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12-13-2011, 05:41 PM   #1
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New to DSLR

I grew up in a family with semi-pro photographers and, naturally, inherited the interest. Tried learning how to shoot a bit in my early teens on my dad's K-1000. I really loved that camera but my sister borrowed then lens for her setup one time and returned it broke. Being a kid, never had the money to replace the lens and my interest in photography fell by the wayside. The K-1000 got stowed away somewhere and when I was 20 my interest was renewed so I purchased a used manual K-mount Vivitar v335 body on eBay, and then got some 28mm and 50mm lenses. The 50mm was my favorite for close shots and portraits, naturally, and the 28 was my favorite for scenery. I eventually got a NOS Vivitar 28-80mm macro lens on the bay and a bounce flash. The 28-80mm soon became my favorite lens for general shooting (except when I was going for something really artsy indoors or something, then I'd use the 50mm.)

Some things changed, time went by, my time for photography diminished and I started noticing some fungus in the viewfinder of my v335 and got a cheesey Kodak 7.1mp for snapshots and taking pictures to sell crap on eBay. I kept planning on digging out the K-1000 from my parent's storage shed since it was still practically new. But over time I began grabbing the Kodak more often than my v335 due to the fungus issue and I never had time to go rummage through to find the K-1000. I really hated the type of photos I got with the Kodak but made due with it up until recently. I found the K-1000 and wanted to start shooting again but I couldn't find any 35mm film in my hometown! Nor I could find anywhere to get it developed! That made me feel old...and I'm just approaching 30. So I decided to take the dive and go for a DSLR, and of course it had to be a Pentax (or at least a cousin, like my v335.)

So my wife bought me a used K10D in very good condition. I love using it manual mode but I am also getting used to using it in the programmed mode as well. But, wow, I didn't realized how rusty I've become. I haven't shot with a "real camera" in years. I used to have a very good eye for this stuff, but now I can't seem to focus my shots as sharp and I'm terrible at estimating my aperture for artistic shots. And using the bounce flash? Forget it...I'm white-washing all my photos, and the built-in flash is ten times worse.

So I figured I better join the forum and see if I can re-learn some stuff. It might just take some getting used to the world of Digital SLR too. I didn't think it would be so difficult. "It's just like shooting with a 35mm, only digital, right?" Boy, was I wrong!

12-13-2011, 07:16 PM   #2
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It's not surprising that you're having trouble getting the DoF right. The K10 has a 1.5 crop factor compared to your K1000 (you probably knew that), so what that means is to frame the same subject with the same lens, say a head and shoulders shot of Aunt Gertrude with a 50mm @ f1.8, you have to stand further away which widens your zone of focus to what would have been f/2.8 on a film camera. The depth of field is the same if you measure front to back, but the FoV is narrower.

With regards to the flash, you're probably using a manual or TTL flash, but the K10 employs the pTTL system, it's a bit different. In the old TTL system there was a sensor that could read the light reflected off the film, and it would send a signal to the flash to cut off when the proper exposure had been reached. But digital sensor don't reflect enough light to allow that, so in pTTL the flash fires a weak preflash at a known output and the camera judges how underexposed the photo is and how much more light to add in the actual exposure. If you have an old flash, it may not understand the commands the camera is sending it, and in some cases the flash may be damaging the camera if the trigger voltage is high enough (and certain Vivitars were) If you're using manual mode on the flash, you may just need to get used to the output again. A flash meter like the Sekonic 308 or 358 will help immensely, there was one on sale here in the marketplace the other day. Manual or not, I would check your flash with a voltage meter, if it's something like 8 volts you're fine, it's it's over 30, I'd stop using it until you can dig out the old K1000.

Don't give up, everything looked better on film.

