Color Comparison: Canon 5D Mark lll and Nikon D800

This article compares the uncalibrated and calibrated color from Canon and Nikon’s recently released pro camera bodies: the Canon 5D Mark lll, and the Nikon D800. I recently spent two weeks in Tuscany shooting with other photographers. One of those was Kevin O’Connor, who was carrying the new Nikon D800, while I was carrying the Canon 5D Mark lll. It was interesting to compare the two cameras in terms of various types of shooting from sports to glamour, from food to landscape, not to mention low light and long lenses. But this article focusses on one factor of each camera: its native color, and its calibrated color.

The calibration tool used was Datacolor’s SpyderCheckr, which (in addition to the SpyderCube) we had with us on the trip. The SpyderCheckr target was shot with each body, and the resulting RAW file was cropped, white balanced, and exposure compensated in Lightroom before export to the SpyderCheckr utility, where a colorimetric calibration correction set was built for each. The image below shows the each of eight color channels, and the corrections to Hue, Saturation, and Lightness made to these channels for both bodies, with the 5D Mark lll on the left, and the D8oo on the right.

SpyderCheckr corrections for Canon 5D Mark lll (left) and Nikon D800 (right)

The first thing to notice in these corrections is that they are quite similar to one another. The 5D Hue adjustments tend to be a bit smaller than those for the D800, while the D800 Saturation are larger. The D800 Luminance adjustments are significantly larger than those for the 5D Mark lll. There is some variation in which colors need correction, but typically it is for a similar set of colors, and in a similar direction, for both cameras.

Shooting the same event with both Canon and Nikon bodies tends to produce images that are recognizably different, especially in bright reds and in sky blues. So the two sample images I have selected for comparison are ones containing those colors. First, lets look at similar shots of a musician from above. Here are the two images at Lightroom default import values, with exposure corrected for as close a match as possible.

Uncalibrated Image at Lightroom Defaults, Canon 5D Mark lll

Uncalibrated Image at Lightroom Defaults, Nnikon D800

Keep in mind that these images have been converted to sRGB for the web, and are viewed on your display; only you know how good your display is, whether it is calibrated, or how reasonable your ambient lighting conditions are. But the relative difference between the files should still be visible, unless your ambient lightings is so bright you can’t see the screen well. Both cameras produce a bright red for the shirt that the experienced eye sees as oversaturated, as well as problematic to print. Lets see what the files look like once the SpyderCheckr calibration has been applied to them.

SpyderCheckr Calibrated Image at Lightroom Defaults, Canon 5D Mark lll

SpyderCheckr Calibrated Image at Lightroom Defaults, Nikon D800

Both reds are now more believable, and more printable. There is still a minor white balance difference between the images, which ideally would be corrected with a SpyderCube, but once that is adjusted, it would be difficult to tell the calibrated results from the two cameras apart.

Now for the blue sky example. This is the most common Canon/Nikon mismatch issue, since the sky is such a common image element. First, the uncalibrated output from both cameras.

Uncalibrated Image at Lightroom Defaults, Canon 5D Mark lll

Uncalibrated Image at Lightroom Defaults, Nikon D800

Even on the web, its possible to spot the difference, with the Nikon producing a greener result, while the Canon produces a darker result. On a calibrated monitor I would say the Nikon hue is off, and the Canon luminance may be a bit dark; but its difficult to make a judgement on the web. Now the corrected versions.

SpyderCheckr Calibrated Image at Lightroom Defaults, Canon 5D Mark lll

SpyderCheckr Calibrated Image at Lightroom Defaults, Nikon D800

Here we are looking at an even smaller variation in camera white balance, and an even better match between the two cameras. I have complete confidence that, with these sets of HSL color corrections for each camera body, plus SpyderCube shots to adjust white balance and exposure for each lighting condition, that these two cameras would produce images with indistinguishable color, allowing them to be used side by side for even the most important of events.

All Nikon D800 images: Copyright Kevin O’Connor. Thanks Kevin, for your assistance in the preparation for this article.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: CDTobie.com Return to Blog’s Main Page

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Getting the Most out of Inkjet Printers with SpyderPrint

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I have had a request for a piece detailing the value of Datacolor’s SpyderPrint for recent generations of graphics-grade inkjet printers. Please take a look at the resulting article on Datacolor’s SpyderBlog, if you print your own work.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: CDTobie.com Return to Blog’s Main Page

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NIK Radio Interview with C. David Tobie

I was recently interviewed by Scott Sheppard for NIK Radio. The interview covered a wide range of topics, including NIK and Datacolor products, my own photography, iPhone photography, and my recent experiences with the latest Nikon and Canon cameras. To hear the full interview click here, and choose the interview dated 8/9/12.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: CDTobie.com Return to Blog’s Main Page

Review and Sample Images: iOS Photography App “Rays”

Digital Film Tools iOS App “Rays” is currently available as a free download. But even at its usual price of ninety nine cents, its a bargain. Rays is one of those “one trick pony” Apps, that does one thing, but does it well. Its one trick is to add convincing rays of light to your images.

