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Get "that CCD look" with the K-3 / K-3II and Lightroom
Posted By: BigMackCam, 08-09-2017, 01:03 PM

UPDATE: The following article has been revised to reflect newly-optimised Lightroom settings and example images. For a limited time, you can also download the CCD Effect preset for Lightroom HERE.


Get "that CCD look" with the K-3 / K-3II and Lightroom

Many people feel that the colour rendition from Pentax's earlier CCD sensor cameras is superior to that of later CMOS sensor models. Although the K-3 and K-3II are my day-to-day cameras, more recently I've been shooting extensively with a GX-10 - Samsung's clone of the Pentax K10D - and I've become a huge fan. Whether it's down to the sensor, the camera's colour profiling or a combination of the two, I really can't say for sure; but, the results are very appealing - punchy, saturated, almost film-like images, with very little post-processing needed to achieve great-looking results.

So fond am I of the GX-10's output that I decided to develop a Lightroom preset that would re-create "that CCD look" for my K-3 and K-3II photos.

I started by taking two photographs of an X-rite ColorChecker Passport, one with the GX-10, the other with the K-3. Both cameras were fitted with the same model of lens (the Pentax-F 28-80 f/3.5-4.5), to avoid optical differences in contrast and colour reproduction. The photos were taken in RAW format using the DNG file type (which, importantly, embeds a copy of the camera profile).

I imported both photos into Lightroom 6 and ensured all settings were at Lightroom's default values, with no presets or user defaults applied. I then selected the "Embedded" profile for each photo (to use the camera profiles rather than Adobe's), and set the white balance for both images using the eye-dropper tool on the same mid-grey square of the Passport.

From this point, all adjustments would be to the K-3 image alone, trying to match against the GX-10 "master" image as closely as possible.

I fine-tuned the exposure level so that the mid-grey tones were at the same luminosity for both photos (within +/- 0.5, as there was some variance of values across the square).

I adjusted the contrast so that the "darkest black" and "brightest white" squares had the same luminosity. This required some minor tweaking of exposure to keep the mid-tones at the right level, as contrast adjustments appeared to have a non-linear effect on the tone curve. Now, each of the grey-scale squares showed luminosity values very close to those in the GX-10 image.

The remaining adjustments would deal with colour reproduction - specifically hue, saturation and luminosity for each colour.

In the Camera Calibration section of Lightroom, I adjusted the hue and saturation of the Red Primary, Green Primary and Blue Primary channels to get those primary colours as close as possible. Since there is no luminosity adjustment for these, it's impossible to get them exactly right - but we can place them in the ball park.

At this point, a casual comparison of the colours in both images was already much closer than before.

Next came the really time-consuming part...

In the Color section of Lightroom, I adjusted (and re-adjusted!) the hue, saturation and luminosity of each colour to achieve a close match for each coloured square in turn. As you'd expect, adjustments for each colour had a knock-on effect to one or more of the others, and there was a great deal of back-and-forth fine-tuning required. Small, incremental adjustments were vital to avoid significant impact on related colours, which had to be tweaked to counteract any minor changes.

I was unable to get every coloured square matching exactly, but it was very close.

I saved the adjustments as a user preset, checking the Contrast, Color Adjustments, Process Version and Calibration boxes to ensure all the relevant settings were saved.

Then, on a sunny day with no clouds (rare in my part of the world!), I took some test shots of real scenes side-by-side with both cameras, and tried out the new preset on the K-3 files. The results were good, though not quite as good as I'd hoped - in particular, the green and yellow balance wasn't quite right, and the saturation and luminosity of light-blue skies wasn't what it should be. So, I went back to the ColorChecker Passport images and fine-tuned the adjustments before re-applying them to the test shots. After many iterations over several days, I eventually reached a point of diminishing returns; the results were so close that further tweaking would have little additional benefit and more than likely be detrimental.

