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03-05-2019, 10:11 PM - 13 Likes   #1
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How good is Pentax AF tracking?

From someone who has come to Pentax from Nikon in the last two years and is appalled by what he's read on the Internet:

"There seems to be a lot of hype over how bad the autofocus is on the Pentax and I would like to share with what I have … some of these people … don't have a portfolio … don't even know how to use the camera. …. they're not diving into the menus to adjust the autofocus … "

See a German lab's testing of tracking in the difficult Z direction scientifically compared to other brands here: https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/6-pentax-dslr-discussion/384119-how-does...er-brands.html





Last edited by clackers; 03-05-2019 at 11:15 PM.
03-06-2019, 01:36 AM - 1 Like   #2
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Interesting video. Thanks for posting Clackers.
03-06-2019, 05:44 AM - 1 Like   #3
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As a Pentax user for over 35 years, I don't think the autofocus tracking is anywhere near as good as the best, but I make it work for me even with small birds in flight, fast moving military jets and the like, it needs more skill from the photographer with a Pentax to get a decent shot and I don't generally machine gun and hope for the best, a subject coming relatively fast straight towards the camera is more difficult and subsequently less keepers.
03-06-2019, 07:07 AM - 1 Like   #4
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Interesting.

03-06-2019, 07:27 AM - 1 Like   #5
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Based on my experience Pentax does fine when bird is against sky background, and flight path is long. Problem is when the background is muddy and initial response of AF system. I go with my friend for birding. He has Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500. When bird comes unexpectedly his setup is good at grabbing initial focus. My friend is novice photographer. He bought his first camera 1.5year ago and does not know what is CPL filter. He has just one body & one lens, and does not shoot anything other than Wild life. His photography world is very narrow and so is his technique. After seeing him I think technology makes lot of difference.

Last edited by pentaxfall; 03-06-2019 at 07:36 AM.
03-06-2019, 07:39 AM - 1 Like   #6
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For me, the only real attribute that matters when it pertains to AF is Focus Acquisition:
- if I see a target, how fast can I get to it
- if I lose a target, how soon can I get it back

I never had an issue with Pentax once focus was established, it performs as good as many of the systems out there with technique and system familiarity being the key indicators of success.

---------- Post added 03-06-19 at 08:48 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by pentaxfall Quote
Based on my experience Pentax does fine when bird is against sky background, and flight path is long. Problem is when the background is muddy and initial response of AF system. I go with my friend for birding. He has Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500. When bird comes unexpectedly his setup is good at grabbing initial focus. My friend is novice photographer. He bought his first camera 1.5year ago and does not know what is CPL filter. He has just one body & one lens, and does not shoot anything other than Wild life. His photography world is very narrow and so is his technique. After seeing him I think technology makes lot of difference.
Yup. The D500 is definitely one of the fastest cameras when it comes to acquisition. To be fair, there is still some technique/skill he is likely leveraging as the camera will only get you so far. Missed opportunities are inevitable, regardless of the equipment you use and the skill you have.
03-06-2019, 07:52 AM - 2 Likes   #7
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You're a bold man Clackers. Just in the last month I've been called an idiot and fanboy for defending Pentax AF.


Look at 6 minutes. Required watching for anyone who comes on here promoting other AF systems. (I'll set up a detention room with TV screen.)

It would be great to have a two minute clip to that could be posted every time some one launches into the Pentax anti- Pentax AF ridiculousness.

Last edited by normhead; 03-06-2019 at 08:09 AM.
03-06-2019, 07:53 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by pentaxfall Quote
After seeing him I think technology makes lot of difference.
@pentaxfall, It's always good to hear first-hand field experience from users. My own impression is that the D500 has a robust AF system, perhaps superior to most others, but I must admit that this view is based mainly on the anecdotes that I have read online; I don't have any experience on which to directly compare the D500 to Pentax cameras. Hence, my interest in discussions like this and to find quantified information or test data on AF performance.

I wonder whether you and your D500 friend have studied your respective shots afterwards to assess the actual results (e.g., focus accuracy) and to compare outcomes (e.g., images that are 'keepers' from a technical and artistic viewpoint). You mention that the D500 is good at grabbing initial focus. Are there any other aspects that you might comment on?

Thanks.


- Craig

03-06-2019, 08:01 AM - 1 Like   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by chrism888 Quote
As a Pentax user for over 35 years, I don't think the autofocus tracking is anywhere near as good as the best
@chrism888, good work on capturing those small flighty birds and fast aircraft -- those are difficult targets, and ones that I've not had much success with (although I specialize mainly in static or slow subjects).

As a long-time Pentax user, it seems that you've had lots of experience on which to form an impression of Pentax AF capability compared to other brands.

