Wednesday, November 29, 2006

K10D Auto ISO finally works with EV Compensation?

Here is a good news about the K10D. A new user states that the EV (Exposure (Value)) Compensation function does not defeat the Auto ISO function, finally:-

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1036&thread=20989110

I think in order to firmly confirm the case, this is to be verified by more than one user, though. Moreover, as all Pentax user manuals of their DSLRs have *never* mentioned anything about this long-lasting significant "limitation" (strictly speaking, it can be regarded as a "bug"), we are actually having no idea from official source if this time it really works or not.

The more interesting thing is that I did report this problem on the Net back to early 2004, about my *ist D. However, I did receive numerous surprising responses like: "DSLR users should learn and know how to choose ISO manually", or "it is of no big deal" or "Auto ISO is for P&S shooters only", or alike and etc. Of course, there were even some more vigorous responses to my (just simple) statement of such a trivial design "limitation" which is indeed causing much inconvenience and is simply annoying.

While this problem has now been widely recognised by many Pentax DSLR users since it has been with us for years, and also with the growth of Pentax DSLR user base, I deeply feel sorry for Pentax that they have not improved their firmware for such a minor unthoughtful design for such an unreasonably prolonged period, even after their *ist Dx series of cameras have been discontinued. And still, the inability still holds true for my K100D.

Hopefully, this "improvement" is true. BTW, anyone can verify the case and re-confirm here?

K10D Bulb mode cannot hold longer than 32 seconds?

3 different users reported that their K10D cameras could not hold "long" exposure more than 30 or 32 seconds in the Bulb mode, despite that the battery indicator did show full power as well as the battery power was actually not depleted:-

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1036&message=21047900

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1036&message=21047498

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1036&message=21040890

If what they said are true, then it is undoubtedly that there exists some kinds of hardware problem and/or software/firmware bug with their units. If Bulb mode can just only be up to 30 seconds, why "Bulb"? In the Manual mode, there is also a 30-second (actually ideally should be for 32 seconds of exposure) setting!

My humble advice is for anyone who plans to use the K10D for real long exposure shooting applications (typically for night scene shootings, not even to mention astrophotography), one must be aware of this potential problem reported. Do try and test fully, hands-on, to confirm if the mentioned problem exists or not before you buy! My final advice is do *never* try to *wait* for a fix for a camera which has some existing problems which cause you troubles which don't satisfy your current need(s), and cannot work for your *current* application(s).

Update (Nov. 30):
Yet another user at PDML reported that the problem was appearing intermittently:-

http://www.mail-archive.com/pdml@pdml.net/msg360961.html

Actually, the problem of the 30s limit in Bulb mode did appear sometimes in Continuous shooting mode and sometimes with just a quick press of the shutter release button. The user also mentions in his above post that with a longer time of half-press until the SR symbol appeared in the viewfinder, he experienced no problem. (but how come any Pentax K10D or K100D user should turn on the SR function in Bulb mode? It is not recommended by Pentax afterall, i.e., SR should be turned off when the camera is mounted on a tripod!)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

DA 21 Limited Front Focusing or Back Focusing?

This user experienced an obvious FF issue with his DA 21 Limited lens and conducted a series of simple but yet effective test to confirm the problem:-

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1036&message=20984715

In contrast, another two different users experienced BF issue with their each own copy of the DA 21 Limited lens:-

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1036&message=20912492

But the common point of all the three reports is that the users are all believing that the problem is mainly associated with the DA21 lens model.

So, does the DA21 Limited itself have some inherited problem by itself? Or, simply all those are just poorly calibrated units from the factory?

Nevertheless, one thing is of no doubt, for a nearly $500 priced prime, if I was the purchaser or even just the user, this would be a big joke to me.

A Case of Burnt K10D RTF (Built-in Flash)

A new K10D user complained about his K10D refused to work with RTF popped up after he had fired a few strobes of AF assistance flashes:-

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1036&message=20981073&changemode=1

Actually, his K10D RTF was found burnt and he was upset.

On the other hand, it has never been heard about reports of burnt RTFs with previous Pentax *ist D series DSLRs before, except that the users who reported a burnt and broken RTF as a result of using non-regulated Rechargeable CR-V3 batteries which are of excessive higher voltage than the *ist Dx design that could tolerate. Those RCR-V3 batteries are actually made of Li-ion materials and if they are not regulated, their voltage would be at 3.7V each. So, a pair of which will add up to an excessive voltage of 7.4V, which is 23% more than the intended allowed level, i.e., 6V nominal.

