Thursday, January 31, 2008

Some More Dubai Images ;-)

Having seen a few of the Dubai images posted on the Net recently, which were all created with the new Pentax DSLR as told (only by the K20D for what I can see so far), I am not overally impressed with some of the sample pics owing to quite some good reasons, including particularly the gloomy appearance and/or the colour response of many of them, unfortunately.

Here are a few of the sample picture page links if you are interested but have not yet visited those "review" sites before:-

1. http://www.trustedreviews.com/digital-cameras/review/2008/01/25/Pentax-K20D-Hands-On-Preview/p5

2. http://www.ephotozine.com/article/Pentax-K20D-DSLR

Well, as for the gloomy thing, I have already accepted the fact that as long as Pentax won't upgrade their "long-lasting" 16-segment multi-segment
"advanced" and "sophisticated" metering system, it will be with us forever! However, for the new taste, feel and look of the colour response, I believe it would be just the magical result of the special chemical reaction of the new Samsung APS-C CMOS sensor used in conjunction with the latest Pentax highest grade digital Star lenses! ;-)

Btw, here is another Japanese review page which I found the pictures taken are looking (much) better (not at Dubai, but at their Japan motherland), despite that those pictures were also taken with a "beta" K20D (maybe the K20D would perform much better in Japan home than in Dubai? ;-D):-

http://photo-cafe.jp/scoop/archives/2008/01/k20d_beta.html

Still, I DO like the colour response of those pictures made with the cheapo 18-55 kit lens more than the DA* ones.

Nevertheless, all the above Dubai pictures were posted just in recent days only after the Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) and its embargo ended on January 24, although it is believed that the images were taken during the days around when a Pentax's "secret" press conference was held at Dubai earlier this month, and that all those cameras used were on-loan demo units from Pentax. So, in the end, no one will face any legal consequence as no one dared to break the NDAs they had signed.

Well, well, well.. Now the key point and main concern must be: Do you want to view, inspect, pixel peep or even measur(e)bate more Dubai images?? Below are some of mine!! Just look yourself (if you can guess which camera I used to take the photos, I shall be glad! K20D? K200D, or ? ?):-


(Click to Enlarge)

Now, when you read here, have you become excited and finished downloading at least a few of them and have an intention to start some kinds of "inspection" and "comparison", or even did it already? If yes, then my big Congrats to you! You have the potential, tendency and pre-requisite to become a pixel peeper or even a measurbator ;-D (Just kidding, stay calm - "no offense intended"!)

So, which camera then? Just tell you and please don't tell other people even after you've known it: It's a ...






























MZ-S! "Just"!!

Anyway, with my old trustworthy MZ-S, I could not and still cannot see gloomy pictures most of the time, no matter what films I used, including picky slides which have rather narrow exposure latitudes. And, the camera has always been so responsive in AF, night and day, and the shutter lag is less noticeable (than *any* Pentax DSLRs I have used). Moreover, the focus points achieved were usually very accurate, no matter what lens was used and under different light sources and lighting conditions. The TTL flash is far more accurate, too! (It's not the P-TTL anyway - I used the built-in flash for that dark environment picture). Pictures grainy? Yes, but those were scanned from negative films with an entry level historical (dead) Minolta film scanner anyway..

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

K20D Specifications Leaked

Right before the widely rumoured embargo removal date of January 24, the Russian Pentax distributor has already published the "official" specifications of the K20D in their website, linked below:-

http://www.pentar.ru/catalog/product/qm-productId-eq-1255315861415769-am-page-eq-tech.htm

So, despite all the hypes, unsubstantiated imaginations or even hoaxes which have been floating around on the net in recent one to two months, the K20D is just essentially a K10D with a new Samsung (14.6M) sensor with LiveView capability, which is indeed rather disappointed afterall. Unless the specs still don't tell us the "secret weapons" (if any), we get no new stuff and enhancement at all in this "new" body, say:-

1. AF system is the same, i.e., SAFOX VIII, which is outdated and inferior in speed, low light sensitivity, accuracy and continuous tracking performance etc.;

