Wednesday, September 30, 2009

K-7 Reviews Update

A lot of the "reviewers" have reviewed the K-7 already, I think 1001 Noisy Cameras have kept track of all those online reviews very well and have been updating their review links and summary very quickly (up to the minute, I would say). Here is their summary:-

http://www.1001noisycameras.com/pentax-k7-reviews.html

The latest K-7 review is published by the DC Resource, here is the Conclusion page:-

http://www.dcresource.com/reviews/pentax/k7-review/compare

Do read the Cons, they talk about underexposure and soft images directly out of the camera. Well, aren't these two problems exactly what I found when I tested the K-7 back to the July and reported?

There is another new European review that have many of those full-sized K-7 sample photos posted. Various "luxury" Pentax contemporary digital lenses were used to produce the shots. But actually I am not impressed with the Image Quality of those samples once again, or I would say those are just terrible. Narrow Dynamic Range, exposure errors (with manual compensations already - may argue as user errors, though), soft images, obvious corner blurs (possibly owing to low optical performance), high noise at just ISO 800 and super grainy pictures (see the model portraits). Well, I have already stopped to inspect further! It's just too disappointing afterall!

As for other non-internet K-7 tests or just other not-so-typical K-7 tests and shootouts (against other APS-C upper class DSLR models), you may wish to dig into my this Blog for more!

E.g. http://ricehigh.blogspot.com/search?q=k-7+test

Last but not least, I notice that Dpreview (DPR)'s K-7 test is yet once again delayed (for long already, actually almost everyone else has done that now). Is it possible that there might be some technical issues and/or quality issues that cause the delay, just like what we were told for the previous DPR review tests of many of the Pentax DSLR bodies and lenses before? Don't ask me about more details, go read the stories told by DPR (in their lens and body reviews) yourself if you want to know but haven't yet known about those! :-)

New K-x Samples, with Firmware 1.0

Just see this new K-x gallery with new full-sized samples just uploaded:-

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mawari/sets/72157622348752173/

A few of the high ISO samples (Warning: Large Files! Click the links below will begin Download!):-

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mawari/3962163933/sizes/o/in/set-72157622348752173/
(ISO 1600 - Asahiflex)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mawari/3962935536/sizes/o/in/set-72157622348752173/
(ISO 1600 - Indoor Girl Portrait)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mawari/3962231547/sizes/o/in/set-72157622348752173/
(ISO 1600 - Night Street Photo)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mawari/3962187951/sizes/o/in/set-72157622348752173/
(ISO 800 - Flowers, Indoor?)

Well, what I would say whilst I am impressed with the noise control, I am totally not impressed with the image details retained nor the colour rendition of those samples. Maybe it was the lighting conditions and the (kit?) lens in use but the last official pretend-to-be-1.0 samples are yet much disappointing as far as image quality is concerned.

In contrast, I think the K-m still have better image quality (low noise, high image details and most importantly - better colours) than the K-x for what I have seen so far. To compare, here are some samples produced by my K-m and the kit lens. Just compare and I believe that you can judge easily!

Update (10-2): More samples taken in the same event are uploaded. See:-

http://www.flickr.com/photos/masakiishitani/sets/72157622473189906/

And, the first photo shows the super toyish K-x units in different colours and textures (glossy or matted):-


(Click to see larger versions)

Phase One and Mamiya Released their 645D, Pentax/Hoya How to Compete?

Just see the latest news and official announcement at the DPR:-

http://www.dpreview.com/news/0909/09092805phasepne+45df.asp



They launch a new 645D body with *interchangeable* digital *back*, which the Pentax 645D lacks, with 3 new AF lenses (jointly developed by Schneider, Phase One and Mamiya), priced cheaper than the Pentax (only at €4290 against what has been told for the targeted price of the Pentax 645D at £5000~6000) and the new camera and lenses will be available very soon, in Q4 2009. So, how could Pentax/Hoya compete, with their belated 645D and only one new lens announced so far, for the new cropped sensor??

I still recall my memory for what some Pentax fans told me that Pentax/Hoya was doing the right thing in entering a "new" marketing segment where there was little competition so as to avoid direct competition with Canon, Nikon and Sony in the 135 Full Frame DSLR market. So, I just wish to ask where on Earth there is and will be no competition? :-0

K-x Availiability and Prices

According to the latest news article of the Japanese DC Watch, the target delivery date in Japan is October 16. The Single Lens Kit is suggested to be sold at about Japanese Yen 70,000 (which roughly equals to US$750) whilst the suggested price for the Double Lens Kit is at about JPY 90,000 (which roughly equals to US$970).

At the same time, Adorama also lists the K-x and it states that the expected delivery will be in mid-October. For more information about the selling prices of different K-x kits, you can read their K-x page here. Single lens kit is sold at $650 and with $100 more, we can get also the standard tele kit lens (50-200mm double lens kit). With another $100 more at $850, we can get the 50-300 kit lens instead of the standard 50-200 tele.

B&H is selling the K-x and kits at almost the same prices, as seen in the K-x search results at their site here. But then they only state that the K-x arrival will be in October, with no more specific time frame stated.

Now, it can be seen that the K-x is actually very aggressively priced. Every colour option is selling at the same price. And, Pentax/Hoya is selling 3 kits of the K-x and plus the standalone K-x body only, there will be four options. There will be no more "Special Edition" for a different colour (other than black) and everything is just standard offer and there will always be *choices*.

With the standard features of the K-x (which I think it is just a me-too product like the Canon 500D and the Nikon D5000), I can see that Pentax/Hoya is going to play a throat-cutting game on the body and the kits, but then they are trying to sell other Pentax lenses and accessories at higher or even highest prices to make profits, after attracting new customers. Let's see how Canon and Nikon react and see if they will lower the prices of their entry level DSLR models and kits very soon. And, let's see if Pentax/Hoya will succeed with their this new marketing strategy. (and see how long they can sustain in cutting throat!)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Photos, Some Nice Photos! :-o :-)

Whilst I like post links to sample photos of Pentax gear (for the sake of measurebations, mainly) and sometimes post some of mine (but not so often), I think it's time for me to post links of some nice photos or picture galleries that I come across on the Net from now on. It's always nice to share, I think!

I've found that the photos at the Flickr Blogs are really great! Each blog post has its theme, with some pictures and some footnotes sometimes. Flickr Blogs are in different languages and posts are made by photographers/posters at different countries or places or just in different languages, to name a few:-

http://blog.flickr.net/en/ (English)

http://blog.flickr.net/zh/ (Hong Kong)

http://blog.flickr.net/de/ (Germany)

http://blog.flickr.net/fr (France)

I really like the posted photos and those are all great and with high standards and quality. I link a few thumbnails below to make my this blog entry more lively and colourful. Just go explore and enjoy yourself!

K-7 Tv Input Issue

That was what a K-7 user originally reported:-

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1036&message=32532703

He encountered problems under specific conditions in dialling the Tv (Time Value) into his K-7. When turning the e-Dial, the Tv is not descending nor ascending in the normal stepping as it should be. And he also said that in one of his follow-up responses, "Hmm, its seems to work OK after switching between modes. But my main trouble was on M mode, low light situations. While scrolling it was just skipping around. "

But it seems that this problem is not isolated, as another K-7 user who has replied in the thread also said the same, "Hmmm... I ran into this a week ago when I used a 2 stop neutral density filter to try to get a longer exposure in M mode. The shutter speed wheel bounced around erratically between 320 and 8000 when I wanted 1/10 sec or slower. Very perplexing and frustrating. "

So, would this be a firmware bug or it is just that individual K-7 units that are defective? The former case is just a software issue that should be fixed whilst the later case would be caused by any quality issues at the Pentax factory. But I guess it is more likely to be the former case as those K-7 users reported that the e-Dial for entering Tv was working for some other operation modes.

Indeed, it would not be surprised to see the firmware of those newer Pentax DSLRs are having (firmware) bugs that shouldn't exist as those are related to the very basic operations of a camera. But then it does happen more frequently with recent bodies, just see the latest silly K-m bug that another Pentax user and I have discovered last time.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Practical Solution to the Issue of Few Colour Options of the K-x outside Japan

There are 100 colour options of the K-x and any Japanese user can order their preferred colour combination online.

