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01-28-2019, 05:16 AM - 1 Like   #1
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New K-3ii owner requesting beginner-level tips

Hi all,

Yesterday I purchased a used Pentax K-3ii to replace my K-01. Features-wise, it gives me great comfort that I could now geo-tag my photos of faraway places. However, one big challenge that I have is that I depended on the Auto mode almost all the time when I was using the K-01. The only technical skill I learned was to set shutter speed to the longest possible time when taking architecture photos at nighttime. Now I feel like I'm drowning in options with the K-3ii, & I feel a little bit embarrassed about using the K-3ii's Auto mode because the detailed info display of K-3ii can identify when it was used to take a photo.

I wanted to ask this forum if you have any beginner-level tips to improve my photography skills? Rules of thumb, etc? I'm currently on vacation in Japan & to be honest, buying the K-3ii was an impulsive decision in my part. The GPS had been a big selling point for me & I got carried away when I found a secondhand copy for sale in one of the camera stores here.

P.S. I paired it up with a slightly dusty HD DA 16-85mm because my interests in photography right now are in landscape & architecture photography.

P.P.S. I traded in my old K-01 at the shop, so the K-3ii is the only camera I'm using on this trip.

01-28-2019, 05:21 AM - 2 Likes   #2
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use the Auto mode until you're more familiar & comfortable with the camera, where the buttons/dials are, and how it feels in your hands...

don't worry about not being as competent with the new body as the old, especially right off...

when I moved from the K-50 to the K-3, it was like starting all over again..... but it soon catches up and you're back to yourself in no time....


once you're up to speed with the body, then worry about 'rules'..... and you'll soon see that you can break them anyways and still shoot great stuff...
01-28-2019, 08:43 AM - 1 Like   #3
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I would recommend purchasing the K3 II eBook here on the forums. It is much better than the manual which can also be downloaded for free from the internet.


I would also recommend signing up for a basic DSLR photography course. It will teach you about the basic features of your camera. Along with exposure and composition.
01-28-2019, 09:10 AM   #4
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My first step would be figure out AV mode. Until you control your aperture you have no idea why you are getting what you are getting. Then I'd work through each of my lenses at various apertures for a while.

There's a lot of extraneous information out there, but, the affect of the -stop on the final image is as basic as it gets, and you really aren't doing photography until you understand it.

Apart from that, shoot at the lowest possible ISO all the time is pretty much a photographic constant.

If you have to cheat, cheat on shutter speed.

For wildlife I like high shutter speeds 1/500s or over, and for most lenses 5.6 gives you the best resolution.

Here's a squirrel shot at 1/80s. Some of the images in this burst had motion blur but the image I ended up with is top shelf. Shooting a higher ISO or wider aperture would both in some way have degraded the image. I cheated on the shutter speed and he was still enough in a few frames to give me the image I wanted.



The one above shot at 100 ISO, one taken at 640 ISO below. IMHO not near the same quality image. I always go for the image that will be the absolute best for what I'm shooting, knowing your lens sharpness (at given aperture), the ISO characteristics of your camera and what shutter speed you can cheat to on a given image are all things you need to address.




Last edited by normhead; 01-28-2019 at 09:18 AM.
01-28-2019, 01:47 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by steve_k Quote
I would recommend purchasing the K3 II eBook here on the forums. It is much better than the manual which can also be downloaded for free from the internet.


I would also recommend signing up for a basic DSLR photography course. It will teach you about the basic features of your camera. Along with exposure and composition.
I agree. I bought the ebooks for my K-1ii and KP: they were both valuable in understanding the nuances of the cameras. Pentax , despite the mainstream media fawning over the CanNikOny oligarchs, have a lot of excellent technology for personal/professional/hobby users.

Small investment for these books and you can print out areas you need to highlight or brush up on at any time. Good luck with your K-3ii. I had one- an excellent camera.
01-28-2019, 03:01 PM   #6
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Congrats on the K-3ii. There might be a learning curve, as Pepperberry Farm says, but you don't have to master all the controls and features at once. Just keep it simple to start with and take it a step at a time.
QuoteOriginally posted by normhead Quote
My first step would be figure out AV mode. Until you control your aperture you have no idea why you are getting what you are getting.
This is great advice, particularly when you are shooting landscape and architecture. Stick to the 16-85 for a while to keep it simple. That's an excellent lens anyway. (By the way, I hope you have cleaned it up before mounting it, so you don't get dust on the sensor!)

