New Pentax K-7: The first HDR camera?

The answer to the question is: Yes and No.

Pentax just announced the new K-7, and the feature highlight is in-camera HDR shooting and tonemapping. It's truthful in both, meaning it really does shoot several exposures to cover whopping 17 EVs, and the onboard tonemapping renders very natural images. That is the "Yes" part of the answer.

The pity is, that both features are connected: The real 32-bit HDR image is inaccessible, the tonemapping result is all you get (in JPEG format). Love it or leave it!

Here's why I don't like this:

A) Tonemapping is the fun part in HDR photography. I appreciate in-camera merging of the exposures, but please leave the creative part to me!

B) It renders this mode useless for 32-bit applications of HDR, like 3D-lighting, advanced compositing, lighting analysis.

C) The term HDR is further watered down, reduced to tonemapped JPEGs. This is especially concerning to me, because it works against the overall goal of having a fully HDR-capable imaging pipeline (that ends up on a Dolby-HDR enabled display).

Please, Pentax make this camera a little less smart! Why disable RAW shooting when in HDR mode? No need to make up your own 32-bit file format, just save the merged HDR images as EXR files (before tonemapping)! And in an instant you made this camera 100% more professional.

With this in mind, jump over to Adorama to read fellow HDR buff Jack Howard's hands-on review. Jack seems a bit more ecstatic about the K-7 than me, maybe because he got such excellent results out of it. Looking at his slideshow, there is no doubt that this camera is a giant leap. Just not quite the right direction for me...

Further reference:
12-page Preview on DPReview
Official Pentax K-7 site

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