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03-24-2010, 03:17 PM   #1
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When will we see a new, better AF system from Pentax?

I am not writing this as a debbie downer who just wants to hate on Pentax, I like a lot of things about them.

Here's my situation:

Right now I have a K-x, 18-55m f3.5-5.6 DAL, 55-300mm f4-5.8 DAL and FA 50mm f1.4. I am mostly enjoying the system but I am finding the autofocus troublesome and weak in low light and/or for tracking. Right now I am not too committed to the Pentax system and could still switch without a huge loss.

My girlfriend wants to get into photography with me. She doesn't seem keen on Pentax, and we both want to have a lot of room to grow. We'd probably be looking for one smaller body and one more advanced body.

I live in Edmonton, Canada and as such low light / indoors capability is quite important to me (northernmost large city in North America).

Also, I have been recruited by my friends to shoot a wedding at the beginning of September. Therefore, I will be needing a flash and also plan on getting a good 2.8 standard zoom like the Tamron 17-50. I want to decide what system my girlfriend and I are going with before I make those investments, because I wouldn't want to turn back afterwards.

I can either:

-stay with Pentax, rent a K-7 for the wedding (k-x shutter is too loud for a ceremony), and hope that the successor to the K-7 has a competitive autofocus system and be really upset if it doesn't.

or

-sell my gear, switch to Nikon or Canon for better AF, and either buy a nice body or buy a small body and then rent for the wedding, then get the new stuff when it hopefully comes out in the fall.

-I am trying to keep my budget under some control.
-I don't like the feel of the Rebel Cameras, although they are really light. I guess it would be ok to have one and then a 50D successor or something later.
-I don't like the 5 minute limit on videos for Nikon (because I videotape local concerts), nor do I like the increased weight of their stuff. I do like the ergonomics, flash stuff, image quality.

03-24-2010, 03:31 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by Giggli G Quote
I am not writing this as a debbie downer who just wants to hate on Pentax, I like a lot of things about them.

Here's my situation:

Right now I have a K-x, 18-55m f3.5-5.6 DAL, 55-300mm f4-5.8 DAL and FA 50mm f1.4. I am mostly enjoying the system but I am finding the autofocus troublesome and weak in low light and/or for tracking. Right now I am not too committed to the Pentax system and could still switch without a huge loss.

My girlfriend wants to get into photography with me. She doesn't seem keen on Pentax, and we both want to have a lot of room to grow. We'd probably be looking for one smaller body and one more advanced body.

I live in Edmonton, Canada and as such low light / indoors capability is quite important to me (northernmost large city in North America).

Also, I have been recruited by my friends to shoot a wedding at the beginning of September. Therefore, I will be needing a flash and also plan on getting a good 2.8 standard zoom like the Tamron 17-50. I want to decide what system my girlfriend and I are going with before I make those investments, because I wouldn't want to turn back afterwards.

I can either:

-stay with Pentax, rent a K-7 for the wedding (k-x shutter is too loud for a ceremony), and hope that the successor to the K-7 has a competitive autofocus system and be really upset if it doesn't.

or

-sell my gear, switch to Nikon or Canon for better AF, and either buy a nice body or buy a small body and then rent for the wedding, then get the new stuff when it hopefully comes out in the fall.

-I am trying to keep my budget under some control.
-I don't like the feel of the Rebel Cameras, although they are really light. I guess it would be ok to have one and then a 50D successor or something later.
-I don't like the 5 minute limit on videos for Nikon (because I videotape local concerts), nor do I like the increased weight of their stuff. I do like the ergonomics, flash stuff, image quality.
Judging from your description, it does not sound like you have a lot of confidence to do the wedding photos... if I were the potential customer, you would not be getting that contract. Most people think that getting a "pro" camera will automatically produce good pictures. A lot of that has to do with your skills and creativity not the camera you are holding.

If it makes sense to do that financially, and in this case, your girlfriends like Nikon or Canon better, I would recommend going with either one of them because the priority is not the equipment, good luck.
03-24-2010, 03:35 PM   #3
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My biggest complaints with Pentax are (in order)

1) SDM
2) Low-light AF speed
3) AF tracking
4) Quality control

IMO, the only improvements in AF speed Pentax has made since the k10d are in the voltage of the k-20d and k-7 in-body motor drive. Focus seems snappier since the ring spins faster but that is only on screw drive lenses. When focusing SDM lenses, I didn't notice the k20d and k-7 focusing any faster than the k10d (and I owned all 3 at the same time.) SAFOX has not changed other than adding a "+" which I believe is the addition of the focus assist lamp on the k-7 (which I found to be inconsistent.) So low-light AF speed is not improved

I guess bottom line is that no one chooses Pentax for AF speed. It boils down to a question of is it fast enough for your application. Pentax has many strengths, but this is an area that you really need to give some honest, non-biased consideration. Some excellent wedding photographers like Peter Zack use Pentax very effectively. I think he is the exception to the rule however. Unless you are willing to learn how to effectively work around the limitations of Pentax AF that you have identified, it may be better for you and your girlfriend to look elsewhere at the present time.

