Monday, July 27, 2009

Ultimate APS-C Shootout: K-7 Vs 50D Vs D300 Vs A700

In the current issue of the most popular HK Digital Camera magazine (printed), the DiGi Bi-weekly, there is a full shootout on the above DSLRs:-

The same lens model was used to do all the tests, it is the Tamron A18 (18-250mm/3.5-6.3 Di II).

For specs comparison, the K-7 wins in size and weight (well, we all knew), the 50D wins in pixel count and ISO range, the D300 wins in AF system and the viewfinder. The A700 wins nothing on paper.

Btw, here is a concise summary on specs differences of the four APS-C DSLRs:-

Launch Date
Pixel Count
ISO Speed Range (Normal / Expansion)
Weight (with Battery)
AF System (Total Number of Points / Number of Crossed Points)
ISO 100-3200 / 6400
131 x 97 x 73mm
100%, 0.92X
11 / 9
ISO 100-3200 / 6400-12800
146 x 108 x 74mm
95%, 0.95X
9 / 9
ISO 100-3200 / 6400903g
147 x 114 x 74mm
100%, 0.94X
51 / 15
ISO 100-3200 / 6400768g
142 x 105 x 80mm
95%, 0.9X
11 / 1

Well, the lab tests and measurbations begin..

1. Dynamic Range Test

Test description and methodology: All cameras set at ISO 200, finest JPEG, on tripod, metering by external incident light meter, Av=f/8, shot target was Kodak Gray Scale, final images analysed by Zoner Photo Studio 11 (clipped highlights and shadows will be shown). Exposures from -2 EV to +2 EV in 1 EV step were made with with highlight and/or shadow optimisation turned off and on.

An extracted summary on the results in the Numbers of Steps Clipped for the Highlights / Shadows are as follows:-

-2 EV
0 EV
50D (Default)
1 / 7
1 / 6
3 / 0
50D (Highlight Optimisation On)
1 / 6
1 / 6
1 / 0
50D (Highlight Optimisation On with Auto Leveling)
Note: Very low contrast images were produced.
0 / 0
0 / 00 / 0
D300 (Default)
0 / 00 / 00 / 0
Active D-Lighting On: Highest
1 / 6
1 / 6
0 / 0
K-7 (Default)
1 / 0
1 / 01 / 0
K-7 (Highlight Optimisation On)
1 / 7
1 / 0
1 / 0
K-7 (Highlight Optimisation On + Shadow Compensation)
Note: All images had become rather Yellowish.
0 / 0
0 / 00 / 0
A700 (Default)
1 / 0
1 / 01 / 0
A700 (D.R.O Auto On)
1 / 01 / 01 / 0
A700 (D.R.O Advance/Manual +5)
Note: There is no significant effect regardless of the settings!
1 / 01 / 01 / 0

The editor further particularly notes that the K-7 images had large amount of noise appears when the compensation functions were turned on, but the DR results could be even worse!

2. Noise Test

Test description and methodology: The same set of test objects were shot under studio environment with different ISO speeds available for the cameras. Same aperture and exposure values are used; same WB, highest resolution and finest JPEG; All built-in compensation functions for distortion and vignetting etc. were disabled; other settings remained at factory defaults.

Cropped portions of the images obtained at the same viewing size are printed.

Results: For what I can see, the K-7's ISO 800 is a bit worse than the ISO 1600 of the 50D and the D300 (and that the 50D images seem slightly better). And, the ISO 800 images of the K-7 are still a bit worse than those of the ISO 800 of the A700. Of course, with the NR turned on, noise are suppressed at the cost of less details.

3. Auto White Balance Test

Test description and methodology: The GretagMacbeth ColorChecker was shot in Auto WB mode and ISO 200 under daylight, fluorescent and tungsten as well as an accurate 4000K light sources. The images were then imported into the Imatest and the colour accuracies were checked.

