Dynamic range: Top micro 4/3s span the oceans

Discussion in 'Micro Four Thirds Forum' started by stillshunter, Oct 19, 2011.

  1. stillshunter

    stillshunter Super Moderator Emeritus

    Nov 5, 2010
    Down Under
    Real Name:
    Mark
    Well many of you may have gathered from a previous thread, Pavel (stratokaster) and I had money burning holes in our pockets and both were desperate for a serious compact to complement our current line-ups and complete our arsenals. Pavel is a very patient guy and helped me through the quagmire of "what should I buy" PMs - he fielded calls from Samsung compacts and NX to the different Panasonic offerings. He remained resolute in his choice, while I wavered...until I was this close to buying a Panasonic G3. Bottom line it didn't feel right in hand and so time finds both Pavel and I with what could be argued are the cream of the respective micro four thirds - he is armed with a GH2 and I, the EP3.

    So we committed to see how these cameras compared - not examining CA or PF or distortion against a brick wall. But how our chosen cameras fared in each of our hands against a common thematic target. Many question the dynamic range of the mu43 sensor, but I hope Pavel and I can demonstrate how the heart of these very capable cameras can stretch across the oceans...Pavel's in Kiev, Ukraine and I near Australia's capital. So I hope you enjoy the coming weeks and that it's not misinterpreted as a self-indulgent exercise.

    Happy to field queries about our chosen gear, especially if you're wavering between them, and be keen on any feedback.

    So here's our, and our camera's, take on:

    1. "Splashes of Colour"

    [​IMG]
    Splashes by stillshunter, on Flickr

    The EP-3 with kit 14-42mm.

    Over to you my Russian friend....
     
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  2. retow

    retow SC All-Pro S.C. Charter Member

    Jul 24, 2010
    Great timing of your thread. As much as I enjoy shooting with the EP3, its DR limitations are quite obvious compared e.g. to my X100. In an nutshell, exposing to the right means ugly shadow noise, and I really mean ugly, and exposing for the shadows blown and non recoverable highlights. I hope I can learn some exposing or at least PP tricks from this thread to get the max DR out of the mft sensor. Recently I got quite frustrated with the results when shooting under very contrasty conditions such as street or city on a sunny day. Compared to X100 and GXR with M mount, the DR of the Olympus sensor feels quite limiting as far as my shooting style is concerned. Mft has excellent and fast lenses, but the sensors are not ready for prime time yet. So I'm thinking of selling the EP3.
     
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  3. stillshunter

    stillshunter Super Moderator Emeritus

    Nov 5, 2010
    Down Under
    Real Name:
    Mark
    Mate, I certainly hope we'll explore the DR ranges of the latest mu43 offerings...as well as a little of their subjective merits. I must apologise as I was playing on the DR theme a little for Pavel and my purposes - and more offsetting the common complaint of the system against our shared distance and very differing styles. :blush:

    But on the topic of DR, while doing my research, a friend with whom I was discussing DxO Mark steered me towards the more comprehensive DIWA Labs site. Here they demonstrate the DR of each colour amongst many very interesting tests (apologies if I'm preaching to the choir here). I must admit though that half of these tests are well beyond my comprehension.

    For convenience, here's the results of some comparative cameras (you'll need to scroll down for DR) for:
    Fuji X100
    Olympus EP3
    Panasonic GH2
    Ricoh GXR

    Working from these stats, your EP3 fares relatively well....
     
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  4. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Real Name:
    Pavel
    Mark, this is an excellent shot!

    Here's my entry. As I mentioned in my recent PM, the weather was extremely dull - no light to speak of. So I had to get creative indoors. After some head-scratching and experimenting with lighting, I ended up with this:

    [​IMG]

    In case you wonder what it is:

    [​IMG]
     
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  5. adanac

    adanac SC Veteran

    386
    Sep 30, 2011
    Vancouver, BC
    Thanks for that - very interesting. A listing of all lab results can be found here for those that want to check out other systems.
     
  6. snake

    snake SC Regular

    194
    Oct 4, 2011
    Thanks for those links. I always thought it was a bit strange that DR was always given as a whole, rather than individual colors. Naturally, there are going to be variations in where (nm range) the colors are measured, but it could be diagnostic. Seems many cams could overcome DR limitations simply by engineering more range into the blue channels for the sky.

    But what do I know?
     
