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Friday, 21 March 2014

Comments

I own a DP2 Merrill, and my friend jokingly refers to it as my digital "medium format" point and shoot camera. There is a pixel level sharpness that gives this camera more "bite" than anything else I have ever used including my real medium format digital camera, but I have to add a word of warning. With a write time of up to 15s!?! after you take a single picture and some pretty slow autofocus and low usable ISO, this camera can be torture when photographing people. Add the fact that there is no Raw support in Lightroom, and you are dealing with a tool that needs to be used sparingly.

I know you wouldn't even let your imagination and desire wander toward the Leica M Monochrom due to its astronomical price, but that camera is truly a thing of beauty that just gets it right.

Based on some of the photographs I have seen online I have been tempted by this camera. However, I have been dissuaded because of nearly universal reports that is is a superb sensor cloaked in a horribly executed camera. It is one of those cameras that a few people barely tolerate in order to produce those beautiful files. I have read this again and again about this camera. The people who like it the most use it essentially like a view camera for landscape work--they lock it down onto a tripod and shoot a static scene. Rather than repeat these assessments I will quote from the most recent review that popped up on the B & H website by R. Kimball (typos were not corrected):

"I love it. I hate it.
By R.KImball
from Cottage Grove OR
About Me Semi-Pro Photographer
I read all the reviews and did my research prior to buying this camera. I highly recomend doing the same to avoid disapointment. This is not a typical point and shoot and if you buy it as an everyday carry around camera you may be disapointed. Everything about horrid battery life is true, it has bad shutter lag, the rear screen is poor, the SPP software is slow and tedious, anything over ISO 400 is very noisy. Ocasionally i have been able to get some decent black and white shots at high iso but mostly the pictures just look like garbage. HOWEVER on a tripod, at base ISO with 2 sec shutter delay this camera can produce amazing results. When everything aligns just right and this camera is allowed to do what it does best the end result is hard to beat. Stunning image quality. I have an aresnal of canon gear and i would sell it all if Sigma could make a decent interchangeable lens camera with just a few more features than their SD1. I truly wish this camera was more versitle becaus i do love using it. At least for me handholding it just doesnt cut it, the shutter lag and lack of IS make blur free shots difficult. If it had a decent optical view finder you could brace against that would certainly help. If you shoot subjects that dont move and can use a tripod and want incredible DSLR beating image quality this may be the camera for you. If you want a daily walk around camera i would look elswhere. Oh yeah buy extra batteries!"

So...maybe Sigma has fixed these issues in the new DP2 Quattro model that is coming out. Then I might be very interested.

Great start to the morning.

You were asked a few weeks ago to illustrate tonality. You replied it was best left for your retirement. But these examples offer a nice set of what can be achieved at least with certain digital cams. It is a very nice illustrated mini lecture. The more you can do of them as opposed to just talk about possible B&W sensors the better for many of your readers who lack a good film background.

You say the 3 DPxM cameras are to be replaced. Each is available from Japanese sellers on Ebay new and shipped for under $600.

Nope, the Quattro is a bastardized subpixel layout, where 4 green pixels and 4 red pixels are merged into two larger ones, and only blue pixels run at full resolution, even though that is the color our eyes are least sensitive to. This was done to raise high ISO capabilities, which have been the Achilles' heel of Foveon sensors, but they threw away the baby with the bath water by tampering with the perfect uninterpolated color fidelity.

I would advise you to get a DP2M (or DP1M or DP3M) before stock runs out. Sure, it is unusable above ISO 400 (possibly more if converting to B&W), but the optics are excellent and the per-pixel quality unmatched. In other words, it has the characteristics of a medium format digital camera in a pocketable factor.

Mike,

The Sigma black and white samples are great.

However, I've seen equally gorgeous black and white conversions from 39mp CCD sensors(especially multi-shot), Nikon D800s, and the Olys: EPL-5 and the EM1.

Think of the difference between a cook and a chef. Both may use the same ingredients, but the latter exercises more skill and nuance.

Looked at it online, no viewfinder! Thank Goodness! Saved from temptation!

Funny, the "Open letter..." thread may have been the first time in a long while that I didn't mention Foveon when the subject of BW sensors came up. I'm slipping! But yes, thank you, thank you, Mike.

As a beginner, I always printed too dark. Partly because I loved the deep rich blacks of the glossy RC papers I started with (especially Agfa), partly because I loved the drama and mystery of dark shadows, and partly because the cheapskate in me didn't like the idea of throwing away so much of the silver I'd paid for.