Shortly some overseas Pentaxians have complained about it and here is a recent example petition.

So, what's the problem actually? I can't see it! There will be a white K-x on sales everywhere on this planet. Right? Just get the White K-x and then buy also some not-too-expensive Gundam markers that are widely available as you like and then DIY! Well, I think even an ordinary black version of the K-x can be easily painted! Or, just paint the K-7 directly!

Now, Pentax/Hoya have successfully started a new hobby for DSLR users, i.e., model painting! Thanks much to Pentax, we can now paint our DSLR bodies in any colours, any patterns or even any cartoon characters as we like. Really Great!

Btw, I like much the specific red colour of the Red Comet and also the colour combinations of these Gundams. Really NICE! (But I don't like the red colour of the Red K-x anyway, which this colour is just too sharp to my eyes and too "orange" actually)

Well, last but not least, I must confess.., one of the reasons for why I bought my Olive K-m was that I did also like the Zaku (MS-06) colour! This military green is really lovely! And fortunately, this military green is not one of the 20 K-x body colours as offered by Pentax in Japan. So, my Olive K-m still looks unique, unless you yet buy particular Gundam markers to paint the body, i.e., Zaku Green + Orange to cover the Silver Rim! ;-) (And, Hin Man's "Trashy Green" is by no means close to and as nice looking as my official K-m LE Green! =V=)

Update (9-27): Someone over DCHome.net has the same thinking as mine and he has drawn a Red Zaku K-x. It's really nice and funny. Just have a look!



Well, will Edward Mass buy one? ;-)

Nine Years of Pentax DSLRs, since the EI-2000

Back to the Year 2000, the first Pentax DSLR EI-2000 was created and marketed. A more detailed and accurate specs of the camera can be found here (DPR's one is not very accurate, e.g., the pixel count and aspect ratio are wrong).

In fact, there were a lot of breakthroughs and unique design features that can be found in the EI-2000, which include a semi-transparent fixed (half-)mirror (aka the Pellicle mirror, learn more technical information with reference to the classic Canon EOS RT film AFSLR where RT stands for Real-Time), Live View function at anytime without engagement into the Live View modes (my full technical brief on the current LV designs here), full-time TTL phase-matching AF under the mirror with the availability of both optical viewfinder and LCD Live View at the same time(!), real-time Auto White Balance and Live Histogram(!), Dual Battery Options with *Both* bundled proprietary *Lithium-ion* rechargeable battery but yet supporting *AA* batteries(!), articulated tiltable "large" LCD monitor (yes, at its time a 2-inch mon on camera was *very* large), an user programmable camera software menu (modifiable scripts) and so on..

And if we look back, how many of these things are that current (Pentax) DSLRs missing and lacking? The battery solution and design of the EI-2000 is just perfect and if all Pentax DSLRs were equipped with that, there should be no more arguments amongst different Pentax DSLR users of those silly but frequent AA Vs Lithium batteries debates! And, Pentax have never made any articulated LCD DSLR since the *ist D, but actually there was one by them! And, it was the first one, even! The user programmable camera software is just a great idea, and all (Pentax) hackers would have nothing to do if such facility and utility is made available (very similar to the concept of opened source codes)!

In the 2000, the EI-2000 was actually an expensive electronic gadget (and so did most digital cameras), which I had checked for its street price at more than (US)$800 when it was new. I once almost bought one even after opening the box to try but finally did not get it owing to its bulkiness (because I just wanted to buy a DC to supplement my film SLRs at that time) and just lower pixel count and also I somehow couldn't accept the more square aspect ratio of the image frame (which I was "spoiled" by the comment of Steve in his (actually useless) review, which I later on found that it was just a non-issue, as aspect ratio of the computer monitors also varied)! At that time, 3MP cameras had just been out and I finally got one afterwards, i.e., my Olympus C3000Z, which is just more compact and lightweight.

But I was remorse. In fact, the EI-2000 has better and more natural colour rendition (and so does my Optio 330 DC, the first "Optio" Pentax marketed, which I also bought later). You can still have a quick glance on the photos in the Internet such as those in the PBase (for the EI-2000's) if you want to judge (at its time, it was very good, I must say - far and way better than what was produced by my Oly indeed). As you can see also from my above Oly C3000 review, the alignment and accuracy of the Oly is just terrible. The EI-2000 is surely better as it is a DSLR!

Now, nine years have passed, actually what new achievements and breakthroughs have Pentax (now Hoya) actually made instead of catching up in the game which is led by others, technically. Well, I am afraid that Pentax/Hoya these days just know to make some (and actually all) "me-too" products with still possibly a lower performance, reliability and IQ (in many aspects, I'm afraid, although not all)? On the other hand, they just try to go fashion but I don't know if actually it will help them to succeed by *only* doing this, or just survive by avoiding being extinguished? I think it's the time for them to re-think about how to introduce some new elements in their products, just like what Pentax *were* able to do for many of their "first of its kind" and the "first in the world" features and designs, back to their old glorious days decades ago.

At the time when all others follow Pentax but not Pentax follow others, I am sure they will be strong and be a successful company again! (instead of being a weak player and a loser.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

SDMs of DA* Lenses Continue to Die

In fact, those SDM death reports have never ever stopped. Different users/owners of those expensive SDM lenses, in particular mostly with DA*16-50 and DA*50-135, have been reporting/complaining about the death of the SDMs in their lenses, at various different Pentax forums everywhere on this planet, from day to day.

A few very recent cases as reported:-

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1036&thread=33020855
(DA* 16-50)

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1036&thread=32988147
(DA* 16-50, 50-135 and DA* 300)

http://www.dchome.net/viewthread.php?tid=757982
(DA* 50-135; Posts in Traditional Chinese)

So, putting aside the ridiculous slow speed of the SDM lenses in doing AF of the Pentax SDM design (of which this "modern" design is yet much slower than the original Pentax body-driven "screw" AF back to the 80s!), the reliability of the SDM is still in question after years of launch. What have Pentax been doing? Still no solution and any possible remedial action by the manufacturer?

And, it's rather funny that someone has suggested that it's Hoya whom should be blamed instead of "Pentax"? So, what's the difference?? (Fanboyism in action and serious symptom shown?!)

Ned Bunnell Still Confirms 645D, Spring 2010

See the latest news article of the British Journal of Photography (BJP), which quotes the earlier article of the PDN for a short interview with Ned Bunnell, that the 645D will probably come Spring 2010 and it is still confirmed at this moment.

The BJP has newly reported about the target price of the 645D, which is about £5000 to £6000, as learnt from "a colleague of Pentax UK". I think whilst this price is really high for average DSLR users, it is just an "entry level" price for medium format digital gear. Anyway, with that cost, we can buy a new cheap car to drive (excluding other additinal cost such as tax)!

Another new discussion about the 645D and this news has started at the DPR. People are wondering if the 645D will be available in Red, Green and Yellow etc. as what Pentax are offering for their new K-x. That is still a good idea, I think, as the 645D can penetrate the toys market and to be sold at the Toy "R" Us later on! ;-)

Well, more seriously talking, I just wonder how many units Pentax/Hoya will manage to sell for the new 645D and how this Pentax 645D business can be profitable, in view of the "low" price it is to be sold for the body and possibly not much 645 lens sales can be generated. After all, the (digital) MF market is really a small one. In fact, the film 645NII is discontinued this month and in the financial year of 09/10, only 450 units of the 645NII has been produced (previously officially and directly told here). I am afraid that the 645D will only cause additional losses to Hoya and it will yet be another burden to Pentax. Whilst Hoya's policy on Pentax these years has yet been cutting every possible cost for anything that is not necessary, e.g., recent closing down of the historical Pentax museum, and their allocated resources are really limited, I just wonder why they still waste so much time and money on such a 645D project and marketing plan which is to be likely to cause even much more money loss to them! Why? Why didn't they just use the wasted resources to make a better K-mount DSLR system (including to re-introduce a 135 Full Frame lens system) so that they could have been more competitive?? I am really much puzzled..