  7. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus S.C. Charter Member

    Jul 12, 2010
    Philly, Pa
    This is an interesting thread.
    Question for youse. Do any of you think in terms of...
    Dynamic Range = Tonal Range? I'm just wondering and being serious for a change.
    To me it's the same thing. I think in old school terms.
    I think in terms of print and not so much screen.

    So if we safely assume we have tones from Zone 1 - Zone 10, does your dynamic range equate to these findings?
     
  8. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus S.C. Charter Member

    Jul 12, 2010
    Philly, Pa
  9. Djarum

    Djarum SC All-Pro S.C. Charter Member Subscribing Member

    Jul 10, 2010
    Huntsville, AL
    Real Name:
    Jason
    Interesting at the DIWA labs.

    The tonal range and dynamic range at ISO 200 between the sony NEX-C3 and E-PL2 are almost insignificant.
     
  10. adanac

    adanac SC Veteran

    386
    Sep 30, 2011
    Vancouver, BC
    Maybe blue is pulled back in some implementations as a way of compensating for how much blue range light is present out of doors?

    We used to choose films based on their light sensitivity in different parts of the spectrum; what I wonder is if the sensor or firmware is holding blue back in some of these implementations, perhaps done so intentionally in some cameras based on the intended market (user).

    I do. Who invented the "dynamic range" term anyway?

    This thread caused me to take a trip down memory lane. four-ish years ago I bought an Olympus Evolt 510 for my wife. I quickly grew to hate it. The primary reason I hated and the relevance to this thread is that most of my photographic needs for the camera - a family camera - had to do with out of doors pursuits and the Dynamic or Exposure or Tonal range of the EVolt is/was awful when compared to some of the available cameras of the day and even at low ISO sensitivity. Consequently some photos need a lot of post processing and I wasn't all that into digital in the first place then. I didn't do a good buying job at all, and the sales person I bought from clearly wasn't interested in matching camera to purpose, just budget to camera. I would have spent what it took even if it meant increasing the budget. Had I bought something like a Sony Alpha 700 or Canon EOS 40D back then I would have made my own transition to digital, away from medium format film, much, much, faster.

    In my own defense I was trying to ignore digital even then, mostly shooting, developing and printing 6x6 black and white film.

    Sidebar:

    What really tickles me about modern digital cameras, the good ones anyway, is that any Jack or Jill can pick one up and largely be successful in capturing images exhibiting a very wide exposure or tonal range.

    In the old days you needed to be aware of your film choice, how it was exposed, where you centered your exposure at relative to the subject at hand, and, oftentimes, needed to take further steps in your own dark room just to get the most out of the film "sensor". Further, you needed to think about how the image would be presented - print, projection, or screen - and factor that in.

    Now you can press a button. Dump it to your computer, and, *maybe* you might have to drag a slider or two this way or that to reveal a very wide tonal range.

    Even for an old school black and white film afficianado that ease of use and shorter-distance-to-result is very, very, cool.

    Lest I become a total accomplice in taking this thread off track I'll be watching your thread out of interest in conversations like this one which span sensor sizes and because I have some gift giving that I need to put some thought behind. :)
     
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  11. krugorg

    krugorg SC All-Pro

    Sep 26, 2011
    Minnesota USA
    Real Name:
    Kyle Krug
    Cool idea for a thread, guys, and look forward to seeing more great images!
     
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  12. pdh

    pdh SC Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    thanks, that is a good read, though I found bits of it indigestible (I need fingers and thumbs to do arithmetic)

    Don - I wondered if you might find time to put together a basic tutorial (in a separate thread) on how to produce beautiful mono prints (I'm thinking of the type you recently posted at Flickr of the leaves)

    [now to hand the thread back to stillshunter & stratokaster )
     
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  13. stillshunter

    stillshunter Super Moderator Emeritus

    Nov 5, 2010
    Down Under
    Real Name:
    Mark
    I can't speak for Pavel, but from my perspective I'm happy for the segues! My hope was that this thread would incite discussion on all manner of topics, otherwise it would only serve as a platform for Pavel and I to validate our purchases and petition for "oh aren't I so clever" responses. No guys, please, feel free to allow the discussion to head where it will...Pavel and I will intersperse the meanderings with thematic photos as we go along - and will probably utilise the frays of the thread to guide our next theme.

    Again, not supposed to be about just us two, but our shared interest in the small platform and what it might - and might not - achieve in disparate hands and different minds....which is not too dissimilar to what attracted us all around the camp-fire that Amin lit those many moons ago.
     
