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06-05-2009, 10:02 PM   #1
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final firmware and high-iso image quality

I'm already certain I'm buying a K-7; I'm not frightened by the samples we've seen already.

But that said, the line that "final firmware will be amazingly better at high ISO" seems suspect to me. I understand that there can be tweaking, but if software work were able to make mountains of difference in noise and other aspects of picture quality at high sensitivity, wouldn't it be fairly normal to see firmware upgrades that enhance IQ?

I mean, there's nothing magical about meeting a deadline and slapping 1.0 on the firmware; it stands to reason that the software can probably be improved even beyond that. So why do we never see something like: "Firmware 1.2 changes: 1) adds custom feature XYZ and 2) cuts noise at ISO 1600 in half"?

Given that we're already talking about a refinement of the sensor from the K20D, I suspect that there's some specific issue (some pattern noise, for example) that's being worked on, not just that making high ISO look good was left until the last minute.

06-05-2009, 10:38 PM   #2
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Like you say, it's probably not that the final firmware would "improve" IQ, but rather, that the final firmware would be able to deliver the intended IQ of the sensor at high ISO, which for one reason or another has thus far been hindered.
06-06-2009, 01:42 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by mattdm Quote
I'm already certain I'm buying a K-7; I'm not frightened by the samples we've seen already.

But that said, the line that "final firmware will be amazingly better at high ISO" seems suspect to me. I understand that there can be tweaking, but if software work were able to make mountains of difference in noise and other aspects of picture quality at high sensitivity, wouldn't it be fairly normal to see firmware upgrades that enhance IQ?

I mean, there's nothing magical about meeting a deadline and slapping 1.0 on the firmware; it stands to reason that the software can probably be improved even beyond that. So why do we never see something like: "Firmware 1.2 changes: 1) adds custom feature XYZ and 2) cuts noise at ISO 1600 in half"?

Given that we're already talking about a refinement of the sensor from the K20D, I suspect that there's some specific issue (some pattern noise, for example) that's being worked on, not just that making high ISO look good was left until the last minute.
I think you are right if you're talking about shear sensor performance (raw quality), which is not that related to firmware anyway.

As far as I am concerned, I think we can have a pretty good idea of the high ISO noise from the raw that were posted some time ago: very similar to K20D IMO.

The "differences" will probably come from better NR on the jpegs (I am betting the "default" jpeg setting on the K7 will be different from the one on the K20) which may not be activated or present in early firmwares.

The real (and almost impossible to answer) question is: is v0.35 an "early" version or is it close to final and what does it include?
06-06-2009, 04:39 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by RawheaD Quote
Like you say, it's probably not that the final firmware would "improve" IQ, but rather, that the final firmware would be able to deliver the intended IQ of the sensor at high ISO, which for one reason or another has thus far been hindered.
Are you saying that from the design of the sensor and associated hardware that one can calculate the expected noise given the ideal firmware ? and that they are working towards this theoretical ideal, which should be attainable ?

06-06-2009, 04:40 AM   #5
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John Carlson basically said that the only changes between the current firmware and the version released with the K-7 would be to fix spelling errors and to tweak image quality. I think what has people excited is the lack of banding and patterened noise in high iso photos. You can clean up noise after the fact if there aren't those issues.
06-06-2009, 05:21 AM   #6
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The production cameras will not only have production firmware, but also production hardware. The beta cameras discussed here has been around for months. The firmware is not the only thing thas has been tweaked, but also the hardware.

I don't expect the difference between beta and production version to be amazingly big, but I do expect the production version to be better - just as the K20D production version had better image quality than the beta versions.
06-06-2009, 05:52 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by lol101 Quote
The "differences" will probably come from better NR on the jpegs (I am betting the "default" jpeg setting on the K7 will be different from the one on the K20) which may not be activated or present in early firmwares.

IMO, this is probably the case - before I heard about the K-7, I suspected that the next model would have both more aggressive NR (in jpeg) by default, and also maybe better NR. I think they want the default output to match cameras like the D300 and D90, which has more NR than the K20D, but pretty good NR - meaning, you can detect the artifacts, but they're really only noticeable on tight crops and large prints (> A4)

So I think we'll see better NR, but not better core noise performance - and of course the level of NR will be tweakable in camera if you'd rather retain all possible detail.

