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Posts Tagged ‘shift’

Sony a7R III Pixel Shift lifts a veil off your landscapes

12 Nov

Sony’s replacement of its popular a7R II comes packed with new features, most of them aimed at performance, ergonomic and autofocus improvements. But there are image quality improvements as well, like more dynamic range, but also a new Pixel Shift feature that hasn’t yet been talked about much.

Cameras with sensor-shift mechanisms are increasingly offering these pixel shift modes by precisely moving the sensor in one pixel increments to sample each color at every position, thereby overcoming the downsides of the Bayer filter array. And getting you sharper images with less moiré, with potentially less noise thanks to multi-sampling and less math required to figure out the R, G and B colors at each pixel. How does this look in the real-world? Explore our Pixel Shift vs. non-Pixel Shift Raw comparison below (Raws processed using Sony Imaging Edge with all sharpening and noise reduction settings zeroed out, and only tonal adjustments applied to deal with the high scene contrast):

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Move around the image and you’ll see a marked increase in clarity almost everywhere. The buildings’ windows are sharper and clearer, all the foliage far more defined… these Pixel Shift results are frankly astounding for static scenes. It’s like a veil has been lifted off your scene: something landscape photographers will simply love. All details are clearer, crisper, and there is no hint of moiré anywhere. The last time I saw this jump in clarity was going from a Rebel with kit lens to a 5D with L-series lens, to put this in perspective.

Last time I saw this jump in clarity was going from a kit lens on a Rebel to an L-lens on a 5D

And it’s not because of extra sharpening (which would come at the cost of more noise, which we don’t see), but because of the extra sampling. We’d also expect a decrease in noise, but we can’t quite tell here because of the non-standard workflow and because – to the credit of the a7R III’s dynamic range – this sunset scene still doesn’t have enough dynamic range to challenge the a7R III and make shadows visibly noisy.* That’s saying a lot.

This sunset scene doesn’t have enough dynamic range to challenge the a7R III. That says a lot.

What’s more: Sony’s recent lenses have enough resolving power to take advantage of this mode. You see the resolution increase at least partly because the lenses have enough resolving power to take advantage of the extra pixel-level sampling (theoretically, increasing the resolution of any part of the imaging chain has the potential to increase sharpness, but your lens needs to resolve enough to begin with to see the dramatic differences we’re seeing here). You can’t always take that for granted (see the limited increase in resolution of Pixel Shift modes on Micro Four Thirds cameras in our studio scene, for example).

Studio Scene Comparison

We know you’re itching to compare these results to all our other cameras, including those with their own Pixel Shift modes. Well, here you have it (Phase One 100MP camera is included as a benchmark so you know what the details are actually supposed to look like in our scene):

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The first thing you might notice is the lack of moire in our saturated color wheels, something even the Phase One 100MP sensor fails at. The Pentax K-1 offers a similar performance here: sampling three primaries at each pixel position helps overcome the color aliasing typically associated with Bayer filters.

Pixel Shift removes color aliasing in the newspaper print$ (document).ready(function() { $ (“#icl-3794–1566952198”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(3794); }); }) as well (check back above). It also produces less moire in the black and white text$ (document).ready(function() { $ (“#icl-3798-785963340”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(3798); }); }) of our scene. The lack of moire and increased resolution allows you to read down to the last line with ease – something the a7R II can’t claim.

You can even start to see the texture in our color wheel$ (document).ready(function() { $ (“#icl-3795-1120823446”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(3795); }); }) that not even the Pentax in Pixel Shift mode (much less the original a7R II) can resolve. The Phase One and Pentax medium format cameras are the only other cameras sharing that honor.

Traditional cameras with Bayer arrays particularly resolve less in saturated colors, where the lower resolution of the red or blue pixels really starts to show. So take a look at the massive increase in resolution in our saturated threads$ (document).ready(function() { $ (“#icl-3796–2100605088”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(3796); }); }). You can resolve individual strands the a7R II – or a7R III without Pixel Shift – don’t show. The K-1 does well here too, but remember the a7R III images are processed through Sony ‘Imaging Edge’, and we expect things to improve once Adobe provides support (which, to our understanding, it will).

Just generally speaking there’s more detail throughout our scene: take a look at our Beatles patch$ (document).ready(function() { $ (“#icl-3797–29172716”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(3797); }); }). You can make out individual threads otherwise only visible to the Phase One. The increased resolution of the a7R III over the K-1 probably helps resolve more threads, though the incredibly sharp Sony FE 85/1.8 may have some role to play here as well.

If you’re curious how well the 50MP Canon 5DS R compares: not so well. Individual threads are not well resolved$ (document).ready(function() { $ (“#icl-3800–1236522308”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(3800); }); }) (if not noisy, particularly in the reds), and color aliasing$ (document).ready(function() { $ (“#icl-3801–202191445”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(3801); }); }) can be an issue.

Are we impressed?

How could we not be? Landscape, cityscape and architecture photographers will absolutely love this new feature paired with the already excellent sensor in the a7R III – as long as they steer clear of (or clone out) moving objects in the scene. The increase in resolution and decrease in aliasing Pixel Shift brings is obvious in both our studio scene and real world result. It’s frankly dramatic in the latter.

Are we impressed? How could we not be? Landscape, cityscape and architecture photographers will love this

There can be obvious artifacts in anything moving though, so that’s a potentially significant (albeit expected) caveat for landscapes with motion (water, fast clouds), telephoto shots prone to movement from wind and vibrations, etc. You’ll want to use a sturdy tripod with a remote release or self-timer. Furthermore, for now, using Sony’s ‘Imaging Edge’ software is clunky, but once Adobe incorporates support, we can’t wait to start shooting landscapes and perhaps tougher subjects in this mode to see how well it copes.


