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Pentax K3 II: SuperResolution Pixel Shift Mode vs StdRes on Artifacts: Buffalo Coin and Engraved Letter Opener

See my Pentax K1 wish list at B&H Photo.

Pentax K3 II

See also my in-depth review of the Sigma 35/1.4 DG HSM Art, used for this study.

This evaluation pits the Pentax K3 II SuperResolution pixel shift mode against its standard conventional resolution Bayer recording. SuperRes mode in discussed in more detail in the review of the Pentax K1.

The subjects here are two items with very fine detail: a scratched silver coin, and a finely engraved letter opener. Dan M may find these two subjects interesting as something along the lines of his museum artifacts question.

Pentax K3 II: SuperResolution Pixel Shift: Ultra Fine Details (Silver Coin, Engraving)

These two examples with the Pentax K3 II are a particularly persuasive argument that the full frame Pentax K1 could become a powerful specialist tool for true-to-life imagery at a rock-bottom price (relatively speaking, at about $1000 less than the Nikon D810).

The Pentax K1 pixels are 55% larger in area than the K3 II, thus more forgiving of lens performance. And the full-frame K1 has a 36 megapixel sensor, 50% more pixels than the K3 II.

Reduced size crop
f5.6 @ 3.0 sec, ISO 100; 2016-02-25 22:12:29
PENTAX K-3 II + lens @ 35mm

[low-res image for bot]

Dan M writes:

The coin behaved exactly as I thought or hoped it would do. Thanks so much for following up so soon. The ship was a bit less dramatic, but you can still see a definite improvement. The wool cloth color, by the way, is something I’ve seen before in some cloth backgrounds. The “black out” cloths don’t do that, but they will cast a “shine” if you angle lights too much. I shoot on blackout cloth and just replace it with color matched black in PS afterward, for a lot of small object work. The cloth can “eat” reflected light and affect the look of the object in a good way, so it’s useful whether you replace it in PS or not. If you replace it with color matching, the result is perfect, unless the photographer is after the folded cloth look.

You’ve answered the question of whether the pixel shift mode produces better images of objects with fine relief. It clearly does.

Now to the question of what it does for bigger detail at more of a distance, and more of a 3 D object. I’ve got some carved figures here at home I wish I could beam over to you. The carved relief is up to a quarter of an inch.

A good old fancy silver pot or beer mug might do. But not close up, the whole thing, with a little air around it. Now we’re looking for that pop and realism in 3D on a textured object. We know what it does for fine relief; what does it do for the overall look of a complex object? I’m thinking my little carved animals and my old beer stein would look better than they ever have in photos.

Yeah, “lifelike” is the term that fits. When you’ve done as many artifacts as I have, that different look to the VOLER tab—and now the coin—stops you in your tracks. Whoa, what’s this. Funny: that seam to the upper left of the tab in your jersey is the one that bugs me. Since that seam was more or less buried in a crop, it isn’t as dramatic as the coin. But there is just way more realism to that seam in the pixel shift version. What makes my head hurt is trying to figure out how the hell pixel shift accomplishes that.

DIGLLOYD: the coin is particularly impressive, but so is the engraving, for its single-pixel definition of ultra-fine lines with high micro contrast.

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