Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Size and Weight Comparisons of K-m Vs *ist DS

An *ist DS owner has posted a side-by-side comparison of his camera against his roommate's new K-m as below:-

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1036&message=30501298

The comparison is 3-dimensional, 3 photos of the Back View, Front View and Top View are shown (directly linked herewith).

As one poster who has responded said, the K-m is hardly smaller than the DS. And weight-wise, as others have already commented in the thread, the K-m can be felt even heavier than the DS, despite that the DS has a solid Penta-prism rather than a hollow Penta-mirror that used in the K-m. The K-m does have the in-body SR system, though.

A quick check on the official specs of the two camera bodies verifies well those user comments. The dimensions and weight of the two bodies are as follows:-

Camera Body
Dimensions ( W x H x D, in mm )
Reference Volume* (in ml)
Weight in Grams (without batteries and card)
With Four Sanyo Eneloop Rechargeable NiMHs and
a SD Card (Grams)
K-m
125 x 93 x 66 mm
767 ml
525 g
635 g
*ist DS
123 x 93 x 68 mm
778 ml
505 g
615 g
*Remark: The Reference Volume is a Cubic which is calculated for the worst scenario space occupation for the sake of easy comparison and reference. It is not the actual volume of the camera bodies which should be smaller.

So, as we can see, the K-m just beats the DS by a fraction of hair for its overall dimension but however the DS beats the K-m considerably more in the overall weight. In fact, the K-m is not the smallest *and* lightest APS-C DSLR on this planet, as far as portability is the key concern, not even only in the Pentax-land.

For the sake of an interesting further comparison, I tabular the size and weight specs of the K200D and K20D as follows:-

Camera Body
Dimensions ( W x H x D, in mm )
Reference Volume* (in ml)
Weight in Grams (without batteries and card)
With Batteries and SD Card (Grams)
K200D
133.5 x 95 x 74 mm
939 ml
630 g
740 g (Four Eneloops and Card)
K20D
142 x 101 x 70 mm
1004 ml (More than 1L!)
715 g
802 g

So, we verify once again the K200D is ridiculously large and heavy, particularly for an entry level DSLR. Similarly, Ned Bunnell previously showed us the size differences between the K-m and the K200D in his Blog, right before the K-m was out. In fact, the K200D is the most bulky entry level DSLR ever made on Earth. And, the K20D is awful large and heavy and the portability is not good. Nevertheless, it should still be noted from the above for one of the big disadvantages of using rechargeable AA (NiMH) batteries, that is, it introduces comparatively much more weight than any Lithium solutions (not even to mention the inferior battery performance and being less powerful).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Star Wars Stormtrooper K2000W LE ?

In order to fight with all the enemies in the contemporary vigorous DSLR wars, Pentax has just announced their latest secret weapon, the Star Wars Imperial Stormtrooper, model K2000W LE! (Official name!) Here is the photo of it:-


(Click the above to read the full official announcement!)

With this powerful fighting machine, I am sure that Pentax will finally win in the battle! But before the final victory arrives, I bet that:-

1. The Stormtrooper will get scratches everywhere (well, as it was born to fight ;->)

2. Fingerprints and grease appear everywhere on the body (umm, coz.. hehe.. you think yourself!)

3. iPod users with Classic iPods will accidentally pick this instead of their iPods when they go outside, especially when they are in a hurry!

4. Polar animals will like this Stormtrooper much and eventually they will buy one for each of them! (So, the market is HUGE overthere!)

That's great! Well done, Pentax/Hoya!! I am looking forward to see the foreseeable BIG marketing success of this latest Stormtrooper!!!

Keep it up, Pentax! Next time, please do us the Gundam Red Comet, so that we Pentax fans can see another powerful fighting weapon that will beat all others'!!

Hey, but wait! Have Pentax become Bandai or have we gone to the Toy 'R' Us after all?

Update (Dec. 18):

To make the K2000W LE a true military thing, someone over at the DCHome.net has made it for Pentax!

Here is yet the snapshot of that "new" product:-



And, for another model that is truly targeted for ladies and girls or even for children:-



Now, I have learnt the great wisdom of the super brilliant Pentax and Hoya marketing executives. They have made it White (Right) this time so that everyone can paint on this "new" K2000W LE model to suit their tastes, just like what model hobbyists are doing in painting their unfinished models and parts in whatever ways with whatever colours/patterns they like! Really wonderful!

Congrats to Pentax for having a big victory this time (and once again!)! They now can have much more models than what their competitors have and in the near future, they will be able to announce far more "new" products and will win miles ahead in the game (as least in number)! (That must be) Really Great!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Full Frame Mini Shootout - D700 Vs 5D

Updated (Dec. 16): Full Sized Samples Uploaded! Happy Pixel Peeping!!

Here is a mini shootout for the two Full Frame DSLR bodies of my Nikonian friend DBoyX and mine. It would be very interesting to check if the first generation "budget" Full Frame DSLR could rival the latest generation "budget" Full Frame DSLR, after 3 years. Coincidently, the D700 and 5D have nearly the same pixel count, in 12.3 MPs and 12.8 MPs respectively.

Conditions of Testing: All photos taken at ISO 200, in Av exposure mode (f-number set will be mentioned for each set of photos), cameras mounted on tripod, shot in RAW and converted using Canon Digital Photo Professional 3.4.1.1 and Nikon Capture NX2 2.0.0 respectively, Picture Style/Control: Standard with Sharpness at 3, Contrast, Saturation and Tone at 0, Active D-Lighting On or Off as specified, and then converted and saved as the highest quality JPEGs.

1. Round One: With Nikkor AI-S 24mm/2.8; Lens set at f/5.6


(Click to Enlarge)

The results are as follows (Click any of the following pictures to Download the Full Size Samples. Warning: Super Large Files!):-


5D


D700, Active D-Lighting On

As seen in the above, the D700 picture obviously has better Image Quality with less vignetting and corner blur. The D700 produced colours which are more vivid and "pure" while 5D's just look a little bit dull. But you may ask me which one is actually more faithful and true to life? I would tell you neither! It should be somewhere in between!

Well, what has been verified is that the new Nikon has been improved for two weakest spots of those 135 Full Frame DSLRs, i.e., vigneting and corner blur, particularly with wide lenses. It is quite fair to say so as with the test was done with the same old film lens, shot at the same aperture, and actually at same place and nearly at the same time!

One More: With Nikkor AI-S 24mm/2.8; Lens set at f/8


5D


D700, Active D-Lighting On


D700, Active D-Lighting Off

It can be seen that the Active D-Lighting does help to improve the image for better clarity and colours (whether it is faithful to the scene and true-to-life is yet another issue). If I understand correctly, the Active D-Lighting is just an intelligent algorithm to adjust the brightness, contrast (and tone curve) as well as the hue of the picture. Yes, you can say it is just some kind of *automatic* "post" processing afterall.

Anyway, I like the D700 pics more. But again, the true scene is just somewhat in between! Btw, the 5D picture suffers from some highlight washout and with some slight magenta cast too - but the lens used was a Nikkor anyway (with my Pentax film lenses, it should be better).

Two More: With Nikkor AI-S 24mm/2.8; Lens set at f/5.6


5D


D700, Active D-Lighting On


D700, Active D-Lighting Off

2. Round 2: D700 with Nikkor AI-S 50mm/2 Vs 5D with EF 50mm/1.8; Lenses set at f/8


(Click to Enlarge)


5D


D700, Active D-Lighting On


D700, Active D-Lighting Off

(Remark: The focal length of the AI-S lens is manually selected and entered in the D700 and it was left at 24mm which is shown in the EXIF.)

Well, this time you compare and measur(e)bate (maybe endlessly! ;-)) and then judge yourself!

Next: both D700 and 5D and with Nikkor AI-S 50mm/2; Lens set at f/4


5D


D700, Active D-Lighting On


D700, Active D-Lighting Off

3. Last Round: Nikkor AI-S 105/2.8 on D700 Vs SMC Takumar M42 105/2.8 on 5D; Lenses set at f/4


(Click to Enlarge)


5D


D700, Active D-Lighting On


D700, Active D-Lighting Off

It is quite interesting to note that despite the lighting condition was changing for all the above four flower shots, it can still be seen that with a sharp lens on a "sharp" body (I mean the Nikkor on the D700), this combo yielded a somewhat fake looking but yet an exciting flower, whereas with a soft lens on a relatively softer body, the result could be nothing to be excited about (but then the flower looks more natural)! What does this tell us, when we are choosing gear and lens/body combinations, it would be very application oriented indeed and there is actually no absolute good or bad, but just a matter of taste.