Last edited by PentaxPoke; 03-24-2010 at 03:41 PM.
03-24-2010, 03:51 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by aleonx3 Quote
Judging from your description, it does not sound like you have a lot of confidence to do the wedding photos... if I were the potential customer, you would not be getting that contract. Most people think that getting a "pro" camera will automatically produce good pictures. A lot of that has to do with your skills and creativity not the camera you are holding.

If it makes sense to do that financially, and in this case, your girlfriends like Nikon or Canon better, I would recommend going with either one of them because the priority is not the equipment, good luck.
No, I am certainly not a professional photographer, I am nervous about it but they are good friends and they claim that they are happy with crappy point and shoot pictures. It is not a contract and I specifically requested that someone else be taking pictures who is decent with a dSLR. It is because they can't afford a pro photographer. It's just a reality and I am doing it as a friend, so I want to do my best and hopefully they don't hate my stuff, hahah....

03-24-2010, 04:32 PM   #5
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The Autumn will be very interesting.
But we have to wait a little.
Wait and hope for that
03-24-2010, 06:53 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Giggli G Quote
No, I am certainly not a professional photographer, I am nervous about it but they are good friends and they claim that they are happy with crappy point and shoot pictures. It is not a contract and I specifically requested that someone else be taking pictures who is decent with a dSLR. It is because they can't afford a pro photographer. It's just a reality and I am doing it as a friend, so I want to do my best and hopefully they don't hate my stuff, hahah....
Giggli, sorry, my comments was not meant to put you down; on the contrary, it was meant to motivate you to become a good photographer. Everyone has to start from somewhere, the best thing I learned was when someone said my picture sucks.. and I need to understand why. I also think that K-x is a great learning tool (especially the backward compatibility with older glasses) providing a rich and inexpensive environment to experiment. Again, just a suggestion only.... as they always say YMMV.. good luck with your decision
03-25-2010, 04:42 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by PentaxPoke Quote
IMO, the only improvements in AF speed Pentax has made since the k10d are in the voltage of the k-20d and k-7 in-body motor drive. Focus seems snappier since the ring spins faster but that is only on screw drive lenses. When focusing SDM lenses, I didn't notice the k20d and k-7 focusing any faster than the k10d (and I owned all 3 at the same time.) SAFOX has not changed other than adding a "+" which I believe is the addition of the focus assist lamp on the k-7 (which I found to be inconsistent.) So low-light AF speed is not improved
Tracking in AF.C is definitely improved in the K-7.

Also, my understanding is that the "+" is for the light-color aware sensor that corrects for front-focusing under tungsten light, and not for the AF assist lamp.
03-25-2010, 05:28 AM   #8
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Pentax should fix this
1. AF in lowlight sometimes it wont focus just keeps on hunting
2. SDM

03-25-2010, 06:35 AM   #9
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No system is perfect.
However, Nikon has far better flash control than Pentax, and probably Canon as well, and both Nikon and Canon have better AF than Pentax, I suspect Canon has the edge on this one.
Note that you need to be into the upper end bodies to see these advantages.
If you want to shoot video, buy a video camera, this will allow you to choose your still camera based on the requirements for still photography.

Note that by going with Nikon or Canon you are giving up body based shake reduction, which may or may not be important to you, but it will leave you having to pay a bit more for lenses to get shake reduction.
03-25-2010, 07:10 AM   #10
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Practice with your K-X in low light with the 50mm 1.4. Borrow if you can a pentax flash and try out. Rent a K-7 and try it out. If you have a chance, take it to a photo outlet and compared with a Canon/Nikon camera with the store light and see if you notice a difference worth to switch systems. As you said, you are not that far commited to Pentax. And as other said, Practice is the key.
03-25-2010, 07:54 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Giggli G Quote
I am not writing this as a debbie downer who just wants to hate on Pentax, I like a lot of things about them.

Here's my situation:

Right now I have a K-x, 18-55m f3.5-5.6 DAL, 55-300mm f4-5.8 DAL and FA 50mm f1.4. I am mostly enjoying the system but I am finding the autofocus troublesome and weak in low light and/or for tracking. Right now I am not too committed to the Pentax system and could still switch without a huge loss.

My girlfriend wants to get into photography with me. She doesn't seem keen on Pentax, and we both want to have a lot of room to grow. We'd probably be looking for one smaller body and one more advanced body.

I live in Edmonton, Canada and as such low light / indoors capability is quite important to me (northernmost large city in North America).

Also, I have been recruited by my friends to shoot a wedding at the beginning of September. Therefore, I will be needing a flash and also plan on getting a good 2.8 standard zoom like the Tamron 17-50. I want to decide what system my girlfriend and I are going with before I make those investments, because I wouldn't want to turn back afterwards.