* That said, this was still a high dynamic range scene that we exposed for the highlights and tone-mapped in post using Sony’s ‘Imaging Edge’ software (the only option for processing Pixel Shift files at the moment). So shadows have been lifted many stops – yet remain noise free. You’ll have to excuse the somewhat flat result, as we didn’t have access to the tools we’re used to to tonemap HDR images while retaining proper local contrast. More to come…

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Sony to shift focus as demand for automotive image sensors increases

26 Oct

Sony is the largest supplier or CMOS image sensors worldwide, with about half of its production capacity reserved for mobile device image sensors. However, according to a DigiTimes report, the company is now looking to expand its position in the market for automotive image sensors, where rivals On Semiconductor and OmniVision are currently the largest players.

As a consequence Sony is planning to allocate a larger portion of its sensor production capacity for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and other automotive electronics applications.

Self-driving vehicles have been identified by sensor suppliers as a major growth area that will generate elevated demand for image sensors in the near future. According to DigiTimes sources, automotive is expected to overtake mobile devices as the leading application for CMOS sensors and will be first among all auto electronics segments, with major growth kicking in during 2018.

According to Digitimes, increasing demand for CMOS sensors through high-end smartphone and automotive applications could be bad news for consumers as the average unit price of CMOS sensors is expected to rise. The global market volume for CMOS sensors is forecast to increase to nearly US$ 13.8 billion in 2020, up from US$ 11.2 billion in 2017.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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The Laowa Magic Shift Converter brings easy lens-shifting to the Sony E-Mount

11 Jul

Venus Optics, the Chinese maker of the Laowa lens brand, has launched the Laowa Magic Shift Converter (MSC). The Magic Shift is designed to be used with Canon or Nikon mount lenses and Sony Full Frame E-mount cameras, and adds shift capabilities to your super-wide-angle lenses.

According to Laowa, the Magic Shift works specifically well with the company’s own Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D ultra-wide angle lens, which it converts into a 17mm f/4 Zero-D lens with a +/- 10mm shift capability.

Laowa says that, thanks to a patented internal optics system, there is no vignetting even at maximum shift and the impact on image quality is minimal as well. In addition, the MSC comes with a 360° rotation structure which allows photographers to shoot in both horizontal and portrait orientation.

Like conventional shift lenses, the Magic Shift Converter is aimed at architecture photographers, allowing them to compensate for converging parallels when shooting tall buildings or other structures with the lens angled upwards.

The Laowa Magic Shift Converter (MSC) Canon variant is currently available to pre-order on the Venus Optics website and at authorized resellers. Shipping is expected to start in late July/early Aug. The Nikon variant should be available two months later.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Lighting 103: Using Gels to Shift the Ambient

21 Apr

Abstract: By combining a white balance shift in your camera with a complimentary gelling of your flash, you can easily and efficiently alter the ambient color temperature of an entire environment.

In addition to controlling the color of light from your flash, gels can also allow you to control the color of the ambient areas of your frame. This can allow you to tweak, enhance or drastically an ambient color environment. Read more »
Strobist

 
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Ricoh introduces weather-resistant Pentax K-70 with Hybrid AF and Pixel Shift

09 Jun

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Ricoh has unveiled the Pentax K-70, an advanced entry-level DSLR with an AA-filterless 24MP APS-C sensor and a body that’s designed to stand up to the elements. It boasts a dustproof, freezeproof and weather-resistant design, and is the first Pentax DSLR to offer Hybrid AF in live view. 

The K-70 offers in-body shake reduction image stabilization, bringing with it Pixel Shift Resolution and AA filter simulation. An 11-point AF system offers nine centrally located cross-type sensors, and burst shooting is offered at 6 fps.

A PRIME MII image processor allows for 14-bit readout and a maximum ISO of 102,400. Movie recording tops out at 1080/30p, augmented by a 4K interval mode that combines 4K resolution stills into a movie file. On the back panel, the K-70 provides a 3″ 921k-dot vari-angle LCD where its K-50 predecessor used a fixed monitor. Rounding out the feature set is built-in Wi-Fi.

The Pentax K-70 will cost $ 649.95. Somewhat cryptically, Ricoh says it will announce availability at the beginning of July.


Press release:

Ricoh Imaging unveils weather-resistant, advanced digital SLR camera designed for the great outdoors

PENTAX K-70 incorporates speedy, high-accuracy AF, ultra-sensitive imaging engine and other technologies for producing high-resolution images in a wide variety of challenging conditions

DENVER, Colo., June 8, 2016—Ricoh Imaging Americas Corporation today announced the PENTAX K-70 advanced digital single-lens reflex (SLR) camera. Compact, dustproof and weather-resistant, the new PENTAX K-70 camera incorporates features — many of which have previously only been available on top-of-the-line PENTAX models — that enable photographers to produce high-resolution still photos and HD videos in a wide variety of challenging conditions, including low light and temperatures as low as 14°F (-10°C). The camera’s weather-resistant capabilities and compact design make it an ideal photographic companion for hikers, climbers and snow sports enthusiasts, as well as for nature and landscape photographers.

With a newly developed image accelerator unit providing a top sensitivity of ISO 102,400, plus the PENTAX-developed PRIME MII image processor, the PENTAX K-70 is capable of capturing high quality images in extremely low-light conditions. A new Hybrid Autofocus (AF) system, integrating both image-plane phase-matching and contrast-detection autofocus technologies, delivers speedy and accurate autofocus while also providing continuous auto focus for HD video recording.