Monday, September 21, 2009

RiceHigh's Pentax Blog - 1,000,000 Page-Views

Today, my Blog has reached the One Million page-views milestone line and I think this is just an important event for me and my readers and the Internet Pentax user community as well.

In fact, in term of traffic volume on Pentax related stuff in the Internet, the traffic volume of my this Blog has already reached almost 1/4th of that of the Dpreview (DPR), as compared to the figures shown in their published stats page (see the stats about "Pentax" only - which is a minority anyway). So, I am now catching up with them (and the gap is being narrowed)! =V=

And in term of the site "popularity", mine is still the highest Alexa ranked unofficial Pentax dedicated site, amongst all the Pentax sites of different types, themes and natures (exclude forums but include all other information-sharing websites like the excellent K-mount knowledge base by Bojidar Dimitrov and those semi-official blogs like Ned's or Yvon's etc. (which I think Yvon's site is actually a commercial one as his books and related products are promoted and there are Ads whereas Ned's one is both semi-personal and semi-official)).

From viewing different site statistics with my Internet tools, I can see that there is a large population of "silent" readers at my site, in addition to some other frequent active users here (inclusive of a group of individual offensive brand fanboys). For those users who regular read and even have given your encouragement to me over these years, I would like to thank you again with this chance and I promise I shall continue/strive to do my best to research, report and express my honest opinions in the future (and continue to ignore those repeated attacks from those offensive fanboys although I will let them speak).

Read Also:-

RiceHigh's Pentax Blog - 500,000 Page-Views

RiceHigh's Pentax Blog - Two Years

RiceHigh's Pentax Blog - One Year

Some Ed/Ops about Computing Equipment and Peripherals

In the past weekend, I have purchased my second netbook, the HP Mini 311 (first look collection by the Liliputing here). Mine has an Atom N280 CPU inside instead of a N270 against those units sold in the US, though (whilst all other things are identical). I have purchased it on the second day when this netbook have just been put onto the Hong Kong market. My first netbook bought was the Samsung NC10 (my detailed review, tips and tricks here), which I also bought it within the first few days when it just arrived in Hong Kong (I pre-ordered it before its first arrival).

In fact, I am just the type of gadgets-aholics whom like to buy the latest and the greatest (might be), get them as soon as possible so that I can enjoy the new toys of the latest much earlier and for longer. Usually, for most of my targets, I could get it without any problem - except Pentax stuff, e.g., the K-7 and DA 15 had been both my targets, and I preordered the K-7 as well, but finally both failed my rough checks when I went to buy them (see here and here respectively for my stories and reports). Shortage of the Pentax goods have usually been an issue (often when my impulsion dies down, the purchase determination is over), and really more a problem for the poor actual performance of the new products as discovered later, during the time of wating (for the case of K-7) and the poor factory quality control (as for the case of the DA15, and K-7 as well). Very late shipment also applies to the case of DA15, too. Indeed, I think LATE is usually a problem for Pentax, which have always been doing no good to them and have hurted their sales. (And now also with the ridiculous high prices of their lenses and accessories.)

Well, let me talk back to my latest purchase of the HP Mini 311, which is an attractive product of an impressive and very competitive specs as well as an elegant outlook but is sold at an unbelievable low price. In fact, I have bought it at a price just a little bit dearer than the Samsung NC10 when I pre-ordered it in end November last year.

Whilst the NC10 is still a good product, I am not totally impressed with the QC of the Samsung factory (in China) neither. There was a big dust *inside* the monitor screen which I can see when the display background is brighter at where the dust is located. The mirror-surfaced rim of the NC10 had some scratches directly out of the box. In contrast, this time, I am really amazed by the high QC standard that HP can attain although HP also has their factory in China. Despite the large glossy areas of the Mini 311 has (much larger in areas than the NC10, mine has glossy white cover outside and glossy black and silver inside), I cannot find even one scratch on the whole body of the HP! (and despite its low price tag set and it is marketed as an "low-end" product).

Besides, the colour accuracy of the HP Mini's LCD screen is more or less the same of that of the Samsung, both look blueish with the factory default settings. In fact, those LED LCD screens are never much usable for viewing photos more accurately and every unit I inspected had obvious blue colour cast (not even to think about to use it for more serious photo editing works). The same applies in general for current "LED" TVs that shows the blue/purple cast for various different models I inspected, brand regardless. The view angle of my HP is not as wide as my Samsung, though. But anyway, I will always choose (colour) accuracy over contrast ratio for a display device, if I had to choose, especially considering the application I intended.

Next, I would tell another recent purchase story of mine. As my two-year+ old Samsung SPP-2020 Dye Sublimation Thermal printer is ageing but actually the real issue is that purchasing the compatible Samsung photo papers and dye cartridges is now just impossible, about two weeks ago when I came across a cheap Canon Selphy one day after work, I bought it straight away without consideration, and with the new important accessories, i.e., photo papers for printing with the dye-sub colour cartridges.

Well, for the Samsung case and from my experiences, I must say that actually the after-sales support (servicing and continuous supplies of accessories and repair spare parts, etc.) is really very important and every customer should consider this more when we are to make our purchase decision. My Samsung printer had gone for servicing for once and I would say the Samsung servicing support is just *terrible*. The Samsung staff are polite but they could do nothing else besides being polite! It seems that Samsung have never thought about how would they do when the users get their "minor" products for servicing! Well, I can only see that their technical staff were on panic! In fact, I have already seen some Samsung GX-20 users complained about the lack of servicing support for their GX-20. Just see this example, here, the GX-20 user finally got the full refund of the purchase cost paid by him for his *new* GX-20 just because Samsung was unable to do any repair for his defective "Samsung" unit, which was still under warranty! (His report is in Traditional Chinese.)

Now, I have had my new Canon Selphy (Model 740), Still, I could see the same case as that HP Vs Samsung mentioned above for the QC on the exterior. There is nearly no scratch at all for the Canon but the Samsung units were full of small and large scratches on the same glossy surfaces. Again, both my Samsung and Canon printers were made in China (Well, China is really the "World Factory" now but I think the whole planet have to pay for it - for the serious environment pollution in China these years.. :-(). In fact, when I purchased my Samsung printer, I had opened three new boxes already and chose the best. But then the first printer has an issue shortly after a few days of use which the printed photos were scratched after printing so I returned it for a replacement within the first 7 days of guaranteed period offered by the shop.

Despite the Samsung 2020 is a printer with poor reliability, poor QC and virtually no servicing support from Samsung at all and the worst is no consumeables to purchase after the first lot (!?), I still love its print quality for the output photos after some tweakings at the printer driver (direct printed photos are yet dark and shadow details are lost, with PictBridge via USB). When I bought the Canon without a second thought, I was having high confidence with Canon's products like DSLRs and lenses and bubblejet printers etc. that I had purchased over years and have never been disappointed. But then I shortly learnt that this Selphy I acquired is just a mediocre product or even I would say it is just a piece of Junk somehow by Canon's usual standards, in comparison.

First of all, it prints rather slowly. Somehow even slower than my ancient Samsung. Secondly, it prints even darker than the Samsung when direct print. Besides, it is equipped with a 2" LCD for preview and direct printing without any computer/notebook for its design but this LCD is just of very poor display quality and is very difficult to view (the 2" LCD of my *ist DS is way better!). Last but not least, the worst is: The printed photos are with serious yellow colour cast and its output resolution can be seen to be somehow lower than that of the Samsung, despite both are rated at 300 dpi!? :-( I have tried photos produced by my K-m and 5D, there has been no luck! That is, the Samsung's colours are always better and more accurate, regardless of the camera.

Originally, there should be a lot of funs to use my new Selphy, as it has many paper sizes and formats (post card, labels, credit cards etc.) and those can be purchased anywhere (electrical, computer or even stationary shops). Also, it seems that those consumeables will never be discontinued - I can see that the latest Selphies are still using the same photo papers and formats. But then the print quality of my Selphy has just let me down and it is for the first time I have really bad experience of a Canon, as far as output quality and actual performance are concerned. Yet fortunately, after some preliminary calibration of the printer, it is now still usable, although it is not as good as the Samsung (which have never been required to adjust the colours in the printer driver of it).

