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10-28-2012, 06:23 PM - 2 Likes   #1
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Firmware 1.1 Undocumented Changes

As some may have gathered, I have 2 Q's now. I bought the first for my wife, but after well over 2k images shot myself I thought I better give her back her camera so I took this as an opportunity to test firmware 1.1 vs 1.01.

I did a quick shot out the back door at ISO 125 and 800, upgraded to FW 1.1, and repeated the same shots. When looking closely, I noted what seemed like more contrast but less detail in the 1.1 shots; I pulled out the 2nd Q (still on 1.01 at that point) and verified the same. The light was starting to fade and I didn't use a tripod, so I resigned to more investigation on the other Q body later.

Later that evening, I repeated this test indoors by resting the Q on a solid surface. I took a shot at 125 and 800, upgraded the firmware, and took the same two shots again. Much to my surprise, I saw the same; firmware 1.1 is noticeably less detailed than 1.01. I attempted to load firmware 1.01 back on the body, which worked (yay!), and repeated the same test 2 more times (2 shots, upgrade, 2 shots, etc). In doing this, I have some fairly solid observations:

1. Firmware 1.1 noise reduction is more aggressive, even at same NR settings. The net result is less fine detail along with less pronounced "grain"
2. Firmware 1.1 consistently exposes +1/3 stop vs 1.01 (I initially mistook this as greater contrast, but its exactly 1/3 stop more exposure)
3. Autofocus has definitely changed: I was unable to lock on certain targets in very low light with firmware 1.01 that 1.1 locked, every time.

I did a quick screenshot dump to paint--not ideal but all I have--which is linked below. I encourage everyone to try the same experiment to validate or refute my findings. For now, I'm leaving my Q at 1.01 as I prefer the detail and don't mind the grain. But the focusing may win me over...

For reference, my settings always are as follows (I encourage all who test to use these settings for repeatability): NR LOW, Shadow and Highlight compensation OFF, natural mode with the following adjustments from base (+1 HUE, +1 high/low key adj, +4 contrast, +1 FINE sharpness).

Just a guess here, but I'm betting these changes are deliberate and come from development for the Q10... A base meter adjustment of +1/3EV, different noise reduction algorithm, and potentially a different fine sharpness algorithm; all designed to smooth the images and give a little more pop.




10-28-2012, 07:59 PM   #2
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Nice to know and good work, I just turn everything off and shoot raw, where I believe the Q shines the most...
10-28-2012, 08:08 PM   #3
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Interesting. May have missed it - are you shooting jpeg or Raw? I still have all the firmwares on SD cards. Will leave the new Q at 1.01for testing. Actually, has anyone compared the original FW to these two? We can back up FW but don't have the original anywhere. Hmmm.
Ultimately may leave the Q's at two different FW and use the best body for the job. Not like they are heavy.
thanks
barondla
10-28-2012, 08:32 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by barondla Quote
Interesting. May have missed it - are you shooting jpeg or Raw? I still have all the firmwares on SD cards. Will leave the new Q at 1.01for testing. Actually, has anyone compared the original FW to these two? We can back up FW but don't have the original anywhere. Hmmm.
Ultimately may leave the Q's at two different FW and use the best body for the job. Not like they are heavy.
thanks
barondla
He has to be shooting JPEG, adjustment settings don't apply to raw images, I made the mistake and spent hours having the time of my life adjusting everything so I can make minimal adjustments in PP and when I uploaded everything, they were straight raw without any of the adjustments I put in camera... You'd have to shoot RAW+ for the adjustments, but still raw will be raw and the adjustments will only apply to the JPEG.

10-29-2012, 12:00 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by ndjedinak Quote
I attempted to load firmware 1.01 back on the body, which worked (yay!), and repeated the same test 2 more times (2 shots, upgrade, 2 shots, etc). In doing this, I have some fairly solid observations:

1. Firmware 1.1 noise reduction is more aggressive, even at same NR settings. The net result is less fine detail along with less pronounced "grain"
2. Firmware 1.1 consistently exposes +1/3 stop vs 1.01 (I initially mistook this as greater contrast, but its exactly 1/3 stop more exposure)
3. Autofocus has definitely changed: I was unable to lock on certain targets in very low light with firmware 1.01 that 1.1 locked, every time.
Holy crap! I want to revert back to 1.01, but all I can find is the latest version

Ndjedinak, where did you find 1.0...
10-29-2012, 02:55 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by bmonki Quote
He has to be shooting JPEG, adjustment settings don't apply to raw images, I made the mistake and spent hours having the time of my life adjusting everything so I can make minimal adjustments in PP and when I uploaded everything, they were straight raw without any of the adjustments I put in camera... You'd have to shoot RAW+ for the adjustments, but still raw will be raw and the adjustments will only apply to the JPEG.
RAW isn't really RAW with the Q; pentax is applying some NR to the RAW itself (DxO calls this "smoothing"). Whether this pre-RAW smoothing can be changed via a firmware update, I'm not sure.

