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12-12-2010, 10:29 AM   #1
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Quality/sharpness of jpg preview

I'm a long-time Nikon shooter who has recently added a Pentax system.

Overall, I'm very happy with the new gear, but one thing is bothering me a little: the quality, or mainly the apparent sharpness, of the preview on the back of the camera. I do a lot of manual focus, wide apertures, and I chimp heavily to confirm focus accuracy. When I first started shooting with the K-7, and now the K-5, I would zoom in on the preview and things looked a little soft to me. At first I thought I was not getting accurate focus, and that I would be limited by the viewfinder (as compared to my D3). But when I imported to Lightroom and looked at them, most were fine.

So I am wondering if there is any way to improve the preview, or if it's just the monitor itself which isn't as sharp as I'm used to, or what. Researching this briefly, I have read a couple of other threads in here. I still don't know if it's possible, and it's also clear there's a lot I don't know. For example, where does this jpg that I am viewing on the back of my camera even come from?? I didn't know this before, but apparently there is a jpg actually embedded in the RAW file, even if I am shooting RAW only (as I always do)? I guess that embedded jpg is what I'm seeing on the back of the camera? I've looked around the menus, and I am assuming there's no way I can increase the quality here, but I would love to be wrong.

12-12-2010, 10:46 AM   #2
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as far as i know, most if not all dslr companies displays a jpeg preview even if you shoot in raw. as for a way to make the picture look sharper... you can dial up the sharpness setting of the photos perhaps, and dial it back down when you're in photoshop or lightroom later. just a suggestion.
12-12-2010, 10:52 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Eagle_Friends Quote
as far as i know, most if not all dslr companies displays a jpeg preview even if you shoot in raw. as for a way to make the picture look sharper... you can dial up the sharpness setting of the photos perhaps, and dial it back down when you're in photoshop or lightroom later. just a suggestion.
Where in the K-5 menu settings can I dial up sharpness of the jpg? If I can do that, I'll be very happy. I won't need to dial it back down, because I am shooting RAW.
12-12-2010, 11:16 AM - 3 Likes   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Todd Adamson Quote
Where in the K-5 menu settings can I dial up sharpness of the jpg? If I can do that, I'll be very happy. I won't need to dial it back down, because I am shooting RAW.
The embedded preview in the RAW file is a heavily compressed JPG which looks terrible when heavily magnified. If you shoot only in RAW, then that's the preview you get to see when reviewing the pictures. However, if you shoot RAW+ or JPG, then the magnified picture you see during review is of noticeably higher quality, especially when you magnify it. This is because the camera is showing you the actual generated JPG file rather than the crappy one that's embedded in the RAW file.

12-12-2010, 12:33 PM   #5
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Thats worth remembering Hound Tooth, thanks.
12-12-2010, 01:07 PM   #6
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sharp JPEG

I found when viewing pictures taken with my K. 20 and K7.pictures viewed on the LCD screen of the K7 seems soft, when you swap cards same pictures viewed on the K. 20 look way sharper. The viewing screen on the K7 and now the K5 tend to make the pictures look soft. If you have access to another body like the k-10 or k20 you will see the difference. You can sharpen the jay peg output with fin sharpen 2 which only applies to the JPEG.
12-12-2010, 03:22 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Hound Tooth Quote
However, if you shoot RAW+ or JPG, then the magnified picture you see during review is of noticeably higher quality, especially when you magnify it. This is because the camera is showing you the actual generated JPG file rather than the crappy one that's embedded in the RAW file.
For real? I'll have to try that, and I guess if that's the case, it may be a good reason for me to shoot RAW + jpg. I guess there's no way to increase quality of the embedded jpg, eh?

I did manage to find the sharpening controls, thanks to Stephen (urkeldaedalus) who stopped by today. I was looking only in menu options, and had been ignoring the right button on the back of the camera.
12-12-2010, 07:05 PM   #8
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as stated, embedded jpeg, high compression (to keep it small). just one more thing to add: all pentax cameras i've used (k100d, k10d, k20d, k-5 now) will allow you to zoom in way beyond the actual size of the picture (1/1), which can be very confusing (there should be a marker at the 1/1 position, imho). what i do is find the "maximum reasonable" zoom level, so i know where to check for sharpness (what to expect).

jpeg settings will apply to the embedded jpeg, this includes "filters", which is quite nifty (when you shoot for b&w, for instance, you can set jpeg to b&w, you get b&w preview and all, but still shooting raw, not losing color data or anything), it's been like this since k10d at least, i think.