I was just getting over my Sigma lust and you go and post this. The images look good to my less trained eyes, highlights and midtones. I've heard that DR can be a problem with the Sigma's, and I've seen some ugly clouds in color landscapes, but it can happen to any camera. What has appealed to me about the color images I look at, often at full resolution since so many Sigma users seem to enjoy showing their photos that way, is the startlingly good detail of foliage (of everything really, but especially leaves and grass).

Mike, this is a fool's errand. As I recall, you dove into the very deep end of the pool with the Nikon because of how the B&W images looked. It's not the camera! It's all in the process of USING the camera. When your ONLY choice is Tri-X, the mindset through the entire workflow is Tri-X. You previsualize the image and adapt the processes in the workflow to stay true to that visualization as you have no other choice. However, with digital, you lose the Previsualization and get to revisualize the image later. Unfortunately, later comes with a different experiential mindset and a blurring of why you took the image in the first place. The moment is gone and it ain't coming back. That's why I personally struggle with digital B&W. I need to be forced to understand why I shot that image that way in the beginning. There is nothing quite like looking at a sheet of contact negs.

In the Uk you can pick up a Sigma Dp 1,2 or 3 Merril from a an authorised Sigma dealer for £339.00, it was £799.00 previously. I work in camera retail and to be honest this price reduction has only just started getting people interested in these little wonders.It seems there is a market for these cameras that produce amazing images but only at the right price! Most people are buying the Dp1m and then coming back for the Dp3m a few days later. I look forward to seeing how the Quattro performs.

Fascinating! I find the vast majority of the pictures you link here to look "brittle" in the highlights, not smooth and not natural at all.

[I'm suspicious that that's your monitor. Although I don't know what "brittle" means. --Mike]

"Traditionally the big weakness of digital in my opinion is highlight gradation. In far too many pictures I see, photographers are insensitive to letting highlights blast out to saturated pixels..."

That, to my mind, is the greatest weakness of digital capture. We do have ways to work around it—preferring underexposure to blown highlights, and "tricks" for increasing near-white contrast in post. But one of the beauties of film was that it "failed gracefully" near the margins. With digital you can record higher and higher luminosity levels until... you can't. With film, the response "rolls off" in a more graceful manner.

For some time I have felt that, rather than simply increasing dynamic range, it would make sense to "curving" the response at the extreme ends of the range in ways that are more like film.

Dan

Sounds like an interesting camera. Unfortunately I'm not in a place where I can buy another camera right now so I'm left fighting with Photoshop CS2 or GIMP 2.8.

I know there are good plug-ins out there but I can't afford them either. What is the best way to take, for example, a raw file from my E-PL1 and convert it to B&W with the hope of emulating something like my favorite - Plus-X with a Yellow filter? Currently I use the channel mixer,put it into monochrome & mix it starting at (straight) 30/59/11 (yellow filter) 45/45/10

Any thoughts (though this might be better as a separate posting) on other ways or techniques? The look of Plus-X out of a TLR is what I desire to duplicate though so far I haven't. One of the things I like about asking here is that there seems to be a broader population of photography types here.

Thanks!

Thank you for posting these examples. I have been interested in that camera's B&W performance, (and have lloked at a fair number of examples) and am interested in the upcoming Quattro, for me perhaps in 2015.

I understand the difference between a pure monochrome sensor and a color array sensor. It does seem to me that the Foveon sensor should be able to duplicate pure monochrome.

And a friend's Leica MM does often produce some of the most delicious tonal detail and graduation I've seen in digital.

OTOH, it does seem to me that most of the faults you mention above in B&Ws from digital color cameras are avoidable with proper technique in capture and processing. [True. --MJ]

As you've said, overexposure is a very common problem. As you are, I'm bothered by the highlight 'dead zone', where tonal detail, while not actually clipped, is so highly compressed that "There's just not as much going on in them, tonally speaking, as there should be."

In one way, especially in images we see on the web, this is often a result of improved JPEG processing in newer cameras. Faced with the problem of fitting a wide DR into an 8 bit JPEG with the mid tones in the right place, they compress the highest values.

The good news is that, even without Raw files and highlight recovery, many JPEGs may be saved.