Last edited by maxfield_photo; 12-13-2011 at 08:07 PM.
12-13-2011, 07:19 PM   #3
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Welcome aboard! One thing that we all realize, those of us old enough to have learned on film, is that learning on Digital is both harder and easier. Its harder because there are SO many choices just in the onboard menus for the camera (not to mention lenses, accessories, etc., etc., etc.). Its easier because making mistakes no longer costs anything at all

So the answer is go out and experiment. Stop being afraid of "wasting money and time" because you can review the shots instantly and they cost nothing. That realization when I put an SLR shaped camera in my hands for the first time in ~20 years was staggering to me. Have fun!
12-13-2011, 07:59 PM   #4
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Welcome to the forums! Digital is the same as film, except it's not. With digital we set white balance instead of changing film or color-correction filters. We can do most filtration in-camera, but don't throw away those old filters because they still have their uses. (Ask, and I'll give my usual filters rant.) Different formats give different views. If you'd had a half-frame Olympus Pen-FT or Canon Demi-EE18 or Dial35, you'd feel right at home with APS-C. Yes, the VFs have shrunk and the views are dimmer, but luckily we have CIF (catch-in-focus aka trap-focus) to help us nail the focus with manual lenses. And best of all, shooting is FREE! and we can get instant feedback (chimping) of our shots. The technology is MUCH better. Except that what were once wide lenses, ain't so wide anymore. Oh bother...

12-16-2011, 11:58 AM   #5
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Hey guys, thanks for the encouragement! Yeah, it gets frustrating - having to learn all over again. The really difficult part is trying to determine whether it's a learning curve on the digital format or if I'm really that rusty. Otherwise, it feels good to be shooting again. I did notice that my wide-angle lenses aren't so wide now.

Do you guys happen to have any advice for taking photos in low lighting conditions? I like to do some band/concert photography occasionally and my photos have a lot of noise in them. Same with sunset shots outdoors. I'm getting some awesome shots, and they look good in the preview pane, but when I put them on the PC, they look really grainy. I'm shooting with an SMC-A f/1.7 with the sensitivity at 400, 10mp, RAW. For the sunset shots, I was shooting with the aperture closed a little bit to contrast the darks with the orange colors more drastically. Looks amazing on the preview pane, but when I pull it up on the computer, it looks ok at a smaller size (probably the equivalent of 5 x 7), but when I look at it in normal size it's really grainy looking. My wife wanted to use it as a wallpaper on her computer, but at full resolution it looks horrible. I tried correcting it with Adobe Lightroom to no avail, 'de-noising' it just made it look out of focus.

And, Rico, rant away! I'm interested in hearing what you have to say about filters!

Last edited by raygun85; 12-16-2011 at 02:02 PM. Reason: typos
12-16-2011, 06:51 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by raygun85 Quote
Do you guys happen to have any advice for taking photos in low lighting conditions?
The K10D is a marvelous camera when shooting well-lit subjects. Its high-ISO performance sucks. The Kx, Kr and K5 are all MUCH better in low light -- even my K20D beats it. This is a case where a superfast lens won't help. I don't use my K50/1.2 at concerts; that's not its schtick. Sorry, but you need a more modern camera.

QuoteQuote:
And, Rico, rant away! I'm interested in hearing what you have to say about filters!
I'm short on time right now, so here's the brief rant:

Almost all filtration can be done digitally. Some can't. Some isn't the same. Here are the physical filters that can be useful with digicams:

* Polarizers (PL) and Circular Polarizers (CPL) to cut glare and reflections.
* Neutral Density (ND) and Graduated Neutral Density (GND) to slow the shutter, and to balance differently-lit image areas.
* Infrared-pass (IR) filters to block visible light and reveal the hidden.
* Blue or Blue-Violet filters to emulate early photographic emulsions.
* Red filter, which increases dynamic range slightly when shooting B&W.
* Yellow filter when shooting glaring neon lights in color, for a nifty effect.
* Close-up adapters aren't really filters, they just look like them, and are useful.

I'm thinking again about writing an article about what can be put in front of a lens. I may have time this weekend for that. Stay tuned!

