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02-18-2014, 08:23 PM   #16
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QuoteOriginally posted by angryannie Quote
I've taken a few thousand pictures but I'm only happy with about 5 of them.
Every person who takes pictures tosses a larger portion than they keep.

Even the "professionals".

02-18-2014, 08:23 PM   #17
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kozlok Quote
Step 1-reset your camera to it's factory state. It's in the menu somewhere, sorry this may be a bit frustrating, but necessary in case you have set up something weird.
I'm glad to hear you say this, since it also occurred to me just recently that I've butchered my settings.
02-18-2014, 08:25 PM - 1 Like   #18
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I think you should try and find a local course or conference that teaches you how to use a camera. I went to one once even though I already had a pretty good understanding and it was fantastic and helped me learn even more. The presenter spent from 9am to 1:00pm talking ONLY about shutter speed, aperture, iso and how they affect each other. He then spent 3 hours teaching everyone how to use manual mode with shooting examples. A terrific course, but after 3 years he retired it.

My niece has a 18-55 kitlens on a K100D and she stays in Av and is just focusing more on her technique rather than how to use the camera and is enjoying that a lot more than learning how to use it. I would recommend maybe starting there? Just get out and shoot! Throw it in Av, experiment and just shoot everything and anything?

Got a current obsession (we al do)? Photograph it!

Got a cat? take photos of it!

live in an urban metropolis? get out and explore it! Shoot it!

only way you will learn and evolve is to take photos.
02-18-2014, 08:28 PM   #19
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QuoteOriginally posted by angryannie Quote
@MSL, I have the 18-55 kit lens. I have no film experience whatsoever. I'm just kind of winging it. I've taken a few thousand pictures but I'm only happy with about 5 of them.
Well my success rate is a little bit better than 5/1000, but not by much. I don't know the settings or features of the K-x so I might get a few things wrong here, but bear with me. I'm going to try to keep things painfully simple, which of course means it won't be fully accurate. But with any luck some of this will be useful.

- the 18-55 lens is capable of good images, and great ones under the right conditions. but it can also disappoint at times and this has been discussed in many threads. for general photography it is fine, and I started out with that lens too
- if the important part of the image isn't in focus, you will be disappointed, unless you are deliberately going for a soft look which can be the case for portraits. As such there is a tendency to focus on what is in the middle of the exposure and to put objects in a central pose. This isn't a bad way to start out, but if you read enough you'll start to hear about the rule of thirds, depth of field and other terms that will affect the way you take pictures
- as a minimum you need to understand the trade off between shutter speed, aperture and ISO. If you aren't shooting fast moving object, the main issue about shutter speed is making sure it is fast enough to avoid blurring caused by camera motion. If you stay about 1/200 you will certainly be fine, and once you learn to hold the camera steady when you push the trigger, you will be able to go to slower speeds. Aperture will affect how much light enters through the lens to the sensor. The smaller the aperture, which translates into a larger f-stop, the less light but conversely the more of your image will be in focus. At 40-50mm range, shooting at f 3.5 or so will give you a very narrow depth of field no matter how far away the object is. That means that you really need to focus on the part of the object that matters. For portraits that is usually the eyes. At f16, for example, a lot more of the image will be sharp so you don't need to nail the focus to the same extent. If you happen to focus on the nose rather than eyes, the eyes should still look sharp. So between shutter speed and aperture you will determine how much light hits the sensor. Whether that is enough light to make an image will depend on what ISO setting you pick or let the camera pick. But the higher the ISO, the grainier the image. Shooting anywhere between 100-800 should work well for any Pentax DSLR. Newer ones can go much higher and still produce an image that is usable; I'm not sure about the K-x.

I'll stop here for now. If you would like more information online, the best photography site I have found is Cambridge in Colour - Photography Tutorials & Learning Community

02-18-2014, 08:30 PM   #20

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For video, you might just want a camcorder. The K-x is certainly no camera for easy video (but virtually no DSLR is). My budget Panasonic HC-V201 does very well; even my iPhone 5S is a good video camera (seriously, I bought one solely for the purpose of streaming live video - I've never made a phone call on it). If you insist on using your still camera for video, then you will need a new model (unless you like manually focusing for video).

For learning the DSLR, the K-x is still probably your best bet. Forget the manual - it's only good for occasional technical reference, not for learning. Take a class and learn by using. Do you have a Calumet Photo store nearby? They have some excellent classes for people in your shoes. Make your next class a portrait class.

I think the best you can do is keep the K-x and invest in some classes, because the K-x is the cheapest learning tool you're going to get. Keep the rest of the money in the bank (or however you save it), because you may need it soon. Also get a DA50/1.8 lens soon (especially for portraits), and possibly a DA35/2.4.

I could suggest going straight to an all in one solution like the Sony RX-10, but then you won't become as good a photographer. Furthermore, the K-x with the $180 (or less used) DA50/1.8 will take better portraits than that $1300 Sony. Please take a look at what that lens can do on your K-x:

PENTAX : Select a PENTAX interchangeable lens camera or a lens model

And then take some more classes.

