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Color reproduction

Here you can see a generated GretagMacbeth ColorChecker chart, place your mouse over any of the labels below it to see the color reproduction in that mode. Select a camera/setting combination from the 'Compared to' drop-down to comparative boxes inside each patch.

The K100D's color response was quite similar to that of previous Pentax digital SLR's, that is quite highly saturated (vivid) in the default 'Bright' image tone, as can also be seen earlier in this review, it can lead to color clipping in certain situations (such as red flowers in direct sunlight). Switching to the Natural tone calms color saturation to more typical levels (compared to other digital SLRs).

Pentax K100D Compare to:  
      
      
      
      
BrightNaturalAdobe RGB BrightAdobe RGB Natural

Artificial light White Balance

We're never that surprised to see poor automatic white balance from a digital SLR, it is becoming par for the course, however we would at least once like to be pleasantly surprised. So the K100D's automatic white balance is pretty much the same as most other digital SLRs, and that's just fine in natural light, poor in incandescent (or tungsten) light and better in fluorescent light. To be fair the K100D's incandescent preset white balance did perform better than most, so if you can remember to switch to the preset it will make the world of difference.

Incandescent - Auto WB
Red: 11.8%, Blue: -16.5%, Poor
Incandescent - Incandescent preset WB
Red: -0.2%, Blue: 0.2%, Excellent
Fluorescent - Auto WB
Red: 0.8%, Blue: -3.4%, Good
Fluorescent - Fluorescent preset WB
Red: 1.5%, Blue: -10.8%, Average

Long Exposure noise reduction / Night shots

Maybe it's a sign of the sensor's age (in development terms) but using the K100D without noise reduction for a typical thirty second exposure will lead to a liberal sprinkling of 'hot pixels' all over the image, some more pronounced than others. With noise reduction enabled however these are virtually all removed, with only one or two leading to black 'pits'.

Noise reduction Off Noise reduction On
ISO 200, 30 sec, F14 ISO 200, 30 sec, F14
(Brightness boosted for clarity) (Brightness boosted for clarity)

Flash

A good performance from the built-in flash, well metered in a 'normal' portrait situation and a little under-exposed shooting our color chart (probably because of the white background). No sign of color cast or white balance issues.

Built-in flash Built-in flash

Overall Image Quality / Specifics

We were fairly critical of the quality of JPEG images from the *ist DS but I'm glad to report that this has been fully resolved with the K100D. Pentax has clearly made some significant strides with its in-camera image processing, specifically the quality of the demosaicing and sharpening algorithms with much better fine detail and ability to resolve the nuances of 'texture'. This can be seen fairly clearly in the resolution chart crops below (note that the *ist DS shot was of our version one chart, the K100D shot our version two chart, hence the difference in font, otherwise the lines are identical). Obviously we would rather not see the color moire from around 1500 LPH onwards but its a small price to pay for the significantly improved resolution.

Pentax *ist DS (JPEG from camera) Pentax K100D (JPEG from camera)

It's been a while since we reviewed a six megapixel digital SLR and looking at the images you do wonder "what's all the fuss about eight and ten megapixels", the K100D delivers nice crisp images with plenty of detail which are capable of being printed at large sizes without anyone making any comment about a lack of resolution. Indeed to a certain degree a six megapixel sensor is a better bet, it asks less of the lens, you end up with smaller files and have lower archival and processing requirements.

Color wise the K100D is a little too saturated in the default 'Bright' mode, I would recommend using the Natural setting which will help to avoid potential clipping of channels with strong colors. Other than this we had no other image quality concerns with the K100D.

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