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06-26-2013, 07:47 PM   #1
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K-x focus question...photos attached...

Hi. I recently purchased my first dslr a Pentax K-x and I have a couple of questions. I have had really good results with macro photos with nice bokeh but I am struggling with portraits. I bought my camera to learn to take professional like photos of my kids....only I'm not having good luck. Often, they are blurry. I've attached a couple that I have taken for you to see and offer any tips.... if I attach a photo here, can you see the exif info to look at the settings I used so you can give me pointers. I've seen amazing photos shot with this camera but I have a lot to learn. I took a class that moved me from auto mode to AV and so I have been playing with the settings AV and ISO but some of my outdoor photos in midday on a cloudy day take ISO 800 to 1600??? That doesn't seem right....on a outdoor day if the ISO is that high, what kind of photos will I get in a gym or inside?

I have single point focus on, continuous focus selected, image stabilization on, and I've been centering my subject within the bracket in the viewfinder and yet it is sharper at other points than the middle section I have focused on. I've been waiting for the little image stabilization light and also the focus light to come on before shooting and still not in foucs. Not sure what's happening. I would appreciate your help and thoughts if you have a minute to help a newbie. (Thanks!)

Image 1: Photo 1 is of 3 people. ….. kits lens 18-55, F11, 800, dark and no one really in focus….. Do I need to go up to f13 or 16 and down on the iso then? I guess I just can't figure out why all these photos are so dark.

Image 2:
The second image is actually taken with a 50mm 1.7 lens manual focus lens at 5.6, auto WB, ISO 800 and yet it's so dark AND out of focus. It was a cloudy day, but this was taken at around 2 or 3 in the afternoon and it was NOT dark.... The rocks behind him are in focus but he is way out of focus and yet I had the bracket set on his face???? It seems that if I have several feet behind my subject, my photos are more in focus, but how do I get an in focus photo when the person is next to a wall or rocks like in this case?

Image 3: The car appears to be in focus, but not the girl? These settings were f6.3, ISO 200, auto WB, center weighted. Once again the car behind her is focused like above on the rocks, but not the person.... and yet I've used 2 different lenses and gotten the same results.

In all 3 photos, the time of day and lighting were very similar and yet I have 2 at ISO 800 and one at 200 and they are all darker than they should be?

Image 4 was taken and the buffalo is still a little out of focus....I think this one is because I had it set at f4, ISO 200 and probably a 7.1 would be better? Yes/No? I took several of him and they are all about the same.

Image 5 was a ground squirrel....locked in on him in the center of the frame and he's out of focus also. He's at f7.1 and ISO 800....I took several of him also and they are all still slightly out of focus???

What am I doing wrong? I would love your thoughts and ideas as this is what I purchased the camera for.

I have taken tons of macro shots with the different lenses and a few of birds and I've gotten some really good shots (some not so good either but that's to be expected) but people are not working for me.

Would love to hear your insights! Thanks so much!

06-26-2013, 08:27 PM   #2
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It seems the attachments didn't get....attached? don' t see them.
06-26-2013, 08:37 PM   #3
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My photos under my attachments say in process??

Not sure why, but when I looked at my attachments they say "in process." Hopefully they will show up later???? If not, I'll try attaching them again tomorrow.
06-27-2013, 09:56 AM   #4
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Maybe the attachments are pending until you have a few posts? Just a guess.

Continuous focus (AF.C) could be a problem. The shutter will fire at any time in that mode, whether anything is in focus or not. In AF.S, you can't shoot until the AF locks onto something. That is sometimes frustrating when the camera fails to lock on the subject, but also a failsafe to reduce out of focus shots. I skip over continuous focus because I either want the AF to work and lock, or let me do all the focusing. Continuous is too indecisive.

06-27-2013, 10:04 AM   #5
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I can't see any photos.
QuoteOriginally posted by Just1MoreDave Quote
Continuous focus (AF.C) could be a problem.
That was my immediate thought too. For most photos I would recommend AF-S. AF-C is for capturing action, too random for general use.