Lastly, yet a sample photo with the Pentax FA 43/1.9 Limited on 5D; Lens set at f/4



The picture quality looks very promising. And, as you can see once again, as always, the flare resistance of the true Pentax Ghostless SMC coatings is just something unbeatable and really superb! Even only at f/4, the resolution and sharpness of the whole picture is excellent, from corner to corner. I think to reveal this FA Limited's imperfection, a Full Frame DSLR with far more than 12.8 MPs will be required!

Quick Conclusion

So, D700 or 5D? Which one is better? Surely I would choose the D700 if considering only for the body alone, with no other considerations. The reasons are simple: improved IQ (classic FF DSLR bodies weak spots addressed) and more intelligent and powerful in-camera image processing, with weather sealed and built-in flash in a single package, all of which just mean more readily usable or better looking photos directly out of the camera which is more suitable for shooting outdoor in any weather conditions.

As a side comment, I found that the Canon DPP software is more user friendly, with better interface and more thoughtful in design for its operations. It is just easier to use and the program responds faster and takes (far) less processing time in making conversion. In fact, whilst many Pentaxians have had many bad comments about the Pentax Photo Lab, I just think differently that it is not that bad actually. In fact, the Nikon Capture NX2 is not that easy to use neither and not intuitive as it should be, although it is quite powerful and feature rich. The worse thing with the Capture NX2 is that it runs rather really slow for any operation performed, even just for dragging a tool box or window which is just a very annoying thing afterall - to use it smoothly, a very powerful machine with plenty of system resources is required.

So, could the old or those just a little bit older Pentax K-mount film lenses be adapted to the D700? Very unfortunately, it is NOT. In fact, there is no easy and simple way to directly adapt/adopt any Pentax K-mount film lenses to any Nikon bodies, which is nearly impossible unless the Pentax lens is modified, owing to the shorter back register distance of the Pentax lenses than the Nikon bodies. Just see this example:-

http://www.dchome.net/viewthread.php?tid=288405&page=322#pid6902959
(Text in Traditional Chinese)

Just look at that pity FA 31 Limited became after the modification for what the poor old Pentaxian just wished to adapt his excellent optic to the D700! :-(

But, I just wish to ask: WHY just all those really poor old Pentaxians are forced to do all that? Why *we* can't use our old beloved and excellent Pentax glass like what other Nikonians and even Canonians (those since 1987) can do now? That is, JUST put an old Nikkor or a Canon EF lens on any of those original Nikon or Canon Full Frame DSLR bodies and all the lenses can be used as what they were originally designed! And immediately and at the same time, the users can get all the numerous Full Frame advantages too like high resolution *and* low noise with no compromises (even at high ISO speeds) and wider DoF control, better 3d feel and wider dynamic range, just overall better IQ (recently once again fully verified here), larger and brighter viewfinder, easier manual focusing and so on.

The Answer? It is just all because there is no Full Frame DSLR in the Pentax land and only recently Pentax and Samsung have told that they would not have one in the near future!? But just a few months back earlier, they both said differently as reported. So, who were telling the truth?

At the end of the days, I still hope for a FF Pentax DSLR. I believe that with the technology advancements, this body *should* have better IQ than what the offerings from C and N (or even Sony) today. But the big question is yet again: WHEN? WILL there be one??

Saturday, December 13, 2008

K20D Misfocused at Half Battery Level

Read this self-explanatory post and the full story below:-

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1036&message=30240362

The post was made by the King of Pentaxians, Mr. Jim King, whose probably has the largest collection of Pentax gear on this planet than anyone else. I bet if a single place on Earth where more Pentax gear can be found, this place must only be the Pentax Museum at Japan! (Fortunately, Hoya haven't closed this Museum to save operating costs, like they did this, that, this and that! I still hope some days later I can go there for a tour! So, I will bless!)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Ultimate "Whiner"!

Have viewed this clip:

http://hk.youtube.com/watch?v=tnwf2RShNV0

And I am just laughing out very loudly!

Those rants, whines and brand bashs made are so powerful! Its just so amusing afterall! I must admit that I can by no mean ever match or just even come close!

Enjoy and have fun!!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Unshielded Bodies?

Here is a detailed article by Peter Zheng about the internal dissections and PCB layouts of different DSLR models of different brands, namely, Pentax, Canon and Nikon ones:-

http://docs.google.com/View?docid=df2k6qz2_89db3xzcdq

In the beginning of his article, an excerpt of a Japanese interview with the Pentax imaging department, about the concern of EMI (Electro-Magnetic Interference) of the Pentax DSLR bodies, is also quoted.

One important thing was found and is noted: Pentax's internal circuitries and PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards, and of course those electronic components inclusive) are NOT shielded *whilst* all other models made by Canon and Nikon are well shielded, grade and price regardless. In fact, this could cause EMI issues, also as admitted by the Pentax official in the interview.

The author further writes that Pentax DSLR bodies, from *ist Ds to K10D, are all unshielded. Although he writes no further information about if the K20D, K200D and K-m are shielded, it would be fairly reasonable and safer to assume that they are also unshielded. Nonetheless, it still has the (minimal) chance that Pentax would have already improved the design, by adding a metallic shield like the other DSLR makers have been doing (since long ago), but none of us is for sure unless there is anyone who has dissected one of the three newer Pentax bodies and let us know.

According to the IEC standards, the formal term used on describing devices and appliances should not interfere with each others, electro-magnetically, is called the "Electro-Magnetic Compatibility", or just called EMC in short-form. And, EMC compliance is validated only if one of the following two conditions are fulfilled:-

1. The device does not interfere with any other devices nearby;

2. Any EMI existent in the environment which the device is placed, should not interfere and affect the normal operations of the device.

There is a third case which is not mentioned in the IEC standards, though (but indeed it is not needed to be mentioned, but it is crucial!), that is, the device should not interfere itself and the inside electronic components of the device should not interfere each others amongst themselves. In fact, this is just something that is closely associated with the PCB and component layout design. And of course, the PCB metal shield (as shown in other C and N DSLR models) should help, and in most cases, as it helps to suppress EMI from "flying" around inside the body, once those are arisen, and could eventually be picked up by the PCB traces and/or other electronic components. As for the Pentax cases, you can see some examples of strange interferences which could affect the final images here and here (cases of the K10D and K20D respectively).

Now, let's look at the operating frequencies of a typical 10MP DSLR, say, with the most "popular" Sony 10MP CCD imager. First of all, the CCD is operating at a clock frequency of 25MHz, for the pixel signals to be "clocked" out in a chain (of waveform). Secondly, the CPU and IPU and internal memory RAM etc. of the camera are operating at much high frequencies, usually from several hundreds of MHz to a few GHz nowadays (the lower GHz range is well known as Microwave in dailylife term). For the former 25MHz signals, any external EMI at that *base* frequency could severely affect the signal. However, EMIs with higher frequencies could also affect the signal waveform as the 25MHz is only the base frequencies and there exists higher harmonics (in multiples of the base frequency) contained in the actual signal to be transmitted (which is generated out from the CCD imager, and to be received for second stage processing). As a result, the final transmitted/received signal is distorted (in addition to signal loss and other imperfection of the electronics and circuitries), which eventually to appear as noise, and even worse, in bandings or pattern noises. Similarly, the same case applies to the CPU and IPU which are operating at the GHz levels. The only difference is that the CCD signal (same case for CMOS as well) are just primitive analogue devices which are even be more susceptible to those EMIs and especially they are the heart of the DSLRs as the imagers are just for receiving the raw image and light data afterall.

Well, still remember the IEC EMC standards and the two prime and essential requirements? The other concern is how an (electronics) device which is EM compatible should NOT interfere with other appliances. In the above case, the DSLRs with the (most popular and common) Sony CCD imager could affect FM radio and other RC controlled devices or communication systems in range of tens of MHz or higher (in multiples of that base frequency, even worse, if mixed with other EMIs with other frequencies, in the new intermodulated frequencies as well). And, the much higher CPU and IPU EMIs could affect other devices which are operating at GHz frequencies, e.g., mobile phones, indoor DECT phones, PC and notebooks and so on.

So, afterall, why not shieldED the PCBs?? Even Canon and Nikon DSLRs that are having a metal outer body shells are shielded. How come Pentax DSLRs with only metal INNER frames but all plastic outer shells are NOT be shielded??? Well, I must agree this is a huge concern and issue as raised.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

K200D Discontinued

The K200D has been put into the list of discontinued DSLRs at Pentax Japanese home website:-

http://www.pentax.jp/english/imaging/digital/slr/others.html (English page)

http://www.pentax.jp/japan/imaging/digital/slr/others.html (Japanese page)

Since the K200D was put onto the market in fall February 2008 (see this announcement), the product life of it is only 9 months.

Recently, the K200D has been sold damn cheap, at around HK$4,000 (US$500) for the single lens kit set (with the DA 18-55 II) and less than $3,600 (US$450) for the body alone, which is even cheaper than the K-m which is placed lower in the Pentax camp.

