single frame: Jimmy

14 comments on single frame: Jimmy
1 minute

Pentax K10D, 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL

I photographed our family Christmas celebrations with my Pentax K10D and the 35/2 Pentax FA attached. And overall it didn’t work out. The autofocus chose the wrong thing to focus on about half the time. Given that I was shooting with the flash off, my in-focus patch was always pretty narrow. If the camera didn’t nail focus, my subject was blurry.

I switched to manual focus late in the celebration. My eyes did a much better job of judging focus than the camera did.

But when the camera got focus right, it nailed everything else. Exposure and color were spot on. I shot RAW+JPEG, but I didn’t need to — my edits to the RAW images made them no better than the in-camera JPEGs. That is the way I like it. My stalwart Canon S95 can’t do that.

I didn’t know until the celebrations were all over that auto-ISO mode limits the camera to ISO 100-400. The camera is of ISOs up to 1600 — but, north of ISO 400, only if you hand select them. Kind of frustrating, as higher ISOs would have increased the in-focus patch enough to make probably half of the botched shots work. It would, probably, have also increased the noise in the photographs, but you can’t have everything.

The K10D may not be cut out for everyday duty. My Canon S95 gets focus right every time. Even though most shots are much improved with little quick editing in the RAW editor, I can use its photos straight from the camera if I must. And so the S95 is a better choice for family work.


14 responses to “single frame: Jimmy”

  1. Christopher J. May Avatar


    Just for curiosity, how are you using the AF system on the K10D? I had both the K100D that preceded your camera and the K20D that followed it. I don’t recall having many focus issues with either but I always pick the AF point I want to use. I’m wondering if letting the camera pick the AF point is causing your focus woes.


    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Christopher, I have used both multi-point AF and center AF and have struggled with both. Your comment makes me wonder if there are nuances to setting up AF that I’m not seeing. I should see if there’s a manual online.

  2. Christopher J. May Avatar

    Let me know if I can help at all. It’s been several years since I styled myself as a Pentaxian but I used 4 of their DSLRs in the past.

  3. dan james Avatar

    The K10D thread on PentaxForums has a wealth of information – and many experienced K10D users too, you might ask there?

    I confess I haven’t ever really used a DSLR (or SLR) for family stuff. I’ve used my trusty Nikon Coolpix that I got in 2011, and still use it. Or increasingly, my iPhone. A DSLR just seems to much bulk and effort for these kind of casual occasions where they’re often indoors and subjects are moving around a lot… You really just want a small P&S.

    The K10D is renowned for its CCD sensor, which excels at native ISO (100) and in my experience is still great at ISO200 and 400. Beyond that, the consensus is it’s usable, but only in a pinch. Later models have come on greatly in terms of high ISO performance, if that’s something you’re going to need to use often.

    I think it’s just the case of the right tool for the job, to use an analogy of yours, and in lower indoor light for family shots, the K10D probably isn’t the best tool. Outside in good light at ISO100 and with a Takumar or A series prime, it’ll thrive!

    On a technical note, I wonder why with these posts with one image, the title doesn’t appear at the top of the post (when viewing the main/home page)? I have to scroll down to the end of the post, to find the title to click on to view just the single post and comments. Most other posts the title is right there at the top. Do you know why there’s inconsistency? Or am I not doing something right? Thanks Jim!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Dan, as I keep exploring this K10D I am indeed learning that it is probably not a good general-purpose tool but instead a good tool for specialized uses. It really is a good performer with a manual-focus lens outside where I can choose ISO 100 or 200. Perhaps that’s its best use. The question is: will I get enough use from it that way to justify keeping it?

      When I do a “photo” post like this, which allows the very large photo size, the template puts the title underneath. I’m not crazy about it, but I don’t have the CSS skills to change it. Or frankly the interest. The photo is what matters, really, anyway.

      Here’s a photo from the K10D I shot indoors at ISO 1600. It’s not bad.

  4. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    I am following your experiences here with keen interest. I am considering the Pentax K-1.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Wow! Going large! I would think that my experience with a 10+-year-old APS-C DSLR would only lightly predict your experience with a full-frame K-1.

      1. bodegabayf2 Avatar

        It’s a starting place. I am not sure yet, but having ability to mount all of my great old Taks is interesting.

  5. Heide Avatar

    It’s a pity your camera’s autofocus botched so many of your images, Jim — but this one is a keeper!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks! I love that little ornament. My Kindergarten teacher gave it to me in 1972.

  6. Dan Cluley Avatar
    Dan Cluley

    Based on that 1600 photo, the higher sensitivities certainly seem usable.

    It looks like my Kx is only a couple of years newer, but has a much higher ISO range. 3200 does have noticable noise, but I’m finding it an acceptable trade off for hand held night shots. 6400 & 12800 are far too grainy for any regular use.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yeah. This camera doesn’t have a great reputation north of ISO 400 and I don’t know why.

  7. Film Beginnings Avatar

    I agree about the Auto ISO limitations. It’s so strange why camera manufacturers set these limitations which frankly seem silly. I can’t imagine capping the Auto ISO to only 100 – 400 is somehow a cost savings? Perhaps they are trying to protect the user but in a case like this they really should let the user make the choice of using higher ISO if they want.

    I have Fujifilm X100T and you are able to set custom modes with Auto ISO but it caps the shutter speed the camera chooses at 1/125 if shooting in aperture priority. Of course Fuji did realize the silliness of this and raised the cap in the next model. However, they didn’t provide a firmware update for X100T of course. Strange choices they make :)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I swear sometimes that camera manufacturers are overthinking it. Put a mode on the dial that locks the least experienced users down, but let the rest of us use the camera to its full capabilities, even if we make choices that result in unusuable photos. Holy cow, it’s digital — if we get an underexposed or overexposed shot we can correct and shoot again.

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