The most common focus error IMO is the use of Auto AF. Allowing the camera to choose the focal point is courting disaster. The best focus method for non-action shooting with a K-x is AF-S, with Center Focus & Recompose technique.

I also wonder about the very small apertures. F11 is not unusual for landscape. For portraits, most people favour wide apertures.

Last edited by audiobomber; 06-27-2013 at 10:14 AM.
06-27-2013, 10:33 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
I can't see any photos.


That was my immediate thought too. For most photos I would recommend AF-S. AF-C is for capturing action, too random for general use.

The most common focus error IMO is the use of Auto AF. Allowing the camera to choose the focal point is courting disaster. The best focus method for non-action shooting with a K-x is AF-S, with Center Focus & Recompose technique.

I also wonder about the very small apertures. F11 is not unusual for landscape. For portraits, most people favour wide apertures.
I use focus & recompose frequently. The trick is in recognizing when this is going to bite you in the behind. Most people do not recompose by moving their feet in relation to the subject, but by changing the direction the camera is pointing and therefore drawing an arc.

When you do this, the distance to the subject is changed, and therefore the focal point. If the subject remains within the DOF, it may be no big deal. But if the DOF is shallow or critical focus is essential, you have to first compose and THEN focus, not the other way around. I leave my camera set to focus point selection and try to remember to always return it to the center point. When I hit one of my two described scenarios, I either change the focus point, or go to manual focus.
06-27-2013, 02:51 PM   #7
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Ok....photo link provided

Sorry....my photos still aren't showing up so I decided to just do a blog post. I copied the info from this post into my blog so you don't have to bounce back and forth to see the pictures and the info so I hope that helps! I really appreciate your thoughts so far and look forward to hearing more when you can see what I am talking about. These photos are out of the camera with no post processing. I know I can lighten them and crop etc in after processing, but I want to learn "how" to use the camera not do everything after the fact. (but of course with the focusing, I need them in focus before I can process anyway! :-)

Thanks so much and sorry for the headache! I appreciate your thoughts and help! The link is below!

Live for Scrappin': Photo troubles.....
06-27-2013, 06:16 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by JimJohnson Quote
I use focus & recompose frequently. The trick is in recognizing when this is going to bite you in the behind. Most people do not recompose by moving their feet in relation to the subject, but by changing the direction the camera is pointing and therefore drawing an arc.

When you do this, the distance to the subject is changed, and therefore the focal point.
According to a poll a couple of years ago, 80% of the people here primarily use CF&R. It's not that difficult to do, and the criticisms of the technique are highly exaggerated.

06-27-2013, 06:32 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
According to a poll a couple of years ago, 80% of the people here primarily use CF&R. It's not that difficult to do, and the criticisms of the technique are highly exaggerated.
Like most shortcuts, the trick is knowing the limitations.
Here is a picture of what happens when you use the center focus with a shallow depth of field, lock focus, then recompose.
The lines from the focal plane are all the same length. The break in the line represents the current depth of field. I have extended the depth of field from the original center focus, where presumably the subject is placed. When recomposing, the subject distance to the focal plane shifts, but the depth of field does not.
06-27-2013, 07:47 PM   #10
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The angle you move the camera to recompose is miniscule. I took over 1000 photos on my Paris trip, maybe 4 were out of focus. None of the OP's photos would have been a problem for CF&R, so this discussion is off topic.
06-27-2013, 07:56 PM   #11
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Hope9811, your photos show several errors. You need to do some study in the following areas; metering, focussing, exposure triangle, exposure compensation, AE-L. The K-x manual is a good place to start. I highly recommend you buy a copy of Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson.

In the meantime, do not use AF-C except for action shots. Practice Center Focus and Recompose, use Matrix Metering and auto ISO from 100-1600. Program mode is a good place to begin to learn, you can gradually take control of aperture and shutter speed once you've seen how the camera reacts.
06-28-2013, 05:18 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Hope9811 Quote
I appreciate your thoughts and help! The link is below!

