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08-09-2012, 09:35 PM - 6 Likes   #1
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Pentax K-30 ISO Series - Full-size pics

I've been experimenting with my new K-30, and figured I'd share some of my work with the forum. I just ran the K-30 through its ISO range today using two different scenes.

Test Setup

The photos were shot with my K-30 on a tripod with remote shutter release with 3-second mirror lockup. All of the images were shot in RAW, and were developed using Adobe Camera Raw into Photoshop CS5. No adjustments were made during developing, but I did add a light sharpening to the images shot at ISO 800 and lower since that is my normal process. At ISO 1600 and above I abstained from any sharpening, since grain had become prevalent enough by that point that sharpening tended to have the undesirable side-effect of also emphasizing the grain.

No noise reduction was applied in ACR or in Photoshop. Applying conservative noise reduction in ACR would give you cleaner images, with a minimal loss of detail. I usually find it to be a worthwhile tradeoff, but for this exercise I wanted to see the raw sensor output at each ISO level.


Daylight Series

The first scene was shot using daylight (but not direct sunlight) coming in through a window just to the left of the panda vase. I had a reflector on the other side of the vase to provide fill light. The lens was my Sigma 100-300mm setup approximately 4 meters from the vase. I wasn't sure how the 100-300mm would perform since it probably wasn't designed for close subjects, but I think the pictures turned out great, with abundant detail and contrast. Because of the ample amounts of daylight, this isn't the most demanding ISO test, but it's still good to see how high you can push the ISO with daylight since there are some situations outdoors where you will want a very high shutter speed in order to freeze a fast moving subject or compensate for a very long focal length.


















I think the K-30 did very good with the daylight series. I later worked with some of the images in post-processing, and found that with some massaging I was able to clean up the ISO 12800 image enough to make a good 8"x10" print. And even the 25600 image could be used to make a very good looking web-sized image or a 4"x6" print if processed carefully. Here are the ISO 12800 and 25600 images after cleaning them up. Again, click on the image for the full size version.




Indoor Series

The second scene is intended be representative of indoor conditions and should be a bit more demanding. The scene was shot in a windowless basement room and was lit with incandescent lamps. I made sure the scene was lit/exposed in such a way as to include plenty of shadows and dark areas, since this gives the camera's ISO capabilities a real workout, and is typical of many photos shot indoors with available light.

The focal point was on the face of the red Russian nesting doll in the center of the frame. This scene was shot with the very sharp Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 lens, so this is also a good chance to evaluate the resolution available from the K-30's 16MP sensor when paired with a good lens.


















The K-30 also impressed with the indoor series. Like the Daylight images, I was able to clean up an ISO 12800 image enough for an 8"x10" print, and an ISO 25600 image for a 4"x6" print or web image. So although I would normally avoid the highest ISO settings, it's nice to see that they are not just included as a marketing gimmick.

One of my goals with this exercise was to discover the ISO ceiling which I would not want to exceed in the field. With my K-x I usually would not want to go above ISO 1600, but with the K-30 I will now consider ISO 3200 to be my upper limit. Below are the two ISO 3200 images after processing. Please be sure to click through to view the full size images to see how much resolution and detail was able to be preserved at ISO 3200.




Conclusion

I never got to use a K-5, but it seems to me that Pentax has definitely managed to improve over the K-x's already-excellent high ISO capabilities. The fact that they were able to do this while cramming in 33% more pixels is even more impressive. Noise is very well controlled up to ISO 1600, and even at ISO 3200 and 6400, images are still very usable in many applications. At ISO 12800 and 25600 noise is very noticeable, but color accuracy and saturation remain good and an amazing amount of detail is still preserved.

Something else that should be pointed out is the quality of the noise from the K-30's sensor. While many sensors exhibit ugly splotchy noise and banding when pushed to their limits, the K-30 maintains its composure by producing grain that is very fine and uniform. When viewed up close, the noise is actually very reminiscent of film grain. Certain photographs may even benefit from the inclusion of this type of grain. I'll finish this up by posting the full-size Indoor 25600 ISO image converted to black and white, but with absolutely no noise reduction. This type of undramatic low-contrast scene is not the ideal candidate for black & white treatment, but you can still get an idea of the possibilities.




Last edited by Edgar_in_Indy; 08-09-2012 at 09:49 PM.
08-09-2012, 09:37 PM   #2
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Thank you for this test - it echos what I believe about the k-30's noise performance. I'll gladly take luminance noise over chroma.
08-09-2012, 11:25 PM   #3
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I'm rather impressed.

The K30 noise level at 12800 is similar to the noise of my *istDS at only 3200

That's rather impressive indeed.
08-10-2012, 05:45 AM   #4
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Thanks for doing this, Edgar! Very cool and well done. I myself have decided on ISO 4000 as my upper limit for Auto ISO, however in certain situations I would not hesitate to jump to 5000 or 6400. It really is a great high ISO performer!

Here's a shot I got at ISO 4000 that I was really pleased with. This was shot RAW and very minimal noise reduction was applied in Lightroom.



