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03-16-2017, 02:14 AM - 3 Likes   #1
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Pentax, autofocus and the future

My Aunt has just bought a D500 - I did tell her lots about the benefits of the Pentax system. She's not a very advanced photographer and years ago had a Nikon film SLR but in recent years has used advanced Sony compacts. Curious about the D500 system I've just been watching some videos on it including this

I have to admit that the autofocus performance, burst rate and autofocus point coverage leave both my K1 and K3 trailing in the dust... Now I'm not really an action shooter but occasionally I do want to shoot my daughter playing badminton with friends, or perhaps an airshow or motorsport or birds in flight when we visit a local bird park. I find it frustrating that Pentax seems incapable of keeping up with the competition in this area and am puzzled why they can't.

It's not as if they can't tear open a Nikon D500 to understand what's going on and reverse engineer it. I fail to see why if they can make a camera with 40 cross type focus points they can't make one with 150 cross focus points - surely these things are relatively easy aren't they? Why was the K1 released with no autofocus mode for video when Canon has been offering the facilty for years?

It's no good blaming the lenses either - the 70-200, 150-400, 70-300, 24-70 and 28-105 and 15-30 are all state of the art and often only launched within the last 12 months.

I'm curious why this has proved such a difficult tech problem to solve.

What do others think?

J

03-16-2017, 02:39 AM   #2
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Looking at the launch price of the D500, I think that Pentax simply doesn't have a market for a camera of that price, just like it wouldn't for a full frame camera priced like a Canon 1Dx. I'm not saying that there wouldn't be any buyer for a 1800 € Pentax D500 like camera, in fact I know some, simply that there wouldn't be enough.
03-16-2017, 02:41 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by jonlg Quote
It's not as if they can't tear open a Nikon D500 to understand what's going on and reverse engineer it.
Doing that could bring up a BIG big lawsuit
I am pretty sure, every or most big company "in the free world" have at less a department checking on competitor every once in a while and sue as soon as they find something fishy.

I think Pentax is capable of develop their own kickass auto focus system but why their auto focus still behind Nikon and Canon? I don't know.
(I still don't understand why they release a FF K-1 so late in the game either. lol )
03-16-2017, 03:06 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by eurostar Quote
Looking at the launch price of the D500, I think that Pentax simply doesn't have a market for a camera of that price, just like it wouldn't for a full frame camera priced like a Canon 1Dx. I'm not saying that there wouldn't be any buyer for a 1800 Pentax D500 like camera, in fact I know some, simply that there wouldn't be enough.
It's not only about the D500, it's that lower specced cameras that are considered direct competitors to Pentax' APS-C cameras (e.g. D7100 vs K3) also have much better AF. Pentax couldn't build a camera like the D500 even if there was the biggest market for it. They could match or exceed it in features, image quality, build quality, ergonomics etc., but even if they put their best tech in there they wouldn't reach Nikon's AF (and probably flash system too).

03-16-2017, 03:44 AM - 4 Likes   #5
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Pentax AF may not be great, but it's not that bad. Mostly, I only use the centre focus point.
See this image


And the crop:


These guys were moving at 50-55km/h diagonally towards me. That's around 14m/s. The AF unit did OK.
03-16-2017, 03:56 AM - 2 Likes   #6
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It is admittedly, a frustration.

A while after I'd got into big cameras and deeply committed to Pentax I realised action photography was my thing.

I did pick up an A6000 on the cheap along with an 4/70-200 G OSS and had the thing permanently in machine gun mode. It's epic! But Sony prices for the quality gear are well beyond my reach now.

I had hoped the K-1 would match up on tracking AF with the D-FA* 70-200. It ain't bad, it just ain't no Tommy gun. Buffer clearance is a bigger let down than the AF-C.

Still the best value for money mind.
03-16-2017, 04:27 AM - 1 Like   #7
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I think now with the KP Pentax/Ricoh did a big step forward in developing the AF algorithm. Now it's a decent solution. More AF points needs more processing power, wich needs more battery power. I think the next flagship model should have a better processor (for 4k also) and a better AF modul with more AF points with more coverage. Lenses were improved a lot recently too, so now everything is given. I think in the near future we will complain about the p-ttl flash system insted of the AF.
03-16-2017, 05:47 AM - 2 Likes   #8
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Sports was never my main interest when I got a Pentax, yet now I shoot a ton of sports, so my lenses aren't exactly designed for sports. I wish the KP software would be ported to allow higher fps in af-c... I know it's also lens dependent.

This is with the K3II+DA70 is fairly low light. For the money I think it's fantastic for my needs, and an absolute wonder for concert photo. I also have a 60-250 but this was too dark for f4.

