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Not all cameras are created equal when shooting in low light but this is an area where Pentax cameras really shine. I’m glad I’m a Pentaxian! 

Why Pentax Shooting In Low Light?

Snowmobile on a trail after dark.
ƒ/4 1/15s 35mm ISO800

When shooting in low light, Pentax’s dynamic range rarely lets you down. I would say never but, you know the old saying, never say never! I would argue the times my Pentax cameras have failed me shooting in low light, it wasn’t the camera but was the 10 inches behind the camera that failed. This was taken on the way back from a ride to Sundridge from South River with the HD Pentax-D FA 28-105mm ED DC WR on K-1ii. This is a full frame camera with amazing dynamic range. Ironically, I don’t like riding after dark but if I hadn’t, I would have missed this shot!

When shooting in low light, there are a few things to consider:

  • Environment
  • Lens
  • ISO
  • Exposure time
  • Aperture


Be prepared for the environment. In the photo above, it was mid winter and fairly cold. Believe me, you want good gloves and a camera that isn’t too sensitive to the conditions. This was taken with my Pentax K-1ii and the HD Pentax-D FA 28-105mm ED DC WR lens. Both are designed for handling extremes in weather. The photographer (me) was dressed in a full snowsuit and good gloves. I was able to take the gloves off long enough for a couple shots!


Photo of a camera lens.As I mentioned above, the lens I use a lot is the WR meaning it is Weather Resistant. Able to handle some extremes but you may want to look for a fast lens if you do a lot of work after dark. Using the HD Pentax-D FA 28-105mm f3.5-5.6 created a little limitation but that photo of the sled on the trail above  was 1/15 of a second. In photography, that’s a long time! Many wouldn’t try it hand held at that speed but Pentax shooting in low light makes a big difference. With built in mechanisms to make up for motion like a little shake in the photographer’s hands, you just might get away with it. Barring that, take a tripod!


Photo of a fire pitThis is often a struggle for a photographer. We instinctively want to be as close to ISO100 as possible to capture the most data we can. When shooting in the dark with Pentax, less of an issue. Sometimes, a little grain is worth it to get a shot you may not otherwise. That being said, today’s cameras can produce quite usable photos at 800-1600 and not really require much editing. The photo of the fire pit at the left was taken with my Pentax K-5iis and I think the Pentax-DA 55-300mm lens at ƒ/8 1/60 120mm ISO1600! When I used to shoot film, ISO1000 film wouldn’t come close to this. Especially hand held!

Exposure Time

Photo of winter landscape
ƒ/14 1/6s 31mm ISO100

Now, this can be scary! Especially in a situation where you don’t get a second chance. Letting the ISO go high can lend better to shorter exposure times in critical situations. In the example at the right, I’m not afraid to go with longer times because I can take another shot if it doesn’t work the first time. That being said, I have had success at 1/6sec hand held (the object, my wife, was stationary)!


Headshot of a womanThis is where a “fast” lens can be an advantage. Pentax shooting in low light with a fast lens is definitely less challenging than some other brands and “slower” lenses. For example, I like shooting the Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 on the K-5iis because I can get usable shots of moving objects in low light. Another time there is an advantage to a fast lens is when you are looking for that soft bokeh effect. The Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 on the K-1ii is beautiful for this! The photo to the right was taken with that combination. ƒ/2.8 1/500 92.5mm ISO100.

Don’t Be Afraid Of Shooting In Low Light

Not just for Pentax but it’s what I know! I hear great things with fast lenses on Nikon, Canon and Sony as well. Tried some with a lower end Canon T2i but I like the colours and dynamic range on my Pentax cameras better. It’s up to you to find the combination that works for you! My point is, don’t be afraid to shoot longer times with wider aperture if that’s what you need to get the shot. 

Always remember dark shots are easier to fix in post than light or washed out shots. Darker has more information to work with when you are processing. Face it, we all do it! Rarely do I get a shot I’m totally happy with straight off of camera (SOOC).

Don’t let shooting in low light scare you.


P.S. What am I happy for today? I’m thankful for friendly neighbours, Canada’s winters and warm boots! What are you thankful for today?

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