For landscapes and architecture you usually want a large area of the scene in focus. That is, you want a lot of "Depth of field" (DOF). As you narrow the aperture, you get more DOF. A narrower aperture has a higher f-number. So f8 gives more DOF than f5.6. Narrowing the aperture reduces the amount of light hitting the sensor for a given length of exposure. So when you narrow the aperture by one stop (e.g. f5.6 to f8), if the shutter speed and ISO are the same, the image will be one stop darker. If you set the aperture and let the camera set the shutter speed and ISO, it will compensate by slowing the shutter speed and/or increasing the ISO by one stop in total. One stop in shutter speed is doubling the exposure time: e.g going from 1/60th second to 1/30th, or 1/500th to 1/250th. One stop in ISO is doubling the ISO: e.g. 100 to 200 or 800 to 1600. That's the basics of the exposure triangle.

Narrowing the aperture one or two stops from wide open also usually increases the resolution. But when you narrow too much, the resolution starts to decline, due to diffraction. With the 16-85 diffraction will bite past about f11. In fact the sweet spot is probably f8. To keep it simple on your trip, try just using f8 (or if the light is really bright f11). If you want a shallower DOF or if the light is not enough for f8 (without bumping the ISO beyond say 800 or a shutter speed that's too slow for the situation), widen the aperture out accordingly.

There are online calculators that will tell you what the DOF is for a given focal length and aperture. There are smartphone apps that do the same. Here's an example: Depth of Field (DoF) calculator | PhotoPills It explains about hyperfocal distance too. That's useful to learn, but if you are in information overload just try this very crude rule of thumb. For shooting a landscape without a particular subject, focus on a point about one-third of the way into the scene. That will generally give you an acceptable area in focus, particularly if you are shooting at f8-f11. (Of course if you have a subject in the scene, like a bridge or a building or a tree or a person, focus on the subject.)

As for the ISO, in Av mode you have two choices: fixed ISO or floating (within a band you set). For simplicity sake, for the moment I'd say use floating ISO, but keep it within a narrow band. To set the band, when in Av mode, press the Info button and go to the box for ISO auto. (There are other ways, including the ISO button, but they require more explaining.) Set the bottom of the band with the rear dial, and the top with the front dial. I'd suggest 100-800. (You could go to 1600, but that is more of a compromise with the K-3ii. I know Norm wasn't happy with the squirrel at 640, but most of the time for landscape in reasonable light with the K-3 800 is OK.) When you have set the band, exit the Info screen. Then press the ISO button. That will highlight the ISO setting on the screen. If it doesn't say ISO Auto, press the Green button and it will set to auto ISO. (When you get more experienced, you can move to setting the ISO manually instead.)

The ISO will now float within the band. The shutter speed will also float. The camera will tell you what shutter speed and ISO it will set for the scene, given your set aperture. If you have a tripod with you, use it when the shutter speed is below say 1/30th. If you haven't got a tripod, try resting the camera on a jacket or pack on a rock or a rail or something. If you are using the camera handheld, brace as best you can, turn almost side on to the direction you are pointing the camera, lock your left elbow in tight against your body and press the shutter smoothly (don't stab at it) at the end of an exhale. Great tips here: https://www.pentaxforums.com/reviews/long-exposure-handhelds/introduction.html (I still re-read this article from time to time as a reminder. Technique makes a big difference.)

If you are shooting jpg only, I'd suggest switching to RAW+jpg (in the Info screen). Keep the RAW files to give you more options of editing later. (My biggest photographic regret is shooting jpg only in the first 6 years of digital photography. I could have brought a lot more out of those images now if I had them in RAW.)

Enjoy the trip and good luck.

Last edited by Des; 01-28-2019 at 03:21 PM.
01-28-2019, 04:31 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by steve_k Quote
I would recommend purchasing the K3 II eBook here on the forums. It is much better than the manual which can also be downloaded for free from the internet.
Thanks for the tip! Unfortunately, I don't think I can take this advice at this time because when I tried to make a donation for the Marketplace access, the credit card form was in Japanese.

---------- Post added 01-28-19 at 04:33 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by normhead Quote
For wildlife I like high shutter speeds 1/500s or over, and for most lenses 5.6 gives you the best resolution.

Here's a squirrel shot at 1/80s. Some of the images in this burst had motion blur but the image I ended up with is top shelf. Shooting a higher ISO or wider aperture would both in some way have degraded the image. I cheated on the shutter speed and he was still enough in a few frames to give me the image I wanted.

