Newbie needs help


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Jan 16, 2009
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#1
Hi everyone,

I recently started my interest in photography and my dad gave me some of his old collection of photograph equipment, including a Pentax MX, Tokina 70-210mm f/3.5 (aka Vivitar Series 1 v2), Pentax-M SMC 40-80mm f/2.8-4.0 and a third party flash gun from Achiever. I believe the equipment are all about 30 years old, but seem to be well maintained with no obvious signs of fungus.

To make use of the old equipment, I chose to buy a second hand K10D + kit lens from a nice gentleman from this forum. Unsurprisingly, both the old lens fit nicely onto the K10D. Of course, I have to manual focus, use Av priority and manually set aperture on the aperture ring. To my pleasant surprise, the flash gun works on the K10D hotshoe too, but I'm at a complete loss on how to configure it.

I've played around with the K10D but so far I have not been very happy with the quality of my shots. Hopefully I can get some help here to figure out what I'm doing wrong and what I can do to improve. Flash photography has been a nightmare for me, so I will start with some closeup photography.


Taken with the Pentax-M 40-80mm f/2.8-4.0 in Macro mode at 80mm, f/8, 1/640 s, using a tripod with shake reduction on.

As you can see from this 100% crop, the image is far from sharp and there is this white "aura" around the white flower.


What am I doing wrong here?

BTW, I've read something about using the "Green button" for metering when using old manual lenses. I'm at a loss on what this means and how to use it - can anyone explain to me?

Thanks for your help.
 

darrrrrrrrrr

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Sep 19, 2006
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#2
first up, welcome! good to hear of old gear being passed down and being so easily put to use on modern day pentax dslrs

looks like the white aura is due to the inherent lens performance since it's stopped down to f/8 and shot at a fast shutter speed. i'm not sure if other lenses will perform similarly since the edge is a pretty high contrast edge. the flowers in the bottom right corner that are under some shade don't appear to be halo-ing so badly..

if your flash has an 'A' mode or thyristor mode then u just have to manually sync the aperture and iso settings between the flash and the camera. usually i put my camera to 'M' mode, iso 400, f5.6, 1/50s, bounce flash off ceiling and just adjust accordingly from there.

if your flash only has 'M' mode then u will have to chimp the rear LCD to see how much flash power to dial in for the settings you put on the camera. a bit troublesome at first, but in constant indoor conditions it will be v simple once u dial it in. and you can use it for off-camera strobist stuff someday.

if your flash only fires at full-power and there's a weird table/graph on the back of the flash, then you'll have to do some maths with the flash-to-subject distance n guide number n aperture. in that case better stay away from serious flash photography and keep experimenting with it.

as for the green button.. here's a guide for the k100d.

after doing all the menu settings, set to 'M' mode n set focus to MF, do the manual focus jiggle, then recompose, adjust the aperture ring to desired setting, then hit the green button so the camera will stop the lens down to the desired aperture and take an exposure reading off that and set the shutter speed accordingly. finally, snap the photo.

if the lighting conditions dont change u can omit subsequent green button steps altogether.

hope my post has given some insight while the pentax gurus share their thoughts later. everyone's really busy these few days!
 

Reportage

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Nov 24, 2008
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#3
Hi, for the 2nd picture the soft focus. is it always appear with the lens or a result of the post processing. quite good light for the photo imo.
 

night86mare

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#4
1) you mention it is a manual lens, sharpness could be due to problems with focusing correctly.

2) pixel peeping does nothing for you, me, or anyone; sharpness is often a misguided concept, people associate high contrast and edge definition rather than clarity of detail. here is an example for you:



both 100% crops from a k20d. most people will say that the right one is sharper, of course it looks sharper, USM has been applied and contrast adjusments have been made. yet both hold the same amount of detail to be exploited.

to be honest, unless you are going to make huge huge prints, care less about sharpness, more about composition and exposure

3) did you shoot in JPG or RAW, seeing that you are using a k10d, and i am not sure if they have corrected the poor jpg quality problem?

4) white haloing is because of blown highlights bleeding over. the flower is relatively white (meaning it reflects all spectrum of the light), compared to the thing it is against (pink), naturally you have to be more careful about exposure.
 

Dec 4, 2008
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#5
Something about using the Old flash. I was in the same situation too like Woeful, where my dad passed down his gears to me. (Well, more like I took it from him..).
I have an old flash. But I've heard about Old flash having a higher voltage will fry your DSLR, since DSLR have a low trigger limit compared to old SLR. So, I dropped Shirro an e-mail.