This is really the same sensor as in the K20D, reworked peripherally - I don't think the core noise performance can improve much. And that's OK - K20D actually has very good basic noise performance IMO.


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06-07-2009, 08:48 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rondec Quote
John Carlson basically said that the only changes between the current firmware and the version released with the K-7 would be to fix spelling errors and to tweak image quality. I think what has people excited is the lack of banding and patterened noise in high iso photos. You can clean up noise after the fact if there aren't those issues.
This would indeed be a significant improvement. Pattern noise can ruin a photo beyond repair. Non-pattern noise can often be cleaned up, although at the cost of losing some fine detail. In most cases, the cost is minor.

Rob

06-07-2009, 01:36 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by mattdm Quote
I mean, there's nothing magical about meeting a deadline and slapping 1.0 on the firmware; it stands to reason that the software can probably be improved even beyond that. So why do we never see something like: "Firmware 1.2 changes: 1) adds custom feature XYZ and 2) cuts noise at ISO 1600 in half"?
The significance of v1 firmware is that reviews will be based on it. Respected first impressions should be based on that firmware. Aside from that, some people may buy a camera and never be bothered with upgrading the firmware.

I'm also wondering if the sensor is still being tweaked prior to production.
06-08-2009, 08:04 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by RMabo Quote
The production cameras will not only have production firmware, but also production hardware. The beta cameras discussed here has been around for months. The firmware is not the only thing thas has been tweaked, but also the hardware.

I don't expect the difference between beta and production version to be amazingly big, but I do expect the production version to be better - just as the K20D production version had better image quality than the beta versions.
My understanding is that early beta K7 bodies were equipped with K20 sensors, so I suspect it's kind of a crap shoot as to what sensor we've seen results from so far. From what I've read, the K7 sensor is not just a tweaked k20 sensor, it is a brand new design from the ground up. The only think it shares in common with the K20 sensor is the pixel count.
I really don't think on can tell very much about these things from pre-production cameras, since everything is subject to change until they actually are released to the public.
06-08-2009, 09:43 AM   #11
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Wheatfield, where did you hear that? Doesn't make sense to me.

Besides, isn't the new 4-channel readout (necessary for the 5.2fps and video) built into the sensor? At least it's always listed as a sensor spec.
06-08-2009, 11:28 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by mutedphotos Quote
Wheatfield, where did you hear that? Doesn't make sense to me.

Besides, isn't the new 4-channel readout (necessary for the 5.2fps and video) built into the sensor? At least it's always listed as a sensor spec.
Yes but IIRC some of the early beta cameras actually had high-speed shooting/drive mode disabled - using the K20D sensor might have been the reason (of course there may have been another reason...!)
06-08-2009, 12:50 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
My understanding is that early beta K7 bodies were equipped with K20 sensors, so I suspect it's kind of a crap shoot as to what sensor we've seen results from so far. From what I've read, the K7 sensor is not just a tweaked k20 sensor, it is a brand new design from the ground up. The only think it shares in common with the K20 sensor is the pixel count.
I really don't think on can tell very much about these things from pre-production cameras, since everything is subject to change until they actually are released to the public.
This is the first I have heard of such a thing. Even JohnCPentax did not mention it, so I doubt it is true.

Rob
06-08-2009, 12:56 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by mattdm Quote
So why do we never see something like: "Firmware 1.2 changes: 1) adds custom feature XYZ and 2) cuts noise at ISO 1600 in half"?
Matt, camera companies have to sell cameras, period. I hope to see, one day soon, a camera company brave enough to keep a camera model in production for over a year and offer firmware upgrades (even at a price) to its owners. You can read about this and other considerations concerning future cameras here.
06-08-2009, 02:04 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Miserere Quote
Matt, camera companies have to sell cameras, period. I hope to see, one day soon, a camera company brave enough to keep a camera model in production for over a year and offer firmware upgrades (even at a price) to its owners. You can read about this and other considerations concerning future cameras here.
I agree with you in general. Although "The first camera brand to allow users to create and share camera apps will sweep the market." is demonstrably wrong otherwise, we'd all be shooting with Kodak.

Maybe it'll work for the second brand to do so.
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