Rays allows you to choose the source location for your radiating rays of light; the only limitation being that the source location must be within the image, when in some cases you might prefer it to be outside the image. There are controls for the color of your light, the length of the rays, and the intensity of the effect versus the image you are applying it to.

Here are answers to the most likely questions about Rays:

Yes, its fun. Yes, its effective. Yes the effect is quite variable. Yes, the controls are reasonably intuitive. And yes, it runs on both the iPhone and the iPad, meaning you can work on your iPhone images right on the phone, and those or other images after sending them to the iPad (in addition to photos shot with the iPad, for those who do that). I’ve been saving the big one for last: Yes, the effects can be appropriate to advanced, or even professional imaging.

Lets look at a few sample images to get a sense of just how the Rays effect can be used. A few comments on process in advance: A couple of these images were shot with LensBaby lenses; LensBaby selective focus images lend themselves to Rays effects. Some of these images have been run through NIK SnapSeed before Rays was used on them. Thats  not unusual; multiple iOS Apps are often used in the pursuit of the best mobile images. And all of these images were checked for color and sharpness in Datacolor’s SpyderGallery after they were completed. There are other Apps that will allow you to zoom in far enough to check the sharpness, but only SpyderGallery will allow you to see a color managed view of your iOS images. I do both in SpyderGallery as it saves a step.

Lets get the obvious out of the way first: yes, you can add a halo, or aurora to a person, place, or thing with Rays. Buddha seemed like a reasonable choice, so here’s an example of the most blatant use of Rays. This is not an effect I envision myself using too often. Using it with backlit trees, as in the background of this image, could be a more realistic effect.

This second example is only a bit more subtle. Rays can be used to create a focal point within an image. If the image has motion blur, focal plane blur, or both, the effects blend nicely, and even create more sharpness in a blurred image that may not be quite sharp enough without it.

This third example uses a light source within the image as a point source for the rays. By matching the tint of the rays to the color of the light source, this can be quite realistic. Moving the source location around allows fine tuning of the rays that are created, allowing you to choose a particularly effective set of rays and shadows. Images which lack a clear focal point can be strengthened by this technique. Keep in mind that, as with other iOS imaging apps, its possible to run your image through Rays more than once. So if you feel that a second source location could improve the effect, try a second pass to find out.

Next comes the use of rays with a source outside the image. Here it would have been ideal to place the source location below the bottom of the image, to more closely align with the actual light source. Short of creating a copy of the image with extra white space at the bottom, generating the desired rays, and than cropping back to the original image size, this would not be possible. I compromised on a source location at the bottom edge of the image.

And finally, here is a macro image, where the Rays effect emulates radial lens blur. Especially with LensBaby macros, this can be quite convincing.

The effects in these images run from much more blatant in the first examples, to much more subtle, or at least more realistic, in the latter ones. Like makeup, perhaps the best Rays effect is the one your viewer never realizes is an effect at all…

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: CDTobie.com Return to Blog’s Main Page

New-Generation Color Calibrators and Display Gamut Concerns

The latest generation of display calibration products from the major manufacturers use a library of display models to allow them to make more accurate measurements of the gamut of various display types. While this technique increases display calibration accuracy, it can also cause concern amongst users who upgrade from earlier models, only to find that the gamut graph using the new calibrator appears to provide them with a smaller gamut than they were achieving with their older calibrator.

Blue: Older Calibrator. Red: Newer Calibrator

The graph above illustrates this phenomenon. At first glance it would be easy to wonder whether you were somehow “losing gamut” with your newer calibration device.

The reality of the situation is quite different. Both the older and newer calibrators may produce nearly identical results on easy-to-read screen types, but on wide gamut displays or more difficult-to-measure screen types, the newer model is likely to produce more accurate results. These improved results most often mean a reduction in the measure of saturation of the display primaries, especially the green primary, and to a lesser extent the red primary.

This means that the “smaller” gamut being seen when comparing the gamuts of the older and newer display profiles actually indicates a more accurate measurement of the screen. In addition, defining the primaries as less-saturated has the counter-intuitive result of showing colors as more saturated on screen, instead of less.

