DxO Mark Relaunch

June 22, 2010

As of 22 June 2010, the DxO Mark website has been redesigned and greatly expanded—now adding tests of lens/sensor combinations.

There’s certainly an enormous amount of new information there to chew over, although presented in a somewhat bewildering format.

Unfortunately one side effect of the change is that it has broken all of the links my articles included to their sensor comparisons.

Sorry about that. I may try to fix a few of them as I have time.

Today is Pentax Day

March 11, 2010

There’s two interesting blips of Pentax news this week.

The first is that after several years of dithering, Pentax finally introduced its professional, medium-format digital camera, the 645D. DP Review has more details.

Pentax 645D

Not A Compact Camera

Note that the designation “645” was approximate even in the film era (the actual image area then was 56 x 41.5 mm). The 44 x 33 mm size of the new sensor makes the name completely arbitrary.

Now, ordinarily this blog wouldn’t have much to say about a 40-megapixel camera costing ~$10,000 (not to mention one that is so large and awkward-looking). But there’s two points to make:

First, this is priced at half of what its direct competitors from Mamiya and Hasselblad cost. It’s cheaper than a lot of motorcycles. That gets into range even for obsessive hobbyists or wealthy dabblers.

Second, it uses a Kodak-built 40-megapixel sensor (it’s assumed to be the KAF-40000). Its 6-micron pixels are promised to offer high dynamic range and low noise. And coincidentally, those specs match a “rule of thumb” that I suggested two months ago.

Meanwhile, from this blog’s viewpoint, the week brought a much more significant bit of Pentax news: DxO Mark announced its test results for the K-x.

Pentax K-x Olive

Pentax K-x (Japan, Europe olive color option)

Keep in mind that DxO Labs only measures pure sensor performance in raw capture; they don’t evaluate a camera’s features, handling, or JPEG quality.

Still, it’s clear that the image quality of the K-x is a big leap forward for Pentax.

This is widely assumed to reflect a switch from Samsung to Sony as the sensor supplier for the K-x. As I mentioned Tuesday, Sony’s current 12 Mp APS-C sensor seems to be at the heart of some highly-respected models from Nikon, Ricoh, and (probably) Leica.

DxO Labs did find that (in common with other Pentax models), ISO 3200 and above have some noise reduction baked in, even with the nominally “raw” file.

This is undesirable in theory—doing the noise reduction later on a desktop computer offers more flexibility and processor horsepower. But for casual JPEG shooters, it’s probably welcome.

In any case, it seems the K-X has better image quality than Canon and Nikon’s current entry-level DSLRs. (DxO Labs, based in France, uses the European designation EOS 1000D, known as the Rebel XS in North America).

And the K-x also holds its own against the more-expensive Canon 500D and Nikon D5000. (The 500D is also called the Rebel T1i. Canon, how do you cook up these weird North American model numbers?)

DxO Mark, Pentax K-x

"Upper Entry Level" DSLRs versus K-x

In case anyone was worrying, reviews say that the K-x does a good job of turning the raw data into a nice-looking JPEG, too.

The K-x is about a $500 camera (prices have been fluctuating lately), and it’s not large.

So the K-x really becomes the “sanity check” for any other camera coming onto the market today—whether “hybrid” or EVIL, or whatever other jargon you prefer.

Panasonic G1/G2/G10? Barely any smaller! Ricoh GXR+A12 Module? Twice as expensive—for the same darned sensor!

Today, the Pentax K-x has become the conscience of the camera market.