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11-29-2013, 09:17 PM   #1
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Need Quick Advice on T,giving Sales

I shoot with a Kx. The best two lenses I have are a DA 35 2.4 (cheap lens, not the macro) and a DA 55-300. I shoot mostly portraits and landscapes but I'm forever disappointed with the sharpness of my pics. I'll occasionally get a sharp shot, but I've never been sure whether it's my cheap camera, my cheap lenses, my lack of experience (I've been shooting for a few years but still feel like a beginner) or a combo of all the above. Right now with the Thanksgiving sales for about the same money I could upgrade to a K5 or a FA 43 Ltd. 1.9. I've lusted after an FA Ltd. lens after drooling over the pics in the FA Ltd. club so many times. I've gotten the OK from my wife to make such a purchase (for us it's a lot of money), but I honestly don't know where to put my money. Most of my instinct says to go with the lens, but I'd appreciate input. Thanks.

11-29-2013, 09:20 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by jjhenders Quote
I shoot with a Kx. The best two lenses I have are a DA 35 2.4 (cheap lens, not the macro) and a DA 55-300. I shoot mostly portraits and landscapes but I'm forever disappointed with the sharpness of my pics. I'll occasionally get a sharp shot, but I've never been sure whether it's my cheap camera, my cheap lenses, my lack of experience (I've been shooting for a few years but still feel like a beginner) or a combo of all the above. Right now with the Thanksgiving sales for about the same money I could upgrade to a K5 or a FA 43 Ltd. 1.9. I've lusted after an FA Ltd. lens after drooling over the pics in the FA Ltd. club so many times. I've gotten the OK from my wife to make such a purchase (for us it's a lot of money), but I honestly don't know where to put my money. Most of my instinct says to go with the lens, but I'd appreciate input. Thanks.
So you're torn between the lens and the K-5 II deal? I would honestly go for the K-5 II (Pentax K-5 II Digital SLR Camera 12016 B&H Photo Video) as it's a bigger improvement over the K-x than the FA 43mm would be over the DA 35mm, IMHO. I don't think you'll ever again see this good of a price on a brand new K-5 II...

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11-29-2013, 09:33 PM   #3
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Generally I go with the "bodies come and go, glass is forever" rule but in this case I'll agree with Adam. The current deal on the k-5II is a steal. And the k-x can be still be sold for $200 - 250 if it's in good shape.

That said, the k-x is not a "cheap" camera, I've sold lots of images taken with it, and while it is a bit dated at this point there is no reason you should not be getting excellent sharp images with it, especially with the 35mm f/2.4 which though inexpensive is a very good lens.
11-29-2013, 09:35 PM   #4
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I've never had a KX, but even my K100 and K200 produced what I considered pretty sharp pictures, using only "consumer" lenses. I'm sure that "pro" lenses would have produced even better results, but those lenses you have are considered at least moderately good performers for their price range - if you have good copies.

You should make somewhat scientific tests, using a very substantial tripod, and a variety of aperture settings. Turn SR off (or just use the timer, which should turn it off for you.) Focus carefully manually, and see if there is a discrepancy between auto and manual focus results.

If your equipment is in good condition, it should be capable of producing sharp results.

When you're looking at those FA posts, how are you viewing the images? If you aren't viewing them the same way you view your own - for example, if you're viewing yours at 100% unsharpened, with no PP - that could account for some of your dissatisfaction. I think some of the kit lens examples on the forum are pretty outstanding, too.

The K5 deal is an amazing value, so I'd recommend taking advantage of that. But not because it will necessarily improve the sharpness of your images substantially. The weather-sealing, top lcd, control layout, better viewfinder and upgraded back lcd are all more significant considerations.


Last edited by tibbitts; 11-29-2013 at 09:40 PM.
11-29-2013, 09:45 PM   #5
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If I were you, I would first figure out what's going wrong with the very capable gear you have and determine if it's something you can correct or if you do in fact need new equipment to overcome the problem.

