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11-08-2009, 10:32 PM   #1
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The K-7 makes me want to shoot JPEG

I finally got a K-7 just a few days ago, and have been happily going around snapping pictures of everything and playing with the insane variety of settings. I've previously had a K10D and K100D, and the K-7 is so much more refined in every way than both of those old models. (I'm keeping the K100D as a second body, and for something that my wife can use to get familiar with SLR photography.)

Now, since my old Fuji S5000, I've always shot RAW. It's always been apparent to me that RAW was the way to ensure the best possible quality in my shots. Realistically, I've always considered it to be more of a crutch, because my most common need for RAW was to save me from my own mistakes. And I'm okay with that...I'm the kind of photographer that needs the crutch. I could always rescue a shot if I wasn't mindful of the white balance, or if I clipped the shadows too heavily.

So when I got the K-7, I fully expected that I would continue to do as I've always done. But then I've started to notice all the things this camera does smarter than my old cameras. Features like dynamic range extension, high-ISO noise reduction, lens correction, and built-in HDR are very cool, but only operate on camera-processed JPEGs. They are wasted capabilities for a RAW shooter. I recognize that nearly all these effects could be done in post-processing instead, but I'm starting to think that maybe I don't *need* to go through all those processes anymore.

The number one reason I always stuck with RAW was to have control over white balance. I've always had cameras which couldn't be trusted to do AWB correctly, and it was all too easy to forget a manual setting and end up with a blue sunset. But the K-7's AWB is so good that I don't know if I'll ever feel like choosing my own white balance again. (I'm sure I'll run into tricky lighting that makes it necessary, but not under normal circumstances.) Even if it's not dead on, it should always be within the reasonable adjustment range of a JPEG.

The other big reason for insisting on processing my own RAW files was saving myself from bad exposures. But the K-7's metering seems so accurate, and the D-Range function adds a safety net by doing the same kind of fill-light or highlight-recovery that I could do in Lightroom. And if it's tricky enough, there's always bracketing.

When you start adding in the ability to take care of distortion and chromatic aberrations without any intervention from me, the case for RAW is so much weaker in my mind than ever before. The noise reduction in-camera isn't anything special, but I've always had to use a separate program anyway...that'd be the case with either file format.

The only thing that scares me is committing myself to the Image Tone settings in the camera, instead of applying my own contrast, saturation, and sharpening to a RAW file. But I tend to set the sliders more or less the same on the PC, so maybe it won't be that big a deal at all. This would all be a no-brainer, except that the control freak in me (a majority stakeholder, if you will) hates the idea of throwing away all that latitude. I think it takes a lot more faith in your own abilities—as well as the camera's abilities—to shoot JPEG. I want to make my life easier and spend less time mucking around in Lightroom, but I don't want to give up my crutch. I guess when things get to scary, there's always the RAW button on the side of the camera to give me my fix.

11-08-2009, 10:38 PM   #2
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Or just do what I do and shoot RAW+. So for every shot I get a DNG and a JPG.

Best of both worlds, at only some modest extra cost in terms of storage space on the card and the computer
11-08-2009, 11:03 PM   #3
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I've thought of shotting RAW+, both now and in the past. But I guess I've never figured out how to build a workflow around it. Lightroom will just import the DNG files, unless I tell it to treat the associated JPGs as separate files. But then I'd have two copies of every image in my catalog, and I'd have to delete the RAW files I didn't need as a safety net.

I guess maybe my problem is Lightroom, since there's no way I can see to get it to prefer the JPG version of the same image. I could always copy the JPGs from the memory card to a different location, but there I go adding steps to the workflow again.
11-09-2009, 02:00 AM   #4
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White balance - now there's a good reason to keep shooting RAW The K-7's WB is far from perfect.