Indeed, I did predict on day one that the K200D would not be a success, owing to the marketing shortsightednesses of Pentax (and actually Hoya), all which I had talked about and analyzed for why, much earlier here. Actually, it has been proven that the K200D is undoubtedly just a market failure and with such a very short product lifetime. In contrast, the elder Nikon D60 and Canon 450D are still here and they are still selling like hot cakes, aren't they? Why? Well, this market failure did not have no trace, just look at what I reported in July about an Internet Poll which showed that the K200D was the least popular or just the least wanted entry level DSLR body, and that did verify once again that the K200D was just a fault and mistake of Pentax/Hoya in the very beginning.

Frankly, Pentax/Hoya should not have wasted their efforts, money and time in making such a K200D (the basic "logics" behind are mostly faulty, I would say again, who wanted a bulky and heavy but weather sealed body at an initially higher than average "entry level" price but without a matching weather sealed "entry level" priced *kit* lens?? Amazing and unbelieveable market positioning and rationales??). What I firmly believe is that they *should* have created, produced and marketed a K-m alike DSLR back to February this year (or actually should be even earlier). Now, fortunately, they have still made the K-m, but unfortunately I am afraid that it is just a bit too late and the most worrisome thing is that the K-m has no updated features as it should have, especially for what it is targeted at those DSLR beginners who mostly have just used a P&S or a prosumer DC, say, the LiveView and those associated *standard* features like Live Histogram and Face Detection and so on.

Anyway, to look at the bright side, anyone and I could *imagine* that there will be a K300 coming soon which is about to replace the K200D (I guess Pentax have opted to drop the "D" letter from now on, as the K2000 is actually not named as the K2000D - there is no "D", against what quite some people still mis-spell and/or mis-type it). However, objectively thinking, I bet the K300 would not happen in the near future. It is because it is just not something that is desirable by Pentax/Hoya to keep more DSLR models in production as it would incur more production costs, business risks and other financial burdens. The reality is just that there is already not much market share left for Pentax to support their current products. In this case, they could be just much happier to group all the existing limited and tiny groups of purchasers for both the K-m and the K200D rather than to split them into two!

Well, it also recalls me of the last Pentax high-ranked official's funny and unrealistic speech of a "lower class entry level DSLR" (the K-m) and an "upper class entry level DSLR" (the K200D)!? And, his September claim of three hierachies of DSLRs has now vanished?

Finally, now if the exposure accuracy of the K-m is really debugged somehow and be better (as it seems to be so far - read my recent blog entries for those preliminary findings) than that of the K20D (which still looks problematic in this department, just like what all other previous Pentax DSLRs have been found to be, no matter from what many different Pentax DSLR users (mostly new) have reported (do searches at Google and other Pentax forums for those) or just look at my this simple and direct analysis), *should* the K20D be also discontinued soonest and be replaced by something that up-to-the-standard (of all others)?

Friday, November 28, 2008

My Initial Impressions on the K-m

I had a chance to try out a K-m today, inserted four Energizer AA lithium batteries (not new but the camera still shown full power for the green LED indicator). Below are my initial impressions to share:-

1. The body felt really small and solid (very good built quality) but obvious not lightweight, even with the lightest AA lithiums. The weight is just somewhat very similar to the K100/Super but it is more compact;

2. The silver rim on body is not good looking in real than what I got the impression from the product photos seen before. I just feel that it is just too shiny and too much and too long. This little thin and long shiny thing is not matching well with the dull old type black matte plastic material of the whole body afterall, IMO;

3. The AF speed is not as fast as what some new K-m users have told. I tested the camera in a moderate well lit room with white lighting, set single AF, with the 18-55 DAL kit. There were huntings most of the time. Yes, there were huntings and the AF motor didn't move really that fast. Nonetheless, the huntings would stop just after one to two times. Actually, the behaviour is very similar to that of the K200D but it seems that the camera just simply gave up with a *limited number* of times, as pre-defined. In fact, the K20D's AF motor is obviously stronger and faster (but yet it could hunt endlessly!);

4. Exposure accuracy seems to be good enough/improved as performed in the room but I had no chance to shoot in tungsten lighting environment nor outdoor, as it was rather dim outside and thus I didn't test it;

5. The K-m is not as responsive/immediate in releasing the shutter as I thought before, against what I measurebated last time, for the shutter lag time of the K-m, which was found to be 114 millisecond (or, 0.114 second). Well, it is not scientific of course, but it did feel not so responsive and the delay was yet quite noticeable. The mirror action is smooth and has a light touch, though.

Well, after the trial, I think I now have no more strong incentive to acquire the K-m (which I have been really quite interested in). Well, to be fair, the K-m is not bad for an entry level DSLR, but I think those new owners have created some myths of its performance, which IMHO have been overstated, e.g., the high speed and "much faster" AF (which I guess the firmware just limits the maximum number of times of hunting which the camera would allow).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

RiceHigh's Pentax Blog - Two Years

My Blog is two years old today, since it was born on November 26, 2006. During these two years, a lot have happened for Pentax and so do many other things in the DSLR industry. As for my Blog, my editing directions have not been changed, so does my insistence on keeping my site totally Ad free and nothing commercial or simply no money related. Nonetheless, there is one other thing that is changing for my Blog, though: It is the increase in "popularity", well, in terms of the traffic volume.

In fact, my this Blog has been the most "popular" Pentax Blog on the Internet for months already, no matter people like my opinions (or simply me) or not. There have been consistently more than 17,000 page views each month at my Blog, which is just a significant increase than what I saw one year ago.

As for Pentax, I think they still do face a very difficult time right now. Nevertheless, the K-m seems to bring out some new hopes as it seems that Pentax/Hoya have shown at least some determination to debug their DSLRs and upkeep with the competition in performance/accuracy/reliability which they have been lagging behind quite much and for long for many important aspects which include AF performance, AWB and exposure accuracies.

But yet the bad thing is that Pentax have still been unable to update neither the K20D nor the 200D which could now actually be outperformed by the K-m in quite some areas (so could quite some other basic models by the bigger DSLR makers).

Indeed, the K-m does share many of my ideas to make a smaller Pentax DSLR which has a higher performance and reliability and does share my core belief of "Less is More", which I iterated in details here more than half year ago. However, the reality of such a highly effective low cost and basic DSLR will not please the entire or more of the new DSLR beginners, as the K-m does lack the latest and more updated features like a fully functional LiveView feature, Face Detection and/or Movie Recording and so on - so it cannot be a real most updated electronics gadget afterall.

In fact, the dark clouds are still all here over Pentax currently. I bet they simply cannot do much better with the K-m. They do need a true up-market DSLR model and system which is what they still truly lack one, even just for an APS-C system, not even to mention for a technically more advanced 135 Full Frame one, which Pentax (and then Samsung) told us in September that they would not have one (but just back to April and June, they had told something very different). But the *fact* is that as for those 135 Full Frame DSLR bodies, they just all have obvious advantages in Image Quality than those APS-C ones with a smaller sensor format, as once again verified by the DxO lab test results.

So, in the next year of 2009 to come, let's wait and see what Pentax will do to survive and hopefully to create some miracles for coming out of the current very difficult situation they are facing. Of course, all the current facts are still very unfavourable to Pentax, that's why some people like Thom Hogan have even predicted the dismissal of Pentax after 2009, which might be a bit too pessimistic, but yet still somehow possible, especially if Pentax/Hoya won't do better and act/react faster.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What type of Camera are you?

Come across this quiz today which is really a fun to take: What type of Camera are you?

After answering all the questions, the following result returned for me!



"Nikon. You're a Nikonian and a true Professional. Forever the perfectionist who always wants the most from the equipment. You see the world in tiny details and a day job as "pixel peeper" would probably be a dream come true."!

Its so accurate and it describes me perfectly! ;-) Except I am by no means a Nikonian, and have never been. Actually and strangely, I have never owned any Nikon equipment. I have had Canon, Pentax, Ricoh, Olympus, Minolta, Sony, Fuji, Casio, Samsung photo gear and so on but have never bought even a piece of stuff made by Nikon!

Well, maybe for the Question 6, I had to enter the brand "Nikon" since I have already had both a Pentax and a Canon DSLR system, so I have no other choice actually!

Do the test yourself and have fun!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

K20D has VPN under Cold Temperature?

A K20D professional user reported that his K20D produced annoying obvious vertical (stripping) pattern noise (VPN) when used under cold weather (that was not really extremely cold):-

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1036&message=30027850

As we can see from his artworks, which should have been great and nice ones, if these were not tampered by that superimposed VPN, which is very obvious. The poor models have just little clothes under a 2 degree Celsius working environment outdoor but I am afraid their scarification have yet been in vain, also. But anyway, their professional working attitude really makes them highly respectable and appreciatable. Bravo!