It's my experience that most properly exposed color images from contemporary digital cameras may be made into images at least as good in highlight tonal range, graduation and detail as the examples here, sometimes better. Expose to the right (not some formula, but to hold the highlights you want), which will usually involve negative EV adjustment, sometimes a lot. Then use the tools in Raw converter and editor to get the curve at the top right.

Of the samples you have linked, a few illustrate my point:

- Glassi's looks perfect to me.

- arcaswissi's seems to me to suffer from some highlight detail compression. Try PS Highlight tool, settings 10,50,30 to see what I mean.

- Zanckr's is lovely. But, there's a lot more tonal detail available but not visible in the 'drapery'. I think Highlights 50,40,20 is much nicer.

- Dudzinski's is indeed like good film. The tonality in the shadowed area, particularly skin tones, is excellent. Nevertheless, with masking, a great deal of highlight tonal detail can be revealed in the background, without making it look unnatural.

It does seem that the Merrill sensor system makes it easier to avoid the highlight problems, but does not automatically correct for poor technique. And conversely, conventional color sensor systems may be used to give B&W with excellent highlight characteristics.

I'm only talking about highlights. The MM, at least, does seem to excel at the subtleties of tones beyond what's usual with B&W conversions. And fine detail should be clearer, although that's a moot point for anything but pixel level detail.

Moose

I think I'm with Ken N along the lines that "It's all in the process of USING the camera. When your ONLY choice is …, the mindset through the entire workflow is …". That's why there's a part of me that keeps wishing for a monochrome camera I could afford.

BUT I love the flexibility of doing conversions in Lightroom, the ability to manipulate the luminance of a particular tone, or even two or more different tones, to get the tonal balance I like. So much easier than choosing one type of tonal rendition at the time and choosing a filter to deliver that.

But doing it that way is not "photographing to see what something looks like in a photograph", it's processing to see how I'd like it to look in a photograph. I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with that but it is a different way of working and it's not the way I'd like to work if I could get the results I'd like to get by doing things the way I'd like to do them.

So I pine for a monochrome camera ("lust" might be too strong a word) while knowing that I probably can get a result I like more often doing conversions and working in a way that the purist in me would prefer not to.

Still, while I'm at it and wishing, how about I wish for a monochrome sensor that would let me expose for the shadows and process for the highlights instead of one that would force me to expose for the highlights and process for the shadows.

Mike,

Of course, the Monochrom is awfully expensive.

The results in B&W I obtain with an M9 (not cheap) and a Canon 1Ds MKIII (not cheap either) are all right. I was looking at Salagado's most recent book, shot with the same Canon (as far as I know) and it is gorgeous. it seemed to me that most of these picture were taken in good daylight, unless I am very much mistaken.

Yet, in bad light, the Monochrom files do shine. The shadows can be worked much, much more than in the files produced by other cameras.

I don't want to become an blind (!) apostle of the camera, but hey, it is very, very good.

Pierre
http://www.charbonneauphoto.com/clients/monochrom/

I'm going to start calling my E-M5 Ye Olde Axe (the ye is pronounced the, just so you know). Now I just need to get to the grinding with it.

Any digital camera with a macro lens can be a great B&W camera ... if paired up with a film camera. (Pace, Ctein --- film scanners and flatbeds can be great B&W cameras, too.)

I think the people who would appreciate the kind of differences you mention are people who should be shooting film if they cared enough about those differences. Yes, it's slower, a bit more expensive (though that is debatable if one rides the constant digital camera upgrade bandwagon), and inconvenient, but no one ever said making art is or should be easy.

Fortunately, if you still want the look of B&W film in digital, you can still get it shooting film and processing digitally. Yeah, it's one slow day at the office working the files- guaranteed. But when you finally get to see the inkjet with a dynamic range equal to film, and every tonal value in place- it really shows up digital's lackluster performance. Tri-X, Plustek, Museo Rag- not exactly the Salgado treatment, but it rivals anything I got in the darkroom.

The difficulty with digital is that there is too much choice, so many photographers have a hard time figuring out what direction to go in with post production. There is nothing special about Foveon dynamic range that allows for better highlight retention and roll off. In fact, Foveon is at a disadvantage in this regard, technically, as those cameras have less available DR than a Bayer camera. However, many photographers shooting regular old Bayer cameras don't know how to process their photos in the raw converter to achieve nice highlights, and the whole ETTR movement from a number of years back didn't help the situation.

