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01-31-2014, 01:52 PM - 2 Likes   #1
philbaum's Avatar

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K3 low light focusing - WOW

Despite all the amazing features of the new K3, what tipped me into buying a K3 was the advertised -3ev focusing capability. As good as the K5 is, and i've used it steadily for the last 2 years, i was becoming tired of the missed focuses in low light situations.

my K3 arrived 2 days ago. i did a casual low light focus check last night. I have an advertising magnet sign that i had placed on the refrigerator. the kitchen was in dim light. 30 feet away, i could only see the darker square of the 4x4 inch sign against the lighter refrigerator surface, with no lettering visible. At 135 f2.8, the K3 with DA50-135, I shot the picture with the onboard flash, and the resulting picture is sharp at 8x. But the focusing was done in dim light with no focusing aid lighting on. This result was amazing to me, and what i had hoped to obtain by buying a K3.

The January 2014 issue of Popular Photography said this about the K3:

And though our test measures down only to EV-2, Pentax rates the system as effective down to EV-3. Given that it took an average of 1.41 sec. to lock focus and snap an image at EV-2 in our test, we wouldn't expect fast AF in less light, But in an age when ever fewer cameras focus below EV-1, its refreshing to see a company take this tack.
There's that famous quote out there: "My kingdom for a horse". Well for this photographer, that would be better phrased as "My kingdom for a focus". Whether on a tripod for low light, strolling down a sidewalk in the evening, or shooting rehearsal pictures for a dimly lit play, its a delight to know that i'll have such a competent focusing camera to work with. Hats off to Ricoh!!!!

Last edited by philbaum; 01-31-2014 at 01:57 PM.
01-31-2014, 11:59 PM   #2
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I was at a shoot recently with my shiny new K-3. We were shooting Fine Art Nudes in very low light, using the studio strobes to throw slivers of light on to the models body on shutter press. I doubt the light levels were as low as -3EV, but I had absolutely no trouble getting quick sharp focus every time, I simply didn't have to think about it. Another shooter with a D300s had all sorts of trouble. His focus assist lamp came on for EVERY shot, and even then he had the quite a problem getting the damned thing to stop hunting and just focus.

I couldn't help but feel just the tiniest bit smug
02-01-2014, 12:46 AM   #3
philbaum's Avatar

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Original Poster
Yes, i've observed that with mid-range nikons (don't know abt upper end Nikons :-)) too, i.e. using focus aid lights nearly all the time. For the play rehearsals i shoot, they've got some rules, like no flashes, no focus aid lights, no beeping. Also, focus aid lights don't work for longer distances such as one might encounter with landscapes.

I've worked hard to get in the right spots for some fog shots, only to lose the shot due to poor focusing. Many times, one can find a light or high contrast in an area to help the focus, and then reframe the shot. But not always. I think that low light focus capability is more important than many other features that get more press time for some reason. A good ad campaign would jump on features like this. Again, Ricoh/Pentax needs to decide who their market is for their camera as others have said.
02-01-2014, 05:29 AM   #4
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Thanks for sharing, Phil. It really is a great camera. Just feels like a refinement of a K5, but with faster operations, better auto focus -- just smoother in about every way. And that's saying a lot, because I still really like the K5. The K3 is just a little better in just about every respect.

02-01-2014, 05:35 AM   #5
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I Agree...I love the dual card feature and how fast I can retrieve the pictures using USB 3

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