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11-27-2011, 09:14 AM   #1
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K-x on-body flash

I came from a point and shoot with noisy high iso pictures and often used flash. I upgraded to K-x after reading reviews on its highly regarded low light performance. I got comfortable with increasing the ISO as needed and stopped using flash. However, one day I went to a dimly lit restaurant and had to resort to 6400 ISO. The pictures turned out horrible! The pictures were not only blurry but grainy as well. With that said, I want to start using the flash again. Is there any way that I can use the flash and not get blown out faces and dark backgrounds? Any other tips for on-board flashes? I tried a ping pong diffuser but it didn't really help imo and chances on getting a new flash is really low.

11-27-2011, 10:00 AM   #2
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I consider the on board flash as something to be used in emergencies only. If it means not getting a shot if I don't use it then at least it is there. A diffuser of some type will help but the reality is that the geometry of any on board flash is what makes it a poor substitute. It is just too close to the lens and sensor path. I do use it for fill in flash when a subject is silhouetted.

Try turning the flash compensation down a bit ( flash button and the scroll wheel) that seems to help me some. Also keep your distances in mind all the time, too close and you will often get faces blown out. The camera is metering for the face you focused on and sending out only the amount of light needed for that object to be properly exposed so yes the background is often dark.

Best solution is to get a decent hot shoe flash. You can get a manual one for less than $50 if you want to learn manual flash. Check out the Strobist Blog to learn more about manual flash. Admittedly a good p-ttl flash from Pentax or Metz is rather expensive.

Another thought is what lens are you using? For low light shots the kit lens (if that is what you have) is not the best. You can get a manual focus 50mm f/1.4 for less money than a flash. Or the Da 35mm f/2.4 might be a thought although that might be out of your price range. The point is you have an interchangeable lens camera, and different lenses have different abilities. For low light I use an F 50mm f/1.7.
11-27-2011, 10:32 AM   #3
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As jtrax has noted, a fully manual flash is inexpensive and can often work well. Other points/options:

* A flash with tilt will allow you to bounce the light off the ceiling where you have a light colored ceiling. A unit with both tilt and swivel may cost more but will allow you to bounce off a wall.
Both provide much more even light.

* An auto flash, one step up from manual, will adjust its output to the scene using its own sensor. Often you'll see them described as "auto thyristor" from the type of sensor used.

* Keep an eye on Craig's list if you feel comfortable with your choices. I scored a Nikon SB-26 (works fine in auto mode on my Pentax K-series) for $85.

Good luck and please post again when you've found your solution!
In this case, you can usually set flash and camera to the same ISO and aperture and then allow the flash to take over handling the exposure. I used that for quite a while prior to my Metz.

* Check out the Vivitar line to see if you can afford something there. There are a few other brands but none seem to have the following of Vivitar for simple, reasonably-priced flashes. The 285 model ~ $90.
11-27-2011, 12:59 PM   #4
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I agree with what's been posted above. I almost never use the on board flash. I have a wein sync and several old flashes and if I need one I use one of those. The on board flash is just too close to the camera and too harsh for me. The few times I've used it I've either turned it down or had my hand or put a diffuser over it and even then I usually wasn't too happy with the results. Find a Pentax DSLR compatible flash or grab yourself a wein and an older one if you can't afford a proper Pentax one. There's a list of safe flashes on line. Photo Strobe Trigger Voltages check there first.

11-27-2011, 02:05 PM   #5
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"Bright foreground - dark background" is strictly caused by the flash-subject and flash-background distance. Twice the distance to the background only gets 1/4 the light, so it will be dark.

Small diffusers up against the flash do not do much because the size of the light does not really change - they only reduce the flash output. You must increase the size of the light, such as bouncing it off a wall or 8x10 reflector on a flash bracket.

I got a $40 Bower from Adorama that will bounce and swivel. Works fine for casual use. Won't help dark backgrounds.
11-27-2011, 02:10 PM   #6
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Just wanted to emphasize what MagKelly said since I brought up old manual flashes. Always check the site he noted before buying an old flash. Some of them use higher trigger voltages that what modern DSLR's can handle and can cause damage to your camera. The safe ones work great and are very inexpensive, just check first.
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