frenetic yellow crowned kinglets working their way through the bush. I shot this guy for quite a few minutes as he went from tree to tree. I had it on 7 point with the center as main. I was able to easily shoot through intervening brush to focus. The challenge was low light, low contrast subject and movement, focus was simply just working. I didn't bother doing this type of shooting with the K-5, it didn't work and was very frustrating. I will do much more, I enjoy this.


So far, low light is not an issue at all. If there is a surface to focus on, it will. The size of the focus point is very nice for what I shoot. If it is there, it will focus on it. My lens feels brand new, fast and confident. So far I'm very pleased. Now to test the more powerful and complex capabilities.


Last edited by derekkite; 11-04-2013 at 08:16 PM.
11-04-2013, 08:12 PM   #2
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Thank you
11-04-2013, 08:14 PM   #3
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Very practical examples, thanks for the images!
11-04-2013, 08:25 PM   #4
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thanks for sharing.

11-04-2013, 08:38 PM   #5
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This is the most down to earth and illustrative review I've read about the K-3. Coming from a K-5 it sure looks like a huge improvement especially for your type of shooting.

When I upgraded from the K-5 to K-5IIs, I felt a big improvement as far as focus decisiveness which was great. It sounds like the K-3 with the smaller focus points takes it to the next level.
11-04-2013, 09:04 PM   #6
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I would have liked to compare it to the K-5ii, but I never shot with it. I suspect much of what I'm seeing was experienced by K5ii shooters.

I know that to get a good shot of a brown creeper is probably a three year project. First you have to find them, then be in a situation where the light is decent, close enough to get detail. Then try again. What I don't want is to miss the shot when it arrives. I missed quite a few shots like that with my K-5. To be fair, I also got quite a few great ones.

If I have any suggestion it is to read the manual, particularly the part on focus. The options are not straightforward, and there are many. To figure it out in the field is pretty tough.
11-04-2013, 09:15 PM   #7
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A perfect sampling for my needs, and thanks for sharing. since I also have the DA*300/4 and the K5 and planning for the K3.

Believe it or not, I have downloaded the K3 user's manual last week and I have been "looking into it" ahead of the purchase. While you may find this totally absurd, I admit that reading through the manual is giving me a better insight of the "ins-and-outs" of the K3.

I have question(s);

1. What was your set up for the AF ? AF.C, AF.S ?
2. If you have used AF.C, what was your set up for what seems to be a very complicated journey when you decide what settings to use for birding, especially when them birds move a lot.
What I mean is: there are so many different options to choose from that it seems complicated to get the right settings.
3. Focus points: which did you pick for your shots shown here?
4. Did you find that the K3 tends to overexpose a bit more than the K5 ?

Keep on firing that shutter!

JP
11-04-2013, 09:15 PM   #8
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thanks much

11-04-2013, 09:20 PM   #9
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Many thanks!
11-04-2013, 09:34 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by jpzk Quote
A perfect sampling for my needs, and thanks for sharing. since I also have the DA*300/4 and the K5 and planning for the K3.

Believe it or not, I have downloaded the K3 user's manual last week and I have been "looking into it" ahead of the purchase. While you may find this totally absurd, I admit that reading through the manual is giving me a better insight of the "ins-and-outs" of the K3.

I have question(s);

1. What was your set up for the AF ? AF.C, AF.S ?
2. If you have used AF.C, what was your set up for what seems to be a very complicated journey when you decide what settings to use for birding, especially when them birds move a lot.
What I mean is: there are so many different options to choose from that it seems complicated to get the right settings.
3. Focus points: which did you pick for your shots shown here?
4. Did you find that the K3 tends to overexpose a bit more than the K5 ?

Keep on firing that shutter!

JP
It was a bit of a journey. The first set up I did was set to raw, the usual things. I tried some shots in af-a, and it didn't. So I set it to af-c, single point. I did the shots of the gull and mallard. Then af-c, expanded area 7 points, with the center point selected. The only test I did with that is to focus on a sign in the distance, then pan slightly and watched the focus point indicators twinkling as it followed it. It didn't get in the way at all while shooting the creeper. I also set the Hold AF to low, and the three others to focus-priority. I really don't know what I'll use. The single point is very small, almost causing difficulty in some situations. I'll try the 7 point to see how it works. It seems to start with the point that you choose, then track from there. The hold button turn dial thing works very well once you find out where to look and figure out what the symbols mean.

I shut off SR while I was on the tripod. Oh, also set SR toggle to the raw/fx button. It takes a bit to figure out where everything is; some screens are contextual, so you press a button and something strange comes up. I managed to shut it up and keep the lights out, which helps. It handles things so fast it is like there is nothing going on except the shutter. I found that I was simply looking, focusing and shooting. Pretty nice actually.

As for metering, I had no ev compensation except for the wood pecker shots, where I set it to 1.3+ ev compensation. It seems pretty close so far, and consistent. Tv mode since the DA*300 is nice and sharp wide open, and it was pretty low light. I remember thinking that I have to set the exposure to point rather than the default, but didn't. I set the exposure to af point in the menus.
11-04-2013, 09:58 PM   #11
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Thanks for posting these, Derek. First I have ever heard of a Ring-billed Gull actually snatching a well-grown fish out of the water. Must have been near its weight lifting limits! I will be trying out my K-3's AF abilities over the next while.

Jack
11-05-2013, 03:24 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by derekkite Quote
I would have liked to compare it to the K-5ii, but I never shot with it. I suspect much of what I'm seeing was experienced by K5ii shooters.

I know that to get a good shot of a brown creeper is probably a three year project. First you have to find them, then be in a situation where the light is decent, close enough to get detail. Then try again. What I don't want is to miss the shot when it arrives. I missed quite a few shots like that with my K-5. To be fair, I also got quite a few great ones.

If I have any suggestion it is to read the manual, particularly the part on focus. The options are not straightforward, and there are many. To figure it out in the field is pretty tough.
I don't know. I have a K5 II and the biggest improvement with it compared to a K5 is that it can focus in low light and different color light without problem. The auto focus points are the same size (big), meaning that the camera is unfortunately likely to choose the wrong place to focus in a busy scene. AF-C in K5 II isn't particularly different from it in the K5 either.

Thanks for sharing. Definitely sounds like a worthy upgrade.
11-05-2013, 05:19 AM   #13
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Excellent write-up, thanks. Focusing has been a pain point for me with the K-x so I can expect a big leap forward.
11-05-2013, 05:55 AM   #14
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Thanks for this really useful review. It certainly goes a long way to helping me decide whether to buy the K3.....although to be fair, I don't need a lot of persuading!!
11-05-2013, 06:10 AM   #15
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Thanks for the well-written summary of your experiences so far. It really is appreciated.
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