“PENTAX has a long history of developing cameras and lenses that can withstand the rigors of the great outdoors. The K-70 goes a step further, with new, advanced features that enable the creation of higher quality images and make the camera very easy to use, both in the backyard and in the field,” said Kaz Eguchi, president, Ricoh Imaging Americas Corporation. “Combined with any one of our many available weather-resistant lenses, this camera is in a class of its own for outdoor photography.”

The PENTAX K-70 provides a variety of advanced features found only in Ricoh’s high-grade PENTAX K-series models, such as the PENTAX Pixel Shift Resolution System, which produces high-resolution, finely detailed images. These also include an AA Filter Simulator that effectively eliminates moiré without the need for an anti-aliasing filter, a variable-tilt LCD monitor, and an in-body shake-reduction mechanism that reduces the effects of camera shake up to 4.5 shutter steps. The K-70 also incorporates built-in Wi-Fi for remote shooting and easy transfer to smart devices using Ricoh’s dedicated Image Sync app.

The PENTAX K-70’s exterior is designed with outdoor operations in mind. Features such as a newly designed grip, mode dial and control buttons on the camera’s top and back panels are designed to be easy and intuitive to operate, even with a gloved hand. It also comes equipped with an outdoor-friendly LCD monitor with an illumination control that can be instantly adjusted to the lighting level of any shooting location. The K-70 also has a red-lighted monitor display function which keeps ambient light from interfering with astrophotography.

In conjunction with the PENTAX K-70 camera, Ricoh Imaging is announcing the HD PENTAX-DA 55-300mm f/4.5-6.3ED PLM WR RE lens, a compact, weather-resistant telephoto zoom (see details in separate news release, also issued today); plus the Cable Switch CS-310, a remote shutter release designed especially for use with the K-70.

| Pricing and Availability |

Availability of the PENTAX K-70 camera, which comes in black and silky silver finishes, will be announced at the beginning of July. When available, it can be purchased at www.ricohimaging.com for $ 649.95, as well as at Ricoh Imaging-authorized retail outlets throughout North America.

Pentax K-70 specifications:

Price
MSRP $ 649/£559 (body only), £799 (w/18-135mm lens)
Body type
Body type Compact SLR
Sensor
Max resolution 6000 x 4000
Other resolutions 4608 x 3072, 3072 x 2048, 1920 x 1280
Image ratio w:h 3:2
Effective pixels 24 megapixels
Sensor photo detectors 25 megapixels
Sensor size APS-C (23.5 x 15.6 mm)
Sensor type CMOS
Processor PRIME MII
Color space sRGB, AdobeRGB
Color filter array Primary color filter
Image
ISO Auto, 100-102400
White balance presets 8
Custom white balance Yes (3 slots)
Image stabilization Sensor-shift
Image stabilization notes 4.5 stop correction
Uncompressed format RAW
JPEG quality levels Best, better, good
File format
  • JPEG (Exif v2.3)
  • Raw (PEF or DNG)
Optics & Focus
Autofocus
  • Contrast Detect (sensor)
  • Phase Detect
  • Multi-area
  • Center
  • Selective single-point
  • Tracking
  • Single
  • Continuous
  • Face Detection
  • Live View
Autofocus assist lamp Yes
Manual focus Yes
Number of focus points 11
Lens mount Pentax KAF2
Focal length multiplier 1.5×
Screen / viewfinder
Articulated LCD Fully articulated
Screen size 3
Screen dots 921,000
Touch screen No
Screen type TFT LCD
Live view Yes
Viewfinder type Optical (pentaprism)
Viewfinder coverage 100%
Viewfinder magnification 0.95×
Photography features
Minimum shutter speed 30 sec
Maximum shutter speed 1/6000 sec
Exposure modes
  • Program
  • Shutter priority
  • Aperture priority
  • Shutter and aperture priority
  • Manual
Scene modes
  • Portrait
  • Landscape
  • Macro
  • Moving Object
  • Night Scene Portrait
  • Sunset
  • Blue Sky
  • Forest
  • Night Scene
  • Night Scene HDR
  • Night Snap
  • Food
  • Pet
  • Kids
  • Surf & Snow
  • Backlight Silhouette
  • Candlelight
  • Stage Lighting
  • Museum
Built-in flash Yes
Flash range 12.00 m (at ISO 100)
External flash Yes
Flash modes Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash on, flash + redeye reduction, slow sync, trailing curtain sync, manual
Flash X sync speed 1/180 sec
Drive modes
  • Single
  • Continuous
  • Self-timer
  • Remote control
  • Bracketing
  • Mirror-up
  • Multi-exposure
  • Interval shooting
  • Interval composite
  • Interval movie
  • Star stream
Continuous drive 6.0 fps
Self-timer Yes (2 or 12 secs, continuous)
Metering modes
  • Multi
  • Center-weighted
  • Spot
Exposure compensation ±5 (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)
AE Bracketing ±5 (2, 3, 5 frames )
Videography features
Resolutions 1920 x 1080 (60i, 50i, 30p, 25p, 24p), 1280 x 720 (60p, 50p)
Format MPEG-4, H.264
Microphone Stereo
Speaker Mono
Storage
Storage types SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-I compatible)
Connectivity
USB USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)
HDMI Yes (mini-HDMI)
Microphone port Yes
Headphone port No
Wireless Built-In
Wireless notes 802.11b/g/n
Remote control Yes (wired or wireless)
Physical
Environmentally sealed Yes
Battery Battery Pack
Battery description D-LI109 lithium-ion battery & charger
Battery Life (CIPA) 410
Weight (inc. batteries) 688 g (1.52 lb / 24.27 oz)
Dimensions 126 x 93 x 74 mm (4.94 x 3.66 x 2.91)
Other features
Orientation sensor Yes
Timelapse recording Yes
GPS Optional
GPS notes O-GPS1

