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11-19-2023, 01:51 PM   #16
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QuoteOriginally posted by IsaacReaves Quote
Putting this as a second reply to keep it out of the basic camera gear and focus more on technique:

These are beautiful portraits that appear to be shot using available light with maybe a small fill flash. I think you should invest more effort on your lighting setup to control the exposure on the environment relative to your model. Why? So you can stop leaning on wide open apertures to diffuse the background.

I am by no means a flash or portrait expert and haven't shot flash in about 15 years ... but if you had a nice softbox overhead and soft fill from the side, I don't see why you wouldn't be able to get aperture up to f4 ~ f8 and use flash to darken down the backdrop. This will reduce small errors with focus-recompose, and maybe add a bit more drama to the images. In the shots above you have quality light (from some bay windows I'm guessing) but the model is disappearing into the scene a bit too much for me.

The other thing that will make even your K5 look like an upgrade is to invest in a camera stand and get away from tripods or strictly hand-held shooting. Once you try one of these you don't want to go back. It's so easy to figure out where critical focus is and just mark the floor with a small piece of tape to move the rig in and out of the way. Add an external 4k monitor plugged into the video output and you don't even need to bother with tethered shooting.

Also, consider that the Hasselblads and PhaseOne's MF rigs have a single center focus point and you'll understand why the cadre of youtube sony crybabies aren't taken very seriously.

my .03
These were shot with one large studio softbox. There was a large window in the studio but the softbox was positioned at the same angle as the sun to try to make it look as much like available light as possible - I think when the flash failed to fire I had to boost the exposure to effectively 6400 ISO to see if there was an image worth saving -
I've done a fair amount of ISO 1600-6400 natural light work and I don't use fill in flash at all - I don't own an off-camera flash any more and the K1 doesn't have a built in one (and I only used the K5's to get a harsh paparazzi type look). Of the 8 recent natural light shoots I have in lightroom (about 1500 shots - after weeding out the duds) and the average ISO is 700. About 15% are shot at 3200 and above. So my scope for using a smaller aperture is limited - not so much my holding the camera, with IBIS I can get down to quite low speeds, but how still the model can be - below 1/60th there is enough motion to notice.

Yes I could switch from lighting the whole scene by natural light to using flash to light the subject (only) and the natural light to light the background and get a cinematic look with the darkness rather than lack of focus telling the eye "don't bother looking here" However that's making a whole different picture a whole different way the Hasselblad and PhaseOne way of going about shooting is much more fix the camera in one place, build a lighting setup and take a small number of exposures.

11-19-2023, 02:11 PM   #17
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The Fuji 50 S II and 100 S are really nice, and you can find used ones at a decent price now also.

Canon has a great 85 F1.2 and I’m sure Nikon does also, not sure about wides.
11-19-2023, 02:31 PM   #18
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QuoteOriginally posted by The Squirrel Mafia Quote
This is where mirrorless cameras have a one up. But yeah. They're also very expensive. It gets very pricey once you start replacing your current gear with new gear.
The solution to that is to replace your current used gear with new-to-you used gear! For example, the 42MP Sony A7r III is currently available at MPB for $1369 for "like new".
11-19-2023, 02:56 PM - 2 Likes   #19
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Yeah, it is very frustrating to photographer to get feeling he can't manage his tool. And this is exactly the situation.
Your model is quite static and moves just a little. Your examples does not require fast work.
Use LIVE VIEW with Face detection AF, Tracking AF or Select AF. At any aperture you will be fine because contrast detection AF works fine on K-1, your pictures will be in focus even at F1.4. You can work with tripod or handheld.
On the other side I do not understand why you think that single/central AF point can't be used reliably with recomposing. Push and hold back button AF, recompose and shoot as many frames as you want for same scene. But don't forget - if you shoot handheld, your body can move forth and back and this can affect proper focus as well, especially if aperture is set to wide.

11-19-2023, 03:27 PM   #20
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QuoteOriginally posted by James O'Neill Quote
What can I do?
(a) Stop putting every shot under the microscope, and stick to normal viewing. How many negatives that I was quite happy with would stand up to this sort of examination (not many)
(b) Adjust my technique to a more methodical focusing on each shot and less 'flow' a.k.a. snapping as I see something I like take shape in the VF.
These two ideas would be true no matter what gear you used., IMO.
Take your time, compose the image, assuming the model knows you are taking her picture, direct or ask the model to move, or stop, as necessary, confirm your focus, settings and composition and take the picture.
11-19-2023, 04:28 PM - 2 Likes   #21
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QuoteOriginally posted by StiffLegged Quote
I shot film for a long time too, on an SP1000 and later MX, but don't remember finding focussing well off-centre very reliable. I would focus and recompose. Rather surprised you would find different with a DSLR?