Not that jumping on sales is wrong, but 'entry-level' dslr stuff is capable enough these days that defects in the output are most often user error (assuming the gear is not somehow faulty) and those user errors will carry over to high end equipment quite nicely.
11-29-2013, 09:55 PM   #6
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Thanks so much for the input. I must say, though, that I am astounded. I figured everyone would say go for the lens, since I've been led to believe that the lens is the most important contributor. Plus I've been saying to myself for a couple of years, "if only I could get an FA Ltd, then I'd be taking razor sharp photos." Making decisions are not my strong suit, but you all have really got me pondering (a lot of things)!
11-29-2013, 10:21 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by jjhenders Quote
if only I could get an FA Ltd, then I'd be taking razor sharp photos.
If you are not taking at least some very good images with the kit you already have then adding an expensive lens is not going to help. The FA Limited will make it easier perhaps, but it's not magic. Sorry to be blunt but my DIL uses a k-x and gets good results with lenses not as good as yours. My wife just retired her k-x (my old one) in favor of a k-5IIs because she was ready to step up, not because she was not already getting good images. She did some amazing work with the k-x and the kit lens. And I sold quite a number of images taken with the same camera. One of my best sellers was taken with the k-x and the FA 28-90 which is not a well respected lens, just what I had at the time.

And I don't think the lens is the most important contributor, the photographer is. The lens might be second and definitely ahead of the body but photographers took excellent images with cameras not nearly as good as the k-x for many years.

All that said, if you have the cash, get the k-5II you will not get the opportunity at these prices again. And you have an excellent lens in the 35mm f/2.4 put it on the k-5II and see what it will do.
11-29-2013, 10:32 PM   #8
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Thanks again for the input everyone. I must add that I've taken many good pictures with my Kx and I love the camera. Have no problems with it at all. If you've seen the frog picture on the FA Ltd. club thread ... well, I've never shot anything as sharp as that. And that was shot with the 43. Which is one of the reasons I told myself I just had to have an FA Ltd. But I also realize that much of the lack of sharpness I complained about was due to me. And I also realize that sharpness isn't everything. Just wanting some input on where to put a chunk of my limited funds, and so far it's unanimous to go for the K5ll. I'll just have to go with plan B and rent some of those lusted after lenses to get an idea of what one gets when one forks over that kind of cash. Thanks.

11-29-2013, 11:16 PM   #9
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When I see a shot of mine with disappointing sharpness, I can almost always think of something I could have done better. My #1 stupid mistake is putting on a manual focus lens and forgetting to change the focal length in SR. SR is great but if it's set at 28mm and the lens is 400mm, it doesn't work. It's not your problem because your lenses are AF. The underlying cause is rushing to shoot before thinking.

My #2 mistake is focus in the wrong place. The sharpest lens is only sharp where it's focused. I know from my lens tests that I can be really careful under controlled conditions and still not get the exact point every time, but for real shots, I need to be careful. Autofocus users should make sure that the AF is happening where they want it to be.

I'll say #3 is techniques that I try without being proficient at them. Today I tried to pan as some geese were landing on a pond, forgetting all the stuff I resolved to do after my last panning try. I should just get out there and practice panning on traffic to get it right. I am always shooting the moon with a big lens on a tripod. I will take a whole set of shots with the shutter speed too slow, because I forget how fast the moon moves and am just thinking about exposure.

You probably have your own set of mistakes. The DA 35/2.4 is cheap but ought to be plenty sharp. The tripod tests that tibbits mentioned should show that. Your focus target should be something with lots of contrast so you can see where the focus was when the shot was taken. Check your diopter setting to see if your viewfinder is right.

Go out on a bright sunny day so you can shoot at f8, 1/250 or faster and a low ISO. Make sure SR is on and the little hand is displayed in the viewfinder before shooting. Whatever the lens focuses on should be really sharp. Then try a similar scene in less light. Keep the aperture at f8. Set ISO so that the shutter speed ends up at 1/60. Then try 1/30 and 1/15. The idea is to see if you are moving the camera too much when shooting. At some slow shutter speed, you are not going to be steady enough. Your shots will have streaks where the camera records motion. Practice can make you steadier. I have a good idea how slow I can go before handheld shooting is just a waste of time.