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  14. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus S.C. Charter Member

    Jul 12, 2010
    Philly, Pa
    Actually most members on this site are pretty darn good shooters. I always look at each member and the level they are at. Then I view their images and to tell the truth, almost everyone has a good grasp of seeing and presenting their images.
    What does this mean? It means that Mark & Pavel have a very acute sense of the technical aspects as well as a good aesthetic sense.
    So, if almost everyone, whether aware or innocent of dynamic range, tonal range etc, is getting good results, something must be working. As stated above by my old film friend, things were much different back then....or were they.
    I think not actually. I suggest the best thing anyone can do to improve their image making is to make images....I don't mean capture....I mean PRINT!
    On a screen things look a certain way but in print, it's a different world. On a screen, we call blocked shadows and blown highs....a bad dynamic range.
    On print, without a MAXIMUM black and without a MAXIMUM white, we have a short scale image.

    So, the idea of dynamic range bears fruit only when one decides what the output for an image really will be.
    In LR or NIK, I could add clarity and or structure to a given blown area and it would bring in enough details so that the area does not seem blown out. It doesn't take much to convince the viewer that the area is not blown.
    This is part of the reason I moved to the APC sensor. It has more ability to record without blowing thing out. BUT! That does not mean that things don't get blown out, of course that will happen.

    So, how to work blown, blocked areas? The simple answer is to pay close attention to your framing and make those areas either important or unimportant. Remember, we really are talking about EYE TRAVEL and nothing else. After all, the very idea of an image is for it to be viewed. By directing eye travel we can either direct the viewers eye to a blown area and make it a strong point of the image or we can direct away from the blown area and let it be benign. There will never exist a camera that delivers Zone 1 - Zone 20. So, get used to what you have and learn to control what you have at hand.

    Print...Print....Print! Then decide if things work or don't. I used m43 for a long time and loved it all...then I did an exhibition about a year ago and made some large prints.....Well, everything from 11 x 14 on down was stunning but anything from 16 x 20 was uh.... I'm using the GXR...
    nuff said... I'm off my soap box cause I feel it getting slippery....

    You are now returned to your regular sane programming...
    Pavel, Mark....it's all yours....don
     
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  15. PeterB666

    PeterB666 SC Top Veteran S.C. Charter Member

    A very interesting thread guys. As many of you know I have an Olympus E-P3 and Nikon D90. I have struggled with the dynamic range limitations and image noise in the Olmpus even thoug it is very much my preferred camera. Olympus make it so much harder to get a respectable result compared to the Nikon.

    Sent from my GT-I9100 using Tapatalk
     
  16. PeterB666

    PeterB666 SC Top Veteran S.C. Charter Member

    Just to add a bit - my obsession to shoot in minimal light or where there are extremes in lighting, eg into the sun at dawn or dusk doesn't help.

    Sent from my GT-I9100 using Tapatalk
     
  17. Djarum

    Djarum SC All-Pro S.C. Charter Member Subscribing Member

    Jul 10, 2010
    Huntsville, AL
    Real Name:
    Jason
    The problem with dynamic range is that the entire range isn't I don't think as important as where the range lies, and what sort of transition exists between each stop of dynamic range. One of the problems smaller sensors have, even mFT, is that the rolloff to white is abrupt. This seems to be at the RAW level, too, and worse at JPEG. In terms of OOC jpegs, I don't see much difference between APS-C and mFT in terms of blowouts or dark areas. At the individual well level, each pixel well has a certain amount of dynamic range. The smaller the well, the faster it get's to white.
     
  18. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus S.C. Charter Member

    Jul 12, 2010
    Philly, Pa
    Jason, you are correct.
    If we look at a scene and decide it has say, 20 zones or 20 steps in the dynamic range...we must decide where our 10 lay for the image. This of course leads to blocked values on both sides of the scale.
    No recording device will ever capture what nature and the eye can see or provide.
     
  19. Djarum

    Djarum SC All-Pro S.C. Charter Member Subscribing Member

    Jul 10, 2010
    Huntsville, AL
    Real Name:
    Jason
    Well just be a buzzkill about it. :tongue:

    One can hope, right?
     
  20. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus S.C. Charter Member

    Jul 12, 2010
    Philly, Pa
    That's what makes us photographers...
    Having selective vision.