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Gear Rumors

Ricoh/Pentax Join The ‘Pixel-Shift’ Game

By Anthony Thurston on March 27th 2015

Hasselblad started it a while back, and more recently, Olympus made waves with their sensor shifting technology with allows for 40MP images out of the small M 4/3 OM-D E-M5 II. Now, it appears that Ricoh/Pentax is throwing their gear in the ring with a new Pixel Shift technology.


According to the rumors, the new technology works similarly to those utilized by Hasselblad and Olympus. Basically, the sensor is moved up, down, left and right in one pixel increments resulting in each pixel having full color information. This eliminates the need for interpolation and results in a higher quality file, at the sensor’s true resolution.

There are also unconfirmed rumblings that this technology could be rolled out to other Pentax and Ricoh branded cameras via a firmware update. That, while seeming to be wishful thinking, would be big news. I am unsure, though, how a software update would allow for moving the sensor – the hardware would already have to be in place for that to work.

I am personally not really sure what you think about this pixel/sensor shifting technology. I mean, for certain uses, like landscapes or architecture I can see this working, but the limitation on movement in the images really sort of kills whatever excitement I personally feel about it.

What are your thoughts on this pixel/sensor shifting technology that is making the rounds in the market? Would you like to have that tech in your current camera? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think!

[via Photo Rumors]

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Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Jerry Jackson

    I feel like every camera manufacturer that already has a camera with IBIS should add this feature via a firmware update. As others have said, it’s not useful when shooting handheld or when shooting anything that moves, but it will provide “that little bit of extra resolution” for product photography in the studio or some landscape photos (assuming the wind isn’t moving anything in the frame).

    It’s not a “must have” feature but it’s one of those “why not?” features that should be easy to add via firmware to any camera that uses sensor-shift image stabilization. It’s one of those features that adds another bullet point for companies to highlight and convince buyers to make a purchase. I think of “pixel-shift” technology the same way I think of focus peaking back when Sony added it to the E-mount cameras via firmware updates.

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  2. Dayna Lee

    At first I was puzzled as to why the Olympus system needed 16 sensor shifts to achieve super-resolution and why the resulting image was 40 mpx and not 64. To do a simple super-resolution capture the sensor would need to do four shots; 1st from the base position, then ½ pixel horizontal, ½ pixel vertical and then ½ pixel horizontally in the reverse direction. This would effectively double the pixel dimensions both horizontally and vertically resulting in a quadrupling of the pixel dimensions to 64 mpx. So why 16 shots to yield only a 40 mpx image?

    The answer is the Olympus system is not only shifting the pixels to create higher resolution but is also shifting the sensors position relative to the Bayer filter to capture full color data for each pixel position.

    Pentax seems to be indicating the shift is for full color capture, but not for super-resolution?

    Olympus has demonstrated that with IBIS sensor shifting it is possible to do both at once.

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    • Dave Haynie

      The OM-D E-M5II hires mode is only taking 8 shots: four at one pixel relative offsets and four at 1/2 pixel offsets. So what this really delivers is two full RGB 16Mpixel image sets, at 1/2 pixel offset from one another.

      Or, if want to thonk of it this way, it’s a 32Mpixel image, but with an interstitial matrix, kind of like Fujifilm’s old SuperCCD, which was set at 45 degrees to deliver an interstitial matrix. In order to create a standard pixel matrix from an interstitial matrix, you have to interpolate pixels. This works fairly well when you aldo don’t have to worry about de-Bayering.

      The result of thst interpolation is a 64Mpixel result. Olympus felt the quality kind of peaked around 40Mpixels, so they scale it to that size for the JPEG. All eight shots are preserved in the raw file.

      Why wouldn’t Pentax do the 1/2 shift? Not sure… the original Hasselblad version offered thst or a full color only option. The would need finer control over the sensor, and the image processing is substantially more involved, but not terribly hard to figure out. I doubt patents are in the way.

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    • Dayna Lee

      I stand corrected.

      The source on which I based my comments clearly stated that the sensor shifted 16 times but the official Olympus press release says 8.

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  3. Mircea Blanaru

    I think this technology is better than nothing. Good to have one in your camera!!!!!

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  4. J. Dennis Thomas

    Let me get this right, The sensor shifts so that each pixel gets RGB info? Isn’t that what Foveon did without shifting the sensor?

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Yes, the difference is that Foveon has layers.

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    • J. Dennis Thomas

      Seems like this “shifting sensor” technology is making something simple more complicated and less useful by adding movement. I’d argue a Foveon sensor is inherently better because the subject doesn’t have to be static.