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Pentax K-1 Pixel Shift Resolution: Updated Field Test

05 Jun

Metlako Falls in the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon State offered a unique setting to push the limits of the K-1’s pixel shift technology. This is a conventional single exposure utilizing no Pixel Shift. Pentax K-1, HD Pentax D FA 24-70mm F2.8 ED SDM WR 70mm, F20, 0.3 sec, ISO 100.

A note from the editor:

Earlier this week we published an article examining the performance of the Pentax K-1’s Pixel Shift mode when shooting waterfalls – a common landscape photography subject. We found various issues, including movement artifacts and false colors in Raw files shot using this function.

It has since become clear that some of these issues are unique to the current build of Adobe Camera Raw. We’ve spoken to Adobe, and the ACR team has confirmed that support for the K-1 in ACR 9.5.1 is ‘final’. Certainly, Pixel Shift shots of our (non-moving) studio test scene look absolutely fantastic when converted in ACR. However, in scenes that contain movement, it’s a different story altogether. The K-1’s bundled software, SilkyPix, on the other hand, while crash-prone and a little awkward to use, does a much better job. SilkyPix also supports the K-1’s Motion Correction feature in Pixel Shift files, which Adobe has now confirmed is not supported by ACR.

Once all this started to become apparent, we pulled our original article and started a more detailed look at the K-1’s performance when Raw files are run through the bundled software, SilkyPix. You can read it below.

Thanks to all of the K-1 users that contributed helpful comments and suggestions as we worked on these additional tests.

Barney

Introduction

It’s clear that the Pixel Shift Resolution shooting modes make a huge difference to image quality from our studio tests, but how does that translate to real world shooting situations?

In previous iterations of this feature (in the K3 II) we found that movement within a scene could cause major issues during Pixel Shift Capture. So if leaves rustled in the wind or your subject moved in any way the camera compensated poorly for the movement, which then resulted in pixel blur and artifacts in the regions where the movement occurred.

Like the K-3 II, Pixel Shift on the K-1 takes four separate exposures at single pixel increments; however, the K-1 now offers a ‘Motion Correction’ option. If movement is detected in subsequent images, the camera is supposedly able to differentiate pixels that have changed from the first frame and clone in pixels to cover that area from the first frame of the 4-shot capture. In theory, this should produce a much better final product then was possible in the Pentax K3 II.

To determine just how much the technology has improved in the K-1 over the previous iteration, I took the camera out into the field to really push the limits of the Pixel Shift Resolution shooting modes. I converted the resulting files in both Adobe Lightroom (my Raw converter of choice) (using ACR 9.5.1, which Adobe has confirmed represents final support for Pixel Shift) and also SilkyPix, which is bundled with the K-1.

The Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge, located along the Columbia River that borders Washington and Oregon state offers a variety of amazing scenic locations in addition to a number of challenging shooting environments. In order to test the capabilities and limitations of the Pixel Shift resolution mode in the K-1, I decided to focus on the seemingly endless amount of waterfalls that parallel the Columbia River about an hour or so outside of Portland, OR.

In an effort to get the most bang for my buck I decided to hike along the Eagle Creek trail, heading toward Punch Bowl Falls. There are a number of beautiful spots to take in the views and two waterfalls (Punch Bowl and Metlako falls) to make the trip more than worthwhile. The weather conditions were, well, pretty miserable. My fiancé and I experienced moderate rain throughout most of the day which definitely put a damper (literally) on the trip.

Most of the Eagle Creek trail is carved into some fairly steep cliffs and snakes its way back along the deep river valley that lies several hundred feet below the trail.

Pentax K-1, HD PENTAX-D FA 28-105mm F3.5-5.6 ED DC WR, 28mm, F6.3, 1/50, ISO 100

Pushing the Limits of Pixel Shift Resolution

Our first stop was Metlako Falls located about a mile from the trail head. The access trail to Metlako is poorly marked, so it’s definitely easy to miss if you aren’t careful. I chose this waterfall because it offers an excellent opportunity to examine not only how the Pixel Shift deals with movement but also detail resolution, since the waterfall is surrounded by dense and lush foliage. The following widget contains files that were shot at 70mm and an aperture of F/10 to limit the effects of diffraction and to really give you a sense of the detail resolution that is possible with the Pixel Shift mode turned on.

Using the widget below you can examine files converted using Adobe Lightroom, Silkypix, and out of camera JPEGs. We’re showing files taken with Pixel Shift turned off, and with Pixel Shift turned on with Motion Correction enabled.

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As you see there can be significant benefits$ (document).ready(function() { $ (“#imageComparisonLink2569”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(2569); }); }) to shooting with the Pixel Shift Resolution mode turned on (note that SilkyPix applies significant sharpening by default, which we chose to not turn off). The detail in the foliage$ (document).ready(function() { $ (“#imageComparisonLink2570”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(2570); }); }) is much better with Pixel Shift, and a nearly 2EV theoretical increase in dynamic range means greater latitude for Raw processing of contrasty scenes (in reality, the advantage appears to be somewhere in between 1EV and 2EV).