So, after all these recent purchasing stories and my new user experiences, you can see that a successful product actually needs many things: Good product design, good performance of product, good QC and manufacturing standard that can keep the designed standard, good marketing (that the product can be found anywhere in the street and so do its accessories), good after-sales support and so on. Without any of the above, the consumers/customers/users' experiences will not be so pleasant and that surely it will hurt the the brand and then the company in long run - in this case, I have lost the confidence of Canon's printer product from now on and on the other hand I am sure I shall not buy any Samsung "minority" product any further in the future.

As for Pentax, I think they are still struggling in performing better in every aspect in the above business chain that I have mentioned above, which unfortunately they were actually being excellent in most of those mentioned decades ago, which is really sad for an old Pentaxian like me. In fact, they really need to improve and make everything better, otherwise they will not survive (since they are neither Samsung nor Canon, whom can afford for some loss of their customers as their built customer bases are just huge, still!).

Sunday, September 20, 2009

DSLRs that Can be Sold at the Toy "R" Us

First, look at the real photo of the colour K-x boides:-



These bodies really look so plasticky, they feel like real toy!

And then, Pentax even found some artists to hand-paint the K-x, here is the Korejanai-Robo version of the K-x! Look!



So, the K-x has become a cartoon character now and it does taste like the robot. Really nice!

After all, I must make congrats to Pentax (actually Hoya) for entering a completely new market segment (for any camera makers) with their latest super brilliant marketing strategy with their unique wisdom which is the "1st in the world", this time! That is, to sell DSLRs just like toys and now their new K-x can be put onto the goods shelves of toy shops like the Toy "R" Us and now the target customer base has tremendously been increased - now the potential customers include small children and their parents - the customer base is even now much bigger than that of Canon and Nikon! A super big success this time!! I predict Pentax/Hoya will be the market leader of (Toy!) DSLRs very soon!

Source: Latest Article by DC Watch of the Japanese Impress

Update (10-16):

The Korejanai-Robo K-x starts to accept pre-orders at Japan from November 2 and it will be delivered by late November. The quota is 100 units and a free gift will be given:-

http://www.pentax.jp/japan/news/announce/20091016.html

Friday, September 18, 2009

Pentax Fanboys' Club! (New Blog)

Hey, (to) all Pentax fanboys who read here.. !

For years, I have been tired of hearing the repeated (same) argument of and urging me to write more or even solely positive things here about Pentax and gear at my this Blog. I just wonder whether you guys have read or not the themes of my this Blog which are clearly typed in the heading of the page or you just always failed to understand and remember those simple things! (but Why?) Well, I think you people should also read the site Disclaimer, which I had put it here for long, since my this Blog was built!

But I think I am a person who listen, even for different voices like those of yours. Here is the good news! I have set up a new place for all of you! A place where you can voice out your own opinions with "positive" energy overthere and air out all the angers to me regarding my own "negative" opinions in a more civilised way, still all about Pentax and gear!! ;=) Here it is! See:-

http://pentaxfanboys.blogspot.com/

The Pentax Fanboys' Club is there! It is created! I allow 100 places for you to participate. IF you want to be one of the Authors, just create an Google Account of your own and then drop me an email, I shall add you to the list!

Dare to join?? ;-D It's time for you to "contribute" to "make the balance"! (lol..) I believe with 100 persons of you, you all can beat me easily as I have only one person myself! ;->

Finally, I copy and paste the first Club Rules below. If you agree, I will be waiting for you!

1. You have to write on-topically according to the themes as laid down in the headlines of this Blog (which might be updated from time to time);

2. You will bear ALL the responsibilities and liabilities personally yourself for what you write here!

3. I, as the site master and owner of this Blog, reserve all the rights to delete any materials which I consider to be inappropriate to appear in this Blog!

4. Be civilised. Don't write in offensive language and in particular no foul language or personal attack is allowed!

5. In case of any dispute that may arise, I reserve the final judgement and all the rights in settling all these in any means as deemed to be necessary and appropriate;

6. Rules of this Club are subject to change and update from time to time when it is considered to be necessary.

Well, see you~ !

P.S. - The term "Fanboy" does not necessary to have negative meaning. There are a lot of people who are fevered in their hobbies and love their brands (of anything they use) as "fanboys". See this example site (which is a very nice one, I think).

P.S.2 - IF you're just a normal reader who read here and you think that you are not one of the "fanboys", just ignore my this post. But of course, you are welcome to visit the new "Fanboys' Blog" so that you can read more on another "extreme" so as to receive/perceive the "Balance"! ;-D

P.S.3 - I shall add the new Club's link at the sidebar of my Blog as a hotlink that will always appear, in order to promote the Fanboys' Club and the Fanboyism! LOL..

No Focus Point Indication in Finder for the K-x?

The K-x has a 11-point SAFOX VIII, but it has no focus point indication of any kind in the viewfinder, neither the overlaid red illumination on focusing screen nor any indication/information to be displayed in the status/info area at the bottom of the finder. Just read this latest hands-on report and follow on the discussions along the thread:-

http://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-news-rumors/73789-hands-pentax-event-last-night.html

The design is that the focus point must be selected with the display and indication on the back LCD but there still will be no indication of any kind on which focus point(s) that the camera selects nor the user can have any idea about it *during* shooting, when he/she has been looking at/through the finder.

Well, whilst I don't think this indication is very important for bodies like the *ist DL or the K-m, of which all focus points are more or less close to the centre of the frame (3 points and 5 points respectively), this time I think it is not much acceptable for a wide 11-point AF covered area to have no indication at all in the finder, which will surely create much inconvenience and problems.

In fact, DPR criticised much in their K-m review about the lack of focus point indication (which I didn't agree that it was a major problem, mainly because of that all the five points are close to the frame centre), but now the problem has been even made to be more serious by Pentax and could be a *real* issue this time. From the commercial point of view, why Pentax could not respect the DPR by considering their point of concern as raised and re-include the focus illumination, just like what is available in the K100D and the *ist D/DS? How much cost they can save in eliminating this facility? Not much, I'm afraid. But one thing is for sure, DPR will give adverse comment again in their upcoming K-x review, if any, possibly in an even more strong tone for the problem and more marks will be deducted in their review. So, why Pentax/Hoya didn't listen?

Even they didn't, won't and don't listen, I think they should think at least themselves if such a handicapped design is practically usable for the users, or not.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Pentax/Hoya Do It Again!

For What? They post example photos of the K-x, which shows to have firmware version 1.0 in the prime EXIF tag, which implies that the photos were produced from production K-x unit(s), as it seems to be.

But then a closer look deeper inside the EXIF, it is not difficult to reveal that the firmware used is actually only up to version 0.2 and possibly it is just early beta firmware, with beta hardware! (Hint: Use PhotoMe)

That was exactly what they did last time with the early official K-7 samples, which were not looking good of course!

As for those officially edited K-x samples this time, the erratic exposure compensation values entered do scare me, but it is not surprised at all as Pentax has been infamous for exposure/metering accuracy. The IQ is not impressive and I don't like the colour response and particular the skin tone of the child, for the first sample. The reproduced skin texture looks rather plasticky too. But still I can see noise at the darker background behind, despite that the photo was taken at the lowest ISO 200 speed, which is supposed to be the least noisy. Well, I just think the IQ of the K-m is just better, or maybe obviously better. Anyway, I do believe Pentax/Hoya do need to set better default values of the settings in their cameras, too (which they usually haven't done that).

I know it is not fair to judge on the samples produced by beta unit(s) with beta firmware. But then *when* Pentax/Hoya try to tell the world that those are production samples but actually these are not.. Then? Why should they do that? Why the firmware versions inside the EXIF are mis-matched? (But for final production models that purchased in the streets never have been.) And, will there be any adverse consequences and impact?? Well, they deserved to bear all those even if there will be, as a result!

Well, whilst I am disappointed for the poor exposure accuracy/consistency, strange colour response as well as the unfavourable image quality of those samples, I am actually more upset for the inhonesty shown in the case, especially this is the second time for such bad thing to happen, but not for the first time (when some Pentaxians did discover that already before - but then they still dare to do it again!).