Furthermore, along the OP's own thread, it has been re-confirmed that it was not a RF or external power interference problem, nor a memory card issue, and neither a battery grip power interference problem (like what was confirmed with the K10D, which I reported very firstly when an user first confirmed that solidly, with good evidence). And finally, that K20D pro-user re-flashed his K20D and tested again, same thing once again re-confirmed, i.e., its *just* the cold temperature, but nothing else!

And, similar to another reported banding case much earlier before, this time pattern noise did also happen at low ISO speeds of 100, 200 and 400 (but the previous user didn't mention anything about cold temperature should be a factor).

Well, after all these, we may guess that the pro photographer's K20D has been defective. However, the very strange thing verified is that only lower temperature close to zero degree would create this problem. This maybe an isolated case and issue, but it could be in another extreme. Who knows?

Price Increases of Pentax Film Lenses

Here is the latest announcement by Pentax for the price increases, at their Japanese homepage:-

http://www.pentax.jp/japan/news/announce/20081121.html

The new price table, of which the new prices will take effect on February 2, 2009, is as below:-

http://www.pentax.jp/japan/news/announce/20081121-01.pdf

But this announcement and the move actually look rather strange to me, for the following reasons:-

1. With the strong trend of Japanese Yen (and US Dollar as well) and the high exchange rates of both currencies, I just don't know why Pentax/Hoya would still need to increase the prices of their lenses;

2. Especially considering that Hoya have previously announced that their lens production had been moved out of the Japanese home and now all lenses are made in Vietnam. It is therefore now the lens price as reverted to Japanese Yen or US Dollar should now be even cheaper. Afterall, the official given reason for the price increases owing to the "increased raw material costs" is indeed rather unconvincing. As opposed to Pentax/Hoya, who now have imposed lens price increases of 20% and more, the market big brother Canon do exactly the different, but actually something sensible, for imposing price cuts for their EOS lenses, in about -10% rate, owing to the recent very poor global economy. All in all, the Pentax/Hoya's move looks even more strange and unexplainable if we compare these two cases;

3. Why the announcement needed to be made months before the actual price increase date? Do they really want to increase the prices or just to do something so as to get rid of the old stocks? (by pushing the potential customers rushing for the old stocks before the "deadline"?);

4. Do Pentax just have so few film lenses now that are not yet discontinued? And why are those undiscontinued zooms are actually so useless on their current cropped 1.5X DSLR bodies (like those FAJ zooms or even the a few manual focus A lenses). Why do they not keep the more useful, unique and excellent film lenses in production instead (like the optical excellent and fairly priced FA*24/2, FA 28/2.8 (equivalent to a 43mm on Pentax DSLRs!), FA 200/4 Macro and so on..)?

Actually, if they actually have just listed all the Pentax Full Frame film glass that are still in production (which is very likely, see below), I do feel much sorry for them, as the available lenses are so limited and good glass left are are only a few. But this would probably the case because if they do need to make a significant price increase, this should be applied for all the current lenses of the same type in production. By considering that now the most popular film primes for Pentax DSLRs are mostly included (like the 3 FA Limited lenses, the FA 50/1.4 and the FA 35/2).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A New Measurebators' Paradise!

DxO Labs have recently launched their very interesting new website, the DxOMark.com, solely for ultimate measurebations on DSLRs (well, they say those are "measures" but I think "measur(e)bation" should be a better term in describing what they are doing! ;-)).

In this website, what you can see are only cold figures, but with no photos of any, except the images of those DSLRs under test! What I do like most are those cold figures are really cool, and most importantly, scientifically obtained and meaningful.

I bet this site will be the most popular measurebators' paradise after the old classic (but outdated) lens measurebation site Photodo.com (the old site).

Putting aside the new aggregate sensor performance mark they have created, the most important thing they have created and published is the comprehensive and up-to-date "Image Quality Database". In this database, you will see all the crucial performance figures, which are presented in a clear and professional manner but yet these are easy-to-read and also come with a concise and easy-to-understand explanation on each part for what have been done and what the figures represent. The "Compare cameras" facilitiy is really cool and it is very handy for comparing different cameras just with a few mouse clicks.

For example, they measure the Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) for each available ISO speed instead of just measuring the noise level (as what DPR have been doing for years which IMO is just almost meaningless as I have said this for long). The SNR is measured on a 18% grey target which IMO is again very sensible. The DxO Labs do measure also the Dynamic Range for *each* ISO speed and so do the actual sensitivity of each ISO against as rated. They also measure the Tonal Range and Colour Depth which I must agree are two very important image quality performance parameters in reallife.

Besides, the ISO noise performance scale/mark is sensibly designed. They called this as the "Low Light ISO" in their front summary page for the camera performances and comparison. This mark is just the essential highest ISO number which the SNR has dropped to a predefined threshold where image quality has become unacceptable.

Here is the direct comparison between the Pentax K20D Vs Samsung GX-20 Vs Nikon D90. It would be quite interesting to note that the Samsung GX-20 actually has slightly better image quality in every critical IQ performance aspect and thus undoubtedly it has a slightly higher overall "sensor mark" over the K20D. However, as it can be seen the Nikon D90, which has the latest technology and enhancement, wins both the K20D and the GX-20 quite significantly (except the colour depth where very slight differences can be counted), no matter for the DR, SNR and Low Light ISO and etc. To be fair, the D90 wins also its big brother but predecessor D300 and thus it is clear that the D300 has no bright future and will be obsolete very soon as positioned by Nikon just in the recent half year, i.e., for APS-C DSLR, the hotcake is the D90 (which has the movie mode, too) and the true up-market advanced amateur model of Nikon is just the 135 Full Frame D700!

As for the sensor size, larger format sensor DSLRs always win smaller sensor format DSLRs, overall speaking. Just look how poor the results the 4/3 DSLRs are (Pana and Oly regardless, model regardless, latest or older) and then look back how good or better the results for 135 Full Frame DSLRs, I think there is nothing arguable, anymore.

Well, I think it's time for me to stop here and let all you folks to start measurebating and compare endlessly! Oh well again, welcome to the paradise of measurbation or JUST the Hell for Photographers (or even at the level below the Hell!)! Bye and see you later in this Hell, maybe forever!! ;-p (But please don't worry. Actually, there will be no problem - all those DxO professionals as well as those so-called DPR "technical writers" will be there with all you folks, and actually should be all of Us - which should including Me, of course!)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Some More New K-m Tests and Samples

DCHome.net Pentaxian yobboy published his another two K-m tests on the ISO performance, P-TTL exposure accuracy and SR effectiveness as follows (Posts in Traditional Chinese, use Babelfish to translate if needed):-

1. ISO and SR Tests:
http://www.dchome.net/viewthread.php?tid=593140&extra=page%3D1

Some of his (more important, I think) comments:
- No big problem for exposure accuracy in general, in dark environment it tends to overexpose, by around +0.3 to +0.7EV;
- Auto WB is Neutral and better than that of the K20D which tends to be "warmer";
- Camera consumes very little battery "power" (actually it should be "energy", in engineering sense :-)), AA lithiums still go strong and battery indicator still shows full after 700 shots, some with flash and quite some playbacks and reviews have been executed;
- The "AF" button on the back can be customised into an "AE lock" button (there is no AE lock button as printed);
- ISO 100 and 200 excellent, 400 good, 800 okay, 1600 still usable after NRed or viewed in small size, 3200 similar to 1600 but with colour changes noticeable;
- Details retained well for high ISO speeds, but NR has no significant visible effect in reducing noise.

My observation is that owing to his test pics are of high contrast and main subjects are somehow overexposed whilst the dark areas are just too dark or black in colour, we cannot see more noise as it should be even in the crops (and for the full pictures, these are just somehow rather small in size to judge better). However, it should still be noticed that it's better NOT to use the NR function, no matter in "weak" or "strong", as it could change the colours (which is obvious, as seen from the posted test shots, strong setting changes the colour more - become cooler and less saturated) but however the noise level differences are not that obvious (as this has also been pointed out by the tester).

The SR, as tested very briefly, worked quite well.

2. P-TTL and second SR Tests:
http://www.dchome.net/viewthread.php?tid=593611&extra=page%3D1

Again, his more important comments are:
- AF responsiveness at low light is good, provided that there are at least some contrast/texture for the AF system to lock on;
- There is no difference in AF speed with SDM lenses;
- The optical quality of his DAL 18-55 kit lens is inferior to that of the DA 18-55 and DA 18-55 II in his opinion;
- Just discovered that the K-m do NOT have the cable release socket, somehow disappointed;
- The SR seems to be improved and more effective than that in previous Pentax DSLRs;
- P-TTL system in K-m looks more stable than that in other previous Pentax DSLRs.