08-10-2012, 06:20 AM   #5
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Great shot! Have you tried Topaz DeNoise? It does a good job of removing noise while maintaining detail.
08-10-2012, 06:23 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Edgar_in_Indy Quote
Great shot! Have you tried Topaz DeNoise? It does a good job of removing noise while maintaining detail.
Thanks Edgar! I have tried Topaz products and didn't end up paying for them. I have LR, Noise Ninja, Nik's Dfine, and am currently trying NoiseWare. I swear, I think LR and NN are as good as anything I've tried. But I may just not know what I'm doing! I don't mind a little grain if it means keeping the detail that's there. It's the color noise I hate. The K-30 is very good in that regard, as your samples show! But I do have LR set up at 100 for color noise reduction by default. It doesn't harm anything and takes that step out of the equation.
08-10-2012, 06:31 AM   #7
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If you wanna post the RAW file, I could take a crack at it and see if DeNoise works any better.
08-10-2012, 06:47 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Edgar_in_Indy Quote
If you wanna post the RAW file, I could take a crack at it and see if DeNoise works any better.
Thanks, appreciate that, Edgar! Actually, I'm on limited bandwidth (5 GB/month!) so I can't post up RAW files. Anyway, I could've removed more noise but chose not to. I really wanted to show what the K-30's output looks like - it's quite good even without much effort at NR!

08-10-2012, 10:05 AM   #9
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These are very informative and very nicely composed "test" shots, Edgar. As you obviously know, they are very helpful for a lot of us right now. So thank you.

Since you seem to enjoy doing these tests (I hope! ), would you mind taking a couple of requests? Both involve dynamic range and post processing. If you don't have the time, I completely understand.

1.) Take some low-ISO RAW shots early in the morning or early in the evening in which there are lots of shadows and highlights -- with lots of manmade details in both (not leaves and branches and weeds ). For example, maybe you could take a few wide-angle shots in which there is a "tall" building with the sun generally behind it (or directly behind it, as the case may be). And/Or maybe you could photograph a picture window from inside a building -- with lots of daylight outside -- making sure to capture a lot of the interior, too. In both cases, set the aperture and shutter speeds at various points between the two extremes of shadows and highlights. Then post process them to your heart's content in order to bring out as much detail from the shadows and highlights as possible, but without making them look unnatural. I'm very curious to see how much "tampering" these types of K-30 RAW images can stand in post processing.

2.) A number of reviewers test dynamic range by changing the EV settings on the camera so that the test images (all shot in daylight) range from almost completely washed out to nearly black. In this test, however, you would leave the EV set at a "normal"/"realistic" level (i.e. whatever the situation demands) and shoot some images in real-world dark conditions at a relatively low ISO (not pitch black conditions, but just generally dark conditions), with shutter speeds no slower than 1/60 or 1/30 (slowest handheld speed?). I wonder how much detail one can pull from those types of RAW images in post processing.

For these tests, a kit lens would probably be preferable, since I doubt I could ever afford that great Sigma 100-300 lens you have . Thank you!

Last edited by Welfl; 08-10-2012 at 10:26 AM.
08-05-2013, 03:18 AM   #10
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Could you tell me please how to set the 25600 iso?
in the use manual don't appear and i tried to set it in custom menu of camera and I find it only in High- ISO noise reduction -> custom .. but when i try to shoot something in dark it don't appear 25600 iso
08-05-2013, 04:40 AM - 1 Like   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by anniania Quote
Could you tell me please how to set the 25600 iso?
in the use manual don't appear and i tried to set it in custom menu of camera and I find it only in High- ISO noise reduction -> custom .. but when i try to shoot something in dark it don't appear 25600 iso
Go into the custom function menu and enable expanded ISO. Details here:

Pentax K-30 Camera Review - Recommended Settings - PentaxForums.com

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08-05-2013, 06:45 AM - 1 Like   #12
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Very well done. While I still keep the ISO as low as possible while still getting the shutter speed and/or aperture I want I don't hesitate to go as high as needed to get the shot. Also great point about the texture and consistency of the noise from that sensor and how it can be desirable in certain types of photographs as in when trying to imitate old black and white or sepia images. Just another nice to have in the K 30.
08-05-2013, 08:51 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
Go into the custom function menu and enable expanded ISO. Details here:

Pentax K-30 Camera Review - Recommended Settings - PentaxForums.com

Thank you very much!
Now I can do it!
Thank you again, First I thought it's something wrong with my camera
08-05-2013, 03:36 PM   #14
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Thank you, Edgar in Indy! Your testing confirms my totally non-rigorous thoughts. I had a K-x that I would use auto up to 1600 and only go beyond that if absolutely necessary. I since got a K-30. I still leave my auto ISO set to 1600, but I'm much less hesitant to bump it to 3200; 6400 if needed. I de-noise in Lightroom, but you certainly got good results with Topaz.
Thanks again.
08-06-2013, 08:43 AM   #15
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It's been almost exactly a year since I created this thread, so going back and reading it now was kind of interesting...kind of like reading it for the first time, so thank you anniania for reviving it.

My K-30 is now sitting at 25,000 shutter actuations, and I love it more than ever. Pentax has really set the bar high for me with the K-30, so they will have come out with something pretty special to convince me to upgrade. Then again, I was saying the same thing about my K-x.
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