100 Colours of the K-x



There is 100 colours of the K-x! Now you can run this simulator to choose the 20 different body colours and 5 colours of the grip and then order one yourself! What a gimmick!

Do note that this option is for Japanese home users only. Will foreign users can buy and order his/her own colour combination like this? (Possibly No, at least not now.)

Next, they will offer 100 cartoon characters for you to print on their cameras, Hello Kitty (look here for the Hello Kitty K-m), Doraemon, X.O., Keropy, Snoopy, Micky Mouse, Winnie the Pooh and so on! :-D

The K-x and My First Opinions



After all the rumours in these recent days about the upcoming new Pentax DSLRs and the K-m replacement, the K-x is announced today.

Before starting to say what my brief impressions about the new camera, I would like to mention that I was the one who previously suggested this name for a new Pentax DSLR, back to April. Well, Hoya, thanks for at least taking one of my suggestions, finally! ;-)

The K-x is actually a "me too" product, just like the D5000 and the 500D, with similar features and similar price (but maybe just a little bit cheaper at this moment - but C and N will cut their prices anyway - they always excel to cut throat!). Despite this, I think Pentax/Hoya has done the right thing actually - in order to compete and survive.

As for the special edition colours, I think the red is just too sharp to my eyes (maybe some girls and ladies would like it) and it is a little bit more close to orange, but not in pure red. The navy blue is more "normal", it just like what the Panas look like in some of their cams, as one of the standard colour options.

In fact, the K-x is a K-m body housed with an updated Sony sensor and associated AD converter and circuitry. It yet has some improved specifications over the D5000 on the effective pixel (0.1MP more) and the frame rate (0.7 fps more).

But first of all, there is one very worrisome thing. Still, this new camera is powered by AA batteries! What? My pardon?? A LiveView sensor (so does movie recording) consumes a lot of *power* (yes, instantaneous high *power* demand and a lot of *energy*), AA rechargeables with the ancient NiMH technology simply cannot help and it will fail to get the job done. Such a design is totally non-sense at all, technically. In fact, my plain old vanilla K-m is still suffered from the classic old Pentax DSLR AA battery issue and symptoms and so did my *ist Dxs and K100D - this has been a persistent problem for 6 years now since the original *ist D. How dare and "brave" Pentax/Hoya are for such a move (or actually no movement!), of which such a stupid and problematic "design" must be adopted! They are really so stubborn and plain stupid after all! :-(

In addition, what I would tell is that the K-x is now (about two weeks ago) only under Alpha testing, for what I have learnt (That's also why what you can see in the "brief hands-on" at the DPR is so "brief"). Those Alpha units are not yet be capable of making any still pictures! Yes, just still pictures, not movie clips! As such, I am afraid that Pentax/Hoya actually has made the announcement too early in advance than the product is mature and ready, especially consider that this time they have used a "new" sensor - at least it is new for them and there would be a lot of the "new" development works to be involved, done and completed.

As for the K-m, I think any interested user can still get it within 2009, as long as stocks last. Well, Nikon has yet just marketed the D3000, which is similar in specs and design concept as the K-m, as the lowest end and cheapest DSLR product in the line. So, it would do no harm to keep K-m in production actually, as it is still selling well in the Japanese home market and far better than the K-7 (See the Japanese BCN sales ranking here and verify yourself). But then Pentax/Hoya is not Nikon, in view of their limited production capability and resources.

Btw and anyway, I do have more faith and confidence on the K-x as it now uses a Sony sensor (which is for sure better and less problematic than the Samsung's ones, that used in the K20D and the K-7). But on the other hand, the AA battery "solution" will be the biggest evil in the K-x, I'm sure, especially when the user uses LiveView or Movie mode(s) for a little bit longer time. The chance for the K-x to use most of the infrastructure of the K-m is very high. Since K-m is still suffered seriously by the AA battery issue, what could I expect for the K-x??

Last but not least, I do believe the *only* rechargeable battery solution for *modern* DSLRs is a Lithium solution (no matter Li-ion or Li-Ploymer). And with such AA battery DSLRs, I guess most of the people cannot tackle the problem by themselves if they want to have a reliable and stable *rechargeable* power source, as they are not engineers nor technical persons in the field. Even they are, they have to do some kinds of (or even a lot of) hacking and sourcing of materials before the problem can be resolved, like what I had successfully overcome the problem somehow previously (but I believe it is still not as good as a *total* lithium solution!).

K-m Sensor Cleaning BUG

An experienced and very knowledgeable Pentax user who has a K-m dropped me an email for a strange problem he had encountered recently, quoted:-

"I am using Eneloop with my K-m. If the batteries are shown 1/2 full and I tried to do sensor-cleaning/mirror-up, sometimes it will try but display a blank screen then exit & back to normal shooting mode. Sometimes the camera will reset itself completely w/o mirror up. Sometimes it will do mirror-up then reset. This only happens when the battery is shown 1/2 by the camera, never when full. The camera supposed to show a message if not enough power for sensor cleaning, but rarely does. I have tried different sets of Eneloop and setting the battery type to AUTO & NiMH with the same behaviour. Is your K-m doing the same?"

So, I have just tried. In the beginning when the "half-depleted" is first shown, there is no problem. However, if more power is drawn from the Eneloops (say, by firing the camera in the continuous Hi mode), whilst it will still show the yellow "half-depleted" symbol, but then everything will happen exactly as what are described above by that user, and the sequence is the same, too! And at last, my K-m was reset and every setting including the date/time and file number were erased! :-(

Well, this bug is actually rather stupid and it has never been seen before for other Pentax DSLRs that I owned. I still remember that my *ist D and DS would show a warning message for sensor cleaning when the battery power was not adequate. Too bad..

As a general reminder and recommendation of mine, do never try to clean the sensor when the battery level is shown to be just lower, which might be dangerous and would cause damage to the shutter mechanism when the shutter and mirror are "suddenly" closed.

Having said that, the above bug found is actually rather silly and ridiculous. It shows how careless and casual those Pentax firmware programmers were or how hurry they might be when the firmware needed to be "finalised".

So, after all, will there be a firmware update? Any? Nope? Never? (for an "old" product which may reach the end of its product cycle soon)

Pentax Mulls Micro Four Thirds-style Cameras and System

See what the Amateur Photographer reports lately:-

http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/news/pentax_mulls_micro_four_thirdsstyle_camera_news_289300.html


So, will Hoya/Pentax joins the (micro) Four Thirds consortium (now the active members left alone are only Olympus and Panasonic (and maybe also "Leica" anyway, for some of those a few 4-3/m4-3 "Leica" lenses)? Or, Pentax just do it from scratch for a new system of their own? If I were Pentax, I should try every effort to join the m43 consortium and Pana and Oly would be the best alliance for them, not Samsung. For Pentax, they are simply not so competent to develop and do this new project on their own, no matter for the R&D or financial capabilities. And, the risk level is very high as the marketing response and results are rather uncertain, especially for Pentax the brand.

In fact, Oly had done the totally right thing to find Pana as their alliance years ago as Pana has all the top-end technologies plus manufacturing capabilities in designing and making sensors as well as image/video processors, which are all now what Pentax lacks and Hoya needs to source.

Hey, Pentax, just let Samsung's NX system fails on their own after it launches (well, it was that they betrayed you, not you!). And, join the consortium of micro 4-3, if you just want to make those compact mirrorless interchangeable cameras and system and enter the new market segment!

Monday, September 14, 2009

How "Waterproof" those "Sealed" Pentax DSLRs Are?

Read the two stories of the same person below, for the K20D and K10D respectively (and both with a DA* lens), then you will know:-

http://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-dslr-discussion/72794-just-share-stories-pentax-dslrs-water-resistance.html

The quick conclusion that we can draw is that the sealing of those "WR" Pentax DSLRs is not totally and completely water-proof, or not even weather-proof. And it is just nothing that can be compared to those truly water-proof professional workhorses of Canon and Nikon, which are used by all those outdoor photographers (say, photojournalists) in a variety of adverse conditions but their cameras (bodies and lenses) still works reliably to enable them to complete their jobs without any worry, concern and constraint imposed.

