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02-06-2015, 11:13 PM   #1
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Imagining a better OFV for the new camera

This is the fun part, following the announcement but before any specs are revealed. Giving us FF fans a chance to experience the wondrous feeling of wondering. Certainly that large pyramidal pentprism tells us that the new camera will have an optical viewfinder... right? That's what it says to me. The new Pentax FF looks like the second coming of the Sony a850, a camera I've been looking to replace. So that's all good news.

More good news says that DA lenses will be accommodated by a cropped sensor. We can expect the common N & C practice, where the VF is cropped to APS-C to match the reduced image circle. This works well enough, but I've been thinking of how it could be done better. How about using the transparent info overlay that does this crop and shows focus points to create a zooming viewfinder?

This could add a new dimension to working with FF primes. That full view could be cropped by a control on the camera body to indicate a variable crop being done at the image sensor.The VF image would get smaller as you zoom, but you're starting with an oversized VF image and the zoomed image might not be much smaller than a K3's. You'd be losing megapixels as you zoom, but 18 MP are sufficient for most purposes, and the sharpest lenses can withstand a 100% focal length crop. Alternatively, the camera could record two copies of each image, one with the crop in place and another uncropped. What you'd gain over current workflows is an view of the cropped image in camera, on the spot, in real time-- and that would make visualizing composition easier.

In practice, suppose I want to go out with two primes, first the FA 24/2.8. I use in-camera zoom to frame and capture photos up to a 48mm angle of view, or switch to a 77/1.8 that I can "zoom" to 144mm. I've always got 18 of 36 Mp to work with, so a little further cropping is possible in PP. So I'd be covering 24-200mm eq. with two small, fast lenses. Although this clashes with the dictates of maximum quality/no cropping allowed, it would be a viable way of working, and controlling the size and weight of your kit. And I think it might be a fun way to work, too. It certainly would broaden the appeal of the Pentax prime lenses.

There are other possibilities, like enabling the kind of aspect ratio changes that have been the exclusive trick of mirrorless cameras. The camera could make 16:9, 4:3 and square sensor crops and illustrate the results on the VF overlay. You'd have the flexibility of mirrorless with the high fidelity view of the OVF! The crop indication could be opaque, shaded or simply a lined box-- that would allow the kind of beyond--the-frame vision beloved by generations of Leica street photogs.

These seem like good ideas to me, and easily achievable. But what do I know? I make no claims. But what other OVF improvements could Pentax bring to the table?

02-06-2015, 11:47 PM   #2
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02-07-2015, 12:05 AM   #3
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Your wish list sounds like it would be better realized in a milc camera, or has been realized rather.
For me, a better ovf would be larger than current ff fare and it would be uncluttered. Different folks different strokes I guess.
02-07-2015, 12:34 AM   #4
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If Pentax could update their OVFs to use an LCD overlay rather rather than an array of flashing LEDs, I think it would be a big improvement.


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02-07-2015, 10:43 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
If Pentax could update their OVFs to use an LCD overlay rather rather than an array of flashing LEDs, I think it would be a big improvement.
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02-07-2015, 12:21 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by eyeswideshut Quote
For me, a better ovf would be larger than current ff fare and it would be uncluttered. Different folks different strokes I guess.
+1 for this. Also if the autofocus point indication is switched to an LCD overlay then it should be possible to turn them off altogether for a completely uncluttered view. I've been arguing for this for a while now.

Not quite sure I understand what the OP is arguing for - do you simply mean that the LCD overlay should be used to indicate the frame crop when in APS-C mode? I thought this was more-or-less a given anyway? It should be feasible for the cropped view to fill the screen on the rear LCD in live view. This would be useful, but I don't think this is what you mean?