Indeed, Pentax "banned" the use of any RCR-V3 battery because of the above and they recommend no user should use any RCR-V3 in their DSLRs:-

http://www.digital.pentax.co.jp/en/35mm/ist-ds/faq.html#04_01

Unfortunately, they "ban" all types of RCR-V3 batteries including some of those regulated types which are indeed performing very well in their cameras.

Okay, let's compare the two different "burnt RTF" incidents, the symptoms are indeed quite similar..

Now that the K10D is the first Pentax DSLR (and SLR as well) which adopts a Li-ion battery, at 7.4V. If the cause of the burnt K10D RTF is to be explained. It should be either one of the following two possibilities:-

1. His K10D has some in-born defects and his unit is just "fortunate" enough to get through Pentax factory's QA system and the QC process, and utlimately arrived in the hands of that unfortunate user; Or,

2. The K10D RTF and/or associate circuitry are not fully proven enough to handle the considerable higher voltage and current from the new (more powerful) battery source. Do note that all electronics components do have a certain degree of errors in values when they are manufactured (which should be within the tolerance of their design specifications). Of course, if more reliable and more accurate (with lower % of errors) electronic components are used, the costs required will be of higher. Nevertheless, just in case if the margin of a circuit design is set too low and marginal, evils might happen.

Anyway, time will tell.. Let's see if there will be more similar happenings (provided that the victims will report and I do think they should report too if encountered) OR this is just an isolated case, that is, there is in general no significant QC loophole as per Case 1.

P.S. Now that I have re-posted all my three messages which the site owner of the Steve's Forum is accusing me of "always" "stirring up troubles" (troubles? what "troubles"??) and must "put me to death" at their premises. What do you think about my these *reports* and *opinions*?
What're wrong with them? And, how about the "Freedom of Speech" (FoS)? Which place(s) on Earth we should have the FoS? (But there is virtually none at these private and commercial sites if they wish to apply *their* "control", frankly speaking.)

Just another very similar but yet unfortunate case, I was banned by Phil Askey at Dpreview.com's Pentax SLR Forum just a few days after I shared about my letter to the Pentax CEO, of which the full letter can be found in the "Links" section of this Blog.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Pentax (K10D) also reproduces Canon-type "Plastic Skin"?

Japanese website IT+Plus of the Nikkei Net posted some photos taken with the production K10D. One of these is a cutie baby portrait photo taken, below is the downsized picture:-

http://it.nikkei.co.jp/photo/camera/review/pentax_k10d20061117/IMGP0525.sized.html

To inspect the full size original image, here is the direct link:-

http://it.nikkei.co.jp/photo/camera/review/pentax_k10d20061117/IMGP0525.html

With the new PRIME image engine created by Pentax for the K10D, it is obvious that Pentax has being tried very hard to catch up with their competitors in image processing hardware and technology. or at least their marketing guys are smart enough to create a new name for their image processor/engine. Nonetheless, the most representative and renowned image engine is undoubtedly the DIGIC image processors by Canon.

However, quite some photographers, including myself, found that whilst Canon DSLRs do often (re)produce excellent resolution, exciting colours with very low noise levels, comparatively at all ISO speeds (and hence some types of photos will look very impressive), some portrait photos looked fake and it is called "plastic skin" in general on the net for these unnatural looking skin representation.

Well, here is a funny joke for mentioning the coming Nikon D90 (which is an imagined model and the article is a hoax, or just for humour), will have a new "plastic skin mode" available! Funny! LOL :=D

http://yourphotoarchive.com/laugh.htm

BTW, what do you think about this sample picture? Judge yourself..

Effectiveness of Pentax Dust Removal System (in K10D)

The Japanese review site DC Impress have recently tested the production K10D:-

http://dc.watch.impress.co.jp/cda/review/2006/11/22/5111.html

When I inspected the series of the boat photos for the ISO sensitivity test, it was found that there is an obvious dust speck above the top left corner of the hotel building, in the blue sky. I was actually rather surprised when I first found that, especially the shots were taken at only moderate small aperture of f/11.

And then, below is a new K10D user commented that his new K10D already had dust specks seen in his taken images even though he had turned on the Dust Removal (DR) function, whereas another user in the same thread responded and pointed out that his old Olympus E-1 DSLR have never had any dust problem even he regularly changed lenses:-

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1036&thread=20981883

In view of the above facts, the effectiveness of the Dust Removal (DR) function of the Pentax K10D is actually in question, although on paper it seems to be quite ideal.

