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07-11-2009, 12:32 PM   #1
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My new K2000: impressions and struggles up the learning curve

Well, I am now officially a digital Pentaxian!

My new K2000 came in the mail last week, and have been in geek bliss ever since.

A few impressions:

Build/shape:
I love how solid this little thing feels. The texture reminds of the dashboard of a high quality German car. Also, there is this little finger groove near the top that feels perfect in my particular hand shape. (long skinny fingers) Yes, the grip is a bit small, but feels much more "extension-of-my-hand" than the slim pointy design of the small Nikons.

Camera Shake:
For the first few sessions, the shutter sound was quite jarring, having been shooting primarily with a Lumix LX1 for the past 3 years. Having actually viable ISO options is very nice, but I am still having issues with camera shake. I suppose I am used to the long hand-holding times I got out of the LX1 due to it's nearly mass-less shutter action.

Also, I realized that I have retained the habit of "hovering" the camera out in front of my face. I get much better results when I tuck the viewfinder into the bony corner of my nose and eyebrow.

DOF:
The ability to achieve shallow DOF (with instant feedback) was one of my primary motivations to make the DSLR leap, and with an M42 adapter and my f1.4 Super-Takumar, I now have Bokah possibility in spades.

Here is the problem: Keeping stuff in focus! I have spent years pining for a razor-thin focus plane, and now that I have it I only seem to nail the focus manually once out of, say, 6 shots. The sort of shot I am talking about is this:



Larger size here
EXIF here


Classic close portrait style, soft blurry backdrop, crisp focus on the eye. Typical and straight-forward, right? Then why did it take me like 17 shots to get 3 with a crisp looking eye? And even this shot is a slight miss... the hair in front of the eye is sharper than the eye itself.

I was using a Super-Takumar f1.4, and most every time I fired the shutter, the green hex was lit. Two questions: Am I doing something wrong, or is this just how hard to is to work with a wide open aperture? Secondly, If a had an autofocus f1.4 would things work out any better? If the center AF spot small enough to pin down the surface of the eye itself? Will it stay in focus after slight re-composition?



Here is another shot I would like to troubleshoot:



Large size here
EXIF here

50mm f1.4, 1/180 shutter- is the softness a result of the camera shake, or focus error?





[kurt]


Last edited by shuttervox; 07-11-2009 at 12:38 PM.
07-11-2009, 12:39 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by shuttervox Quote
Well, I am now officially a digital Pentaxian!

My new K2000 came in the mail last week, and have been in geek bliss ever since.
<snip>
DOF:
The ability to achieve shallow DOF (with instant feedback)was one of my primary motivation to make the DSLR leap, and with an M42 adapter and my f1.4 Super-Takumar, I now have Bokah possibility in spades.

Here is the problem: Keeping stuff in focus! I have spent years pining for a razor-thin focus plane, and now that I have it I only seem to nail the focus manually once out of, say, 6 shots. The sort of shot I am talking about is this:

[kurt]
I had the exact same problem when I got my K20D; I bought a Katz-eye split-prism and that all went away. Oddly enough, though, after eight months or more with the KE, I can now focus much better on the matte portions of the screen.

With the resolution of these cameras, though, since DOF is a function of final magnification, you'll still miss sometimes as your 50mm f1.4 has about 2-3mm of DOF at 100%. They will look better at 8x10
07-11-2009, 01:51 PM   #3
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You gotta love the second picture!
07-11-2009, 02:05 PM   #4
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Just remember that the closer you are to your subject, the more you should stop down to avoid DOF dwindling away to an oblivion. That was a big point of my learning curve - using the DOF scale (where possible) to assist with selective focusing.

Otherwise, you've done great with these images - and don't worry, that the nature of animal/child/any fast-moving object photography, lots of OOF shots for the bin and only a select few keepers...

07-11-2009, 02:07 PM   #5
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The truth is the magnification and clarity of modern Pentax viewfinders are low compared to cameras from 2-3 decades ago (but we have much brighter focus screens now). The hex af assist is a rough guide only (cos anything hit by the sensor could be considered in focus, but not neceassily the "point" you have in mind) and if precise focus is required, you still have to rely on the focus screen. The O-ME53 magnifier helps a little, but only very little. A split screen will probably help and yes, the focus screen of the K-m/K2000 is user removable (pull the little clip up with the camera mount facing up).
07-11-2009, 02:56 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by shuttervox Quote
Classic close portrait style, soft blurry backdrop, crisp focus on the eye. Typical and straight-forward, right? Then why did it take me like 17 shots to get 3 with a crisp looking eye?
One reason is that you seem to be relying on th camera to tell you when it's in focus, when the camera has no way of knowing you care more about eyes than hair. See below.

But even if you stop relying on the hexagon and trust your eyes, you'll have issues, because in shots like this, the viewfinder is lying to you. The design of the stock focus screen is such that it is incapable of rendering DOF that shallow. It was showing you stuff in focus that couldn't possibly actually end up in focus.

