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Tuesday, 22 December 2015


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While there is no doubt sensors and cameras continue to improve, they do so by pushing out the high and low ends of the range.
Most photographs, by most people are mostly in the middle.
Making most cameras sufficient to produce technically good work.
And, by the time we get to a print the differences are very small for most (but certainly not all) pictures.
To be sure, the extra capability is very nice to have but is rarely a requirement for the shot.
What does stand out, is how much sense it makes to shoot RAW because each generation of software seems to make old files better.
What I wonder about is if we'll see sensors capable of greater bit depth for more subtlety across the whole range.
You can see the richness is some 16b MF files , why not smaller formats?


The magic of HDR may a bit of candy store effect, at least at first, regardless of whether it's done in ACR, dedicated apps, or with layers. As a primarily architectural photographer I ought to know. Having to use such tools for work, I too am often impressed with what is possible beyond the capabilities of the human eye and the limitations of the single exposure. And even within the single exposure nowadays.

The one thing I ask myself whenever I fall into this candy store trap once too many times, would Alex Webb's, or any of his contemporaries', Kodachrome images be what they are had this been possible then?

As nice as the HDR image is, deep shadows can have wonderful mysteries and I, for one, prefer the more mysterious Butters.

Was there an opportunity to test the two Sigma 35mm lenses and if so, how did they perform?

[I'll get to that after Christmas. --Mike]

We've come a long way baby!
From the EPOI and Bell and Howell days to this?
Midway in our journey from our home in Mexico to Tours, France our new Canon's EOS 5DS and 5DSR have performed beyond what one would expect from a digital sensor.
The thing that really scares me is when the obsolescence will kick in. (Likely 6 months). The days when Nikon and Canon sold us on the idea of never being obsolete have gone (when they discovered that photographers had deep pockets or were willing to part with sizable amounts of cash).
My question is when will camera manufacturers come up with the bright idea of interchangeable sensors?
Hey! I can dream!

ACR has gotten better in noise reduction and may have some of the best vignette reduction, except for DXO Optics Pro. DXO and Photoninja are both solutions for RAW conversions you should also have in your tool kit. I find each one of the three can do things the others can not and based on needs one may be much better than the other.

DXO has a time intensive noise reduction that may work the best for high iso/noise images. Photoninja has extremely good noise reduction but also adds a level of highlight recovery unmatched by any of the others. It also has an absolute mode which I requested so you can apply exposure adjustments to a set of images for better blending in stitching programs.

Well, Mike, thank you for the Christmas present. I'm always looking for good approaches to wide dynamic range shots that push the limits at both ends of the sensor range so I just pulled up an old shot and pushed the sliders in the way you suggested. It delivered a really good result. I usually start with the Exposure slider and work my way down but I think the result is better doing it in the order you suggested.

You've made my day.

Looks great to me. If we only made Butters' flanks a bit whiter, the picture would look natural to me, at least at this size.

I wonder how much you could do with a JPEG. I tried playing with raw years ago and I found that I had not gained anything compared to JPEG except a tiny lift in resolution. I could not get more details out of the shadows. But admittedly it was indeed years ago.
I second that the version with black shadows also has its charms. It took me years to unlearn "Ansel Adams" from photo club that there must be details everywhere!

That first image sure reminds me of the Hubble Deep Field image. "Bilions and billions of stars!", as Carl Sagan so loved to intone.

If, I was going to print one of your shots of Butters and frame it for hanging on my wall... the first would be my choice.

HDR is fine for what it offers as a tool, but the first image catches my creative eye no matter what the dark noise might be.

The second image of butters has no draw for me. It simply doesn't draw me into the picture like the first rendition.

I understand that you were demonstrating what new processing programs can do to improve old cameras... but in the end the new technology can't improve the artistic component of the image of Butters in the first image which encompasses a wonderful balance of light and dark, and a figure ground impact on the viewer.

New technology is impressive, but great art transcends new technologies every time.

Interesting post... but I, (and Harry Gruyaert I suspect), like the first Butter's picture best. Embrace your dark space !


Hugh Smith - my feeling is that camera manufacturers won't ever come around to interchangeable sensors in our world of planned obsolescence and disposable hard goods (take a look at Americans and their/our obsession with getting a new smartphone annually).

