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01-15-2014, 08:11 AM   #1
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K-30/K-3 Kwandry...

Joined this forum as an enthusiastic K-30 owner, totally jazzed on the camera. It's been about a year since I bought it. Took it on my 51-day road trip through Sept/Oct of last year and loved using it...it feels great in my hand, managed to get some great shots with the 18-135 kit lens. Just now beginning to put it to its intended use of photographing/archiving my late sweetheart's legacy of 42 years worth of artwork.

The first two "tests" came out fairly well. Using those cheap halogen work lights from Harbor Freight, still learning how to work with the RAW files...found that the K-30 does a fair job of "guestimating" the white point, as it always hovers somewhere around 3200, and I "fix" it to 3200 when I open the RAW files.

I still use "auto" setting, as the exposures seem to come out near enough to what I think they "should" look like, and I can alter them if I need to by working with the RAW files. I adjust the lights, take several shots, and then sit and go through them with the painting in front of me until I find the right file to work with.

So far, the results have been good, but when I zoom the "view" to 100%, some things just don't seem "sharp" enough, or defined enough. Since my objective is to document the artwork with files that could be used to make prints eventually, or possibly assemble a "coffee-table book" with, I am wondering if the new-generation sensor in the K-3 would give me better results than the K-30 does, in terms of sharpness and definition. Does 20+ MP really look that much better than 16MP?

I really don't want to have to spend another $1,300 right now. I had hoped that the K-30 would be the right camera for this, and now I'm wondering if the K-3 would be "better" or if it's just "gear envy" creeping in.

I have (without knowing it until it's too late) developed a sad habit with most computer/tech items of buying something at "full price" just before the price drops by a fairly significant amount. Case in point, the K-30...now I see people selling them for $300/$400...something that makes me cringe.

I am wondering right now if I went ahead and bought just the K-3 body, if I would be doing the same thing. Is there another "new" Pentax on the horizon that is going to trump the K-3 in six months or so? I'd hate to buy it for $1,300 now and then see in 6 months that it's selling for $600-$700. Especially if it isn't going to make a huge difference in the final outcome of these archive photos I'm taking.

Anyone have some "sage words" for me on this? Many thanks.

01-15-2014, 08:48 AM   #2
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Are you using the 18-135 for this work? If so, you'll want to check its calibration at the focal length you're using most frequently for this art photography. Then maybe you need to consider buying a lens noted for its sharpness - like the 35mm macro ltd or Sigma's 28mm macro (I use this). I'm sure others will have suggestions too. Third, a good tripod and shoot in AV mode with a 2-second delay in live view will pretty much eliminate any vibration issues.

I have also used an M50 f/2 for pseudo-macro photography and been very pleasantly surprised.

I don't think the K3 is the answer now - technique and lenses need to be optimized first.

What kind of artwork? Paintings, sculpture - "other?" Reflection panels can help with light distribution, too.
01-15-2014, 08:48 AM   #3
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There is no k-mount flagship that will replace the K-3 any time soon. Yes, the K-3 has more resolution than the K-30, but it's not that drastic, IMO. Are you mainly concerned about the resolution of your captures? How big do you plan on printing these? A common trap people fall into is becoming "pixel-peepers" and looking at images blown up to 100% on their computer screen. This can magnify any deficiencies of the image that will never be noticeable when viewed at normal size online or in most prints.

If you are worried about resolution, the 18-135 is not considered to be a very sharp lens. Especially at the long end. It's sharpest at about 24mm F/5.6 or F/8. And ISO100 for low noise. Shoot at those settings to get the best. But unless you're printing at bigger than 24"x36", you don't need more resolution than the K-30 offers.
01-15-2014, 08:50 AM   #4
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I would think that you may be seeing some limitations in the lens you're using. Your best bet may be to invest (less) money in a macro lens which should be sharp across the frame with little or no distortion. I'm still amazed at the performance of my Sigma 70mm f2.8

01-15-2014, 09:01 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by beebs Quote
So far, the results have been good, but when I zoom the "view" to 100%, some things just don't seem "sharp" enough, or defined enough. Since my objective is to document the artwork with files that could be used to make prints eventually, or possibly assemble a "coffee-table book" with, I am wondering if the new-generation sensor in the K-3 would give me better results than the K-30 does, in terms of sharpness and definition. Does 20+ MP really look that much better than 16MP?
First off, viewing images at 100 % will never look tack sharp. But will the K-3 be sharper than the K-30? Yes, possibly, if you want to print poster size. However, I'm willing to bet a good prime lens will help a good deal more than a new camera.

