Image specifics continued...

As mentioned on the previous page, our main image quality concern about the K2000 is the level of detail in its JPEGs. From looking at the camera's RAW output, it's obvious that it is capturing at least as much detail as its peers, yet this detail isn't being expressed by its internal JPEG engine.

This is a problem we've had with some previous Pentax DSLRs (including the K200D), but one that could be avoided on the K20D by tweaking the sharpness settings. To make sure that the K2000 isn't under performing due to its slightly quirky default Custom Image settings, we used the camera's RAW development option to apply different settings to a pair of RAW files.

Here we compare the Bright and Natural Custom Image settings which are the default modes, depending on where you buy the camera. (We also tested the Bright mode with the Sharpness turned down to 0 and with Fine Sharpness 0. There isn't room to show all these combinations on this page but the results were no better). What we're looking for here is not the color mapping or the contrast of the image, which vary between the presets, but the effects of sharpening on the level of fine detail.

Natural (Sharpness -1) Bright (Sharpness +1)

The K2000 also offers 'Fine Sharpness' which the owners manual says 'makes image outlines even thinner and sharper.' Engaging this option on the 14.6MP K20D produced considerably better results than the standard settings, but on the K2000, while there is an improvement, it's still not coming close to the level of detail that Adobe Camera Raw pulls out of the RAW files with its default settings.

Natural (with Fine Sharpness -1) Bright (with Fine Sharpness +1)

Turning Fine Sharpness up even further does a little to bring out more detail and starts to result in sharpening artefacts and a distinct over-sharpened look. Yet, frustratingly, this still doesn't come close to showing what the camera should be capable of. Processing the RAW files in Adobe Camera Raw shows that the camera is capturing an excellent level of detail. To show the difference, here is a comparison between the camera's Fine Sharpness turned up to full and ACR with the sharpening tweaked a little (Amount 50, Radius 0.5). It clearly shows that it's possible to get much better detail out of the camera than its JPEG engine is capable of.

While it's not uncommon for RAW conversion to be able to produce better results than the camera's JPEGs, it's uncommon for the gulf to be so wide. And this means that although it's got a very capable sensor, the K2000's JPEGs simply aren't as good as those of its peers.

Fine Sharpness +4 Adobe Camera Raw