Thank you for the tips! And that's an amazing squirrel photo.

---------- Post added 01-28-19 at 04:52 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Des Quote
Stick to the 16-85 for a while to keep it simple. That's an excellent lens anyway. (By the way, I hope you have cleaned it up before mounting it, so you don't get dust on the sensor!)
Oh dear, the shop clerk only wiped off the outside of the lens before putting on a new filter. Both him & my younger brother (who is more skilled in photography than I am) told me that my 16-85 had the typical amount of dust found in secondhand lenses, so I'm just gonna hope for the best.

QuoteOriginally posted by Des Quote
Narrowing the aperture one or two stops from wide open also usually increases the resolution. But when you narrow too much, the resolution starts to decline, due to diffraction. With the 16-85 diffraction will bite past about f11. In fact the sweet spot is probably f8. To keep it simple on your trip, try just using f8 (or if the light is really bright f11). If you want a shallower DOF or if the light is not enough for f8 (without bumping the ISO beyond say 800 or a shutter speed that's too slow for the situation), widen the aperture out accordingly.

That's useful to learn, but if you are in information overload just try this very crude rule of thumb. For shooting a landscape without a particular subject, focus on a point about one-third of the way into the scene. That will generally give you an acceptable area in focus, particularly if you are shooting at f8-f11. (Of course if you have a subject in the scene, like a bridge or a building or a tree or a person, focus on the subject.)
The forum's article on the recommended K3 settings suggested that I should turn off the correction options in the menu -- will it make a big deal if I turn it on? My understanding is that the f8/f11 rule of thumb you're suggesting applies to landscape & architecture photos where I want most of the scene to be in focus, & if I need to focus on a particular spot, or on a nearby subject, that's when I should widen the aperture/decrease the f-value. I hope I understood that correctly!

QuoteOriginally posted by Des Quote
As for the ISO, in Av mode you have two choices: fixed ISO or floating (within a band you set). For simplicity sake, for the moment I'd say use floating ISO, but keep it within a narrow band. To set the band, when in Av mode, press the Info button and go to the box for ISO auto. (There are other ways, including the ISO button, but they require more explaining.) Set the bottom of the band with the rear dial, and the top with the front dial. I'd suggest 100-800. (You could go to 1600, but that is more of a compromise with the K-3ii. I know Norm wasn't happy with the squirrel at 640, but most of the time for landscape in reasonable light with the K-3 800 is OK.) When you have set the band, exit the Info screen. Then press the ISO button. That will highlight the ISO setting on the screen. If it doesn't say ISO Auto, press the Green button and it will set to auto ISO. (When you get more experienced, you can move to setting the ISO manually instead.)

The ISO will now float within the band. The shutter speed will also float. The camera will tell you what shutter speed and ISO it will set for the scene, given your set aperture.

If you are shooting jpg only, I'd suggest switching to RAW+jpg (in the Info screen). Keep the RAW files to give you more options of editing later.
Thank you for these tips! Now that you mentioned them, I used to do the same with my K-01 -- I always kept the ISO from 100-800. And yep, I do shoot in RAW + DNG.

QuoteOriginally posted by Des Quote
If you have a tripod with you, use it when the shutter speed is below say 1/30th. If you haven't got a tripod, try resting the camera on a jacket or pack on a rock or a rail or something. If you are using the camera handheld, brace as best you can, turn almost side on to the direction you are pointing the camera, lock your left elbow in tight against your body and press the shutter smoothly (don't stab at it) at the end of an exhale. Great tips here: Making the Most of Long Exposure Handhelds - Introduction - In-Depth Articles (I still re-read this article from time to time as a reminder. Technique makes a big difference.)
Thank you for this tip! I did bring a tripod with me, let's see how it goes.
01-28-2019, 05:54 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Jomar Quote
Oh dear, the shop clerk only wiped off the outside of the lens before putting on a new filter. Both him & my younger brother (who is more skilled in photography than I am) told me that my 16-85 had the typical amount of dust found in secondhand lenses, so I'm just gonna hope for the best.
Dust in the lens won't matter. I was just referring to dust on the outside of the rear element and lens mount, because that might get into the camera.
QuoteOriginally posted by Jomar Quote
The forum's article on the recommended K3 settings suggested that I should turn off the correction options in the menu -- will it make a big deal if I turn it on?
I guess you mean corrections for distortion, aberrations, etc? It's worth turning them on if you shoot jpg only, but since you are shooting RAW+jpg, I'd agree that's it's better to turn them off. They slow down the camera saving the file and it's generally better to make corrections in post-processing of the RAW file.

