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12-14-2009, 07:25 AM   #1
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body, lens, use question for *ist DL

I currently have the *ist DL and use a SMC Pentax-FA 80-320mm 1:4.5-5.6 lens on it. I primarily use it to take pictures of my son playing baseball. Two things are going on that is either me or the camera. First, some of the pictures are blurry because the auto focus grabs onto something else. Second, the frames per second seems a little slow on this camera but I'm not sure if it is the camera or the lens. Can someone help answer these questions.

I'm an amateur and I'm also looking for some help on the settings to use for taking the baseball pictures. Like what should I use on sunny, cloudy or night games.

If I should get a new camera, what should I get. Should I get a new body and lens kit or just a body and use my existing lens? I don't want to spend a lot, maybe up to $700 for a kit.

Your thoughts are appreciated.

12-14-2009, 07:33 AM   #2
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The DL is an older model, and definitely much slower FPS than the newest Pentax bodies. The lens is also decent, but definitely not the best for sports photography.

The new Pentax K-x is definitely a good option - better low light performance, AF that will blow the DL out of the water, and 4.7FPS shooting.

The K-x/18-55/55-300 combo kit Pentax has for sale might be a good option. Although not the fastest lens, the 55-300 is a solid performer, good image quality wide open and it retains f4.5 through about 200mm, so it will perform decently at night (assuming the field is reasonably well lit). The K-x also has an option for catch-in-focus - essentially you'd place the lens in manual focus, then focus on the spot where you want to catch the action. Hold down the shutter, and when the action is in focus the camera will start snapping photos - this method works well for sports.

If you keep an eye on some of the pricing threads around this forum, you'll find that kit available for $750 - while you indicated this would be out of your range, unless you were intending to keep the DL/80-320 you can also sell those in the marketplace on the forum - The camera depending on condition/shutter count should fetch between $150-200 and I am guessing the lens is worth at least another $100. That would cut your cost down to about $500.
12-14-2009, 08:53 AM   #3
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I had a *ist, then moved to a K100DS. I shot a lot of sports with the 100, it is a good camera. The biggest need for sports is a fast lens. You need a f/2.8, even for shooting day games. You want a wide aperture so you can catch the action, or when shooting in poor light you can still get decent shots.

A good 200 lens will do a lot of what you want. I would get the fastest lens you can afford.

The FPS is a bit of a issue. Unless you get the upper end Canikons you won't get a fast enough camera to really do those amazing shots.

What you have to do is watch and learn when to shoot, it doesn't take long to catch on the time and you can get some great action.

I shot a lot of series shots (players fielding or sliding) with the slower FPS of my K100 and my newer K20, so it can be usable as it is.

The AF, that is just a trick. My K20 will catch something at times and ruin a series of shots.. so it is something you have to learn and work around.
12-14-2009, 09:01 AM   #4
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Change it to use the center point focus only. Set the focus and recompose if necessary. A smaller aperture would also give you some room to play with, producing a larger DOF.

Of course, the K-X dual kit would be the best option.

12-14-2009, 09:37 AM   #5
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While an f2.8 constant Aperture lens is ideal, with the K-x a quite useable ISO6400 makes even the kit lenses a viable option for someone on a budget (considering the 50-135 or 70-200 F2.8 options run just shy of $1K on their own).

The *istDL only has 3 focus points to begin with as well - it is simply a dated model that the OP will find a vast improvement over with the K-x, at a reasonable price point with a 2 lens kit that is also a significant step up over the lens they are currently using!

The K-x also adds close to 2FPS OVER the *istDL, not to mention a bigger buffer and even the continuous shooting beyond the buffer will be faster than the DL at its best (DL has 2.8FPS, with only a 5jpeg/3raw buffer).

From what I read in the review database, the 80-320 gets soft beyond 200mm, while the 55-300 is appreciably sharp throughout its range (based on my experience with it). It also has a much wider starting FOV, giving some added useability on the wide end.

The *istDL was my first Pentax - the size of the K-x compares favorably (they are about the same), with alot of new, useful features. I personally would recommend the upgrade, it is a significant step up in every facet and will last just as long as the DL has for the OP's intended purposes.
12-14-2009, 10:11 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by pxpaulx Quote
While an f2.8 constant Aperture lens is ideal, with the K-x a quite useable ISO6400 makes even the kit lenses a viable option for someone on a budget (considering the 50-135 or 70-200 F2.8 options run just shy of $1K on their own).
It would have to be head and shoulders above my K20 at higher ISO's to be real usable for decent sized prints. I have been only marginally happy with the K20's performance in the upper ISO range. (hence the thread that I started last week).

The f/2.8 also gives you a very good DOF for those great sports bokeh shots. You need those to isolate the subject at times, especially when the BG is not appealing in the first place.

