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03-01-2018, 02:18 PM   #1
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Hdmi out and crippled firmware

Recently I have got a very good deal on a used Atomos Ninja blade. I needed the +25 minutes recording time on my camera plus I really like the monitoring options the Atomos offers.

I read about the limitations of the hdmi out on the Pentax K-3 but I tried anyway since 720P would also work for me as well. However I was in for a big disappointment.
First I noticed there is no clean HDMI output. Its true you can disable a lot of the onscreen guides and overlays but it applies both to the camera's screen as well as the hdmi output. When you're not recording you want them back but there's no easy way of doing this. You have to dig through the menus for some of them.
Live view for photo isn't an option either because you can't get rid off all the overlays and the aspect ratio is different.
Second, there is no 1080P output. The atomos registers the output being 1080i so thats not an option either.
Also the liveview display shuts off when you attach something to the hdmi port.
Worst of all, the output is extremely choppy and the resulting footage is not usable at all.

All of this is fixable in software but for some reason Pentax doesn't do that. Even worse, it seems like the flagship K-1 has the same limitations and there's no way around it.

Now I use a different brand of camera for video and adapt my pentax lenses. This other camera has none of Pentax's limitations and works like a charm on my Atomos recorder.

I started this thread mostly to warn existing pentax users not to consider external recording as an option. Hopefully Pentax will adress these issues with firmware or in later camera models. Honestly, it seems like it's mostly software related. People have solved a lot of limitations using magiclantern on Canon cameras, so I figure there must be a way for Pentax to fix this in their current cameras.

I mostly use my Pentax for stills but it would have been nice to use it for the occasional video as well.

03-01-2018, 02:26 PM   #2
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Correct, Pentax currently offers no raw video output. HDMI out is really only useful for monitoring, and the resultion corresponds to what you see on the LCD.

Maybe we'll get this functionality some day, but it's definitely not a priority for Pentax, it seems.

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03-01-2018, 02:50 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Clarity Quote
First I noticed there is no clean HDMI output.
This is fairly well-known and is not claimed anywhere in the specifications and documentation. A simple trial run connected to one's TV set (something I did on my K-3 before considering purchase of an external recorder) is enough to show the limitation, particularly since it is obviously a dump of the live view video buffer.

QuoteOriginally posted by Clarity Quote
I started this thread mostly to warn existing pentax users not to consider external recording as an option.
There are other threads on the subject, but thanks for the community spirit. I would consider this to be more of a reminder than a warning, since no Pentax body is spec'ed to support clean HDMI. No warning needed.

Edit: Regarding Atomos...
Atomos: Supported Cameras
QuoteOriginally posted by Clarity Quote
Honestly, it seems like it's mostly software related. People have solved a lot of limitations using magiclantern on Canon cameras, so I figure there must be a way for Pentax to fix this in their current cameras.
That is an interesting notion, but a Pentax is not a Canon and even that brand has made the magic lantern hack more difficult for developers. FWIW, there are a few ongoing Pentax hack efforts going on, but I don't believe that clean HDMI is on their radar. The video functionality and IO on your Pentax are sort of built-in features of the main processor chip (i.e. baked in). As such, available hooks for firmware tend to be rather limited. It may be possible for Pentax to work with Socionext (makers of the Milbeaut processor in your Pentax) on adding these features for future models, but there are limits within a given range and investment per market intent. Nikon found a way (also a Milbeaut user), but whether they did so without adding an additional video processor is hard to say.


Steve

Last edited by stevebrot; 03-01-2018 at 03:03 PM.
03-01-2018, 03:53 PM   #4
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The real tragedy is the 645Z - that should have been a priority for that camera - it would have been a game changer I think based on the excitement about it early on for pro video. But as mentioned the limitations may be in the chips and while it may change in the future - it hasn't yet.

03-02-2018, 04:22 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
This is fairly well-known and is not claimed anywhere in the specifications and documentation. A simple trial run connected to one's TV set (something I did on my K-3 before considering purchase of an external recorder) is enough to show the limitation, particularly since it is obviously a dump of the live view video buffer.



There are other threads on the subject, but thanks for the community spirit. I would consider this to be more of a reminder than a warning, since no Pentax body is spec'ed to support clean HDMI. No warning needed.
You are right about that, I read an older thread about this issue. However the thread only talks about the output resolution, not about the actual footage. Unfortunately the footage I got was so choppy that it wasn't usable at all, so recording externally isn't an option even on lower resolutions.

For me personally, I needed the external recorder, I considered it might not be possible to use it on my pentax and I might need to buy a different camera in the end anyway. Judging focus with focus-peaking while recording and getting the exposure exactly right is a lifesaver. Video wasn't something I was very interested in or needed when buying my first Pentax.

QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote

That is an interesting notion, but a Pentax is not a Canon and even that brand has made the magic lantern hack more difficult for developers. FWIW, there are a few ongoing Pentax hack efforts going on, but I don't believe that clean HDMI is on their radar. The video functionality and IO on your Pentax are sort of built-in features of the main processor chip (i.e. baked in). As such, available hooks for firmware tend to be rather limited. It may be possible for Pentax to work with Socionext (makers of the Milbeaut processor in your Pentax) on adding these features for future models, but there are limits within a given range and investment per market intent. Nikon found a way (also a Milbeaut user), but whether they did so without adding an additional video processor is hard to say.