Do note that all the production K10D units are quite newly shipped from the factory and thus they should not have been contaminated. Even though just in case some of them are, the DR system should be able to remove them *before* the photos are taken. It is not even to mention about the users will be required to clean their sensors *after* they discovered that there are dust specks in the images taken.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Why This Blog?

Some Backgrounds

On the Net, there are various places for finding information about photo gear. If an interested user or a potential buyer wishes to gather some information he wants, there are typically two major types of (commercial) websites and then is the minority of non-commercial personal website which he can visit:-

1. Commercial Websites run by "Experts"

Typically, there are numerous "review" sites and some of these are also come with ("user") forums. These sites are mostly run commercially and attract the public to visit so that they can earn their income indirectly from advertisement paid by the camera manufacturers and purchases from "recommended" (associated) shops by their readers.

On the other hand, the camera manufacturers will (e)specially supply test units to these websites for their "reviewing" and thus actually they rely heavily on the camera makers or sales agents for the availability of their test gear. Just say if the test gear comes late or there is no gear supplied, they will have their review put late or no review to come up at all.

The business rule here is indeed very simple: the more visitors or more traffic at the website, i.e., the more increased popularity, the website will have more value and bargaining power to the manufacturers, the shops or any related commercial parties and that they will become influential.

That's just a simple indirect merchandising rule we all know, but sometimes we might have forgotten, just like those traditional "free" TV stations. However, the analogy between "free" TV stations and these "free" internet photo gear review sites is not totally exact. For example, TV stations are regulated strictly by government authorities locally under specific laws for broadcast and media. However, those internet review websites are mostly autonomous and self-governored for their contents, as long as they don’t break the local laws.

Afterall, running this type of websites is indeed not very easy. As there must be a compromise point to be taken carefully between the readers and the parties who pay directly. Actually, those websites must try to provide some information that *considered* to be "useful" by the readers. Otherwise, the visiting hits to the websites will drop and if this situation continues, they can't survive in the end.

A few typical examples of this type of websites for photo gear are the Dpreview.com (currently the most successful one, I think) and Steve's Digicams.com (one of the oldest but I think they are now declining in popularity when compared with their old days).

2. Commercial Websites for User Reviews

Those websites run commercially and the reviews are written by end-users or the consumers. They earn their incomes by selling the user comments and written reports to internet shops, as some kind of more "trustable" advertisement, and also sell to the manufacturers who are collecting user feedbacks.

In contrast to the "experts" in commercial sites, the authors, who are actually invited end-users, are free to write anything up to their own opinions, without any commercial constraints and concerns of their own.

Whilst the comments and opinions contained in those review articles are mostly trustable primitively in nature, i.e., the users will try to tell the public truly for what they think (just because the only reason for them to write is that they want to share their experience), the problem of these written articles by various different persons is on the (in)consistency of comments amongst them.

It is just because these reporting users vary much in their backgrounds such as user level, technical knowledge about gear, photographic skills, as well as their (again different) requirements and expectations. As such, one user thinks that a piece of superior gear may be regarded as ordinary or even inferior by another user(s) or vice versa.

So, at the end, the readers have not much ideas on how to trace the standards and bases which the authors based on, unless they can give more objective presentation such as scientific evidence, instead of subjective comments by words without more supporting grounds.

It should be noted that the site owners for these websites do encourage speeches of both "positive" and "negative" comments as these are truly valuable to both the manufacturers and the readers and these "negative" comments will have no conflict of any kind for them to earn their income.

A typical successful example of this type of websites is the Epinions.com.

3. Non-commercial Websites or Blogs maintained by Enthusiasts (usually those people are the true "experts")

This type of websites are created and run by enthusiastic people who have a good knowledge about photography and gear. They built their own website upon their own drive without any commercial intention and interest involved, at their own money and time, but just for their own sake of interest and hobby.

A good example of this type of websites is the PhotoZone (http://www.photozone.de/), which in recently two years the site owner, Mr. Klaus Schroiff, conducted his own professional reviews using his own resources and by borrowing gear from the site community or on his own gear. However, owing to the limited resources he has, the progress of his reviews are indeed slow to very slow, honestly speaking. And the number of gear tested is also very limited. And that his site have not ever been increased significantly in scale and popularity like those commercial websites could have been, honestly speaking again.