So if comparisons between your older and newer display calibration tools produces this type of result, rest assured that you are not “losing gamut” but in fact getting both more saturated, and more accurate, color with the newer product.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: CDTobie.com Return to Blog’s Main Page

Mountain Lion, Gatekeeper, and Photography Applications

Mountain Lion

Apple’s new OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion) operating system for the Mac offers a range of new features, and more parity with iOS, meaning that those of us who switch between iPhones, iPads, and Macs all day long will find fewer differences. This will not be a review of all thats new in Mountain Lion, but instead will focus on one if its larger features, called GateKeeper, and specifically what Gatekeeper means to photographers.

OS Security

You’ve probably noticed all desktop/laptop operating systems ratcheting up security in recent versions. This is a good thing, except where its a bad thing; and bad usually means inconvenient or different. OS X 10.7, for instance, made the User Library invisible, which might keep your parents or your children from doing damage to important files in that location, but it also means you can’t directly access important files stored there, such as ICC profiles. Pasting a line of code into the Console solves that issue, but one still gets the feeling that the playpen is closing in around end users, and we will be allowed to do less and less “under the hood” over time.

Mobile Security versus Desktop Security

iOS is based on the theory that there isn’t really much that should be done under the hood, and the result is an OS that virtually anyone can use, and which seldom needs service or even expert advice when using iOS phones or tablets. But thats not exactly what we’re used to on the Mac. So with each new Mac OS, we will gain more parity with iOS, but with new restrictions in the process.

Gatekeeper

Gatekeeper is exactly this type of balancing act. It restricts the types of applications you can load onto your Mac, and where those apps come from. But in order to avoid causing too much backlash from longtime Mac users, Gatekeeper offers three settings. At its highest setting, applications can only be downloaded from the Mac App Store. This offers maximum reassurance to users that they are not loading spyware, malware, or other dangerous stuff onto their computers unintentionally.  But there are many excellent pieces of software not available from the Mac App Store, and software which drives hardware devices is noticeably absent from the Mac App Store as well. So changing the Gatekeeper setting to “high” might be advisable for computers owned by your young children, but it has limitations for those doing advanced graphics and photographic work.

Gatekeeper Defaults

The default setting for Gatekeeper is “medium”. At this setting, Apps can be downloaded from the Mac App Store, and from other locations as well. But only Apps from Apple Certified Developers can be installed without warning bells going off. This means that there is at least reasonable assurance that the App you are installing is not malicious, and offers reasonable peace of mind.

Gatekeeper Settings to Avoid

Setting Gatekeeper to its lowest setting allows apps to be installed even if they are not from a certified developer, and do not include a Digital Certificate. Since there are ways to allow such installations even at the default “medium” setting, there is not much reason to set Gatekeeper to “low”.

What Gatekeeper Doesn’t Do

Gatekeeper does not affect applications you have already installed. So all your existing apps, (even potentially malicious ones) will continue functioning as they always have. And Gatekeeper does not stop you from installing software from an Optical Disc (CD/DVD), since its a download-related tool.

Where Gatekeeper Puts Up Warnings

If you have downloaded an installer for one of your favorite apps previously, and try to install it now that you are running Mountain Lion (and thus have Gatekeeper running) that older installer will not include a digital certificate, and will trigger a warning from Gatekeeper. If your software developers have not kept up with Apple’s new protocols, even currently downloaded Apps may trigger this warning. If this happens, you should double check that the App and Installer in question is legitimate, before you bypass Gatekeeper and install.

How Its Supposed to Work

At the default “medium” setting, Gatekeeper should allow you to install new Mountain Lion-updated installers from all legitimate developers without warnings. Most users will run at this default (few will even know there are alternative settings), and most legitimate software will be digitally signed; so in most cases (or so Apple hopes), end users won’t even know this safety net is in place.

What This Means for Photographers and Designers

The software developers in these fields tend to be quite proactive and knowledgable, so most Mac Apps for graphics and photo uses should be fine. I have already installed Apps using updated Installers from Datacolor and NIK under Mountain Lion with no difficulties. Some of your smaller Apps from the fringe of the industry may be a bit slower to update their products. A note to them letting them know that you aren’t comfortable installing their products until this has been rectified may help speed the process.

The Overall Balance

Gatekeeper does raise the bar and keep malicious software from being installed thoughtlessly, or by accident. It won’t keep all such software off your computer, but given the excellent track-record of the Mac, it should make a safe system even safer. And the occasional inconveniences it may cause are not on the scale that some other Operating System safeguards have caused in the past (anyone remember the constant barrage of verification requests from Windows Vista?) So it seems well worth the effort, for the additional peace of mind.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: CDTobie.com Return to Blog’s Main Page