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03-21-2010, 11:50 AM   #1
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Do I upgrade my Camera or Lens to get better low light autofocus?

Hello,
I'm hoping that you folks can help a forum newbie...

I have the Pentax k10d. I generally love the camera but I'm not so happy with low light autofocus. I went to my local Pentax retailer to check out the K7. However, it wasn't in stock. The rep said that I'd be happier with the Pentax Zoom Super Wide-Telephoto SMCP-DA* 16-50mm f/2.8 upgrade instead.

I currently have SMCP-DA 16-45mm f/4.0 ED AL which I'm happy with, but after checking the previous lens, I have to say a lot less noisier. I'm just not convinced that its going to help with the low light focusing issue found on the K10d...

Can any of you comment or recommend a course of action. I'm in the mood for a upgrade so any guidance would be helpful...

Thanks!
Rodney

03-21-2010, 12:08 PM   #2
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A brand new K-x kit deal would probably be cheaper than a DA* 16-50, and give you better low-light, better AF AND higher resolution, video etc.

Or just get a FA50 1.4 for when you need to do low-light and keep the K10D.
03-21-2010, 12:13 PM   #3
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I really don't think the DA* will improve your low-light AF. You'll notice a bigger difference with the newer bodies.
03-21-2010, 12:18 PM   #4
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Get a K-x or K-7, the low light AF is improved; I am in the same boat, however, I found a way to get around that for the moment, using manual focus lens and catch-in-focus feature; so as I slowly turn the focus ring, it snaps the shutter as soon as the green hexagon light comes up. The downside is that I can only use the center focus point.

03-21-2010, 05:14 PM   #5
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If all you have is an f/4 lens, then an f/2.8 will help low light photographer in general, even if it doesn't make a huge difference in focus speed. The K-7 would by all accounts help focus speed more, but realistically, for low light photography, you want better than f/4. Focus can wait.
03-21-2010, 06:41 PM   #6
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If auto focus is all hat you are after then you need to upgrade the camera body. But if better picture are what you are after then you should be gettng a much faster lens. Either a 2.8 or better a 1.4. Wheher that is within you budget.
03-22-2010, 07:40 PM   #7
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Another thing to consider is a focus assist lamp. You've got a number options, listed here in approximate order of cost, least to most expensive:

1 - buy a flash for your K10d that has a focus assist lamp. They are usually on the mid-range and better models from Pentax, Metz, etc... and will shine a (usually) red grid pattern upon your subject. Your K10d will have a much easier time focusing on the grid pattern.

2 - buy faster glass (2.8 or faster) for your K10d. Faster glass lets more light in which helps AF peformance.

3 - buy a K-x. It's better than my K20d in low light, both focusing and image quality.

4 - buy a K-x and a flash with a focus assist lamp.

5 - buy a K7. it's got a built-in focus assist lamp.

What option is best for you depends upon what your specific needs are...and your budget. For example, if you are otherwise happy with your K10d and have some budget you can do 1 & 2 and be comforted in the fact that those you can take them with you to a new body.
03-22-2010, 09:08 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by epqwerty Quote
If auto focus is all hat you are after then you need to upgrade the camera body. But if better picture are what you are after then you should be gettng a much faster lens. Either a 2.8 or better a 1.4. Wheher that is within you budget.
Faster lenses don't necessarily give you better IQ.

03-22-2010, 09:33 PM   #9
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Have you considered a manual focus lens? AF isn't reliable even in daylight.
03-23-2010, 08:30 AM   #10
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Try "Auto" focus point selection

Rodney,

I have found in low light settings, my K10D has much better AF performance in "Auto" focus point than in "Center" point or "Selectable" focus point.

I use K10D and an old FA28-105 f4-5.6 PZ zoom.

I know some people only use "Center" or "Selectable" focus point. If you are one, then give "Auto" focus point a try. It may help. That way you can keep using your K10D.
03-23-2010, 09:56 AM   #11
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Hello Everyone!
I've been reading your posts and I can't thank you all enough. This past weekend I had my camera out at a wedding event and I realized that the AF Assist wasn't working my AF360 which would account for the sudden problems with low light level AF.

