Long-awaited Pentax lens a Tokina clone?

28 Feb

There is currently an ongoing discussion among Pentaxians as to whether these upcoming 50mm f/1.4 prime lenses are really one and the same on the inside – the Tokina:

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And the Pentax:

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The Tokina will ship in summer 2018, while the Pentax, originally announced for September 2017, was pushed back to September 2018, so their release dates will also be close.

For context and comparison, here are the recent Sigma and Zeiss lenses with the same specs:

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What do you think? Let the rest of us know in the comments!

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Pentax’ new full frame DSLR is $550 – if you bought the previous one

22 Feb

So Ricoh* have let their secret plan out of the bag – build a DSLR that can massively undercut the competition’s upgrade cost by being upgradeable. The deal they offer, anticipated to be announced for all regions where Pentax has retailers, is to send your Pentax K-1 (Mk. I) camera in to their workshops, and get the latest hardware added and your camera sent back. No statement has been made on whether the same upgrade policy can or will be applied to future camera releases from Pentax/Ricoh.

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In what some people are calling a US $50 upgrade due to the price difference currently seen in some markets between the Pentax K-1 and Pentax K-1 II, the cameras will be fitted with a new main board that has an additional “Accelerator Unit” chip that improves noise performance by approximately 1 stop. Additionally, upgraded cameras will be capable of producing hand-held pixel shift images rather than requiring a tripod to use this feature.

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Due to the added noise control by way of the Accelerator Unit, the highest available sensitivity has been increased to ISO 819,200 – I previously reviewed this high ISO using samples for the Pentax KP.

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Imaging-Resource has dubbed the K-1 II the “first upgradeable DSLR”. How do you think the competition will respond to this new business model? Leave a comment!

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All images in this article are assumed to be promotional images from Ricoh.

* Ricoh is the Japanese multi-national company that bought and merged with Pentax and now maintains “Pentax” as a brand name for higher end cameras, including all DSLRs. Ricoh was in the recent past mostly known for selling office supplies, but has also sold cameras since the 1950s.

End of life for Denoise Projects, and special offer

18 Jul

The imaging software industry is in motion. While companies like Serif (makers of Affinity-branded software) and Macphun are making a dash from the Mac to the Windows platform, and following Google’s recent abandonment of the Google Nik Collection of plug-in and stand-alone applications for tasks such as black and white conversion, colour adjustment, film simulation, sharpening and denoising, another applicant for this market is now showing signs of slowing down.

Like Google, Macphun and others, German publishing house Franzis also develops a variety of tools in its “Projects” series for the above tasks, each usually sold separately. Among them are tools for HDR and focus stacking, and Franzis also develops and sells other imaging software not branded as “Projects”, and is the German distributor of Silkypix raw processing software.

Franzis has now announced discontinuing Denoise Projects Professional, a specialised program and plug-in for removing digital image noise. It is unclear if other discontinuations will follow.

According to the publisher, Denoise Projects automatically detects and removes “all” seven types of noise. Other Franzis Projects products work with a high floating point bitrate, and the tech specs for Denoise Projects imply that it requires 32 bit GPU acceleration, while the FAQ mentions it can save 32 bit TIFF. It was not explicitly stated whether 32 bit floating point processing is used internally.

Those interested can find a 70% off offer here.

Nikon is launching a full frame mirrorless

14 Jul

Nikon confirmed they are working on a mirrorless camera. While sometimes news have been blown out of proportion in the photo industry in the past, it seems likely in this case that they really mean they’re working on a new camera system. Nikon is not a company to throw up clickbait.

So how do I know the camera they’re working on is full frame? They said the camera would be Nikon-rashii, or Nikonish. Nikon has never made a medium format camera, so we can safely exclude that. Nikon is now best remembered for the F series, which dominated journalism for a decade or two.

But this is not about reliving the past. This is about competing in the current market. How many mirrorless systems are competing for the APS-C space? Mainly three – Fujifilm, Sony, and old rival Canon. How many are competing for full frame? Really only one – Sony. Nikon knows that there are things it can do better than Sony, ways to compete with Sony. When push comes to shove, maybe Sony won’t give them the sensors they want – maybe they’ll have to turn to Toshiba or Renesas. But for a company with Nikon’s heritage and customer relations, it would be way better to start in the full frame category and gain a following among professional photographers before Sony can fully convince them, than to try to mud-sling it out with Canon in the well-scoured APS-C swamp.

