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Monday, 21 September 2009

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That's 43d street not 40th, Just outside of ICP it looks like

Wondering out loud on the AF performance: is it possible Pentax have switched to closed-loop AF with smaller allowable error? Might help explain the improved low light performance.

I'm beginning to wonder if the K7 might be a better camera than the 7D. I'm in dire need of a D-camera with a 100% viewfinder that I can afford.

Interesting review.

Anyone have the experience to comment on a comparison between the K-7’s multi-segment metering system and Nikons Matrix metering system? Which one would be least compelled to blow highlights and least linked to the focusing point?

Hi, nice review. I'm looking forward to read the third part (BTW I already bought a K-7 and I like it).

Some corrections:
- Most of Pentax's modern lenses (DA line) feature "Quick-shift" manual focus (I believe this is the equivalent of Canon's "Full-time" MF): The focusing ring does not rotate, and you can always manual focus without switching the camera to MF. This is not exclusive to the SDM lenses. Even the cheap kit lenses have it.
I'm actually quite surprised you write this - all of the lenses mentioned in this post have non-rotating quick-shift focus rings!

Do people really focus by moving the focus point around? Isn't it much quicker to just use the center point then recompose?

The plane of focus (linked with the aperture) is the greatest creative tool the photographer has after selecting and framing the image. Why, therefore, are so many willing to delegate this to the camera- especially when the algorithm that controls focus in most DSLRs is so simple. At least P&S cameras can recognize faces.

Is there any real point to this mind numbing complexity? Having started making images with the proverbial 'Box Brownie' I don't really want or need to commit a paperback novel to memory just to get something out of an expensive piece of junk that, incidentally, would cost me the same number of pounds as you paid in dollars.....

.....Saving even harder for that M9 now, thank you.

"Is there any real point to this mind numbing complexity?"

Actually, there is. The idea is that you can configure the camera the way you want it to be. And then, for the most part, leave it that way. If you dislike the way something works, the hope is that you can change it to a configuration you prefer more.

That's the concept, anyway.

Mike

Karl Storck — I can't comment vs. Nikon's system, but as Gordon mentions, Pentax has always been particularly conservative about highlights, even though it leads gadget-reviewers to say things like "consistently underexposes images".

Additionally, there is a custom menu option to link metering to focus point, or not — and it sounds like "or not" is what you're looking for.

Noam -- This is not true. Most DA lenses with quick-shift do in fact have rotating focus rings (including the lenses used in this review. The ring is only decoupled when AF is not active.

There are exceptions to this -- DA*, D FA and the DA 14mm lenses have decoupled focus rings that do not turn during AF.

It is interesting to read some of your blog in tandem with this review. Such practical and common sense approaches to most things technical. In the end, no matter which camera you use, are the photos we make good or not? What I like about the K7 is that it shows 100% of what is in the viewfinder. And if, like me, you honed your skills through slide photography, you appreciate and want to keep the discipline of "what you see is what you get." While much depends on your actual needs, the K7 has this great feature along with many others and strikes me as a good deal when contrasted with the other high end DSLRs.

JMR

Additionally, there is a custom menu option to link metering to focus point, or not — and it sounds like "or not" is what you're looking for.

And "or not" is the default. This is one of the features that when I found it in the menu I thought "how cool! this must be so useful..." and then never used it (2 years and counting).

I still think it's a cool feature :-)

Do people really focus by moving the focus point around? Isn't it much quicker to just use the center point then recompose?

Yes. No.

http://visual-vacations.com/Photography/focus-recompose_sucks.htm

Using the center point and then recomposing is the worst of both worlds; the camera chooses the focus and then you fiddle with it. Any movement after focus lock is going to throw off your focus. And when the subject is moving and/or you're using a fast lens wide open, selecting the focus point is crucial so the camera can be focusing on a precise point right up until the exposure. This means you can shoot tight and/or wide open, frame your subject very precisely, and get more hits. And it's far more spontaneous to be able to shoot as soon as the shot locks in rather than having focusing and framing be two separate tasks. And if I decide to focus and recompose, I tend to do it via the focusing point that allows the minimum movement possible to get the desired composition with the POI in focus.

My $0.02, YMMV, IMHO, etc,

"Is there any real point to this mind numbing complexity? Having started making images with the proverbial 'Box Brownie' I don't really want or need to commit a paperback novel to memory just to get something out of an expensive piece of junk that, incidentally, would cost me the same number of pounds as you paid in dollars....."