Some of the more important results on the Accuracy of Reproduced Skin Tones / Greys are summarised as follows:-


(Overall Colours)
Good / Good
Good / GoodSerious Orange Cast / Serious Orange Cast Better
Good / GoodOrange Cast / Yellow Cast
Serious Orange Cast / Serious Orange Cast Good
Magenta Cast / Blue Cast
Good / GoodSerious Purple Cast / Serious Orange Cast Good
Slight Magenta Cast / Slight Blue Cast
Slight Orange Cast / Good
Serious Orange Cast / Serious Yellow Cast Fair

4. Resolution Test

Test description and methodology: The ISO 12233 Resolution Test Chart as well as a real scene were shot; All cameras set at f/8; ISO 100; Highest Resolution; Finest JPEG; Cameras mounted on Tripod; SFR (Spatial Frequency Response) at MTF50 by Imatest were measured.

Crops of the resolution chart test shots and the real scene images are also printed (in the same viewing size).

As for the Imatest SFR figures, here they are:-

Resolution (Image Centre)
Resolution (Image Corner)
2,324 LW/PH (Line Widths Per Picture Height)
2,168 LW/PH
1,921 LW/PH1,935 LW/PH
1,893 LW/PH1,856 LW/PH
1,958 LW/PH1,904 LW/PH

The K-7, despite of having a pixel count close to that of the 50D, it loses "hands up" for both the resolutions at image centre and image corner. And, the real scene sample photo crops are obviously "soft", and so do the test chart crops.

Well, the above is *exactly* what I found previously for my own hands-on test of the K-7 (against 5D), the K-7 is just producing very soft and low resolution JPEGs even at ISO 100 (and noise control is not good as well). Too bad.. :-(

My bet is that soon when the Dpreview (DPR) resolution test and review is out, once again the K-7 will score very low in the IQ/PQ department and it will be commented as a "Soft JPEG" machine again, as usual, for what Pentax DSLRs have long been renowned for!

In fact, for the low PQ/IQ of the K-7, it is really really sad for all Pentaxians (and it actually becomes hopeless), especially for all those who are waiting for a *real* upgrade and a better body from Pentax, maybe for many years already, including me of course. With the low Image Quality of the K-7, no matter on resolution and noise level (and the AWB is not really quite as good as others as well, according to the above AWB test in the lab environment), the K-7 is really a big let-down.

At the end of the days, I just wish to ask: Without good IQ and PQ, what else is/are more important for a DSLR?? I guess one of the main culprits for the low IQ/PQ performance of the K-7 should be the new version of the Samsung sensor, which has the speed increased but not so for the image quality and noise control, but the reverse! (So, for those who are really having high hopes on the upcoming NX, my advice is don't let yourself have *high hopes*!)

Furthermore, in view of the machine/system performance, no Pentax could actually match and catch up with C and N machine guns and AF monsters anyway, as proven and verified again in this test.

I originally planned to buy the K-7 the first time I heard about it and learnt something more about its specs. But the reality and many reviews just show that it just cannot live up to the hypes Pentax/Hoya (more so by the Internet community actually) have created and its actual performance and (the low) IQ are just falling short of in many ways.

Objectively, it is really rather unwise for me to invest in this body as I am afraid that its PQ (both resolution and noise) are just even worse than the old K20D which is now still available brand new at half of the current price of the K-7 brand new (although the K20D has so many known issues and problems, too). In the meantime, I think the only model of DSLR body in the Pentax land which I could recommend is the K-m (Yes it is an entry level model, but it is the ONLY *Sensible* Choice right now, IMVHO), for which I have acted recently - I've acquired a special edition, anyway.

Besides, snowing is now all over the Pentax land for all Pentaxians worldwide in view of the ridiculous high prices of all those Pentax lenses now on sales as well as the crazy increased prices of those Pentax accessories as well. I've checked today the price of a 360FGZ flashgun has now been increased for +75% (which is just about 20% more expensive than a Canon 430EX II flashgun!) and that of the 540FGZ is now more expensive than the Canon top-of-the-line Pro usage weather-sealed 580 EXII too. I think Pentax the brand will really soon go out of business in one to two years to come (if they still do not make better products and re-establish a more sensible pricing strategy and revise all the nonsense (increased) new prices of their lenses and accessories).

Last but not least, if you are in Hong Kong, I highly recommend that you should buy the magazine (if you're interested) to see all the test pictures and results as well as more comments by the testers/editors, you can buy the magazine before August 7 (next Friday).


