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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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08-17-2017, 09:59 AM   #91
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QuoteOriginally posted by savoche Quote
The camera is still quite new to me and I have had precious little time to use it, but initial testing seems to render nice results for the K-1 as well. I don't have any K10D images to compare with, though. I'll see if I can swap my K-5 for my father's K10D later on
Glad to hear it, and thanks for the feedback

I've heard that the K-1 (and perhaps the KP?) have an improved colour profile compared to the K-3 / K-3II and other CMOS models (especially where reds are concerned). If that's true, the preset probably won't result in a colour-accurate emulation of the K10D when applied to images from these latest models... but I'm pleased to hear it's still producing nice results!

09-18-2017, 12:47 AM - 3 Likes   #92
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As I got to the end of the Lightroom trial version that I'd used to try out the CCD preset, I decided that I didn't want to use Lightroom anymore but I did want to keep using the preset. So I converted the preset to a camera profile for use in Photoshop as follows:

Open a completely untouched DNG in the Lightroom trial version and apply Mike's CCD preset. Don't make any adjustments other than that. Then in the "Export" section of Lightroom, use "Export With Preset" to create a copy of the original DNG with the CCD preset adjustments embedded in it.

Now run the free Adobe Profile Editor and open the new DNG that you created. Under the "Options" menu, click on "Apply Camera Raw Adjustments" to bring the embedded CCD preset into effect. Then under the "File" menu use "Export Profile" to create a new camera profile with the CCD preset included. Give it whatever name works best for you. It's also worthwhile using the File / Save Recipe option so that you can easily tweak the adjustments in future if you want to.

Now, when you open Camera Raw, you will have the profile to apply the CCD preset available under the usual profiles drop-down.

There is another easier method for those using later versions of Camera Raw that can be found using Google. But for those like me, who are happy sticking with an older version of Photoshop rather than feeding Adobe's voracious maw, the above method will work.
09-18-2017, 02:28 AM   #93
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QuoteOriginally posted by Dartmoor Dave Quote
As I got to the end of the Lightroom trial version that I'd used to try out the CCD preset, I decided that I didn't want to use Lightroom anymore but I did want to keep using the preset. So I converted the preset to a camera profile for use in Photoshop
Thanks for posting this, Dave. Very helpful indeed for those using Photoshop and Photoshop Elements!

QuoteOriginally posted by Dartmoor Dave Quote
Open a completely untouched DNG in the Lightroom trial version and apply Mike's CCD preset. Don't make any adjustments other than that. Then in the "Export" section of Lightroom, use "Export With Preset" to create a copy of the original DNG with the CCD preset adjustments embedded in it.
Just a small comment on this: Having opened the untouched DNG file in Lightroom, remember to select the "Embedded" profile in the Camera Calibration section of Lightroom before applying the CCD preset. This is because the preset's adjustments are relative to the camera's Embedded profile rather than Adobe Standard which is Lightroom's default.
09-19-2017, 12:51 PM   #94
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Thank you BMC, this is the most interesting thread I've followed in a good while. The GX10 was my first foray into the world of dslr's and also my favorite, even above my K3. I shall enjoy experimenting with your preset.

Best regards from Blighty.....

PS just noticed you also hail from Blighty... lol...


Last edited by Pedrodelta; 09-19-2017 at 12:53 PM. Reason: error
09-19-2017, 02:03 PM   #95
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QuoteOriginally posted by Pedrodelta Quote
Thank you BMC, this is the most interesting thread I've followed in a good while. The GX10 was my first foray into the world of dslr's and also my favorite, even above my K3. I shall enjoy experimenting with your preset.

Best regards from Blighty.....

PS just noticed you also hail from Blighty... lol...
You're very welcome, and thank you for the kind words

Honourable mention and thanks to Dartmoor Dave too... He helped me by testing a couple of versions of the present on real photos, and came up with the Photoshop profile addition to help some of our non-Lightroom users. He's a fellow UK member also
09-19-2017, 02:18 PM   #96
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QuoteOriginally posted by wombat2go Quote
Hi LS,
No, a capacitor in itself can not cause a photon to create an electron-hole pair ( called "photodetection" sometimes).
The photo diode is in depletion zone and it does have capacitance, as all diode junctions do when reverse biased.
This very technical thread is now becoming a "don't touch this, not even with a ten-foot pole" for me !
Just wondering: can this preset be "plugged" into Photoshop?
09-19-2017, 02:31 PM   #97
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QuoteOriginally posted by jpzk Quote
This very technical thread is now becoming a "don't touch this, not even with a ten-foot pole" for me !
Just wondering: can this preset be "plugged" into Photoshop?
Lol Just disregard everything except the main post and Dartmoor Dave's most recent follow-up. Together, they give you the Lightroom preset and (thanks to Dave) a means of creating a camera-specific profile that will work with Photoshop on its own.
10-02-2017, 10:16 PM - 1 Like   #98
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Nice exploration into the process of getting the look.

I've often wondered if what we tend to associate as the 'CCD look' is really just limited dynamic range from the sensors of that time.
I usually find that when I pull in the shadows and highlights so that they clip the edges slightly, the contrast becomes deep and the colors more saturated.
I'd then add a very slight "S" curve.

10-02-2017, 11:10 PM   #99
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QuoteOriginally posted by pinholecam Quote
Nice exploration into the process of getting the look.
Thanks

QuoteOriginally posted by pinholecam Quote
I've often wondered if what we tend to associate as the 'CCD look' is really just limited dynamic range from the sensors of that time.
I usually find that when I pull in the shadows and highlights so that they clip the edges slightly, the contrast becomes deep and the colors more saturated.
I'd then add a very slight "S" curve.
Dynamic range could certainly play a part - but, where the K10D / GX-10 are concerned, the H/S/L of colours is markedly different to the CMOS sensor models. Prior to developing the preset, my default processing with K-3 files included a very slight "S" tone curve and small contrast boost, much as you've described...
10-06-2017, 01:40 AM   #100
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QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote
Dynamic range could certainly play a part - but, where the K10D / GX-10 are concerned, the H/S/L of colours is markedly different to the CMOS sensor models. Prior to developing the preset, my default processing with K-3 files included a very slight "S" tone curve and small contrast boost, much as you've described...
What is the difference between setting H/S/L for coulours normally and for settings primary colors - I try to adopt this to PDCU where no no "primary" settings are available (with some success, but I'm still not happy with the results)?
10-06-2017, 02:11 AM - 2 Likes   #101
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QuoteOriginally posted by Piotrek K Quote
What is the difference between setting H/S/L for coulours normally and for settings primary colors - I try to adopt this to PDCU where no no "primary" settings are available (with some success, but I'm still not happy with the results)?
When you adjust a primary RGB colour channel, all composite colours in your image containing data from that channel will be affected. Adjust the red, for example, and every composite colour containing red information - e.g. magenta - will be affected... and quite significantly so. H/S/L adjustments to composite colours seem to work in a similar way, but targeted at much narrower ranges of composite rather than primary colours.

My earliest attempts at emulating the GX-10's output were based on H/S/L adjustments to composite colours only, and it worked quite well, so I'm sure you can do it without access to primary colour channel adjustments. But you'll probably need to adjust every composite colour to some extent. I found that by adjusting the primary channels only, I could already get quite close to the necessary colour output, then simply fine-tune the composites
10-06-2017, 02:14 AM   #102
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Thank you - this is extremely helpful!
05-23-2019, 09:26 PM - 2 Likes   #103
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I'm bumping this 'cause I'm still using this, and maybe you should be, too.
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