1-Most probably, the K7 will be able to perform and behave as the M9 will [take it with a pinch of salt, obviously. I know they are different cameras]. But there are some fundamental things the M9 will never be able to perform, due to its nature. The K7 can be had with manual focus, have it confirm your manual focus, and autofocus.

2-You needn´t commit to a paperback novel to start using the K7 [nor, incidentally, most of the current dSLRs]. As Mike has pointed out, you can us it in all manual way with a single turn of a dial, clearly labeled, with the usual labels indicating usual settings. It is just one step more in the start-up procedure.

3-Lately, and just lately, I am developing a kind of crusade against the lack of tact when classifying a product, work or similar somebody has put an effort on.

This,
http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/08/15/miroslavtichy2.jpg.

is a piece of junk. And a very good one when placed on the proper hands, incidentally.

No product is nowadays a piece of junk, regardless how ill-equipped or conceived it might be. It might be a robbery, but not a piece of junk.

@ Bob, and Mike: "Is there any real point to this mind numbing complexity?"
"Actually, there is."

I partly agree with both of you. I bought my K20D partly because I could mostly treat it like a simple camera and tell it what to do. I wish the mode dial had a lock on it like the K7, though. (I'm tackling this occasional problem by getting a camera bag that isn't too small for the stuff I put in it, like my present one.)
I have had the camera just over a year and I've nearly got the hang of using it instinctively, after years with manual focus SLRs.

The problems with mind numbing complexity (MNC) come with what us maintenance men used to call 'Finger trouble'. The fault was not in the piece of machinery but in the operator. The operator needs (sometimes self) training.

However, any device on sale to the general public that is too complex to be used properly fails in its function, if not its sales.

Modern cameras that have MNC have more ways to cock up than simple cameras; this is at least partly offset by the automation saving the day.

It all boils down to how much or little the camera gets in the way of taking photos; this is different for everyone, and depends on the sort of pictures you take.

@Ray: Completely agreed with you. In fact if a camera can do subject movement tracking, it is better you can choose the focus point on the exact point you want that subject in and do not do any re-positioning. Sometimes it also meant that a D300 is better than a D700 as the focus point pattern covered nearly the whole screen for you to choose from. The question is has Pentax enough focal point for choosing and does it do movement tracking?

@Mike for the complexity, I agreed partially. The key is to remember the configuration 1 - for bird, configuration for landscape etc. Otherwise, going through the whole system is hard. It might be better if we like PDA where you can group setting in the computer and download the sets of configuration (with real name, not number) and can do minor change on the fly. Not sure, Nikon has only very limited feature make it sometimes necessary to go through all the settings.

BTW, even M9 could have this configuration problem -- during my testing of the 4 M9 in the showroom, I get lost as too busy to test lens detection or not and setup sRGB to Adobe RGB and completely forget to set the uncompressed RAW format. Too many options sometimes could be confusing, even if there is only a few options. :-)

Not related to this, can we have category with the highest number of comment and/or most heated argument etc.? A kind of Hall of Fame things.

Also, may I ask what happen to the idea of photo sharing of readers, photo critique or even competition.


A bit of an aside to this article (for which I apologise!) but it seems to me that comments about focus points always seem to hover around how useful they are and yet how frustrating they are to reconfigure on the fly. It always makes me wonder why Canon dumped their Eye-Control Focus tech from their film SLRs... I really loved that feature on my old EOS 30 and not just because I thought it was amazingly futuristic either!

Customisation is the key to setting up a modern dSLR. My 5D (my workhorse for my job) I've set the customised setting for landscape/architecture (Manual, spot metering and mirror up, ISO 100, RAW, and daylight white balance) and then I use pretty well use aperture priority, RAW +jpg, AWB, iso 400, multi zone metering for everything else varying the ISO as I need. Once you've set up your camera there is then no need to keep diving deep into well hidden and obscure menus and custom functions.

"Do people really focus by moving the focus point around? Isn't it much quicker to just use the center point then recompose?"

I do sometimes.

When shooting with the camera mounted on tripod and the composition is critical it can be handy to change the autofocus point.

It is not essential but these little things help photographers to concentrate on the image not the process.

Ooh. 'Changing the AF point' is the new 'depth of field equivalent'.