$700 less: Nikon D7500 is specced-down D500

12 Apr

For 700 Dollars less than a D500, Nikon has introduced the D7500 without the advanced autofocus module and additional card slot. However, microfocus adjustment using Live View is available. The maximum continuous shooting rate is 8 frames per second, and buffer depth is a reported 50 raw files, with no information on RAW+ buffer depth or buffer clearing times. (A fast-clearing buffer is better than a deep one!)

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The Nikon D7500 (Nikon promotional image)

At 20 megapixels, the D7500’s resolution is down from the D7200’s 24 megapixels, and instead matches the D500. Nikon claims that weather sealing has been improved. The body is also a little less beefy than the D500, and very similar in size to the D7200, although small design changes have been made:

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Size comparison with related models

To get an impression of the image quality to be expected, take a look at my previous articles:

Google open-sources extreme JPEG compression

18 Mar

I previously criticised JPEGmini, a commercial program that promised to reduce JPEG size by focusing on the way humans perceive colour. My repeated finding in using the program was that it was unable to provide better compression than GIMP’s JPEG export – and GIMP is free!

Now Google has fielded Guetzli, a new JPEG compression engine that Google describes as drawing on psychovisual research. So in that aspect, it doesn’t sound much different from JPEGmini. It is, however, open-sourced, and according to Google, promises 35% smaller files compared to the open source JPEG library libjpeg, which without much doubt must be the engine used by GIMP.

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Original on the left, libjpeg, center, and Guetzli on the right. Google notes the paucity of blocky artefacts in the Guetzli output, but I would also note the loss in vibrance, a typical approach in noise reduction.

Guetzli, like other recent advances in imaging, is slow. So slow, in fact, that it sounds like its use case is currently limited to very frequently downloaded items like website banners, where spending a lot of time optimizing will considerably reduce traffic.

Alternatively, though, Google could put its weight behind FLIF, supporting it in Chrome/Chromium and thereby putting pressure on other browsers to also support it. FLIF promises to provide current-best lossless compression and is interlaceable – and open source.

Guetzli might give a smaller file than FLIF, but only with more lossy compression, and it sounds like it’s currently a lot slower (I have seen no figures comparing the two).

From photographers’ perspectives, Guetzli may have one further use case. Images with such highly optimised compression are unlikely to be very usable for further editing, so for showing off your work on the web while spoiling the fun for potential thieves, Guetzli or any higher-compression tool might be a good choice (but remember – Google can “guesstimate” the image back with RAISR).

Pentax KP vs. Nikon D500: white balance

16 Mar

Continuing my series on the Pentax KP, and possibly starting a sub-series comparing the Nikon D500 against it, today my attention was drawn to ephotozine’s Pentax KP sample photos, particularly the colour section:

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Pentax KP (top) vs. Nikon D500 – ISO 200 (left) to ISO 819,200.

Particularly the ISO 819,200 sample from Nikon seems to be soaked in yellow, although the ISO 409,600 sample also seems affected. Here’s the 819,200 comparison, with two attempts to fix the Nikon’s white balance in post:

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Pentax KP (left) vs. Nikon D500 OOC, Nikon D500 with my own special WB procedure, and finally Nikon D500 after “color->auto->white balance” from Gimp

If “fluorescent” white balance is used in the Pentax, it gets even further ahead of the Nikon – an unfair comparison perhaps, but it’s only a single step of configuration and straight out of camera:

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With even more prodding, I eventually got the Nikon image to behave. I managed to keep noise levels on par, but keep in mind that it’s a fair amount of work, and you really have to know what you’re doing in Photoshop or Gimp to get this kind of result – remember the one button fix is the image on the far right, and it improves things, but doesn’t really “fix” the problem. Cutting to the chase, here’s that final result:

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Even using the Pentax’ default white balance, it does impressively well, keeping in mind we had to massage the Nikon image for several minutes to get it into decent shape:

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The bottom line is that in terms of colour, the Pentax produces reasonable JPEG output even at very high ISO, while the Nikon D500 takes considerable time in post-processing to achieve a competitive result. The Nikon is not usable as a JPEG camera at this high ISO and I would instead recommend, if using the D500 at all, to shoot raw and use a raw converter, in which case it’s the raw converter’s job to give you a reasonable-looking image (this will be the next part in this series, if time allows).