I would applaud camera manufacturers (and give them significant portions of my disposable income) if I could send them a DSLR body I own, and have them gut it, replacing the: sensor, mainboard, processor, EVF, LCD, etc.

I am familiar with the layout of the physical controls on my primary camera, its feel and my accessories work with the current body. My inventory of multiple dedicated batteries still work too.

Less waste, and they can make the firmware more user-configurable at allow us to map new functions to the current controls.

The A900 photos w/o correction look fine when the A900 is used within its limits. Instead of unloading it for a fraction of its purchase price, breathe some new life into it with the current version of the sensor and electronics.

Yup, that HDR image of Butters is one of the better examples of why I don't like HDR...just because we can doesn't mean we should....and as Ben said, shadows can have wonderful mysteries!

As most things, HDR can be great when used wisely. If you search the term "HDR" on a search engine, however, you're most likely to see appalling examples of overcooked images, most of them so much so they lose all veracity (departing from veracity is not bad 'per se', but most of the HDR's I see are of extremely bad taste).
Of both your pictures of Butters, I prefer the top one - the one with the shadows intact. I know you're not too enthusiastic about steep contrasts, which is not any more or less legitimate than my love of clearly defined ones, so it's a matter of taste (but wasn't it Nietzsche who wrote "what are wars if not arguments on taste?"), but the bottom one is just as unreal to my eyes as an overcooked HDR. Being a form of visual expression - and not a mere way to depict reality -, photography is widely open to interpretation and accepts as many viewpoints as there are photographers, but this tendency to lift shadows almost to the point they're absent from the image annoys me. At best, it makes images ambiguous by lacking differentiation between dark and clear, making it difficult to see into them. Fortunately you shy away from suppressing shadows completely.
Still it's never less than interesting to read from someone with a completely different approach to light and shadow. And you surely make some good points.
"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas!" :)

Ha, the top picture looks like film, the bottom picture looks like....not film, but something else. Even with all the shadow detail in the world, I'd be setting my camera to look like something closer to the top than the bottom...

I remember the first Lightroom version that had lens corrections. It felt like my main lens had got an upgrade.

I hope your "nighttime sky" example wasn't at base ISO. Hell, I'd hate to see something like that even at ISO 800.

Mike's selective shadow push method works well.

This method is especially useful for cameras with pseudo ISO-invarient data streams. Since the camera read noise remains constant, the shadow regions' signal-to-noise ratio does not benefit from ISO amplification after the shutter closes.

With raw files one can set ISO to the camera's base ISO, choose the appropriate shutter time and aperture manually and ignore the light meter.

Then when sensor underexposure occurs, the global brightness is simply increased during post-production. Of course there are disadvantages, you still have to glance at the meter to avoid over exposure of the sensor and in-camera image review becomes impractical as the amount of intentional under exposure increases.

The only problem involves self-control. I use to be tempted to over push the shadows just because I could. Gratuitous shadow pushing is just as bad as noisy shadows. Sometimes a photograph is more interesting when the shadows remain dark.

Seeing an awful lot of pictures of Butters lately. Is Lulu getting jealous? :-)

I agree. Lately I have been going through my RAW files from older cameras myself. It's great to use the new tools on them.

I find tone curves to be very helpful in high contrast situations. I use one that is a mirror image of the Medium Contrast curve that comes with ACR and Lightroom.

Here, @Bruce K:

@Hugh Smith and Craig C. Ricoh GXR had interchangeable sensors. Most were attached to lenses but the M mount module was just sensor and mount and in principle Ricoh could have produced newer M modules or sensors with other mounts.

Does this suggest that using an old 7D (I.e. Mk1) for wildlife and action photography might not be as awful (noise, restricted DR) as feared, if one was using current versions of LR and PS to process the images? There are a lot of s/h 7d cameras around these days, at pretty low prices.

It's strange, I can't seem to make img height/width attributes work here any more, even though I used to be able to.

What's "peg"?

Ha! It's like a rotary phone or hand-cranked car windows. I can't recall the last time I saw a meter with physical pegs. My mental image of pegs includes the name "Jaeger".

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