Here's a "before" and "after" example of the preset being applied to an indoor test shot of some coloured pencils:


What's interesting about this example is how little difference there is in the greens, as vivid greens are something the CCD sensor cameras are revered for. From my testing in normal shooting conditions, it seems this is largely due to luminosity and saturation of yellow and orange rather than a radical difference in green tones.

It's worth studying that example image in detail. At a glance, you'd be forgiven for thinking the adjusted image is merely brighter, with a little more contrast. But if you look at each pencil individually, you'll see some quite significant changes in hue, saturation and luminosity, while the white, black and grey shades are (as they should be) nearly identical in both shots

Since completing this exercise, I've applied the preset to a number of K-3, K-3II, and even some K-5 images from my Lightroom library. The outcome is just what I'd hoped for... the photos have more of "that CCD look" I've come to appreciate so much. Greens and browns are warmer (great for landscape work), blues are richer, light-blue skies are somewhat deeper and better defined against clouds, yellows and oranges are brighter, while reds are a real treat - more orange than scarlet and not so over-saturated.

Of course, no preset or any amount of post-processing can re-create the fun of using a particular camera. For those who've never owned one of Pentax's CCD-sensor models (or their Samsung cousins), I highly recommend picking one up at the right price, since - at lower ISO settings - they produce wonderful images. I'll continue to use my GX-10 regularly, as it's a great bit of kit - but these adjustments provide a solid basis for reproducing at least some of that signature CCD look with the K-3 and other Pentax CMOS sensor cameras.

For those who'd like to try this out, here are some screen captures of the relevant settings (remember to save them as a preset so you can apply them all in one go!). And, if you do try it, please let me know how you get on!






... and, just to finish, here's one more test shot from the K-3, taken in my back garden, with the CCD preset applied (and no other adjustments, save for exposure and white balance sampled from a known grey area). It certainly has the warmth and saturation I was hoping for


Thanks for reading!

Last edited by BigMackCam; 08-12-2017 at 02:15 AM.
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08-09-2017, 04:00 PM   #16
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QuoteOriginally posted by photoptimist Quote
Excellent work and thanks for posting this!
Thank you - much appreciated, and you're most welcome!

QuoteOriginally posted by photoptimist Quote
The challenge with replicating CCD color from CMOS sensors is in the subtle differences in the sensitivity of each type of sensor to all the different wavelengths of light.
Absolutely. This attempt at emulation doesn't take into account the subtleties in the tone curve... At best, it's an approximation, and I'm sure there will be some photos in certain conditions that it doesn't work so well for... but for the most part it does a pretty good job - and, where necessary, further tweaks on an image-by-image basis can improve things further still. At the very least, this is a decent starting point

08-09-2017, 04:12 PM - 1 Like   #17
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QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote
But, since it is you, and I know you to be fine contributor to these forums, drop me a line I'm working on a DNG profile for the K-3, although it's not as straightforward as you'd expect (unless I'm missing something). The colour adjustment sliders in Lightroom aren't directly reproduced in the DNG Profile Editor... you have to find and select matching colours in your sample DNG image and make adjustments to those. Tricky. Also, and rather strangely, when I load a DNG image into the Profile Editor, the colours don't appear exactly as they do in Lightroom 6... there are subtle differences, which leads me to believe there is some processing going on in one programme that isn't happening in the other. As such, it's difficult to produce a really accurate profile in the editor that works as expected in Lightroom, and somewhat easier via the adjustment sliders in Lightroom. I know this from tediously-gained experience in this very project - I started off down the DNG Profile Editor route and gave up because of these problems!


Yes...much more difficult. The camera profiles (.dcp files) are not simple color mappings or import settings. I should have used to emoticon to show some sarcasm. Making one for CCD emulation is non-trivial.


