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Compared to...

Studio scene comparison (higher sensitivities)

We've already looked in detail at the Pentax K-x's high ISO performance in our the noise section of this review; here we're just taking a quick look at how it compares to the Canon EOS 500D and Nikon D5000 (at their default settings) when shooting our studio setup at higher ISO settings - particularly in the shadow areas.

ISO 1600

Pentax K-x
Canon EOS 500D
Nikon D5000

ISO 3200

Pentax K-x
Canon EOS 500D
Nikon D5000

ISO 6400

Pentax K-x
Canon EOS 500D
Nikon D5000

ISO 12800

Pentax K-x
Canon EOS 500D

All three cameras show first visible signs of noise and its reduction at ISO 1600. The EOS 500D has a slightly more heavy-handed approach to luminance noise reduction than the Pentax and Nikon which results in a quicker loss of detail as we go up the sensitivity scale. At very high ISOs the Canon also shows more chroma noise than the competitors.

The Nikon D5000 delivers a slightly cleaner image than the Pentax but this comes at the expense of fine detail. There is more visible luminance noise (grain) in the K-x output but at least some low contrast detail is maintained up to the highest sensitivity settings.

Overall the Pentax K-x performs, for a DSLR with an APS-C sized sensor, extremely well in low light. It appears with its newest model in the DSLR range Pentax has (finally) sorted the noise reduction in its JPEG engine (the K-x is miles ahead of the K-7 in low light). At default settings chroma and luminance noise reduction are perfectly balanced. The result is high ISO output that shows some luminance noise (which most viewers can easily live with) but very little chroma noise and a surprising amount of fine detail, even in shadow areas. With this performance the K-x easily beats most other APS-C cameras when shooting JPEGs, including much more expensive models. If you need better low light performance than this, going full-frame is pretty much your only option.

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