Tag Archives: high definition

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.


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.


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.


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!





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.


Buffer memory (and write speeds) to become major differentiator among pro cameras

8 Aug

With the recent enhancements made to the Magic Lantern firmware plug-in for Canon EOS cameras, it’s becoming clear that buffer memory is rather limited on current camera models for those users wishing to use the sensor to its speed limit. To recap, Magic Lantern now allows capture of raw video, i.e. a series of lower-res DNG format stills at the speed of the camera’s frame rate, for an expanding range of EOS cameras. Most user tests have come from the 7D, where it’s been reported that 40 to 41 frames can be recorded before the frame rate drops off (or recording stops in recognition or anticipation of that fact). That’s quite a good buffer size for still capture, but rather dismal for genuinely high definition (HD) video use. The reason I say genuinely HD is because the otherwise widely used H.264 codec, while offering very compact file sizes, continues to produce noticeable artefacts, which is largely responsible not so much perhaps for the inclusion of raw video in the firmware, but for the enthusiasm about it.

It’s likely that this feature will not go away as a fad, but remain here to stay, not least because without doubt, many photographers-come-videographers have been wondering when they’ll be able to fiddle with blown highlights in video the same way they can in stills. The next stop, then, is including the feature in factory firmwares. In the interim, much will be written about the different HD video abilities of Canon cameras, the only currently “open” platform other than Samsung (who made that decision recently, presumably to take advantage of the trend for open-sourced, user-provided enhancements to firmware; NB I’m talking about the firmware in Samsung’s higher-level NX cameras, not Android!). Then it’s over to the rest of the crowd to ensure that their cameras either come with huge buffer, or, even better, manage to clear it at great speed.

Affordable DSLR that works great with video – or rather something else?

5 May

Someone recently asked about buying their first DSLR when their main interest is sports photography and video, at the entry level price-wise. The question also included Canon and Nikon as examples. I’ll try and answer that question here.

First things first – currently, all entry level DSLRs are capable of “professional” quality output. There may be specific applications where these cameras will not be competitive, but image quality is not typically a major problem.

Having said that, Canon is currently lagging behind in sensor technology, with higher noise levels and lower dynamic range. This will also limit the amount of light you need to take “reasonable” photographs, regardless of what personal criteria you may set for considering your output “reasonable”.

However, Canon is also generally held to be the better choice for video. The major challenges for video in a DSLR camera are continuous autofocus and noiseless operation (in terms of auditory noise). Panasonic is generally regarded as having the best video features, but they don’t currently sell any true SLR cameras, but rather opt for the mirrorless format, where your preview is indirect through the rear display or an electronic viewfinder (EVF). This may mean that your view of the scene is delayed, so it’s worth checking out reviews that have tested for this.

Principally, the characteristics of photographic output will feature again when recording video, so a camera with good dynamic range (DR) in still image output will also usually have high DR in video. This would be a considerable benefit from using a relatively affordable pro camera such as a Pentax K-5 or K-5 II. Remember that all DSLR cameras currently in production include HD video as an output option at upwards of 24 frames per second, so you won’t need to worry about that too much.

I will, however, add two more points for consideration. You should look not only at frame rates and resolutions when judging video, but also at the compression used. This will tell you how much you’ll spend on memory cards and hard disks to accommodate the length of filming you’re interested in, and it will also tell you whether there are situations where artefacts will show up in your movies. My experience comparing H.264 vs. Motion JPEG suggests that artefacts will occur with fast movement or sudden changes of lighting in the H.264 format, but will be absent from Motion JPEG. However, Motion JPEG will generate huge files by comparison which you should factor into your budget.

In terms of features, you should consider whether you’ll want to do time lapse or high speed video – for high speed in particular, there are no viable workarounds, so you’ll need a camera that can already do this. For time lapse capture, clunky external features may be required on various cameras including current Canon models.

Remember also that there are affordable video devices such as the GoPro Hero set of cameras that in a lot of ways, may be more flexible and fun than a big SLR setup, as well as all-in-one solutions such as Panasonic’s rather affordable FZ200, a superzoom bridge with plenty of video features. What a DSLR camera gives you is the ability to swap lenses, but each new lens will cost as much or more as a new or fairly new compact or bridge camera. If you think you have the discipline to stick with one camera and get really good at using it, then try leaning towards a DSLR, but if you think you’ll always want to keep up with the latest imaging technology, you’ll be far better off cost-wise looking at superzooms.

Eventually, only you can know whether your interest in video is strong enough to merit a choice of Panasonic over Canon, or whether even Pentax or Nikon might be viable choices due to the higher photo output quality, or whether you’ll want to pursue an alternate adventure with a GoPro-type camera or a compact/superzoom.