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Pentax K1 Thoughts

Pentax K1

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

See my earlier discussion and coverage of the discussion and coverage of the Pentax K1. Review coverage will go into my review of the Pentax K1 in DAP; see my February review of the Pentax K3 II to get an idea of what pixel shift technology can do. Where is pixel shift mode for Sony anyway?

I didn’t catch the shipment from B&H Photo in time to change to 2-day, and unfortunately the shipment went out UPS ground and will not be here until May 11. And then I have to travel on Friday/Saturday the 13/14.... bad timing. But I will be showing lots of good stuff with it.

My main concern with the Pentax K1 is high-quality optics: no Zeiss Otus in particular*. Hopefully Sigma will add the other DG HSM Art lenses in Pentax K mount (the Sigma 35/1.4 DG HSM Art is available in Pentax K mount). My guess is that the Sigma is about as good as it gets for Pentax K, at least if one wants high correction.

I am particularly interested in how the K1 in pixel shift mode renders fine reddish wood grain (bristlecone pines), metallic and weathered-metal objects, strong reds and oranges (or blues), very fine wood-grain detail, and so on—subject that the Sigma DP Merrill did so well because of true-color pixels, and subject that Canon and Nikon DSLRs make a hash of for fine details. But, alas, the lenses... we shall see.

Since mainstream is Nikon and Canon and Sony for all-around use and building a system is expensive with a full range of lenses, I see the K1 as a specialty tool. This is not to say it can’t and won’t keep many shooters delighted, but rather that it may have special *studio* applications for product photography in pixel shift mode, quite possibly capable of replacing medium format at a tiny fraction of the cost. That is, if acceptable and capable lenses can be found for studio shooting. The aggressively low price for a full frame 36MP camera makes it doubly interesting.

* there may be some older regular Zeiss ZK lenses on the used market which are the same generation as ZF.2 for Nikon. Also, wills oon have mount conversions for Zeiss for Nikon Otus/Miluvs/ZF.2 to Pentax conversion options.

Noise and resolution with pixel shift

RawDigger now supports Pentax K1 pixel shift DNG (scroll down in that post for link).

See in-depth coverage of pixel shift mode of the Pentax K3 II.

The Pentax K1 utilizes a modern 36-megapixel sensor, and presumably of Sony origin, so it ought to be good. If Pentax has utilized electronics of similar quality to the Pentax 645Z, it ought to be very good indeed. Files are 14-bit raw, presumably true 14-bit.

As I discuss in Super Resolution Pixel Shift Mode, the benefits of pixel shift mode are twofold:

RGGB Bayer matrix
  • Reduced noise because there are 4 exposures in theory resulting in √4 (half) the noise in the green channel (*if* the raw converter uses all green values), and √2 the noise in the red and blue channels.
  • The term “Super Resolution” is really about color discrimination at each pixel (“true color” pixels). With a full 42-bit RGB value (3 X 14 bits) at each pixel, no demosaicing interpolation is needed, and that is what increases spatial resolution (as well as color discrimination). The files are necessarily huge because there are 4 frames in each pixel shift raw file.

Because the full-frame K1 holds the potential to beat the pants off the Nikon D810 and Canon 5DS R if everything is done just right, my focus with the K1 will be almost entirely about pixel shift mode.

Subject movement

Pentax claims that the K1 deals with subject motion by (in essence) not using pixel shift at areas in which movement occurs. How this is done in RAW format is unclear; hopefully it is not just a JPEG claim. Note that the K3 II has a checkerboard problem from a shutter vibration bug, so that is another potential issue/bug in the K1.

Pentax K1 gear coming for testing
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