Whilst finding cameras that make b/w images I love straight out of camera has not been too hard – and virtually all other cameras I’ve used can produce something pleasing after a quick run through one of my Snapseed presets – colour photography has proved far more challenging.
This is the latest post in an ongoing series called The Colour Quest, where I report on various experiments in attempting to make colour images I love.
My two CCD sensor Pentax DSLRs, the K100D and K-m, deliver lovely colour images all day long. They are the benchmark for colour digital photography for me.
My other Pentax DSLR, the K-30, is in many ways my favourite of the three.
It handles best (just – all are brilliant), the rubber grip is near perfect in shape and feel, it has the largest, brightest viewfinder, ditto for the screen, and the build and controls feel classy and inspire confidence.
The b/w mode, with some additional tweaking of the contrast, has made photos I’m happy with.
When it’s come to shooting colour though, I’ve struggled with the K-30.
With the K100D and K-m, I just set them to the “Bright” colour setting, and snap away.
All I need to adjust shot by shot is the aperture (I favour Aperture Priority most of the time) and exposure compensation, though with the latter once I’ve adjusted it once or twice for a particular lens and photowalk, it doesn’t need so much additional tweaking shot by shot.
I know that for most of the images I make, I’ll be pleased with the colour, and many I’ll be delighted with.
I love this simple, direct kind of photography.
With the K-30 today, it wasn’t so straightforward.
I made around 140 photographs, perhaps three times what I’d make with the K100D or K-m on a similar walk.
The first sweep of editing culled all but 18.
This is pretty severe, usually this initial pass will eliminate perhaps half of the images I make.
The reasons so many photos weren’t worth keeping, are poor exposure, or I just didn’t like the colours.
Of those first 18 I kept, nearly all were the best of perhaps three, four or five attempts at the same composition, where I was trying to get the colour and exposure right.
The second wave of editing reduced this to nine images, all of which I was happy enough with to keep.
And of those, I decided to share six to my Flickr stream (which also serves as a back up).
My hit rate today then was 6/140, which is about 4%.
Can you imagine the fortune this would cost me if it was a film camera – only one keeper for every roll of film, so each “successful” photograph would cost perhaps £10 or more in purchasing, developing and scanning costs!
This is the lowest hit rate of any camera I have that isn’t one I’m testing for the first time and making all kinds of test shots to work stuff out.
A good keeper rate from a photo walk with one of my favourite cameras (like the K100D or K-m) is probably about 25-30%, sometimes even more.
In other words, I find it very difficult to consistently make colour images I like with the K-30!
It’s like an old friend you love, but just know that every time you meet up, it’s not going to be an easy, laid back experience. It’s going to be hard work, and go on longer than expected. But you still meet up with them anyway.
When I look at the photos I’m left with, I do really like them.
In terms of colour, I think after today’s further experiments I’ve found a set up that works.
I started with some advice from Chris, a fellow avid Pentaxian, who kindly shared his settings for his K-50, which is near identical to the K-30.
Using this as a jumping off point, I then tweaked myself to find colours I liked.
I’ve ended up with the following as the main settings in the camera, and saved them as one of the custom user modes on the dial –
ISO – Auto (with range limited to 100-400)
Exposure Mode – AV
White Balance – Auto (though strangely it tended towards green in some very low light situations)
Custom Image – Muted, Saturation +3, Toning Off, High/Low Key Adj Zero, Contrast +4, Sharpness -3
Image Capture – JPEG, 12MP (max is 16MP, even 12MP is overkill for my needs), JPEG Quality *** (max)
AE Metering – Multi-segment
AF Active Area – Spot
Shake Reduction – On
Everything Else (HDR Capture, High ISO NR, Horizon Correction, D-Range Settings etc etc) – Off
For Instant Review, I set to five seconds and enabled the Bright/Dark Area (affectionately known as the “blinkies”) so I could see instantly any over exposed areas.
I have the rear dial set as the aperture control, and discovered today I can set the front dial to exposure compensation, rather than hold the exposure compensation button on top of the camera and turn the rear dial.
I use exposure comp so much with this camera, it makes sense to have it somewhere fast and easy to access!
In terms of colour, I do feel now I have a set up that works pretty well, ie it gives me a final colour image I like, straight out of camera.
The problem still is not so much the K-30, but the fact that the older, simpler, K100D and K-m deliver even more lovely (and still more natural looking) images with far less faffing about, and as such give a more rewarding and direct experience.
I’m still quite baffled as to why the K-30 is such hard work, when most of my favourite digital cameras, once set up initially, need very little adjustment shot by shot.
They just get on with it and deliver.
Perhaps the sensor in the K-30 being the size it is (APS-C) and the fact it’s the most MP and most sophisticated in any camera I have, mean it’s literally so much more sensitive to differences in light, and so hardly a shot goes by where I don’t have to adjust the exposure compensation.
Maybe next time I’ll try centre weighted metering and see if it’s any better.
If the K-30 was the only camera I had, I would really enjoy it, and I now know I have it set up to produce both colour and b/w images I’m happy with, straight out of camera.
As I said before, it’s a lovely spec’d camera with its viewfinder, rear screen, handling and build. I just wish it wasn’t such hard work!
How do you make colour photographs with a DSLR?
Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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