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12-10-2014, 12:03 PM   #1
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Anybody remember this *ist D flash problem?

I own and occasionally use a *ist D with a problem - when the internal flash is raised, the power on the whole camera goes down to zero, like the batteries instantly died. I originally bought this camera used for my daughter when she was in high school and the immediate solution was to buy another for her. So, she has a *ist D with a working flash, and I inherited the one with no flash.

That was about six years ago, and I did some investigating back then. I remember finding posts on some forum or another that this was a known problem with more than a few *ist D. I thought about getting it fixed, but it's not worth the cost of the one-size-fits-all guts replacement Pentax would do.

Basketball season is here, my son (senior) and daughter (freshman) are both playing varisty this year, and I'd like to get some good, sharp photos for the grandparents. As much as I'd love to upgrade to a newer, faster, bigger, shake-reduction-equipped camera, that's just not in the financial cards right now. A lower-cost solution would be to use a flash instead of relying on natural light. However, I'd hate to invest in an add-on flash only to find that whatever problem affects the built-in unit also prevents the camera from working with an external gun.

Does anybody remember this obscure flash problem with the *ist D? If so, do yo have any experience with an affected camera and external flash?

12-10-2014, 12:39 PM   #2
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Hi Rich:

I don't remember the *ist flash problem, but I was wondering how close you are going to be to the players on the court when you will be taking the pictures.

In most normal courts - certainly in high school courts - unless you can get awfully close, even a higher-power external flash really doesn't do much. In spite of all the flashes you see going off from the stands in such games (and even in full size stadiums) the laws of physics cause the light to drop off with the square of the distance - in other words, their effect is negligible at best.

I believe you would probably be better served by doing a few things:
* Try setting the ISO much higher - in manual, not automatic. Any grain this adds really doesn't affect sports shots unless you're shooting for Sports Illustrated.
* Use (or borrow) the "fastest" lens you can, even if it isn't telephoto. You will have an easier time cropping a good image later than trying to work with a poor or underexposed one.
* If you feel comfortable with getting good manual focus (and with fast motion like basketball, that's not easy), try opening up your aperture as far as you can. Autofocus, cool as it is, is still a bit dicey for fast-paced action. Read up on panning techniques; they'll serve you better.
* Tripods are awfully inconvenient (and possibly annoying to the other viewers/attendees), but monopods are pretty easy to conceal between your legs while you are seated. If you don't have a monopod, you can sometimes improvise one, particularly if you have a tripod with a removable head. Otherwise any other form of stabilization you can find will help (e.g. can you sit along a railing and brace the camera there?).
* Try to get in a few practice runs if you have the time; the lighting should be fairly consistent from court to court, and particularly so for games in the same court. If the coach doesn't get annoyed, even taking some shots during practice sessions can narrow down the best settings for you to use.
* Raw mode takes more memory in the camera, of course (and I can't remember whether the *ist even had that option), but if it's possible, that will give you a better image to work with in Gimp or Photoshop or whatever you might use for cropping and such things.

I hope this might give you some ideas, as I really don't think having the flash will really make a lot of (if any) difference. Besides which, if you are close enough for the flash to actually help the exposure, you will probably end up annoying some of the players!

12-10-2014, 12:45 PM   #3
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The camera is available in several versions, you know exactly what you have?

I have one in the basement ...
What I remember it could randomly decide that the battery is low.

Can only give the same advice as everyone else probably will provide.
Use the external flash because the built so weak ...
12-10-2014, 04:08 PM   #4
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I would guess it is a battery issue. The camera tries to charge the flash capacitor and the current draw is too much for the batteries. This is assuming it takes AA batteries. Try some Eneloop rechargeables or Energizer Advanced Lithium and see if your problem persists.

12-10-2014, 05:54 PM   #5
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I've been using Rayovac Hybrid NiMH batteries (have some new Eneloops on order). I do remember reading that this is a specific failure that affects some *ist D's and not other. My daughter's near-identical body does not have this bug.

It is a *ist D, not one of the later models like the S.

I'm not too far from the action, usually first row. These high school gyms are not big; my kids aren't playing at MSG. I usually use an old manual-focus 70-210 f4-5.6. Even at 1600 ASA, program mode ends up with the lens wide open and the speed down in the weeds, 1/60th. I usually have time to focus, but there's not much DOF to help compensate for small errors. I know and use most of the tricks FrankO suggested: bracing against a railing, panning with the players, etc. Still, I'd like a little extra latitude that comes from simply having more light.

