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View Poll Results: What should I do with my K20D?
Keep it and take some lessons because clearly you can't use it properly 1562.50%
Upgrade the body but stay Pentax 833.33%
Sell it all - you're not in that deep and there's better options out there! 14.17%
Voters: 24. You may not vote on this poll

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10-18-2012, 07:28 AM   #1
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K20D low light conundrum - sellout or upgrade?!

Hey guys, we have a K20D that we bought about 4 years ago primarily for snapping great shots of our first born. As many people have experienced the K20D did not perform so well in low light and was very frustrating to deal with considering our daughter was born in January so almost always shooting in livingroom tungsten lighting conditions. Most of our shots turned out either horribly yellow and usually blurry or after purchasing the AF-360 blownout. I realize the the latter issue is more of an educational problem with me using the flash incorrectly but when a friend with a D60 comes over and cracks out great shots with the kit lens and no flash it was rather disheartening. Again to try and "fix" the problem I picked up a Sigma 30mm f1.4 which definately cut down on the number of bad shots I was taking but still was never really happy with the results. So now baby #2 will be here in a few weeks and I'm just going through stuff mentally in my head and I'm now contemplating whether or not I should upgrade my K20D to a newer body or sellout and join the evil empire that is Nikon. (and only because I've never seen my buddy take a bad shot with his D90 in low light and he knows nothing about photography - not that I do but when he can crack off 10 perfect shots and I'm lucky to get 3 or 4 - well its definately not the photographer)

Attached is an example of what I'm talking about - this is probably my best no flash pic - notice the slight out of focus and lovely orangeness. Below is the Exif properties - looking at it now I wish I would have bumped the ISO to at least 800 but it was probably on automatic(?).

We love the K20D for its feel and weather-proofing and it shoots fine in natural light - but it just seems so hopeless in low light.

Any suggestions?

Exif data

Camera
Pentax K20D

Exposure
0.011 sec (1/90)

Aperture
f/1.7

Focal Length
30 mm

ISO Speed
400

Exposure Bias
0 EV

Flash
Off, Did not fire

Orientation
Horizontal (normal)

X-Resolution
72 dpi

Y-Resolution
72 dpi


Software
Photo Album 7 7.00

Date and Time (Modified)
2009:11:04 17:54:36

YCbCr Positioning
Co-sited

Exposure Program
Not Defined

Date and Time (Original)
2009:10:12 18:54:40

Date and Time (Digitized)
2009:10:12 18:54:40

Metering Mode
Multi-segment

Color Space
sRGB

Sensing Method
One-chip color area

Custom Rendered
Normal

Exposure Mode
Auto

White Balance
Auto

Focal Length (35mm format)
45 mm

Scene Capture Type
Standard

Contrast
High

Saturation
Normal

Sharpness
Hard

Subject Distance Range
Close

Compression
JPEG (old-style)

Attached Images
 
10-18-2012, 07:37 AM   #2
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I would think you could upgrade to a K5 or K-30 and get the results you're looking for. You can bump the ISO up a lot on them and this will help you a lot with low light shots. The Sigma 30/1.4 should be great on those cameras.

If you shoot RAW, you can correct white balance in post processing. But in my experience, the K-30's auto WB is very good.
10-18-2012, 07:44 AM   #3
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I agree with loco. The newer Pentax models from the K-x forward do much better in low light. But you can improve your K20 shots as well. First of all, you really cannot shoot jpeg indoors using auto white balance - it's a weakness the older models have. Adjust the WB manually to whatever lighting you are using - tungsten, fluorescent, etc. Or set the WB to flash if using the flash. This will get rid of the orangeness in your photo, and should improve your AF. Otherwise, shoot RAW where you can make the WB adjustments in post.

Last edited by paulh; 10-18-2012 at 08:54 AM.
10-18-2012, 07:52 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by paulh Quote
I agree with loco. The newer Pentax's from the K-x forward do much better in low light. But you can improve your K20 shots as well. First of all, you really cannot shoot jpeg indoors with auto white balance - it's a weakness the older models have. Adjust the WB manually to whatever lighting you are using - tungsten, fluorescent, etc. Or set the WB to flash if using the flash. This will get rid of the orangeness in your photo, and should improve your AF. Otherwise, shoot RAW where you can make the WB adjustments in post.
The K-5 or K-30 will also significantly improve on the white balance issue. The shot shown does appear to show some motion blur as well I think. Ultimately, the K-5 and K-30 will AF significantly better in low light, and you could shoot at ISO 4000 instead of 400 and still get great results (heck, I'm comfortable going even higher than that...the output from the newer cameras really is that much better than the K20 in this regard).

10-18-2012, 07:54 AM   #5
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The depth of focus at f/1.7 at close distances is pretty thin. The fact that some parts of the picture are in focus would tell me that it's a DOF problem. I would think that if you took that exact same picture either backed up a bit or increasing the numerical aperture number a bit (2, 2.8, etc), more would have been in focus. As loco says, RAW makes WB easy to correct. If you're leery of post processing, well, don't be

What is the criteria you're using to judge your Nikon friend's pics as "great"? If it's in-focus-ness, it could be that the Nikon kit lens' aperture is much smaller than your Sigma, thereby resulting in him taking pictures that have a great DOF.
10-18-2012, 07:58 AM   #6
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The Nikon D90 is equivalent to the Pentax K-x. From there, the K-5 and K-30 is about a stop better in high iso noise. I'd say get the K-5, it will deliver what you want.