Steve
You are quite knowledgeable on camera hardware! Really insightfull post, thank you .

It still might be a hardware limitation. However the magiclantern firmware works great on pretty old canon camera's as well. I find it quite hard to believe this might be a CPU limitation on Pentax' part because the magiclantern firmware enables quite a few options that seem to be CPU intensive on older models.
But as you pointed out, it's not only third party firmware hacks. Canon has enabled clean hdmi output on the 5D M3 with an official firmware update. A quick google search shows that Nikon has done the same for quite a few models. Even the Nikon D7000 which is as old as the K-5 gets clean HDMI output through an official firmware update. Since they use the same brand of processors it seems a software limitation.

QuoteOriginally posted by UncleVanya Quote
The real tragedy is the 645Z - that should have been a priority for that camera - it would have been a game changer I think based on the excitement about it early on for pro video. But as mentioned the limitations may be in the chips and while it may change in the future - it hasn't yet.

I remember a video from the CameraStore where they tried the video functionality of the 645Z and ran into quite a few limitations. Hasselblad has enabled 4K video on their latest medium format camera's. I hope Pentax considers this when they develop their new 645 camera.

I still love Pentax, for stills that is
03-02-2018, 10:03 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Clarity Quote
I find it quite hard to believe this might be a CPU limitation on Pentax' part because the magiclantern firmware enables quite a few options that seem to be CPU intensive on older models.
It is not a CPU limitation, per se, I can't comment on Canon, but your Pentax really doesn't have a CPU. It has a main processor chip that includes multiple subsystems that function sort of like a motherboard on a single chip. Most of the functionality is "baked in", though with the ability to modify what features are active and their settings through firmware, most of which is low-level and not exposed to the end user or even repair techs. That is why it is hard to invent new features with firmware alone or with firmware extensions like Magic Lantern.*

Nikon, Pentax, Leica, and Sigma all use variations of the Milbeaut image/video processor. Nikon has published an application programming interface (API) for the upper-level firmware on their version of the Milbeaut processor (and other camera systems) to facilitate third-party tools access to stuff like remote camera control through the USB port. The other camera makers have chose to leave that stuff proprietary and hidden. Pentax cameras do have the non-documented "debug" mode that is intended for testing and service tweaks, but that is where it ends.

Knowing what possible features are accessible through top-level firmware changes is difficult to determine without fairly intimate knowledge of what is supported at the lower levels. For example, it is not unusual on this site to have a higher x-sync speed for flash singled out as a feature that could be implemented with a "few lines of code in firmware". That may very well be. After all, Nikon has a higher flash sync (1/250s vs Pentax at 1/180s) using similar shutters and supporting controllers. The question is whether there is a "hook" where a firmware routine can simply change 180 to 250. If not, is there a family of "hooks" that allow changes to base curtain speed at 1/250s to allow a higher sync? If such were enabled, might that reduce shutter life overall?

Whether the HDMI port (actually I/O processor) on Pentax is accessible to the video processor for output of a clean stream is unknown.** Also unknown is whether the option to divert the stream to other than the SD card write buffer exists. (At least as far as I have heard.) If such were easy for Pentax, it would be a great feature. If not, it still might be something they maybe should consider.

More than you care to know, eh?


Steve

* Magic Lantern leverages a hidden feature on most Canon cameras originally intended for service troubleshooting and in-house development. It is a clever piece of work, but even Magic Lantern is limited. FWIW, if Magic Lantern "bricks" one's camera, the repair expense is outside warranty.

** I don't know the current understanding, but in the past, conventional wisdom was that Pentax uses the built-in video capabilities of the Milbeaut processor resulting in a limited set of options.
03-04-2018, 12:21 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by UncleVanya Quote
The real tragedy is the 645Z - that should have been a priority for that camera - it would have been a game changer I think based on the excitement about it early on for pro video. But as mentioned the limitations may be in the chips and while it may change in the future - it hasn't yet.
IMHO the 645Z hardware was never able to support proper video... the sensor being the limiting factor. I don't think it was even close to being fast enough for full sensor readout, and even if it were, the rolling shutter would have been insane. So they do a ton of line skipping, which results in bad image quality. They probably only meant the video capabilities for live view (where this sort of image quality is fine), and since enabling video would get them headlines and probably wasn't all that hard to do, they did.

Keep in mind that Canon is a video company, that sells professional video cameras. Perhaps the processors in these cameras were developed with video in mind, even for the higher end market, and they simply chose to disable the features. That makes enabling them a bit easier, and the powerful hardware is already there. The Milbeauts may be designed very different. And Nikon AFAIK is getting custom versions of the Milbeaut, which may include changes to the way it handles video.

But in any case, it is Pentax' job to find the right hardware and develop a proper firmware, otherwise, just find another brand? It's not like there's a lack of choice. Panasonic, Olympus, Sony, Nikon, Fuji, Leica, Canon, they all put some effort into good video functionality. Why try to turn a Civic into a truck, when there are already plenty of trucks to chose from?
03-04-2018, 01:55 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by kadajawi Quote
IMHO the 645Z hardware was never able to support proper video... the sensor being the limiting factor.
The new Fuji MF uses the same sensor and it doesn't do 4k either.

In fact, it's only one Hassy that does ... only at 24fps and at a seemingly ridiculous $33,000. Rolling shutter performance? Don't know.

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