So I put in a call to Pentax and the folks there were very helpful in suggesting that the K-7 might only be marginally better but that's because it has the built in AF-assist light.

So, I think I'll spend 200 bucks on a new flash and give it a test run to see if this helps matters.

A new flash is in order since the Auto Assist feature on the K-7 would be disabled anytime I put on a flash with AF assist on the hot shoe. And since the AF Assist is broken I'd be back to square one...

If this works then I'm back to shopping for a faster lens! Thanks guys for the
great info.

johnmflores - Thanks for reminding me that my flash should have the focus lamp on there! Your reminder was key in me calling Pentax. So thanks!!!

Rodney
03-25-2010, 09:47 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by lazarustx Quote
johnmflores - Thanks for reminding me that my flash should have the focus lamp on there! Your reminder was key in me calling Pentax. So thanks!!!
You're quite welcome, Rodney, I'm just giving back a little from what I learn here. Until the new flash comes in you might see if the K10d's built in flash can provide focus assist. On the K20d, I flip up the flash, it blinks during autofocus to provide flash assist, and then I manually flip it back down to take the photo. It's annoying, but it works.
04-02-2010, 07:37 PM   #13
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Howdy folks,
I took the Flash to my local camera shop as I figured I could test my Flash on another Pentax body... Turns out that with the camera in AF.C mode, the AF-Assist is disabled!

So the AF-Asisst works in AF.S mode!

I'll test this for a few months and come back if I decide that I need a new lens or a new body...

Thanks again...
Rod
04-05-2010, 07:50 PM   #14
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OP, it looks like you've got a solution, but since I went from a K10 to a Kx for the exact reasons you're talking about, I'll write this post

QuoteOriginally posted by rawr Quote
A brand new K-x kit deal would probably be cheaper than a DA* 16-50, and give you better low-light, better AF AND higher resolution, video etc.

Or just get a FA50 1.4 for when you need to do low-light and keep the K10D.
YYMV, but it didn't work for me :P In similarly dismal lighting, my high quality FA50 1.4 (a fantastic lens that takes gorgeous shots) on my K10d couldn't hold a candle to my decent-but-slow FA100-300 4.7 on my K-x. It wasn't the lens - it was the camera. The autofocus on the K-x is way ahead of the K10 and the ISO availability makes low light shooting a dream. There were so many times I just gave up on getting the shot with the K10 because putting the ISO above 800 made the shots unusable, but with the K-x I shoot practically in the dark.

Ahem. Okay, I'll stop raving now :P Seriously though, I went from the K10 to the K-x specifically for these 2 factors - greatly improved autofocus and fantastic high ISO shooting and it has been everything I wanted and more. Best part? The K10 fetched enough that I hardly had to shell out any money for my K-x - once I sold the two kit lenses from the K-x kit, I'd actually made money on the transition :P

This shot would have never worked for me on the K10 - FA 1-300mm zoom at f/4.7 in a dark dark coffee shop. I needed ISO 1600 to get a usable shutter speed of 1/160. On the K10 at 1600 the photo would have had bad vertical banding and lots of un-pretty noise. At 1600 the K-x isn't even trying hard :P I could have taken the shot at 3200 or 6400 and had a lovely shot, and probably would have if I'd had time to adjust the camera - but this kid runs from me when I'm taking photos

The slight grain in the background of the shot is PP because I like the texture.


.......not that I'm trying to tempt you to come to the dark side with the K-x users. Oh no. Not at all
04-05-2010, 09:22 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by sterretje Quote
Faster lenses don't necessarily give you better IQ.
Yes a faster lens doesn't give you better IQ. But I was referring to better picture in terms of being about to take a picture. In low light conditions when you try to take a picture with a slow lens you will most likely need a flash or you will get blurry pictures. While with a faster lens you can skip the flash and still get pictures without blurs. Which maybe less sharp but still usable.
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