Of course, a good prime on a K-3 will be better than a prime on a K-30, but the lens will do more difference than the camera. And it will (or can) cost less. And it will keep its value. Buy a lens second hand and you can sell it for pretty much the same later on. Not so with a camera!

QuoteQuote:
I am wondering right now if I went ahead and bought just the K-3 body, if I would be doing the same thing. Is there another "new" Pentax on the horizon that is going to trump the K-3 in six months or so? I'd hate to buy it for $1,300 now and then see in 6 months that it's selling for $600-$700. Especially if it isn't going to make a huge difference in the final outcome of these archive photos I'm taking.
There will always be something new when it comes to camera bodies. Always. If you want to avoid the worst hit wait for a year, and never buy the latest model.

Again, go for a new lens now. Get a new body later.

Unless you are like me, of course. Then it's just a matter of time before you cave and get both


Edit: ...which pretty much echoes the writing of those quicker than me
01-15-2014, 09:04 AM   #6
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K-3 has more megapixels so bigger files to start but for what you are doing I'm not sure it will show a big improvement. You need to improve your glass, technique and lighting before worrying about a new camera. Are these artworks flat or 3-d? If flat then I would think a good tripod or duplication setup would be the first thing to buy. After that take a look at good macro lenses. What focal length are you using on the 18-135? Pentax has 35mm, 50mm and 100mm macros and there are third party ones in the 60 - 70mm range. Pick one that works for your needs.

Study up on art duplication. Lighting, angle, use of polarizers, lots of things to learn before you need to look at new cameras. Harbor freight lights? Ok for ebay listings, not for artwork if you want true colors, IMHO. Get a good set of photography lights and lightboxes. Not as expensive as you might think.

Try: https://www.google.com/#q=photographing%20paintings
01-15-2014, 09:05 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by damianc Quote
I would think that you may be seeing some limitations in the lens you're using. Your best bet may be to invest (less) money in a macro lens which should be sharp across the frame with little or no distortion. I'm still amazed at the performance of my Sigma 70mm f2.8
I absolutely second this opinion, especially for art work archiving. You MUST HAVE a flat field lens. You MUST HAVE edge to edge consistency. The lens you have has too much distortion and way to much corner dropoff for any kind of archiving.

No matter what camera you get, using that lens will not give you the results you want. You need zero (0)! distortion and a macro like the Sigma 70 or an FA50 will be far more conducive to good results.

Get a lens, not a new camera at this point. It must be a prime and it must be a "flat field" lens for this specialty type of work
01-15-2014, 09:54 AM   #8
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The softness you see may be coming from the camera's JPG engine. It has to be powered with generic enough algorithms to work in as many situations of color and lighting as possible. You can achieve increased sharpness and crispness by doing your own post processing. From your original message it sounds like you are on that path now and learning all the in's and out's of art of post processing. If you use Apple Aperture then you can play with the Raw Fine Tuning settings, the Definition setting, the Mid Contrast setting, and the Edge Sharpening setting. Otherwise, the K-30 hardware is just fine for what you are trying to do. 16MP is plenty and the AA filter is pretty weak there.

The 18-135mm lens isn't a bad lens at all but it's probably not the best fit for what you are trying to do. It's almost in the super-zoom category and those designs naturally have some compromises in them. Like others have said already, look for a prime. Even a manual focus prime will work for you here since your subject is fixed. I would use a prime with a focal length between 50mm and 100mm.

01-15-2014, 10:01 AM   #9
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An inexpensive alternative lens, if you are willing to learn to use the K-30 semi-manual exposure controls, is the M50/1.7 ($50), possibly with extension tubes depending on the size of the work photographed.

If you want auto-focus and aperture the F50/1.7 is also good, but hard to find. Either is sharp, accurate and has a generally flatter field corner to corner than the A versions.

Used with a tripod, for flat art, once you learn the correct exposure settings for a certain lighting set up you should be able to closely replicate that setup and exposure every time you shoot.

