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02-10-2010, 02:59 PM   #1
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Is this as good as it gets with K-x & kit lens?

I received my new K-x and shot a few hundred pictures with it to get a handle for how it works compared to my P&S Canon SX1. Both cameras are very similar with how they react, except for the K-x being MUCH fast to "confirm" focus and snap the picture. But I'm not real satisfied with how it's performing. I don't think I'm being completely unreasonable for the types of shots I'm trying to take. My goal is photos without using the flash. I have a Speedlite for my SX1, I do not want to buy one for the K-x.

ISO 800 shots from the SX1 have a ton of noise, but are still somewhat sharp so it looked like if I had a camera more capable of cleaner pics at higher ISOs I'd be satisfied... something the K-x received high marks for. It seems every shot I take with the K-x is very soft (nearly OOF-looking) compared to the SX1. Sure, there is less noise, but also less detail.

Here's a few pics I took last night in my daughter's nursery. The room has three 60W incandescent bulbs in the ceiling light and one 60W bulb in the light on the nightstand, I wouldn't call it low light. Since my daughter never sits still, exposure time needs to be somewhat fast.

K-x (f/3.5, 1/50, ISO-1600):




SX1: (f/2.8, 1/20, ISO-320):




The EXIF data should be retained.

I took a few pics of news print at 45 degrees and it doesn't seem to be BF or FF (I focused on the bold "Foods"):



Side note, one of the things I've noticed is the K-x very rarely chooses an ISO lower than 1600. I set the range to be 200-6400. More often than not, ISO is 3200 or 6400. I'm starting to think the ISO range on one of the cameras is bullshit, like K-x 800 is really 200 on my Canon.

I missed uploading the same shot of the 55-300 lens I took with my SX1, but where the K-x used ISO 3200, the SX1 only used ISO 400 (with focal length and shutter speed being fairly similar):



I'm using center point on all my test shots and did not focus and recompose for simplicity sake. The focus always looks very sharp in the viewfinder but turns out so soft in the end.

Any tips or things to check on getting the focus sharper or is this as good as it gets? If this is typical, I'm tempted to return the K-x and deal with the slow focus and noisy photos of the SX1

02-10-2010, 03:33 PM   #2
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I may be missing something, but the rendition of the K-x looks better to me.

I think your shutter speed thanks to the faster lens on the canon is probably the biggest factor for you. It also looks (to me) like your pentax shot is slightly front-focused and your canon shot is focused on the subject better. You can see that the crib and poster in the background are in the bokeh of the pentax shot, while they're sharp and in focus on the canon, but the subjects hand is not.
02-10-2010, 05:02 PM   #3
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ISO 1600 vs. 320 not a fair comparison especially if NR is on in the Kx. It's going to soften the image considerably to remove noise. If you really want to test focus you need good lighting and a tripod.

QuoteQuote:
Side note, one of the things I've noticed is the K-x very rarely chooses an ISO lower than 1600. I set the range to be 200-6400. More often than not, ISO is 3200 or 6400. I'm starting to think the ISO range on one of the cameras is bullshit, like K-x 800 is really 200 on my Canon.
I am not sure I understand your point but the Kx kit lens is slow, your lighting is poor so the camera is going to up the ISO to compensate. Indoor low light requires flash or faster glass...

I say go with flash and you will get indoor shots like this with the kit lens:

F5 1/11 ISO 200



F4 1/11 ISO 200

Last edited by mtroute; 02-10-2010 at 05:17 PM.
02-10-2010, 05:44 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by matiki Quote
I may be missing something, but the rendition of the K-x looks better to me.

I think your shutter speed thanks to the faster lens on the canon is probably the biggest factor for you. It also looks (to me) like your pentax shot is slightly front-focused and your canon shot is focused on the subject better. You can see that the crib and poster in the background are in the bokeh of the pentax shot, while they're sharp and in focus on the canon, but the subjects hand is not.
I think the K-x shot looks a little better too, but not $650 better if you know what I mean.