I'm having an old Pentax flash. The personel from Shirro told me NOT to use it with the DSLR.
 

Gengh

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May 6, 2007
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#6
Agree with nightmare's points. And I would suggest that you try testing the lens on something further away (non-macro, so it's easier to get the focus right) and easier to expose for. If you noticed, the white "aura" is only present around the centre flower and not the others. I wouldn't draw conclusions from it without more supporting evidence.
 

Sep 20, 2007
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#7
Hi and welcome to the Pentax family.

I believe the "white aura" could be due to fungus. You may need to do a more thorough check on your lens. Your pictures looks sharp enough to me. It doesn't look like a sharpness issue. Fungus can cause a soft filter (misty) kind of effect. Why dun you try the same shots with your kit lens (provided it doesn't have fungus too) also so that you can compare. By the way, try not to use shake reduction when using a tripod.

Like what Epileatheral said, try to stay away from those old flashes. Some discharge more than 200V for one full burst of light. I didn't believe this at first. But confirmed this with a few volt meters. These kind of voltage can harm your DSLR. Most flashes for current day DSLR only emit around 10V. If you can get your hands on the current Pentax flashes, the PTTL (auto) mode makes it very easy to use.

Good luck and let us know if you have problems later on.
 

pinholecam

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Jul 23, 2007
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#8
As already mentioned by others. Don't use the old flash via the direct hot shoe connector of your DSLR. The trigger voltage can be very high and cause latent damage to the DSLR. It may appear to work fine now, but electrical over stress can either cause latent or catastrophic damage to electronics, the former will cause the camera to fail over time.

Best is to use this flash with a cheap wireless trigger, and get a new DSLR compatible flash when budget allows.
 

Jan 16, 2009
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#9
@Reportage, nightmare
Sorry, forgot to mention. The image was captured in RAW, processed in Lightroom 2 where I applied auto-white balance and auto-tone. Also, I noticed that I'm getting a few hot pixels that appear as white dots when shot in JPEG mode, and appear as green/blue dots when I open the RAW file using ufraw-for-gimp. Haven't tried the Pentax software yet, but Lightroom 2 automatically removes the hot pixels when the RAW file is opened. Should I be worried about the hot pixels or are they normal occurances?

@darrrrrrr
Thanks for the information about flash guns and green button. I will try to put up a picture of the flash gun tonight hopefully you can help me decode the settings. Vaguely I recall there is a slide rule where I set the ISO and the extension of the main flash, and read off distance, f-stop and a colour (red/yellow/blue, my guess is it corresponds to the flash strength). I can set the flash to Manual (which also does something called M-TTL), red, yellow or blue.

Also, I've been using Aperture Priority, and I've noticed that the shuttle speed changes as the view change, so I assume the metering is more or less working even without the green button. Any idea what the difference is between using the green button in manual mode and using aperture priority?

@Nightmare
I used focus assist with manual focus to get an in-focus confirmation before getting the shot. I try to put the red dot in the viewfinder on the white flower, but not sure if it's hitting that or the pink petal behind because of the slight wind. So would it help with the halos if I step down the exposure, or is there a better way to correct that?
 

darrrrrrrrrr

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Sep 19, 2006
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#10
Totally forgot about the flash trigger voltage. Better not use it on your DSLR unless you have checked out the voltage, as pinholecam has advised.

On an 'M' lens, 'live' metering is done but only at the wide-open aperture. If you want to stop the lens down to f/5.6 or f/8 then you will have to switch to 'M' mode and use the green button, if shooting wide-open then by all means use Av, Tv, P mode, they will all do the same thing in this situation. This is all from memory, I don't have a 'M' lens on hand to fiddle around.
 

matchkk

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Jul 29, 2008
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#11
Have you checked any back / front focus?

Although from your pictures I could not see any, it is better for you to check in advance.
 

hamustar

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May 23, 2007
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#12
Also, I've been using Aperture Priority, and I've noticed that the shuttle speed changes as the view change, so I assume the metering is more or less working even without the green button. Any idea what the difference is between using the green button in manual mode and using aperture priority?
The difference is that in M mode + Green button, the iris of the lens does close to the selected f-stop, and then the camera takes a meter reading.
In Av however, the camera does not stop down the lens, depending only on the electrical contacts reading on 'A' lenses.
Hence the metering in 'M' mode + Green button is more accurate.
The lenses which your dad handed to you are likely non-'A' types which you should not use in Av mode in order to get accurate reading.