Actually, Klaus has told previously a few times that he would try his best to keep his site non-commercial as far as possible. I fully agree with and support his belief as independency and creditiability are really very important as practically this is somehow closely related to whether the website is intended to make profits or not.

People like Klaus who has a belief on testing his own or his friends' equipment which are purchased off the street is not alone. Another example of these kind of respectable persons is Mr. Thom Hogan, just see his honest "Disclosure" in the beginning of his latest Nikon D80 Review (by Thom Hogan).

So, Why This Blog?

I have been a Pentax SLR and DSLR user for nearly twenty years and actually my first photo was taken in the 70s with a roll of B&W film. For years, I am truely impressed with the unique optical characteristics, excellent optical performance as well as the build quality of those better Pentax glass and all of their SLR bodies I own.

In the digital era, my experiences with Pentax DSLRs and digital lenses are in a mixed bag. Whilst those Pentax products are still having some of their unique characteristics in design and produced results, I have being encountered various (in)accuracy, performance and quality control issues from time to time over the recent 3 years, since I first got my *ist D, the first Pentax DSLR body marketed in 2003.

Recently, I am quite interested in the Pentax DSLR body K10D which I think is the most important and significant Pentax product of the recent many years for Pentax. I have done quite some researches on the net daily and also posted my findings and comments on different net forums as well, such as the Steve's Pentax/Samsung DSLR Forum.

A few days ago, I have made three posts at the Steve's Forum for three different subjects/topics, just for the first time, about the Pentax K10D, for my latest findings on other website articles or forum discussions. However, the site "administrator" or the owner deleted those messages within two days, including a re-posted one.

One of the site "administrators" called "JimC" was "kind" enough to inform and "warn" me that the reason for the deleting action was because they regarded my posts were too negative to appear in their forums and they thought that I did consistently posted "negative" contents which was not allowed and strictly prohibited. So, I know that they are doing their "moderation" jobs in a strict but very biased way so as to filter out any unwanted messages, which someone do not want to see (as Mr. Jim C also told me that he undoubtedly considered that I was a "trouble maker"). IMHO, this is simply called *censorship*.

Whilst Mr. Jim C did say clearly he (just) wanted to send a warning message to me, someone else of the Steve's Forum banned me shortly so that I could not even to make a reply to his "warning".

Previously, I have very similar experience at the Dpreview forum. So, my these (maybe unpleasant) experience let me clearly learn that if I want to share my findings and express my opinions freely and faithfully, I must set up my own website or blog page.

Actually, I have done this already and my homepage was set up last year (URL: http://www.geocities.com/ricehigh). However, I find that to replace the role of those discussion forums which the more popular ones are mostly run commercially (Type 1 case above), it would be better to set up a blog, as those news and user reports come up daily or weekly which means that timing is critical when those news are happened, especial for nowadays fast changing world of photo gear.

Okay, let's go on with my this blog. In the first three news, I shall publish again the contents of my 3 deleted posts for sharing and open discussions are mostly welcomed.

Whenever I have the spare time in the future, I promise that I shall update my this blog from time to time. However, do note that I shall concentrate mostly on user reported concerns, potential problems etc. which are mainly found around the net. It is because there are actually so many and too many "positive" tones all over the net (by the brand fans) and advertisement (manufacturers' marketing) and it is surely more healthy to make a balance, although I know that my effort to make a balance might be in vain, as I'm just so "little" in the huge net community. The only purpose of reporting and sharing those is just for an aspiration of letting Pentax know which areas/problems they should improve/rectify in the future/current products, including their camera and lenses as well as the firmware used in those hardware.

I think I have been rather late to learn that posting and "contributing" to those *commercial* internet websites is actually a waste of my valuable time as they would let you speak as long as they like what you say and will select what they want to be appeared at *their* own sites. Well, I must send my deep thanks to Mr. Phil Askey and Mr. Jim C (and most probably should be to Steve) for that I *finally* learnt an indeed trivial but actually important thing so that I can now save my valuable time to truly contribute to the gear users. Hence, I think it is totally meaningless for me to use my time to "contribute" to their commercial websites anymore to help them make their own money.

Instead, I hope that I can help directly to all the true users and all the potential buyers of a certain (Pentax) product which must be a wiser act for myself. And I am sure that for the coming days, my efforts must be more contributive than those ever in the past.

>> See also: Updating of Blog Editing Direction

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