My remarks: His test on the re-bouncing flash with P-TTL with different angles and from the left and right shows that the exposure levels are somehow different but the variation and results IMO are acceptable (shots do look somehow dark in general, anyway). There is no drastic change between P mode and Av mode. However, IMO his test target and scene may not be a good one as the objects are either black or white, which could somehow fool the metering system. (Well, maybe the tester intentionally to do so, for selecting some more tricky objects, who knows? ;-))

Also, the SR test with the DA* 50-135 looks good for the results.

Now, let's move on to another site, for a few of other interesting (yet again direct) sample photos produced by the K-m, see this Blog of a professional photographer:-

http://hk.myblog.yahoo.com/quist-ography/article?mid=93

The digtal filter effects look quite promising to me, especially for the posted "E to C" (the effect obtained for slides to be processed by C-41 instead of E-6 in the old film days, especially popular in Taiwan), paintbrush effects which simulate the pastel and water colours. Anyway, I can see that the photographer intentionally to arrange the model to dress in dark clothing and with a pure white background that would make the results more perfect. But I think the camera does do a nice job here as I would comment that the results just look quite nice and are better for what I could get with some PC software in doing similar image processing jobs which I have tried before.

The blogger also says that she will be invited to speak in a product press in December for the local Pentax agent (so she is official, anyway!).

Whilst the toy-camera digital filter function (those like what Lomo cams produce) can be found in the official K2000 user/owner's manual, I cannot find that "E to C" function, that is just a mystery to me. I just wonder if this function is unique in the K-m but not existent in the K2000? Btw, that "E to C" final results look very real to me, especially when I can compare some protrait shots made in "E to C" which I have myself.

Finally, if you want to see more real end-users' K-m samples, I suggest you could follow this growing flickr link:-

http://www.flickr.com/groups/pentaxkm/

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

More K-m Sample Pics by Users

At the flickr, you can find this K-m sample photos gallery as uploaded by a Japanese new K-m user:-

http://www.flickr.com/photos/h4ck/sets/72157608417034275/

The EXIF data are partially retained but these can be inspected only if the "original" size is viewed (those "original" photos are downssized anyway, they are not really un-retouched).

The lens used cannot be seen as in the EXIF under the latest version of Pentax Photo Browser (version 3.51) as the EXIF field has already been dropped, but I guess the lens used should be the DA 40/2.8 prime, by reading other EXIF data fields.

I notice that the photos are with better colour reproduction this time than what it could usually be seen for what produced by previous Pentax DSLRs even with the same lens. Well, as for the exposure, it can be seen that the exposure compensation now is within a reasonable limit of +/-0.3EV and the frequency of requiring exposure compensation is not as high as before for all other Pentax DSLRs. Btw, by considering the number of shots made and posted, I regard the exposure of the sample photos are proper, at least for this set of photos (as seen from the EXIF, in-camera Jpegs were shot).

Indeed, a more accurate and fool-proof metering and exposure system could be even more crucial for a DSLR targeted for beginners, as they are used to shoot with P&S DCs which are even more fool-proof. If Pentax really make it this time, it would mean that their upcoming DSLRs can be better as they finally have been able to get rid of their most persistent and the evilest devil which has been with them for more than half decade, IF it is really the case! Nonetheless, it is still subject to verification as I am really still very suspicious if Pentax could really nail it this time..

Yet, there is another latest new K-m user from Hong Kong who has written a short user report again with some direct-out-of-the-camera but downsized Jpeg photos here:-

http://www.dchome.net/viewthread.php?tid=592410&extra=page%3D1
(Text in Traditional Chinese)

Full K-m album of the user here: http://s289.photobucket.com/albums/ll215/yobboy0213/

Unfortunately, the EXIF data are all removed during the course of resizing but I do like much the image quality of the pictures which his K-m reproduced, particularly the first food shot which is of great 3d feel, nice WB and high fidelity, even it was most likely taken under artificial lighting.

Besides, I summarise his initial impression and comments in his above post as follows:
- Lighter than both K200D and K20D, not very light actually but the balance is good and the camera felt stable;
- Camera felt rigid and solid, especially compared against other entry level DSLRs (as Pentax entry level DSLRs all used to be :));
- Auto Focus is far better, lower light response is better than the K20D, so far AF is accurate (with the 18-55L and DA 21/40/70);
- But unfortunately there is no focus point indication (those red lit rectangles in the past);
- Auto White Balance seems to be improved, better than the K20D;
- LCD display too bright and yellowish by default but fortunately can be adjusted, Brightness: -1, Tone: M7, B7 are now set;
- Tend to overexpose by +0.3 to 1EV, but to be verified and confirmed;
- No test on noise control, but feel good so far, to be advised later;
- Image style and taste more like K10D than others (maybe owing to the same Sony CCD sensor used);
- Has never used an entry level DSLR with so many available settings, the "Help" button can be customised/turned into the "RAW" button, K20D type custom WB, highly customisable ISO settings, wireless flash trigger by the camera (by the built-in RTF?), dynamic range expansion and etc.
- Final comment: the new K-m with his DA pancake lenses is a set of great travelling gear with good mobility - a joy to use.

So far I am quite interested to acquire a K-m (if I really get it, I shall tell all you folks if it really performs, be better/debugged/improve, or whatever you like to say, or those reported better stuff are just myths created by the honeymoon period effect). However, I am still with some serious concerns and thus hesitation to get the K-m, on the other hand, as the K-m lacks a remote cable switch jack and also less importantly for the lack of focus point indication of any kind for the AF point it selects. The inability to use a cable switch just makes the Bulb mode, which is a must for shooting fireworks and longer time exposure, virtually useless.

( More official reference links for the lack of those features:-

K-m FAQ: http://www.pentax.jp/english/imaging/digital/slr/k-m/faq.html

The claim of SR don't comsume energy and battery power in one of the FAQ is really a joke, though. If so, the Physics of the whole Universe will have been changed and not be the same!

K2000 Owner's Manual: http://www.pentaximaging.com/files/manual/K2000_IB.pdf )

Sunday, October 26, 2008

K-m Sample Photos Carnival (as at Oct. 26)

Here is a summary of the K-m sample photo galleries or links that I could find so far:-

Item No.
URL
Source
Full Size?
EXIF?
Language
1.
http://www.pentax.jp/japan/imaging/digital/slr/k-m/ex.html
Official
Yes
Yes
Japanese
2.
http://www.focus-numerique.com/test-73/Pentax-K-m-test-exemples-photos-15.html
Reviewer
Yes
Yes
French
3.
http://pentaxplus.jp/k-m/gallery/index.html
Official
No
Yes
Japanese
4.
http://pentaxplus.jp/k-m/gallery/01.html
Official
No
No
Japanese
5.
http://pentaxplus.jp/k-m/gallery/02.html
Official
No
No
Japanese
6.
http://www.dchome.net/viewthread.php?tid=584867&extra=page%3D1
User
No
Yes
Chinese (Traditional)

My observations and comments? Yes, as follows:-

1. Colour reproduction looks good and accurate for "Natural" and "Portrait" image tone settings, but not so for the "Bright" mode or anything else (Look at URLs #1 to #5);

2. Focusing accuracy seems to be fairly accurate (and they did use AF mostly) (Look at URLs #1 and #2);

3. Exposure accuracy with ambient light, for those pictures of which the EXIF data have been shown, *seems* to be improved as most of the photos with normal scenes are *now* without (the need of) exposure compensation (and they mostly used the "Pattern" metering) (Look at URLs #1, 2, 3 and 6);

4. Noise control and level at high ISO are very good in my opinion, with good amount of texture and details retained. The most favourable thing is that the noise really looks film grains alike, with more visible luminance noise rather than chroma (colour) noise, which just mean very usable images and high image quality up to ISO 1600 (Look at URLs #2);

5. Flash exposure accuracy (in this case with the AF540FGZ flashgun, in P-TTL mode), is yet unsatisfactory and there is a great tendency of underexposure. Just look at the flash photos in URL #6, all photos required a +0.5 or +1 EV exposure compensation so as to make the photos to look properly exposed as by the flash. Besides, the image quality and skin tone produced by the K-m, 540 flash and the DA*50-135 do both just look somehow mediocre and indeed it is just nothing is to be excited about. (Despite that the photographer is an experienced one who has very good skills in taking portraits for girls). So, does the P-TTL underexposure tendency and exposure inaccuracy just a ghost that Pentax could never get rid of??

6. The only sample made by the new DA*55/1.4 lens seems to re-produce very favourable colours and skin tone (Look at URL #3, and direct link for the pic here). In fact, I have missed this favourable genuine Pentax tasted colour response which I like for long since the birth of those DA "Pentax" digtial lenses (most of the time, look here for why and what's different).

Well, there will surely be more full-sized, un-retouched and original K-m sample photos to be come (no matter by end-users or by reviewers), I shall report back here later when I find something new, interesting or special, which are worth my further reporting, if any. And, I do hope I can confirm more firmly most of my findings above when more un-retouched/straight-out-of-the camera sample photos are posted.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Who were Telling the Truth?