P.S. Here's your first lesson:

1) Get the DA50 lens
2) Put the camera in Av mode
3) Learn to set the focus point
4) Learn to set the aperture
5) Shoot

Then go back to the Pentax Photo Gallery and look for other portraits taken with similar lenses. You'll find more than a few you really like. Look at the aperture and focus point that was used (the aperture for most PPG photos can be found in the "i" link at the upper right of each photo). Obviously you'll need to figure out the focus point by examining the photo. If you like these photos, then you can like your own photos. Here are links that include some of the best portraits:

Last edited by DSims; 02-18-2014 at 09:08 PM.
02-18-2014, 08:34 PM   #21
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I bought my K-x in 2009 & have used it as a gigantic, fast PnS. Then I bought a k-5ii. Oh, my lord. Now, I actually have to learn what I'm doing. I feel your pain! I find the menus & layout of Pentax cameras to be pretty intuitive, so I don't think brand hopping is going to fix that for you.
02-18-2014, 08:39 PM   #22
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Don't give up! I bet that soon more things will fall into place and you will start to enjoy it more. The advice above seems pretty good, so I won't try to add to that. At this point, may I gently ask if your expectations are overly eager? My initial experiences with a DSLR in 2009 were also a bit of a let down, and I have read that can happen. However, after some practice and familiarization I started to get better results and enjoy photography more. My first several thousand pictures left something to be desired as well. I think you have made a great choice to go with Pentax and this forum is really helpful. I also think it was good of you to try a different reference book when the first did not suit you. Keep trying - things will improve!
02-18-2014, 08:39 PM - 1 Like   #23
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QuoteOriginally posted by angryannie Quote
You guys seem like such a nice bunch. Maybe you can give me a sense of direction here...

Way back in 2010, I was eager to get into photography and saved up for my first DSLR. After much research, I bought a K-x, but in retrospect I wish I hadn't. The manual is too complicated and dense, the controls aren't intuitive, and basically I have no idea what I'm doing. I have a basic understanding of shutter speed, exposure, etc. but I simply don't understand how to apply those settings to the camera. I've tried to figure it out and I'm ready to give up. Did I mention this was almost four years ago?!

So, I put the K-x for sale on Craigslist. Someone just offered me $225 for it, and I'm tempted to take it, but I'm not ready to give up on DSLR photography yet. Should I go ahead and sell it now, since this is the best price I'm likely to get? I have the money to upgrade to something better if that's what makes sense at this point. What I really want it to be able to take nice portraits, occasional macro shots, and some high-def video. I am ready to throw in the towel on this model, but I don't want to start buying Canon or Nikon lenses just to find out I should have stuck with Pentax.

Go to YouTube for tips. If a Ford Escort is too much for you, a Mustang will be worse.

02-18-2014, 08:42 PM - 2 Likes   #24
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Understanding photography is a process that you have to work through. The nice thing about digital photography is that you get instant feedback on what you see on the screen. In this era, you also have the opportunity to ask people on the internet for help. That's the good part.

The hard part is that not only is learning about photography important, but also learning how to use photo editing software and how to navigate around your computer is really important. So you have to realistically assess where you are and what's the most important thing for you to learn now.

And of course you'll have to spend time to get through learning so set aside a half hour a day or 3 hours a week or whatever --- the important thing is to just do it. Don't let yourself make excuses or find other things to do. If you want to be a photographer, you will have to work at it.

Capturing beauty and memories is a worthwhile endeavor - but the more you do it, the better you'll get. There will be tons of mistakes along the way if you let yourself be too critical - just learn from them. And as a reward, you'll have hundreds of memories that you can go through at any time and, if you're lucky, you can share these with your loved ones forever. It's worth the effort!

PS - when you are sharing these pics with your friends and family, you may know that a different setting may have resulted in a better photo, but I highly doubt they will say "you should have used a different f-stop!" They will say "what an amazing place; tell me about it" or "I remember him/her; I miss them" or "I can almost smell the flower in that picture". So don't let your ideas of perfection prevent you from trying and doing.

Last edited by vagrant10; 02-18-2014 at 08:57 PM.
02-18-2014, 08:45 PM   #25
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kozlok Quote
Lets be specific. Take this one shot at a time, give us a single real example of something bothering you, and we will help, one at a time.
Example photos would help with the diagnosis.
Example photos with your thoughts on what you don't like about them or what you think went wrong would help tremendously.
02-18-2014, 08:46 PM   #26
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Read the book Understanding Exposure and get on with the rest of your joyous life.