So do this thought experiment.
You put your camera on a tripod, level, and point it square at a brick wall so the image plane and the wall are parallel.
Let's say the distance from the lens to the wall is 5M, and the lens is a 50mm. Simple geometry says a 36x24mmm sensor sees a 3.6 x 2.4M piece of wall
The bricks on the edge of that are further from the camera than the bricks in the middle √ (5² + 1.8²) = 5.4M but all bricks are rendered the same size in the image and the edges and middle are both in focus because we are not making an image of part of sphere, but of a flat plane.

Now you turn the camera so the brick that was in the middle of one edge is in the middle of the frame and (a) you get a perspective effect on the bricks - just like converging verticals on a building when you tilt the camera and (b) The brick you have brought to the middle is not perfectly in focus because the camera was focused at 5M not 5.4. So you refocus on that brick. Now turn the camera back. You have done a focus and recompose on the wrong distance. Now, a 50mm set to f/8 and focused at 5M has a D.o.F zone from 3.33 to 10M so the focus error doesn't matter, even at f/2 the focus zone is about 4.4 to 5.7

We didn't use just the ground glass screen in manual focus cameras, we had central focus aids and we would do focus and recompose using those. But the silly magnification we apply to digital means that errors - if we turn the camera enough and have little enough D.o.F - are visible.

Last edited by James O'Neill; 11-22-2023 at 11:15 AM. Reason: typos fixed
11-19-2023, 04:37 PM   #22
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QuoteOriginally posted by luftfluss Quote
The solution to that is to replace your current used gear with new-to-you used gear! For example, the 42MP Sony A7r III is currently available at MPB for $1369 for "like new".
Very true!

11-19-2023, 04:49 PM   #23
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QuoteOriginally posted by Medex Quote
Yeah, it is very frustrating to photographer to get feeling he can't manage his tool. And this is exactly the situation.
Your model is quite static and moves just a little. Your examples does not require fast work.
Use LIVE VIEW with Face detection AF, Tracking AF or Select AF. At any aperture you will be fine because contrast detection AF works fine on K-1, your pictures will be in focus even at F1.4. You can work with tripod or handheld.
On the other side I do not understand why you think that single/central AF point can't be used reliably with recomposing. Push and hold back button AF, recompose and shoot as many frames as you want for same scene. But don't forget - if you shoot handheld, your body can move forth and back and this can affect proper focus as well, especially if aperture is set to wide.

TBH how much the model moves depends on the model, the mood we're in and so on. Some require fairly fast work, and I'll move around too - especially when there is natural light and I'm not working with studio lights - just varying whether the camera is above, below or level with the model changes the mood. Live view isn't a nice answer because now I'm looking at a screen instead of looking where the camera is looking.

See what I said above for the geometry which limit focus and recompose.

---------- Post added 11-20-23 at 12:10 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Rondec Quote
A few options.

(1) Stop down more. Using f4 is more forgiving than using wider apertures.

(2) Use live view. It isn't perfect either, but you can certainly focus out to the edges and you don't have flakiness with focus adjustment that you sometimes have using the viewfinder.

(3) Decide to wait for the K-1 III whenever Pentax actually decides to release it. Rumors seem to be that it is mostly done, but that as currently designed Pentax thinks it would be too expensive for the marketplace and so is sitting on it.

(4) Switch to a different brand. Every brand has different issues, but certainly recent MILCs should be able to auto focus around a K-1 or K-1 II.

Only you can decide which is your best option, but certainly I wish you luck.
Well that one was f/3.2

This one


Give a bit of sense of some of the spaces where I shoot by natural light - this is in the models home. I'm in her kitchen with light coming from the window behind me, she's sitting on the floor in the corridor outside and we've been playing with the shadow created by the light going through the doorway. The image I like from this sequence - and several missed focus is with the 77ltd. to keep the ISO down to 1600 it's f/2.5 and 1/100th . Slower and I'll pick up any movement of hers, . But to shoot at f/4 I'll want ISO 3200 or 4000. And this time I'm not relying on a wide aperture to blur the background.
11-19-2023, 07:17 PM   #24
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James, I hate to put this out there, but if good adaptive AF is required, you might want to choose another brand and a lens or two.