The idea of variable aspect ratios is perhaps a workable one with some benefits as long as an LCD overlay is implemented, such that the cropped areas are darkened. If I want to compose within a different shape then it would definitely need to be clear where the crop will be. Assuming a 36mp sensor and very large raw files then it would definitely be beneficial to have pixels binned before they reach the raw file if you don't need them.
02-07-2015, 07:34 PM   #7
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Sorry if I wasn't clear-- I imagined the OVF image being variably cropped by up to 50% or so, coordinated with a corresponding crop on the sensor capture. This would give primes some "zoom" ability... or think of it was the kind of cropping we do in PP, but done in-camera, on the spot.

A simple OVF is fine, too. I like that. I'm just trying to think outside the five-sided box, while we still have time to speculate.
02-08-2015, 11:34 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatridger Quote
Sorry if I wasn't clear-- I imagined the OVF image being variably cropped by up to 50% or so, coordinated with a corresponding crop on the sensor capture. This would give primes some "zoom" ability... or think of it was the kind of cropping we do in PP, but done in-camera, on the spot.
Ok I understand I think - so effectively darkening the outer portions of the viewfinder (or providing a frame line) to different degrees using an LCD overlay to show a crop which will then be reflected in the captured file - is that correct? So similar to what I was saying about the different aspect ratios but going further than this and allowing you to vary the size of the crop too?

I could see this being useful in some cases. With a very high resolution sensor you will still be able to get a decent image from a significant crop. Having a visual indication of the crop in the viewfinder will certainly help to 'see' your final composition, and the physical cropping in the file could reduce file size substantially. It's a good idea in principle, if done well. It would depend on quite a lot of things to work well, though - having an LCD overlay for a start, being able to save raw files with a variety of different resolutions and shapes, and a control system which gives good, fast control over it. All these things together would need quite a lot of development, I think. But if they could do it without cluttering up the control system, adding unnecessary visual clutter etc. then why not?

02-11-2015, 10:19 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by jonby Quote
Ok I understand I think - so effectively darkening the outer portions of the viewfinder (or providing a frame line) to different degrees using an LCD overlay to show a crop which will then be reflected in the captured file - is that correct? So similar to what I was saying about the different aspect ratios but going further than this and allowing you to vary the size of the crop too?

I could see this being useful in some cases. With a very high resolution sensor you will still be able to get a decent image from a significant crop. Having a visual indication of the crop in the viewfinder will certainly help to 'see' your final composition, and the physical cropping in the file could reduce file size substantially. It's a good idea in principle, if done well. It would depend on quite a lot of things to work well, though - having an LCD overlay for a start, being able to save raw files with a variety of different resolutions and shapes, and a control system which gives good, fast control over it. All these things together would need quite a lot of development, I think. But if they could do it without cluttering up the control system, adding unnecessary visual clutter etc. then why not?
Thanks, jonby, at least someone can picture what I'm trying to describe. It's much like what my Fujifilm -Pro1 does when a zoom lens is mounted. The OVF image is of fixed size, since it's just a rangefinder-style window in the camera body. But there's a white framing overlay on the optical image that gets smaller as you zoom. With the Fuji, you actually are zooming, and the whole sensor is used.

I think we can agree that for most purposes, today's cameras have resolution to spare. I can and do crop heavily, with little visible harm to the images. The kind of trick VF I'm proposing would just give a visualization of that in the camera. I'd like that, as an option.
02-12-2015, 09:29 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
If Pentax could update their OVFs to use an LCD overlay rather rather than an array of flashing LEDs, I think it would be a big improvement.
I posted this on the Ricoh Engagement Forum and got 2 "kudos" for it:

QuoteOriginally posted by DragonLord:
There's one more thing I'd like to add: a better viewfinder information readout.

I'd like to see a translucent LCD overlay where marks can be drawn over the image projected through the viewfinder, such as the AF area, virtual horizon (electronic level) line, and APS-C crop area in crop mode, similar to Canon's Intelligent Viewfinder. (It's sometimes called a polymer network LCD.) This would allow just the right information to be displayed precisely when it's needed.
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02-12-2015, 11:51 PM   #11
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Reading the posts and correlating the "kudos" is fun. It kind of seems to hint at what may be in the realm of reality as far as the new FF is concerned.
02-13-2015, 12:07 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
If Pentax could update their OVFs to use an LCD overlay rather rather than an array of flashing LEDs, I think it would be a big improvement.
Like most tech, LCD overlays have pros and cons.

