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10-27-2011, 05:13 AM   #1
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Why do my autosettings result in such poor pictures?

I am a communications professional, and when I started my new job, there was a Pentax K-m here that was purchased by my predecessor, to take photos of events and whatnot. I tend to rely solely on the auto-settings, because things happen quickly at these events, and when I'm handing out media kits, meeting people, making last-minute adjustments to speaking notes, AND am responsible for all of the photos at the event, I don't really have time to futz around with different apertures and shutter speeds. However, all of the photos that I take with this Pentax are just...not impressive. They're not sharp, the colors are not true, and everything just looks dull and noisy.

I thought maybe it was just me, but this morning I did a test by taking pics of the same items, under the same lighting, using both the Pentax and also using my personal camera, a Canon Rebel T1i. There is a marked difference between the photos. I've uploaded a couple here, as well as the shot information showing the ISO, shutter speed, etc. (I deliberately picked two photos where they wound up with the same aperture and shutter speed, so that we can maybe narrow down the issue a bit more easily.) I'm wondering if anybody can give me any advice on what is going on and why I can't get good photos out of this camera. I've also attached an outdoor shot taken on full auto with the Pentax, which shows a lot more noise.

Attached Images
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PENTAX K-m  Photo 
View Picture EXIF
PENTAX K-m  Photo 
View Picture EXIF
Canon EOS REBEL T1i  Photo 
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Canon EOS REBEL T1i  Photo 
View Picture EXIF
PENTAX K-m  Photo 
10-27-2011, 05:31 AM   #2
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I am not an expert, but it looks like you have a bit of flare in the outdoor photo (I found this to be a problem with my kit lens when I was using the KM). Also note the ISO is at 400 and that looks a bit high for an outdoor shot with that much light.

With the indoor shots you it looks like you have used a flash with the Cannon, this has an effect on the ISO resulting in less noise and a sharper photo on the Cannon.

Try paying a bit of attention to the ISO setting and see if that sharpens things up for you.

I found the KM to be a pretty reliable little camera (with a decent lens on it) and still keep one as a spare body.
10-27-2011, 05:47 AM   #3
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There's a function in the autosettings where I can adjust the potential ISO range. Right now, it's on auto-ISO, with a potential range of anywhere from 100 to 1600. Should I narrow the range down to the lower ISO settings?
10-27-2011, 06:33 AM   #4
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Yes, depending upon how dark it in inside and whether or not you're using flash you may not need that much of an iso range. Try limiting it to 400, 800 if you're using a flash. 1600+ that's usually something I reserve for really low light situations, no flash. Also check your color settings. You may want to permanently set it to the more colorful setting if you like more of a Canon colors effect.

10-27-2011, 08:32 AM   #5
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I note that in the comparison shots you've got the Canon using ISO400 and the Pentax ISO1600. this suggests to me that you need to have a read through the manual to find the functionality that gets your Pentax using the lowest possible ISO for any pic - this will obviously cure the noise issue. I have that functionality on my Pentax but it's a different model to the one you have and I'm not sure where or what it's called on yours offhand, sorry. Also what Magkelly says is quite correct, there are a bunch of colour settings that will give you a more or less saturated look. Again it's in the manual somewhere, have a read of it. Do bear in mind though that the t1 is probably half a generation ahead of the k-m as it's both a slightly higher spec cam and a little bit more recent.
10-27-2011, 08:37 AM   #6
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+1 to what magkelly said. Pentax likes to set their default a little flatter than Canon does, less punch but more dynamic range.. but you can use the jpg settings to make a Pentax image look like a Canon image in the settings menu. The thing where one is at 1600 ISO and one is at 400 ISO in apparently the same lighting conditions is a little mystifying. Did the light change? IN any case, in my experience, shooting with less light degrades the image.. and shooting at 1600 ISO seriously degrades an image. I don't know the camera you're using, but I try not to go above 800 ISO. But in any case, I'm still completely baffled by the different ISOs considering the images were shot at the same time. Your settings would indicate that there was 4 times as much light for the Canon picture as was available for the Pentax picture. Is there a neutral density filter on your Pentax? I can't think of much else that could make a 2 stop difference?

Last edited by normhead; 10-27-2011 at 08:43 AM.
10-27-2011, 10:09 AM   #7
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If the light changed, it wouldn't have been by much. They were both in my office, within about 5 minutes of each other. And yeah, that's what baffles me as well -- why would my Canon go to an ISO 400 for that shot, while the Pentax went all the way up to 1600? It could be that Bruce is right -- the light triggered the auto-flash on my Canon, but it didn't do so on the Pentax, and the Pentax jacked up the ISO to make up for it?

