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12-05-2014, 01:13 PM   #1
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Dear Pentax, AF speed and AF TRACKING attention means $$$.

I often read that Pentax is inferior to the Canikons when it comes to sports photography. I am a Pentaxian. I am a sports fan. In the days to come, I would like improvements in AF and AF tracking. With these two improvements, a huge niche could be added to the idea of the Pentax brand. I have a web site with my sports photos with my k5IIs. I know that AF tracking would take things to a new level. (**Attention K2 or K3ii)


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12-05-2014, 01:21 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kevwaly Quote
I often read that Pentax is inferior to the Canikons when it comes to sports photography [...] in the days to come, I would like improvements in AF and AF tracking.
I would first like to state the obvious that you should not always believe what you read. As far as I understand, the K-3 with the DA 18-135 is as fast as anything else in its class.

But also, I believe the consensus is that the [perceived] slowness of the autofocus in Pentax cameras has more to do with the lenses than the bodies. With the new DA 16-85, I'm trusting that we will see vastly improved autofocus speed in the new lenses.

But this is all speculation on my part.
12-05-2014, 01:31 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by bsamcash Quote
I would first like to state the obvious that you should not always believe what you read. As far as I understand, the K-3 with the DA 18-135 is as fast as anything else in its class.

But also, I believe the consensus is that the [perceived] slowness of the autofocus in Pentax cameras has more to do with the lenses than the bodies. With the new DA 16-85, I'm trusting that we will see vastly improved autofocus speed in the new lenses.

But this is all speculation on my part.
Unfortunately my heart would like to agree with you. But the info is from scientific data (AF speeds) given directly from many honest Pentaxians here on this forum. There is NO adequate AF tracking with Pentax which would help tremendously with action photography.

Last edited by Kevwaly; 12-05-2014 at 01:47 PM.
12-05-2014, 01:34 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kevwaly Quote
Unfortunately my heart would like to agree with you. But the info is from scientific data (AF speeds) given directly from many honest Pentaxians here on this forum. There is NO AF tracking with Pentax which would help tremendously with action photography.
That's sad to hear. I thought that DC and SDM were supposed to be Pentax's answer to tracking. I apologize for my misinformation, I must be thinking about single point focus.

12-05-2014, 01:38 PM   #5
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Screwdriven lenses remain faster than SDM despite the camera advances since the K10D. The screwdriver lenses with the smallest focal throws are very fast indeed on a K-5II or K-3. So I personally haven't looked any further, but there is a way to go for Pentax to get respect in the sports photography world.
12-05-2014, 01:48 PM   #6
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After shooting with the 5kii for a year and I half I still don't trust it's autofocus. Doesn't matter if it's the lens or the camera. I *have* to check the focus on every shot that I care about because I know from experience that it *will* miss the focus on any shot I trust it to and don't check. The most frustrating thing to me is that the autofocus rarely misses by a mile, rather it misses but a quarter inch. There's nothing worse that a bunch of shots that are fine at 800 pixels wide and useless for anything larger.

So I manually focus a lot.

One weekend a few months ago I shot all autofocus at an event on saturday and all manual focus on sunday. I took a similar number of shots on each day but about 2/3 of the in focus shots from the event came from sunday. Either my eyes and hands are very good (yeah right, my glasses are as thick as coke bottle bottoms and that's with the space age polymer "lightweight" lenses.) or the autofocus system pentax has is damn mediocre.

Until autofocus is at least as good as my manual focusing ability I'm going to be unhappy with autofocus in Pentax land.

In the mean time, I check the cameras work a lot and shoot multiple frames of anything I care about to increase the chances that autofocus gets it right. Of course, my only real complaints about Pentax are the autofocus and lack of robust, professional level, tethering.

So, you know, everything else is perfect.
12-05-2014, 01:54 PM   #7
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The biggest thing lacking in the Pentax system for sports photography is an appropriate collection of lenses. If you really want to shoot sports seriously, you need big and fast lenses--we're talking 500mm f/2.8 lenses or something like that. In the current lineup, there is only the 300mm f/4 and the 560 mm f/5.6. There is a 300mm f/2.8 and a 600mm f/4 in the FA line, but those lenses are a bit rare because they've been discontinued so long.