In April, it was reported that a Samsung high-ranking official disclosed that they were "actively pursuing development of a full-frame CMOS sensor. But now just about six month later, yet another more senior official of Samsung played down "rumours" that Samsung was developing a full-frame sensor in another interview. So, after all, who was telling the truth in this case?

"Coincidently", same thing happened at the Pentax side. In June, the Pentax China Head disclosed that a full-frame Pentax DSLR is under planning. But then just in September (3 months later), an even higher ranked Pentax official said that they had no plan for a full frame DSLR, at Photokina! Yet again, who was telling the truth?

Do you think that the policy, project plans etc. could be changed so quickly and drastically within a company (or just an organisation, anyway)? It is very unlikely, frankly. So, who were telling the truth, then? Well, my guess is that it can be either two or all four! If two, either the former Pentax and Samsung officials or the latter two were telling the truth. But, why it can be all four??

Well, if no one was actually lying (who dared? why needed?) then it could be very likely that someone were intentionally playing with the words so that the full-frame bubble was burst *in the meantime* just because *in the meantime* Pentax and Samsung are just unable to deliver such a full-frame body and DSLR system. Remember what Nikon were telling the world just less than two years right before the sudden arrival of the full-frame D3? Still remember? It seems that history could be re-happening and if we look back in what Nikon said and what Samsung/Pentax have now told us, anything sound so similar and too familiar? (Of course I have my own wishful thinking and imagination here so that some people should just choose to "ignore" me! ;-))

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Yet Another New K-m Preview

A new K-m Preview is out today at the DC page of the Japanese Impress Watch, here it is:-

http://dc.watch.impress.co.jp/cda/review/2008/10/15/9420.html

The article shows us something new and interesting, say:-

1. The bright green power LED indicator does actually indicate also the power level, namely, strong, weak and empty. With the deletion of the top monochrome LCD status indication panel, I think this design is just clever and brilliant as it is simple but yet provides very clear and easy-to-see indication to the user/operator;

2. Battery type can now be entered into the camera or the user can still let the camera to "Auto Detect" the battery type in use. The supported battery types (of the 4 AA batteries) are namely: NiMH, Alkaline or Lithium. It seems that Pentax have finally done something to improve the power stability when they had to insist on the AA battery solution in their lower level DSLRs but which has been proven to be ultra problematic for almost half a decade. Well, my MZ-S battery grip did use to have a battery type selector as it is told in the user manual that it must be selected for the proper operation of the camera. Now, Pentax could only re-think and re-introduce such an essential feature after 7.5 years. Huh? But Late is better than None, anyway! And also let's wait and see if the problem is really completely resolved!

3. A few more screen shots for camera's recording functions, playback options and digital filter / color setting options etc.

Furthermore, there is a shutter sound wave (.wav) file which is available for download in the page. The first time I downloaded it and heard its sound did make me feel really excited for its light touch and smoothness, which just doesn't look like any previous Pentax DSLRs and it would be an improvement over its predecessors. But however, I noticed very shortly about the file name of "5D2_01" for the wav file which is just highly suspected that it is the sound of the 5D MkII instead and the editor has very probably been mistaken.

So, I just browsed through the front page and then go to their 5D MkII Preview page and it is confirmed that my suspection is correct, i.e., the "K-m sound file" is just the 5DMkII one! :-( Now, I just hope that the editor can make the correction and put a true K-m sound file for my measurbation, like I did myself for those, very soon! Anyway, I have already measured the overall system lag time of the 5D MkII to be 105 ms which is indeed 27 ms longer than the original 5D but nonetheless is still faster/shorter than that of any of Pentax DSLRs ever tested and published for the timings. My 5D MkI produces clunky large shutter/mirror sound, though, although it is yet faster.

Update (Oct. 16):

The editor has noticed the error and made the correction already. There are now two sound file links in which the wave files should be the K-m's ones this time: One for the Single frame mode and the other for Continuous shooting mode, the direct links are as follows:-

http://dc.watch.impress.co.jp/static/2008/10/14/tansha.wav
(Single frame mode: ~2.1MB)

http://dc.watch.impress.co.jp/static/2008/10/14/rensha.wav
(Continuous shooting mode: ~3.3MB)

From the two sound files, I have measurebated the following actual performance figures of the K-m:-

1. Actual shooting rate/frequency is only at 2.87 frames per second (well below and much worse than the claimed Spec. of 3.5 fps);

2. A maximum of 10 frames can be shot up to in a chain (doubled and better than the official Spec., which is 5 only);

3. The system time lag (shutter lag) is measured to be 114 ms or 0.114 second (the best figure I have ever seen for an entry level Pentax DSLR - not bad for an entry level DSLR indeed).

I would comment that it just sounds to be smoother for both mirror up and down actions which are now having a lighter touch or simply gentler (for what it was recorded and as it seems to be - the actual noise level cannot be judged exactly, though). Well, well done, Pentax! (I still would say for that part, but the lower fps is yet something which I do not wish to see..)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

DA 18-55 on Full Frame

I have taken some test shots with the Pentax DSLR kit lens DA 18-55 on my (K)5D. Indeed, quite some Pentaxians have been wondering and questioning about how those DA lenses could produce if they are used on Pentax film SLRs. However, only just several Pentaxians had actually tried to do some tests and shot through the viewfinder or to scan exposed films and presented the effect(s) publicly before. Now, I think this series of my shots will show exactly how this Pentax standard kit lens will behave when it is put on a full frame (digital) camera. Look at the projected images below:-

@ 18mm (at f/4.5)


@ 20mm


@ 24mm


@ 28mm


@ 35mm


@ 45mm


@ 55mm (at f/8)


Remarks:
1. All images were taken with one f-stop closed down from wide opened;

2. All images were taken in M exposure mode with 1/8" Tv at ISO 800. As such, the tele images came out to be (at most 1.5 stops) darker, so as to exaggerate the vignetting effect at the tele side, for easy inspection.

Well, now you can see the contracted image circle(s) at the wide side of this digital kit zoom which is designed for the APS-C sensor format. As a side note, the infamous (de-)centering defect of (the DA/DA*) Pentax lenses has once again been verified. Just look at the images produced at the wider angles, it can be more easily seen that the projected image circles have been shifted to the right, that is, the optical center of my lens at those focals is actually yet mis-aligned to the left (when I am facing the back of my camera). But the even more strange thing is that when the lens is zoomed to the tele side, the de-centering is reversely shifted to the left (for the images produced, just look at the (positional differences of the) corner vignettings). In fact, the only symmetric image I could get is the one shot at 35mm. Huh? What? How come? Why?? :-0

So, some people may question if the sensor of my 5D and/or the mount/adaptor is/are just mis-aligned. But what I can tell is Not. It is simply because my Pentax F Fisheye Zoom produces symmetric images when at 17mm where a little bit of the built-in lens hood can be shot (for the technical reason for why it has to be, look here for the details). Just see this test picture:-

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v313/RiceHigh/FF%20Fisheye%20and%2043%20Limited%20on%205D/IMG_6954s.jpg

After all, the QC or simply quality difference(s?) between Pentax lenses that were made in Japan against those are / were made in Vietnam (or just nowadays) has yet been verified.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Sample Photos of Full Frame Fisheye and 43 Limited on 5D

Further to my last blog entry, here is the sample photo gallery for some test photos taken with my film lenses, the Full Frame (not with a dark circle) Fisheye Zoom F 17-28/3.5-4.5 and the FA 43/1.9 Limited on my new K-mount 135 Full Frame DSLR, the "Cantax" "K5D":-

http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v313/RiceHigh/FF%20Fisheye%20and%2043%20Limited%20on%205D/?start=all

A few more footnotes about the shooting conditions/settings as well as my observations and comments on the final image quality (for the last listed point):-

1. All pictures were taken in Large Fine Jpeg file mode at a full resolution of 12.8 MPs (4368 x 2912);

2. A -0.5EV exposure compensation was applied for most pictures (as both lenses on 5D overexposed by a half-stop most of the time - all the exposures were accurate and consistent thereafter);

3. Most samples were taken at aperture values ranged from f/4 to f/8 with the most usual used aperture at f/5.6 (and around f/5.6 for the Fisheye Zoom);

4. The K5D was able to focus at apertures not smaller than f/8 on bright objects but with best sensitivity at f/4 or faster. The focusing accuracy and hit rate are both considered to be very high (as you can actually see from the samples);

5. All uploaded pictures are down-sampled to 2048 x 1365 and saved at Jpegs at 90% quality level with Irfanview. No anything else is processed and edited, the EXIF is retained also;

