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12-13-2009, 01:42 PM   #1
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How the heck can I focus in a dark room??

Okay I have been doing several parties, weddings ect in dark rooms. Manual focus is not an option since I really can't see that well in the dark through the view finder. I did most of my work with the K100D Super and recently with the K20D (the K20d is just slightly faster, but same problem) I am using a generic flash....

So many of my shots come out blurry, I take more than one but Id rather not have to do that. Id rather take ONE, have it be focused and move onto the next one!

My biggest complaint about pentax is it is SLOW... I've shot with Nikon and canon, both have incredible AF most of the time AND they are faster. I still love pentax more but WHAT can I do to fix this problem?

I have thought about buying the 540 Flash but money is not permitting and I can't trust that is a sure fix.

Can anyone suggest anything that I can use/ad or whatever as a focus assist lamp? I am getting beyond frustrated with this issue.

12-13-2009, 01:53 PM   #2
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The AF-360 flash will function as a focus-assist lamp. In fact, you can set it so that's the *only* thing it does if you want to take available-light photos with the benefit of AF-assist.

That's the flash I have, and used with my K100D for quite a while. The only things you're missing compared to the 540 are a swivel head and some power, but it's significantly more affordable. It's a terrific flash, overall.
12-13-2009, 01:56 PM   #3
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There's nothing to 'fix', it's the limitation of Pentax's AF function.
The K-7 has an in-built focus assist lamp, and most of the P-TTL flashes (including both the 360 and 540) have spot beams that do enable low-light focusing, but are in no way fast.
12-13-2009, 01:57 PM   #4
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I am guessing you are using the standard kit lens?
It is limiting indoors in darker rooms...
You need a lens that has a wider (smaller #) f/stop. Like f/2 or so..
you could get a Pentax "A" or "M" 50mm f/1.7 OR 35mm/2 or f/2.8 or a 28mm f/2.8. You can use the Catch-In focus with the center AF point. You should boost the ISO to 400-640 too.

Or if you want a faster AF lens...the Sigma 17-50 f/2.8
Assuming you don't want flash in use.

12-13-2009, 01:58 PM   #5
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I have been fighting myself back and forth between the 360 and 540. But its good to know that the 360 is capable.

I made a nifty little focus assist lamp to put over the hot shoe for avalible light, but obviously it cant be used when the flash is on it so I guess my best solution is to take the plunge and buy a pentax brand flash.

Oh and I know I need a better lens... Im looking at the FA 50mm 1.4, I have a 50mm M, but the whole focusing issue in the dark is why I never use it.

Hmmm the sigma 17-50 you say... I'll have to take a look at that, generally I want to try to stick with pentax brand but if I need a flash AND lens.. I gotta save a little
12-13-2009, 02:10 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Senseriffic Quote
I have been fighting myself back and forth between the 360 and 540. But its good to know that the 360 is capable.

I made a nifty little focus assist lamp to put over the hot shoe for avalible light, but obviously it cant be used when the flash is on it so I guess my best solution is to take the plunge and buy a pentax brand flash.

Oh and I know I need a better lens... Im looking at the FA 50mm 1.4, I have a 50mm M, but the whole focusing issue in the dark is why I never use it.

Hmmm the sigma 17-50 you say... I'll have to take a look at that, generally I want to try to stick with pentax brand but if I need a flash AND lens.. I gotta save a little
It us made to pro standard. Better Build materials, better glass, higher IQ than non-pro lenses...Sigma EX is their top line. I have the Sigma EX 24-70 f/2.8..It is a great lens in IQ from f/2.8 on !! and built very well..A little heavy...bit very sturdy. The 17-50 is a better lens for parties and stuff. Because of the 28mm FOV at 17mm.

Get the flash 1st...you have a lens you can use for now. If you find you want f/2.8...that can be on your lens road map.
12-13-2009, 02:19 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Senseriffic Quote
I made a nifty little focus assist lamp to put over the hot shoe for avalible light, but obviously it cant be used when the flash is on it so I guess my best solution is to take the plunge and buy a pentax brand flash.
Very interested! Could you post a pic?
12-13-2009, 02:33 PM   #8
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You might want to post some of the pictures you find problematic. I find it unlikely that slow focus would be the cause of blurry pictures. Missed shots, sure, but assuming the camera chooses to focus on the object you intended it to (are you being sure to select the appropriate focus point?), then the shots you do get should still be sharp. Blurriness would be due to some other cause, so changing flash units wouldn't affect that one bit.