If you look at your old shots, you might be able to identify what created the lack of sharpness. Motion blur or focus issues have different looks. Then look at the data from the shots. Shooting at 300mm and 1/60, motion blur in the shots, that's you.
11-30-2013, 12:21 AM   #10
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I'm surprised nobody's asked this: OP post a picture you're not satisfied with. Let's troubleshoot.
11-30-2013, 01:29 AM   #11
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I am also about one year into photography and have the same lenses that you do. I shot them with K2000 and now I use them on K-5. Looking at the K2000 images (since it preceded K-x), I find no problems with sharpness of shots when the lenses are stopped down quite a bit and shutter speeds are relatively fast. K2000 gives quite bad results when ISO >400, and in fact I can't find pictures that are shot above that.
DA55-300 gives me less sharp images compared to DA35. I blame it on it being a zoom and not a prime and physically larger and longer and requiring faster shutter speeds (which I can't always afford). Analysis of K2000/DA35 images show super sharp images (for my taste) =at f4-11, iso100-400, 1/45 or faster shutter speeds.
I am happier with the lens on K-5 for two reasons: it performs better at higher ISO (allows me to stop down and use faster shutter speeds), and it is heavier (up to 300 grams of extra weight compared to K-x/K-m/K2000) which makes camera/lens much more stable in-hand.

And, also, I am trying not to shoot DA35 at f2.4 if I can avoid it--teaching myself to stop down a bit is giving good results.
11-30-2013, 02:22 AM   #12
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With low F stops your plane of focus is very narrow. Most cameras needs adjustment to nail the focus around F2. I just shimmed a K20 that was missing focus at F1.4 your Kx has a front or back focus adjustment. Play with this and remember different light temperatures also impact point of focus.
11-30-2013, 05:22 AM   #13
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Hey there. Generally I would advise you to stay with your setup and give you hints about how to improve your technique. You said that at least sometimes you get good, sharp photos, so that mostly rules out lens and camera.
But! The K-5 sales right now are amazing, so you might want to get one. It will be a noticeable improvement over the K-x, but keep in mind its also a bigger, heavier camera with many more features, probably not "as easy" to use.

Here is what I would recommend you if you want sharp landscape photos: DA 35mm in Av mode, set to f8, fixed ISO 100, place it on tripod (make sure the camera is parallel to the horizon), use 2 sec timer. If you shoot jpeg, set the jpeg profile to landscape and increase sharpness. Maybe try turning it to Fine sharpness. If you shoot raw, don't be afraid to put the contrast slider to 70, 90. And the sharpness slider to 30, maybe 50. And turn the noise reduction down a little. Of course, you can do all of this with the K-5, too
12-04-2013, 01:55 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Na Horuk Quote

Here is what I would recommend you if you want sharp landscape photos: DA 35mm in Av mode, set to f8, fixed ISO 100, place it on tripod (make sure the camera is parallel to the horizon), use 2 sec timer. If you shoot jpeg, set the jpeg profile to landscape and increase sharpness. Maybe try turning it to Fine sharpness. If you shoot raw, don't be afraid to put the contrast slider to 70, 90. And the sharpness slider to 30, maybe 50. And turn the noise reduction down a little. Of course, you can do all of this with the K-5, too
That sounds like great advise. I was wondering if the op used a tripod, but I would assume he would if he's been shooting for years. I was wondering about that last bit though, I only shoot in RAW and have been under the assumption that those settings weren't really applied in RAW. I don't give those or WB a second look honestly.
12-05-2013, 10:39 AM   #15
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Yeah, the sharpness and detail slider can be pretty important. And the NR, too - if its set wrong, it can drown out detail/sharpness. If its too low, then the noise can make things look fuzzy. I don't do it for all my photos, but if I want it to look "just right", I do spend some time with those sliders.
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