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Raw and Raw Conversion

Supplied software

The K-x 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 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 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.

Note: With the K-x Digital Camera Utility 4 shows only a very limited set of EXIF data. It appears the current version of the software is not yet fully supporting the camera in this respect.

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 K-x we used the supplied Digital Camera Utility 4, Camera RAW 5.6 Beta and Capture One 5.0.1

  • JPEG - Large/Fine, Default settings
  • DCU - Pentax Digital Camera Utility 4
  • ACR - Adobe Camera RAW 5.6 Beta
  • CAP - Capture One 5.0.1

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. As it is common with bundled software packages Digital Camera Utility 4 produces a color response that is almost identical to the in-camera JPEG. ACR and Capture One both produce more muted output (Capture One more so than ACR).

Pentax K-x Compare to:  
      
      
      
      
BrightNaturalPortraitLandscape
VibrantMutedMonochromeAdobe RGB

Sharpness and Detail

Digital Camera Utility's default sharpening is quite subtle and the Pentax converter's output is virtually indistinguishable form the in-camera JPEG. ACR squeezes marginally more detail out of the RAW file but the sharpest images has been generated by Capture One whose sharpening at default settings is fairly strong (indeed almost too strong).

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

Resolution

Again the DCU results are virtually identical to the in-camera JPEG. In the resolution test all RAW converters produce a higher measured resolution than the in-camera JPEG. ACR and Capture One produce very similar resolutions but the ACR output is cleaner with less Moire.

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 a visible, but tiny, extra amount of detail compared to the in-camera JPEG. The K-x'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 41, radius 1.0, detail 64)

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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