How important is low light auto focus to you?

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Ontario Gone
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How important is low light auto focus to you?
3 months ago

My first couple of cameras were learning experiences. I failed to test them in adverse conditions because i was just getting the basics down. Third camera was a sony A55, my first non DSLR, technically. It was also my first EVF camera, but it still had one issue the other two had, it hunted a lot in low light. When light got even lower, there was no lock at all. I must admit my first camera ever, a Sony A100, was just a toy to play around with. I wasn't interested in all at learning photography, so i was never going to notice things that had to do with performance.

Later though, i did notice. When i settled into my own personal needs, which happens to be mostly family portraiture and most of that indoor, auto focus became a factor. With adults i can tell them to sit still, but when you have little ones that rarely sit still, every moment counts. I have countless photos that never came to be bc by the time the AF was finished hunting, that moment had passed. I later moved on to try something new, namely Pentax. Skipping through all the boring parts, Pentax now has some of the best low light AF in town, with the K5-IIs (my last camera), and the K3. Both are rated to lock reliably in -3EV light, very dim.

The only other DSLR that can match that claim is the 6D. Some others, including the D7100, are rated at -2EV, and most DSLRs fall between the -1 and +1 area. In case the differences need some perspective, here is a review by Digital rev, with Kai and Lok comparing the IIs and the D7100. There is only 1EV difference between the two, but Lok claims a big difference in use for low light AF. Link is here, fast forward to the 7:30 mark for the indoor low light comparison. Not only was the Pentax faster, it was faster without using the AF assist light, where the Nikon was slower to lock WITH the AF assist light.

So with that said, the importance comes down to whether you actually shoot in dim light often. I do, very often as i don't have flood lights in my home, nor does my family. My next camera won't be a Pentax, even though they are very respectable in many ways. Among other reasons, low light AF was still a part of my decision but i managed to find a camera capable of -4EV, the GX7. We don't hear much about this aspect of cameras i assume because most people prefer to shoot in good light to keep noise down. Perhaps there's another reason?

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"Run to the light, Carol Anne. Run as fast as you can!"

Canon EOS 6D Nikon D7100 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 Pentax K-5 Sony SLT-A55
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