I reach for my Fuji first these days. One of the reasons is the superb AF.
Shooting portraits with eye AF turned on is a beautiful thing.
11-19-2023, 10:11 PM   #25
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Possibly try one of the loupe things that fit over the screen to use live view and face detection to give a kinda evf experience.
If you haven't already.
11-20-2023, 12:01 AM - 1 Like   #26
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QuoteOriginally posted by James O'Neill Quote
…the silly magnification we apply to digital means that errors - if we turn the camera enough and little enough D.o.F - are visible.
Fair enough, but I wouldn’t compare your model to a brick wall in her hearing…
11-20-2023, 01:01 AM - 1 Like   #27
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QuoteOriginally posted by James O'Neill Quote
TBH how much the model moves depends on the model, the mood we're in and so on. Some require fairly fast work, and I'll move around too - especially when there is natural light and I'm not working with studio lights - just varying whether the camera is above, below or level with the model changes the mood. Live view isn't a nice answer because now I'm looking at a screen instead of looking where the camera is looking.

See what I said above for the geometry which limit focus and recompose.
By the sounds of it, James, your current method of working really might be better served by a camera with wide AF point coverage and fast, effective eye tracking whilst using the viewfinder. That means a fairly recent mirrorless model from another brand, sacrificing the optical viewfinder and your preferred lenses in the process. You could wait for a K-1III, but there's no guarantee (or even likelihood, IMHO) that distribution of PDAF points would offer greater frame coverage, and currently no idea of when - or even if - that camera will be released, though I expect it will.

The alternative, as already mentioned, is to change your way of working so that it's less spontaneous and more controlled, with you directing the model. It's cheaper, allows you to continue working with the gear you seem to enjoy, and I imagine it's how most photographers of this genre used to work; but, using focus-and-recompose will be less precise...

Last edited by BigMackCam; 11-20-2023 at 01:33 AM.
11-20-2023, 04:25 AM   #28
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I don’t share your dim view of Pentax’ s engineers, but at the same time I don’t think you are going to get what you want from a K-1 III. It’s the nature of DSLRs that the AF sensor is smaller than the whole frame.

With your current camera you can use live view or employ techniques that SLR photographers have used for years to get that kind of shot in focus.

If you go for a mirrorless camera, one thing to note is that not all brands are equal in terms of focusing accuracy. I saw a very detailed all-brand Motorolas focus accuracy test in a Japanese magazine. It had a remarkably similar setup to what you show for one of the tests - a reclined model turning to face the camera. As I remember, the Nikon and Canon models came out top, with the Sony out of focus. On the other hand, the Sony was better at basketball players mid-jump. The Sony also had the weird quirk of not recognizing eyes at all if some part of the face was obscured.

So my point is to do your homework before choosing a system. Sony has a good reputation in the English language press for AF, but I wonder if they really check as carefully as they should.
11-20-2023, 04:51 AM - 3 Likes   #29
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Reading through your other replies, I think you're pretty close to getting what you want but are just lacking a couple of small tweaks and a bit frustrated with your methods in producing reliable results. I'm still not fully convinced that this is a camera body issue, but you're not wrong, either. If you want to shoot less than f4, nailing critical focus on foot is naturally going to be very challenging. I might even experiment with a split-focus screen and try manual focus, and give up on the AF altogether. I've been shooting MF for the most part in the last several months and forgot what a joy it was to control what the lens is doing. My next upgrade is an OVF screen replacement for my K-5.

QuoteOriginally posted by James O'Neill Quote
However that's making a whole different picture a whole different way the Hasselblad and PhaseOne way of going about shooting
Respectfully, I would argue that this is just basic photography. We could be talking 4x5 film or micro-4/3s - the principles are the same. Available light portraiture is a lottery, which you're keenly and painfully aware of but seem to be frustrated by it. No amount of autofocus wizardry is going to shine 2 stops of light where you need it most and I think you know this but don't want to admit it.

I mentioned medium format specifically due to their hampered autofocus features relative to the newest FF mirrorless bodies. Fuji's GFX medium format rig is going to set you back $4-10k depending on new or used, isn't really medium format, and from what I've read about this system you won't have much better AF than you do now on your K-1, unless you buy the newest 100 mkII, or find one of the earlier 50s or 100S. Even then the reviews on the S models AF system have been less than glowing. Lastly, my gut says that you're going to really be shocked and disappointed by the small discrepancy in GFX's high ISO performance relative to your K-1 while shooting hand-held and relying on the IBIS.

