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09-12-2011, 05:57 PM   #1
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Help me assess: Pentax Digital Camera Utility vs In Camera JPEG

Hi all,

So today I was going through some of my recent pics taken in Whistler, BC, and was also trying out the Faststone Image Viewer program's very cool comparison feature. First a short history to put things in perspective. When I started shooting DSLR in 2008, I first started out JPEG only...then the more I got into it, the more I read, the more I realized the benefits of using RAW. So sometime in 2009 I switched to using RAW and settled on the Pentax Digital Camera Utility (PDCU) as my RAW editor of choice because I liked the way it transitioned your in camera settings as well as Pentax color into the final JPEG product. So long story short, my wife recently had our first child, and he's nine months old now. I have come to realize that parenting leaves you with a lot less free time than before! As a result, started shooting RAW+ so that I could stream line my workflow and just use JPEG's when I felt they were of good enough quality. So back to the point of my thread, today I happened to compare the RAW generated JPEG, through PDCU, with default/unchanged from the camera settings, to the in-camera JPEG's being created along with each RAW in RAW+ mode. Here are the two pics, one full size, and the second a 100% crop.

I only compared the shots for a few minutes, but I was looking for everyone's thoughts.

PDCU JPEG:



In Camera JPEG:



PDCU 100% Crop:



In Camera JPEG 100% crop:




09-12-2011, 06:01 PM   #2
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Seems to the the Raw to JPEG is sharper - the rocks don't look as blurred. The sunlight isn't as yellow in the Raw to JPEG vs just JPEG.

However, I believe the hugest potential in using the RAW and converting to JPEG is that you have a lot more of the dynamic range to play with.
09-12-2011, 08:11 PM   #3
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I can't see much difference.

If there would be differences showing PDCU results as being better, I would expect they would be due to one of two reasons:

- If your PDCU version is newer than the latest camera firmware version, then it may mean it is using newer processing algorithms.
- The in-camera JPEG engine might do some optimization tricks while PDCU can take its sweet time because it is always run offline.
09-12-2011, 10:12 PM   #4
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The differences are pretty minimal. I think the difference in sharpness is not a matter of format but where the camera focused. the PDCU image is sharper on the rocks and the jpeg on the metal olympic rings.

If you get good exposures then shooting jpeg is fine. There is much less information in the files though. If you need to do much post processing or black and white conversion then raw will give you a lot more to work with.

09-12-2011, 10:29 PM   #5
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Interesting. I see a definite difference in the sharpness and contrast, which of course, effects the colors slightly as well, though I suspect the colors are the same. I shoot RAW only with my K5, and I haven't tried this. I will.
I did, however, convert a few RAW images from my K10D with both the software that came with my K20D and the K5. The K5 software was definitely better. I suspect, as someone already mentioned, the computer software is much more powerful than the in-camera software, which has to work fast to keep everyone from bitching.
09-12-2011, 10:50 PM   #6
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Thanks for the replies so far. I guess what suprised me, after not having viewed camera produced jpegs for literally a couple years, was just how high quality they actually were/are. Since the images in the op are all from one photo, the focus would be the same, as of course would the lighting, etc, etc. I felt that upon looking at the PDCU jpeg, it seemed to put some extra contrast into the images but I'm not so sure that it actually might have less detail than the in camera jpeg has. I'm not sure if the aditional contrast was giving the illusion of extra sharpness/detail?

I started looking at some more comparisons between the default PDCU raw to jpeg and the K7 in camera jpeg and found a photo that gave suprising results. I will try and post a couple crops first thing tomorrow and am hoping some people who know a whole lot more about this stuff than I do can help figure out what is happening!

On a side note, I recalled the K7 dpreview mentioning the good in camera jpeg processing and upon checking it again today, it does mention that PDCU produces a slightly softer image than the in camera jpeg.

Looking forward to some more assessments on this comparison. Thanks for participating!
09-13-2011, 09:07 AM   #7
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So here are the two crops of a photo also taken in Whistler that I processed the other day. Again, one is the in-camera JPEG with no processing at all. The second is again a PDCU converted RAW to JPEG using just the straight default settings. In this case, the photo was shot in 'bright' mode, so both the in-camera JPEG and PDCU generated JPEG have +1 contrast and +1 sharpness applied.

This photo was shot at ISO 200 F5 1/125 with the Tamron 18-250 at 21mm. It was losslessly cropped using Faststone Image Viewer.

I was shocked to see the difference between these two...especially the difference between the small pink/red flower petals on the ground along the stone wall!

In-Camera JPEG:



PDCU generated JPEG:



What do you guys think? The PDCU JPEG looks like it's contrast has been bumped up significantly over the in-camera JPEG, despite having the same settings.

Last edited by Arrvon; 09-13-2011 at 09:11 AM. Reason: Added exif details to post
09-13-2011, 11:21 AM   #8
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I wonder if the differences are due to compression? What is the relative size in MBytes of camera vs computer conversions?