It is true that Pentax's AF tracking is vastly inferior to Nikon's. The bigger limitation in there is probably SDM, which as a tendency to miss and hunt a bit. I've found that once I can get it to lock the first time, tracking isn't the issue. I've had some success with it:







These were all shot via the tracking method + hi-continuous burst mode (at absurdly high shutter speeds because F18's are REALLY fast!). I've also done some hockey, which you can find here:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/127442034@N03/sets/72157647743406568/

A lot of the plane shots were taken with a 1.4x TC on there, making for an aperture of 5.6. Because of the high shutter speeds of 1/5000 or so to freeze the action, the ISO is rather high despite taking these photos in bright light. That's where a f/2.8 lens would have been great. (The first photo was taken at 1/3200 and you can see the motion blur in it. It's slight, but it's clearly there.) That puts it at f/4, which reduces the ISO from 2000 to 1000--a massive reduction in noise.

For humans, 1/400 is usually enough to freeze even the fastest of men. But when the lighting is poor (indoor sports, night games), f/4 isn't going to get it done. That's where Pentax really lacks. I'm ok with it since I can't afford those massive lenses anyway, but the limitation is there.

Last edited by MadMathMind; 12-05-2014 at 02:06 PM.
12-05-2014, 02:08 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by MadMathMind Quote
The biggest thing lacking in the Pentax system for sports photography is an appropriate collection of lenses. If you really want to shoot sports seriously, you need big and fast lenses--we're talking 500mm f/2.8 lenses or something like that. In the current lineup, there is only the 300mm f/4 and the 560 mm f/5.6. There is a 300mm f/2.8 and a 600mm f/4 in the FA line, but those lenses are a bit rare because they've been discontinued so long.

It is true that Pentax's AF tracking is vastly inferior to Nikon's. The bigger limitation in there is probably SDM, which as a tendency to miss and hunt a bit. I've found that once I can get it to lock the first time, tracking isn't the issue. I've had some success with it:







These were all shot via the tracking method + hi-continuous burst mode (at absurdly high shutter speeds because F18's are REALLY fast!). I've also done some hockey, which you can find here:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/127442034@N03/sets/72157647743406568/

A lot of the plane shots were taken with a 1.4x TC on there, making for an aperture of 5.6. Because of the high shutter speeds of 1/5000 or so to freeze the action, the ISO is rather high despite taking these photos in bright light. That's where a f/2.8 lens would have been great. (The first photo was taken at 1/3200 and you can see the motion blur in it. It's slight, but it's clearly there.) That puts it at f/4, which reduces the ISO from 2000 to 1000--a massive reduction in noise.

For humans, 1/400 is usually enough to freeze even the fastest of men. But when the lighting is poor (indoor sports, night games), f/4 isn't going to get it done. That's where Pentax really lacks. I'm ok with it since I can't afford those massive lenses anyway, but the limitation is there.
Very good shots!! Love the last shot with the pilot looking away to his upended buddy. I do sports photos but just want a higher keeper rate. mustangsphoto.com

12-05-2014, 02:23 PM   #9
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OK Pentax...time to get on the stick and fix this AF thing so that none of the other brands can look at you as a second glass citizen!
12-05-2014, 02:44 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kevwaly Quote
Very good shots!! Love the last shot with the pilot looking away to his upended buddy. I do sports photos but just want a higher keeper rate. mustangsphoto.com
You have some really nice shots in your collections. Not easy shooting varsity football under the lights.

QuoteOriginally posted by Kevwaly Quote
I would like improvements in AF and AF tracking. With these two improvements, a huge niche could be added to the idea of the Pentax brand.
While I favor increasing the quality and performance of predictive AF in Pentax cameras, that's only part of the equation. Other factors include building longer, faster lenses; and having reliable, fast ultrasonic technology; and rebuilding third-party support which is shrinking quickly.

Unfortunately Ricoh seems OK with Pentax getting marginalized. I'd wish they focused more on providing value to their customers. I added a Canon 7D and a 100-400 L f45-5.6 lens six years ago for my corporate photography job covering a soccer team that my employer sponsored. My Pentax system at the time couldn't keep up.