2. Multi-segment metering is yet the dinosaur age old film *ist SLR type and design, which is again the most unsophisticated, low IQ and inaccurate metering in the DSLR field, amongst all other DSLR systems;

3. RAW is still 12-bit;

4. Continuous shooting rate and buffer size is the same, i.e., 3 frames per second and up to 9 RAW files maximum in a stream. The image size is now increased, though;

5. LCD monitor is of low resolution at 230k pixels (counting all R, G and B ones?) and of a small size less than 3" (just 2.7" - not much bigger than the 2.5" mon which the Pentax *ist DL had a few years ago, which was the biggest at its time). I just wish to ask: how difficult to include an at least 3" LCD monitor? Well, unless this LCD is twistable and rotatable, it just doesn't make any sense at all.

So, does the almost standard DSLR feature of LiveView but the ever highest pixel count packed in a rather small APS-C sensor can make a miracle to save Pentax and Samsung or even help them to get more market share? Probably Nope if you ask me! Frankly, who cares about the extra pixel count if all other more important and most basic features plus camera performance aspects are falling behind? (I have been hoping Pentax could improve but I'm afraid many of us will be disappointed again! Very likely..)

BTW, all the above are indeed under expectation since the feature list of the Samsung GX-20 was leaked a few days ago. I just wish to repeat that unless there are still some "secret weapons" which have not been mentioned yet (possibly no more major stuff anyway - as they should be there in the specs if any), the K20D is really a huge disappointment to many of us. Anyway, we should know within 24 hours if the embargo removal date is true, and if an announcement will be made first in Japan or in the Pacific region.

Lastly, for existing newer Pentax DSLR users, who will actually be much willing to invest in such an "upgrade" if the specs are true and for such a "new" body, especially for the current K body owners? In the Pentax land, WHEN shall we be able to see and get a true upper-market DSLR with more updated and advanced features and most importantly, better camera reliability and performance which the DSLR market leaders, namely Canon and Nikon, have?? Why CAN'T Pentax upkeep their DSLRs with a more updated design particularly for the designs of AE and AF systems used in their DSLRs??? Putting aside their limited capabilities and resources in R&D, a trivial reason comes to my mind immediately, as usual and again, is: "They simply don't listen"!

With the lack of true determination which I could never see with Pentax (and now Hoya), again the K20D yet again just look like another primitive entry level DSLR model in the market. Sad.

Update (January 24): As we all know, Pentax have made the official announcement for the K20D and the K200D today. Despite that there have been a lot of false information, imaginations, untrue rumours or even hoaxes out there during the months about the cameras, I have been able to successfully filter out all these junks and reported only the correct information about the two new bodies, here. :-)

But then it should be noted that Canon have also announced the EOS 450D/XSi today, which just have all the new features which I wished (and imagined) to see with the K20D or the K200D (but neither both have most of these newly offered updated features and enhancements of the 450D):-

http://www.dpreview.com/news/0801/08012403canoneos450d.asp

So, how are the K20D and the K200D compared to the cheaply priced "entry level" Canon 450D actually? Here are some of the listed new features of the 450D (and how the more expensive K20D and similar priced K200D compares):-

The EOS 450D features:

  • 12.2 Megapixel CMOS sensor (K200D has less pixels whilst the K20D has more)
  • Canon’s EOS Integrated Cleaning System (It is an ultrasonic one which has been proven to be more effective whilst the Pentax or the Sony's "shaking off the dust by the sensor" itself is just a joke! The new Pentax software alert function is another big joke. How are the users be able to do in the *field* when the dust particles are detected??)
  • 3.5 frames per second (faster than both K20D and the K200D as specified)
  • 3.0” LCD with LiveView shooting (larger than both K20D and the K200D)
  • "Quick AF" (flip the mirror up, thus quit LiveView temporarily, and do the AF) and "Live AF" (CMOS image contrast detection AF) in the LiveView mode (only the former method is available for the K20D plus it is yet problematic to use)
  • 9-point wide-area AF system with f/2.8 cross-type centre point (Pentax have never produced any DSLR which is optimised for faster lenses for better focusing accuracy! Sad.)
  • Picture Style image processing parameters (Yes, now that both K20D and K200D have that, but it's just a setting profile set.)
  • DIGIC III image processor (Well, here is the Name of "PRIME")
  • 14-bit per colour RAW (Both K20D and K200D stay at the 12-bit level)
  • Digital Photo Professional RAW processing software (Now, we have the Photo Lab 3.5)
  • Compact and Lightweight body (the K20D is heavy and bulky obviously but the K200D is still considerably larger and heavier than the 450D)
  • Fully compatible with all Canon EF and EF-S lenses and EX-series Speedlites (No true compatibility with traditional K-mount lenses nor there are more choices to choose P-TTL compatible flashes which are rare)
Well, if things are to be compared, there are just huge disappointments everywhere again! :-(