I can either:

-stay with Pentax, rent a K-7 for the wedding (k-x shutter is too loud for a ceremony), and hope that the successor to the K-7 has a competitive autofocus system and be really upset if it doesn't.

or

-sell my gear, switch to Nikon or Canon for better AF, and either buy a nice body or buy a small body and then rent for the wedding, then get the new stuff when it hopefully comes out in the fall.

-I am trying to keep my budget under some control.
-I don't like the feel of the Rebel Cameras, although they are really light. I guess it would be ok to have one and then a 50D successor or something later.
-I don't like the 5 minute limit on videos for Nikon (because I videotape local concerts), nor do I like the increased weight of their stuff. I do like the ergonomics, flash stuff, image quality.
It's a cliche, but true; it's not the tools, it's the workman. Pardon me if I wander a bit before coming back to this point.

INAWP (I"m Not A Wedding Photographer) but I've shot a wedding under very similar to the circumstances you describe; friends as poor as church mice, just want someone to capture their special day. And as someone that's wrestled with this particular bear, some friendly advice. Don't do it.

Unless you're a very experienced photographer, you're not ready for a wedding. Weddings are a triathlon mixed with a photo shoot, done in a suit. You get ONE shot at a lot of once in a lifetime moments, and missing them will make you feel bad, and deprive your friends of their memories, and no matter how gracious they are, and how bad you feel, your relationship won't be quite the same afterwards.

Okay, but you're going to do it, right? Right. If you can be a second shooter for someone beforehand it will help, just to get a feel for the shots and the pace. I cannot emphasize enough the need to really comfortable shoes. Seriously. Scouting the locations (at the time of day the wedding will be occurring) will help. A shot list, committed to memory, will help.

Notice how I haven't mentioned gear?

I shot with my K10 and a manual focus 135/2.8 and a Sigma 17-70. From the outside of the sanctuary, since the church doesn't allow cameras inside (surprise!). The ceremony was the most dimly lit portion of the day but it was also relatively static, so AF wasn't a huge factor. And even when people were moving, they were moving relatively slowly, so I could trap. Would superior AF been handy? Sure, but the lack of it wasn't a back breaker. There were maybe two shots that I can blame on the K10's lack of tracking. There were maybe two shots that I can blame on the K10's lack of tracking. My biggest gear problem was lack of a second digital body.

I'm trying to say that you can shoot a wedding with what you own now, with experience and technique (and really, seriously, the Kx's shutter isn't that loud when you're shooting for free). Truth be told, there's very little that can't be done with any given camera of a given class, the only real question is level of hassle. It's not the tools, it's the workman. And it's up to you to determine what level of hassle/ease of a specific tool makes sense to you.

Pentax's AF is adequate for most circumstances. Not stellar, but not awful. And there are ways to help it, plus manual focus is always available. Flash system seems to fall into the not stellar, but not awful category as well. Call those negatives. Aftermarket support exists, but is limited. call that a big negative. Pentax seems to be concentrating their efforts on smaller rugged DSLRs and matching primes. Depending on your needs/wants this can go either way, it's a major plus for me. Ergos are a completely subjective factor. Assigning your own weight to those variables (plus any others, like price considerations) should make the choice for you.
03-25-2010, 07:57 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by rustynail925 Quote
Pentax should fix this
1. AF in lowlight sometimes it wont focus just keeps on hunting
This is also a complaint w/ Canon and Nikon users if you look on their forums. I sometimes shoot w/ a Canon friend and one time at a location shoot, we were trying to get lens flare at the model's request and he was wondering if I had any problems focusing w/ all the lens flare we were getting (I didn't).
Best thing I can suggest if this is bugging you is to rent the Canon/Nikon system you want (most likely you can find a place that lets you do that locally) and just try them in the same situations to see if they're really better...
03-25-2010, 08:26 AM   #13
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I tried the D80 on the same situation and it focuses much faster than my K200D
Its either w/ the help of the D80 af assist lamp or its just faster in the AF.
03-25-2010, 09:48 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by rustynail925 Quote
I tried the D80 on the same situation and it focuses much faster than my K200D
Its either w/ the help of the D80 af assist lamp or its just faster in the AF.
2 years ago I went from the K200D to D80 (briefly). The AF performance was like a speed train in comparison. Even in semi-low light shots that didn't require a assist lamp at all the D80 was/is very quick.
03-25-2010, 10:30 AM   #15
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Any idea what is it actually that makes the AF of higher end Canons and Nikons better than Pentax? Is it that they use some better (= more expensive) components? Is it that their AF algorithms and DSP is better? Or is the whole AF functionality designed better? My uninformed guess is that as Pentax has chosen the path to sell OK cameras relatively cheaply, the first option might be the case.

Anyone know about this?
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