I did spend some time converting the RAWs to JPEG with matching settings via the included Silkypix software. If there is a difference in the RAW output, I can't see it; its possible FW11 exhibits less noise in the blue part of the channel, as this seemed somewhat repetitive through the shots. But this is really guesswork and difficult to compare without an analysis app like IMATEST. The differences, if they were there, were extremely subtle.

SO, as bmonki points out, if you shoot RAW you likely won't see a difference. That there is a difference in the JPEG engines is clear. I repeated my test early this morning with a different subject, with the now predictable and same results. Whether you prefer the grainer but sharper FW101, or the cleaner FW11 with less detail, is preference; and this could likely change between subjects, to be honest. If you have more "pixels" on the main subject, detail isn't as important and noise performance may sway more. As barondla pointed out, you can always shoot with one body on FW101 and one on FW11, so the choice is there, everyone should have 2 Q's

I'm really torn between the two firmwares, to be honest. I do find focusing a definite improvement in FW11. Likely this means the Q10's superior focusing was algorithm based and not hardware based, as it seems to have "back ported" to the older body with this update. I like the image processing of the older firmware better, but I'm going to shoot with the new firmware for some time to see if the experience itself is so improved that I can't live without it. It's very nice that you can load the old one to switch back and forth, not all bodies allow this!
10-29-2012, 02:56 AM - 1 Like   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by JHD Quote
Holy crap! I want to revert back to 1.01, but all I can find is the latest version

Ndjedinak, where did you find 1.0...
I have it saved locally, shoot me your email address and I'll send it over.
10-29-2012, 03:41 AM   #8
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RAW is still RAW with the Q, you do get way better DR and overall better images if you shoot in RAW. The NR, highlight, and shadow correction can still be applied to the RAW (just as the same with my K-01) but it's best to turn them off or to the lowest setting and use a proper program (like LR, Aperture, or PS) to edit and convert them, I use LR3.5, haven't upgraded as I'm afraid my presets will get wacked out. I can promise you the IQ will be a whole lot better if you ditch the JPEG and all the in camera corrections and use a proper program, the Q is even supported by LR with in program corrections (like lens distortion and what not, turn it off in camera and you'll get faster processing times and it'll be automatically corrected when uploaded into LR).


Last edited by wanderography; 10-29-2012 at 03:46 AM.
10-29-2012, 04:00 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by bmonki Quote
RAW is still RAW with the Q, you do get way better DR and overall better images if you shoot in RAW. The NR, highlight, and shadow correction can still be applied to the RAW (just as the same with my K-01) but it's best to turn them off or to the lowest setting and use a proper program (like LR, Aperture, or PS) to edit and convert them, I use LR3.5, haven't upgraded as I'm afraid my presets will get wacked out. I can promise you the IQ will be a whole lot better if you ditch the JPEG and all the in camera corrections and use a proper program, the Q is even supported by LR with in program corrections (like lens distortion and what not, turn it off in camera and you'll get faster processing times and it'll be automatically corrected when uploaded into LR).
Well, remember, Pentax is cooking the RAW, so it's not really RAW meat, just slightly seared perhaps My point there is Pentax may have been able to change that pre cooking in the firmware update but it appears they didn't (or if they did, very subtly)... The new differences were all Jpeg engine tuning.

But I get your drift. I know I could get better IQ by post processing RAWs, but at this point in my life I'd prefer to spend as much time away from my computer as possible. It's just a personal choice; I have found I enjoy photography immensely more by treating my digital cameras like my film cameras and getting everything as close to my original vision at the point of capture. For me, this allows me more creativity and not less, to be honest.

I'm quite sure not everyone is like this, but a corollary is that I find my photography worsens when I use zooms. If I just have a prime, my "vision" is clearer, and my captures improve. It's the same for me with no post processing.

Now, I do capture RAW+jpeg. Why not--storage is cheap, and I occasionally use the camera to re-edit the RAWs. Sometimes when working quickly I will shoot a series of frames, then take a WB reading, apply to all those already-captured frames with the Q's multiple RAW editing capability. Really great. But generally, I make my color profile/B&W choice up front and rarely if ever change in post.