6. The totally dark corners as seen in a few samples of the Fisheye Zoom on the K5D is caused by the rotated built-in lens hood for what the adapted Pentax lenses are all now rotated to the left in about 20 degrees (owing to the consideration to avoid the aperture coupler of K-mount lenses in conflict with the bottom part of the EF-S mount of Canon APS-C bodies so that the K-couplers need not to be removed but can still be adapted). As this Pentax Fisheye Zoom is of 180 degrees in the Angle of View, the original built-in lens hood is designed to be in a pedal / flower shaped rectangular form and thus the upright position is critical. I have already found out a way to adapt in the fisheye zoom with less rotation but slight modification to the adaptor is required and I shall buy another adaptor to do the modiffication shortly. The widest setting for what the full vision of the Fisheye Zoom is not blocked by its lens hood is at around 19mm (With modification to the adaptor, it can be further improved down to 18mm and thus close to the ideal 17mm with full 180 degree AOV);

7. The optical quality of the Fisheye Zoom and the 43 Limited on the 5D are both really really *Amazing*, as I surely knew that they are, for years I used them in the Pentax film age. To list a few:-

  • The flare control is superb, which I have never been able to see any Canon lenses (L or not) can attain that level of flare resistance and retain image clarity with strong light source / contrast in frame. Just look at the sample on board of the boat of which the camera was pointed directly to the morning Sun (which has been burnt in the picture for that part, of course);
  • The resolution is amazing and with all that Canon crispness and sharpness, accurate colours (in "Neutral" Picture Style). Clipping of colour channel(s) is minimum - just look at the red boat shots and those for the flowers;
  • The corner sharpnesses are yet amazing for both lenses on 5D. CAs and Purple Fringings are minimal even for the Fisheye Zoom. There is little corner blur nor obvious vignetting neither (far better than anything produced by the DA Fisheye Zoom on any Pentax APS-C DSLR bodies (which have far too more all the above problems mentioned which are actually not found with my 5D/Pentax F Fisheye Zoom combo);
  • The resolution of the FA 43 Limited on 5D, for just shooting at just f/5.6 or f/6.7 is stunning! The super ever large image file size says it all (I have never been able to see such high resolution neither with my EF 50/1.8 nor my EF 24-105/4 L)! Just inspect this sample yourself! (Of course, to get this super high resolution and image fidelity, a very accurate "AF" system is crucial);
Well, these are just the results of the magical combination and fusion of the best optics with the best DSLR body on Earth! But of course, it needed to be Full Frame at the first place! (so as to get beyond the diffraction limit of Physics first - even putting aside all those other compromised design limitations of the APS-C DSLRs)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Preview: Cantax K5D Full Frame! ;-)

Since Pentax have just told the world in the Photokina that they will not have a 135 Full Frame DSLR forever, I have opted not to wait them anymore (as they told us to do so, clearly). I have managed to build my own Full Frame K-mount DSLR model just within an hour, which can adopt many of my old excellent Pentax film glass. Here it is!



More to come! (Modifying procedures, things to note and cautions to take, detailed comments on system accuracies (so far so good!), sample photos with various Pentax lenses and etc.!)

P.S. My special thanks to Steven Lin, who has kindly offered me a helping hand and updated his already excellent blog article on the topic (in Traditional Chinese), for the sake of even more clear instructions on the modifications.


Update:
Compatibility List of Pentax Full Frame AF Lenses on Canon 5D Body

Chinese Dragon Boat Race

Last Sunday, I went to a local Chinese dragon boat race event, brought along just with my Pentax K100D DSLR and a F* 300/4.5 and shot some photos, here is the album:-

http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v313/RiceHigh/Dragon%20Boat%20Competition/?start=all

(Or playing the Slideshow here)

Whilst the K100D is surely not the fastest DSLR for its AF in the Pentax land, it does let me down each time (and actually made me annoyed) when I got it to do somewhat "action" photography with just a little bit more movements and changes of the subjects. I shot in the early afternoon and at that time it was slightly cloudy and is actually just slightly bright of the ambient environment.

As I have been used to the responsive, fast and accurate Continuous AF (and Single AF as well) of my Canon 5D and the EOS system now, the AF of the Pentax DSLR system is just a pain to great pain to use, including the latest K20D which frankly I have also coincidently used indoor in the evening of the same day in a dinner (and it hunted much).

The most annoying things for that Pentax AF is: 1. First of all: Hunting, for whatever AF mode it is in, and even the environment is somewhat bright. I used the same F* lens with my MZ-S for years - no problem!; 2. Second, the "Continuous" AF is not usable and is just a joke. It is even slower than the Single AF and actually it is just a looping Single AF but not a true continuous focusing action as taken by the camera (yes, it is NOT). The worst thing is that this "Continous AF" (or I would give it a new name - Pentax's unique "Continuous *looping* Single AF") will never give the photographer to release the shutter unless it is to complete one Single AF cycle!(What?) (and UNTIL it thinks that it has achieved a focus and then re-start another cycle again!). So, I was forced to use the Single AF, which is actually faster and with a higher "allowable" shutter release rate but then of course I got quite some out of focus photos then, for "improperly" using the Single AF for moving objects.

People may agrue that higher grade and/or latest Pentax "flagship" DSLRs should have better AF. However, just believe it or not, what I can tell is that it could be better but not much better. My opinion is simply that the old flagship K10D had similar ridiculous AF behaviours and the K20D was somehow debugged. But the problem is that even the K20D is NOT *much* better. Its AF just struggles for achieving focus even for Single AF in just a little bit dimmer environment indoor and the worst is it *still* front focuses for tungsten light source.

Also considering the longer system time lag of the Pentax DSLRs, they are not ideal for any action or sport photography. In fact, I found that I was the *only* Pentaxian in the dragon boat race event and all other shooters I saw were Canonians and Nikonians.

I tried the Canon 1D and 1DS at Canon's showroom last month when I took my Canon flash gun for repair. Indeed, they are really *amazingly* faaast, especially for the nearly non-existent system/shutter time lag, which is surely noticeably faster than my 5D, which is then again noticeably faster than all Pentax DSLRs I have used (including the K20D of course)! In fact, when those differences can be noticed, the time lag and system response timings could actually be quite significant as they are so obvious.

So, just after all these moaning and bashing (for what quite some particular Pentax fanboys which like to call me of being so from time to time), now think about the following two questions: 1. Was I able to take the photos? Yes. 2. But did I miss many photo opportunities? YES! So, I think this would answer many of the questions for those who like to attack me for either showing one or two of their "great" works or to ask me for my photos! (To those: there are nearly a hundred of photos shared and shown in my album above. Are these enough this time? :-))

Friday, September 26, 2008

Interview with Senior Pentax Official at Photokina

Here is the latest interview with the Assistant Head of the Business Division and Head of Product Development and Co-ordination Division of Pentax, Mr. 北沢利之, by the Japanese DC Watch:-

http://dc.watch.impress.co.jp/cda/other/2008/09/26/9317.html
(Article in Japanese)

I summarise below and try my best to translate the key points as follows, with reporter's questions in green, answers by the Pentax official in blue, and my remarks and comments in red:-

Warning 1: Well, do beware of those boring sales talks and quite some contradictions and disorders thereafter . I just wonder if this guy is actually a sales rep or an engineer? :-))


Warning 2: The questions raised are quite acute, to-the-point and of huge concerns by quite some Pentaxians. For those easily-angry blinded brand fanboys. Please don't read on! A heart-attack may result! ;-)


Okay, let's go!

Q1: The K20D and K200D have already been marketed this year. The K-m as the 3rd product lanuched in 2008, what are Pentax's intentions and targets?

A1: T
he aim and purpose of developing the K-m is to seek more DSLR market share so as to secure our business. By considering that the number of entry level DSLRs constitutes around 70% of all the DSLRs in the market whereas up-market models are only at about 5% where the K20D belongs to, in which actually the number of this type of potential buyers is actually uncertain, it's important to make a "mid-level" entry level Pentax DSLR as now the K200D is an "upper-level" entry level DSLR model of Pentax.

My Comments: First, I really find it funny that he dared to tell the world that the K20D is an up-market model of the top 5%. In fact, the latest sales price of the K20D already says it all. Second, the innovative terms of "upper-level" and "mid-level" entry level DSLRs are really amazing! Well, to use his innovation in using words, I would say the K20D is either an "entry level" mid-grade APS-C DSLR Or an "upper-level" entry-level DSLR! .. for whatever anyone like to call it! ;-) Which one you like and choose btw? ;-D


Q2: The market positioning of the K-m is obvious. But actually what are the targets and the reasons behind, for a camera with that specifications?

A2. T
he specific target buyers for the K-m is for ladies and younger persons. Now that the dominant age group of DSLR users is in the age range of 40 to 60. However, in 3 to 4 years time, it is predicted that the age group of 20 to 30 will become dominant. For the gender share, ladies are now at round 10% and in 1 to 2 years time, it might come up to around 20 to 30%.