Modern Sony-based CMOS cameras (Sony, Nikon, Pentax, Fuji, etc.) have raw files that are so pliable with such great dynamic range that we're really as close as ever in getting "film-like" highlights, but you have to tell the raw file to do it.

Sorry. To me they all look too clinical and flat too me. Frankly too digital. Like a roll of Tmax that ended up too contrasty. I'm not anti-digital, I do almost all my color work with it. But for B&W I simply dislike the majority of B&W work I see.

Thanks for posting this. My photos have suffered from blown highlights for a long time now, and to look at them does indeed scream, "amateur!", as you say.

I'll be very interested to see how you rate the B&W from the D800e re the other black and white films/sensors.

Mike, good commentary, and I also have problems with the way digital renders highlights in B/W - I'm a long-time B/W photographer with film so the digital look isn't merely different, it has the problems you identify. I'm still using some B/W film because I can't get some styles of B/W tonality in digital. Forty years with film, and only ten with digital, but I don't think inexperience is the problem this time. :-)

A comment on language use - you're a literate guy, so why have you allowed to creep in the new illiteracy of "that" being used when "than" is required for meaning.

Example: Tonally, this looks much more like what I could have achieved on film that something I'd expect from digital.

In the sentence quoted, you need a comparative (than) not a particular (that).

This seems to be the new frontier of word confusion; maybe it'll become as annoyingly common as confusing "loose" and "lose" (again, quite different meanings).

[Jeez, Ross, it was just a typo. I have to type a lot. I do make a mistake once in a while. --Mike]

Dear Mike,

I am still of the firm belief that most photographers' complaints about digital black-and-white derive from both user error and unrealistic (albeit understandable) expectations. The three biggest ones:

1) Black-and-white film photographers, by and large, don't know how to expose digital photographs correctly. They're accustomed to working with negative film, where the rule is “watch the shadows and let the highlights take care of themselves.” Digital cameras behave like transparency films, where the opposite is true––you watch your exposure to make sure you don't blow out the highlights, and the shadows go wherever they may.

Misguided rules like ETTR don't help the situation.

2) A related common complaint is that digital cameras have a terribly short exposure range compared to analog black-and-white. Generally speaking, this is not true, especially with recent generations of digital cameras. It's hard to find a digital camera today that can't capture a 10 stop exposure range with good linearity; most will do 11-13 stops. Anyone who thinks that's a short exposure range should go and review Ansel Adam's The Negative and The Print and find out just how hard it is to get a genuine 10 stop exposure range into a print. Also, how uncommon it is.

3) This complaint falls into the unreasonable expectation category. It's folks who are making in-camera JPEG's or doing a standard RAW conversion in something like Lightroom and expecting the results to rival fine black-and-white darkroom work. That's the equivalent of expecting that you should be able to always develop your film in D-76 for the Kodak-recommended time and print all those negatives on Grade 2 paper, and not even do any dodging or burning in ... and the prints will look wonderful.

Which they will… on occasion. But it was not skilled black and white practice. You adjusted your development for the photographing conditions, you selected your paper grade as necessary, and you dodged and burnt. If you didn't have those basic skills, you'd never rise to the level of even a mediocre black-and-white printer.

There are lesser user errors. And there are characteristics of digital files which do make them difficult for folks who still think in terms of analog black-and-white work. But these are the three biggies. Cure folks of them and I am convinced that 95% of the complaints about digital black and white would disappear.


pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
======================================
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
======================================

Mike, certainly could be some sort of monitor issue; the question of whether we see the same things is even more relevant than when it's just eyes, certainly! This monitor is a pretty good Dell 26", profiled with a Spyder 2 Express. And I look at quite a bit of B&W photography and it doesn't mostly look that way to me.

"Brittle" is kind of the opposite of "smooth" tonality. Highlights look hyper-kinetic, busy, unrestful.

The thing about the Foveon sensor is that it is a true BW sensor rather than a monochrome one, in that each photosite, rather than being purposed for a specific color or for luminance, can recognize the full spectrum of white light (and thus any less-than-fully-white hue as well). This isn't to diminish the engineering accomplishment of deconstructing light spectra per-pixel, but just to say that using a Foveon sensor for black and white isn't so much simulating or duplicating anything as it is getting down to its essential nature.

In fact, for fine black and white work, this nature should give it a theoretical advantage over either bayer array sensors, which require interpolation and demosaicing, or luminance-based monochrome sensors, which don't record color information that could be used to fine-tune tonality.