The point of this post is to say that I get a certain kind of satisfaction from making shots that I like with "improper" gear






Edit: to answer the original question, I think the main limitation is the cost. The k3II had half the launch price of the d500, and comparable lenses are also a bit less. Patents may also have something to do with it?


Last edited by aaacb; 03-16-2017 at 06:00 AM.
03-16-2017, 05:53 AM - 2 Likes   #9
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I do a lot of sports photography myself and while I haven't had too much trouble with my K-3, the tracking AF isn't as great as other cameras I've used (even the mid-level Canon 70D seems to beat it). That said, the KP's tracking AF seems to be greatly improved over the K-3/K-3 II and while I don't expect it to blow the Nikon D500 out of the water, I'm really excited for the KP and the upcoming K-3 II successor (whenever that shows up). If it has the K-3 II's buffer and burst rate (or even the KP's 7 fps burst rate), it could make for an extremely good value for sports shooting.
03-16-2017, 06:37 AM   #10
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The D500 is a nice camera for action. It's specialized for that purpose.

Pentax' model in that price range is the K-1, better for landscapes and low light. The best Pentax action camera is either the K-3 or KP, missing some D500 features, but selling for half the price.

For air shows, though, even my old K-r worked well enough, despite the limited autofocus compared to newer cameras. Some sports have a lot of unpredictable action but that's not the case with aircraft. Panning with center- or 5-point AF is my preferred technique.
03-16-2017, 06:49 AM - 4 Likes   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by FantasticMrFox Quote
It's not only about the D500, it's that lower specced cameras that are considered direct competitors to Pentax' APS-C cameras (e.g. D7100 vs K3) also have much better AF. Pentax couldn't build a camera like the D500 even if there was the biggest market for it. They could match or exceed it in features, image quality, build quality, ergonomics etc., but even if they put their best tech in there they wouldn't reach Nikon's AF (and probably flash system too).
Of course Pentax could, but we wouldn't buy it if they did.

There's no magic to cameras. Pentax could immediately create a D500-spec. body and Nikon class strobe. It's just math, engineering and capital. What they can't do is recapture the time lost since 2000 doing nothing while CaNiFuShy were incrementally developing their products.

Ricoh could throw capital at the problem and catch up 15 years of investment in 2 - 3 years. But we wouldn't pay the price required to recover the development cost, tooling and materials.

The problem is us.

Last edited by monochrome; 03-16-2017 at 07:08 AM.
03-16-2017, 06:49 AM - 2 Likes   #12
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While the pentax AF might not stack up to the competition, I think that a lot of photographers don't appreciate there's also a lot of skill to operate AF well. Tracking your subject, getting a good lock, waiting until focus is acquired before taking the shot.
03-16-2017, 06:56 AM   #13
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I think it has a lot to do with patent coverage. The primary purpose of patent is to block competitions from using the technology. Chances are Nikon and Canon have extensive patents that block each other; consequently these patents also block Pentax. Pentax has to either find a niche in the crowded space or license it from competition. How likely can Pentax out fox competitions with limited fund? If Pentax goes the licensing path, Pentax is likely given technology that is 1 or 2 generations older.

Mirrorless are completely different since they don't use mirror and so they are completely outside of the patent space of Canon and Nikon. BTW, it does not mean mirrorless has to reinvent from scratch. In fact, mirrorless can use the same existing logic and technology already developed if these patents do not explicitly cover mirrorless. It is also a likely reason why both Nikon and Canon are slow to join the mirrorless because they are blocked out by Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, etc.
03-16-2017, 06:57 AM   #14
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If Pentax is indeed listening to their customer base like they stated in an interview a while ago, they're probably going to address the AF performance in their upcoming APS-C flagship & then use that to revamp their future FF camera too. I highly doubt it's going to be on a D500 or 7D Mark II level, but should be competitive in its own way against the similar Canon & Nikon bodies. The KP already looks kind of promising with its revised AF tracking algorithms.

I too came from not really doing action photography to now shooting a bit more of it & my K-50 can be hopeless at times. I'll have to borrow my dad's D7200 for that kind of stuff. I figure that a K-3II would probably serve me well, but after reading tons of K-3II reviews & D7200 to K-3II comparisons, it seems like a K-3II would still require more effort trying to get the shots I want. It would be less effort than my K-50, but more than the D7200.
03-16-2017, 06:59 AM   #15
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It would be cool if someone in the industry was able to breakdown how much average R&D years, cost, and manpower are required for creating these type (AF, processing, lenses, etc) of things. Would go a long way to help people get an idea of how much of a feat something is and why it would take so long. I still don't understand why it takes multiple years to develop optics for a single lens, but I know there are reasons why it does.
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