11-09-2009, 07:14 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by potatolicious Quote
White balance - now there's a good reason to keep shooting RAW The K-7's WB is far from perfect.
It may not be perfect, but it's easily the best I have *ever* seen/used (and that includes Pentax, Nikon, and Canon DSLRs).
11-09-2009, 07:33 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by RBellavance Quote
It may not be perfect, but it's easily the best I have *ever* seen/used (and that includes Pentax, Nikon, and Canon DSLRs).
I totally agree. Of course nothing can be perfect, as there will always be scenes with no neutrals and insufficient range of colors to balance off, or ones that just plain have a funky color cast. And how to treat that color cast (keep it or neutralize it) is an artistic decision, and therefore subjective. So I don't see how you could have a "perfect" AWB.

But I stand by my statement that the K-7's WB should always be close enough to be JPEG-correctable, instead of needing the extreme latitude that RAW conversion allows.

ETA: One more reason the thought of shooting JPEG is a lot less scary is that the K-7 allows you to "fix" the in-camera processing for your last image. Since, internally, it keeps the RAW data for the last image, you can always redevelop it with different settings if you dont' like the way it turned out. Combined with the new-and-improved high-resolution screen, this seems like a workable solution. It may just prove to be all the "safety net" I need.

Last edited by aerodave; 11-09-2009 at 07:42 AM. Reason: Added comment...
11-09-2009, 08:41 AM   #7
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jpg!

*pokes out eyes*
11-09-2009, 08:52 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by aerodave Quote
Features like dynamic range extension, high-ISO noise reduction, lens correction, and built-in HDR are very cool, but only operate on camera-processed JPEGs. They are wasted capabilities for a RAW shooter.
Kind of, kind of not. They're still available if you process your Raw files in-camera. (And for the lens correction, that's arguably the best way to do it since it slows the burst rate down so much if performed "live").

Personally, I still shoot Raw for keepers, just because of the extra exposure latitude it gives me...

11-09-2009, 07:41 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by RBellavance Quote
It may not be perfect, but it's easily the best I have *ever* seen/used (and that includes Pentax, Nikon, and Canon DSLRs).
Agreed...the K-7's AWB is about the best I've seen on any dSLR, Canons and Nikons included.

I still shoot RAW most of the time, as it still produces the best possible resolution from the camera. The in-camera JPEG isn't bad, but the camera is capable of better output than that - by using RAW.
11-10-2009, 12:31 AM   #10
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RAW is 12 bit jpeg 8, if you think you will postprocess the picture you must shoot raw. Unless you want easily fall into a terrible effect with jpegs called posterization.

For whom doesn't know what posterization means can get an idea here.

A Photoshop plugin to repair posterized histograms
11-10-2009, 12:52 AM   #11
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It's exactly how I felt when i went from a K100D-S to a K20D. The in-camera jpegs were that much more impressive. With the K100D-S I could see a real resolution advantage out of RAW processing i.e. the image simply ended up with more detail than a straight JPEG. That part of it disappeared with the K20D, the JPEGs were impressive.

Still I now shoot RAW+. Why? Well, I sometimes end up feeding a RAW file to qtpfsgui to do a tonemap (not garish colors, just to "correct" DR) or I develop several versions that I then merge using an exposure-blending technique. Were I to shoot JPEG, this would not be possible.

Also, though I have a healthy respect for the metering correctness of the K20D, something (sky) burns out. RAW gives me a fighting chance at restoring that.

I suppose it will be quite similar with the K-7, maybe slightly less extreme.
11-10-2009, 06:43 AM   #12
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I thought that with a lot of those featues, there was a tag attached to the RAW file that would effect how photoshop processed it when you opened it. I only have a K20, so I don't really know.
11-10-2009, 07:38 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by newmikey Quote
It's exactly how I felt when i went from a K100D-S to a K20D. The in-camera jpegs were that much more impressive.
All cameras shoot RAW first, then saves as a jpeg only, then deletes RAW, if requested so in setup. So K20D impressive jpeg's were coming from Pentax engineers conversion preferences, all software engineers converting from RAW to jpeg wants to impress users by their choices, they couldn't do that in K-7 as they did in K20D as far as I understand from postings. Oh well who cares.
11-10-2009, 08:59 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rondec Quote
I thought that with a lot of those featues, there was a tag attached to the RAW file that would effect how photoshop processed it when you opened it. I only have a K20, so I don't really know.
I'm under the impression that the information is stored as metadata in the RAW file, but Adobe software doesn't know to use it for anything. In fact, other threads on here make it seem that even the included Pentax software doesn't make use of the lens correction data. I don't know whether things like image tone, noise reduction, and D-Range are automatically imported by the Pentax software...I've never used it.