Now, the last hope relies on the final Image Quality of the cameras, let's wait and see until the true test reports can see the light and we can see and compare more samples from all the new DSLRs (brand regardless). Yet very fortunately, the initial sample of the K20D shows to be quite good in terms of noise levels and the amount of retained image details, IMO, even at ISO 3200, according to the PopPhoto's initial trial. So, just go there to look yourself! But do also note from the test that the White Balance of the K20D has been found to be not so faithful and accurate as the PopPhoto testers needed to "warm up the pics" for a number of the limited test samples already. Anyway, time will tell and the true end-users will report and tell (not just the brand fanboys!). I shall keep on reporting those user reports later on when they appear.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Samsung GX-20 Information Leaked

Yesterday, the GX-20 has been surfaced in the Internet with its information leaked at two Norwegian websites where brief specifications of the new body with a photo of it have been published:-

http://www.aronsen.no/default.asp?ArtID=428

http://www.akam.no/artikler/samsung_gx-20/47186

However, at the time when I am writing this blog article, all the above once published GX-20 information have already been removed, at both sites. Still, you can have a look on the appearance of the GX-20 at the PentaxLife Blog as follows:-

http://pentaxlife.com/samsung-gx20-unveiled

Well, since these have been removed so fast, this makes me believe more that these are really true information which have been leaked.

So, what are new then?

- 14.6MP CMOS Sensor (APS-C? Very likely, I bet);
- ISO Sensitivity up to 3200;
- Double Dust Removal System (Useless sensor shaking and What New Measure? By Software?);
- 2.7" LCD Monitor (No resolution is mentioned, so most likely to be typical low resolution one, probably something around 210,000 to 230,000 in QVGA quality);
- LiveView Function.

As for old features, it keeps the weather sealing and the SR (Shake Reduction) system (and of course).

So, this body is actually not much stronger than the GX-10 / K10D which it replaces by judging from the above features listed. In contrast, the really high (highest ever actually) pixel count, which is nearly 50% more than the K10D, packed in a small APS-C (very possibly) sized sensor is something that really worrisome for higher ISO noise performance. Nonetheless, since the highest ISO speed which is now available is ISO 3200, it is still possible that the noise control of the GX-20 / K20D has been vastly improved, or it is just that the user will yet get either very noisy pictures there or with cleaner pictures at the expense of losing image details after noise reduction is applied. Otherwise, if the latter cases won't happen, then Pentax/Samsung have created a miracle which is ground breaking when they can overcome the technology barrier or even breaking the law of Physics for being the first one who could do that! Just imagine!

As for the 2.7" LCD, my wishful thinking is that it is a swivel and twistable one, otherwise, with the size of the GX-10 / K10D (assuming that the GX-20 / K20D is similar in size), there should be sufficient room at the camera back to accommodate a 3" LCD which can be a VGA resolution one then, which is much better indeed. Despite that now on the market all VGA resolution LCD monitors of DSLRs are of 3", I still imagine (again) this 2.7" LCD is a VGA one, although it is unlikely. :-)

Saturday, January 05, 2008

P-TTL Reliability

Since the first Pentax DSLR was created, there have been numerous unfavourable user reports floating around on the Net for the poor accuracy and inconsistency with the Pentax P-TTL flash system, particularly there are more adverse reports associated with the latest model AF-540FGZ flash unit then the older 360 one, which is something really worrisome. Well, below are a few of the recent reports amongst all those:-

P-TTL the P stands for Pathetic

P-TTL and Pentax Flashes - Pure Frustrations


540 let me down Christmas Day


A little disapointed...