QuoteOriginally posted by James O'Neill Quote
Give a bit of sense of some of the spaces where I shoot by natural light - this is in the models home. I'm in her kitchen with light coming from the window behind me
Another strong and creative shot here - you have a great vision of where you want to be. The reality is that it sounds to me like you're being a bit obstinate in taking the extra step to really control your environment. This is all about lighting - the light is everything. You need to refine your methods, not abandon them. 3 ideas:

1) Rent an AF wunderkind camera for your next shoot and see if it solves your difficulties, or at least get it out of your system. You sound far too knowledgeable to do the amateur thing and rage-quit DSLR into mirrorless expecting huge gains in your artistic output. There is no argument that mirrorless systems will solve the AF issues you're being plagued by. The question is whether or not the cost and trade-off is worth losing Pentax IQ and the look from the lenses currently know and love. There is no shortage of fantastic lenses in any of the mirrorless systems but you will still need time to learn to shoot them and adapt your methods to suit your vision.

Since resolution and FF+ sensor is not an area of compromise, I personally would be looking at a Panasonic Lumix S1R, 4 years old but features a stream of regular firmware updates, has very high quality EVF, tilt screen like the K-1, 45+ MP resolution, and is available for about $1500 ~ $2000 used. The AF system is not as good as the newest Sony's, Canon R5, or latest Nikons, but I imagine that its still light years ahead of the K-1.

The bonus in L-mount is bang-for buck on the Lumix side, and best-of-the-best native mount on the luxury side: Lumix S f1.8 primes are affordable and optically near perfect. I'd sink the bulk of my funds into Leica glass, like the 35mm APO Summicron . My own object de l'envie. Bodies don't really matter. Lenses matter.

2) Even if you fix the AF issue, you'll still have a lighting issue and for less than $500 you can grab a cheap Godox rig for reliable portable light. I'm not talking about pop-up fill flash, I'm talking about key-light and fill-light. If you're using available light as your key light, you can keep the power down on the fill and position it well off to the side or from overhead. The XPro remote is only about 80 dollars and you have all the control right there on the camera. Experimenting a bit will also let you A/B test between your rented rig and your K-1.

3) Add in a small stand + hanging reflector. Used with a focused beam off the studio light you have options for bounce flash and it's like getting another light for free. It's not something you need all the time but give yourself some options that don't involve ISO1600 and higher.

I would avoid speedlite type flashes which max out ~ 60w and go straight for a single-light setup with AD100Pro or AD200Pro and a largish white umbrella to match the soft style you're after. This is portable enough for working onsite and still has enough power to bring to the studio or to use outdoors. A softbox grid would let you position the rig further away but it's going to chisel the model's profile and features, not flatter. Either way you have options, and you don't need to sacrifice the backdrop for environmental portraits. At 1/8th ~ 1/2 power there should be plenty enough to fill in the face and profile from the side to control the exposure (i.e. keep the ISOs down and the shutter speed up near synch speeds ~ 120/s to 250/s) without blowing out your available light. Also, stronger lights used at lower power == shorter recovery cycles, and having the option to increase the power will keep the rig well out of your way so you won't have any issue using wide angle lenses.

To sum up my suggestions: 1 light, 1 umbrella, 1 reflector, and a couple clip-on modifiers (which come free in the box) leaves you with a wide range of options, is affordable, doesn't sacrifice your approach, and will help both the K-1 and/or a new rig.
11-20-2023, 06:31 AM - 1 Like   #30
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QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote
By the sounds of it, James, your current method of working really might be better served by a camera with wide AF point coverage and fast, effective eye tracking whilst using the viewfinder. That means a fairly recent mirrorless model from another brand, sacrificing the optical viewfinder and your preferred lenses in the process. You could wait for a K-1III, but there's no guarantee (or even likelihood, IMHO) that distribution of PDAF points would offer greater frame coverage, and currently no idea of when - or even if - that camera will be released, though I expect it will.
This is the conclusion I'm coming to, somewhat reluctantly. I think a K1 with the K3-iii AF for smaller gaps between the points, and smarter selection of points would get me a long way - even if, as seems likely - the area covered doesn't expand for FF.
With Ricoh seeming to have done FF bodies what they did for flashes and the 645 (decided to call it quits when the present stock sells out, but keeping us hanging on in hope more than expectation) that might not be an option and then the combination of the Sony and Monster adapter is a better option than changing lenses all lenses. But if operating the Sony is like kicking a dead whale across a beach with ones bare feet, or if EVFs have not improved by a couple of orders of magnitude I'd be swapping one frustration for another.
(I can't remember if the Sony was determined to plaster all sorts of junk over the EVF image, and if it did I don't know if it can be turned off but in their default state quite a few EVFs are utterly unusable because of all the distractors).

---------- Post added 11-20-23 at 01:36 PM ----------

@issacReeves, thank you for the long, considered and intelligent answer. I'll chew on that for a bit :-)
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