I don't know how would I get a better focused shot than using center point only and placing it on the subject where I want the focus. For these types of shots, what metering mode would be recommended? It seems maybe center weighted would be the best choice?

QuoteOriginally posted by mtroute Quote
ISO 1600 vs. 320 not a fair comparison especially if NR is on in the Kx. It's going to soften the image considerably to remove noise. If you really want to test focus you need good lighting and a tripod.

I am not sure I understand your point but the Kx kit lens is slow, your lighting is poor so the camera is going to up the ISO to compensate. Indoor low light requires flash or faster glass...

I say go with flash and you will get indoor shots like this with the kit lens:
I will see about disabling noise reduction and take some more pics tonight but a tripod and flash is totally out of the question.

- walls are a dark beige color, I have to PP every pic to remove the color cast (currently doing that now with the SX1+speedlite) unless there is diffuser I could use on the camera flash to avoid bouncing? If only for external flashes, that means $$$ because I'd have to purchase a flash for the K-x.

- a tripod doesn't slow down a 15 month old child unless i was to chain her to it.. but then i think camera shake would actually become an issue. I don't mean to sound ungrateful for the help, but it's kinda about the suggest in the threads for people wanting better pics of their kids where someone suggests a tripod. 99% of the time, camera shake is not the issue, it's the subject we're trying to capture!

02-10-2010, 05:51 PM   #5
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Choose 5.6~8/11 for better DoF @ 3.5 that lens in that condition, is soft.
02-10-2010, 05:54 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Hemi345 Quote
I think the K-x shot looks a little better too, but not $650 better if you know what I mean.

I don't know how would I get a better focused shot than using center point only and placing it on the subject where I want the focus. For these types of shots, what metering mode would be recommended? It seems maybe center weighted would be the best choice?


I will see about disabling noise reduction and take some more pics tonight but a tripod and flash is totally out of the question.

- walls are a dark beige color, I have to PP every pic to remove the color cast (currently doing that now with the SX1+speedlite) unless there is diffuser I could use on the camera flash to avoid bouncing? If only for external flashes, that means $$$ because I'd have to purchase a flash for the K-x.

- a tripod doesn't slow down a 15 month old child unless i was to chain her to it.. but then i think camera shake would actually become an issue. I don't mean to sound ungrateful for the help, but it's kinda about the suggest in the threads for people wanting better pics of their kids where someone suggests a tripod. 99% of the time, camera shake is not the issue, it's the subject we're trying to capture!

My interpretation of the OP was that you were unsatisfied with the performance of the camera and lens as to focus. Not just about the particular scene trying to be captured. I will say this if the camera is going to be used primarily indoors with a small child (I know your pain, I have twin 5yr old girls) your only options are flash or faster glass as demonstrated by the results from the canon F2.8 lens. And camera shake (or motion blur) is an issue because your shots are just slightly out of focus due to the slow shutter speeds. With a tripod (although inappropriate for this scene) will allow for smaller aperture which will give you more DOF and help with softness.

Put a fast 28 or 50mm (2.8 or better) and you will be much more pleased with the results. You are also in the realm of now having to learn technique because an SLR (not on P mode) is much more unforgiving than a standard P&S. But once you get the right equipment for the scene, are comfortable with proper technique, you will be much more impressed with the results.