I was impressed with my DP1's abilities with B&W. My DP3M is better. Too, the Sigma software is much better with B&W than it was.

It is interesting to read your comments on lifeless digital highlights. I read quite a few discussions about this, but, try as I might I can't dissuade others from their disasterous ETTR practices. Approach each day with the intent to overexpose and when images aren't quite up to expectations buy a better camera. Oh well. Blame the tools.

I would like to say something about the Sigma Merrill cameras. Their slow performance is often mentioned but they are a tool. One uses a tool and becomes comfortable with it and it performs. Simple as that really. The slowness complaint is really just low hanging fruit.

The DPxM's are slower than the latest models of other cameras but they are quite usable and they are leaps and bounds ahead of the previous DP cameras. With the original DP1 was I able to keep up with my grand children and capture every moment. No. Not at all. With a little practice and thought though I was able to capture 8 to 10 Stunners in an outing with them. So rather than 99 "pretty good" shots I got a half dozen or so "5 star" shots. Good trade I think.

I have and use the original DP-1 and DP-2. I think of them as sort of digital Rollei 35 and manually zone focus them, and usual manual exposure. A nice slow and steady workflow.

They produce lovely tonal B&W prints natively at a little under 8 x 11 inches - and I rarely can see any difference at all in prints uprezzed to 13 x 19 inches.

I never got around to trying the Merrills, although the prints from them have the same feel (just bigger). But I'm looking forward to trying Sigma's latest effort.

I too tried setting my DP3M to Raw+Jpeg and with B&W as the colour space. The only problem with that is that SPP then automatically applies the Monochrome setting to the RAW file. I haven't found a way of batch processing these files out in Colour - which I prefer to start from when converting to B&W - instead you have to apply the colour setting to each file individually. But converting the DPxM files in Lightroom to B&W does indeed produce very nice files. Also, whilst colour files above 200 iso look horrible, very nice B&W files are possible at much higher iso settings.

Mike,
I will urge you to download SPP, Sigma's raw converter and play with a couple of eaw files.
Regards,
Anurag

It might be simpler (not to mention more fun) to get the results people want in B&W to shoot B&W film. It addresses the technical limitations and mindset issues. Just sayin'

Like a few other commenters, I'm a big fan of a hybrid workflow -- shoot on film, develop, scan, tweak and clean up in PS, print the digital file (I like inkjet for B&W and digital C-prints for color). It's not that hard or expensive...

Good reliable blog
hope you are well

A lot of my personal work is black and white. Some is still done on film but the majority is acquired digitally. I like post filtering color digital images during the conversion process so a monochrome only camera wouldn't work as well for me as a conventional one.
When out shooting I just get a vibe that a picture will be better in black and white than color and file that away in my memory and remember to try a conversion later.
I suppose when you get that feeling you could set your camera to black and white and pop off a frame or two and chimp away. This assumes your camera has a black and white option.
If you do this you may want to run raw+jpeg so you preserve the color information for later in the conversion process.

or

You could buy one of these and wear it around your neck.

http://www.adorama.com/TFVFBW.html?gclid=CIPRi-PBpr0CFecWMgod8SUAfQ

I had one back in the day and lost it. They work and I miss mine.

Mike and Ctein,
Could you do a comparison post? Mike, could you take a pair of cameras with you and run through a roll, taking a reference shot with a digital camera for each frame? Then you could make a few representative prints, and mail them off to Ctein, with the corresponding digital files, and see what he could make of them? You are both very skilled printers, and I think I could learn a lot about how to approach both wet and dry printing from this kind of thing.

Of course, this is a lot of work.

Sigma's raw developing software "Sigma Photo Pro" has a special mode dedicated to BW:

http://www.sigma-photo.co.jp/sppmonochrome/en/introduction.html

here is a gallery with examples:

http://www.sigma-photo.co.jp/sppmonochrome/en/photo_gallery.html

Ctein- Back in the darkroom days, getting exhibition quality B&W prints was no easy deal- only a certain fraction of photographers could. You state (and I do not challenge you in the slightest) that all the necessary info is already in digital to achieve film like results. But if only a mere handful (literally) of photographers are now able to achieve those results, then the current technology despite all its ease, sophistication and malleability is still sorely lacking.

After initial trial and error, I don't see why photographers today would have any more difficulty exposing for digital as they did for transparencies- esp with built in histograms and highlight warnings. And yet, the majority of B&W digital output remains sorely lacking, even from experienced users. Something is clearly amiss, whether in the software, sensors, whatever...