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08-09-2017, 04:22 PM   #18
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
I should have used to emoticon to show some sarcasm.
LOL It's OK, I assumed there was a silent ""...
08-09-2017, 04:28 PM   #19
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QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote
Thanks - I appreciate the feedback

Yes, the difference in settings between software is going to be a bit of a challenge, but I wouldn't get too bogged down with details. A very small contrast adjustment will do... similarly, colour HSL adjustments in the broad direction of those given should, I believe, give something just as punchy and appealing. After all, we're not going for absolute colour accuracy here... just a general look. I spent a lot of time trying to match the HSL levels for each colour, but I doubt that's really necessary. I suspect my first attempt would have been more than good enough

Do let me know how you get on?
Not tired enough to sleep yet.. So.. Do you think I could have the two files on which you based your preset? I'd like to have a decent go in C1. If it works I'll share it (assuming that's possible)

08-09-2017, 04:39 PM   #20
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QuoteOriginally posted by Topsy Quote
Not tired enough to sleep yet.. So.. Do you think I could have the two files on which you based your preset? I'd like to have a decent go in C1. If it works I'll share it (assuming that's possible)
No problem. I'll PM you with the DNG files, as I don't believe I can attach them here (except as zips per Adam's reply)

As a starting point, I'd recommend you equalize the exposure using the mid-tone greys as a reference, and make any necessary contrast or curve adjustments to get the correct spread in luminance for the grey scale (as per my posted method). Without that, any HSL settings will be way out compared to the white and black points (someone I know made exactly this mistake on the first couple of attempts )...

Last edited by BigMackCam; 08-09-2017 at 10:50 PM.
08-09-2017, 05:02 PM - 1 Like   #21
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I just tried these settings on a picture of paint tubes and I like it. This is a split image to show how subtle many of these are but as a GIF it was dramatic.
08-09-2017, 05:09 PM   #22
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QuoteOriginally posted by swanlefitte Quote
I just tried these settings on a picture of paint tubes and I like it. This is a split image to show how subtle many of these are but as a GIF it was dramatic.
That's a really great example (I'm guessing the "with adjustment" sections are at the top of the split, and "without adjustment" underneath, right?) Yes, sometimes the changes can look very subtle - and in a way, that's what you'd expect and hope for, otherwise the colour reproduction would be crazy Of key note in your example are the reds, oranges and browns. The blues are too dark to show much difference, but if there had been some lighter shades in there, you'd see some darkening and saturation too.

Thanks for posting this
08-09-2017, 05:25 PM   #23
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QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote
That's a really great example (I'm guessing the "with adjustment" sections are at the top of the split, and "without adjustment" underneath, right?) Yes, sometimes the changes can look very subtle - and in a way, that's what you'd expect and hope for, otherwise the colour reproduction would be crazy Of key note in your example are the reds, oranges and browns. The blues are too dark to show much difference, but if there had been some lighter shades in there, you'd see some darkening and saturation too.

Thanks for posting this
The top of course is the adjustments. I think even the blue in the fourth slot right side is much "creamier".
I also forgot to mention this was taken with a k-s2.

08-09-2017, 05:35 PM   #24
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QuoteOriginally posted by swanlefitte Quote
The top of course is the adjustments. I think even the blue in the fourth slot right side is much "creamier".
I also forgot to mention this was taken with a k-s2.
Yes, I agree about the blue

Great to know this was with the K-S2. It works well with the K-5 too, so I'd guess most of the CMOS sensor models - at least from the K-5 onwards - have a similar colour profile...
08-09-2017, 06:52 PM - 1 Like   #25
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Very nice!
08-09-2017, 07:34 PM - 1 Like   #26
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I ran up against the same issue
though mine was the k3 family compared to the jpegs output by the k01
no matter what settings I have used on the k3s I find the colors a bit too restrained

I use ON1 products not adobe
after fiddling around with various sliders I received an email from mattsuess.com with an offer for some free presets
they gave me what I think I see in your processing

you put together a very nice procedural
08-09-2017, 07:36 PM   #27
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QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote
So fond am I of the GX-10's output that I decided to develop a Lightroom preset that would re-create "that CCD look" for my K-3 and K-3II photos.
Are you referring ( comparing) to the raw files, including the camera color temperature and other parameters, between the old and new cameras,
and if so, are the Bayer coefficients correct in the application that is writing via your operating system to monitor?