"Do people really focus by moving the focus point around? Isn't it much quicker to just use the center point then recompose?"

I'm not a big focus expert, but I think focusing and then recomposing can cause some serious problems, especially when shooting short distances with larger apertures (narrower depth of field), like when you're shooting a portrait and you're deliberately trying to throw the background and foreground out of focus. Lenses focus along a plane that goes through the focal point, rather than on all points that are an equal distance from the lens (If the lens focused on equal-distance points, it would essentially be focusing on the inside of a sphere that ran through the focal point.) But since it is a plane, not a sphere, that means that when you focus on on point, and then recompose, you've changed distances of the focal plane, which no longer runs through the original focus point.

I think.*

JC

*Perhaps you could ask Mike J. to explain depth-of-field problems sometime. He enjoys doing this.

But you can adjust the jpg too ?

Geoff Wittig: nice summary of the green button in Manual exposure, but there's more. The camera can be set to different behaviours, so the green button adjusts both aperture and shutter from their current values, or only one of these - in effect, jumping into (say) aperture priority for an instant and only changing the shutter speed, if that is what you want.

Assuming the new camera works the same as K10d and K20d, Manual working can also (perhaps surprisingly) make use of the AE-Lock button. After pressing the green button, which meters and sets initial manual exposure, altering aperture or shutter or ISO will each increase or reduce the exposure. But press AE-L, and aperture and shutter become temporarily interlinked - they can be adjusted as a pair, so as to retain the current EV (a little like "program shift"). Press it again and you are back to conventional full Manual.

Pentax call this way of working Hyper-Manual: it seems to effectively cover the function of ALL the usual automatic exposure modes, while the user keeps close control over when and how metering happens.

Just to make things clear, where I said, "I have had the camera just over a year and I've nearly got the hang of using it instinctively, after years with manual focus SLRs" this was not a criticism of the camera, it's mostly down to me.

This is what comes of writing comments when I am very tired. It may have been 3:41 pm where Mike is, but it was 10:41 pm here in England, after a heavy but excellent weekend.

So this is another thing. How much complexity can you cope with when you are not at your best? Are you capable of taking worthwhile photos anyway?

...it seems to me that comments about focus points always seem to hover around how useful they are and yet how frustrating they are to reconfigure on the fly.

I'm aware of, but never tried, the Canon system. However, the point selection process on the earlier K10/20 was/is intuitive (to me at least); when the AF is in Point Select mode, the 4 way pad on the back lets you select the point. Changing it on the fly is pretty easy, as your thumb's already in the neighborhood.

When the K7 launched that scheme had changed somewhat and in certain circumstances required the press of an additional button before the focus point could be selected. There was much howling about this in the Pentax world; "focus/recompose" supporters saying it wasn't needed, and "point selectors" saying that it crippled the camera. A couple of weeks after the launch Pentax released a firmware update that modified/corrected the behavior, and all was calm again... well, everyone went back to the running arguments about EVIL vs SLR & m43 vs APSC vs FF.

The question is has Pentax enough focal point for choosing and does it do movement tracking?
The focusing system is a tweak on the existing one from the earlier digital Ks; the 11 points are well distributed for most purposes, although the outer corners could be better serviced. Movement tracking with the earlier systems was... 'fickle' is probably the best way to describe it. The K7 reportedly improves on this and adds speed as well as face detection/tracking. I've handled a demo, and in my brief experience it seems very snappy, even in low light. Hopefully this will be addressed in part III.

Mike Jones: Moving the focus point around is much better than focus-and-recompose when you're tracking a moving subject in one orientation, like racecars coming around a particular curve on the track, or the head of a musician on stage. I know the workarounds for doing those things with manual-focus gear, and they're nowhere near as good.

Bob: The "mind-numbing complexity" of modern DSLRs (which I find stimulating rather than numbing) allows me to make pictures I never could have pulled off with my older film equipment. And I'm sure I'm not taking anything like full advantage even of the features I use routinely. If you're shooting static landscapes or still-lifes all the time, I can easily see that they wouldn't benefit you. But then, the primary shooters of those didn't use 35mm film, either.

Owen - Gosh you're right! Sorry my bad. I put on the DA16-45 and indeed the focus ring rotates. Please disregard my previous post about focus rings not rotating during AF in DA lenses. :-S

I guess my mistake only shows how much I personally don't care about this issue, so much that I don't even notice it :)

[hiding embarrassed in the corner]

Noam

"The K-7 can process raw images in-camera and convert them to JPEGs."