Perhaps it's foolish to expect "film like results" from digital output in the first place- two vastly different technologies. I'm still holding out hope for the future, but as it stands today, digital B&W that rivals B&W analog (for the inherent beauty it can portray from grainy 35mm to large format) is a rare beast indeed.

There is no doubt an advantage to the Foveon sensor in that it give thru pixels. and on a large print this might make it better than most Bayer sensors. But this whole thing about the way it handles highlights I do not get. Providing you prevent pixels (when you want to retain information) form saturating, the rest seems mostly a matter of the used curve and tone mapping. It is well possible that some camera's have a default tone curve that is more to ones taste or better suited for a certain use of an image, but to me it seems that one of the really great properties of digital is that you can make any curve you like (as opposed to any color, which is more complicated and partly depends on some choices made by the manufacturer).
In my experience especially the highlights can be something digital excels in. When printing BW in a traditional darkroom, there is a lot that can be done with shadows, using the right paper, the right developer and starting with the right film/developer combination (a combination of technical pan with a pyrogallol developer comes to mind, that gave really amazing shadow detail and blacks). Highlights are much more tricky. In my experience there is not a whole lot than can be done there. Apart form the nice way negative film does almost never really saturate.

providing one does not saturate the digital sensor, one can do whatever is needed/liked with the highlights, to get them exactly as desired. with as little or as much detail as one wants. and lets not forget that a digital sensor itself is almost completely linear, and there is very little variation between sensors in that. Its is only in the processing afterwards that the tone curve is set.

While it's not quite B&W, I've been shooting some snow pictures (spring melty snow pictures). They're very contrasty and have a lot of white and black in them. And I'm still poking around trying to get the exposure to render the highlights the way I see them (or exposure plus post-processing, really).

This is admittedly an extreme case -- direct sun off snow crystals, in a field of white, but often with quite a bit of dirt (a winter's fall of dirt, reduced to a single layer by melt), and often including asphalt pavement. But still, I'm dealing a lot with digital highlights at the moment and finding myself sometimes going back for an additional pass to get it even close.

Of course, I remember being surprised at how far down I had to push mid-tones to get this kind of subject to look okay on film, too.

You're right about closeout deals on the sigma DP Merrills. Here in the UK they are less than half price right now. And this column is not helping me resist.

Mike, great article and posts by the community. I know you haven't shot with the Fujis much yet, but after over a year of shooting with X-trans sensors, my experience is that they produce images that convert to black and white just beautifully, better than any other digital camera I've shot with. The black and white files have that "glow" that silver halide prints can produce. As, I'm also a printer of my images, I can also safely state that these conversions print on Epson fine art printers absolutely beautifully in black and white with a full and completely "articulated" range of tones, including the critical highlights region. Doing a Raw conversion with Capture One or Iridient Developer and the black and white conversions with Nik Silver Efex Pro2 produce museum quality black and white prints, assuming the original file is properly exposed. I think this is no small part due to the "random" arrangement of pixels in X-trans sensors, which approximate silver crystals in film emulsions, and the superb dynamic range of Fuji sensors.

Ctein: With the Merrill cameras, you do in fact shoot as you would with film (letting highlights drift off), as at ISO 100 you can recover nearly two stops of highlights and a bit more at ISO 200. I think that's also why in the samples looked at here the highlight transitions are so pleasing, because there's a lot of recovery room to allow for gradual transitions. I usually shoot the merrill with an ETTR mindset because I know even doing that I can recover some highlights, and I'm careful to understand how much in a scene may blow out.

Fazal Majid: You do not understand how the Foveon sensor works if you think the top layer is "Blue" and the bottom two layers are red & green. In fact the top layer is something like a blue-green with a bit of red, the middle layer is something like mostly green with some blue and some red, the lowest layer is mostly red, some green and a bit of blue... Watch this video from the last WPPI show where Rudy from Foveon explains in good detail how the Quattro works and there are also informative charts:

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/wppi___las_vegas_trade_show_.shtml
(Scroll down to "Sigma" section)

I had no intention of buying a new camera. Looked at the examples, ordered a DP2M.

There is a quality to the BW that I really love.

I use your Amazon wherever possible - but I couldn't this time - sorry! £650 from Amazon, £350 from Park cameras for anyone else in the UK who is interested.