Last edited by mtroute; 02-10-2010 at 06:04 PM.
02-10-2010, 06:05 PM   #7
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do f4.5 at 20mm instead of at 18mm, and just let the ISO bump up a little bit to increase shutter speed. humans do move fast enough for 1/50 to be blurry sometimes. Try TV mode and 1/80; doing this might have you deal with with higher ISO and slightly less detail, but when you dont pixepeep, the results would look sharper than a blurry 1/50.
02-10-2010, 06:30 PM   #8
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Take the kit lens and put it in a box for when you need 18mm wide shot of your bathroom renovation... ...

this is with 20 dollar 30 year old Helios 44M 58mm manually focused at F2 -- ISO 3200





I will take some shots with the Kit tonight and see if I can help you get more from that lens... but I would think it should be better than what we are seeing


Last edited by Igilligan; 02-10-2010 at 06:35 PM.
02-10-2010, 06:33 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Hemi345 Quote
I think the K-x shot looks a little better too, but not $650 better if you know what I mean.
That statement is based on one shot though and that's not where the dollar difference is, the flexibility and interchangeability of lenses is where a lot of that is. There are going to be occasions when there isn't much between the two, and there also may be some where your Canon might do better. Because of the smaller sensor, you will have more DOF at a given aperture is one example where it might be better for certain shots.

I don't know how would I get a better focused shot than using center point only and placing it on the subject where I want the focus. For these types of shots, what metering mode would be recommended? It seems maybe center weighted would be the best choice?
I don't think on this occasion it's a question of sharpness and metering, I think it's just at the limits of the lens capabilities. If you can find some conditions where you can shoot at f/8 and a focal length not at the ends (18 or 55mm that is where it will be softest) you should find it outperforming your Canon.



- walls are a dark beige color, I have to PP every pic to remove the color cast (currently doing that now with the SX1+speedlite) unless there is diffuser I could use on the camera flash to avoid bouncing? If only for external flashes, that means $$$ because I'd have to purchase a flash for the K-x.
Have you tried different white balances or even setting a custom one?

- a tripod doesn't slow down a 15 month old child unless i was to chain her to it.. but then i think camera shake would actually become an issue.
I hear you there and mine is only 8months.


I don't mean to sound ungrateful for the help, but it's kinda about the suggest in the threads for people wanting better pics of their kids where someone suggests a tripod. 99% of the time, camera shake is not the issue, it's the subject we're trying to capture!
A lot of people forget when they were first starting out or when they had kids. It's easy to suggest better or more equipment without thinking about it. you'll also get suggestions about cheap manual focus lenses, that is a great option but it requires dedication from you to learn the skill needed for it (which is rewarding BTW).
Give yourself a chance to find out what it's capable of. You might find that you need to keep the Canon for certain things and save the Kx for the occasions when it shines. Once you're familiar with what it can do you may decide a better lens is an option (for example). I would say it's still worth thinking about getting a tripod though. It will be useful for those family shots and also when you make use of the video on the Kx.
02-10-2010, 06:38 PM   #10
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In your comparison you put the K-x at a large disadvantage…

K-x vs SX1
f/3.5 vs f/2.8 = 2/3 stop disadvantage
1/50s vs 1/20s = 1 1/3 stop disadvantage
ISO1600 vs 320 = 2 1/3 stop disadvantage

All told, you put the K-x at a 4 1/3 stops disadvantage, which is a bit much for any camera to overcome…so I think it did quite well, considering. If you were to match shutter speeds, you could reduce ISO and get an image with less noise. A faster lens would help, of course, but that’s an expense.

One thing to realize is that your kit lens is slower than your compact lens. At f/3.5, your lens is 2/3 stops slower than the compact lens. Another realization should be that any K-x images shot with the aperture wide open will be a touch soft. This can be helped by closing the aperture a stop or two.

But I think the big problem here is managing expectations. The K-x does perform better, but it can’t work miracles…no DSLR will perform significantly better than a compact in low-light conditions because the limiting factor isn’t the camera…but the available light.

This comes over up regularly…people decide to go with a dSLR for the better low-light performance. However, people aren’t simply expecting less noise at the same settings…they’re expecting less noise while also expecting the camera to snap the shutter more quickly. And you end up with a situation like you have…where you expect better performance from a camera even though you’ve taken away a significant amount of light.

