Pentax Q7 Review
The Q7 has the ability to shoot JPEG + Raw or just Raw, outputting DNG files - Adobe's universal Raw format (which we love, and wish more manufacturers used). Like other small-sensor cameras, the Q7 showed a tendency to clip highlights and shadows in high contrast scenes in JPEG mode. Raw files retain much more data, and produce better results when manipulated to try to revive a portion of a scene. Shooting Raw also provides greater control over sharpening, white balance and noise reduction. Though the camera's JPEGs are very good for this class, shooting Raw will provide many more post-processing options.
Sharpness and Detail
The shot below was taken with the 02 Standard Zoom, and here we're showing the default JPEG alongside a carefully-processed Raw file to give you an idea of how much potential the Q7's files have for adjustment.
|With default sharpness applied in-camera to this JPEG, the Q7 reproduces the landscape nicely. At 100% though, it's evident that some fine detail is being rather smudged. The Raw file has been adjusted in ACR to taste (boosting the amount and radius of sharpening), giving some definition to the long grass on the shore, and revealing some delicate green foliage inside what was just a hazy blur in the JPEG.|
DNG adjusted (100%)
Exposure and color
As mentioned before, the Q7 often gets it 'right' when it comes to exposure. However, it has its limits and very high contrast scenes will be a challenge to this essentially compact camera. The Q7's Raw files contain a much wider tonal range than JPEGs, making it possible to pull back a lot of tonal information in clipped highlight areas. You simply don't have this sort of flexibility with JPEGs because tone curve adjustments have already been 'baked in' and there's less data to work with.
In the image below, shot in matrix metering mode, the Q7 has done its best to expose for our mostly shadow scene, but has significantly clipped highlight tone and detail in the buildings behind the sculptures. Attempting to rescue them from the JPEG file won't recover much tone from the sand-colored walls. The Raw file, however, retained a good amount of tone, restoring the buildings (and sky) to a more accurate color and recovering some detail that was lost completely in the JPEG rendering. The Raw image adjusted below in ACR by bringing exposure down and recovering some shadow tone by boosting fill light.
Raw file adjusted in ACR
JPEG adjusted in ACR
There are other options for JPEG shooters thanks to the Q7's Highlight Correction and Shadow Correction tools. Highlight Correction does a good job of saving some of the tone that would otherwise be clipped - for analysis of this feature, jump to the Dynamic Range page.
Noise-reduction and white balance
The strength of the Q7's Auto Noise Reduction for JPEGs can be adjusted, though there are gains to be made by applying your own noise reduction in post-processing software to the camera's Raw files. The Q7 was set to Auto Noise Reduction in the JPEG below, and the result is a final image with most of the fine detail smoothed out. Applying noise reduction manually to the original Raw file in ACR didn't recover much in the way of fine detail, but it did reduce some of the color noise that the Q7's in-camera noise reduction missed.
|JPEG - ISO 12800, f/2.0, 1/125sec||100% crop|
|DNG adjusted in ACR to taste (Luminance and Color noise reduced)||100% crop|
Auto white balanced 'misses' are rare from the Q7, but the best way to avoid an auto white balance mishap is to shoot Raw. The scone and the brown paper pastry bag took on a cool, almost green tint with the Q7 set to auto white balance. Correcting the Raw image to the shade white balance preset restores a warmer and more appetizing tone to the subject. This is easily done in-camera as well as in post-processing software, so long as the Raw data is intact.
Raw file adjusted in ACR
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