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HolidayBuyer's Guide

JPEG, low ISO sensitivities

JPEG, high ISO sensitivities

ISO 100 JPEG

ISO 200 JPEG

ISO 400 JPEG

ISO 800 JPEG

Colors, Natural vs. default (Bright)

ISO 1600, Bright vs. Natural colors

ISO 1600 JPEG

ISO 1600 raw vs. JPEG

Colors

The highest I'd use in good light for JPEGs is ISO 800; even at low ISO sensitivities the shadow areas show a little too much noise reduction, but the brighter areas look fine.

(These may look slightly underexposed, but that's a result of the default color settings, which increase contrast and saturation too much.)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
While it can squeak by for ISO 3200, past that it's pretty unusable.
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
Pentax's processing seems to result in slightly soft photos -- the raw version of this looks a little sharper.

(1/80 sec, f4.5, ISO 100, AWB, spot metering, 18-55mm lens at 42.5mm)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
Generally, the photos are acceptably sharp, if not great.

(1/80 sec, f9, ISO 200, AWB, spot metering, 18-55mm lens at 55mm)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
At ISO 400, photos still look good, with no excessive noise reduction.

(1/100 sec, f2.8, ISO 400, AWB, spot metering, 18-55mm lens at 40mm)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
At ISO 800, it still handles edges pretty well. Color noise in the raw files stays relatively fine-grained until you hit ISO 1600.

(1/30 sec, f4.5, ISO 800, AWB, spot metering, 40mm f2.8 lens)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
Pentax's default color settings -- dubbed Custom Image -- result in the most severe hue shifts and clipped shadows I've ever seen. This really becomes a problem when shooting in low light.

(1/80 sec, f4.5, ISO 100, AWB, multisegment metering, 40mm f2.8 lens)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
In bright illumination you can usually get away with boosting the contrast and saturation of the colors, but in low light it results in a lot of lost shadow detail and odd color shifts.

(1/40 sec, f2.8, ISO 1600, AWB, spot metering, 40mm f2.8 lens)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
Although you can see the artifacts, which include noise-reduction effects and jaggies on high-contrast edges -- JPEG images without fine details can still be usable at ISO 1600.

(1/125 sec, f4.5, ISO 1600, AWB, spot metering, 40mm f2.8 lens)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
While the trade-off is some graininess, you can recover some detail by shooting raw at the higher ISO sensitivities.

(1/125 sec, f4.5, ISO 1600, AWB, spot metering, 40mm f2.8 lens)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
As long as you're not looking for accuracy, the colors on the default settings will likely look pleasing to you.
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
Updated:
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