I’ve bought two new cameras in the last month and they’re giving me trouble. If you’re thinking about one of the new Pentaxes, or one of those nifty little Ricohs, maybe you ought to read this.
[Update: The software caught up.]

Pentax Sigh · I’ve been very happy with my 4-year-old *ist D, the original Pentax DSLR. Except for, low-light shooting is a challenge. The K20D, along with this snazzy new Samsung-sourced sensor that looks pretty darn smooth at ISO 1600, has shake reduction. Plus lots of other goodies like weatherproofing and sensor-cleaning and lens-correction memory and so on. So I got one.

[Update: The problem described in the next few paragraphs is now resolved; Adobe just posted ACR 4.4 and Lightroom 1.3, which handle the RAW files beautifully. I took some ISO-1600 shots of my daughter in the bathtub, and the smooth creaminess of the skin in the images is hardly to be believed.]

The problem is, the hardware is ahead of the software. It can write RAW in Pentax’s own .PEF format, or in Adobe’s candidate standard .DNG. But Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom refuse to even try to read the .PEFs, and they’ll read the .DNGs, but can’t adjust the white balance without damaging the picture.

Following on this discovery, a little poking around the Web revealed that that sure enough, it’s not surprising to have to wait a little while. So if I want to use this thing, I can either shoot JPEGs, or I can use Pentax’s klunky “PhotoLab” software to do colour correction, write out an 85-MB TIFF, and import that into Lightroom to tidy up.

So I think the K20D is going on the shelf for a while and I’ll probably take the reliable old *ist D to Hawai’i on vacation later this month.

[The fix showed up the evening before the plane to Hawai’i.]

Ricoh Bah · I’m adapting to the Ricoh pretty effortlessly, though, and the software has no trouble with its DNGs. You really gotta watch the dynamic range, it’s dead easy to blow out highlights; but I’m getting the hang of working around that.

The only problem is that it’s defective. The CRT on the back usually doesn’t come on when you turn the camera on. I’ve learned that if you thump it on the back just right, it’ll come on for a while.

The trouble is that the only way to buy a Ricoh in North America is via “Adorama”, a big camera store headquartered in New York. So I called them to say “The Ricoh’s defective” and they said “Sorry, you’ve had it more than two weeks so that’s between you and Ricoh”. Which probably means my nice little camera will be taking a round-trip to Japan.

Which means that my Hawai’i pocket camera is going to be the little Canon that I’d been meaning to give to the boy.

So to express my feelings, I’m going to include this picture from Geneva that I took with my cellphone. Who needs fine cameras anyhow?

Cellphone picture from Geneva

Lessons · I guess I should find a mountaintop somewhere and contemplate the wisdom, famously introduced by Siddhārtha Gautama and lately reinforced by pomo-guru Eckhart Tolle, about attachment to things of this world being the upstream source of human pain. Like for example good cameras.



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Rob... (Mar 09 2008, at 01:14)

According to Thomas Knoll of Adobe, there's a problem with DNG file that the K20D produces.

http://www.adobeforums.com/webx/.3c0648bc

I wonder if Pentax will sort or if Adobe will work around it in the next ACR update?

Being an early adopter can suck at times, can't it?! Especially with shiny new gear...

Regards,

Rob...

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From: Nathan Bell (Mar 09 2008, at 01:32)

"The CRT on the back usually doesn’t come on"

Damn that's an old camera. ;o)

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From: Janne (Mar 09 2008, at 05:27)

Well, as you say, this is always the issue with brand-new cameras. Let me suggest one of 2 possible approaches:

* Use UFRaw, the open-source frontend converter to the dcraw library. It handles DNGs pretty nicely, including oddness about white balance (the K10D has the same issue but worked with UFRaw from day 1). Yes, it still means saving as TIFF (or PNG) as an in-between format.

* Set the camera to shoot Jpeg and RAW. You get good Jpegs right from the camera (no need to convert), and when your software is updated you still have the RAW files and can go revisit the ones you feel are worth the extra work. FWIW, I always shoot Jpeg+Raw since not every image is worth the extra time and effort to do raw conversion manually. And frankly, the in-camera Jpegs, if you set the camera to neutral or low sharpness and contrast, are good enough quality to stand quite a lot of post-processing before they start to fall apart; a lot more than the images from a small compact.

Also, the K20D, like the K10D, can do raw conversion in-camera. It's nothing you'd use for a lot of pictures, but if there's a few pictures you want to convert quickly (want to print them or email them while on a trip or something), the in-camera converter can be helpful with editing exposure, white balance and so on after the fact.

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From: Chris Norris (Mar 09 2008, at 07:10)

I'm guessing you meant to type LCD instead of CRT when talking about the back of your Ricoh. Though it'd be really interesting to have a camera with a tiny CRT on the back.

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From: Mike Kozlowski (Mar 09 2008, at 07:16)

I'm surprised by the white-balance DNG problem. I thought the whole point of DNG was that cameras would Just Work out of the box without waiting for special adaptation to be made for them.

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From: Bilgehan (Mar 09 2008, at 12:32)

I suggest you to give Canon G9 a try.

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From: Eric Schneider (Mar 09 2008, at 17:16)

Tim,

If you have a local camera shop that handles repair work, you can probably drop the Ricoh off there and let them ship it to Ricoh for service. The turnaround seems to be about two weeks which is a bit longer than you'd see from Nikon.

Ziff Camera in Belmont, MA sent my Ricoh GR-D (also from Adorama) out for repair just last week. It wasn't defective, I just had it in my pocket while getting dumped off a horse at 30mph. Still, my old Casio Exilim tended to take that sort of abuse much better. Oh well...

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From: Alex Waterhouse-Hayward (Mar 10 2008, at 15:28)

Dear Tim,

Leo's in Vancouver is as competitive as either London Drugs and Futureshop with the bonus of giving you better technical assistance and advice. Particularly if you talk with Jeff who happens to talk a very good Mac language. He can do stuff with photo programs that would dazzle you.

But if you persist in trying to save money by buying equipment in your many trips abroad you will have to bite the bullet. Or you could start a paper weight collection.

When I can no longer avoid the digital thing I am going to buy a Fuji S-5 Pro (as soon as the S-6 comes out) this neat DSLR will use my old style Nikon lenses (the ones I use with my Nikon FM-S and the Nikon F-3). This Fuji does not have the Sony sensor but a Fuji sensor that has high dynamic range (or in other words you can push the camera and get less noise).

Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

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From: Brian (Mar 23 2008, at 22:10)

I would advise not buying from Adorama in the future. This sort of behavior has become the norm with what use to be a reputable operation.

It's sad, but I had two bad experiences with them and I'll never make that mistake again. I guess I'll just have to buy from B&H from now on.

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