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Raw and Raw Conversion

Supplied software

The K-7 comes with the new PENTAX Digital Camera Utility 4, which consolidates the Photo Browser and Photo Laboratory applications provided with previous Pentax DSLRs. Instead of having to use different applications you can now select between the Laboratory and Browser tabs to access to the tools previously associated with each package. There is also a custom view which allows you to create your own customized screen with a combination of your most used/favorite functions.

Digital Camera Utility 4 software is based on the 3rd-party application Silkypix and as such is one of the most comprehensive bundled image software packages around. Of course you get all the usual parameters in RAW conversion but there are also more advanced tools such as the perspective correction. The browsing element works well too and it even comes with batch processing options. Most photographers, feeling strapped-for-cash after splashing out on their new DSLR won't feel the need to invest even more in a new RAW converter – Pentax's bundled software offers most, if not all, of the capabilities of 3rd-party converters.

This is Digital Camera Utility 4's 'Laboratory' screen. From here you've got access to all the usual image processing parameters such as white balance, noise reduction, tone curve etc. In the 'Browser' view you can apply one, two or three checkmarks to images, and then run batch processes on the selected images, even if they are located in different folders.
The software includes a perspective correction tool that can, to a degree, simulate the effects of a shift lens. Digital Camera Utility 4 offers a higher degree of control over the application of noise reduction than the in-camera settings.

RAW conversion

As is normal in our digital SLR reviews we like to compare the supplied RAW conversion software, any optional manufacturer RAW conversion software and some third party RAW converters. In the case of the Pentax K7 we used the supplied Digital Camera Utility 4, Photo Professional and Adobe Camera RAW 5.4 Beta.

  • JPEG - Large/Fine, Default settings
  • DCU - Pentax Digital Camera Utility 4
  • ACR - Adobe Camera RAW 5.4
  • CAP - Capture One 4.8.3

Color reproduction

Place your mouse over the label below the image to see the color from a GretagMacbeth Color Checker chart produced using each RAW converter. Usually bundled software-packages deliver the same color-response as in-camera JPEG's but since Digital Camera Utility 4 is based on the third party application Silky pix it produces different, more muted, colors. The ACR output is more muted than the JPEG's as well but not as much as DCU. Capture One delivers the punchiest colors in this comparison.

Pentax K-7 Compare to:  
      
      
      
      
BrightNaturalPortraitLandscape
VibrantMutedBWAdobe RGB

Sharpness and Detail

Digital Camera Utility's default sharpening is very weak and surprisingly the Pentax converter produces a slightly softer image than the out-of-camera JPEG. Adobe ACR is roughly on par with the JPEG in terms of detail but, like DCU, produces a different color response. The only converter in this comparison that at default settings squeezes noticeably more detail out of our studio scene than the in-camera JPEG is Capture One.

JPEG out of camera , High quality setting (all settings default)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crop
DCU RAW -> TIFF (Default settings, manual WB)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crops
Adobe ACR RAW -> TIFF (Default settings, manual WB)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crops
Capture One RAW -> TIFF (Default settings, manual WB)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crops

Resolution

In the resolution test all RAW converters produce a higher measured resolution than the in-camera JPEG. While in the case of the DCU image the difference is marginal it's more visible in the ACR output and quite significant in the Capture One image. The latter uses a large amount of sharpening though and shows some de-mosaicing artefacts at higher frequencies.

JPEG from camera Digital Camera Utility (RAW)
Adobe Camera RAW (RAW) Capture One (RAW)

Real world advantages

While we used the converters' default settings for the studio shots above we played with the parameters for optimal results during the conversion of this real life shot. Some careful sharpening in Adobe ACR generates, compared to the in-camera JPEG, visibly more detail without showing artifacts. All in all the difference is not enormous though. The K-7's JPEG engine is doing a pretty decent job and squeezes a lot of the available detail out of the captured RAW data.

JPEG from Camera
(default sharpening)
ACR conversion
(Sharpening 50, radius 1.0, detail 50)

RAW files for download

Here we provide RAW files, both from the review and the sample shots we take, to allow you to apply your own workflow techniques and see whether your experiences match ours.

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