if you're up for a little more investment, buy or borrow and old M-only film camera. With all of the options stripped away, it gets clear and easy and fun.
02-18-2014, 08:52 PM   #27
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The K-x was my first DSLR, and it was a learning curve for me too. Here are some steps I would try.
1) If you have everything pretty much at default settings, first make sure you have your ISO set to Auto. Click on ISO button on the back, select ISO AUTO and set its maximum to 1600.
2) Now, you can use it like a sophisticated Point and Shoot. Set your dial to Auto Pict. Just take a bunch of pics of different things near and far. Zoom in/out. You may not get the best pics, but it will start to teach you about aperture and speeds you are likely to use in various situations.
3) Next, set the dial to P / Program. On a nice sunny day, use the dial on the back to set the aperture to f8. Now just take lots of pictures again. Note how the ISO and shutter speed adjust depending on the situation.
4) Still w/ the camera in P mode, take a picture of the same thing with the same zoom, but use the dial on the back to change the aperture / f stop. Note how it makes changes to your ISO and shutter speed. When you check the pics, note how the depth of field changes. When it's wide open (i.e., a low f number like 3.5), there will be only a narrow band of focus. (This primarily applies to close up objects.) When you have a higher f-stop - 8 or 11 or 16 - you will have a larger depth of focus. (BTW, I wouldn't recommend higher than f16 with your 18-55 lens)

That should be a good start and eventually you will want to move on to Av mode or even manual.
Good luck!
02-18-2014, 08:52 PM   #28
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Actually if Na Horuks advice is the type that is desired, then its not a "What did I do wrong?" question, but rather a "Too much to learn, where do I start in learning to do what I want?" question.

It is somewhat complicated to explain how to take specific types of photos without digressing very badly into side topics to explain how and why to do the things I would suggest doing.
For example I was going to suggest buying this:
and busting the glass out to make your current lens a macro lens, but then I realized that just explaining that one part would get really complicated and I am not sure where to begin or how much you would need to know. This would be easier in a chat room rather than a forum so we could get instant feedback.

I think we need to start by picking a specific sort of picture you want to take and just telling you how to do that, you will pick up technical stuff along the way.

I would set aside video until you have photography down, and also set aside portraits since with portraits you would have to learn the very complex topic of artificial lighting:
Strobist: Lighting 101
and just start with macro photography since you learn all the technical things with that, but its usually a slow or non moving target and much less technical overall. You could do macro photography using just Av mode to control your depth of field (with aperture).
02-18-2014, 08:58 PM   #29
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Good Evening Annie,

Fundamentally all cameras are going to work pretty much the same. Selling the Kx and going to Nikon, Canon, Olympus or Sony will be pretty much the same. So, how do we take what you have and get you taking some reasonable images?

The absolutely simplest approach will be to - turn the big dial up on the top of the camera to "Auto Pict", on the left hand side of the camera, there is a slide switch - slide it to AF (auto focus). The camera will now work as a point and shoot camera - but it has a better lens and a larger sensor. Shoot away, as the camera will set everything automatically. It will take images as well as the engineers have set up the camera. This way you can concentrate on finding the picture you want to take.

Next - So lets say you want to take a portrait of someone. Turn the big dial on the top of the camera to the portrait mode (it looks like a silhouette of a person) - right under "Auto Pict". With the focusing in AF (slide switch again on the left side of the camera). Aim and shoot.

So, the big dial on the top of the camera has a landscape mode (picture of mountains on the dial), right under the mountains there is a picture of a flower (for macro shots), etc.

Try these settings and get comfortable with the camera and see if you start to get better pictures.

Once you do that, and get some confidence then perhaps - turn the big dial on the top of the camera to "Av". This is where YOU start to take control. You can use the thumb wheel on the rear of the camera to adjust and set the aperture - the f stop (how much light is coming through the lens and on to the sensor). The camera will figure out the rest of the setting automagically. Compose the shot and take the picture.

I might suggest trying to take another class - maybe an extension class at a community college. Perhaps ask the instructor for some one on one time. None of the camera vendor manuals are really that intuitive in terms of really being very useable.

Here are some Kx video turtorials on youtube.
hope that helps, some...

02-18-2014, 09:04 PM   #30
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QuoteOriginally posted by angryannie Quote
I did take a basic photography course. It was helpful in learning the fundamentals of photography, but it taught me absolutely nothing about the actual settings of the camera. And I actually did read "Understanding Exposure" and didn't care for it; I preferred "Getting Started in Digital Photography." That one helped me over the initial hurdles. So I guess I'd say I have a good understanding of how things are supposed to work. Where I get stuck is how to make them work!
It looks like a lot of folks are overlooking that you have taken a photography class, and have read the Book. Just a suggestion - you might want to edit your original post with this information. With the attractive thread title "Bought a Pentax, got in WAY over my head" , everyone is just jumping out of the woodwork to give you suggestions, without necessarily seeing your follow up post.

QuoteOriginally posted by angryannie Quote
I was not interested in learning video when I initially purchased it, but I am now, so I'm leaning towards a new model.
The newer Pentax cameras do offer better manual controls over framerate, shutter, and aperture. However, autofocus remains a challenge on all but a few DSLRs, due to the shallow depth of field that still photographers embrace, and over which some hipsters tend to over obsess for their "art project" videos. To get good video out of any DSLR, you generally will need quite a few add-on accessories, in order to compete with the video quality you can get from your average camcorder.

I just wanted to set your expectations that despite all the marketing hype, the ideal all-in-one device for stills and video isn't here yet, and those devices which can do both reasonably well will always have some compromises. A newer DSLR will make this a little bit easier, but getting good video results out of any DSLR is still more challenging than getting good stills, or using a video camera.

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