I don't know. I'll have a good look through the manual, now that I at least have a better idea of what I'm looking for, as opposed to just trying random things to see if it makes a difference.

Thanks so much, everybody!
10-27-2011, 10:31 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Krista E Quote
If the light changed, it wouldn't have been by much. They were both in my office, within about 5 minutes of each other. And yeah, that's what baffles me as well -- why would my Canon go to an ISO 400 for that shot, while the Pentax went all the way up to 1600? It could be that Bruce is right -- the light triggered the auto-flash on my Canon, but it didn't do so on the Pentax, and the Pentax jacked up the ISO to make up for it?

I don't know. I'll have a good look through the manual, now that I at least have a better idea of what I'm looking for, as opposed to just trying random things to see if it makes a difference.

Thanks so much, everybody!
From the picture review on the LCD, it appears that the one you took with Canon had the flash on, whereas the one from your k-m does not. Default settings on each camera can be/are different and it all depends on how the default settings are set in the camera. I would think that if you set the auto-iso range up to 400 only on the k-m, than it will flash or alert you (inside the viewfinder) that you need to pop up the flash since there is not enough light to get the proper exposure value. What gets people puzzled is the fact that in both situations, the shutter/aperture setting being the same i.e. 1/60 and f4.5 is really a coincidence. The default shutter for flash is 1/60, and the widest aperture for your lens at that focal length is f4.5.

Not saying that one camera is better than the other, they are just different in terms of how the default settings are implemented.

10-27-2011, 10:36 AM   #9
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IIRC, you have to pop up the flash yourself on the Pentax if you want to use the flash in green mode (using the flash up button, upper left corner on third picture), while (at least the Canon in our household, a 7D) will pop it up if the camera deems that the photo needs it.

If I put the 7D and my K-x in P mode with Auto ISO, both would expose pretty similarly (perhaps about 0.5 EV down on the K20D) without using flash unless I put it up.

Last edited by icywindow; 10-27-2011 at 10:58 AM.
10-27-2011, 11:00 AM   #10
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That probably makes sense. I'll have to check about the flash on the Pentax when in green mode (after I get new batteries...mine died while I was futzing around with it this morning.)
10-27-2011, 03:18 PM   #11
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Another thing to look at Krista, is the default settings. Canon's default settings are much more aggressive than Pentax's. You will find that out of the box, your Canon images probably are going to look a bit sharper and brighter than the ones from your Pentax because of this (higher amounts of sharpening, contrast and saturation at the native settings with the Canon).
This doesn't make the Canon better, but it might behoove you to play with the image settings on your Pentax if you want it to output something that looks more like what your Rebel is giving you.
10-27-2011, 08:53 PM   #12
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You can download the PDF manual here, but you have to call it a K2000 and jump through several hoops to do it. I can't link directly to it:

Downloads & Literature - PENTAX Imaging USA

Page 66 tells how to set the flash so it automatically pops up - or just press the button with a lightning bolt on the 4 way controller, pick the Auto setting on the left, then press OK.

Page 157 covers changing the way the camera processes each photo, as mentioned by Wheatfield above. But apparently all of these settings are controlled by the camera in Auto Pict mode or any of the other scene modes. So you're stuck with what the camera wants. I think the Canon has been set to +3 sharpening if I interpret its display correctly.

Your outdoor photo is pretty terrible anyway, like a really awful filter was on the lens. I guess it could be flare as someone suggested. If most of the outdoor photos look that bad, it can't always be flare.
10-28-2011, 02:25 PM   #13
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The outdoor shot there is flare on it and the guys is in front of the sun so his face is shadowed. Flash would have helped to brighten his face up and there isn't enough contrast kind of dull color.

As for the indoor pics. The Pentax iso is way too high compared to the Canon. Lower the ISO the better the color and less noise. You have a Km and anything above 800 will generally give you tons of noise. Even at 800 it is somewhat noticeable but I learned to live with that if I need to use it. I want to say that the Canon also fired it's flash while the Pentax did not. Which also contributes to how the image came out.
10-31-2011, 08:42 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Krista E Quote
why would my Canon go to an ISO 400 for that shot, while the Pentax went all the way up to 1600?
I don't know about the K-m but my K20Ds on auto (green mode, and I believe Program as well) will try and maintain a shutter speed of aprx 1.5 times the FL. It will do this first by aperture, and then by ISO, up to the max that you allow it to. Only if it is at max aperture AND highest ISO (per your setting) will it lower the shutter speed below 1.5 x FL.
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