While tons of extra visible info may indeed be a desirable plus, one unavoidable con of LCD overlays is a slightly dimmer viewfinder. Even the modest LCD overlay in for example the Nikon D610 dims the viewfinder noticeably, to the extent that the K-3 viewfinder seems brighter IMHO.
02-13-2015, 07:50 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by rawr Quote
Like most tech, LCD overlays have pros and cons.

While tons of extra visible info may indeed be a desirable plus, one unavoidable con of LCD overlays is a slightly dimmer viewfinder. Even the modest LCD overlay in for example the Nikon D610 dims the viewfinder noticeably, to the extent that the K-3 viewfinder seems brighter IMHO.
I would not have any digital stuff in my new bright VF, to bring it down. No. Sorry.
02-15-2015, 06:28 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by rawr Quote
While tons of extra visible info may indeed be a desirable plus, one unavoidable con of LCD overlays is a slightly dimmer viewfinder. Even the modest LCD overlay in for example the Nikon D610 dims the viewfinder noticeably, to the extent that the K-3 viewfinder seems brighter IMHO.
An important point, but it's hard to know how significant the dimming would be. There may be other factors at play in the difference you note between the D610 and the K3. Assuming some dimming would take place, the question is whether this compromise is worth making for the benefits it brings. One of the largest compromises to viewfinder brightness is made in order to allow PDAF. This is a compromise which has been broadly accepted by consumers and manufacturers for many years. In fact, you could pretty much say the same thing about LCD overlay dimming, since both Canon and Nikon already use an LCD overlay in many of their most popular cameras. Do we actually know that the LED method currently used by Pentax does not require some dimming of the viewfinder? Perhaps someone with technical knowledge could provide further info here?

Another thing to consider is that RP will need to have some kind of frame line indication for the APS-C crop mode anyway. Other than by LCD overlay, the only alternative method is to etch this into the focusing screen and have it permanently visible. This will either marr the view when in full-frame mode, or be so minimal as to be inadequate for really 'seeing' the APS-C composition.

I do think that the OP's proposition carries some merit and warrants consideration - particularly if it would allow for varying aspect ratio as well as crop size. While many are happy to crop in PP, this is one aspect of taking photographs where I prefer to make a definitive decision at the point of capture, and having a clear view of the edges of the cropped frame available would help greatly here. I also don't like storing a vast number of pixels which I do not need. Providing tools to allow for precise composition within a range of frame shapes would be of great creative benefit. It should also be noted that the Nikon D800 (and I presume D810) already provides a basic level of functionality in this area, allowing 1.2x and 1.5x crops plus a 5:4 aspect ratio option, all with frame line indication in the viewfinder, so this is not actually a new idea, but I think there is room for it to be developed further.

Thinking about how this could be implemented within the control system, I have this suggestion:
Allow a left-hand function button (such as the Raw/fx button) to be assigned to this feature. If it is pressed and held, spinning either of the e-dials begins to bring in a dark-frame overlay from the edges of the viewfinder, allowing cropping to varying degrees in the native 3:2 aspect ratio. Letting go of the button returns to normal control of the camera. If the button is pressed and released quickly, you enter a mode where the horizontal and vertical crop edges can be controlled independently. The front e-dial controls the horizontal crop and the back e-dial controls the vertical. Pressing the button again returns you to normal control. Whatever crop size and shape is currently set, pressing and holding the button and turning a dial makes the crop bigger or smaller, maintaining the set aspect ratio. This could work equally well in Live View mode, with the addition that when adjusting the crop, you see the entire sensor view with cropped edges, while when you return to normal control, the currently cropped area is zoomed to fit the screen.
02-15-2015, 06:41 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
If Pentax could update their OVFs to use an LCD overlay rather rather than an array of flashing LEDs, I think it would be a big improvement.
I would say yes to an histogram overlay in the viewfinder as well...
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