12-13-2010, 02:12 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by nanok Quote
just one more thing to add: all pentax cameras i've used (k100d, k10d, k20d, k-5 now) will allow you to zoom in way beyond the actual size of the picture (1/1), which can be very confusing (there should be a marker at the 1/1 position, imho). what i do is find the "maximum reasonable" zoom level, so i know where to check for sharpness (what to expect).
The rear screen on the K-7 and K-5 displays 921,000 dots. This is actually represented by an array of one R, G and B dot per pixel on a 4:3 screen, so:

640x480 pixels x 3 dots = 921,600 (hence the 921K dot LCD in the specifications)

Keeping this in mind, you can figure out that x8 magnification is closest to 1:1 (x7.3 would be ideal on K-7, and x7.7 on K-5, but it jumps from x6.7 to x8). Anything beyond x8 can be misleading for judging sharpness.

On a K-r, the 1:1 magnification is exactly x6.7. But on a K-x, you need to zoom into x11 to get 1:1 because of the much lower resolution screen.

Last edited by Hound Tooth; 12-13-2010 at 01:48 PM.
12-13-2010, 10:19 AM   #10
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I had exactly the same complaint. You will also notice terrible combing in your histograms when shooting subjects with large areas of very gradual colour gradations. This is because the histogram is taken from the embedded JPEG image of very low quality.

I have resorted to shooting RAW+JPEG for this reason, although I would much prefer to have control over the embedded JPEG quality.

- Phil
12-13-2010, 10:28 AM   #11
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If sharp images are your primary requirement, why don't you just use Liveview for focusing? Enlarge it some and you'll obtain better focus than you can do manually.

If you are shooting moving subjects, then Liveview is less valuable. I'd check out alternative focusing screen options that will aid manual focusing. Search for Katz Eye on this forum.

I only use the jpeg on the LCD to check framing. Otherwise it lies.

M
12-13-2010, 05:23 PM   #12
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boardhead: that's arguable: it could easily be done, of course, but the problem is, once you store your raws, you will start to be quite unhappy about them taking so much more space. with raw+jpg you can chose to easily delete the high quality jpegs once/if you don't need them, so if the camera uses the jpeg when shooting raw+jpeg, i think that's a very decent solution (i haven't tried yet, to be honest)
12-14-2010, 10:32 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Miguel Quote
If sharp images are your primary requirement, why don't you just use Liveview for focusing? Enlarge it some and you'll obtain better focus than you can do manually.

If you are shooting moving subjects, then Liveview is less valuable. I'd check out alternative focusing screen options that will aid manual focusing. Search for Katz Eye on this forum.

I only use the jpeg on the LCD to check framing. Otherwise it lies.

M
The problem is not the sharpness of my actual images, or the accuracy of my manual focus. I am good at manual focus. Not great, but good, and getting better; so I am happy with where I am there, and I think the stock screen in the K-5 is really good. Also, Live View is simply not compatible with the way I work.

The problem is that I get fooled by the crappy jpg display into thinking my images are not critically focused, when in fact they are.

Last edited by Todd Adamson; 12-14-2010 at 11:03 AM.
12-14-2010, 11:00 AM   #14
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todd: i agree with you that it's offtopic (not on topic for your question), but while we're at it, let me say: don't underestimate the value of a split/mate screen for manual focusing (it's not just the split, it's the mate part on which you can actually see a decent hint of dof, too, like in the "old days"). i would highly recommend you give it a try, i have a cheap one on my k20d and i love it (20bucks or so from ebay, hong kong stuff). if you can afford katzeye, i hear that's the bees knees, but for 20$ it's worth just to try it i guess.
12-14-2010, 11:07 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by nanok Quote
todd: i agree with you that it's offtopic (not on topic for your question), but while we're at it, let me say: don't underestimate the value of a split/mate screen for manual focusing (it's not just the split, it's the mate part on which you can actually see a decent hint of dof, too, like in the "old days"). i would highly recommend you give it a try, i have a cheap one on my k20d and i love it (20bucks or so from ebay, hong kong stuff). if you can afford katzeye, i hear that's the bees knees, but for 20$ it's worth just to try it i guess.
I suppose I should check it out someday. A friend got a KatzEye installed in his D200, and I spent a bit of time with it and really didn't like it much. But it could be one of those things that I would learn to love over time. At any rate, I am getting a 70-80% keeper rate these days using manual focus on my D3, and I think it's going to be similar with my K-5, because even though the VF isn't as bright, I think the screen is better than the Nikon's. And right now, it looks like I will be able to have dependable AF with my main Pentax portrait lenses.
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