Update (10-6):

Here is an interesting video for showing how a K-7 is showered:-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Op9mBbo92Ik

But it is told that his camera was eventually damaged and the "demonstrator" was asking for advice! ;-D

K-7 Shake Reduction (SR) Problems

The SR of this K-7 user is not working, but even worse, it causes blur! See the comparison photos he posts:-

http://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-dslr-discussion/73376-k-7-shake-reduction-problems.html

There was also another very similar report by another K-7 user previously. He then sent back both his K-7 body for replacement and also his Sigma lens for "updating", then he finally reported that there was no problem shortly after his brief test:-

http://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-dslr-discussion/68202-pentax-k-7-shake-reduction-problem.html

But it seems that the cause of the SR problem he encountered is not the Sigma lens, but just his first K-7 body, as he mentioned in the beginning that the same SR issue was found with his other Pentax lenses.

Possibly this user got a lemon K-7 of which the SR system just always caused blur.

But since I have never heard about similar SR issue reports for previous Pentax DSLR bodies with SR, this *new* K-7 quality issue really looks worrisome, especially when SR system causes blur instead of compensating for the hand-shake blur!(??!)

Least but not least, I think even the K-7 SR system does not malfunction, it is just not a great performer. Its effectiveness is low, especially for longer lenses, just see the results of this recent Image Stabilisation shootout test as carried out by the prestigious Japanese Impress DC Watch.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Global DSLR Market Shares 2006 - 2008

Here is an interesting report on the global sales volumes of DSLRs (by brand and share) in 2006, 2007 and 2008:-

http://www.photoscala.de/Artikel/DSLR-Welt-im-Wandel
(Text in German, the Google translated version in English here)

Well, Pentax still came last amongst the "big five" whom has a "proper" DSLR *system* (but not the remaining "minority" players). Now, their global market share has dropped to 4% (from 5% in 2006) in the last year.

So, will it be in 2010, Pentax will have only 3% of the share according to the trend?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Now, Leica Also Has the Full Frame, Where's Pentax?

All just started with a new Kodak Full Frame CCD sensor (Yes, it's CCD, not CMOS)..

http://www.imaginginsider.com/?p=102187

With the new Leica M9, all the excellent and superb old Leica M-mount lenses can be used as they were designed, immediately.

Now almost every classic SLR maker (Canon/Nikon/Minolta/Sony and now Leica) has their Full Frame cameras, where is Pentax? Still unable to find a Full Frame sensor? Unwilling to invest and also lack a Full Frame lens system currently?? Whilst everything shows that Samsung has already gone away for their own "Evil" project on the mirrorless APS-C NX, who will make a FF sensor for Pentax?

While Olympus also lacks the 135 FF, but one thing is for sure: They have recently gained big success for the truly niche product of the EP-1 in micro-4/3 format. So will the Pana GF1 too, I bet. Pentax then? Theirs are neither not practical FF system with higher Image Quality NOR the niche, more elegant and compact that will find a new market segment in which they comfortably seat in.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

When OIS Lenses are Put onto Sensor-shift IS Bodies..

Here is a very interesting latest experiment by the Japanese Impress DC Watch:-

http://dc.watch.impress.co.jp/docs/review/special/20090908_313599.html
(Article in Japanese, Google Translation in English Here)

The following are tested and compared:-

1. Sigma 50-200mm F4-5.6 DC OS HSM on K-7, and;
2. Panasonic Lumix G Vario 45-200mm F4-5.6 Mega OIS on Olympus E-P1.

And then both lenses are zoomed to the tele side, i.e., 200mm and a target at a distance of 5 metres was shot. 30 shots was taken for each test for each of the four combinations of enabling the lens-based and/or body-based IS for each combo. The amount of blurred shots against successful ones were then counted.

As the K-7 has an multiplying factor of 1.5X whereas that of the Oly is 2X. As such, the effective focal lengths, in traditional 135/film sense, are just 300mm and 400mm respectively for the K-7 and the E-P1 under this test. To make the test "fair" enough and meaningful, the tester then set the shutter speeds at 2 stops slower for both cameras, i.e., at 1/80s and 1/100s respectively for the two cameras.

One thing I think of a minor flaw of the test is that the focal length should be the right thing to adjust between the cameras, instead of adjusting the shutter speed. It is just because with different effective magnifications of the shot target, actually it is indeed somehow unfair to compare for the obtained results, for whether the shot is blurry or not. The design of this test favours more to the K-7 actually, as the magnification of the effective focal of 300mm is just lower than that of 400mm for the same target placed at the same distance of 5m away.

But anyway, let's look at the results. For the sake of easy reading and I think not many of my readers here do read Japanese (non the Google translation), I copy and re-type a summary table below for the obtained results:-

Condition
(Lens / Body IS On or Off)
K-7 Results (Number of Successful / Failed Shots)
Successful Rate (%)
E-P1 Results (Number of Successful / Failed Shots)Successful Rate (%)
On / Off
17 / 13
56.67
9 / 21
30
Off / On
11 / 19
36.67
20 / 10
66.67
On / On
16 / 14
53.33
5 / 25
16.67
Off / Off
5 / 25
16.67
17 / 13
56.67

I've also calculated and added the successful rate in percentage in my above table to give you a better idea on the actual performance.

Now the results are really very interesting..

1. Without any IS, the K-7 gives a lot of blur shots but the E-P1 is not that bad actually even with everything turned off. Well, one possible reason for this is because the E-P1 is mirrorless.

2. With body IS on but lens turned off, the performance of the K-7 is not much satisfactory and only marginal improvement is achieved. With solely body IS, the E-P1 has been able to improve the successful rate only by a very marginal factor, also.

3. With solely the lens IS, now the K-7 (but actually the Sigma!) performs the best, the successful rate is the same as what the user can get with the E-P1 with body IS. In contrast, with the Pana lens to do the OIS on the Oly, the result is really poor. The successful rate drops far below than what everything is turned off! Is that the Pana lens is incompatible with the Oly actually? Or is it that Pana lens is just a poor performer for its IS ability?

4. With both body and lens IS turned on (which is non-sense actually), the K-7 combo does still work. The successful rate is only just second to using the lens IS alone with a small difference and it is still far better than what the K-7 body IS/SR alone can do and of course better than when there is no IS of any at all. In fact, this result can be explained and it does tally with the previous findings on the effectiveness of the (Sigma's) lens against (Pentax's) body IS. The K-7's body IS is found to be ineffective in this test whilst the Sigma is shown to be working better. When both systems counter-react, the Sigma is still able to "overcome" and thus as a whole it does still work! On the other hand, the Oly/Pana combo gives the worst result when both IS systems are put into work, which is indeed not a big surprise as chaos has been created and blur is introduced.

So, after all these. The conclusions are clear. With the K-7, it is better to use the Sigma in-lens OIS technology than using the Pentax's SR! (Well..) With the Oly, it will do no big harm to forget about any IS completely as turning on the body IS only improves the successful rate by a small fraction, whereas using the lens IS could give worse results!

Samsung Hibernates the GX

See what is quoted from the Amateur Photographer via the 1001 Noisy Cameras:-

http://www.1001noisycameras.com/2009/09/samsung-hibernates-gx-kmount-dslrs.html

It seems that Samsung has been giving up their K-mount DSLR system and they will have only NX in the near future. However, the NX probably will not use the K-mount, as Pentax/Hoya had no involvement of any kind in the NX project as told before.

And, this story matches well with the previous news that Hoya needed to seek a (new) Alliance. It looks as if the relationship between Samsung and Pentax/Hoya has now nearly come to an end.

So, will the upcoming Pentax DSLRs still use the Samsung sensor (the one and only one 14.6MP CMOS and the new variant)? Recently, I have heard from a few different sources that a new Pentax DSLR will be announced soon by October (which should be the K200D replacement, as also previously told by the Hoya senior official in the above interview). Let's wait and see if the Samsung/Pentax "co-operation" and "partnership" will continue, or not.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

My K-m Review, Tips and Tricks




1. General Review on Key Performances

Metering

The metering accuracy of my Olive K-m is in general acceptable although there is still some tendency of underexposure. The 16-segment multi-pattern metering (called the Matrix thereafter) is in fact quite heavily centre-weighted and its intelligence is really mediocre, or indeed just lack of. Nonetheless, I found that the new 77-segment pattern metering of the K-7 is even worse as it is just too sensitive to highlights and being too conservative, e.g., even though the highlights are at extreme corners and constitute only a small area of the frame, those unimportant parts are heavily weighted whereas the main areas of interest are underexposed.