Great topic! Taking advantage of the recent rebates on the Fuji XPro1 I just grabbed one with the 35 1.4 and the 60mm macro. I also grabbed an adapter so I could use my Nikon's Zeiss 21 when I want something wider. A cheap way into the almost rangefinder "experience" and I am using it monochrome,and cheating by saving JPG and Raw files because I am a coward!
Dale

Dear DDB,

Regarding what you're seeing on your screen, don't discount the possibility that any cruft you're seeing is a consequence of compression artifacts.

Regarding your snowmelt pictures, this is of course the worst possible subject to be trying to portray. Truth is that it was even worse in the pure analog days. You were trying to separate white specular highlights from diffuse highlights with film that had substantial contrast rolloff in the highlights and print paper that did the same. No contrast differential to work with at all! That's why you tended to have to push the brightness down so far to get decent looking separation.

Both digital photography and digital printing improve that by giving you a lot more control over highlight separation and local contrast and giving you much more linear curve characteristics to begin with.

Which is not to say it still isn't terribly hard, but it's not quite as much so as it used to be.

~~~~

Dear Stan,

It's not a hard transition to make if you ever printed from transparencies. Very few photographers did. If you were a black-and-white or print-oriented photographer, it can really mess with your head to try to think about making exposures as if you are photographing on transparency film, especially when your goal is the same one you had when making negatives. I've seen people have LOTS of trouble with this.

Truthfully, the majority of black and white digital output is sorely lacking, because most people are crappy printers. (I'm using printer in the broadest sense, here, whether you're printing for paper or printing for screen presentation). Even most experienced photographers. It is also quite impressive (not in a good way) how many people do not learn from trial and error, not unless they have someone guiding them.

Regardless, the average digital B&W photograph/print I see is a LOT better than the average analog B&W print I see. If typically mediocre results is taken as evidence that the digital medium is lacking, then film is even more so.

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Dear Kendall,

With most good digital cameras, with most subjects, you don't have to pay attention to the highlights or shadows. The subject luminance range falls within what the camera can easily capture. There is nothing special about the Merrill cameras in terms of the subject luminance range they can record (including the impact of highlight recovery). Their exposure range is comparable to that of a decent Bayer array camera, but not an extraordinary one. In fact, my Olympus OMD has a modestly longer exposure range than the Merrill.

Most of the time this doesn't matter. Even when I had my old Olympus, which had two stops less exposure range, and I obsessed rather heavily about nailing the exposures so that I wouldn't blow out highlights, I was still very impressed that most of the time when I just grabbed an exposure the highlights were fine. Even when I thought they weren't going to be. Several of the photographs that Mike links to are scenes that do not have particularly long subject luminance ranges. Those are going to be record fine with film or digital without paying particular attention to exposure nuances.

But that's not what gets people excited. The ones that get the arguments going are the ones that fall outside that range, like the dark-skinned fellow who's facing away from the sun. That is a tough scene, on film or on digital (although the best digital cameras will be able to handle it better than film). And, if you use the wrong exposure approach, whether you're working with film or digital, it becomes impossible.


pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
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I am loathe to get into a discussion with anyone about whether doing black and white a particular way (film, digital, whatever) will get them results that they like. Too many subjective factors. I get pictures *I* like, so I'm happy.

I will say one thing though: nothing could make me scan film. It's a horrible process that combines the worst of both worlds IMHO.

p.s. Here is a picture of mine that I like that has a bit of the highlight blotches, but I think the range would be hard to capture on film...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/79904144@N00/9999713355/in/photostream

Am I the only one who keeps a permanent -0.3 exposure compensation on his OM-D (E-M1 if that matters)? That's with ESP metering and face priority.

I use Silver Efex Pro for b&w conversion and had almost always applied one of the film simulations to files from my Nikon D80; usually one of the two slowest speeds - the faster ones looking too obviously like film simulations, where the slower ones just add a very tiny amount of pleasing texture, particularly to skies.

However, when I moved to shooting with a Fuji X-E1, none of the film simulations seem to improve it, or rather seem necessary, so I've pretty much gone without.

I've no idea what the difference is technically, but there is - to my eyes - a real difference.

Had my new DP2M for a day now.
Colour - unusable above 200 ISO.
Black and White - amazing.

The new BW mode in the software works well - if slowly. Print quality from my first 14"x21" print at 400 ISO is super - and the lens is stunning at f2.8.

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