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Old Feb 14, 2012, 4:17 PM   #1
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Default K-x and Photo taking Help

Hello all

I am a mew K-x user well not that new. But I really could use some help on making my photos sharper I shot these today in Aperture priority mode mostly with the pentax 18- 135 Lens. What am I doing wrong? my shots just don't have the sharpness or pop that others do.

Thanks
Mark
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Old Feb 14, 2012, 8:11 PM   #2
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For some reason, I seem to be unable to view the exif data on your images. What aperture did you use, and what was the ISO setting? The photos look to me like they lack sharpness due to hand-holding at a slow shutter speed, but I'm just guessing at that. There are many on this forum who know more about the technical aspects than I do; I'm sure others will have very good insights.
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Old Feb 14, 2012, 9:08 PM   #3
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Default Missing EXIF

1st picture Hallway Black and White:
Filename - IMGP1604.jpg
Make - PENTAX
Model - PENTAX K-x
ExposureTime - 1/15 seconds
FNumber - 16.00
ExposureProgram - Aperture priority
ISOSpeedRatings - 1600
ExifVersion - 0221
DateTimeOriginal - 2012:02:14 12:26:47
DateTimeDigitized - 2012:02:14 12:26:47
ComponentsConfiguration - YCbCr
ExposureBiasValue - 0.00
MeteringMode - Center weighted average
Flash - Flash not fired, compulsory flash mode
FocalLength - 18.00 mm
FlashPixVersion - 0100
ColorSpace - sRGB
ExifImageWidth - 1024
ExifImageHeight - 680
InteroperabilityOffset - 1084
SensingMethod - One-chip color area sensor
FileSource - Other
SceneType - Other
CustomRendered - Custom process
ExposureMode - Auto
White Balance - Manual
FocalLengthIn35mmFilm - 27 mm
SceneCaptureType - Standard
Contrast - Normal
Saturation - Low
Sharpness - Soft

2nd Picture Manaquins Color
Filename - IMGP1606.jpg
Make - PENTAX
Model - PENTAX K-x
ExposureTime - 1/15 seconds
FNumber - 16.00
ExposureProgram - Aperture priority
ISOSpeedRatings - 1600
ExifVersion - 0221
DateTimeOriginal - 2012:02:14 12:29:24
DateTimeDigitized - 2012:02:14 12:29:24
ComponentsConfiguration - YCbCr
ExposureBiasValue - 0.00
MeteringMode - Center weighted average
Flash - Flash not fired, compulsory flash mode
FocalLength - 18.00 mm
FlashPixVersion - 0100
ColorSpace - sRGB
ExifImageWidth - 1024
ExifImageHeight - 680
InteroperabilityOffset - 1084
SensingMethod - One-chip color area sensor
FileSource - Other
SceneType - Other
CustomRendered - Normal process
ExposureMode - Auto
White Balance - Manual
FocalLengthIn35mmFilm - 27 mm
SceneCaptureType - Standard
Contrast - Normal
Saturation - Normal
Sharpness - Normal
SubjectDistanceRange - Distant view

3rd Picture gumballs
Filename - IMGP1616.jpg
Make - PENTAX
Model - PENTAX K-x
ExposureTime - 1/40 seconds
FNumber - 8.00
ExposureProgram - Aperture priority
ISOSpeedRatings - 1600
ExifVersion - 0221
DateTimeOriginal - 2012:02:14 12:41:28
DateTimeDigitized - 2012:02:14 12:41:28
ComponentsConfiguration - YCbCr
ExposureBiasValue - 0.00
MeteringMode - Center weighted average
Flash - Flash not fired, compulsory flash mode
FocalLength - 40.00 mm
FlashPixVersion - 0100
ColorSpace - sRGB
ExifImageWidth - 1024
ExifImageHeight - 680
InteroperabilityOffset - 1084
SensingMethod - One-chip color area sensor
FileSource - Other
SceneType - Other
CustomRendered - Normal process
ExposureMode - Auto
White Balance - Manual
FocalLengthIn35mmFilm - 60 mm
SceneCaptureType - Standard
Contrast - Hard
Saturation - High
Sharpness - Soft
SubjectDistanceRange - Close view

4th Picture Shutters
Filename - IMGP1622.jpg
Make - PENTAX
Model - PENTAX K-x
ExposureMode - Auto
White Balance - Manual
FocalLengthIn35mmFilm - 60 mm
SceneCaptureType - Standard
Contrast - Normal
Saturation - Normal
Sharpness - Normal
SubjectDistanceRange - Distant view
ExifOffset - 764
ExposureTime - 1/8 seconds
FNumber - 8.00
ExposureProgram - Aperture priority
ISOSpeedRatings - 1600
ExifVersion - 0221
DateTimeOriginal - 2012:02:14 12:47:19
DateTimeDigitized - 2012:02:14 12:47:19
ComponentsConfiguration - YCbCr
ExposureBiasValue - 0.00
MeteringMode - Center weighted average
Flash - Flash not fired, compulsory flash mode
FocalLength - 40.00 mm
FlashPixVersion - 0100
ColorSpace - sRGB
ExifImageWidth - 1024
ExifImageHeight - 1542
SensingMethod - One-chip color area sensor
FileSource - DSC - Digital still camera
SceneType - A directly photographed image