To get best consistency and accuracy for metering with my K-m, I use the Matrix with +0.3 EV compensation as my default setting, which will give more centred histograms for mid-tones (I have verified this with my standard exposure accuracy check with My Exposure Accuracy Test Chart). In fact, the metering results will not be much different for most of the time even if the Centre-Weighted Average Metering is used (but it seems that the Matrix is just a little bit more flexible). Furthermore, and it is quite important, for more accurate metering, I enabled "the AE Locked when AF Locked" Custom Setting so that I do not need to press the AE Lock manually each time when I recompose the frame off-centre (will discuss more below for the technical reasons behind and why this is needed).

In fact, underexposure is the biggest enemy for digital photography as it promotes noise. My imposed +0.3EV compensation not only helps to resume more correctly exposed pictures in brightness, it also improves noise performance of the pictures, overall speaking, especially for the shadow areas. Do not worry too much about overexposure and highlight clipping, which is not an easy thing to happen even with that small amount of +ve exposure compensation for *Pentax DSLRs*, as there is always margin (for their underexposure tendency)! Indeed, -ve exposure compensation with Pentax DSLRs is rarely needed. Having said that, I still would say that the K-m is the only Pentax DSLR model made so far in the Pentax land with the least underexposure tendency, which I found to be better than the K20D and the K-7 and my K100D, DS and original *ist D which I had been using for long.

Btw, if you prefer to use 1/2EV stepping, the camera will change to +0.5EV when the option is changed. With +0.5EV, the pictures will be exposed more to the "Right" than centred, against +0.3EV, which is +1/6EV more for the exposure. As such, more care should be taken for not to burn the highlights for the subjects/areas of interest if a +0.5EV exposure compensation is applied. Nevertheless, if you want overall a bit lighter and brighter pictures and/or the scenes involve more high key tones, it still maybe a good idea to impose the +0.5EV exposure compensation as the default value (but as I've just said, great care should be taken - watch out the histogram and the highlight clipping warning!)

Focusing

The AF is in general accurate with a variety of Pentax AF lenses of mine, except at low to very low light where the reliability of the AF system drops (will discuss more below). Speed is acceptable but actually still not very fast (the fastest AF is achieved with the kit lens as the AF running throw is short for typical focusing distance, e.g., from infinity to 1m). My 1999 once bottom-of-the-line MZ-30 film AFSLR of Pentax is surely still faster and more decisive. At low light, my K-m still hunts but far less than any Pentax DSLRs of K20D and before (see this previous experiment by other here). My K-m's focusing speed, with AA Lithium batteries, still by no means can catch up with my Canon 5D with just the cheapest EF 50/1.8 II which is equipped with Canon's lowest end Micro Motor for AF. With true Ring-type USM on 5D, it just blows the K-m (and any Pentax DSLR actually, and of course K-7 is of no exception) out of the water just too easily, especially when the light level of the environment and/or contrast level of the objects drop.

Well, some people will start to argue that the K-m is an entry-level camera body. But my experience is that the K-7 is actually not much faster in AF and the AF behaviour, responsiveness and performance are actually quite similar between the two. The K-7 is somehow faster but it by no means can match the Canons (and of course the mid-class to high-end Nikons as well). So, will using using the SDM help? I bet as many of the Pentaxians have now known, SDM will only slow down AF speed and timing and its performance is just lower! Just do a simple search at my Blog here for all the evidence if not convinced yet.

Last but not least, I think I should point out that the AF under low light is still not reliable as it should be, especially if wide AF area is chosen, i.e., all the 5 AF points are enabled. For night scenes, occasionally but from time to time, I got totally out-of-focus images when the AF was achieved with AF points other than the central one (see the example below), which actually is exactly what I found with my *ist D, DS and also the K100D (with illustration). The K-m is still of no exception. In view of this, I believe there must be some issues deeply associated with the SAFOX VIII system which causes the problem, but it seems that the technical issues never got resolved - a real disappointment.



Finally, if you just encounter focusing errors (Front Focusing or Back Focusing) under normal circumstances with faster lenses/wider apertures on your K-m, you may wish to try the Debug Mode to enter a correction factor (detailed instructions here).

Image Quality

The IQ of the in-camera JPEGs is very high with appropriate settings (you can have a look at some of my quick previous samples with 100% crops here). Whilst the JPEGs are of good colours and high resolution, pixelisation is quite visible and I think it is just a trade off to get “sharper” images and it also shows the weakness of the demosaic algorithms used by the K-m's image engine. As for RAW, if the RAW files (PEFs) are to be processed and converted using the original Pentax Photo Laboratory 3.6 (which is bundled), very “Soft JPEGs” are resulted (See this for more details and shootout samples).

White Balance

The Auto WB of the K-m has been much improved than previous Pentax DSLRs. From my own experiences that it is better than the K20D. At least under most natural light conditions, the colour balance results are good. For artificial lightings, the results are more or less close to what my eyes see, with some little errors and colour casts. Usually, it would not correct the whites to “whitest”, but the results are acceptable and I could see that the camera tries to preserve the ambient atmostsphere. In particular, the AWB actually works well with white fluorescent lightings than with tungstens, with which the produced pictures will still look yellowish/orangish (whilst with preset tungsten Manual WB, it produces magenta cast).

One more thing that I don't like the preset Tungsten Manual White Balance is that its chosen colour temperature is just too low and as such the pictures look just too cold, than the previous Pentax DSLRs.

For Manual WB, there is no option to input the Kelvin value of the colour temperature directly at the K-m, the fine adjustment of the G-M/A-B doesn't help much and IMO is not much useful and it is not so straight forward to use (although this can be enabled in one of the Custom Settings). A manually input K value will be the easily way to control colour temperature manually for many circumstances.

P-TTL Accuracy

What I can say is that the P-TTL accuracy of the K-m (with the built-in flash) has been improved, although sometimes it still underexposes, but the occurrence and the amount far less than it was before with other previous Pentax DSLRs.


2. Tips and Tricks – My Own Best Settings

General Operation

The back LCD will be turned on all the time by factory default whenever any button is pressed or the shutter release button is half-pressed. When doing the AF, the screen display will be turned off momentarily. To save battery power, the LCD can be turned off all the time in a Custom Setting, but the user will be required to turn it on by pressing the INFO button each time before viewing the neccessary information for carrying out any operation. The LCD turned on time is the same as the metering operation time as defined by yet another Custom Setting.

When the LCD operation status is displayed, press the OK button will get quick access to the most common settings and functions, see the screen captures below:



As for the first four setting items at the top, they can also be directly accessed using the Four-way Buttons at the camera back anyway. One thing should be noted is that there is no quick access method to change the AF area, which must be selected via the Menu (Recording Setting Page 2, Sub-item 3 - the Screen Capture can be found a few paragraphs below).

Custom Image and Parameters

After various testings by shooting different subjects and scenes under different conditions, I select the following best settings of my own for general shootings in most cases:-

Image Tone: Natural (I prefer more natural and true-to-life colour rendition and reproduction)

Custom Image Parameters:

Saturation -1: As it is just too saturated at 0 even for the "Natural" Image Tone.

Hue 0: There is no reason to change this and the default is neutral.

Contrast +1: The default Zero setting does not have enough contrast, at least this holds true for most of my Pentax lenses, digital or film ones. The lower contrast is actually related to the use of Shadow Compensation which is activated by default.

Sharpness set to the *Fine* Sharpness -1: The sharpening level at 0 is just a little bit too much. And, normal Sharpness instead of "Fine" is just too coarse to be usable.



