Shadow detail recovery and High ISO use with K3

Started Jan 18, 2014 | Discussions thread
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donla Forum Member • Posts: 85
Shadow detail recovery and High ISO use with K3

My K5 bit the dust just before Christmas, prompting me to buy the K3. Wildlife photography is a genre that has always attracted me so I wondered if it would do as good a job as the K5 given the higher pixel density, and associated narrower dynamic range as measured by Amateur Photographer magazine. Other reviewers have reported an increase in digital noise at higher ISO.

The attached photos exemplify how much shadow detail can be recovered at ISO400. The New Zealand Bellbird was photographed from too far off. I live in a built up area and the birds are very cautious meaning I had to shoot from outside my back door rather at 10 metres distance rather than closing to within  5 metres which the small size of this species would need for a suitable size image to be captured. The bird's face was in deep shadow as shown in the uncropped image:

Sigma 170-500mm lens @ 500mm ISO400 1/800 f 7.1 full image frame shown.

Cropping and lightening the face in Photoshop - to about 3 EV steps gave the following image:

This Bellbird is not the most attractive I've seen. Probably an older bird. Image data as for previous image.

The next two images were taken at Zealandia -a predator proof fenced Eco-Sanctuary just outside New Zealand's capital city of Wellington. Rare and endangered bird species are being bred here. The Native Stitchbird (Hihi) is a nectar feeder alike the Bellbird. It moves very quickly in and out of the feeders the sanctuary provides. Lighting is low due to an extensive forest canopy, necessitating an ISO of 6400 to obtain anything like a suitable shutter speed. 1/200 f6.7 was the best compromise without raising the ISO to above 6400. Results were reasonably sharp and detailed:

Hihi ISO 400 500mm 1/200 f 6.7

Finally, again under a dense canopy the North Island Robin was photographed at 6400. The feather detail is very acceptable:

North Island Robin ISO 6400 400mm 1/125 f 6.7

The Zealandia shots while not perfect were good enough for their PR person to email me after seeing them up on flickr and request permission to use them on their website.

I feel confident that I can successfully use the K3 for forest and other low-light situations requiring as high ISO. The ability to recover shadow detail is a bonus for stronger lighting where shadows may be an issue. For these images the camera's noise reduction was left at Auto and when processing in Pentax software, the default settings for noise reduction were used.

A small amount of USM - 50% @ 1.5 pixels was used later to counteract any softening resulting from the noise reduction.

 donla's gear list:donla's gear list
Pentax K-5 Pentax K-3 Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG Macro HSM II Pentax smc DA 17-70mm F4.0 AL (IF) SDM +5 more
Pentax K-5
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