Pentax K-1 & Pixel Shift

The Pentax K-1 comes with many unique, practical and handy functions of which one is Pixel Shift. When the camera is set to Pixel Shift it takes four subsequent exposures at one pixel increments. One of the benefits is a huge dynamic range boost to a camera which already offers stellar DR. Four exposures provide more light to the sensor than one. Pixel shift is also supposed to produce greater sharpness and increase the level of detail. You can read more about Pixel Shift at DpReview and Imaging Resource

It is important to note that this function works best when there is no wind or motion even though the K-1 comes with a motion correction setting which output is best handled with Ricoh’s bundled software; SilkyPix. A tripod is a must when shooting in Pixel Shift mode.

We will in the following have a closer look at an image shot with the Pentax K-1 set to Pixel Shift and no motion correction since it was very still that evening. I will chiefly let the sample images do the talking. A Pentax 15-30 lens is used.

The raw file straight out of camera:

Pixel shift straight out of camera

Lightroom’s interpretation of the raw file’s luminosity values:

Pixel shift histogram sooc

The image after raw prepping in Lightroom:

Pixel shift edited in Lr

The histogram after raw prepping:

Pixel shift histogram Lr

The finished image after being edited in Photoshop (this image of the cabin has never been published before):

Pixel shift edited in Ps

Histogram after Photoshop:

Pixel shift histogram ps

The image below is a very close crop of an often problem area with my former cameras, that is, noise and artifacts along the right edge and top right corner of the cabin’s wall. Note that no sharpening or noise reduction are applied in Photoshop. That area is now incredibly clean in Photoshop and Lightroom, but a bit less so on here due to jpg and image compression:

Pixel shift close crop ps

It is also important to note that since the sensor receives so much light it is vital to underexpose the image quite a bit to avoid highlight clipping and loss of highlight detail. The K-1 is a beast when it comes to picking up shadows without adding grain, noise or artifacts. I exposed this image at -3EV using average metering (Pentax K-1 language: Multi Segment metering).

This was a very high dynamic range scene with pretty strong highlights from a setting sun and shadows were well in to dusk, to put it like that. Yet, the Pentax K-1 offers a very clean image with plenty of highlight and shadow detail – and that from a single raw file. In other words, no need for exposure blending which now and then can be a challenge with trees reaching into the sky.


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