Sometimes, when I want group shots down under the basket, I dig out my old SMC Pentax-M 50mm 1.7. It's fun shooting with such a simple old lens on a digital body, but I have to remember manually lock the exposure before shooting.

Last edited by Rich_S; 12-10-2014 at 08:03 PM.
12-10-2014, 05:58 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kylv Quote
I would guess it is a battery issue. The camera tries to charge the flash capacitor and the current draw is too much for the batteries. This is assuming it takes AA batteries.
Yes, it does seem that way. If that's the case, I suppose an external flash sync'd thru the hot shoe wold probably work.
12-10-2014, 07:15 PM   #7
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My ist* DL is totally useless with the pop-up flash. I power it with 7Ah SLA battery from my belt and capacitor bank with regulator. Some internal capacitor has gone bad and it lets power drop too much and the camera turns off. I also believe this is problem with ist* D too.

However my system works quite good as battery can handle cold and light isn't problem when there is snow on the ground and sun in the sky. And when I need flash, I want it come from ceiling not from camera.
12-10-2014, 08:02 PM   #8
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I have an *istDS and have a similar issue with batteries and inbuilt flash.

I ignore the battery indicator since it moves about randomly anyway (will go from full to flat for no reason, then back) I use the SAnyo Eneloops (mine one day stopped recognising the CRV3s I normally used, and stopped recognising normal AA)

The flash on mine stopped working years ago, and when the flash is up it refuses to take a photo or do anything.

I find that a hot shoe flash works fine though, so that's what I would recommend.
I use a cheap Pentax AF160 flash on mine, it's small, cheap, and has a low trigger voltage (so is safe to use on digital)

I have seen the AF160 sell for anywhere from $2 to $20
Only catch is it's the old fashioned flash where you need to set your aperture per the distance scale printed on the back.

12-10-2014, 10:07 PM   #9
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Sounds like we have the same problem, hks. After reading your post, I jumped over to eBay and found a clean AF200T for $16 shipped. Cheap experiment. I've been around long enough that the sliding scale and the manual aperture settings don't scare me, but this flash will do TTL with my *ist D. While I was there, I also found an AF400FTZ for $25. Slightly more expensive, but likely to be more useful from the stands with its higher power and zoom head. So, for less than 50 bucks, I now have a pair of flashes that are well-suited to my old *ist D.

Funny thing is, earlier in the day, I looked at new flash prices, and came away thinking "OMG, for those prices, I could buy a newer (but still used) body!" Thinking along the lines of FrankO's post above, I was leaning away from flash, and toward getting a better body with image stabilization, higher ASA, and more MPs, too. I'm seriously thinking about picking up a K20D. One day, and this place is already a bad influence. LOL
12-10-2014, 10:13 PM   #10
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With the flashes do research the trigger voltage of them, some older flashes have quite high voltages through the hot shoe which can damage digital cameras.

There was a thread recently with a list of flashes and voltages linked, I will find the link and post it for you.

Here is the thread.
Apparently 30 volts is max safe for a Pentax DSLR
and the list.

it looks like the AF200T is only 7.8v, so no problem.
and the 400FTZ isn't listed. I would guess it's ok as well, but that would only be guessing.
12-10-2014, 10:40 PM   #11
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I'll measure the 400FTZ when it arrives.
12-15-2014, 09:02 AM   #12
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I got my 400FTZ today. Amazing what you can buy on eBay for 20 bucks.

Anyway, its trigger voltage measures 3.3 volts, so it looks like it will work just fine with my *ist D. TTL metering, too.
12-17-2014, 05:17 PM   #13
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You did just fine with your purchase. Use the TTL - it works better than pTTL on the newer cameras and flashes in the vast majority of situations, bounced or direct.

The Ray-o-vacs might be contributing to the problem. They lose voltage fairly quickly when under strong draw. They aren't bad batteries for other applications. You will see a better performance with the Eneloops.

I have the *istD. I have the on-board flash draw problem. The newer batteries (or lithiums if you want to go route - should keep a set as spares in any event) will lessen the problem.

As you probably have already noticed, the external flash does not cause as heavy draw as you're seeing with the on-board flash. It does result in faster drain, and will tend to cause problems with marginal rechargeables that are not at full charge.

Good luck with the new bit of kit. You should get decent performance out of it.

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