While files from our movement-free studio scene look great when run through ACR, our waterfall images (converted in the same way, using the same software) show very unpleasant color artifacts$ (document).ready(function() { $ (“#imageComparisonLink2571”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(2571); }); }). SilkyPix does a much better job, and there’s no sign of any false colors in the same areas in files converted through the K-1’s bundled software.

However, while there’s no crazy false color, even in the out of camera JPEGs and Raw images processed using SilkyPix you can still see some issues with pixel blur$ (document).ready(function() { $ (“#imageComparisonLink2525”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(2525); }); }) where movement took place (mostly in the foliage surrounding the waterfall) as the four frames were captured. This can lead to some strange cross-hatch artifacting$ (document).ready(function() { $ (“#imageComparisonLink2572”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(2572); }); }). And when it comes to landscapes, finding truly static shooting environments can be difficult, if not impossible.

With that said, if you process your Pixel Shift files through SilkyPix, the end result might be good enough (depending on the amount of movement you’re dealing with) that cloning or masking in rough-looking areas via your favorite post processing software becomes an option. Interestingly, sometimes SilkyPix does an even better job of motion correction$ (document).ready(function() { $ (“#imageComparisonLink2573”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(2573); }); }) than the camera JPEG engine itself. In fact, much of the image is quite usable in the SilkyPix conversion, but if you’re the kind of person that desires the detail Pixel Shift brings, you’ll still find yourself cloning out motion artifacts$ (document).ready(function() { $ (“#imageComparisonLink2574”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(2574); }); }) in many regions for a scene like this one.

Out of Camera JPEG Options

If you don’t mind JPEG output, you can also retroactively add motion correction in-camera to an image shot with Pixel Shift.

After applying the Pixel Shift to the file, you can export it as an out of camera JPEG. With that said, I don’t know too many landscape photographers that shoot in JPEG or want to produce out of camera JPEGs, since they’re mostly un-editable from a post processing standpoint. You’re probably better off using SilkyPix, with all the caveats that brings (more on that later).

Out of Camera JPEG Pixel Shift (scaled 50%)

No Motion Correction

HD Pentax D FA 24-70mm F2.8 ED SDM WR, 70mm, F16, 1/4, ISO 100

Out of Camera JPEG Pixel Shift (scaled 50%)

Motion Correction

HD Pentax D FA 24-70mm F2.8 ED SDM WR, 70mm, F16, 1/4, ISO 100

Dynamic Range Benefits

There’s another benefit to Pixel Shift we briefly alluded to: since information from four Raw files are essentially combined, noise is decreased. It’s not that frames are averaged, but that 4x as much total light is collected and used in generating the final image, which decreases relative shot noise. This suggests a nearly 2 EV theoretical increase in dynamic range (ignoring read noise), and indeed a significant improvement is evident in the +4 EV pushed shots below. The non-pixel shift file still shows respectable noise performance in the shadows thanks to the very high dynamic range sensor, and the Pixel Shift file is even cleaner. While it’s not quite a 2EV advantage, the Pixel Shift files in our studio dynamic range tests look better than the standard shots despite a 1EV relative underexposure. Hence, we’d estimate a benefit of somewhere between 1 and 2 EV.

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So what does this mean?

When it comes to Pixel Shift Raws, ACR is unable to cope with any sort of movement that may have occurred in the short time that the K-1 takes to capture the four separate files. Color artifacts and cross-hatching result in areas of motion, although the rest of the image experiences a significant detail increase. ACR doesn’t support Motion Correction at all. So (for now, at least) Pixel Shift and ACR simply don’t mix.

SilkyPix, on the other hand, handles Pixel Shift Raws in a different manner from ACR, which alleviates the color artifacts that we see in the files processed through ACR. It can also interpret the Raws shot with Motion Correction activated and produce a final image with far fewer motion artifacts – sometimes doing an even better job than the K-1’s in-camera JPEG engine.

Digging a little deeper, we’ve found that only the first of the four exposures taken during the Pixel Shift process is used to mask in problem areas when the Motion Correction setting has been enabled (in in-camera JPEGs or SilkyPix conversions). This makes sense – comparing the four files to find the sharpest one would be too computationally intensive to be practical – but it does mean that if the first exposure should happen to contain the most blur, results might not be optimal.

Conclusion

The amount of detail in the Pixel Shift files is markedly better than those taken with the mode turned off, but for landscape work (assuming anything short of totally still conditions) artifacts caused by movement in the scene can still cause issues. I’m glad that things aren’t quite as bad as we feared from looking solely at the output from Adobe Lightroom, but even the K-1’s bundled SilkyPix software shows some movement artifacts in Pixel Shift files. And, at least for Mac users, SilkyPix is not the most stable or easy to use software out there. 9 out of 10 times we tried to use it, we got an unusable image preview even at 100% – making editing cumbersome, if not impossible. Capture One and DxO Optics Pro don’t currently support the K-1 or Pixel Shift (e.g. on the older K-3 II) at all.

The reality, then, is that Raw shooters wanting to take advantage of Pixel Shift for scenes with motion will have to resort to (the buggy and cumbersome) SilkyPix. That’s a real limitation, but not an insurmountable one – you can perform rudimentary processing in SilkyPix and then output a 16-bit TIFF to continue processing in Lightroom or Photoshop.  

In absolutely perfect shooting conditions though (macro, portrait, and some telephoto work), the K-1’s Pixel Shift shooting modes can offer outstanding results. The OOC JPEG and SilkyPix Raw images below depict a (mostly) static cityscape, and the real-world detail resolution is very impressive when movement isn’t a factor. 

