Image parameters Contd.


As we saw with the K10D the default sharpening is fairly conservative, and even increasing the Sharpening to the maximum produces results that are clean and artefact-free. This is a good thing for more serious users wanting to post-process, but it would perhaps be nice if you could ramp it up a little higher in-camera.

Again Pentax takes a rather unusual approach to sharpening. Normal unsharp masking produces a dark and light halo either side of an edge; this increases the contrast of edges and makes the picture (viewed at normal magnifications) look sharper. The K20D uses a subtle variant of this technique, adding the halo to the darker side of the edge only. The benefit of this low impact approach to edge enhancement is that you can increase the sharpness setting as much as you want without introducing the artefacts (in the form of white halos) seen when standard unsharp masking is used at high settings.

The downside is that no matter how high you go the image never looks that sharp:

Sharpness: -4
Sharpness: -3
Sharpness: -2
Sharpness: -1
Sharpness: 0
Sharpness: +1
Sharpness: +2
Sharpness: +3
Sharpness: +4

Fine Sharpness

The K20D introduces a new option for what it calls 'Fine Sharpness - described as being for sharpening fine detail. What it actually appears to do is to apply standard unsharp masking (using both dark and light halos) at a fairly conservative strength and small radius, producing crisper looking detail without introducing any significant artefacts (though it does have the side effect of sharpening 'noise' at higher ISO settings).

It's not a strong enough effect to make a difference to small prints but it's an improvement on the K10D. Ultimately if you like your output really sharp (or as Pentax would undoubtedly see it 'oversharpened') you need to do it yourself in post processing.

Fine Sharpness: -4
Fine Sharpness: -2
Fine Sharpness 0
Fine Sharpness: +2
Fine Sharpness: +4

Real-world effect

The default setting (if you have English set as your menu language, anyway), has sharpening turned on to +1. In real-world shots, this can sometimes have difficulty rendering low-contrast detail such as grass, fur or distant tweed. Moving the sharpening to its 'fine' setting improves matters greatly without particularly detrimental effects on image quality (at its +1 setting anyway). We'd be inclined to make this correction and leave it set there.

Sharpness +1
Fine sharpness +1