Q3: It is absolutely not a new idea and concept for targeting for the female market and younger persons. Afterall, it is just a concept, tell us more specifics about (the design concepts of) the K-m?

A3. The K-m was designed and made with the main goals of minisation and weight decreasing. And more importantly, to make it easy to use and to increase picture quality as well as to raise shooting performance. And, with the kit lens and batteries installed, the K-m kit is amongst the world 3 lightest APS-C DSLR and the world's smallest.

My Comments: So, it's a "perfect" camera then? But in fact, the above are mostly unimportant pure sales talk in my eyes. Everyone knows about the specs on weight and size. What're actually special and unique in the current market, actually? The K-m has no Live View which beginners and novices or even advanced amateurs love. And in fact it's not the smallest nor lightest. It has in-body image stabilisation, though. But then Sony entry level counterparts also have.


Q4: The "Help" Button?

A4. T
he most easily accessible place for the index finger has been reserved and allocated for the new "Help" button which provides handy and useful detailed descriptions of functions and operations on-the-go.

My Comments: Well, I agree that this somehow new idea and feature is nice and quite user friendly. (Well, the *ist DS firmware 2.0 first introduced LCD "online" guidance when the user operates the camera.) Btw, I bet new users will not need to bring any user manual with them as it has just been bulit into the camera body with this factility. Nonetheless, I think this feature is important and useful just for beginners, but not for any advanced shooters.


New AF Algorithms:

Q5: For quite a while, there have been strong voices for seeking improvements on the AF system of Pentax DSLRs. How about that?


A5: Although basically the AF sensing hardware used in the K-m is the same as that used in the K20D and K200D, newly improved software and calculation algorithms will make it different, in various ways.


My Comments: Well, that's a good thing and I feel good for what Pentax have *finally* done something to deal with their infamous slow and inferior AF system of their DSLRs for years. However, I have some reservations if it's *merely* the software could do the magic. Let's wait and see. And, will the AF accuracy decreased or we really can get the best of both worlds? Time will tell and users will tell ! But, if it is really so, it just means that the bottom of the line K-m will blow the "flagship" K20D out of the water in the AF department, just like what many other entry level DSLRs of other brands could do long ago! Don't believe? Just try a 450D, Sony A350 or Olympus E-420!

And, how about the metering/exposure accuracy improvement for the current unreliable Pentax DSLR exposure system which usually gives inconsistent results and great errors? No Improvement of any kind or by any means?



Q6: Last time the hot and popular DSLR model of Pentax was the K10D which was announced in Photokina 2006. The K10D seeked quite some attentions and received lots of good reviews and appraisals. How about the response for the K-m this time?

A6: The responses from the dealers have been very good so far. It is actually even faster than what K10D did of which the demand was built up gradually. We are now prepared and ready for high volume production so as to meet the demand.

My Comments: Well, just believe it OR not! (There is nothing that can be verified)


Q7: Any plan for expanding the current 3 hierachy of product lines? Any Full Frame body?

A7: The DA lens lineup supports fully the current 3 hierachies of bodies. Basicially, we shall keep updating the products with the current configuration of 3.

My Comments: Well, did he actually answer the question? Yes, but indirectly! The answer is there will be no more upper model above the K20D, not even an APS-C KxD. And of course NO Full Frame body! Oh, well, my God! NOOOOOooooooooooo!!


Q8: So, it means that the K20D and K20D will be replaced. But When?

A8: Before Summer 2009, so as to meet the dates of major Awards and to meet the shipment and delivery dates of Christmas which is of high hopes and expections.

My Comments: Really strange - are Pentax making products for the sake of getting Prizes and Awards? And, how do they know they can get the Awards even if they catch in the dates? (That's *Silly* IMHO). Finally, what's the 6 months in between the Summer to Christmas to do? (Am I really missing something and (yet again) "fail to understand" all those. l think YES, I *must* admit!). In short, I just find the answers and "logics" are just so miraculous!


Q9: Really No Lineup Expansion and no Full Frame?

A9: No. Full Frame sensors have actually been adopted in many competitors' products. The Full Frame products will come down in prices and so do the prices for the mid-range products. Nevertheless, we are always carrying out feasilibility studies on the adoption of Full Frame sensor. However, no actual project for the development of Full Frame product has started.

My Comments: In his words, he unintentionally expressed the facts and what he thinks in heart actually - Full Frame products are up-market products but they are becoming cheaper even. It's the trend. But didn't he forget that he had mentioned that the K20D is the 5% up-market product? Anyway, what are actually the points he want to raise? I really don't get it! You?


Q10: The Viability of 645D for Commercial Usage? 645D current project status (in PIE 2007 Pentax said that "we must do the 645D)?

A10: The project was suspended for a few times owing to the lack of resources but it has not been stopped. The 645D is targeted for artists and landscape photographers for professional usage and for the highest possible picture quality.

My Comments: Actually, he just said that Pentax are uncertain for how many K20D target customers could be secured for the top 5% of "upper class" *mainstream* DSLR buyers/users. How dare they could go ahead on the 645D project, even considering the "lack of internal resources". IF I were HOYA, I must stop and abandon this dead-end project immediate and just put all the remaining (already limited) resources on an upper class Pentax DSLR body. At least ONE ABOVE THE Kx0D, even it is STILL APS-C (as he also said about for what the DA lens lineup (just) supports in the above).


Q11: 35mm Full Frame Vs APS-C??

A11: A full frame body and system must incorporate a Full Frame lens lineup and a ful review is required. Currrently, the image circle of the APS-C lenses and 35mm Full Frame lenses are different and the different image circles are both made tightly with the sensor size. It is therefore it is difficult for 35mm full frame to meet the most demanding commercial use owing to the limitation in size.

My Comments: I think this reporter was really troublesome! :-) He asked question repeatedly in somehow different ways until he could get more information! So, how about APS-C. 645D is not coming soon and in Pentax land there is even no "35mm Full Frame". What was that Pentax Head actually talking about? And, did he know what he was talking about himself, at that time??


Q12: Full Frame DSLRs have been popular and prices are coming down. This would certainly pull down the prices of the APS-C DSLRs below and marketing postions of different DSLRs will become less differentiated. Any worry?

A12: Yes but we have to face it. But possibly, APS-C has the advantages of being compact and lightweight. Moreover, if we can achieve in making close to ordinary Full Frame image quality with APS-C DSLRs. We do know that if the image quality is not high enough and the DSLRs are not small enough, we are difficult to survive.

My Comments: Well, how can they do that *actually*? Do anyone of us actually believe *miracles*? They want to and aimed to do *miracles*?? How can the picture quality of APS-C to meet the "ordinary" (typical?) picture and image quality of the Full Frames???


Q13: So, the new two replacement models in the next summer will target at the ordinary picture quality of the 35mm Full Frame?

A13: Yes, it is.

Q13a: But since it is generally known that the Signal-to-Noise (S/N) bottle neck is at the sensor, without using 35mm Full Frame sensor, it is difficult to improve the overall S/N ratio, with the same current generation of technology. How to do it?

A13a: We cannot disclose more detailed information at this stage. But we shall do it. There are a lot of opportunities to achieve better image quality and we are now jointly developing sensor(s?) with other sensor manufacturer(s? Remarks: all nouns in Japanese are not countable).

Q13b: Do post-processing in camera and (enhanced) A/D conversion could help in improving overall image quality? How about Noise Reduction?

A13b: Yes, both. And those are what we are exploring. Just for example, for the reproduction of greens and tonal response..

Q13c: For what you have just said about the joint development with sensor manufacturer. Is it the newer generation of the K20D Samsung sensor under the pipeline?

A13c: We chose the best sensor for different products at different times. Just say the K20D has the Samsung 14.6MP sensor but the K200D and the K-m both use the Sony 10MP sensor. Anyway, the technologies and techniques we have mastered in developing these products will help us to realise higher picture quality close to Full Frame in the future.

My Comments: Well, I have no more to say. The reporter had asked all the questions which are in the brains of many digital Pentaxians and now we have known more official directions of Pentax now. In short, they have already completed their lineup and there will be no more upper model nor another product hierachy to come. And, they will not have Full Frame even in 2009 and no actual project of any for Full Frame system (nor body nor lenses) has started!

I opt not to translate the last pair of Q and A in the last two paragraphs as I think the incredible, amazing and miraculous answers of that Pentax highly ranked official have been more than enough and it seems that even he himself had been in a big loss in the second half of the interview when he nerves were touched repeated by the reporter on the Full Frame issue and the cruel market reality!

Finally, sorry for the poor translations as it is somehow difficult for me but I do hope you guys/gals find it useful and interesting. The interviewer had actually asked very good questions and in fact we do get quite some new information, putting aside the contradictions shown and other typical sales talks (which any rep must be promoting). But if I were him, I think I would answer even worse - how can he answer for all those questions with no answer by Pentax actually at all?!

(Afterall, I feel for him!)

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