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It is worth noting, however, that if there is a chance of any movement occurring in the frame I would definitely recommend backing your files up with non-Pixel Shift exposures so you can choose to mask areas in using post processing tools or choose to use the non Pixel Shift files. We’ll be posting more sample images from my trip to the Gorge soon, and be on the look out for our forthcoming full review of the K-1 as well!

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Pentax K-1 Pixel Shift: An update

02 Jun

Yesterday we published an article examining the performance of the Pentax K-1’s Pixel Shift mode when shooting waterfalls – a common landscape photography subject. We found various issues, including movement artifacts and false colors. It has become clear that some of these issues (and others related to Motion Correction) are unique to Adobe Camera Raw. When this became clear, we pledged to update our article with a more detailed look at performance in other Raw converters, including the bundled Raw converter, SilkyPix.

However, given that this is a rather time-consuming job, we’ve decided to temporarily pull our original article instead of updating it piecemeal. We’ll be publishing an updated analysis as soon as possible. We’d like to apologize for any confusion that the original article may have caused.

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Waterfails: We test Pentax K-1’s Pixel Shift

01 Jun
Punch Bowl Falls in the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon State offered a unique setting to push the limits of the K-1’s pixel shift technology.  This is a conventional single exposure utilizing no Pixel Shift. Pentax K-1, HD Pentax D FA 24-70mm F2.8 ED SDM WR 70mm, F16, 0.3 sec, ISO 100.

Introduction

It’s clear that the Pixel Shift Resolution shooting modes make a huge difference to image quality from our studio tests, but how does that translate to real world shooting situations?

In previous iterations of this feature (in the K3 II) we found that movement within a scene could cause major issues during Pixel Shift Capture in ACR conversions. So if leaves rustled in the wind or your subject moved in any way the camera compensated poorly for the movement, which then resulted in pixel blur and artifacts in the regions where the movement occurred.

The latest iteration of Ricoh’s Pixel Shift technology found in the K-1 takes four separate images that it uses to build the final full resolution image upon and if movement occurred in subsequent images, the camera is supposedly able to differentiate the pixels that moved from the first frame it shot and clone in pixels for that area from the sharpest (for that region) of the four single (demosaiced) Raws to produce a much sharper final product then was possible in the Pentax K3 II.

To determine just how much the technology has improved in the K-1 over the previous iterations, I took the camera out into the field to really push the limits of the Pixel Shift Resolution shooting modes.

The Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge, located along the Columbia River that borders Washington and Oregon state offers a variety of amazing scenic locations in addition to a number of challenging shooting environments. In order to test the capabilities and limitations of the Pixel Shift resolution mode in the K-1, I decided to focus on the seemingly endless amount of waterfalls that parallel the Columbia River about an hour or so outside of Portland, OR.

In an effort to get the most bang for my buck I decided to hike along the Eagle Creek trail, heading toward Punch Bowl Falls. There are a number of beautiful spots to take in the views and two waterfalls (Punch Bowl and Metlako falls) to make the trip more than worthwhile. The weather conditions were, well, pretty miserable. My fiancé and I experienced moderate rain throughout most of the day which definitely put a damper (literally) on the trip.

Most of the Eagle Creek trail is carved into some fairly steep cliffs and snakes its way back along the deep river valley that lies several hundred feet below the trail. 

Pentax K-1, HD PENTAX-D FA 28-105mm F3.5-5.6 ED DC WR, 28mm, F6.3, 1/50, ISO 100

Pixel Shift Real World Testing

Our first stop was Metlako Falls located about a mile from the trail head. The access trail to Metlako is poorly marked, so it’s definitely easy to miss if you aren’t careful. I chose this waterfall because it offers an excellent opportunity to examine not only how the Pixel Shift deals with movement but also detail resolution as well.  

The widget below gives you an idea of the detail resolution that is possible when you are able to use the Pixel Shift Resolution shooting mode. The files were shot at an aperture of F10 to avoid the effects of diffraction at smaller apertures. The two files below were shot either (1) without Pixel Shift Resolution, or (2) with Pixel Shift Resolution with Motion Correction turned on.

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As you can see, despite the issues with movement, there are benefits to shooting with the Pixel Shift Resolution mode turned on. The detail in the foliage is much better with Pixel Shift, and a nearly 2EV theoretical increase in dynamic range means greater latitude for Raw processing of contrasty scenes. 

We already knew from our studio tests that in static environments with little to no movement, Pixel Shift mode allows you to attain a huge amount of noise-free detail in a single file.

Unfortunately, at least when it comes to landscapes, finding truly static shooting environments can be difficult, if not impossible. To examine how the Pixel Shift modes handles movement, I took three separate exposures within a few seconds of each other, at the same settings, using the same lens for each test. The photos were shot with either (1) Pixel Shift Resolution mode turned off, (2) Pixel Shift Resolution Mode turned on without Motion Correction, or (3) Pixel Shift Resolution mode turned on with Motion Correction. The following are ACR conversions of the Raw files.

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From looking at these shots, it’s obvious that Pixel Shift Resolution shooting modes are challenged by motion of any kind. Immediately obvious in the ACR conversions above are the large patches of green and magenta artifacts in the ‘On’ shot, and cross-hatching in both ‘On’ and ‘On w/ Motion Correction’ shots. The lack of large color artifacts in the ‘On w/ Motion Correction’ shot is really just dumb luck: recall that a similar Raw above had such artifacts. Note that artifacts are drastically reduced in out-of-camera JPEGs with Motion Correction on (not shown), but the issues with the Raws might crop up whenever motion is present in the scene. 