Anonymous said...

Go to and click on the comparometer, chose the K-7, then choose the D300, the 50D, and the K20D.Then look at the mannequin photos.Your trying to tell us how inferior the IQ of the K-7 is based on others reviews and test.Well my eyes looking at these comparisons at Imaging Resource tell me that the K-7 CLEARLY is superior.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Anonymous, but I think Rice here has presented the results of measurable objective tests done by a 3rd party. What you are proposing is a subjective test that will come out different depending on the viewer's taste, computer screen quality and settings, mood, etc of a 3rd party's test shot!

Look, you may like the k-7's image results IN SPITE OF it measuring low against competitors. That's fine, but don't try to tell others that it is a better camera based on visually comparing to website's JPGs!!!

Anonymous said...

Hello, at DPR they say in their Canon 50D review:

"The EOS 50D and Pentax K20D offer nearly identical nominal resolution and after taking the in-camera processing out of the equation by shooting RAW there is not an awful lot between them. Having said that the Pentax image shows just a tad more detail, especially in crops close to the edge of the frame (coins on label, batteries). It becomes obvious that at 15.1 megapixels nominal resolution the 50D is limited by the performance of the lens while the Pentax prime lens is still capable of resolving the K20D's 14.6 megapixels."

And looking at the higher ISO crops over there, the 50D is smoother, but smears away details that the K20D still retains.

Since I don't read Chinese, I really can't read the Hong Kong review, so is the K-7 really that much worse than the K20D?At what size prints will this become apparent?

Anonymous said...

>That's fine, but don't try to tell >others that it is a better camera >based on visually comparing to >website's JPGs!!!

And on the flip side don't try and tell others the image quality is better on these other cameras by doing test on jpeg engines!!!

Chris said...

"The K-7, despite of having a pixel count close to that of the 50D, it loses "hands up" for both the resolutions at image centre and image corner. And, the real scene sample photo crops are obviously "soft", and so do the test chart crops."

What happens when you take the jpeg equation out of the picture?When DPR did their K10D testing the K10D was very soft compared to for instance the Canon 40D, but when they took the jpeg processing out of the picture, the K10D was clearly superior to the canon 40D using ACR.Can we really come to a conclusion about the ultimate IQ of the K-7 based on doing jpeg only testing?

Anonymous said...

Hello, boys!

Accidentally came across this cite. A short glimpse was enough. Wondering, why do you quibble so much about cameras??? Really, frankly, I do not understand. I've been using the Pentax K10D for a few years already, previously other cameras. They are all OK, not something to rave about, but nobody ever raised a complaint about a pictures I take. What I care about is a good collection of studio strobes (I assemble them from used capacitors myself, 400Ws, 0,4s recycling.) I used to make gorgeous pictures even with a point and shoot style cameras using such lighting - nobody ever complained about quality.
Oh, boy, I do not myself know why I am writing this. Maybe a suggestion to Mr Rice: I do not think it is wise to waste so much of one's short life on blab... blab..., which is all this cite appears to be (IMHO). And here is the RULE of thumbs: a good photographer is not the one who has "the best" of equipment (even if there is such a thing), but one who knows how to use what he has.

Manu said...

Interesting comparison although I don't much care for JPEG, especially when there are too much variables for setting them up. And this becomes so complex testing each setting that most reviewers end up testing the defaults...

If you're going to use JPEG I don't think you'll notice that much difference anyway unless you're pixel peeping and in that case raw is always better.

Regarding noise reduction, I'm not enamoured by the Canon JPEG. Lack of texture, washed out colors at ISO>=800. It's very clear that it's tuned for a clean look, not fine details.

But I'm surprised by the AWB results because the K-7 has been deadly accurate for me. The tungsten AWB is impressive but you have to take care of the custom settings: strong/subtle correction. I prefer the subtle, more orangish but much more natural as well.

Chris said...