And the 7D has served me very well. Eventually I added more non-tele lenses. Still kept about a dozen excellent Pentax lenses. I was an early purchaser of the K-3, and used it with a Sigma 100-300 f4 to cover premier youth soccer. The good part was that the newer sensor allowed better coverage of dusk-conditions and often indoor soccer (shot with a DA Ltd. 70mm). The overwhelming negative part is that the actual predictive AF was only about 60% effective as my 7D.

After a few months and a thousand or so frames, I purchased the Canon 5DMK3 (which has the same AF system as the new 7DMK2) which has a world-class AF system in both performance and user ergonomics. Pentax K-3 couldn't compete so I sold it. Part of the issue is that Ricoh hasn't released a supertelezoom that would build value on a K-3 purchase. They should have had one within months of the K-3's release. A year's worth of sports seasons equates to lots of shots for some of us.

Nowadays I'm shooting a lot with the new Tamron 150-600mm f6.3. A super bargain and a surprisingly decent optic. Far better than the Bigma I used to own. The AF performance is not quite up to the level of a Canon-branded lens (which is understandable, I've never used a third-party lens that beats an OEM for AF performance) but it's usually good enough. The 7DMK2 from the shots and photographer impressions I've seen and read sounds like an excellent action camera. And the new 100-400 L MK2 is due for release any day now. My version goes back to 1998, yet it still performed better both optically and AF speed-wise than the Sigma 100-300 f4.

The idea that Ricoh/Pentax could compete for serious sports shooters seems unreasonable to me. There simply is not enough Pentax shooters to pony up the big bucks needed. A fair number of Pentax sports shooters simple migrate like me to other brands. Plus 99% of the existing serious sports and wildlife shooters are using Canon or Nikon which offers so many more choices, not to mention better performance.

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12-05-2014, 03:47 PM   #11
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For general AF performance, the Pentax body line up, K3 is a game changer.

Before I had a K5, I was frustated with its AF performance overall:
- In low light, the AF was very unaccurate with lenses hunting. It was not that bad with some lenses (like 17-70) but really, really bad with my 50-135 and unbearable with FA50.
- The center AF point of K5 is ok in the area is track but other focus point track a huge area. While you see a small red dot in the view finder, it is a much, much large area that is targeted. This mean you focus the eye with a fast lens and that the nose or whatever else that got it. The focus could be very accurate, but it has a so big area to choose from that it could pick anything.
- K5 had no tracking capability at all.

K3 really changed AF performance. That the biggest and most important change in the camera body:
- The number of AF point doubled, and if the center AF point is still the same size, the off center AF point are quite small and now shooting portraiture with a fast lens is easy and very accurate.
- Overall AF focus perfectly in all lighting conditions and with all lenses, even the difficult one like FA50 or 50-135. FA77 is not seen to be that great focus wise and it work like a charm on the the K3.
- Screwdrive has been made faster and improved sensor for fast lens where made avaible on 3 center AF points.
- As far as tracking is concerned, I'am not any serious action shooter. What I can say is that is was technically impossible to track anything with a 77 point metering B&W sensor + 11 huge AF points. Now the 82K point metering sensor see in colors share and light levels. It can correlate that with the 27 far smaller AF point and from my test it can follow an object you have put the focus based for example on the color. If you put your K3 in center AF mode + auto tracking on whole frame, it seems to work correctly from my tests. I can't say if this is perfect for action/sport as this is not really what I'am shooting.

Before K3, Pentax bodies where so-so AF wise. K3 is now very good for general purpose and at a high level. For action shooter, it does offer some tracking and the Pentax Forum tests really show some improvements here (that also depend a lot on the lens). Still K3 is not at Nikon level with their predictive algorithm that instead of just following a subject (literally tracking) anticipate where it will be at the exact time the photo will be taken and move the lense at the right focus point in advence.

For me, with their current hardware on K3, Pentax has everything needed body wise for very high quality AF, including for actions and sport. I still think their software lack some improvements for the tracking/predictive part. If they put some effort here, they can be same level as Nikon in 1 or 2 models.

