540 let me down Christmas Day

Started Dec 26, 2007 | Discussions
FuzzyUno Regular Member • Posts: 114
540 let me down Christmas Day

I upgraded to the K10D from the K100 a few weeks ago. I always had difficulty with the 540 flash on my K100 and am still having trouble with the k10. I shot about 100 pictures today with various settings and my pictures went from spot on to underexposed.

I've read endlessly on this forum about different settings to try with the 540 to combat underexposure. Link this, change that, increase this...yada, yada, yada.

To obtain a proper exposure, my best luck came with 400 ISO, +.7 flash comp, +.3 exp comp. 1/60, 5.6. Every shot was bounced either with the Sto-fen or "betterbouncecard". I would say 50% of my pictures were acceptable. I shot in user mode, P mode and Av as well as trying green with little change.

I had better results at my house since there isn't a lot of reflective surfaces. But I just returned from my mothers home. You know the house, it looks like a local Hallmark store with the entire inventory out on display? LOL. I know the P-TTL is sensitive to reflective surfaces and found myself constantly moving to look for a "plain" background which resulted in missed shots.

I am a newbie at this whole DSLR and flash stuff. I'm not going to cry about this 540 and leave it in the bag. I want to learn how to use it in "daily life" settings. Can anybody offer some advise that hasn't been posted before since I've read most of the posts.

Maybe I'm missing a setting in the custom menu????

Thanks and Merry Christmas to all.

Rupert60 Forum Pro • Posts: 12,731
What's missing....

Is the lack of a good users manual for the 540 and 360 flash units. Pentax just puts them out there for sale and figures you already know it all. They are striving to gain new Pentaxians, but fail to give them the proper education they need with the equipment they sell. Many of the new shooters are like me, new or very new to DSLR's and at least need a comprehensive manual for their high priced flash units but despite many complaints about their inferior manual, they continue to ignore requests for a manual upgrade. Your main problem is that you have a high-tech flash with a low-tech manual. Someone that understands these flashes could make a lot of $$$ by making a comprehensive manual on how to get the best results, but since I've mentioned this many times here, I have to assume that no one understands the 540, or that if they do, they are already burdened with too much cash.
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camperguy01 Regular Member • Posts: 409
I feel your pain

Sounds exactly like my experience last night except I have the 360. I was so frustrated with the inconsistency of P-TTL I switched to full manual mode. I had a much better success rate with the pics taken in manual mode.

I'll be watching this thread carefully for tips on how I can better use my flash with P-TTL.....
--
http://harsla.zenfolio.com/

OP FuzzyUno Regular Member • Posts: 114
Re: What's missing....

I agree the manual is lacking. But on the other hand, I would think that if a flash is set to "full auto" and reads the camera's settings, a properly exposed picture should be able to be taken without reading a manual. How many times have we opened a piece of electronics and discarded the manual because the interface was so intuitive? We should be able to mount the 360/540, turn it on and shoot in the green setting.

RPulley Senior Member • Posts: 1,175
Re: 540 let me down Christmas Day

FuzzyUno wrote:

I upgraded to the K10D from the K100 a few weeks ago. I always had
difficulty with the 540 flash on my K100 and am still having trouble
with the k10. I shot about 100 pictures today with various settings
and my pictures went from spot on to underexposed.

I've read endlessly on this forum about different settings to try
with the 540 to combat underexposure. Link this, change that,
increase this...yada, yada, yada.

To obtain a proper exposure, my best luck came with 400 ISO, +.7
flash comp, +.3 exp comp. 1/60, 5.6. Every shot was bounced either
with the Sto-fen or "betterbouncecard". I would say 50% of my
pictures were acceptable. I shot in user mode, P mode and Av as well
as trying green with little change.

I had better results at my house since there isn't a lot of
reflective surfaces. But I just returned from my mothers home. You
know the house, it looks like a local Hallmark store with the entire
inventory out on display? LOL. I know the P-TTL is sensitive to
reflective surfaces and found myself constantly moving to look for a
"plain" background which resulted in missed shots.

I am a newbie at this whole DSLR and flash stuff. I'm not going to
cry about this 540 and leave it in the bag. I want to learn how to
use it in "daily life" settings. Can anybody offer some advise that
hasn't been posted before since I've read most of the posts.

Maybe I'm missing a setting in the custom menu????

Thanks and Merry Christmas to all.

It is not the flash, IMO. it is the "flash system", which is mainly controlled by the body and the metering system.

For what it is worth, the Canon system seems to suck almost as bad from what I read on these forums, and it is gen II of Canon's pre-flash digital era system.

Nikon seems to get better reviews for flash exposure accuracy.

It is high time for Pentax to improve P-TTL.

I used my Sigma all weekend, which is P-TTL, but only on the MZ-S with pro film. It will not be perfect either as the MZ-S has the same basic system for flash that the K10D has (except you can use TTL flashes if you want to), but pro negative film has so much more exposure latitude it normally is not really an issue.