I know that the "Extract JPEG" feature in the Pentax computer software compresses the file (i.e. throws away a lot of data), than the "Save As" command. Maybe that's what's happening in the camera conversions too.

09-13-2011, 03:53 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
I wonder if the differences are due to compression? What is the relative size in MBytes of camera vs computer conversions?
I know that I did not save it by 'extract jpeg' but used 'save as'. Unless I screwed up somehow, I saved the file as a 3 star jpeg. I only have the crops handy right now, but the PDCU crop is 716kb vs. the in-camera crop which is 542kb. The PDCU crop was done with Faststone Image viewer and was 'lossless' so it should be a fair representation of the file sizes of the original full jpeg.

I have always been a supporter of PDCU, but this latest example has me scratching my head. Can anyone else suggest reasons that this would be happening when converting raw in PDCU to jpegs?
09-14-2011, 06:04 AM   #10
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Just to further this assessment, I spent a little more time on it last night. I realized that both examples above were taken with 'highlight correction' ON and that is why they are both ISO200. I am not sure how this would impact JPEG and PDCU RAW-JPEG conversions differently, but perhaps it could explain the difference?

In my mind, it's the almost total loss of the small purple/pink flower petals on the ground in the second set of examples I posted that concerns me the most. I would certainly rather shoot in-camera JPEG than convert Raw's in PDCU to ensure that what I am seeing there does not happen.

I went back to the example with the stone wall and flower petals, and I confirmed, as I suspected, that the image was saved from PDCU as a 3 star JPEG. I also tried a second example, turning the settings for contrast and sharpness back to neutral, to simulate shooting in 'natural' mode. In this attempt, I also turned all noise reduction off. Unfortunately, this made little difference in the outcome, and flower petals all but disappeared again...

I may have to try some new RAW converters to see if they handle the RAW conversion better/differently.

Last edited by Arrvon; 09-14-2011 at 07:19 AM.
09-14-2011, 07:09 AM   #11
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This is a head scratcher, especially since the fowers at the top and the red pipe are brighter and move vivid in the computer saved JPEG than in the camera JPEG. You're not having a little fun with us, are you?
09-14-2011, 07:14 AM   #12
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I have to admit that this issue has been on my mind quite a bit since I feel like PDCU let me down for the first time as a RAW converter. I wanted to make sure that I was not screwing up the settings somehow so I installed a completely fresh copy of PDCU (updated to v4.33) on the wife's laptop. Conversions with that copy were identical to the ones on my computer.

I also checked several other photos and compared the output. For the most part they appeared very similar to each other, akin to the example in my first post.

I then recalled that the example I am most worried about, with the flower petals virtually disappearing in the PDCU raw conversion, was shot with highlight correction ON.

I remembered two photos (poor ones!) I took at a water part recently, the first without highlight correction and the second shortly after with highlight correction. Here is the comparison between the two images, showing an in-camera JPEG and PDCU JPEG from each.

Highlight Correction OFF - In camera:



Highlight Correction OFF - PDCU Raw-Jpeg:



Highlight Correction ON - In Camera:



Highlight Correction ON - PDCU Raw-Jpeg:



I think I prefer the in-camera JPEG. I observed that PDCU seems to add some noise? at the base of the ships mast in the red area. It also looks like some of the colors in the boys shorts are lost or reduced in the PDCU version?

What does everyone think?

Should this be reason enough for me to find a new RAW converter or switch back to in-camera Jpeg?
09-14-2011, 10:34 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ron Kruger Quote
You're not having a little fun with us, are you?
Hi Ron, I honestly wish this was the case! Do you use PDCU? I could always e-mail you the .PEF file so you can give it a shot. PM me if you would like to try.

I thought maybe PDCU was somehow reducing the colors on the file, but it's showing as 24bit/16.7mil for both files.

Looks like I may be trying out other raw converters in my free time to see how they do with the same photo...
09-14-2011, 07:25 PM   #14
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You certainly have my attention. A few years ago, I went through considerable tests with various RAW converters, then came back and settled upon the software that came with my K20D. I shoot RAW only and convert with Camera Utility 4, but I plan to shoot something in RAW+Jpeg and do my own comparisons. I'm not sure what you are seeing, but in every instance, the RAW-Jpeg conversions look better to me.
09-16-2011, 09:13 AM   #15
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I conducted a test of two shots with different lighting, shooting RAW+. Then I simply converted the RAW file to JPEG and compared the shots. With both scenes, I detected a slight improvement in contrast, sharpness and color sat. in the RAW file converted to JPEG via Camera Utility 4, but it was very slight and I had to expand the full screen image to 100 percent to really tell a difference. The difference was so slight, I'm not sure it is worth the extra effort for someone shooting JPEG only to switch to RAW and convert via computer software. None of my shots showed as much difference as yours posted here. In my case, however, since I shoot RAW only anyway for various reasons, and because I'm very particular about IQ, it reassured me that converting RAW via computer, instead of camera, is the best way to go, and I thank you for bringing this up.
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