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Saturday, August 09, 2008

K20D is Still "Hot" with Firmware 1.01

Despite that Pentax released a firmware update of the version 1.01 for the K20D for trying/showing to eliminate the hot pixels issue, it seems that the effectiveness of this new and latest firmware is yet in question.

First of all, Dpreview still needed to tell this issue in their final published review of the K20D, despite that which was only published after Pentax completed their firmware update in response to the issue, indeed already for quite a while, after the first time DPR reported the issue that another reviewer and they found earlier. Specifically, the following quotes are extracted from that "Conclusion" page of the DPR K20D review:-

"However, the hot pixel problems, combined with the sample-to-sample variability (in this instance ISO 3200 banding), represent the sorts of problems we haven't seen in DSLRs launched in the past few years. Which makes us wonder whether Samsung has over-reached itself with such an ambitious design. This is reflected in our image quality score that without these niggles would have been even higher." - Dpreview

Well, I do also agree that the image quality of the K20D could be quite good, but the hot sensor and this hot pixel problem seems to be a *real* issue, and worst thing is that it seems to be *just* a hardware issue, as I guessed the first time when I saw the hot pixel reports, which the DPR technical writers are also wondering the same thing in the above.

Another fact that does tell that the K20D has an ever hottest sensor is that there is NOW *no* option for the user to turn off the dark-frame-subtraction "Noise Reduction" (NR) for longer time exposure which just reflects that this sensor is extremely noisy by itself and the user is forced to turn on the NR all the time when just longer shutter speeds are selected. Note that the K20D is the *only* Pentax DSLR which had this NR function disabled, so it is obvious that it must be the Samsung sensor!

Now, user reports on the appearance of hot pixels yet continue. See the recent report below, with sample photos showing the hot pixels posted:-

K20d, still hotpixel issue with jpegs or something wrong with my camera?

As we all can see, the hot pixels issue has never been resolved with the firmware 1.01. The following are quoted, for what the user reported:-

"Not in the same spot, they move around quite a lot. The crops are, for example taken on the right side in one image, and more to the left in the other. Even if a frequent blue + white/green close to each other and then a red abit away from them seem to happen a lot.

Did more pixel peeping, and in at least one picture if I zoom in a lot I can find at least 15 dots that got no reason beeing there. All looking like the ones I showed in the first post."

Do note that the number of hot pixels are not small indeed, nor, they are fixed in positions, i.e., they are going to show up randomly and are moving around.

Despite some of the good image quality I really like with the K20D, this particular hot pixels issue (most probably caused by a hot sensor itself) is just enough to put me off to consider the K20D further. I hope Pentax and Samsung can make a debugged version of the K20D with a debugged sensor very soon, so as to make a new sensor and hence the final produced images of the new camera are no longer so hot!

All in all, if someone is just so naive that such very possibly hardware problem could be cured (or just completely hidden) by firmware (which is just a software thing afterall), then we should not be seeing those hot pixels anymore *now*, nor, DPR needed to report the issue, even though they had been "kind" enough to wait for Pentax to complete their remedial firmware before they published their final report for their K20D review.


  1. Anonymous12/8/08 20:48

    Almost 2 months after that review and no other site has very many, if any complaints. And complete the DP review quote:
    "Because the K20D offers so much that the enthusiast photographer would enjoy, it would be churlish to let the sensor-based flaws, which have little impact in real-world shooting,prevent us giving the camera our highest award. This isn't to say it's a faultless camera or one that's suited to everybody but one with only minor drawbacks that should only dissuade a small number of potential buyers."
    I guess your just part of the SMALL NUMBER......

  2. You can't distinguish facts from opinions? So, where's your own judgment then?

    If you are just so naive to read every subjective words by the DPR, then you should buy every camera they've tested. In fact, it has been quite a long time that every camera they reviewed is "(highly) recommended". So? (Fortunately, they do still present factual info to tell the *differences*.)

  3. Anonymous18/8/08 12:36

    "If you are just so naive to read every subjective words by the DPR, then you should buy every camera they've tested."

    What a ridiculous statement Ricehigh!

  4. Anonymous21/8/08 10:49

    IF DP Review's opinions are suspect, why believe their "facts"????
    Nobody's really double checking their methods/data.
    So where does that leave one???
    Their "words" must be based on their "facts", at least for a good part of it.

  5. Anonymous7/11/08 12:44

    I believe your blog is bullshit. To me it reads like a paid for smear against Pentax. The K20D ist one of the top 10% of DSLRs and all you do is ranting. This is pathetic! Just get a life or help us out with solutions!

  6. Rumblebee... oh my, another conspiracy theorist! If you don't have anything useful to say, don't waste our time with your inane comments. I am really beginning to wonder about fellow Pentax owners and their 'don't dare say anything bad about a Pentax camera 'cause I don't want to hear' Nuts! Pentax... top 10% DSLR? Give me a break! Pentax K20D is NOT EVEN CLOSE! OMG! You must be kidding! I won't even bother finding the evidence to back up this insane statement. Yeah, that's why the K20D is also sold everywhere that Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus (etc.) are sold!

  7. I should also point out that I am extremely ticked off about the forced DFS! BTW, the K20D does a forced DFS on any length of exposure when using BULB mode.

    Like RH said, "Note that the K20D is the *only* Pentax DSLR which had this NR function disabled, so it is obvious that it must be the Samsung sensor!"

    And that is acceptable?

    Just because you're not affected by DFS, it doesn't make it less of a problem!

    My longest exposures (thus far) have been as long as 5 minutes (which means I wait an additional 5 minutes)! I can't imagine those trying to take 40 minute (or greater) photos!

    Bottom line, the K20D is nearly useless for long exposures and Pentax screwed up! If you're an avid night time photographer, get a Canon 40 or 50D (rough equivalents to the the K20D).

  8. Actually, the DFS doesn't eliminate all the problems, even though the user is willing to waste the time to wait. It just create another problem and depending on the background colour of the scene, it could be yet troublesome. Just see my another article on "Noise Reduction" here if not yet.

  9. Guess I'll have to post here since you didn't update this blog w/ my testing results for this.
    Just FYI, I'm OCD about testing and pixel peeping but I tested my K20D when I first got it quite a bit (including testing for sensor/viewfinder tilt, low temperature banding testing, etc.).
    The hot pixels are really weird because they look like pixels with rings around them and there were quite a few that moved around. Higher ISOs made it worse, but long 30sec exposures had no problems (probably because dark frame subtraction removed them). I took probably 50 photos to test this.
    The kicker is that all this was fixed by running the built-in pixel mapping feature in the menu. I pixel peeped the next set of images all the way up to the useless ISO6400 and the hot pixels were gone.
    I've since put it through a photoshoot of over 100 images w/o problems and had to use shake reduction in low light for 1/4 of the shoot.
    So, yes, it's weird that they move around but the pixel mapping seems to fix it so that it's really a non-issue...