As for the flower samples, hard to conclude. I'd second the opinion that the lens elements are perhaps hazed/fungused, worsened by the high contrast shot. Try other lenses(esp the newer kit lens) and share with us the results.

I used focus assist with manual focus to get an in-focus confirmation before getting the shot. I try to put the red dot in the viewfinder on the white flower
Just to clarify that the focus confirm indicator is the green hexagon led at the bottom of the viewfinder, not just the small red square.
 

night86mare

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#13
@Reportage, nightmare
Sorry, forgot to mention. The image was captured in RAW, processed in Lightroom 2 where I applied auto-white balance and auto-tone. Also, I noticed that I'm getting a few hot pixels that appear as white dots when shot in JPEG mode, and appear as green/blue dots when I open the RAW file using ufraw-for-gimp. Haven't tried the Pentax software yet, but Lightroom 2 automatically removes the hot pixels when the RAW file is opened. Should I be worried about the hot pixels or are they normal occurances?

@Nightmare
I used focus assist with manual focus to get an in-focus confirmation before getting the shot. I try to put the red dot in the viewfinder on the white flower, but not sure if it's hitting that or the pink petal behind because of the slight wind. So would it help with the halos if I step down the exposure, or is there a better way to correct that?[/QUOTE]

from experience, the pixel thing is normal. the pentax utility also removes them anyways.

1/640 shouldn't give issues with wind unless you are in a serious gale.

the focus assist has limited accuracy. better to use eye, or get a magnifying eyepiece if you find that problematic.
 

Jan 16, 2009
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#14
Ok, I won't be using the flashgun for now unless I figure out it's safe to use. Still trying to see if the manual can be found for the specs. Anyway if you are interested, this is what the flash gun looks like, it's an Achiever I850STW - can't find any useful information about it on Google.




The top slide sets the ISO and moves the F/No scale.
The bottom slide sets the bulb cover position (currently set at W). W2 I guess is when both the Main and Small flash are being used together.
On the bottom left it looks like the 4 power settings.
On the bottom right Tw = both flashes, Sm = small flash, Mn = main flash


I've examined the lens again but can't find any obvious signs of fungus, by opening the aperture and looking through the rear element against a light source. Is this the right way to look for fungus and other flaws?

I'll try to take more shots again, but probably have to wait for the weekend again since it's dark when I get home from work. I'll try with all 3 of my lenses. Will use the green button correctly.. and Shake Reduction turned off with the tripod.
 

darrrrrrrrrr

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Sep 19, 2006
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#15
if you use the 2-second timer (which i activate when shooting from tripod for the mirror lock-up function) the SR is automatically disabled right?
 

piyoz

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Jul 9, 2007
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#16
Taken with the Pentax-M 40-80mm f/2.8-4.0 in Macro mode at 80mm, f/8, 1/640 s, using a tripod with shake reduction on.
Hmm, i'm also still learning just like you, but i thought if you are using a tripod, you are suppose to turn the SR off. Correct me if i'm wrong??
 

Jan 16, 2009
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#17
if you use the 2-second timer (which i activate when shooting from tripod for the mirror lock-up function) the SR is automatically disabled right?
Haven't tried that yet actually, but it makes sense to use a 2-second timer with tripod. Thanks for the tip.

Hmm, i'm also still learning just like you, but i thought if you are using a tripod, you are suppose to turn the SR off. Correct me if i'm wrong??
Yep, just found out supposed to turn SR off with tripod. Not sure why though.
 

Jan 16, 2009
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#19
Hi, I'm back again, and got some shots with each of my 3 lenses.

Pentax-DA 18-55mm (Kit Lens), @55mm f/8 1/200s, full image resized


100% crop of the above


Pentax-M 40-80mm, @80mm f/8 1/60s


100% crop of the above
 

Jan 16, 2009
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#20
Tokina 70-210mm, @210mm f/8 1/100s


100% crop of the above



The shoot with the 40-80mm seems like an improvement over the picture from last week. The white halo is mostly gone, not sure what caused it in the first place, but these are some of the things I have done in the latest shots:

1. Used the green button for step down metering
2. Used 2 second shuttle release delay
3. Disabled shake reduction with the tripod
4. Removed the UV filter
 

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