All DSLRs do this. Am I missing something?

I must chime in on the 'mind numbing complexity' comments.

I too held to the idea that DSLR's were infested with MNC, and held forth at length in several forums to that effect. It sprang from my handling them only for a short time in camera stores. Then I finally gave in and bought one when a just discontinued model got silly cheap. After reading the instructions and considerably more time with the camera I found that I was giving forth my large opinions with scant knowledge. That there are ways to work quite efficiently with the camera in a manner not too different from that I was used to with my fully manual 35mm SLR. The whole thing really is relative. In the 70's when I was selling a complete range of then current SLR's some customers, those coming from Instamatics and the like surely thought the curious controls and scales on say a Pentax KX were 'mind numbingly complex', and didn't mind telling you so. As I would be demonstrating the camera they might lament, 'I'll never learn this! And, of course I would assure them that they really could. I still really like my film cameras, they are I believe the pinnacle of the Metal Manual Mechanical camera makers art.(I think MMM is your term Mike) And the new free form plastoblob DSLR's sure don't have the panache of my older cameras, but....I thought I'd never admit this...I'm getting used to their convenience.
Just my two cents.

The Pentax DSLRs are not complicated to use. They have a lot of custom features but only one is important, the one that allows use of the aperture ring of your lens. The fact that this is not a default is the biggest problem with using a Pentax body. After that, just use the K-7 like you would any camera.

Except it's got better ergonomics, more features when you need them and great IQ to boot.

Nice comprehensive review. The first image should convince anyone.

"The K-7 can process raw images in-camera and convert them to JPEGs. All DSLRs do this. Am I missing something?"

To clarify, the K-7 allows you to select an image that was shot raw and, while the image is still in-camera, convert it to a JPEG or TIFF. You can also process multiple images. The image parameters you can select include image size, quality (compression), white balance, exposure, and so on. In other words, pretty much the same parameters you can adjust on your computer with a raw converter. Not all DSLRs can do this.

@yunfat: All cameras process the RAW data at shooting time to produce a jpeg. I think what is meant is that you can shoot RAW, then at some later point you can go back to your RAW picture and process it into a jpeg, all in-camera. Not all dslrs can do *that*.

Yunfat: Gordon probably means that you can generate a JPEG from a raw file of a picture that you've already made. You use the camera menus to choose the image from the ones saved on your card in raw format and the DSLR saves a JPEG version of that picture. Other cameras can do that, too (most Nikon models from around 2006 onwards, for example) but not all.

It's a useful thing for those times when a non-photographer unexpectedly asks for a copy of a snap from your camera for his laptop (Facebook…), particularly if you're given some control over the white balance of the final JPEG generated in the camera. Also useful if you want one or two quick prints from a photo kiosk to give someone.

Thanks to you all and Gordon for the clarification. My brain has gone soft, I think because many nikon dslrs have been doing post processing of raw for a while now. I just thought it was a standard feature, but yeah, my old d2x and earlier era Nikons don't allow post processing in camera. Thanks for the article.

I think the jury is still out on the Pentax K-7, though there is little doubt that it has some wonderful capabilities (and why can't Canon or Nikon offer us this level of weather resistance at this price point?) and is able to take terrific pictures. But there is no doubt at all that Gordon Lewis can take better pictures than me with his eyes closed using the most beat-up old DSLR out there than I can using the cream of the crop, latest whiz-bang wonder. The pictures illustrating his review of the K-7 are just remarkable, especially the last two in Part I. This is truly an instructive and inspiring demonstration of it being the eye and the mind behind the camera and not the camera itself that makes the picture. Thank you for the pictures Mr. Lewis!

Rod G.

Noam, don't hide in the corner. You've just become far more believable than all of the goofs who refuse to admit they are wrong.

It's good to finally see a real life Pentax K-7 review that doesn't focus only on charts and 100% crops of ISO 1600 extreme corner samples. It's refreshing to see a photographer take a camera into the field and just figure out how well it "stays out of his way" while he shoots. Camera reviews have been hijacked by measurebaters who seem only interested in reciting manufacturer specs ad infinitum. It's great to see Gordon's review as an example of how photographers need to help share their experiences with new gear and how it can improve their shooting.