I use old-fashioned auto flashes if I want fire and forget flash consistency. Of course, you give up High Speed Synch and auto ISO and auto zoom, but I just set an aperture on the camera (av mode) and also on the flash and fire away and as long as the subject is in the range indicated on the flash, all is fine.

I hope the new cameras show improvement in this area.

Ray

newtophoto Regular Member • Posts: 127
Re: 540 let me down Christmas Day

This is why I didn't even bother with a pentax flash (well that and price....). I have an old Nikon SB25 which I performed surgery on to remove extraneous pins. I can use it on camera no problem. Fire three chimp shots and I have a nailed exposure for the most part. I tend to get a get exposure around F2.8-F3.5 with the SB25 set at 1/8-1/4 power. This is low enough that I can fire off 5+ before recharge times become an issue. It also has the old fashioned auto mode that works well. I tend to use a bounce card for my indoor pics.
--
K10D, DA18-55, FA50, Tammy 70-300, BG2 Battery Grip
Take everything I say with a grain of salt!

RPulley Senior Member • Posts: 1,175
Re: 540 let me down Christmas Day

newtophoto wrote:

This is why I didn't even bother with a pentax flash (well that and
price....). I have an old Nikon SB25 which I performed surgery on to
remove extraneous pins. I can use it on camera no problem. Fire three
chimp shots and I have a nailed exposure for the most part. I tend to
get a get exposure around F2.8-F3.5 with the SB25 set at 1/8-1/4
power. This is low enough that I can fire off 5+ before recharge
times become an issue. It also has the old fashioned auto mode that
works well. I tend to use a bounce card for my indoor pics.
--
K10D, DA18-55, FA50, Tammy 70-300, BG2 Battery Grip
Take everything I say with a grain of salt!

I am using a set of SB-28's modified the same way.

They work great in auto and I can set up a pair in manual mode with pocketwizards to get a small portable portrait system (ala The Strobist) that works pretty well.

Ray

Ed Jay Senior Member • Posts: 1,625
Try this...

I don't have the Pentax flash but the Sigma flash. Set it to manual, 1.50, f 4.0, iso 400. Do a test shot and adjust accordingly. Bounce it with a stofen.

(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 9,762
You know what the real problem is?

A lot of people jump into this game and think that Flash is an automatic thing that will just light up the scene exactly how you wanted it... Well guess what? If you don't have the exposure right to begin with then you won't get the image you want out of the camera... In short, if you think you can start with an underexposed image and the flash will automatically correct it you're wrong as it relies as much on the proper exposure as not having a flash at all.

Another note, you should always expose for your subject and not worry and let the rest of the scene take care of itself. One way to do this is to learn how to use a spot meter and another is to get a reading from both in front of your subject and behind your subject while making adjustments.

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wlachan
wlachan Veteran Member • Posts: 6,759
I am not a newbie when it comes to flash

and I can run any flash in M or A mode without problem in any situations, but the P-TTL flash with the 540FGZ that I had was "inconsistent", which was the real problem. There are many situations you don't have second chance. My solution? I have moved back to A & M flash now and much happier, except using the 540FGZ in these modes will be a torture because it will be reset back to P-TTL whenever being switched off/on again. That means you will spend considerable amount of time setting the flash up again, again, and again when you should be concentrating on the shots.
--
Alan Chan
http://www.pbase.com/wlachan/random_shots

crocau Regular Member • Posts: 179
Re: I am not a newbie when it comes to flash

flash and auto create few problems, it works very well in some coditions while in other situation it gives odd problems, you have learn how to recognize those trouble spots and use manual.
OR use manual full stop, couple of test shots and you set

nosnoop Senior Member • Posts: 1,694
Re: 540 let me down Christmas Day

One setting you may try is to use Matrix metering and Selective AF focus. Then set the custom menu to turn on "Link AE to AF". This way, you would be able to tell the camera to which metering segment to bias the exposure (move the AF focus point to the area you are interested in), instead on reflective surfaces.

The P-TTL settings is biased toward prevention of blown highlights - actually, this is not just the settings for P-TTL, but the whole matrix metering system - flash or non-flash. Auto Flash may work better for some people if they don't care about blown highlights, but it is your personal choice. I personally prefer Pentax P-TTL approach.

wlachan
wlachan Veteran Member • Posts: 6,759
Re: 540 let me down Christmas Day

nosnoop wrote:

One setting you may try is to use Matrix metering and Selective AF
focus. Then set the custom menu to turn on "Link AE to AF". This
way, you would be able to tell the camera to which metering segment
to bias the exposure (move the AF focus point to the area you are
interested in), instead on reflective surfaces.