We continued our trip up the Eagle Creek trail to the lower Punch Bowl falls trail where you can get up close and personal with one of the most gorgeous waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge. I decided to focus on just the Motion Correction Pixel Shift Resolution shooting mode for this test as I really wanted to see how it handled subtle water movement away from the main waterfall compared to the normal shooting mode.   

Normal Shooting Mode (Raw scaled 50%)

HD Pentax D FA 24-70mm F2.8 ED SDM WR, 70mm, F16, 1/4, ISO 100

Download Raw (PEF) file

Pixel Shift Resolution with Motion Correction (Raw scaled 50%)

HD Pentax D FA 24-70mm F2.8 ED SDM WR, 70mm, F16, 1/4, ISO 100

Download Raw (PEF) file

In the above image you can see how poorly the Pixel Shift mode fared in this test. It had a great deal of difficulty even in areas where movement was a lot more subtle such as water lapping at the rocks in the lower left-hand corner of the frame. The green and magenta artifacts can be seen here along with a fair amount of pixelation in any area that showed movement during the imaging process.

If you don’t mind JPEG output, there is some good news. You can retroactively add motion correction in-camera to an image shot as part of a Pixel Shift burst.

After applying the Pixel Shift to the file you can export it as an out of camera JPEG. With that said, I don’t know too many landscape photographers that shoot in JPEG or want to produce out of camera JPEGs, since they’re mostly un-editable from a post processing standpoint.

Out of Camera JPEG Pixel Shift (50% crop)

No Motion Correction

HD Pentax D FA 24-70mm F2.8 ED SDM WR, 70mm, F16, 1/4, ISO 100

Out of Camera JPEG Pixel Shift (50% crop)

Motion Correction

HD Pentax D FA 24-70mm F2.8 ED SDM WR, 70mm, F16, 1/4, ISO 100

There’s another benefit to Pixel Shift we briefly alluded to: since information from four Raw files are essentially combined, noise is decreased, since you’re effectively averaging 4 frames. This nearly 2 EV increase in dynamic range is evident in the example below: while the non-pixel shift file still shows respectable noise performance, thanks to the very high dynamic range sensor, the Pixel Shift file is even cleaner, particularly at 100%. 

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So what does this mean?

After analyzing the results from this test we determined that there really is no difference (outside of shooting variables such as water current and wind) between the Motion Corrected Raw files and the Normal Pixel Shift Raw files with no Motion Correction applied. It appears that Motion Correction is a JPEG only process that the camera’s JPEG engine is able to apply to the Pixel Shift files (even retrospectively for Pixel Shift Raw files). 

That explains why it appears that the Motion Corrected Raws actually looked worse in some cases than the non-motion corrected Raws in some of the examples provided above; there really wasn’t a difference in what the camera ‘did’ per se but more in the shooting conditions at hand (water motion, wind, current etc). This also explains why the motion corrected in camera JPEGs looked much better than the non-Motion Corrected JPEGs that the camera produced. 

With that said the waterfall Raw examples just provided too many variables (wind, variable water motion and current) to really nail down a firm explanation of what we were seeing from this small sample set of images.  We are currently working on a supplemental piece with some nice concrete image examples and data that will really solidify what the differences are between the Pixel Shift Motion Corrected and Non-Motion Corrected Raw and JPEG files. 

Conclusion

Overall, the results of this test were honestly a bit disappointing. I think that everyone here, myself included, had hoped that Pentax was able to get the Pixel Shift movement issues we saw in the K3-II resolved, but it looks as though the company still has a lot of work to do. The amount of detail in the Pixel Shift files is markedly better than those taken with the mode turned off, but for landscape work (assuming anything short of totally still conditions) artifacts caused by movement in the scene almost negate the benefits. It should be noted that the color artifact issues can be rectified with processing software such as Silkypix, but the issues with pixel blur wherever motion occurred are still apparent even when using other post processing tools.   

In absolutely perfect conditions, the K-1’s Pixel Shift shooting modes can offer outstanding results, but if there is a chance of any movement occurring in the frame I would definitely recommend staying away from them or at least backing your files up with non-pixel shift exposures as well. We’ll be posting more sample images from my trip to the Gorge soon, and and be on the look out for our forthcoming full review of the K-1 as well!


Please note that all of the images published in this article were processed using Adobe Camera Raw 9.5 (unless otherwise stated). We’re currently examining the appearance of Pixel Shift files processed using other Raw converters and we’ll continue to update this article with our findings.

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Pentax K-1’s Pixel Shift challenges medium-format dynamic range

10 May

The Pentax K-1 has produced one of the best dynamic range performances we’ve yet seen. As our testing of the camera continues, we’ve been looking through the results of our Raw dynamic range test and we’ve been very impressed. And that’s before we looked at the benefits brought by Pixel Shift Resolution mode.

Raw Dynamic Range

Exposure Latitude

In this test we look to see how tolerant of pushing exposure the Pentax K-1’s Raw files are. We’ve done this by exposing our scene with increasingly lower exposures, then pushed them back to the correct brightness using Adobe Camera Raw. Examining what happens in the shadows allows you to assess the exposure latitude (essentially the dynamic range) of the Raw files.

Because the changes in this test noise are primarily caused by shot noise and this is mainly determined by the amount of light the camera has had access to, the results are only directly comparable between cameras of the same sensor size. However, this will also be the case in real-world shooting if you’re limited by what shutter speed you can keep steady, so this test gives you an idea of the amount of processing latitude different formats give.