I highly recommend folks to try out the K-7 with the DA Limited prime lenses to understand the design concept behind the camera. It was built as a mount for those lenses and it hit a homerun in my book. They are built like old manual focus lenses and remind you of when cameras were elegant technical marvels of machining and not just plastic computer protectors.

The K-7 gives some of the most reliable feedback I've gotten from a modern camera. When it messes up it's nearly always my fault but I can understand how and why it did what I told it to do. That's the way my film cameras worked and it's predictable. I feel like I get what I ask of it. It's nice to have a camera that doesn't assume I'm stupid.

Re: Mind Stimulating Complexity:

I just amassed 330 screen captures from the D300S for an upcoming review, most of the major menu and display options. Most of these are set-and-forget (or simply ignore) customization. A few are very handy, like the ability to build your own menu of often-used items.

The K-7 offers mostly actual usability options which enhance its "camera-ness", and not just its "gadget-ness".

I have yet to find the option on any Nikon to change the backasswards lens bayonet direction, though.

The below is my experience exactly. I have the 5 DA's 15 through 70mm and the results are fantastic. The whole kit plus an extra battery can fit in a small Domke bag. Bravo Pentax!!

"I highly recommend folks to try out the K-7 with the DA Limited prime lenses to understand the design concept behind the camera. It was built as a mount for those lenses and it hit a homerun in my book. They are built like old manual focus lenses and remind you of when cameras were elegant technical marvels of machining and not just plastic computer protectors."

I've been watching the general discussion of Pentax cameras by their fans, and this particular set of reviews of the K7, with some interest. I'm not likely to sell my Nikon lens collection at this point, but I do believe that I have officially changed from suggesting people who think they're serious limit themselves to Canon and Nikon for DSLRs. Good to see more competition in the field, anyway.

Well, just as I was about to drop the folding stuff on a Nikon D300s, along comes the K7 with almost identical specifications, cheaper and smaller and lighter as well. I'd like to understand better the actual video capability of both. Phrases like "up to" in the technical literature when referring to overall capture time at different resolutions get me giddy! I'm not wild about video but my daughter is going to produce a family and my wife wants me to buy a videocam - (not if I can help it), but maybe the D300s or K7 will get me past the keeper.
Also, I've got a swag of non-AI Nikon prime 35mm lenses which is a draw towards the Nikon product but I'd have to get them converted at $35 a throw - if I go K7 I'll not be able to use them.
Of the misery of decision making!

Leigh:

No DSLR (yet? - and I don't know about the Panasonic GH-1 or whatever it's called) does even come close to being a substitute for a dedicated video camera. None can autofocus while filming, their limited depth of field does require proper focus, though.

DSLRs are about as practical as studio movie cameras for casual moviemaking, which is to say, not at all.

IIRC, You can expect about five minutes of uninterrupted capture time from the K-7 in 720p, and expect to have a file almost 4 GB in size after that. While this may seem very short, and clearly too short for filming, say, a school performance, also keep in mind that movies have to be cut into very, very, VERY short scenes in order to not be boring. Not doing that is like doing a slideshow of all ten thousand images you took on vacation, instead of just the best ones.

If you want casual video, get a video cam (or maybe even a good cameraphone, or one of those new pocket-sized solid state HD cams).

Video on DSLRs is there for gadget value and for people with the time and dedication to use them as precision artistic tools, because they can give you shallow DOF you would have to pay big five-figures for if you wanted it out of a proper movie camera - which wouldn't autofocus, as well.

As a side note to the current K-7 review:

The OK1000 Pentax Blog has two posts with translated designer notes on the K-7 originally published in Japanese (http://www.camera-pentax.jp/k-7/).

http://www.ok1000pentax.com/2009/09/pentax-k-7-designers-notes-toshihiro.html

http://www.ok1000pentax.com/2009/09/pentax-k-7-designers-notes-takeharu.html

The English translation is from Pentax, and it seems there will be one more instalment.

Cheers,

I use my K-7 with my widest FL lenses to shoot HD video of my grandkids and it works better than most consumer camcorders I have used since they don't have wide angle zooms. I shoot 7 minute 23 sec clips in 1536x1024 three star mode that is long enough for me. I have not seen a continuous clip longer than that in any film I have seen. I use lenses from 6.5mm to 2350mm to shoot HD video.

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