Good point anonymous above.I shoot everything from a Canon G10 up to drum scanned 8x10 film, and at the smaller print sizes I sell (8x10 and 11x14) no one can tell what cameras I used.Its much more obvious whether I printed on say Epson Velvet Fine Art or Harman Gloss FB AI, or used my Piezography K7 inks versus the K3 inks on my B&W's.It's just fun sometimes when I'm taking a break to visit these websites and blogs and listen to all these ridiculous arguments for entertainment.It beats watching soap operas :)

Anonymous said...

Re K7 resolution: no real difference among any of the three except Canon 50D was slightly higher.

As you hve already shown, the Km is more than capable of holding its own against any of its competitors. Pentax is doing okay, pal.

And Dpreview reviews of Canon 50D and Nikon D5000 against previous models show no image improvement either.

I think that Pentax is not alone in having trouble getting radical improvements in 15mP models against 10MP models.

Same for digicams.: Canon G10 versus G9.

Having said that, the K7, Canon 50D and NIkon D90 are as much about features as IQ.

Anonymous said...

After your last posts on the Km I was fearing your blog would turn completely boring, but this post is actually very nice. I think the testing they did is valid. Iam one of the very few press photographers out there shooting Pentax (and being laughed at by the rest of the gang), and so I will always shoot jpg, just for time reasons. And iam shure most people will also shoot JPG. Raw is just too big. Come on, I can burn 8 GB on a single afternoon, even a 1 TB HDD is not going to last for more then 100 shootings. Plus 1 TB backup it gets really expensive. Considering that I shoot about 60.000 images a year, hell, where should I store all these RAw files? Also it takes forever to have them written on the SD card, so please, come on, RAW is for SSSA: Studio, Stock and Stupid Amateurs.
My personal experience from the K7 is, that the resolution is actually not that big a problem, sharpness is fine. Believe me, by all means and purposes. Noise is ok, for Pen, Can and Nik there CANNOT be a difference anyways because the sensor size is the same. All that the difference boils down to, is simply the noise reduction in the camera. Lower Noise=Lower Detail even across cameras. The dynamic range might be a bit worrysome, but it is fine for most scenarios if the K7 finally exposes correctly. For what I have seen it is ok-ish, not perfect but better. I think what we can take from this test ist simpla the fact that Pentax was able to push out a camera equaling 1-2 year older models from the rest of the gang. Well, not perfect but still acceptable. What is indeed unacceptable is the price policy of Pentax. Currently I completely restrict myself to buying used and third party gear.

Anonymous said...

>> And on the flip side don't try and tell others the image quality is better on these other cameras by doing test on jpeg engines!!!


manu said...

"RAW is for SSSA: Studio, Stock and Stupid Amateurs."

Funny :) But you know a compressed raw is not *that* much bigger, only about twice the size. I won't go into a RAW vs JPEG debate because anyway it's best to use RAW+JPEG. If the JPEG is good throw the raw away, if you missed the shot you may still be able to rescue it with raw. Best of both worlds IMHO. You can also batch process raws with many raw software such as Lightroom.


It's not that easy to test every JPEG setting, there is so many combinations. Thus, as I said, many reviewers use the default settings which may not make the best of the JPEG engine.

Anonymous said...

This blog is a joke, all in humor like Ken Rockwell, right?

Anonymous said...

I live in Hong Kong and have the magazine with me and I tried the k7 myself. Frankly speaking I do not have problems with the resolution and noise level of K7, especially comparing to the K20D. It is a nicely built camera with sound resolution (cannot really tell the difference vs K20D, and colour noise control clearly improves)

I am not a professional photographer but I find that DiGi Mag consistently showed underperform pics from Pentax cameras (same appeared in their tests on K20D, GX-20, and various pentax lens test in the past) which I did not have problems with. I am not sure if the magazine photographer is "too green" to the pentax system. For example, page 41 of this issue shows a pentax pics that is out-of-focus and is focusing the background instead of the flowers (whereas the rest of the test photos are focusing fine). They do not report a focusing problem with the K7, but I hope they should do a better job to keep the consistency of the pics being posted.

Afterall it's a mag that is more of a selling documents (to mostly canon and nikon fans) and has no ambitions to claim to be a professional mag. Try the Japanese mags if you prefer something serious (with proper printing attitude too).