EDIT: Ok, I have a moment. (The fajitas can cook a little longer.) When I say that digital and optical filtration are different, it's like this: AFAIK digital filters work by changing the mix from the sensor's RGB channels. That is NOT the same as optical filters, which block and pass various bandwidths. No digital filter can deliver an IR image, or an actinic-light (UV-violet-blue) image, or any other spectrum-slicing. This is easily tested. (Oops, I smell burning, gotta go now.)

Last edited by RioRico; 12-16-2011 at 07:50 PM.
12-16-2011, 07:30 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
The K10D is a marvelous camera when shooting well-lit subjects. Its high-ISO performance sucks. The Kx, Kr and K5 are all MUCH better in low light -- even my K20D beats it. This is a case where a superfast lens won't help. I don't use my K50/1.2 at concerts; that's not its schtick. Sorry, but you need a more modern camera.
Yeah, I've been doing some searching around and am quickly learning the K10's strengths and weaknesses. Still though, I was shooting at 400. I expect grain at 800 and above (at least with 35mm), but with 400 I was expecting a little more clarity. I'll try to post the photos on the forum later, maybe I'm just being too critical. I never had any of my ISO 400 shots printed bigger than an 8 x 10, most of the time I went with 4x6 and 5x7 prints for albums.

As for the filters, I've always loved using a polarizer and was glad to see it still worked relatively the same with digital. I used to shoot a lot of B&W on 35mm so the red filter sounds like something I'd like to try some time. The Infrared filter sounds rather interesting too. Thanks for the insight.
12-16-2011, 08:25 PM   #8
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Dang, I used to have to have all my 35mm shots put on CD at the same time I had them developed, and I just went back to look at some of my best shots. The grain and overall noise is terrible! My K10D's photos are at least just as good, if not better! I don't know why I never noticed it before...

12-16-2011, 10:49 PM   #9
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I think the K10d used a CCD sensor, where as everything since the K20d uses a CMOS (except for the super sexy 645D) CCDs are great at base ISO, cleaner than an equivalent generation CMOS, but the noise increases rapidly as you increase ISO. Fast Lenses and tripods(for slower shutter speeds) help some, but try like crazy to avoid ISO 800 and up. 400 can usually be cleaned up in post, most of the noise can usually be found in the blue channel, so you may want to used heavier-handed tactics on that channel, and let your red and green channels make up for the lack of sharpness in blue. Remember also that you're probably looking at a 100% crop on your screen but when you print it, or size it for the web, you won't see most of that noise.
12-17-2011, 05:58 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by raygun85 Quote
Dang, I used to have to have all my 35mm shots put on CD at the same time I had them developed, and I just went back to look at some of my best shots. The grain and overall noise is terrible! My K10D's photos are at least just as good, if not better! I don't know why I never noticed it before...
I think that's the issue. With digital the norm is to view the images on a computer monitor. Hence pixel peeping -- viewing at a much higher magnification than normal size prints.

The K10D I bought in 2007 is still my primary camera. It is usable at ISO 800 and even 1600 if you can accept the noise, but I shoot at 100 as much as possible. As maxfield states, this is where the K10D's CCD is arguably better than a CMOS at the same setting. I don't mind 200 and 400, but generally avoid going above that.

As to your focus issues, several points to consider. These Pentax DSLR viewfinders are pretty poor by comparison to SLR VFs. Small and dim, and give an incorrect idea of DOF once you open out past f/3.5 or so. However, even with the stock focusing screen it's possible to adapt to this and learn to get shots in focus when manually focusing at large apertures. I've just ordered an S-type screen and hope it works even better.

Check the VF diopter adjustment and make sure that is correct. My preferred method is to adjust it with no lens on the camera, looking through the VF at the texture of the ground glass on the focusing screen.

You might also want to check to confirm that the focusing screen is properly aligned. I hesitate to suggest this as the received wisdom around here is that focus issues are about 99% likely to be operator error and not camera problems, and that's probably true. And it's a bit of a bother to test and fix. But in my case I really did get much better results after re-shimming the focusing screen. Still, I wouldn't bother with this unless you really think there is a problem -- not just missing focus when focusing manually, but consistently missing it in the same direction (front or back).
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