Is there any particular brand or camera model that you would deem "the best" with respect to AF tracking?

QuoteOriginally posted by chrism888 Quote
it needs more skill from the photographer with a Pentax to get a decent shot
Would you mind providing a bit more insight on this point? Any examples of field experience comparing a Pentax camera and another brand?

- Craig

Last edited by c.a.m; 03-06-2019 at 08:56 AM.
03-06-2019, 09:41 AM   #10
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Afternoon Craig,


I've not shot with anything else other than a Pentax, my hit rate has improved since switching to back button focus, I use Sigma lenses in the main, a 70 - 200 F2.8 and a 100 - 300 F4 mostly for military jets and a Pentax 150 - 450 for wildlife, its quite unwieldy for jets at over 500 mph, I'm comparing my successes with images I see from Canikon users around me plus a good friend shoots with a D500


I do honestly believe good technique gets around most of the shortcomings in Pentax AF, not always and I am frustrated at times particularly with jets or birds head on, a good stance, BBF, short sharp bursts on the trigger to keep the buffer open.


I use a K1 for a lot of things, for wildlife especially as it gives me the chance to crop in fairly big if necessary, a K3ii for the jets as the extra reach is useful, plus the shutter burst is quicker than the K1 but quite often I'll shoot 4 or 5 frames in succession then wait, shoot a few more whilst I'm hearing all around me, Canikon shooters shooting 30+ frames, all that extra processing !!.


Have a peep at my web site if you have time, the planes are on " The Aviator Gallery " and Wildlife is under a heading of the same name.Pentax Forums - The Ultimate Resource for Everything Pentax
03-06-2019, 10:51 AM - 1 Like   #11
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I have shot a lot of moving subjects/objects with Pentax, including wildlife and sports. If I facilitate the correct camera settings for what I want to attain, the AF performs successfully.
03-06-2019, 11:12 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by chrism888 Quote
Afternoon Craig,
@chrism888, thanks for the additional comments. Sorry for the delay in responding -- I had to wipe the drool from my keyboard after peeking into your aviation gallery. Congrats -- Magnificent shots! (I have an aeronautical engineering background, and always have time to look at plane pics!). Our RCAF is in the process to replace the aging CF-18's; the Typhoon will likely be a contender.


QuoteOriginally posted by chrism888 Quote
I do honestly believe good technique gets around most of the shortcomings in Pentax AF
I think this is a crucial point, probably applicable to all brands. Canon and Nikon seem to go to great lengths to explain their AF modes and techniques; I had downloaded their extensive publications for possible applicability to my K-3 II. Regrettably, we get very little help from Ricoh Pentax beyond cursory instructions in the user manuals or a snippet on their web site.


- Craig

Last edited by c.a.m; 03-06-2019 at 02:32 PM.
03-06-2019, 12:01 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by clackers Quote
From someone who has come to Pentax from Nikon in the last two years and is appalled by what he's read on the Internet:

"There seems to be a lot of hype over how bad the autofocus is on the Pentax and I would like to share with what I have some of these people don't have a portfolio don't even know how to use the camera. . they're not diving into the menus to adjust the autofocus "

See a German lab's testing of tracking in the difficult Z direction scientifically compared to other brands here: How does Pentax AF-C compare to other brands? - PentaxForums.com


Pentax K1 Autofocus Samples - Can it focus? - YouTube
It's not that Pentax has an awful AF system, it's that Pentax is lagging behind other systems.
03-06-2019, 12:28 PM - 2 Likes   #14
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I'm finding the K1 II quite good for AF tracking and accuracy. It seems to be able to process the focus movement quickly enough to capture focus before the subject has moved on. This with the 150-450 is a very satisfying combination.

I shoot with people who use other systems. I get some shots they don't, they get some shots I don't. I would say it is 3/4 technique. The frame rate of the D500 is responsible for much of the results people are getting. My friend gets the same proportion of sharp to soft, but there are three times more than what I have.
03-06-2019, 12:39 PM - 1 Like   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by kevinWE Quote
It's not that Pentax has an awful AF system, it's that Pentax is lagging behind other systems.
@kevinWE, I would tend to agree with the first point -- there are plenty of user comments and images that attest to the AF capability of Pentax cameras, at least the more recent systems. Effective technique also plays into achieving well-focused images.

On the second point, would you happen to have more details on how Pentax AF lags other systems? Is your impression that Pentax AF is inferior to all systems, or only to specific brands/systems under certain conditions? Could you relate any relatively recent experience that you've had in this regard?

I think it would be useful to get your insight.

Last edited by c.a.m; 03-06-2019 at 01:51 PM.
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