Well, in fact I was one of the first Pentax DSLR users who posted about my unpleasant experience of the P-TTL years ago, with my fist *ist D (on which traditional Pentax TTL is almost perfect, in contrast). In fact, at that time, I had already found that the results with P-TTL were with poor accuracy and consistency and in fact it was really hard to predict for the results, too. At that time, after all these unfavourable results obtained during my practical shooting, I decided to carry out some measurbation tests to check for the case, finally:-

P-TTL Vs TTL: Is Newer Better?

With no surprise, my measurbation test yielded the same results and conclusion which are mostly agreed with my practical experiences, i.e., the P-TTL tends to underexpose but exposure results are inconsistent and unpredictable.

Nevertheless, the most funny thing which I can see (but have been happened repeatedly) is that some P-TTL fans always told others to "learn" how to use the P-TTL system. And, according to what they said and say, those who have found and/or reported problems *should* "try" to compensate (how?) and to adapt to (how? I just wish to ask again!) to the system, as it is designed! (But HOW? How it is designed?? Please tell me and all of us here! .. if you really know!) Well, these particular people could even know when the P-TTL will be fooled (but they pointed out many cases that the system will be fooled! Really funny!!) and actually I just wish to know afterall: Anyone except Pentax knows the logics of the "intelligent" (supposed to be) P-TTL system? If not, how could they know how to compensate for such an Artificial Intelligent advanced flash system but which is inaccurate.

Well, all in all, if the P-TTL system is fairly accurate, there would not have been so many complaint cases and more importantly, there will be no need to compensate randomly by chance by so many Pentax users just because irregularities do happen from time to time.

In fact, as you can see from the above and other posts, those people who have used those similar intelligent advanced flash systems of Nikon and/or Canon would mostly comment that the Pentax's P-TTL really sucked.

In fact, there have been different Pentax DSLR users found that (and verified again and again that) the Auto mode (which was using the 60s electronics and technology) of the Pentax P-TTL flash guns would put back things mostly right on track. But then this Auto mode has two annoying problems/limitations which could cause much inconvenience, for what it is designed:-

1. Everytime when the flash unit is turned on, the Auto mode needed to be re-selected;

2. With the Auto mode activated, the zoom head of the flash unit is fixed at widest (I believe that the Auto mode circuitry does not cater for the change in GN for its calculations when the lens (and thus the zoom head) is zoomed, nor there is any feedback/input of such data in the control logic as such).

Furthermore, for Auto mode for flash metering and exposure control, it is still not Thro-The-Lens (aka TTL) afterall and hence all the disadvantages of the Auto flash can be applied here.

Last but not least, in the Pentax land, the case has been made even worse just because there are so little choices and limited availability of P-TTL compatible flash units, no matter for original or 3rd party ones - and up till now, there is still NO Macro Ring Flash. Furthermore, for 3rd party P-TTL flash guns, compatibility cannot be well ensured as it is very proprietary, for example, there were just older P-TTL "compatible" Sigma units which are not compatible with the latest Pentax K DSLRs.

So, now that many people and I do believe that Pentax's P-TTL is the poorest flash system on Earth for DSLRs, what Pentax can do and should do to change the situation? There is actually always fast and direct solution, get the TTL mode back and re-include it in at least some Pentax DSLR models and let the user to choose and store in memory for what mode they prefer when the flash unit is started up, namely, P-TTL, TTL, A mode or even M mode.

To do it even better, Pentax should upgrade the Auto mode control logic so that it can communicate and receive feedback data from the camera for what focal length is currently selected.

Nevertheless, the ultimate solution to the problem is to debug and improve the P-TTL system, of which the poor intelligence and logics used is the primitive problem, frankly speaking. If Pentax is still to be insistent in supporting the P-TTL system alone as the only TTL flash mode in the foreseeable future (just like Nikon and Canon have done, anyway), they should put more R&D efforts so that to make the P-TTL to be an usable one, with acceptable reliability, my humble words..

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