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Compared with the Nikon D810, the Pentax does a great job. There’s less chroma noise visible after a 5 and 6EV push, suggesting the Pentax is adding even less noise to its images than the already very good Nikon. It’s a similar story when compared with the Nikon D750$ (document).ready(function() { $ (“#imageComparisonLink2463”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(2463); }); }). The difference compared to the Sony a7R II$ (document).ready(function() { $ (“#imageComparisonLink2464”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(2464); }); }) is even greater, marking the K-1 as one of the best results we’ve ever seen.

The picture is slightly muddied by the D810 offering an ISO 64 mode$ (document).ready(function() { $ (“#imageComparisonLink2467”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(2467); }); }), which can tolerate around 2/3EV more exposure before clipping, allowing longer shutter speeds that provide a shot noise benefit commensurate with that. This allows the D810 to pull almost imperceptibly ahead in brighter, shot-noise limited tones$ (document).ready(function() { $ (“#imageComparisonLink2468”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(2468); }); }), but doesn’t stop the K-1’s result (from a camera with a list price roughly half as much) from being hugely impressive.

The difference is even bigger in Pixel Shift Resolution mode. Because it samples the scene multiple times, it effectively collects more total light, which means less shot noise. As you might expect, the result from the four 1/320 sec exposures used to create the 1/320 + 6EV image$ (document).ready(function() { $ (“#imageComparisonLink2465”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(2465); }); }) show similar levels of noise to the 1/80th second exposure shot in single image mode (a 2EV advantage), only with the greater sharpness that Pixel Shift mode brings. This lower noise means you can push the files to a tremendous degree – far beyond what the Nikon D810’s ISO 64 mode allows$ (document).ready(function() { $ (“#imageComparisonLink2466”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(2466); }); }).

ISO Invariance

A camera with a very low noise floor is able to capture a large amount of dynamic range, since it add very little noise to the detail captured in the shadow regions of the image. This has an interesting implication: it minimizes the need to amplify the sensor’s signal in order to keep it above that noise floor (which is what ISO amplification conventionally does). This provides an alternate way of working in situations that would traditionally demand higher ISO settings.

Here we’ve done something that may seem counter-intuitive: we’ve used the same aperture and shutter speed at different ISO settings to see how much difference there is between shooting at a particular ISO setting (and using hardware amplification) vs. digitally correcting the brightness, later. This has the advantage that all the shots should exhibit the same shot noise and any differences must have been contributed by the camera’s circuitry.

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You can see all the K-1’s full ISO Invariance results here and its pixel shift results here. The K-1 is as close to being ISO Invariant as we’ve seen, meaning there’s no cost to shooting at ISO 100 and pushing the files later, rather than using a higher ISO. This means you can keep the ISO down and protect multiple stops worth of highlight information that would otherwise be pushed to clipping by the hardware amplification.

ISO invariance isn’t an end in itself: there are cameras such as the Sony a7R II that are ISO variant because their higher ISO results are so good, not because their low ISO DR is deficient. However, a look at our standard test scene shows its high ISOs are extremely good, so you’re not losing much in comparison with these dual-mode sensors. The K-1’s files have a very high level of flexibility when it comes to processing.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the K-1 gives one of the best Raw dynamic range results we’ve ever seen, when shooting in single shot mode and absolutely outstanding results in circumstances where you can use the pixel shift mode. The multiple sampling of the same scene effectively gives a 2EV dynamic range boost, meaning it out-performs both the D810 and the 645Z by a comfortable margin. Less noise (though multiple captures) and multiple 14-bit values at every pixel mean it can give outstanding levels of DR for static scenes where you can use the Pixel Shift mode.

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No alias: Pentax K-1 Pixel Shift shows impressive early results

06 May

It’s been a long wait for the arrival of our Pentax K-1, but it finally is here. We wasted no time taking Ricoh’s new flagship DSLR to our studio to see how the long-awaited full frame 36MP sensor stacks up to the competition. Huge thanks to LensRentals for renting us the lens for these tests.

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Pixel Shift

It’s worth calling out in particular one of the major highlights of the K-1: its Pixel Shift Resolution mode that debuted in the APS-C format K-3 II last spring. We’re only showing you this mode at ISO 100 for the time being, but we’ll be updating our widget with higher ISOs once ACR support is updated.

The K-1’s Pixel Shift Resolution mode takes four consecutive shots and moves the sensor by a single pixel each time. This means that each of the original pixel positions gets sampled by a red, a blue and two green pixels. This has a few major benefits. First, it removes the need to demosaic: you don’t have to interpolate data from the surrounding area to build up color information, which leads to less color aliasing. It also brings a modest increase in resolution because you’re sampling luminance (green) information at every pixel position and not effectively blurring it by borrowing it from surrounding pixels. The increased resolution can easily be seen by looking at the color resolution targets, or looking at the text in the center of the studio scene, which shows no aliasing and can be read down to the very last line.

Another benefit to Pixel Shift is better noise performance: because you’re taking four shots, the camera essentially captures four times as much light, which decreases relative shot noise contributions. The decreased noise levels lead to better high ISO performance, and increased dynamic range.

There’s yet another benefit to Pixel Shift: the camera locks up the mechanical shutter and mirror, and uses a fully electronic shutter instead. This removes any risk of vibrations that might be caused by the mechanical shutter. For example, there’s a very tiny amount of blur in single shot mode at 1/40 sec, although it’s near-imperceptible without a direct comparison to a sharper, Pixel Shift image.

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