QuoteOriginally posted by Jomar Quote
My understanding is that the f8/f11 rule of thumb you're suggesting applies to landscape & architecture photos where I want most of the scene to be in focus, & if I need to focus on a particular spot, or on a nearby subject, that's when I should widen the aperture/decrease the f-value. I hope I understood that correctly!
Yes to the first part.

If you are shooting a particular subject, widen the aperture if you want to have less of the rest of the image in focus, to draw more attention to the subject. (That's one aspect of what is called subject separation.) Whether it's worth doing that will depend on the situation. How much difference a wider aperture will make will depend on the focal length and the distance to the subject. For example, if you are photographing a flower from 1 metre away with the zoom at 85mm wide open at f5.6, the depth of field will be quite small (3cm, so just over an inch, according to the calculator), so you can easily get separation of the subject. (In fact the problem there might be that the DOF is so shallow that it might not be sufficient to get the whole of the flower in focus.) If there is nothing behind the flower for another couple of metres, the background will be nice and blurry (the blurry bit is called bokeh). On the other hand, if the subject is 10 metres away and you are shooting at 85mm, there won't be a big difference in the depth of field between f5.6 and f8 (3.18m v 4.61m according to the calculator). So you might not achieve much by widening the aperture in that situation.

QuoteOriginally posted by Jomar Quote
I did bring a tripod with me, let's see how it goes.
Great. If you haven't got a separate shutter release you may be able to use your smartphone, if it's not a current model. I've got a Galaxy S5; it works really well with an app called DSLR Remote. But I think the newer models like the S9 can't do this because they don't have an IR beam. If you haven't got a remote, use the self-timer. (Sorry if you knew that already.)

On the K-3ii, you can access the shooting modes with the top button on the four-way controller (it's a different button on other cameras). There's a wealth of choice! One you might like to try with the tripod is exposure bracketing. You can set it to work either by pressing the shutter button, or with the self-timer or with a remote control. If you haven't got a remote, the self-timer might be the best option. Incidentally either the self-timer or the remote setting will automatically turn off Shake Reduction, which is recommended when shooting on a tripod.


Last edited by Des; 01-29-2019 at 01:41 PM.
4 Days Ago - 1 Like   #9
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When I first got my K-3 (recently!) I found it helpful to take the same shot at different ISO and compare the results to see what ISO I considered acceptable in what conditions. I did this on the computer, the LCD is very nice but it is best to compare photos how you plan to view them most often, in my case that's on a computer screen. Do this of different subjects and scenes in different lighting conditions. It is good to do this with other variables as well, while holding everything else constant, for instance to see what aperture your lens is sharpest at.

For me I found that I am quite pleased with results up to ISO 3200, but indoors if I don't want to use a flash often that is too low. Up to 6400 I consider acceptable, meaning I can get what I consider a high quality photograph that I can work with a bit post-processing (adjusting exposure, etc., if need be). I am willing to go up to 40,000 ISO if I must to get the photo, but I know at this point it will mostly be for remembering the moment and not a photo I'll want to show off to anyone. I can make an ISO 40000 image look quite nice in Lightroom if it is exposed properly. However, there is no comparison between it and an image of the same scene at ISO 6400 or lower. Everything is better: the colors, clarity, dynamic range, everything. But it's better than no photo at all!

Another thing that is good to do is experiment with fill flash. Often you can better photos in low light if you use your flash appropriately, because you will be able to keep the ISO lower, and your shutter speed will be at ~180 so you have less chance of shake blur. However, the flash can overpower the ambient light, and often ambient light gives the scene a unique characteristic or colors that we wish to maintain. To retain ambient light it is sometimes helpful to bump the ISO up a bit and let the flash power be reduced. You are sacrificing image quality (ISO) for better colors, shadows, etc.

See the two images below. The first one is ISO 100, where the camera produces the highest quality images as mentioned above. The second one is ISO 1600 where I have allowed the ISO to be raised and reduced the flash power so that I capture the ambient light better. Notice you can see the light from the room behind my dog reflecting on the floor in the 2nd photo, but not the 1st (this is not due to angle, but the flash overpowering it in the 1st shot). It adds warmth to the scene and makes it look more natural. So even though if you zoom in there is more noise in the 2nd photo due to the higher ISO, IMO it is the better photo of the two (I'm ignoring things like composition and subject focus in this discussion, obviously the 2nd is better for those reasons as well).
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