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04-07-2007, 02:32 AM   #1
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K10 Low Light Conditions & Viewfinder

I've read how many consider the K10's viewfinder to be pretty bright. I've found that in low light conditions, with a manual lens, I have great difficulty achieving focus through the viewfinder. I wear glasses, maybe that's the problem. But even in moderately lit conditions, it's hard to get a bead on things. Anyone else have this problem? Does it have to be sunny outside or very well lit to see well through the camera? I'll even take my glasses off and shove my eye right into the rubber eyecup and it's a little better- but it's still hard to see what's in focus. Even with the diopter set at the best setting.

04-07-2007, 02:58 AM   #2
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Audio Confirmation

QuoteOriginally posted by Kemal Quote
I've read how many consider the K10's viewfinder to be pretty bright. I've found that in low light conditions, with a manual lens, I have great difficulty achieving focus through the viewfinder. I wear glasses, maybe that's the problem. But even in moderately lit conditions, it's hard to get a bead on things. Anyone else have this problem? Does it have to be sunny outside or very well lit to see well through the camera? I'll even take my glasses off and shove my eye right into the rubber eyecup and it's a little better- but it's still hard to see what's in focus. Even with the diopter set at the best setting.
Even if your diopter is off, there is an audio and visual red square that confirms your focus even when using a manual lens. I often depend on those two features when shooting under less than ideal conditions.
04-07-2007, 03:02 AM   #3
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Considering my only lens is an AF one, no problem with focus, especially when it'll strobe the flash for AF assist.
04-07-2007, 04:32 AM   #4
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It will depend a lot on the maximum aperture of the lens you are using. The maximum aperture of the lens mounted makes a big difference to how bright the viewfinder appears. For use in dim conditions, especially for manual focus, you really need to be using a fast lens with f/1.4 of f/1.2 aperture. Pentax made some lovely manual lenses in these apertures in 50mm focal length. There is also a current production auto-focus lens, the FA 50/1.4.

04-07-2007, 12:40 PM   #5
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I was using a 55 mm manual lens at 2.0, I was hoping that would be good enough. I'm guessing the old pentax lenses at f 1.8 would be kind of pricey? I didn't think there'd be that much of a difference between f 2 and f 1.8.
04-07-2007, 01:29 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kemal Quote
I was using a 55 mm manual lens at 2.0, I was hoping that would be good enough. I'm guessing the old pentax lenses at f 1.8 would be kind of pricey? I didn't think there'd be that much of a difference between f 2 and f 1.8.
A faster lens has two advantages: it allows more light into the viewfinder and is has shallower depth of field that makes it easier to determine the focus plane.

There isn't much difference between f2 and f1.8, as that is less than 1/2 stop of additional light. Going from f2 to f1.4 gets you one full stop of light. That is twice the amount of light, and less depth of field. You will see some difference. The fastest Pentax lens ever made was the 50mm f1.2 (made in both the plain "K" mount and in a KA mount). Optically is is rather dismal wide open but it does give the brightest viewfinder image of any Pentax lens made. If you are serious about low-light, available light photography, then that's the lens to get.

Regardless of the equipment, there are both focus and exposure challenges in dim light, as you have discovered. Practice will improve your ability to focus in dim light.

These days I rely on flash too often, but with the shake reduction on my K10D I'm using the flash less often for indoor, candid portraits. Years ago I used a Pentax 50mm f1.2 on my Pentax LX body. The LX will meter down to something like EV -6 or -7, with aperture priority exposure times of up to two minutes. Load up Kodak T-Max 3200 TMZ and you're ready for anything. You can use it at ASA 1600-3200 with normal processing, or push it up to 4 stops. That's ASA 48,000! Try that with your digital sensor!
04-07-2007, 03:45 PM   #7
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Something is wrong here. I'm sorry having to say it but it might be your eyesight that is the problem here.
Modern dSLR cameras have a somewhat darker viewfinder than older manual ones. This is, to my understanding, an effect of the auto focusing function which steals some light from the total. Different viewfinder screens also have an impact here together with the finder construction (porroprism or glassprism or a prism made up from mirrors) and the level of magnification.

To check out your K10D you can visit a camera store and you'll probably find out that there is nothing wrong with the K10D. I find it's viewfinder on par with the DS's and it's better than most competitors.

The only nearly affordable camera that is significantly brighter is the Canon 5D. Thanks to the combo of bigger sensor and less magnification it provides a viewfinder that is brighter and at the same time slightly bigger. Now that doesn't automatically means manual focusing is easy! The 5D comes with a bright viewfinder made for AF. Canon sells a viewfinder that is made for manual focusing, showing more exact when things are in focus. Not surprisingly this screen is somewhat darker than the original one.

My most used lens with the DS was the FA35/2 and it worked fine for manual focusing. A comment about the SMCP 50/1.2 (or the SMCP A50/1.2): These fast lenses, together with the 50/1.4 versions give a brighter picture inthe viewfinder. This is not guaranteed to come with an ease of manual focusing. All these lenses have a somewhat lower contrast wide open. The lower the contrast the harder to set focus exact in critical situations.

I haven't tried the lens you mention but I don't think it is well known for being crisp sharp with high contrast wide open.

just some food for thoughts,
04-07-2007, 06:38 PM   #8
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Why don't you get the Katz Eye screen? It has split image and microprisim focus aids.

04-08-2007, 08:05 AM   #9
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50MM f1.2 Focusing

QuoteOriginally posted by Jonas B Quote
A comment about the SMCP 50/1.2 (or the SMCP A50/1.2): These fast lenses, together with the 50/1.4 versions give a brighter picture inthe viewfinder. This is not guaranteed to come with an ease of manual focusing. All these lenses have a somewhat lower contrast wide open. The lower the contrast the harder to set focus exact in critical situations.
I used the 50mm f1.2 quite a bit some years ago. What makes it easier to focus is the super shallow depth of field. The viewfinder images "pops" when focused. It makes it easier to get the focus precisely where you want it, even with a dim image in the viewfinder. As I said, the optical performance isn't very good wide open (you need to stop down to at least f5.6 to get it really sharp), but that doesn't have any significant impact on focusing the lens or the image in the viewfinder. It is a small improvement over the f1.4, but it definitely helps a bit in low light. But that small improvement comes with a pretty big price tag.

The other issue is the focusing screens in DSLRs are not made for manual focusing. As another poster suggested, a replacement focusing screen may help. Probably a 50mm f1.4 and a new focusing screen would give the most bang for the buck if the budget is an issue.
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