And at some places you just don't have enough light during evening games to shoot with a slower lens.

The problem with getting a camera is that is the cheapest thing you will buy... then comes the lenses... then you realize that you need this or that lens and you spend more... and looking back the camera was a cheap "starter drug"...

About the size of the new bodies, I actually like the larger size of the K20. Not that the *ist or K100 was uncomfortable... but I do prefer the bigger grip. I bought a battery grip for my film *ist because it was so tiny. (that was a nice camera!)

There are plenty of ways to work around all the problems... the bad thing is that most take money... and the best ways take the most....
12-14-2009, 10:54 AM   #7
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No camera can read your mind, so problems with it choosing to focus on something other than you intended are inevitable. As mentioned, you can great reduce these by telling the camera which of its focus points to use - and the DL may well only ive you the option of choosing the center one. Which is probably fine; it's all msot of us use most the time anyhow. It's still not foolproof as the center AF point is pretty large - large enough that it's possible soemting in the froeground or background will be in range, not just the player you are aiming at. But like I said, you greatly increase your odds

As for frame rate when shooting, if you are getting 2-3 shots per second then seeing it slow down, that's normal for that camera, and indeed for most entry-level cameras. It's possible you are also seeing things going slower than that because it his refocusing between shots. You can fix that by prefocusing then switching to manual focus (I have a custom option set on my cameras so that the OK button temporarily cancels AF, so I don't need to actually flick the switch on the front of the camera). You can also try using continuous AF mode.

As for settings, aside from focus, there are only three settings that ever matter in photography: ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. These are the three components of exposure. Google those terms, learn how they interrelate and how you can control them in the various exposure modes, and you will know everything you need to know about how to shoot any type of scene you will ever encounter.

BTW, I am moving this thread to the Beginner's forum as it seem more appropriate there.

12-14-2009, 12:44 PM   #8
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Welcome to the forum.
Seems the K-x fits the bill best for you Steve. You'll also benefit from its faster focusing ability.
Then as suggested, the kit lens (DA 18-55) and Pentax's excellent consumer telephoto (DA 55-300) will be a worthwhile investment for many years to come. Although the 55-300 will be no faster than your old 80-320, its image quality certainly trumps that of the 80-320.
12-14-2009, 02:29 PM   #9
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The DL has the lowest specifications of any Pentax DSLR, so an upgrade is going to be very tempting. Still, the camera body can't do everything. There are a few techniques you could try with any setup.

1. Take advantage of baseball's predictability. A lot of time, the players are going to be in a certain spot or range of spots. Once you're correctly focused on a hitter at the plate, focus doesn't need to change. If you can change your position, you can pick a spot where even a moving player doesn't change the distance between you. Then you can move the focus switch to manual.

2. For sports, you're going to need a certain minimum shutter speed, otherwise correct focus won't matter - the subject will be motion-blurred. If the shutter speed is too slow, you can raise ISO or lower the aperture number. Your lens doesn't offer you a lot of flexibility with aperture, so raise ISO instead. You'll lose some image quality at ISO 1600 or 3200, but a night game may force you that high. With the K-x you'll have cleaner images at higher ISOs. If you don't want to choose ISO, set the camera to Auto ISO, but you can limit the camera to a rang of values to preserve quality. On the DL, Menu -> Custom -> ISO Correction in Auto. In daylight, I would limit the upper value to 800, 1600 in cloudy, 3200 at night.

3. You could certainly spend double your budget on a super-fast new lens. I don't think I would. You can look at EXIF on your old pictures to see what settings the camera chose. The lens is probably sharpest at f8-f11. You probably don't ever need the aperture to be a higher number than that. The lens will produce slightly softer images at its extremes, like f5.6/320mm. If you can, backing off the zoom a little might help. For non-dayllight games, you will probably be stuck at f5.6. The DA 55-300 that comes with the K-x kit has similar specs on paper but will produce slightly sharper images.

4. A tripod or monopod might help to limit camera movement. With a new camera, you'll gain image stabilization, which will help a lot.

5. DL-specific: You can get a few more shots in the buffer by shooting JPEG, not RAW. You can also slightly increase the camera's speed by choosing a white balance setting in advance, selecting the center focus point only, selecting an ISO yourself, maybe even choosing center-weighted metering. I don't know if that will make enough difference to matter, it makes me feel like I've done everything I can.
12-17-2009, 07:12 AM   #10
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Well thank you all for your input. I took the plung and went with the K-x kit:

Pentax K-x 12.4 MP Digital SLR with 2.7-inch LCD and 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL and 50-200mm f/4-5.6 ED Lenses

Now to learn all about it here and use your advise for taking baseball pictures.

I may try using my old tel-photo but maybe a better one is needed in the future.

Thanks again.

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