As for lenses, maybe the new 70-200 will be a strong player, but overall if the Pentax lenses are great, they are not particulary designed with sports in mind. For somebody serious about action/sport I'd say in Pentax world K3 is your best bet by far... But lenses wise I would buy more a sigma 70-200. And for the ultimate experience, I'd consider to buy D7100 instead of K3 with native Nikon lense. Price wise through, this is quite different.

Still if you don't have the K3 and complain for the AF performance in Pentax world... You should try K3, it really change the feeling and global performance overall. It is not at all the same league.

Many will speak of K5-IIs. I'd say why not. But you should really understand what you are after. K5-II & K5-IIs got better low light AF. Still the focus point are still huge. Still the 77 metering can't really see any detail or color from a scene and can't provide any tracking. Still the K5-II didn't receive the latest AF Pentax software nor the latest faster screw drive motor. All lenses focus faster, more accurately with K3, in all conditions. The real news for AF was the K3, not K5-II.

Go for K5-II if your only complain AF wise was the low light performance. If it was general AF performance, accuracy of off center points, speed or tracking... Something that just ensure you lens focus accuratly and fast in all conditions... Then that's K3.

Last edited by Nicolas06; 12-05-2014 at 03:58 PM.
12-05-2014, 03:54 PM   #12
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I gave up a while ago. And I do almost all BIF (bird in flight shots) with my K20D & A*300m F4

Here is my response

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/6-pentax-dslr-discussion/28170-impossible-af-shots.html

The longest AF lens that I have is DA 200mm . Here are some of my BIF shots taken with AF

Some Ok birdie shots in HK - Steve's Digicams Forums

Overall I am more at ease with my MF combo


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12-05-2014, 05:06 PM   #13
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I too think that lenses with faster AF are important in Pentax' future, but let's be realistic - any manufacturer only has a limited amount of resources in R&D. As a smaller company, over the past decade or so Pentax has had less resources than CaNikon and Hoya apparently wrecked havoc in that department. Ricoh is a larger company with expertise in optics, so they have a larger, merged R&D department now, but it still takes time to recover what was lost under Hoya. Anyway ...

So what is Pentax (probably) currently working on:

FF
FF ready lenses
Successors to the K50, K3, Q line etc.

For years companies like Canon and Nikon have only had to work on improving on what they already have - look at the marginal improvements of the 7D Mk II over the 7D or the D810 over the D800e. Pentax, on the other hand, in spite of less resources, has to simultaneously work on maintaining their current lines and develop a worthy FF camera and associated lenses.

Does anyone really believe they are currently able and willing to allocate vital resources to another project to satisfy sports photographers (not their current clientele) through major improvements in AF?!
12-05-2014, 05:35 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by FantasticMrFox Quote
Does anyone really believe they are currently able and willing to allocate vital resources to another project to satisfy sports photographers (not their current clientele) through major improvements in AF?!
They already did it for K3... That just another step.

And their AF module in K3 is really great but not best... in APSC world.

In MF world, it is a true game changer. You can really use your MF digital body to shoot handled! More and more want the 645Z and part of it is because it is a MF with the reactivity of an average APSC/FF body.

Imagine what Pentax could get if they develop true pro AF and add this feature in their next MF model in 3-4 years. Add 1-2 good lenses... And they become the only brand and maker that a sport shooter will want to discuss with.
12-05-2014, 05:51 PM - 1 Like   #15
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Agreed

QuoteOriginally posted by Ash Quote
Screwdriven lenses remain faster than SDM despite the camera advances since the K10D. The screwdriver lenses with the smallest focal throws are very fast indeed on a K-5II or K-3. So I personally haven't looked any further, but there is a way to go for Pentax to get respect in the sports photography world.
All you have to do is get a Pentax-F/FA 135mm f2.8 or the 300mm f4.5, the AF screw-drive performance surpasses any SDM/HSM in existence. The -F 135mm f2.8 known as the "speed demon" gives the Canon 135mm f2 some serious competition. The AF performance of SDM lenses is sub par and can range from "pedestrian to very good" but will never blow your mind (the screw-drive AF of the -F/FA on K-3 is as good as it gets for the Pentax system in my opinion) The jury on the DC motors is still out...
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