On the different topic on lab tests, I am reading a book and may be helpful for you

'If those responsible for lens design at Leica are asked why Leica lenses never seems to stand out in conventional magazine tests, the reply will be "How often do you want to photograph patterns of black and white lines?". Subjects we photograph are very rarely black and white, or indeed in a single plane. They will be in all shades of grey, they will be in colour, they will be in all manner of solid shapes... A good photographic lens must project not only the detail onto the film, but also the factors which convey the tone and mood of the subject as faithfully as possible.'

Anonymous said...

RiceHigh pwnd on his own pathetic website. I love it.

Kenny R said...

Rice High or High on rice?

Anonymous said...

Yawn, yet another stupid article about a stupid test...
JPEG at default settings? Yawn...
"other settings remained at factory defaults" - that means the Pentax had NR disabled, but for the other camera, default means enabled.
The 'strong correction' for tungsten AWB wasn't used.
And about resolution (my K20D is not lacking in this department, not at all!), what lens was used? In which conditions? Does the JPEG settings (e.g. sharpening) affect the measured resolution?
So, YAWN. This stupid "test" tells nothing about how a camera perform, in the real life.

P.S. RH, why won't you ever mention the IR mannequin photos (see the first comment)? Because Pentax looks good, isn't it? ;)

Anonymous said...

If you ask me, I'd buy the lovely storm trooper edition of the k-m to impress girls at parties and take some pictures of friends, family and maybe take it on light trips. But with the k-7, IQ is just one aspect of the whole thing. Why would anyone care about pixel peeping and neat comparisons in IQ when you can shoot while you're in the middle of a hurricane, in the north pole, or in conditions where the camera is sure to function more properly than yourself as a photographer? To me, durability and construction is, by far, the biggest selling point of the k-7.

I saw a video of a guy showering a gx-20 with an sdm da* lens attached. After 20 seconds of running water on the camera and not having done any attempt to dry it or clean it, he went out and started taking pictures.

Add the new metal body to excellent weather seals and you get a camera with which you can literally smash some of the entry level competition (T1i D5000) under a heavy snow and then happily take some pictures of your kids while they throw snowballs at you. For me, this makes the pentax k-7 really worth it. We just have to wait for the prices to come down and if they do the way they did with k20d, it will be the best bang for the buck ever.

Anonymous said...

RE Image quality and Pentax:

Looked at some slides the other day taken with my Pentax SP1000 in Europe, Winter 1977.

If I could only have had Nikon and Canon,even Minolta,then, I wouldn't have been able to afford an SLR kit on top of the cost of the trip.

Pentax always was an affordable alternaive for amateurs who just want decent pictures.

Today, the slides, Kodachrome and Agfa, still look great.

I'm pleased to note that Pentax still makes well-constructed DSLRS that amateurs can afford. With no short cuts where it really counts: lens construction and optical quality. Good on you Pentax!

And, as always, Canon and Nikon cameras of comparable construction quality still cost more. And their lenses.

The Agency said...

JPEG tests are pointless for cameras in this area of the market.
Anyone spending this much on a camera will be an advanced shooter and as such will quite likely shoot RAW the majority of the time.

It is unfortunate Pentax chose to neglect the JPEG engine as many people foolishly judge a camera based on these results.

Hate_Idiots said...

Shit ... this guy RICE Something, does not like sex !!!
I have told him a number of times to start writing about SEX and nothing happens !!!!

Hey RICE Something just try having sex once. Its nice, trust me, asshole.

Anonymous said...

All this subjective testimony from the Pentax faithful needs to be discounted in any OBJECTIVE view. That's what the reviewers are taking the trouble to provide - quantitative analysis.

As to NX, I don't know that they'd use the same exact sensor - here, the competition for stills is against the GH1 and its smaller sensor size.

For movies (which is what buyers care about today), it boils down to the NX topping the 14-140mm Panasonic lens with full automation.

Stills are not the forte of these hybrids, but for movies it lessens in importance.

Anonymous said...

RE the moronic:

"Hey RICE Something just try having sex once. Its nice, trust me, asshole."

I get a bit edgy, myself, when I hear someone refer to "sex" and "asshole" in the same paragraph.

nlx said...