Live for Scrappin': Photo troubles.....
While I believe audiobomber is still missing my point that I am not saying 'focus & recompose' isn't a valuable technique, but the user needs to understand the limits, it IS time to move on. There are several threads in the Forums where folks blamed the camera in error rather than the technique.

I totally agree about using either AF.S or AF.A autofocusing modes (AF.A will typically use AF.S unless you pick a scene mode that implies action). I suspect there is a bit of back focus, but try turning off continuous AF first. If you do still see the focus point consistently just behind (or in front of) your subject. You will find several tools for checking and correcting mentioned here in the Forums. My personal choice is: PENTAX DSLRs: Front or Back Focusing Problems? Free test (Lens Alignment) charts for Pentax, Nikon, Canon, Sony, Olympus. And if you use the focus indicators when using a manual focus lens, then yes this affects those lenses too.

You don't indicate a couple things in your data - what exposure mode you used, and what metering pattern you are using. So please forgive me if I am off on a couple of my critiques.

In pictures 1 through 4. Look at the angle of the light. In each case the strongest light is behind the faces. And those areas seem to be properly exposed. Any number of techniques would have improved the photo. The best would have been to put the subjects' faces in the same light as the background - - - okay, moving bison isn't the smartest plan .... so two others might be to switch to spot metering (knowing you will likely overexpose the background) or use a bounce reflector or fill flash.

Here is the good news. Most photo processing software will allow you to tweak only the mid-tone shadows to increase the exposure in the faces without totally blowing out the rest of the scene.

Your prairie dog sentinel is properly exposed - but to me it looks like your camera back focused giving you a sharper view of the dirt immediately behind the subject.

By the way, another way to focus and recompose is to shoot a little wide and crop later. And yes, it has its limits too; you restrict your future print size, but you won't face depth of field issues. There are trade offs everywhere in photography.
06-30-2013, 06:01 PM   #13
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Thank you! I figured they were full of operator error as this is my first DSLR and I knew the camera was capable of better photos. I just need someone to point me in the areas to study and learn for these photos and I'll study those areas pointed out and try again. Everyone I know here uses a Nikon. Since my macros were really quite nice, this was my next step into learning a "new" subject matter and what goes with it. This fall I am taking a local dlsr class at our technical college, but want to play and learn as much as I can this summer too. I have read through a ton of the manual, but like I said, I'm still learning and some is still a differently language like metering and AE-L. :-) I will reread those areas and see if they make more sense now that I have the camera and a few photos taken. :-)

I've heard a little about back focusing, but figured in my case it was probably more operator error since I'm so new..... however if it is a camera issue, I'm afraid I don't have the knowledge to determine if it's me or the camera. I have seen several that were more focused behind....the one with the boy on the rock is a prime example of this....the rock is definitely IN focus and he is not and yet he was where my camera was focused at or (framed in on)..... How common of a problem is this? Should I spend the time to determine this first or continue with learning about digital photography metering and all those things first? If it does happen to be the camera, how difficult or expensive is the fix for this?

Just trying to decide what to "learn" and improve first as I understand that I do have a lot to learn. Thanks for the suggestions of the camera settings. I will change those and play again!
06-30-2013, 06:18 PM   #14
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Your camera has tools built-in to adjust for minor front or back focus issues. See your manual for the menu location. No screwdrivers required. And go back to my post and see the red text - it is a link to a free tool. (okay, it isn't really 'free'...you have to pay for the paper and ink you use with your printer )

In my experience it takes longer to read the instructions than it does to actually adjust the camera.
06-30-2013, 07:12 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by JimJohnson Quote
Your camera has tools built-in to adjust for minor front or back focus issues. See your manual for the menu location. No screwdrivers required.
The K-x does not support AF Adjust. Focus can be globally adjusted with firmware, but it is not shown in the manual, and is not something to play around with unless extensive testing has determined the camera is at fault. In this case, there are things that have been raised (like AF-C) before a conclusion is made.

Hope, what focus method are you using?

Last edited by audiobomber; 06-30-2013 at 07:18 PM.
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