12-13-2009, 03:24 PM   #9
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Most of the time I chose center waited, generally im focusing on people, so wherever the people are, thats where the focus is. But it tends to focus whats in back of them, not all the time, but sometimes. Then theres other times its just completely out of focus. This COULD be the lens's fault. I dropped it flat on the lens once from like 3 feet, it had a UV filter on it but i suspect that it damaged something, even if it was slight. but most of the time, When it does focus, its perfectly sharp. My shutter speed is not the problem, there isn't motion blur.
12-13-2009, 03:31 PM   #10
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I suppose you're referring to focus point rather than metering mode.
In any case, low light focusing is problematic, and can be inaccurate despite the camera thinking it has locked focus correctly. A faster lens (f/2.8 or faster) may help, but there are limits to these also.
12-13-2009, 03:35 PM   #11
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I guess its a little bit of everything... I need a better lens, flash with a focus lamp and take more shots...

I'm probably also being over critical, I've never had any complaints from clients about how many/few shots i take or the quality of them. I still <3 pentax despite is lack of auto focus lamps till the k7 came along
12-13-2009, 04:50 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Senseriffic Quote
I guess its a little bit of everything... I need a better lens, flash with a focus lamp and take more shots...

I'm probably also being over critical, I've never had any complaints from clients about how many/few shots i take or the quality of them. I still <3 pentax despite is lack of auto focus lamps till the k7 came along
The FA50 f1.4 is an excellent lens indoors in low light. However, If you are working wedding receptions, it may be a bit long for some of your shots. If you can get a relatively fast (f2.8) zoom in the range of, say 17-50 and set your Auto ISO at 100-1600 or so, and set your ISO on "Auto" the on board flash will give you focus assist in very low light (by a focus assist burst) that will get you focused pretty close to what you want. Also the Auto ISO set between 100 and 1600 will help the on-board flash deal with the distances you may encounter. I also think that a dedicated Pentax Clip on flash such as the 360 or the 540 would be a good investment if you are trying to make money with your camera.
12-13-2009, 05:06 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Senseriffic Quote
I guess its a little bit of everything... I need a better lens, flash with a focus lamp and take more shots...

I'm probably also being over critical, I've never had any complaints from clients about how many/few shots i take or the quality of them. I still <3 pentax despite is lack of auto focus lamps till the k7 came along
QuoteOriginally posted by jimH Quote
The FA50 f1.4 is an excellent lens indoors in low light. However, If you are working wedding receptions, it may be a bit long for some of your shots. If you can get a relatively fast (f2.8) zoom in the range of, say 17-50 and set your Auto ISO at 100-1600 or so, and set your ISO on "Auto" the on board flash will give you focus assist in very low light (by a focus assist burst) that will get you focused pretty close to what you want. Also the Auto ISO set between 100 and 1600 will help the on-board flash deal with the distances you may encounter. I also think that a dedicated Pentax Clip on flash such as the 360 or the 540 would be a good investment if you are trying to make money with your camera.
Yeah, this sounds like a plan.. With the 360 flash, your distance coverage should be Good for candid and the like, The K20 at ISO 800/1250 do OK with people shots that are not that close to the camera. But do shoot DNG or PEF for the better IQ they offer with RAW.
The 540 would be better if you shoot the Wedding itself.
12-13-2009, 05:33 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Senseriffic Quote
Most of the time I chose center waited
That's an exposure mode, not a focusing mode. do you mean you usign the center focus point too?

QuoteQuote:
generally im focusing on people, so wherever the people are, thats where the focus is. But it tends to focus whats in back of them, not all the time, but sometimes.
Sure, that's normal with any camera. It can't read your mind. If something in the background happens to be in range of the AF sensor that is currently active, the camera may well choose to focus on it instead. That's not a defect, and changing flash units wouldn't change that. You have just to be more careful when focusing that nothing else is within range of the selected focus point (and the focus points are quite large).

Again, feel free to post a picture - that would probably help.
12-15-2009, 08:49 AM   #15
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The AF can cause the lens to focus on an unwanted object in any crowded space so you have to be aware of where the focus point is when framing your shot. In low light with a wide open aperture, the depth of field is much smaller and if the camera focuses on something in the background between the people in the shot it will be very noticable. Use the focus lock. In AFS, make sure the focus is where you want it by half pressing the shutter and holding it there and then re-frame the shot without releasing the shutter button and causing the camera to re-focus. What is probably happening is the camera is focusing on something other that what you intended. In AFS, the shutter won't fire unless the focus is locked in on something. You just have to make sure it is locked on what you want. Don't rush the shot and take a few. Megapixels are free.
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