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    • Stan Rogers

      It’s also inherently less sensitive (or, rather, more prone to colour error as the exposure decreases), and you don’t have the option to turn it off and pay the Bayer penalty when the situation warrants (f’rinstance, when you can afford to trade off resolution for just getting the picture). One could also argue that three-chip is the only way to fly, but the penalty you’d pay there is a longer light path behind the lens (and no realistic possibility of IBIS). Everything in this game is a compromise of some sort, and you get to choose which one to make.

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    • J. Dennis Thomas

      “more prone to colour error as the exposure decreases”

      So is the D800/810 and the 5DS/R. At base ISO the cameras are great, but as the ISO rises the DR drops exponentially.

      Also, why couldn’t a 3-layer sensor have IBIS? Sensors now are already multi-layered with an IR/UV cut filter and in most cases an OLPF. There should be no reason a Foveon sensor with 3 color filters couldn’t be shifted.

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    • Porfirio Azevedo

      Pentax cameras, since about.. 2007 or 2008, all have this capability, to move the sensor around.

      and if you think technical, the camera will shift the sensor when the exposure is going on… so.. if the curtain is opened for 1/1000 and the sensor menages to shift the “bayer filter” to capture whatever is going on, a person moving won’t be lured because it was captured at 1/1000 and not 3 different 1/1000 shots.

      i know that the Pentax cameras CAN work this way because the anti-aliasing filter simulator uses this principle to get rid of moire/aliasing
      in a way, pentax (like in the old days) started the trend.

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    • Porfirio Azevedo

      Im wondering how many people think that a firmware update could bring magnets to the insides of your camera.

      Pentax, doing this sensor shifting/stabilization since 2008.

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  5. Dave Haynie

    Pentax commented on this a few weeks ago… no surprise they’re working on it. I think any company doing sensor shift IBIS would think about doing something like this, even if it’s just to off a Bayer-free mode, if not a resolution boost like Olympus did. As Olympus commented, the IBIS in their older models isn’t accurate enough for this — or at least the 1/2 pixel sensor shifting, they weren’t actually asked about any other pixel shifting mode.

    Sure, it’s not usable for everything. But it’s also essentially free, since you have all the necessary hardware in place already — it’s just “as simple matter of software”, as we hardware engineers like to say. I have used the hires mode on my OM-D for product photography, and it’s perfect for that — better images than with my Canon 6D in this very specific scenario. A new tool, and sure, one that, like any tool, won’t solve every problem.

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  6. Stan Rogers

    It’s good for what it’s good for. Product, still life, *some* architecture, and those amazing moments in landscape (especially early morning) when everything is so still that you have to keep some part of you moving to believe you haven’t temporarily spaced out. But even the slightest movement in the scene makes a mess, and not in that sometimes-appealing vaguely ghost-ish way that works well in a single long exposure with movement in only some of the frame. The trick is to remember that you still have a helluva camera with the multishot turned off, and to use that when the multishot makes no sense. But when it works…! You’ve got to see a 40″ x 50″ print at 300 PPI at least once in your life (the ‘Blad 200/200c will do that).

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    • Matthew Saville

      I’m hoping that they’ve come up with something decent in the case of slight movements in subject. Pentax’ in-camera HDR feature has been pretty darn good at eliminating unwanted ghosting, so not all hope is lost.


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    • Matthew Saville

      This, plus the GPS astro-tracking, makes Pentax one of the greatest options out there, especially if they offer both a full-frame and crop-sensor version of this, akin to the K-3. The K-3 is already one of the best DX DSLRs ever…

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  7. Kristopher Galuska

    Their slrs already have ibis. The k3 and upcoming s2 are even precise enought to fake a low pass filter. So adding this in firmware should be possible. Especially since they are only moving 1 pixel and not half pixles like olympus.

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  8. John Cavan

    Well, it only took 3 years, but I suggested this back in 2012:

    In any event, it’s a good idea for controlled shots and they have the ability, so why not?

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  9. Tim Buerck

    I think this is just another way to sell the camera. Like “oh, you don’t need the Nikon D810. This small camera can get 40mp images.” Then the salesman neglacts to say, the object can’t more at all or it will be blurry. Another words, I see it as a waste of energy.

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  10. Rafael Steffen

    Thanks for sharing this interesting news. Concentrating 40MP in a such small sensor sounds really interesting despite the lack of quality on these very small sensors.

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