Something I have discovered is that the choice of metering makes no difference when it comes to P-TTL flash. Matrix, CW, spot, bright & dark subjects in any combinations, I tried/tested them all but the exposure would be just the same. This leds me to believe that unlike Nikon, Pentax P-TTL flash employs a fixed metering mode (matrix I believe).
--
Alan Chan
http://www.pbase.com/wlachan/random_shots

crocau Regular Member • Posts: 179
Re: 540 let me down Christmas Day

this is 100% wrong, there is difference, not to be rude but your post idicates that you know very little about mettering system and how it works if you came to such silly idea

wlachan wrote:

Something I have discovered is that the choice of metering makes no
difference when it comes to P-TTL flash. Matrix, CW, spot, bright &
dark subjects in any combinations, I tried/tested them all but the
exposure would be just the same. This leds me to believe that unlike
Nikon, Pentax P-TTL flash employs a fixed metering mode (matrix I
believe).
--
Alan Chan
http://www.pbase.com/wlachan/random_shots

manual_focus Senior Member • Posts: 1,253
Re: 540 let me down Christmas Day

I just finished shooting a dinner with a K10D and AF540 with Stofen diffuser in a hotel ballroom with high ceilings painted reddish brown and lots of glassware and sparkly things. To get ready for this I've been practicing and reading this forum for the last several weeks. While the Owner's Manual is a bit obtuse, I whole heartily agree with both the last two posters, "nosnoop" and "wlachan" on what is going on. The P-TTL system ensures you don't blow highlights and it doesn't matter what metering system you use.

I shot around 120 images of which I saved 70 and posted 38 for all to see. For about half of these I needed to increase the exposure some amount, although there was no single amount of adjustment needed. Its not like I could dial in a single exposure adjustment when I was taking the images and everything would then be correct. Luckily doing this type of adjustments is easy to do in SilkyPix.

What I liked was I started with no blown highlights so I was able to make exposure adjustments which resulted in nice looking images. I was also constantly varying the flash position from straight forward, 45 degrees, to straight up towards the ceiling to get the best combination of light. This was the most difficult lighting environment I've shot under.

In practicing before the event, I tried using both Automatic and Manual flash modes. Automatic had a tendency to slightly overexpose, and Manual is simply not suited for this type of environment. Too much variation in exposure and the action is too fast paced.

Here is an example of my most underexposed image.

When I looked at this in my LCD right after I took it, I couldn't figure out what went wrong, but the people had moved on, and so did I. I only got the one shot. It wasn't until I brought it up in SilkyPix that I noticed the reflection from the wall thermostat. There's always something. It took an extra 2.5 f-stops of exposure compensation to get it correct, along with a bit of Photoshop to get rid of the reflection.

Again, the P-TTL system is making exposure adjustments to ensure no blown highlights. When the shooting environment has lots of reflective surfaces, like glassware, sparkly table centerpieces, dresses, etc. it will give an image which is underexposed to some degree. I haven't seen any system which results in nice exposures every time under these conditions.

Overall, I like the AF540 although I agree it can be maddening at times to use. For this event the AF540 wouldn't flash at all initially until I figured out it wasn't seated in the hot flash correctly and the contacts weren't lined up. I've concluded that in most instances of odd exposures, etc. its not the fault of the AF540.

If you don't want the extra work required with a P-TTL system of preserving highlights, then use the Automatic mode and be willing to accept blown highlights in a certain percentage of your images. Again, under these conditions, I haven't found a simply answer to getting correctly exposed images all the time.

Here is the result of an image for which the P-TTL system was made for. Short distance from a person with no reflective surfaces. No exposure adjustments were required.

DS_Dave Senior Member • Posts: 2,261
Re: You know what the real problem is?

Ah, of course...P mode on the cam, +0.7 flash EV and +0.3 overall EV inside a typical lounge room of a house, naturally one would expect underexposed flash shots LOL...

Pete Perry wrote:

A lot of people jump into this game and think that Flash is an
automatic thing that will just light up the scene exactly how you
wanted it... Well guess what? If you don't have the exposure right
to begin with then you won't get the image you want out of the
camera... In short, if you think you can start with an underexposed
image and the flash will automatically correct it you're wrong as it
relies as much on the proper exposure as not having a flash at all.

Another note, you should always expose for your subject and not worry
and let the rest of the scene take care of itself. One way to do
this is to learn how to use a spot meter and another is to get a
reading from both in front of your subject and behind your subject
while making adjustments.

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emem
emem Veteran Member • Posts: 4,401
Yes we know what the problem is - cr@p PTTL metering (n/t)
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Mike M. (emem)

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Paul Hunt Contributing Member • Posts: 784
Re: 540 let me down Christmas Day

crocau wrote:

this is 100% wrong, there is difference, not to be rude but your post
idicates that you know very little about mettering system and how it
works if you came to such silly idea

His post indicates his own experience.

Rather than flaming, perhaps you would care to explain in detail the interaction between PTTL and the various camera metering modes? Some sample images would be useful.

Paul

blende8 Senior Member • Posts: 1,494
Why do you turn it off?

There is no reason to turn the flash off.
It goes in sleep mode.

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blende8
PENTAX, mysterium quod absconditum fuit ...

blende8 Senior Member • Posts: 1,494
Agreed

Flash is no super power brain, that knows more than you.
It is not idiot proof.
You need some experience to use it and wrongly exposed shots happen.

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blende8
PENTAX, mysterium quod absconditum fuit ...

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