Pentax made one mistake

I really like Pentax cameras, I have for quite a long time going back into film and forward into digital. Pentax made a serious mistake though.

If you look at the Pentax dSLR line, especially the K10D, K20D, and the K7D, the camera is designed for the “semi-pro” shooter, clearly aimed smack at the SLR crowd. It doesn’t have fancy settings, otherwise known as scene modes, and they have provided innovative features such as a sensitivity priority, shutter and aperature priority, and raw+jpeg quick button. These are features that other dSLR makers are just starting to add. On top of that, the cameras maintain compatability with Pentax’s very solid historical lens line and can even mount the screw mount lenses and medium format lenses with easily obtained adapters.

So, they’ve clearly invested effort in creating a photographer’s camera, where did they screw up? Well, it’s not picture quality, but it’s related: long exposure noise reduction. Basically, the idea is that with long exposures, the chances of increased sensor related noise (such as hot pixels) increases and by taking a second exposure with the shutter closed, the camera can provide the proper image using dark frame subtraction. Sounds good on the surface, but the second exposure is for the same length of time as the initial exposure.

Okay, you might think that makes some sense, and it does, to a point. However, if you do night photography or astrophotography, you may be holding the shutter open for many minutes, potentially much longer. I tried some shots with a 5 minute exposure and that means the total time I waited before I could taken another was 10 minutes. At that point you start hunting for a way to turn this “feature” off. Good luck with that, you can’t turn it off on the K20D. You could on the K10D, but with the switch from CCD to CMOS, the option is gone, though I understand that you can sort-of turn it off on the K7D (still forced on bulb exposures). This has now cut, in half, the number of pictures you can take in dark settings with a long exposure.

So here, Pentax has designed and built a line of dSLR cameras that pretty much puts total control into your hands and then takes away the one thing sure to exclude anyone interested in low light or long exposure photography: an off switch for the noise reduction. This doesn’t make sense. I’m sure that there were likely technical issues that pushed them in the direction, but it doesn’t matter. People doing this sort of photography will do their own dark frame subtraction after the fact, it isn’t hard to accomplish and they will absolutely hate the inability to shut this function off.

This is a big mistake by Pentax. It makes me wonder if I made a mistake too. I like the idea of night shooting, I want to do star shots and long water exposures. Now I think it’s just going to be too painful to do. I don’t want to stand around for minutes on end while my camera takes a picture of the inside of my shutter. Pentax really needs to release a firmware upgrade to enable turning this thing off.

Leave a Reply