Last edited by monochrome; 01-15-2014 at 10:11 AM.
01-15-2014, 10:23 AM   #10
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Beebs,

I wasn't going to chime in because others have offered those sage words, but I saw you're from Austin, TX. As a native Texan, I felt compelled to offer my views, $0.02. I had the 18-135 lens, bought it with my K-5ii. As others have mentioned, it is NOT the sharpest lens...by a long shot. And as others have said, I would invest the money you "might" spend on a body, invest that money in lenses. It WILL make the most dramatic difference in sharpness. In fact, this is what I would do, and prolly in the order I would do it in.

1. Get a tripod. It doesn't have to be a Manfrotto, but hells, if you're willing to spend $1,300 on a new body, spend a couple hundo on a good tripod. Here's the one I like: Amazon.com: Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 Aluminum Tripod: Camera & Photo

2. Mount your camera on the tripod, then using a combination of focal length, spatial placement relative to the artwork you're photographing, and composition, experiment with focal length until you find the focal length(s) you're most comfortable and satisfied with. Take a bunch of pics, find your favorites, delete the rest, then look at the info of each image to see if you favor one or more particular focal lengths.

3. Buy the prime lens or two that most closely hits that favorite focal length. Buy prime lenses! Buy...prime...lenses! Buy prime! A prime lens will nearly always be the sharpest lens you can use.

I have the DA 40mm Ltd. and the DA 70mm Ltd. I have a few other zooms as well, but these two lenses ALWAYS outmatch the sharpness of these zooms. In fact, I have an F 35-70 Macro. This is rated as one of the sharpest, non-DA* zooms in Pentax's line-up. And for snapshots and walking around and family get-togethers, this lens is great! For facebook snapshots, this lens is great. BUT if I am taking shots that I know will be printed, kept, cherished, etc., I use the DA 70mm Ltd. or if I need more space, the DA 40mm Ltd. These are some of the sharpest lens you can buy. So for the price of upgrading the body but still using a mediocre lens (which I think everyone here has said is the wrong move), you can get a pretty nice tripod and a couple primes that will dramatically increase the sharpness of your shots. Add a flash and a couple umbrellas, and you're in super-duper business (I prefer natural light to flash, though).
01-15-2014, 01:50 PM   #11
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Many thanks...

Second try on this...had a reply all set to post and it disappeared...I'll try not to lose this one!

Thank you all for the (indeed) sage advice. I will put off the thoughts of a K-3 for the moment and concentrate on finding better lenses. I will try and address the points y'all brought up. First, I have a great tripod setup that I am using, and I am also using the "2-second delay" to lock up the mirror for each shot, so those are taken care of.

The lights are, indeed, less than optimal...I'm using the set that has two heads on the adjustable stand, 500 watt bulbs in each head. I aim one head up to bounce off the ceiling, and the other down to bounce off a white surface. I need to find better surfaces to use to bounce them off of...I've been using pieces of that white "dry erase marker board" (what we've always called "Teacher Board") to bounce the light. And I have found that the K-30 usually gets the "white point" within 100-200 degrees either side of 3200, and I have been setting the white point to 3200 when I open the RAW files. I will also look at getting different lights, as these halogens get extremely hot, and pull a LOT of juice. As it is, I've re-adjusted the lights for each different piece, one bounced 'above" and the other bounced "below" the image, so that the piece is lit only by as indirect a light as I can get. The halogens seem consistently to be around 3200 for a temperature, but I will check out other lights.

As far as what the art is: Mainly paintings, but also drawings, sketches, collages, etc...they range in size from very small (just a few inches square) to several feet on each side...up to 3 ft x 4ft. There is also some "3D" art (assemblages, small covered boxes/tins, etc) that I will also photograph. At the moment, I am working on the paintings and other flat work. The paintings are mostly acrylic, some oils. The most time so far has been spent adjusting the "bounce" of the lights so that they do not produce a glare on the paint surface itself. She used a semi-gloss medium a lot of the time, so the glare of the light is a problem, and even "bouncing" sometimes does not kill it 100%.

