No alias: Pentax K-1 Pixel Shift shows impressive early results
It's been a long wait for the arrival of our Pentax K-1, but it finally is here. We wasted no time taking Ricoh's new flagship DSLR to our studio to see how the long-awaited full frame 36MP sensor stacks up to the competition. Huge thanks to LensRentals for renting us the lens for these tests.
It's worth calling out in particular one of the major highlights of the K-1: its Pixel Shift Resolution mode that debuted in the APS-C format K-3 II last spring. We're only showing you this mode at ISO 100 for the time being, but we'll be updating our widget with higher ISOs once ACR support is updated.
The K-1's Pixel Shift Resolution mode takes four consecutive shots and moves the sensor by a single pixel each time. This means that each of the original pixel positions gets sampled by a red, a blue and two green pixels. This has a few major benefits. First, it removes the need to demosaic: you don’t have to interpolate data from the surrounding area to build up color information, which leads to less color aliasing. It also brings a modest increase in resolution because you're sampling luminance information at every pixel position and not effectively blurring it by borrowing it from surrounding pixels. The increased resolution can easily be seen by looking at the color resolution targets, or looking at the text in the center of the studio scene, which shows no aliasing and can be read down to the very last line.
Another benefit to Pixel Shift is better noise performance: because you’re taking four shots, the camera essentially captures four times as much light, which decreases relative shot noise contributions. The decreased noise levels lead to better high ISO performance, and increased dynamic range.
There's yet another benefit to Pixel Shift: the camera locks up the mechanical shutter and mirror, and uses a fully electronic shutter instead. This removes any risk of vibrations that might be caused by the mechanical shutter. For example, there's a very tiny amount of blur in single shot mode at 1/40 sec, although it's near-imperceptible without a direct comparison to a sharper, Pixel Shift image.
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