Sigma has a 30mm f/1.4 lens for $439 bucks. Yes, it’s a big chunk of change but you’ll gain 2 2/3 stops over the kit lens and that will give you some breathing space to do things like reduce ISO for cleaner pics, or reduce shutter speed to reduce blur, or close the aperture a stop or so to get a sharper image. THIS is what your DSLR can do that your compact can’t.
02-10-2010, 06:40 PM   #11
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The kit lens is not so good wide open and wide angle. Pentax SMC-DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL - Review / Test Report - Sample Images & Verdict
02-10-2010, 07:15 PM   #12
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The kit lens works well in many situations, but a simple lens upgrade will show better results especially in sharpness. I'm getting used to a 50mm lens. The results are great compared to the kit lens, that is when I can manage to focus right.

The first image is sharp near the elbow. That's what's in the center. I think that's why you're disappointed by the face sharpness.
02-10-2010, 07:55 PM   #13
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There are several things that play a factor in a photo looking sharp. One is simply getting accurate focus. The focus points are pretty decent sized and the camera may choose something contrasty that isn't what you want. This is particularly at the wide end of the zoom. Second thing is to shoot at a fairly fast shutter speed. It looks like the kx is picking fast enough shutter speeds, but in so doing it is pushing up you iso, which also tends to make photos soft.

I agree with the posters above who suggest considering an external flash. For kid photos, this makes a lot more sense than looking for a fast lens. Not saying you shouldn't get a faster lens, it would also be sharper than your kit lens, but more bang for your buck with an external flash.

The other thing that I would mention is that the kit lens is strongest in the center of its range. At the widest and longest part of its range, it can get pretty soft and needs to be stopped down a little. Just something to keep in mind.
02-10-2010, 10:26 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Hemi345 Quote
...Here's a few pics I took last night in my daughter's nursery. The room has three 60W incandescent bulbs in the ceiling light and one 60W bulb in the light on the nightstand, I wouldn't call it low light.
It doesn't seem like it to you, but your eyes have automatic apertures. A really cheap way to get a small advantage is to use higher-powered lightbulbs. Four 26W compact fluorescents would give you more light and at a good-sized home improvement store, you can choose your color temperature. White paint would also be cheap, but take more time.

I posted before about my 20x20 garage. I have 40 32W T8 fluorescent bulbs in there. It's enough light to make you squint when you turn them all on at once, but the camera thinks it's barely enough.



Also, P&Ss cheat a little in comparisons like this. Their small sensors give them a huge depth of field at the same f number. Their in-camera processing is geared to make every photo better than life. Reality is not always that good.
02-10-2010, 11:04 PM   #15
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Thanks a lot for all the suggestions and insight. I'll try them all and see what I come up with. The consensus is I'm using the kit lens at it's weakest points, wide open and at the extreme ranges. Confirmed that looking at most of my test shots, all were either at 18mm or 55.

Do you know if a Canon Speedlite 270EX is compatible with the K-x? I've read conflicting information on whether it will work or not. Some say it'll work, just have no TTL, others say the trigger voltage is too high and it'll be hard on the camera's electronics. If I can make it work, I might buy a diffuser for it since I'm not happy with the direct flash shots and bouncing it sucks.

Gus, your shots look exactly like what I wish to achieve. My wife has a Rikenon 55mm f/1.4 I want to try. I'm up for the all-manual challenge and if I can keep my daughter moving laterally, I might have a chance. lol I ordered an m42 adapter a week ago while I waited for the K-x to show up. Looks like it's still back ordered at Pentax (I tried bidding on some at Ebay but they went over what a new one would cost) I've been estimating how that lens will work in the house by composing shots with the 18-55 @ 55. It seems very bright, just a little worried about the shallow DOF and focus. Goofing around with it on my wife's Ricoh, I looks like it'll be around 6" @ 5ft wide open. Yikes. Could be great for static subjects though.

Another question... right now the camera is set to AF.A I notice if I'm half pressing the shutter, and I move or my subject moves, I'll hear the lens refocus and focus confirmation beep again. Is the recommendation to still use AF.S?
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