So far, the way I've been working is to take 20 or so shots of each piece, noting where the lights were, how far away from the wall the tripod was, etc., and then going through and finding the ones that look the most "correct" to my eye. I will look at the information data to see what focal lengths have given the best results. I have found that the closer I can put the tripod to the wall (the more "zoomed out" the 18-135 is) the better things tend to look. When I've opened the RAW files with Photoshop (CS5) I was glad to see they had a "lens correction" setting that gets rid of the "pinched in" sides that the zoom was giving. If I can avoid that with a better lens, then that would be great.

Working this way, it took me from 10:30 am until about 5 pm yesterday to get the two shots I was thinking were "ok"...not GREAT, but "ok". I saved them as large (20 MB or so) PNG files and upped them to my webspace to show what I've been able to get using what I have to work with. I will leave these up for a few days, and then remove them.

This first piece is an early self-portrait she painted in the middle-1970s, with very much "70s colors" (earth tones, yellows, browns). The color on this particular shot was as close to the real thing as I could get, only made a few small adjustments to the RAW file. This painting measures 28" x 36": http://www.beebstuff.net/misc/IMGP0441.png The second shot is from a series of about twenty tree paintings she worked on from the mid 90s until about eight years ago, with mostly blues and aquas...I'm not as happy with the colors on this as I was the self-portrait. This painting measures 30" x 24", or 37" x 32" with the frame: http://www.beebstuff.net/misc/IMGP0444.png These are both 20 MB or more files, so they might take awhile to download.

Ideally, I'd like to be able to make full-size prints from whatever files I end up having. A friend suggested that if the K-30 couldn't give me sharp enough images to work with, that a software called "PhotoZoom Pro" might be worth looking into. But before that, I'm going to take my K-30 into Precision Camera and see if they will let me try out some good prime lenses there in the store, so I can see what would be getting. I'm betting that a 70mm might be optimal, but I will look at every one they have that will fit. The only other lens I have is my original ancient 50mm that came on my K-1000 way back when, which I haven't tried to use with the K-30 yet...I'll do a search here and see what I have to do to use it with my K-30. I would imagine somebody has come up with a way to use the old Pentax glass with these new-fangled cameras I will check out what prime lenses they have in stock and see what I can come up with.

Again, many, many thanks to all...I will report back when I have some better glass!
01-15-2014, 01:56 PM   #12
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That old 50mm prime from your K1000 should not be discounted. Which one is it? It will have a 35mm equivalent of 75mm. The optical formula many times stayed generally the same (or close to it) as the lens was updated throughout the years. You may already have what you need sitting right in front of you!
01-15-2014, 02:09 PM   #13
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I've used the 50mm f/2 with catch-in-focus to get some really outstanding insect/flower pictures. In a controlled setting, it could be very good indeed.
01-15-2014, 02:12 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by 6BQ5 Quote
That old 50mm prime from your K1000 should not be discounted. Which one is it? It will have a 35mm equivalent of 75mm. The optical formula many times stayed generally the same (or close to it) as the lens was updated throughout the years. You may already have what you need sitting right in front of you!
It's the "SMC Pentax M 1:2 50mm" that came with the K-1000. I remember loving it back in the day. I will give it a try!
01-15-2014, 02:24 PM   #15
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Many have recommended a prime, but do get a macro prime for this sort of work, and a tripod. Any "real" macro prime will work. A fast lens (<f2.8) has more field curvature than a slow macro lens. That 1:2 is not very sharp, and does have distortion. Macros are specifically designed for flat field document reproduction with edge to edge sharpness. The Sigma 50mm/2.8 is probably the cheapest autofocus lens, but the DA35 /2.8 Ltd, the DFA50/2.8, Sigma 79/2.8, Tamron 90, any of these would work. In manual focus, there are loads of choices, but they won't save you much, and buying AF gets you a fun toy for the garden too.

The 35 Limited macro is an intoxicating lens, available used in the marketplace for a reasonable price. It really is the finest lens you could ever wish to have for this sort of thing. Love mine.

Shoot at f5.6 or so, at ISO 100, with proper lights and let the shutter speed go to whatever. Use the 2s delay or a remote. Manually focus using live view. Each individual thing will improve sharpness a little, all together, the results will be much better.

Last edited by Kozlok; 01-15-2014 at 02:31 PM.
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