Likely this comes from my using film so much--for me, it's like "choosing my film." I see different things when shooting portra vs tri-x.

Anyway, I digress. I may take my Q on an overseas trip in a few months. If I do, and if I get a chance to capture some landscapes, perhaps I'll try some real RAW editing to see what I can get out of the file. As is, the SooC output is excellent up to 13x19 and quite good up to 16x20. I do imagine RAW could improve that.
10-29-2012, 04:39 AM   #10
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the plus side to the way you shoot is that the knob in front becomes extremely useful, as a raw shooter the knob is completely useless, I've utilized my knob for aspect ratio which I never touch but figure I got knob for it... But when I messed with the colors in the Q I found that they were great when you really get deep into the settings and if your shoot jpeg creating your own filters for the knob is awesome. But I've gotten to the point that no matter what camera I'm using I would like them all to have the same tones and just overall feel to them. And with just like creating the settings in camera you can do the same with any proper software program which will cut all PP down dramatically, right now I'm at the point where I only have to touch the brightness and contrast slider for any picture maybe touch the shadows (this doesn't go for nature shots for me which I am more anal about and like to make the colors accurate and not artistic), which takes a total of 10 seconds and than uploaded to flickr or sent to get printed.
10-29-2012, 06:42 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by ndjedinak Quote
... I have some fairly solid observations:

1. Firmware 1.1 noise reduction is more aggressive, even at same NR settings. The net result is less fine detail along with less pronounced "grain"
2. Firmware 1.1 consistently exposes +1/3 stop vs 1.01 (I initially mistook this as greater contrast, but its exactly 1/3 stop more exposure)
3. Autofocus has definitely changed: I was unable to lock on certain targets in very low light with firmware 1.01 that 1.1 locked, every time.

...I'm betting these changes are deliberate and come from development for the Q10... A base meter adjustment of +1/3EV, different noise reduction algorithm, and potentially a different fine sharpness algorithm; all designed to smooth the images and give a little more pop.
Interesting... Perhaps, all that's been fine tuned is the in-camera JPG image interpretation schema. RAW images captured using FW1.1 seem just as easy to develop using LR4, plus NIK plug-ins, as those captured using FW1.01.

Cheers... M
10-29-2012, 07:03 AM   #12
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Considering that the Q's sensor is so small, unless one wants quick snaps it is pretty pointless to be just shooting with jpeg when one could get the best possible results shooting RAW. Imo the Q's jpeg rendition is just so-so, no matter what firmware version, new or old.
10-29-2012, 10:32 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by ndjedinak Quote
I have it saved locally, shoot me your email address and I'll send it over.
Thanks, I really appreciate that. I cannot be bothered to shoot raw and PP with the Q. If I need better IQ than what the Q can give me in Jpeg I use a camera with a bigger sensor.
10-29-2012, 01:04 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by creampuff Quote
Considering that the Q's sensor is so small, unless one wants quick snaps it is pretty pointless to be just shooting with jpeg when one could get the best possible results shooting RAW. Imo the Q's jpeg rendition is just so-so, no matter what firmware version, new or old.
Theoretically, sure. But in practice? I don't agree the Q's JPEG output is pointless at all.

I printed a 12x18 and 16x20 taken in the same location in Hawaii, minutes apart. One with Q @83mm (02 zoom) and Fuji x-pro 1 @ 90mm (60mm XF); landscape shot at optimum aperture for each camera and most DoF. Using the settings I laid out in another thread for Reversal Film color mode on the Q, I *preferred* the Q shot at 12x18 due to better overall rendering. At 16x20, the extra details in the x-pro shot started to fascinate the viewer, and viewing both side by side most people who looked started to remark that the Q's image was a little softer. I gravitated towards the x-pro shot at that size, simply because it was sharper. however, in isolation, everyone I showed only the Q photo thought it was beautiful. (And I agree)

I've recently discovered (since buying a 2nd Q) that our first copy of the 02 zoom as used in the shot above was noticeably subpar in sharpness and contrast to the 2nd. So could the Q compete at 16x20? I think so, at base ISO with optimum settings, at least. The last point is very important--straight out of the box the Q doesn't give you it's best in JPEG.

So, do you print everything bigger than 16x20? Or, do you print anything bigger than 16x20 at all?
10-29-2012, 01:04 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by JHD Quote
Thanks, I really appreciate that. I cannot be bothered to shoot raw and PP with the Q. If I need better IQ than what the Q can give me in Jpeg I use a camera with a bigger sensor.
This!
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