In fact, without Fine Sharpness, the default "Sharpness" (actually it is just "sharpening") produces artifacts that are just too visible and resolution is decreased somehow, too. Fine sharpness is not perfect, though, as it increases noise at high spatial frequency areas and make pixelisation more visible when the pictures are viewed more closely. As another not-so-important remark, the “Fine Sharpness” and “Sharpness” shares the same stored value. So, if you are to toggle between the two (using the e-Dial) and do wish to use different settings for each of them, some more care should be taken.

Colour Space

As usual, sRGB is my choice for better compatibility and directly usable images for printing, with a wide choice of different output devices and better software support. My recommendation is that unless you really need to do editing with special photo editing software and printing applications/devices, the (just a little bit) extra colours that the AdobeRGB could record won't worth the troubles and inconvenience that might get involved.

AF Mode, AE Metering and AF Point

Just see this screen capture and you can known what I select:



AF-A (A for Auto) is not a much workable mode practically as AF re-composition is often not possibly. I use the classic AF-S by default and choose the default Matrix Metering (but classic CWA Metering is close anyway for the obtained results) I use the Central AF point most of the time (unless in AF-C with running objects off-centred or I give the camera to some “laymen” to shoot). Furthermore, as I always do AF and re-compose and I the Matrix Metering is just *heavily* Centre-Weighted, I also enabled the Custom Setting of “Lock AE when AF Locked so that the whole operation is seamless and easy and all the things are achieved by one-touch (which is not possible with Canon DSLRs as there is not such a flexible option in the Canon land).

Shadow Compensation

Turning it on (by default, one of the Custom Settings) will help to lift up and bring out more shadow details. The Dynamic Range is improved. However, it will decrease the contrast for images under some conditions and more importantly more shadow noise are brought out too and noise level increased – Well, there is just no free lunch on Earth!

Noise Reduction

In order to suppress the noise that are brought out both by the “Fine Sharpness” Sharpening *and* Shadow Compensation, I turn on the Noise Reduction and choose the Weakest setting. The effect of elimination of noise can be seen even at ISO 200 and the effectiveness is good – noise is smoothed out and loss of image details is very minimal. I do not recommend to choose higher settings though as I found that they could be somehow more strong and some image details would be lost.

Unlike the K-7, there is no option for the user to choose the starting ISO speed for the NR. The K-m actually applies the NR for all ISOes whenever noise comes up. But on the other hand, I would say the K-7 is a camera which needs NR for *all* ISO speeds more than the K-m as K-7's images are obviously more noisy primitively (actually the Samsung 14.6MP CMOS sensors, no matter the old or the new versions, used in the K20D or the K-7 respectively).

200% DR

I do not recommend to use this as ISO 100, which is the best IQ setting with the minimal noise, will not be available when it is enabled.

Memory

All ticked function settings will be memorised. Unchecked boxes and functions will be reset to factory defaults each time when the camera is turned off and on again.

The “Help” Button

If you change the Custom Image a lot, configure this button to set Custom Image. I choose to programme it to call out the Digital Filter on Playback, which is very convenient, instead of going into the MENU and activate the function.

As a reminder, to make the Digital Filter to be applicable using the Help Button, the latest K-m Firmware Version 1.10 should be Upgraded.

Digital Filters

It is just a fun to use, the obtained results and effects are quite good IMO. Read the official user/operation manual for more details.

The “AF” Button

As a no-brainer, I configured this as the AE Lock button. I just cannot live with a SLR without any AEL Button on it. Other “AF Button” functions to me are useless and meaningless, also.

Now with the AEL Button, I can still unlock the exposure after AF is achieved when required (as I set in that Custom Setting option) or just to lock the exposure as desired before I am doing the AF.

Folder Name

To choose DATE to group photos by shooting dates or to put them all in a single Folder called PENTX. I choose the later as I don't want to group my photos in a too separated way and I think all the photos have the time stamps for the image files and EXIF as well, already.

LCD Brightness

-1 is the most accurate setting for the image brightness, as compared to my SpyderPro calibrated monitors and my professional grade EIZO, which is very accurate in colours and tones (hardware calibrated at the factory).

Pixel Mapping

Never try this function yourself as nothing can be undone. And, I don't think it is appropriate to open up such a function to the users. My opinion is that whenever new dead pixel appears, the user should take the camera for checking and servicing!

Dust Alert

Remember to point the camera for an even scene or object filling the whole frame when doing the check/test. The camera will check for the more obvious dust for you. For those less obvious and minor ones, the camera is actually more tolerated and would ignore them. For best and most accurate result, point to an even blue sky without any details (but just blue colour) on a bright sunny day.

Dust Removal

As usual, this function is just useless. Just forget about it, it won't do the job, nor it is good to the mechanical alignment of the sensor if you do this too much as its “hitting” on the boundaries is just too vigorous.

Sensor Cleaning

To my surprise, I found that the K-m sensor is not as “slippery” as the old sensor used in my K100D. The original Sensor Swap by the Photographic Solution can remove the dust but I found that it leaves some traces which I had never found with my old Pentax DSLR bodies with the old 6M sensors. Well, there is the new E2 cleaning solution instead of the old Eclipse anyway, which is specifically designed for the Sony 10MP CCD sensors used by various DSLRs of different brands. Fortunately, despite that I can see the traces on my sensor under a strong spot light, these cannot be seen so far in any real-life pictures taken with my K-m and I might buy also the official Pentax cleaning kit set O-ICK1 later on when dust appears again and after I have used up all my Sensor Swappers.

My Other Custom Settings

The 3 menu pages of all my Custom Settings are captured as below. And some remarks of mine on the selection are as follows:



Custom Setting No.:
Remark:
1. EV Steps
1/3EV is more precise for the control and exposure compensation.
3. Meter Operating TimeI choose 3 second, as short as possible to save battery power. The shutter release button will be half-pressed and held anyway. To view the Status INFO Display, just press and hold down the INFO button for any duration as required.
4. AE-L with AF lockedEnabled.(See my previous technical article about this for more details.)
5. Link AF Point and AEDisabled. (See my previous technical article about this for more details.)
7. Shadow CompensationAs discussed above, this should be enabled with the enabling of the Weakest Noise Reduction.
9. AF Button functionAs a no-brainer, I choose the button as the AE-Lock!
12. High-ISO Noise ReductionEnabled at the lowest setting for best results, it will apply to all ISO speeds. Whilst its effect can be seen, the image details are well preserved
20. Power LampI don't need a super-bright power lamp LED indicator, so I just turn down its output level a bit


Setting Summary

Last but not least, here are some quick checkpoints for my optimised settings:-

1. Exposure Compensation of +0.3EV is always applied to avoid underexposed pictures and to suppress noise;

2. Single AF is used, Central AF Point is selected;

3. Use Multi-Segment Metering with AE Locked when AF Locked;

4. Use Natural Custom Image Mode, Saturation -1, Contrast +1, *Fine* Sharpness -1, for most faithful colour and grey reproduction with good Image Quality;

5. Turn on Shadow Compensation for more shadow details and better Dynamic Range (Factory Default anyway);

6. Turn on High ISO Noise Reduction, Weakest Setting (Not Factory Default);

7. Configure the AF Button to be used as the AE Lock;

8. Use Lithium Batteries as far as possible for better camera performance and more reliable camera operation. Just in case you can find an Regulated CR-V3 like mine and you dare to do some hardware hacking (with the basic technical knowledge and skills), try this for my own unique rechargeable solution. Btw, I still found that Eneloops on my K-m is not stable and reliable for most of the time.


3. Sample Photos (Update 1-23: Full Size Original Images Removed)

Notes:-

(i) Click any of the thumbnail images below to Enlarge.

(ii) All pictures were produced in-camera in the Finest JPEG setting. They are only downsized to 1920 pixels for the longer side and unedited. All EXIF preserved (even for the thumbnails).

(iii) All pictures were taken handheld with the Kit Lens DAL 18-55 with the same universal optimal settings of mine as described in this article.

(iv) Except for the first three night scene shots, the exposure compensation values are either +0.5EV or +0.3EV.

(v) Copyright 2009 RiceHigh! Please feel free to download and view. But any other unauthorised use is not allowed, unless prior permission from me is given. And, you're free to link to my pictures (preferably to my this article) as long as I am acknowledged for the ownership of my pictures.

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