5th Picture Suits Black and White
Filename - IMGP1626.jpg
Make - PENTAX
Model - PENTAX K-x
ExposureTime - 1/13 seconds
FNumber - 11.00
ExposureProgram - Aperture priority
ISOSpeedRatings - 1600
ExifVersion - 0221
DateTimeOriginal - 2012:02:14 12:53:36
DateTimeDigitized - 2012:02:14 12:53:36
ComponentsConfiguration - YCbCr
ExposureBiasValue - 0.00
MeteringMode - Center weighted average
Flash - Flash not fired, compulsory flash mode
FocalLength - 48.00 mm
FlashPixVersion - 0100
ColorSpace - sRGB
ExifImageWidth - 1024
ExifImageHeight - 680
InteroperabilityOffset - 1084
SensingMethod - One-chip color area sensor
FileSource - Other
SceneType - Other
CustomRendered - Custom process
ExposureMode - Auto
White Balance - Manual
FocalLengthIn35mmFilm - 72 mm
SceneCaptureType - Standard
Contrast - Normal
Saturation - Low
Sharpness - Soft
SubjectDistanceRange - Distant view
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Old Feb 15, 2012, 7:28 AM   #4
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Mtnman is correct you are shooting at a high ISO and low shutter speed to just so you can use a small aperture. While it is true that lenses are sharper at smaller apertures (f8, f11) the image is less pleasing at high ISO (more noise) and can blur at low shutter speeds (1/15 sec.) For indoor shooting in lower light you have to give up on using small apertures or use a tripod. To improve the the type shots like those above set you auto ISO to 100-800 and shoot in program mode. That should give you the best combo of settings. Outdoors in bright sun shoot in AV mode with the lens set at f8 auto ISO at 100-800. Action shots make sure the shutter speed is at a min. 1/500 sec for the kit lens. This should give you a start on sharper images but you need to understand the effects of all your settings. I am sure some others and help you more and provide you with some book suggestions.

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Old Feb 15, 2012, 9:26 AM   #5
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I can't hold a camera steady at 1/20 sec, even with anti-shake (well, I can sometimes when using a really wide angle focal length, but it's not a sure thing). There are those who can. My first thought is for you to try to not shoot any slower than 1/focal length if using anti-shake or (if you are me and not so steady any more) 1/2 times focal length. That will take camera shake out of the picture. If you are shooting on a (reasonably sturdy) tripod, make sure you turn off anti-shake and that will allow you to use much slower shutter speeds.

The second thing is that small apertures do tend to introduce distortion with digital sensors. So I'll rarely shoot with apertures between f11 - f22 (or whatever the highest number/smallest aperture of the lens is), unless I'm shooting with a macro lens at close-up to macro distances. Most digital lenses are best when stopped down a bit to about f11. I tend to shoot mostly between f4 and f8 (depending on the lens I might shoot as wide open as f2.8). You do run into depth of field issues if your focal length is longer, but these are all fairly wide.

The first one looks like it's a bit under-exposed also - if it's like many malls, everything is probably pretty light/almost white and the light meter always tries to average a scene to mid-grey. Works for most things, but not where everything is white or black. You could easily lighten things in post processing.

Finally something that can also be an issue - when you resize things for posting here, you will lose sharpness. I almost always add some sharpening (not very much though) after I resize down to monitor size, to compensate for that. What processing software do you use? I'm looking at these on a not-very-good monitor at work, I could probably tell more about processing when I get home.
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Old Feb 15, 2012, 1:01 PM   #6
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Hi Mark,

It just occurred to me that there might also be some technique issues that are somewhat Pentax-centric. With some of the newer Pentax DSLR models, the Kx and K20, AF lock can be quicker than SR activation, so you may actually have to wait a fraction of a second for SR to fully stabilized the image. With me, it's habitual to half press to activate AF, then check focus in the VF and finalize composition while I hold the half press, then take the shot, so I never end up shooting before SR has a chance to activate. If you want to shoot quickly, with the aid of SR, you must at least wait until you see the "hand" symbol at the bottom of your VF, or your resulting image could actually be worse than if you didn't have SR turned on at all.

Another more subtle thing that I've found is that SR works better with a relatively casual hold as opposed to a tight grip on the camera. I use the traditional hold of letting the camera rest on my upturned left palm, and lightly grip the camera with the right, and try to make the shutter actuation as light and smooth as possible.

In the storefront shot through the window example, realize that there are more than one possible planes of focus. The first might be the writing or reflections on the glass, and the second would be the manikins behind the glass. You need to ensure that your camera is focusing on the plane that you want it to. If it's impossible for the camera to make the right choice because of competing contrast borders in the AF area, then you have the option of making a manual focus correction after gaining a focus lock while holding the shutter button half press. That's one of the functions of the Quick Shift feature of your DA series lenses.

Try these, along with using faster shutter speeds and wider apertures, and I think you'll see some improvement.

