Ricoh has just posted image samples from its upcoming Pentax K-1 DSLR. Although all of the images were shot at ISO 100 and we are yet to see high ISO image samples, the 36 MP sensor on the K-1 seems to be very similar to that of the Nikon D810 in terms of image quality and color reproduction, which is superb. At $1800, the Pentax K-1 represents phenomenal value, not only because of the sensor alone but also because of the different technologies packed into the camera body.
The “Pixel Shift” capability, in particular, deserves a lot of attention because the camera is capable of moving its sensor in order to capture all the colors that a typical Bayer sensor is incapable of capturing in a single shot. As a result, one can get results previously only possible when shooting with a medium format camera in terms of extreme detail. This kind of technology is disruptive because it is some serious innovation we have previously not seen from any full-frame camera.
Just take a look at the massive difference in detail between the Pixel Shift mode being on and off on the Pentax K-1:
It is hard to believe that such sharpness and detail level could come from a full-frame DSLR! It feels like an image captured at much higher resolution and then down-sampled to 36 MP. And here is the real kicker – the above image was shot with a $500 enthusiast-grade zoom lens, HD PENTAX-D FA 28-105mm f/3.5-5.6 ED DC WR!
If you would like to observe all the details yourself, here are the two images with Pixel Shift resolution turned off and on:
Please keep in mind that the images presented here are in full 36 MP resolution. To see all the extreme details, I recommend either opening each image in a separate browser window or right-clicking each image and clicking “Save the Link” to save the full resolution version on your computer.
And the rest of the published image samples from the Pentax K-1:
Kudos to Pentax for making such a phenomenal camera. I can imagine the impact of the Pixel Shift technology on photography in the future. I can’t wait to give it a try when shooting landscapes. The only concern is, one would need ideal conditions to use Pixel Shift – i.e. no wind, camera shake or other types of movements. I wonder if Pentax can figure out a way to use the same technology to increase total resolution, similar to what we have seen on some of the Olympus mirrorless cameras. I can imagine what a 100MP+ image would look like with all this detail!
I think it’s better than canon 5d Mark iv
I have downloaded both Samples-5 (7360 x 4912) and viewed them 100% side by side (Ctrl-Z in BreezeBrowser, NEC MultiSync monitor).
Are you sure you have the correct versions? My off.jpg is much much better, sharper than my on.jpg . At the bottom of the picture there is less difference – maybe there was movement in the flowers?
However the Ki is what I need so I will wait until a 24-120mm zoom lens becomes available.
I have a few suggestions for a review by you of the Pentax K-1, which, given your enthusiastic comments, I presume you will (time permitting) do relatively soon after it becomes available.
As you pointed out, the pixel-shift feature should certainly increase the quality of color results for a given pixel count Bayer sensor (with an appropriately still subject). But I hope that in your review you can also find time to explore the results with pixel shift for black and white.
For instance, when using heavy red filtration (whether via an actual red filter, or one simulated via post-processing) for dramatic black and white landscapes or architectural shots, without pixel-shift one is effectively getting only 9 Mpixels out of a 36 Mpixel Bayer sensor. Likewise, there occurs a reduction with blue or blue-green filtration to accentuate haze or simulate old-style orthochromatic black and white film. Pixel- shift mode has the potential to really up the resolution in such circumstances. Does it? Are there also discernibly-better results using pixel-shift prior to full-spectrum conversions to black-and-white?
Another application where there might be a big benefit from pixel-shift is digitizing 35mm film by photographing with a good 1:1 macro lens. For color film, the advantages of pixel-shift are the same as with any static scene. But there should also be significant advantages to digitizing black and white negatives in that manner and using heavy green or blue filtration, and/or the equivalent channel in post. Theoretically, the shorter wavelengths of the blue channel should produce the highest resolution, but it may be that the best results come from green light, as the lens may be best corrected for green wavelengths (because of the green bias of Bayer sensors, the greater sensitivity to green of human vision, and as a compromise optimization by lens designers because green lies between blue and red). With band-limited light, a lens’ chromatic aberrations should be greatly reduced compared to full-spectrum illumination, and I’d expect much sharper results. Sure, a PhaseOne camera or a Hasselblad Flextight scanner might be better, but neither is affordable for most of us. And the Nikon Coolscans are out of production, have greatly increased in price on the used market, and are probably un-repairable if they should break. Digitizing film with a modern high-megapixel full-frame camera is the best option for most, and I’d expect the K-1 to do very well at that using pixel-shift. However, as I understand it, pixel shift can’t be used with flash, so using continuous lighting and longer exposures for film digitization may introduce vibration or other issues that might diminish or negate the advantages. Any chance that you can explore whether the hypothetical advantages are realized?
And for color photography, does having full color information at each pixel permit better digital removal of chromatic aberrations? That’s relevant because some modern lens designs seem to sacrifice color aberration performance in order to improve other characteristics.
Lastly, because of the much smaller selection of current Pentax lenses compared to Nikon and Canon, many K-1 users will at least initially employ some older or even vintage lenses, perhaps even with manual focus. In your testing, if possible can you please note how well older lenses work, performance and usability-wise, both through the OVF and with live-view?
Thanks for a very informative photography site.
I think some fair comments on the usefulness/uselessness of pixel shift: there are definitely some times when it would not be much use, but still, you would have 36MP of in-body shake reduced full-frame goodness for those situations.
I don’t see the point in dismissing an extra tool in the toolbox, there are probably a load of functions (astrotracer, pixel shift, GPS tagging, legacy and crop lens support, EV bracketing) that will be unused for a given photographers style or entry point to Pentax.
But just because I need a spanner I’m not going to throw all my screwdrivers away.
Greetings from New Zealand! Great to see the photo of Queenstown (taken, I imagine, from the gondola station) and part of the superb Queenstown golf course. The scenery is even better when you’re there!
i really like the quality of the pictures. they have a nice feel to them.
indeed you NEED to download the originals (still jpg) to see the difference….
And the photos ARE so much sharper !
It would matter a lot in big prints that’s for sure
Pentax you are looking good ! Now all you need to do is bring down the price of your (Tamron) lenses
I am interested in this camera but am lacking in understanding of the lens selection and quality of them. Any help?
You might start here: www.pentaxforums.com/lensreviews/
DA lenses are generally for the company’s crop-sensor cameras, so for the most part you can ignore those unless you want to shoot in the smaller format. As this is Pentax’s first FF camera since the era of 35mm film cameras, suitable new lenses are not so numerous as legacy lenses. Of those older lenses, some of which remain in production, the ‘Limited’ designation marks out some well-regarded primes.
I have changed for Pentax for that reason and many many others.
There is no doubting the technology (or its limitations in terms of suitable subjects); is after all already established on Pentax’s top crop-sensor camera.