Aside from replacing the focus screen with one designed to help more with MF accuracy (like the KatzEye), the solution is to practice and learn to anticipate, of the stuff that *appears* to be in focus in the viewfinder what will *actually* be in focus. For my camera, it' the stuff toward the front of the apparently-in-focus zone that will actually be in focus, so I focus accordingly.

The other thing to be aware of is that your own movement - a slight lean forward of backward as you set up the shot and press the shutter - is like to change the distance to subject by enough to mess up the focus.

QuoteQuote:
I was using a Super-Takumar f1.4, and most every time I fired the shutter, the green hex was lit.
Well, sure - that tells you *something* is in focus. Something kind of sort of in general vicinity of the center (I'm assuming the K2000 uses center point only for manual lenses like other Pentax DSLR's). but no way does the camera know you prefer the ey over the hair next to the eye.

QuoteQuote:
Secondly, If a had an autofocus f1.4 would things work out any better?
No, it would just automate the process of focusing wherever it felt like kind of sort in the general vicinity of the center.

QuoteQuote:
If the center AF spot small enough to pin down the surface of the eye itself?
Only in a shot of the eye and cheek alone. You can practice using a black dot on a white piece of paper to see for yourself what constitutes the general vicinity of the center.

QuoteQuote:
50mm f1.4, 1/180 shutter- is the softness a result of the camera shake, or focus error?
Looks like you are point straight down? I'll give you about a 3% chance of being able to hold that precise position down to the millimeter for long enough to press the shutter after focusing where you want - assuming of course you manged to achieve that perfect focus in the first place. Most likely, you moved enough to alter the focus point, and moved fast enough to cause shake even at that shutter speed. Shots like this are best done on tripod if you've got on that can handle that angle. Otherwise, trial and error.
07-11-2009, 11:51 PM   #7
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QuoteQuote:
Aside from replacing the focus screen with one designed to help more with MF accuracy (like the KatzEye), the solution is to practice and learn to anticipate, of the stuff that *appears* to be in focus in the viewfinder what will *actually* be in focus. For my camera, it' the stuff toward the front of the apparently-in-focus zone that will actually be in focus, so I focus accordingly.

The other thing to be aware of is that your own movement - a slight lean forward of backward as you set up the shot and press the shutter - is like to change the distance to subject by enough to mess up the focus.

-------

Well, sure - that tells you *something* is in focus. Something kind of sort of in general vicinity of the center (I'm assuming the K2000 uses center point only for manual lenses like other Pentax DSLR's). but no way does the camera know you prefer the ey over the hair next to the eye.


This is very helpful, thank you! I will experiment with these ideas tomorrow.



[kurt]
07-11-2009, 11:53 PM   #8
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Oh, and a question I'm still unclear on... How pin-point accurate would an AF f1.4 be
in these circumstances? Would it be more precise than the "green hex" level? i.e.,
not very when this close to subject?


[kurt]

07-12-2009, 07:38 AM   #9
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Not only is the AF accurate (unless you get a bad lens + camera combo, but I have read that service centers can recalibrate your equipment if it has problems with front focus or back focus), it also makes the whole process of acquiring focus a lot faster. It is important to use only the centre focus point tho.

With AF, you can point the camera at the cat's eye, let the camera focus, recompose and take the shot. Wait for the image to come on-screen, magnify it with the roller and check for correct focus. Is it good? If yes, let the image be saved to the card. Is it bad? Push the trash button to delete it. Repeat.

It is not that hard to hold the camera steady, I find it's much harder to actually make the cat stand still. They always seem to turn their heads, scan the surroundings and then turn back. But with AF, you can go through a lot of pics in a short time, thus getting more "keepers".

warning - large picture - smc PENTAX-DA 50mm F1.4 Photo Download | IMGP2435_e | Zooomr

smaller ones - Photo Download | IMGP2330_e | Zooomr
Photo Download | IMGP2434_e | Zooomr
Photo Download | IMGP2357_e | Zooomr

The AF does a good job.

edit: yes, the AF will correct small focusing errors, you can sometimes hear the lens make one large move and then few smaller ones to get the correct focus.

Last edited by impact; 07-12-2009 at 07:44 AM.
07-12-2009, 09:09 AM   #10
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Looking at the cat pix...I would say you're setting your lens at F 1.4....very narrow depth of field at this setting.

One of my cameras is a Pentax KM (same as a K2000). When I use my 50 mm F1.4 Pentax I usually set the F stop to at least 2.0 or 2.2 as I want to get a deeper depth of field in the focus.
07-12-2009, 09:16 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by shuttervox Quote
Oh, and a question I'm still unclear on... How pin-point accurate would an AF f1.4 be
in these circumstances?
Like I said, it will accurately focus on *something* within range of the AF sensor, just as the hexagon indicates. But the AF sensor won't magically get smaller just because you change lenses. If there are multiple objects within range of the AF sensor, it will remain the case that you have no control over what gets chosen.
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