Regards,
--Anders.
10-18-2012, 09:10 AM   #7
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You should buy a point & shoot -- they're great for what you're trying to accomplish.
10-18-2012, 09:11 AM   #8
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I believe your friend's D60 has the same sensor as the K10d/K200d/K-m, not really the best at high ISO and low light either. There is no reason that the K20d couldn't keep up with a D60 in low light

Try improving your technique first, get out of full auto mode and learn what settings are appropriate for the conditions. Buying a new camera might gain you a better sensor and better automatic mode behavior, but learning how to get the best shots possible out of your current body will pay off more in the long run.

10-18-2012, 09:17 AM   #9
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You are using AWB when the camera has a tungsten setting. And shooting jpg, which tells me you likely don't do much if any post-processing.

I would vote, A, B and C, as all may apply :-)
10-18-2012, 09:29 AM   #10
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The K20D is more than capable of making this shot. In this case, you can throw money at it to fix the problem, but learning how to use your flash would be the cheapest solution. As others have mentioned, switch to shooting RAW images. You can also push the K20D to ISO800 with good noise reduction software.

If you don't want to hassle with flash or improve your hand-holding technique, the new cameras do make things a lot easier. With the sensor in the K30, K-5 (or Sony NEX) you can shoot at ISO1600 and get a very clean image. Shooting with a higher shutter speed will eliminate that motion blur, and the K30's improved AF should help with that slight back focus. Shooting in RAW will allow you to fix the white balance.
10-18-2012, 10:09 AM   #11
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You need to shoot in raw. There are too many advantages from shooting in raw that you are missing. Secondly, you need to learn to use your flash. You'll need flash for 3-4 year olds anyway because with all but the fastest shutter speeds, you will get motion blur. Also, you need to stop down the lens to get more sharpness (and focus). Also, if you are going to shoot with ambient light only, learn to ETTR (expose to the right, google it).
10-18-2012, 10:34 AM   #12
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I think you should just try to get the flash working right. I can't see why shooting raw is necessary in good lighting, and the 360 can provide plenty of light in those conditions.

I use off-camera wireless mode on the 360 with my K-5 and it makes for some really great shots, but not sure if the K20D supports wireless mode. If not, then that might very well be a reason to upgrade, in addition to the improved high-iso capabilities.
10-18-2012, 11:59 AM   #13
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Thanks All! Decision DONE!

Well thanks everyone for the quick responses. I would agree that obviously photography is not my forte - however why would anyone need to worry about manually setting the WB when the camera has an automatic setting? Is that not what automatic means? And this is the first that I've heard of it not working very well - had I known that who knows. I wish I would have kept the K20D a little longer just to see what more I could have gotten out of it. My dad's K-r though is just so much better than my K20D (In low light) so I am hopeful that the K30 (which I just picked up btw) will be better still. I will shoot pictures in RAW from now on - I just don't do much in post processing or very little so didn't think there was much need for it.

I really do appreciate ALL the responses and will be sure to get myself a little better educated as well - my favorite response had to be SpecialK's

Last edited by Konos; 10-18-2012 at 12:02 PM. Reason: clarifying why my dad's K-r is so much better than my K20D was
10-18-2012, 12:20 PM   #14
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Congrats on the K30! The AWB on older Pentax DSLRs should probably have been called "AOWB" (auto outdoors white balance), since indoors was not it's strong suit . If you decide to shoot RAW, your photo quality will improve, but it will require some PP - RAWs usually don't look that great out of the camera. But RAW gives you the flexibility to modify or correct so many possible problems, and make the finished photo look the way you want it. If you're not into PP though, the K30 jpeg performance might be so good that you won't need to (much)!

Last edited by paulh; 10-18-2012 at 12:34 PM.
10-18-2012, 12:22 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Konos Quote
I would agree that obviously photography is not my forte - however why would anyone need to worry about manually setting the WB when the camera has an automatic setting? Is that not what automatic means?
Light temperature is a very complex matter, the camera will give its best guess when in automatic mode. Tungsten light seems to be extra tricky, along with the 50/60hz cycles of some fluorescent lights. Sometimes it gets it wrong, that is the risk you are taking when using any automatic mode. A camera is actually quite dumb, it doesn't see the scene the way we do, to get consistent results out of any camera you need to know how to tell it what you want.

In many cases, basic snapshots for instance, a point and shoot will give you decent results easier. Especially with the huge DOF keeping everything in focus and almost always using flash indoors, so it knows for sure what the color temperature is going to be. Also, a point and shoot only has one lens, one flash and the software is finely tuned to work perfectly with that combination. There is an almost unlimited number of combinations you can have on a DSLR, sometimes this will require a little manual intervention to get the results you want out of a particular combination.
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