Rice, if i understand well, the test is about JPEG right ?

But i NEVER shoot JPEG so i wonder why i should be concerned byt the results ?

Give me RAW test OK ? Are you serious about photography ?

Hate_Idiots said...

Hey Rice Something, I´m gonna tell you again.
Start writing about SEX... Don´t you like sex?
Have you tried? Just give a go a it. Trust me, is very good and afterwards you will feel like a MAN, not like a asshole that you are!!!!


Hate_Idiots said...

RE the moronic:

"Hey RICE Something just try having sex once. Its nice, trust me, asshole."

I get a bit edgy, myself, when I hear someone refer to "sex" and "asshole" in the same paragraph.

July 29, 2009 9:37 PM


Don´t get edgy, I like sex and Rice Something is a ASSHOLE. Whats your problem with SEX and ASSHOLE?

Still, Rice Something is a BIG ASSHOLE !!!!

Anonymous said...

RE: Whats your problem with SEX and ASSHOLE?

If you have to ask, you have a problem, dickwad.

Are you here to contribute, or just showing off?

This venue has a large readership, and your claims to manhood are totally off topic. They're about like saying that the K-7 works correctly.

Hate_Idiots said...

"Are you here to contribute, or just showing off?"

No man, I´m not here for showing off... I´m here to say that this guy, RICE SOMETHING, is a big ASSHOLE, and, I´m sure, suffers from some kind of mental problems.

If this venue has a large readership is just for entertainement purposes, because this prick is nothing more than a clown.

Hey RICE SOMETHING, have tried sex or not ? Don´t leave the "LARGE AUDIENCE" in suspense.


RiceHigh said...

Please be civilised. I don't want to delete any comment here but you have misbehaved yourself for long and too often.

Your severe personal attacks won't help Pentax but just make yourself looking really bad and poor.

I shall delete your next post if you (or anyone) continue to do so. Any foul language or personal attack words will not be allowed in this site. This would be my last warning.

Hate_Idiots said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Vince said...

I find it funny how some people can't construct rational arguments at all and simply resort to bashing the author.

I have respect for people who chimed in noting that the samples at IR show a much better comparison for the K-7. That's reasoned and civil.

Hate_Idiots and their ilk, on the other hand, only hurt the reputation of mostly good and outstanding Pentax photographers.

It's even funny that they hate the author of the blog with a passion, but they can't keep themselves from coming back again and again. Masochistic much?

rhermans said...

All these comparisons tell that there is a slight difference between this and that ... The only thing I like is that they are 'pixel peeping' differences. Things that I normally won't even see. So all said and done the K20d/K7d/50D/300D are a lot alike. So much alike that I'm glad having one (the k20d).

Anonymous said...

I own a Canon 40D and 50D as well as a new 1Ds Mark III.The 50D is the best camera for the money hands down.The folks at Canon really jumped on the APS-C CMOS sensor line of camera's.Instead of putting video in the camera and making other ridiculous changes that shouldn't be on a camera,they made a superior product.The new Digic 4 processer is great.The 5 Megapixel jump was the biggest jump out of the other cameras in this article.They also went to a 920,000 dpi in the 3 inch LCD and has the shooting information on the LCD while in shoot mode.The 50D blows away the 40D and I still love my 40D.I haven't had time to try all of the things on my 1Ds Mark III,but from what I've seen I've liked.I'm not crazy about the video mode,but I'm getting into wedding photography and needed a camera with 2 cards.I wish Canon had the LCD of the 50D and dual digic 4 processers,but I don't think those were made yet.I'm sure I'll sell it when the 1Ds Mark IV comes out.Until then I'll mainly be using my 50D and Mark III.Maybe I am biased,but Canon seems to please their customers rather than holding back to make more money in the future and adding unneccasary equipment(like video,If you want to shoot video,get a camcorder).The 50D wins this competition and I haven't seen other images from the others.That's how confident I am about Canon and the images I've taken with my 50D.Have a Happy New Year Everyone.

Anonymous said...


david said...

cheers rice for this fun site

RiceHigh said...

Thanks guy and enjoy!

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