I think that, if I'm honest with myself, a big part of the reason why I'm trying to talk myself into simply using JPEG is a desire to actually take advantage of the camera's features for once. I've gone through several cameras now just treating them as sensors attached to lenses, bypassing any means they may have to assist me. By separating myself from in-camera processing, I would feel a bit of smug self-satisfaction* for thinking I can do better processing the data on my own...partly because I could and partly because I'm not about to trust a machine with everything.

But now I've got this new toy, and it actually seems to be quite capable of making good pictures on its own. It's not laziness that makes me think about accepting the in-camera processing; I actually enjoy the painstaking process of teasing the best possible quality out of my photos. Instead, I think it's simply a desire to make use of features I've paid for. That JPEG processing engine cost me a good bit of money, even if I didn't ask for it.

To me, it's a bit wasteful to let all those features collect dust. It's a bit like getting a car with nice automatic features that are standard, but stubbornly insisting on doing it the hard way. If you have a car that came with satellite navigation standard, even if that's something you wouldn't have asked for, I bet you'd be unlikely to spend hours driving in circles out of a steadfast refusal to avail yourself of the technology. Or at least I'd be unlikely to do that...you may be the type to believe that no computer can outperform your map-reading skills.

Is not wanting to waste capabilities a good reason to switch? Probably not. But I think I'm at least going to give it a chance. I'll probably shoot in RAW+ for a while, but only import the JPEGs to my catalog and see if I can live without the latitude that RAW provides. If I decide I can't, the negatives are always there to save me. But if during that transition I can settle on JPEG settings that work for me, and learn to believe I can drop the safety net, then I will. And I know that sometimes RAW is just the right answer for particular applications. It's not like I'll forget how to go back...the RAW button is always just a quick press away.

______________________________________________
*If we're honest about it, we know there is a certain segment of users for whom that smugness will always keep them shooting RAW, or purchasing gear that far outpaces their own talents even if they're not taking full advantage of it. After all, "that's what the pros do." That's understandable; it's human nature to think that emulating those we admire or envy will possibly imbue us with their qualities. And I'm not pointing fingers...after all, I said that was a part of the reason I've shot RAW all these years, and it explains the purchase of a few pieces of hardware and software I'm probably not worthy to operate.
11-10-2009, 09:24 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by aerodave Quote
Instead, I think it's simply a desire to make use of features I've paid for. That JPEG processing engine cost me a good bit of money, even if I didn't ask for it.

To me, it's a bit wasteful to let all those features collect dust. It's a bit like getting a car with nice automatic features that are standard, but stubbornly insisting on doing it the hard way.
It could be seen both ways, I supposed. You also paid for a 1/8000 top shutter speed, and art filters. Should you also capture every other shot at 1/8000, and then process them all with the Toy Camera filter? ;-)

I don't see why you'd make yourself use JPEG just because you paid for it. Sure, it makes sense if you want the fastest photos out-of-camera, but if (as you say yourself) you're the type that enjoys processing pictures, it seems to me Raw is the way you'd usually want to go. Optimum quality, and more processing potential.

Borrowing your car analogy (and imagining for a moment you don't have a large family, as I obviously don't know...) Using JPEG just because you've paid for it seems a bit like climbing into the drivers seat through the back left passenger door, just because you paid for it and feel compelled to use it... ;-)
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