Or are you comparing the downloaded .jpg from the old camera with the downloaded .jpg from the newer camera?

With respect, I feel a bit of fake news here.

---------- Post added 08-09-17 at 11:27 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by photoptimist Quote
The challenge with replicating CCD color from CMOS sensors is in the subtle differences in the sensitivity of each type of sensor to all the different wavelengths of light
I don't agree, given that there are only 3 {RGB} values sent through the Bayer coefficients. These values are sent through ITU 709 compliant compression via App, via O/S,
to a compliant monitor.

Are you saying that the transfer function to do this in an old camera is somehow different to a that in a new camera?

With respect, I ask you to explain in more detail
08-09-2017, 09:32 PM - 1 Like   #28
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Thank you for sharing!!!
08-09-2017, 11:35 PM - 2 Likes   #29
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QuoteOriginally posted by wombat2go Quote
With respect, I feel a bit of fake news here.
No fake news, I assure you - but, I do like a bit of healthy scepticism, so let's see if I can address your doubts:

QuoteOriginally posted by wombat2go Quote
Are you referring ( comparing) to the raw files, including the camera color temperature and other parameters, between the old and new cameras,
and if so, are the Bayer coefficients correct in the application that is writing via your operating system to monitor?

Or are you comparing the downloaded .jpg from the old camera with the downloaded .jpg from the newer camera?
Both my Windows 10 laptop and external monitors are calibrated using an X-Rite ColorMunki Display tool, and that calibration is refreshed on a reasonably frequent basis. Additionally, my Windows 10 tablet is manually adjusted through the "Display Colour Calibration" tool in the Control Panel. It's not precise, but a close enough match to my laptop and external monitors for casual viewing (though not serious editing) of images when I'm on the move. I can't speak about Bayer coefficients and the like - that's beyond the limits of my knowledge, I'm afraid - but I'm confident that my devices are reproducing colour hue, saturation and luminosity to an acceptable degree of accuracy for non-professional use.

I shoot only RAW images in DNG file format, and work primarily with Lightroom 6 to process them. When processing my K-3 and GX-10 (K10D) DNG files, I typically select the "Embedded" profile in the Camera Calibration section. The only other profile available (out of the box, at least) is "Adobe Standard", which isn't too bad (though variable from camera to camera); but I prefer to work with the camera's own embedded profile. I do have some pretty accurate "dual illuminant" profiles I've created for both cameras using the ColorChecker Passport and Adobe DNG Profile Editor, and they do a good job of normalising the images from both cameras. However, I prefer the look of my GX-10 images using the embedded profile... It may not be entirely accurate in terms of colour reproduction, but - rather like a favourite film you might have used - it results in warm, punchy photos with appealing colours. Conversely, my K-3 DNG files - also using the "Embedded" profile - are less appealing to me (at least in terms of colour reproduction), and can sometimes look a little lifeless without some work. Reds are skewed towards magenta, greens can look rather blue-ish, light-blue skies are too light and can lack contrast against any clouds.

And it's not merely a white balance issue (although that can certainly play a part if it's not set correctly). If I take two identical DNG images with the GX-10 and K-3 using the same lens, import them into Lightroom, select the "Embedded" profile for both, set white balance against a known source (such as an 18% grey card) and normalise exposure on a mid-grey tone, the GX-10 file looks different... invariably better, in my view, due to colour reproduction and contrast. As I mentioned in my article, I can't say whether that's due to the GX-10's CCD sensor, the embedded profile, or both - and, frankly, that's unimportant. What matters is that I see a significant difference between GX-10 and K-3 files treated identically in Lightroom. I often prefer what I see from the GX-10, and that's what prompted me to develop this preset

Last edited by BigMackCam; 08-10-2017 at 01:50 AM.
08-10-2017, 12:21 AM - 2 Likes   #30
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QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote
fake news
There should be an international ban on this phrase being used.
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