Scott
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Old Feb 15, 2012, 9:04 PM   #7
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Thanks mntman,Snostorm,mtngal, and hnikesch for your response I really appreciate the information. I have been trying to shoot mostly aperture priority. and as you and I found out the camera raises the ISO and lowers my shutter speed.

snostorm:
Gary I usually do the half press and wait for confirmation of focus and then finish the press of the shutter. Not saying I don't do it to hard but I do try to be as slow and easy as I can.

mtngal: Typically my processing software is Photoshop Elements 3 and 9 I prefer 3 because It loads faster. Thanks I have heard of a sweet spot for lenses on bridge cameras did not know these lenses were the same.
Right now I am getting better shots with my bridge camera, which disappoints me right now I hope to get better, to show up the bridge camera. The sweet spot for that camera is f5.2 to f6.5

hnikesch:
Hans thanks for the information I have been trying to understand all the settings it just gets confusing. I have Bryan Peterson book understanding exposure. But I must admit to me it seems to leave a lot of information out. Or I really didn't get it.

Thanks again
Mark
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Old Feb 15, 2012, 9:13 PM   #8
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A good rule of thumb to use is a shutter speed 1/focal length secs. Because its is a 1.5 crop factor and so you would have to multiply your focal length by the crop factor. Your 18-135mm lens' shutter speed would be 1/30 sec (1 over 18x1.5 sec) min shutter speed on the wide end and 1/200 on the long end (although you might need a longer time). Try Program mode until you are more comfortable with setting aperture or shutter speed, or even half press and look at what the program mode suggests for shutter speed, aperture and ISO then adjust from there. Finally, I do not know if you are using Live View but try looking through the viewfinder and holding the camera steady and softly squeezing the shutter. The slower you shutter speed the more steady you need to be.

Last edited by y0chang; Feb 15, 2012 at 9:39 PM.
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Old Feb 15, 2012, 9:20 PM   #9
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It is pretty simple, you are shooting indoor with higher iso because you do not have a big aperture lens or flash. At 1/15 sec, it is really hard to have sharp shots hand held even with stabilization. The only way to do that is shoot on a tripod with a remote shutter release. Also some of your shots have dof issues. Or you go to with an external flash.
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Old Feb 15, 2012, 9:46 PM   #10
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Hope we aren't hitting you over the head with information! But it sounds like you've already started to get a handle on a number of factors. Yes, all lenses have their "sweet-spots", and it will vary from lens to lens. A good exercise (boring but informative) is to use some subject that's relatively close to you, with a background that's further away and to take a series of pictures of it, using different apertures, keeping a pretty fast shutter speed (doesn't have to be the same) and a low ISO. One person I know used to use a wooden fence post (interesting wood textures) but you can use just about anything. Use center focus, have the post in the center, but have quite a bit around it visible. Then shoot at every aperture, or perhaps every half-stop, making sure you hit f8 and f11. Go from wide open to as small as the lens will go. Then compare pictures and see where the lens becomes sharpest and where you start seeing the distortion start to creep in. Since you are shooting with a zoom, try the same thing at different focal lengths - the sharpness can change even if you are using the same aperture.

Another even more boring and potentially very frustrating exercise is to make sure the lens doesn't front or back focus. While I don't think that's your situation based on the pictures above, if you are trying to figure out your equipment, it's always worth checking out. I get very frustrated when shooting focus charts and often find they are inconclusive for a variety of reasons, by the way, so don't get too wrapped up about shooting them - try taking picture of a fence post with some foreground and background depth and other real-world subjects. Realizing that a camera isn't perfect and can be focusing perfectly on something you don't intend, but after a bunch of real-world photos plus a few focus charts, you'll have a good idea if this is an issue or not.

Final thought about your last picture - is that picture pretty much straight out of the camera or did you process the contrast that way? I wondered because it looks like you have clipped highlights and shadows - the dynamic range could have been beyond the range of the sensor. That can be effective with black and white and I've processed things that way on purpose once in a while. However, I suspect you were taking a picture of a scene that would have needed HDR processing to capture fully. I don't have a Kx (always wanted a white one) so I'm not sure how much you can recover in the shadows without introducing noise, but I know you can't recover detail in blown-out highlights.

PSE 9 is quite powerful, I think PSE 3 less so. Does PSE 3 support layers? If not, then use PSE 9 and try a little unsharp mask with the gumballs on a copy of the background layer and see if it makes a difference. The first one can be improved by using levels - use the mid-point slider and slide it to the right a bit - that will lighten it a bit without changing the white and black points.

One thing that all dSLR manufacturers do is try very hard not to over-process their images - they allow the photographer to add what they want. It's possible to add saturation to a picture to make the colors stronger - it's very hard to lower the saturation gracefully (except to convert it to b&w). Same with sharpening. So if you've had a p&s that processes their pictures a lot more and you like that look, you'll need to either shoot jpg and change your in-camera settings or add it with post processing. That's not the problem with your pictures posted above as they are really soft (gumballs aren't that bad) but something to think about.

Post some more pictures, taken outside.
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